Over the past few decades, American society has increased its tolerance and acceptance of differing sexualities. Those that voice opposition to acceptance of homosexuality on religious grounds often consider homosexuality to be “unnatural.” However, homosexual behavior is widespread across the animal kingdom. In addition to well-known examples such as in mammals and birds, homosexual behaviors occur in reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Among the primate order, homosexual behavior is most frequently observed in bonobos. However, it also occurs in other species, such as Japanese macaques and capuchin monkeys. Recent observations of homosexual behavior in male spider monkeys adds to our knowledge of these behaviors and may help us answer questions about the evolutionary functions homosexual behaviors may play, as well as allow us to consider if other animals have sexual orientations similar to the identities that humans construct. SOURCE

Morality and Religion

Twenty years ago now I had a public debate with a local god-man.

Here is one of my contributions:

 What do you think?

SS: “Revisiting Mamre”: The Stranger in the Three Abrahamic Faiths

Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Nationhood in the 21st century

English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Tor...
English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CJMA welcomes proposals from individuals who are interested in presenting a paper at its 2017 spring conference.

Saturday, May 27 to Sunday May 28, 2017
Ryerson University,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In the 21st century, diverse tendencies appear to be altering or even undermining nationhood, understood as belonging to a sovereign people with a shared heritage. Philosophers have discussed individualism, multiculturalism, and globalization – in Canada we have the recent contribution of substantial thinkers like Charles Taylor, John Ralston Saul, George Grant, and Leslie Armour. In addition, the role of religion is emerging as a prominent factor determining nationhood: from political and patriotic Christian Evangelism in the United States, Canada, and Latin America to the traditional theocratic tendencies in the Middle East, and the role of Hinduism and Confucianism in promoting national identities is significant. Furthermore, any discussion of nationhood in the 21st century must take into account concerns associated with the role of Islam in European and American societies, and the contribution of Native American religion to our appreciation of the natural environment and cohesive community.

All papers addressing the role of philosophy and/or religion in determining the meaning of nationhood in the 21st century are welcome.

Those who wish to present a paper should send a one-page abstract or proposal to:

Dr. Elizabeth Trott

Deadline for submission of proposals: February 15, 2017

Free Will: a rejection

Free will is such a great idea. I would totally choose it if it existed. Believing we are in control of our destiny, becoming who we want to be, taking (and giving) credit for our successes and knowing who to blame for failures. Everyone loves free will. Religion loves it so much it made room for where there is none.

But isn’t the problem obvious? Free will hinges on being able to choose, and I just don’t see how it can be possibly true that we ever have a choice. That’s the illusion. We think we are making our own choices among the available alternatives, but really, we couldn’t have chosen otherwise.

The moment before you make any decision is the last stop in a casual chain of events spanning from the beginning of time. Whichever way you could think to interfere is just another necessary part of the chain that will inevitably lead to the decision you can’t avoid. This is because every cause has one – and only one – effect. We observe that to be true.

chooseadventurefreewilllukesurlSo the way something is at any given moment is the only way it could have been. If it were anything else, then the moment that came before has to be different to have caused it, and the moment before that, before that… so unless our past is constantly rewriting itself, we have no choice. For free will to be true, we need to have been able to act otherwise. But there is no way to avoid acting the way you do.

It does seem like sort of a cop-out, I know. Maybe whatever’s going on in our brains before we make the choice that we couldn’t have made otherwise is free will in action? But that doesn’t make it any less true that there is only one choice we do make, and it was the only choice we can make. Doesn’t that negate free will?

And the other thing – how do you know it’s your conscious self that accounts for any decision you ever make, anyway? Our actions are our choices, but what drives our actions? The unseen forces of desire. And what accounts for desire but a whole bunch of stuff that’s out of our control? Hormones, genes, and the effect of a lifetime of experiences that happen to us. We are the sum of all of this, and more. This is what decides what choice to make – this is the programming we’re stuck with.

Maybe we can define freedom as being able to do what we want, if we wanted. But often it turns out that we didn’t really want what we chose after all./ And how often do we have desires we don’t approve?  Ones we wish we had? If we could choose how to feel we’d be a lot happier with our choices because they’re the only ones we would have wanted. But apparently we can’t choose how to feel, so how can we take responsibility for what comes of it?

We’re just automatons living in a mechanistic universe – I can’t see it any other way. Now excuse me, it’s time for my kill-crazy rampage.