PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, September 30, 2011

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Science vs Magic + ESSAYS

Update: Essays by Miguel and Mark
Good morning,
For some reason or other, my email did not download Miguel's essay last night so I sent my weekly
email without it. And I got Mark's essay very late last night: so you might say we're at an
equilibrium between bad luck and good luck!
In the meantime I hope you will forgive me for a third email this week, however it has all been for
a good cause.
So without further ado the essays from Miguel and Mark:

----------------Miguel Essay------------------
For reasons that come next, rather than Magic vs. Science Iʼd like to write about Magic and Science.
Iʼll need for it this definition of the noun Magic, found in the Merriam-Webster dictionnary: "an
extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source", slightly rephrased to: "an
extraordinary power or influence seemingly from an unknown source". This is necessary as
"supernatural" is truly conflictive, especially when compared to "unknown". If you admit this change
it is more likely that youʼll share some of the ideas exposed here.

I see Science as coming from Magic: it is her daughter rather than her nemesis or oponent (the use
of the feminine is intentional). We saw the reason for this in our past meeting: Science is unable
to explain itself, or put in another words: the fact that Mighty Science works is mysterious,
miraculous and ultimately magical, as it is an extraordinary power seemingly from an unknown source.
If one is familiar with Science, a conclusion will eventually become apparent: Science is the art of
coincidence. You manipulate signs, do experiments, formulate hypothesis, make abundant mistakes and
finally arrive to a theory, a linguistic construction made up of words and other signs. It has the
power, if it is a sound one, to accomplish this remarkable feat: when fed with some statements and
logic, it will produce another statement thatʼll match the same one youʼd have used first to
describe a phenomena. Newtons' theory says that gravity pull at ground level is 9.8mts/sec2, then
you measure and find it to be 9.79. Fantastic, really: we have a procedure, a conceptual machine of
sorts that produces coincidences or quasi-coincidences: Science.
Science is very useful as it provides economical ways to get many things we want: better crops, cell
phones, drugs, efficient transportation, etc. Nevertheless, the fact seems to be that no one knows
why it works, or equivalently: Science and its methods work by pure Magic.
You will find many attempts, performed by scientists and philosophers, to deny this. All are
defective for a similar reason: once an explanation is there, how do you account for explanationʼs
explanation? Magic again. One famous argument about the source of Science was given by Immanuel
Kant. This is an extract of a comment on Kant's Philosophy of Science, as found in the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (brace yourself...):
"The feature of Kant's conception of natural science proper that is most immediately striking is how
restrictive it is. It requires that cognition (i) be systematically ordered (ii) according to
rational principles and (iii) be known a priori with apodictic certainty, i.e., with "consciousness
of their necessity" (4:468). Because properly scientific cognition must satisfy these strict
conditions, it requires "a pure part on which the apodictic certainty that reason seeks can be
based" (4:469). But since Kant identifies pure rational cognition that is generated from concepts
with metaphysics, it follows that science proper requires a metaphysics of nature. He then specifies
that such a metaphysics of nature could consist in either a "transcendental part," which discusses
the laws that make possible the concept of a nature in general — "even without relation to any
determinate object of experience" (4:469) — or a "special metaphysical" part, which concerns a
"particular nature of this or that kind of things" for which an empirical concept is given."
Pretty intimidating isnʼt it? Notice the word apodictic. Sometimes, I wonʼt say itʼs the case here,
fancy wording points to an inability to provide conclusive arguments: it is one of the many tricks
with which Language dazzles and thrills us. "Apodictic" stands for something that has the nature of
absolute certainty. Kant says that, to do Science, mind should have the power to know things in such
a way, then he embarks on a search for the source of this power and eventually he thinks he finds it.
Without elaborating on the soundness of his argument, the list of magical items at work here is not
short:
1. Kantʼs brain ability and his commentatorʼs to devise such involved statements
2. The formation of ideas in the mind, in general
3. The nature of the relationship between ideas and words
4. The existence of Language itself
Etcetera...
Interestingly, hardened advocates of Science attack Magic with furor: a case of the daughter
despising her mother by not wanting to recognise her. This gives away a clue of what might be at
work here: could it be the drive for power and psychological security? Some people feel sick when
near to a precipice. In the same way, being bathed by Magic and be her product is unbearable, an
ordeal for most of us.
It is so unthinkable that we go to great lengths to hide and deny it, so that we can have some sense
of control and familiarity. We have devised amazing (i.e.: magical) tools for the task, all sharing
a common trait: they are useful for some limited job, but thru self-deception they are believed to
work also outside their nominal range.
The most conspicuous of them all is Language. With its undeniable usefulness here and there,
Language beguiles us into thinking that it is equally useful everywhere. The modest and obedient
gobetween, the one that helped us everyday to represent objects with other, more affordable ones
(words) has mutated into a juggernaut that stealthly rules over us. It has taking away from us the
freshness of pure experience, making us believe that once we know the name we control the named
object. The usurper has sent to oblivion the speechless contemplation of Magic.
Built up on this core tool, other, more elaborate ones, eventually appeared: Reason, Logic,
Philosophy, Science, Religion and Political theory. All are children of Language, with their own
stock of fancy words. They share with it all its useful powers, but also his fundamental flaw: the
tendency to rule outside its scope and the crippling of the hostʼs ability to recognize that he
lives in a sea of Magic.
A series of words in the form of a scientific explanation may produce a useful coincidence, but not
much more. To extrapolate this and try to rule out Magic with the same trick is not only logically
unjustified, it closes the door to a world of wonder and amazement.
To shake off the grip of Language and wake up from the dream of Reason is not easy. This can be
verified with a little experiment. Some time ago I shared this sonet with friends; please read it
now carefully and take note of your reactions:
Bardindos
No he calpeado jamás un tedillo
Ni he garbellado nunca un pelote
Sin embargo bardindos en yusote
Enseforé tranquilo en los punillos
Bardindos de coljores acrepidos
Bardindos de corte bortegado
Bardindos que crupían seferidos
Sin que nadie zigueriera sus comados
Con la diepra que da la mersinga
En corteles de porma antigados
Cafo un bardindo demidorido
Lo perco, lo damo, lo entretago
Aferio sus placias de Coringa
Y sormo ¡bardindo!, ¡bardindo tado!
What did it inspired you? Did some distinct images came to your mind? Some of my friends thought of
flowers, some of landscapes, I thought it had an ancient scent... But none of us, none, said:
"nothing". The fact is, that to make more apparent the grip of Language, the sonet was designed to
have no meaning, or the minimum one. And there it was the grip: even in the presence of meaningless
words each of us had been inspired and prodded to produce even more words! Imagine then the effect
of words with so called meaning, the ones we use in our everyday life, a life in which everything is
draped by a thick coat of words, a life that is second hand, linguistic rather than magical...
To pit Science against Magic is like pitting the foam with the entire ocean
Miguel G Palomo, Madrid 29th September 2011

-----------------------------------Mark-----------------------------------------

Hi Lawrence - a few last-minute musing below. Wish I could be there.
Nicaragua is at once confronting and wonderful. Will send an update.
Mark
===================================
The title of this discussion is interesting in itself: Science vs Magic.
Let's look at the term 'Magic' first. The oxford dictionary defines
it as "The power of apparently influencing the course of events by
using mysterious or supernatural forces". The word is often used to
explain that which cannot be explained rationally; but it is often
used to describe things that can never be explained by science. That
is, supernatural. Beyond nature.
So why do people continue to believe in magic? Yes, there are things
that science cannot explain, but that does not mean that science won't
one day be able to explain it. Science explains very well why the sun
rises each day in the east and sets in the west. We no longer need to
sacrifice innocents to appease the gods to ensure that tomorrow the
sun will rise. Likewise for earthquakes, lightning, rain, disease,
etc.
The belief in magic fills a void in many people. It gives hope that
there is more to the world that just what we can see and experience, a
divine realm. Science, on the other hand, is a souless ogre,
responsible for pollution, war, and the inumerable modern malaises
that plague our society. But this is dangerous. Science is not an
"organization", nor is it an "ideology", or "cult". There is no CEO
of "Science inc".
Science is the search for truth and and to explain why things are the
way they are. It is a truly global pursuit, that uses peer review and
evidence. Those people who criticise science point out that science
is alway changing it's theories, e.g Newtonian physics beiong updated
by Einsteinian theories. Yes! That is science in action! It does
not dogmatically hold on to any theory if a better, proven one comes
along. How many religious fundementalists can match that?
In fact, a belief in magic is dangerous. Think of the dark ages, and
the witch burnings of Salem. And it is still happening: The Catholic
church stil beatifies people into saints. And what is the requirement
for beatification?: it has to be proven that they have performed a
miracle! We need to be alert to those who promise things, or think
they know what's best for the world, whose ideology is
non-evidence-based (e.g. prayer, homeopathy, mysterious voices, tea
leaves, entrails, a "holy" book, evil spirits etc etc)
I say forget magic. Yes, there is still so much we don't know, but
let's pursue the truth and get to the nature of reality with science.
At least we won't be fooling ourselves. As Carl Sagan was fond of
saying "it's more wondrous and subtle than we could have ever
imagined".
Mark

---------------------------------end Mark----------------
News from Miguel for today Friday and Carlos, Thursday next week.
Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing; Science vs Magic.
As far as philosophy is concerned I fail to see any direct connection between these two activities.
Of course, we can interpret magic to mean something we stand in awe and wonder of but have no idea
of what is going on. That is quite an acceptable meaning for day to day use of the word magic in the
context of science.

However, if by magic we mean that some process or event is influenced by some sort of powers that go
against the functions of the physical world, and there is only the physical world, than is should be
regarded as a serious failure in the epistemic make up of those who believe in such supernatural
powers.
Indeed the issue between science and magic is one of epistemology. Science tries to explain how
thing work and why they work through observation, methodology, statistical analysis, and experiment.
Sometimes, we do not succeed and sometime what we try to measure is beyond our capacity.
On the other hand, magic, and by magic I don't mean music hall entertainment shows of stealth of
hand, but the sort people believe to be supernatural powers, is an attempt to explain gaps in our
epistemic state of mind, or rather state of the brain.
Of course, this does not mean that why the brain would want to fill such gaps in one's knowledge or
how the brain arrives to such gap filling, is not interesting. Anything about the brain is always
interesting and of extreme importance to humanity.
However, the bottom line is that science is about the brain interacting with its environment, whilst
magic is about the brain interacting with gaps in its own function.

Best
Lawrence
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

--------------------Miguel----------------
Estimado tertuliano,
Espero que hayas tenido un buen verano. Por si fuera de tu interés te envío información de la
conferencia siguiente:

Mathematics with a human face, impartida por el prof. Edward Frenkel, catedrático de Matemáticas en
la universidad de Berkely
Viernes 30 de Septiembre de 2011, 19:30, en la Residencia de Estudiantes, c/Pinar 21-23 Madrid

Más información en http://www.residencia.csic.es/act/calendario/calendario.htm#
Aprovecho la ocasión para enviarte un cordial saludo,
J.Miguel
P.S.: Si quieres impartir una conferencia de contenido matemático envíame un mensaje de correo para
tratar los detalles.
Si quieres darte de baja en esta lista de correo envía otro con "Baja" en el campo "Asunto" del mensaje.

--------------------Carlos------------------
Hi Lawrence:
Here is our invitation to our next event, poetry. We hope to see you /and or your members.
Regards
Carlos
CHL
INVITACIÓN A RECITAL
Estimado Socio ó Simpatizante:
Te invitamos a la conferencia que vamos a ofrecer el próximo día 6 de Octubre, jueves, a las 20:00
horas en el Café Comercial, en la Glorieta de Bilbao, en el primer piso.
Esta vez va a ser un recital de poesía de dos muy buenos y acreditados poetas, Gonzalo Escarpa y
Jesús Urceloy. El Título del recital es: El Humor en la Poesía. El Humor en La Libertad.
Como siempre el recital es gratuito, aunque es obligatoria una consumición.
En breve vas a recibir el Programa Anual de las actividades del Club, que este año está muy completo
con 12 eventos mensuales en diferentes lugares. Este año tenemos 10 programas socio-culturales, y
quisiéramos invitarte a participar en ellos.
Espero que sea de tu interés. Aprovecho para pedirte una opinión, quién crees que merece ganar el
Premio a Promotor de La Libertad en España 2011? Cualquier persona u organización sirve. Para
confirmar asistencia, contestar a la encuesta ó cualquier pregunta dirígete al: (PLEASE ASK ME FOR
DETAILS – thanks Lawrence)
Adjunto encontrarás el Curriculum de los dos poetas.
Saludos cordiales, hasta pronto.
J. Santiago R. Samaniego, Presidente
Club del Hombre Libre
------------------------------------------------------------------

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Science vs Magic + ESSAYS

Thursday, September 29, 2011

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Science vs Magic + NEWS

News from Miguel for today Friday and Carlos, Thursday next week.
Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing; Science vs Magic.
As far as philosophy is concerned I fail to see any direct connection between these two activities.
Of course, we can interpret magic to mean something we stand in awe and wonder of but have no idea
of what is going on. That is quite an acceptable meaning for day to day use of the word magic in the
context of science.

However, if by magic we mean that some process or event is influenced by some sort of powers that go
against the functions of the physical world, and there is only the physical world, than is should be
regarded as a serious failure in the epistemic make up of those who believe in such supernatural
powers.
Indeed the issue between science and magic is one of epistemology. Science tries to explain how
thing work and why they work through observation, methodology, statistical analysis, and experiment.
Sometimes, we do not succeed and sometime what we try to measure is beyond our capacity.
On the other hand, magic, and by magic I don't mean music hall entertainment shows of stealth of
hand, but the sort people believe to be supernatural powers, is an attempt to explain gaps in our
epistemic state of mind, or rather state of the brain.
Of course, this does not mean that why the brain would want to fill such gaps in one's knowledge or
how the brain arrives to such gap filling, is not interesting. Anything about the brain is always
interesting and of extreme importance to humanity.
However, the bottom line is that science is about the brain interacting with its environment, whilst
magic is about the brain interacting with gaps in its own function.

Best
Lawrence
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

--------------------Miguel----------------
Estimado tertuliano,
Espero que hayas tenido un buen verano. Por si fuera de tu interés te envío información de la
conferencia siguiente:

Mathematics with a human face, impartida por el prof. Edward Frenkel, catedrático de Matemáticas en
la universidad de Berkely
Viernes 30 de Septiembre de 2011, 19:30, en la Residencia de Estudiantes, c/Pinar 21-23 Madrid

Más información en http://www.residencia.csic.es/act/calendario/calendario.htm#
Aprovecho la ocasión para enviarte un cordial saludo,
J.Miguel
P.S.: Si quieres impartir una conferencia de contenido matemático envíame un mensaje de correo para
tratar los detalles.
Si quieres darte de baja en esta lista de correo envía otro con "Baja" en el campo "Asunto" del mensaje.

--------------------Carlos------------------
Hi Lawrence:
Here is our invitation to our next event, poetry. We hope to see you /and or your members.
Regards
Carlos
CHL
INVITACIÓN A RECITAL
Estimado Socio ó Simpatizante:
Te invitamos a la conferencia que vamos a ofrecer el próximo día 6 de Octubre, jueves, a las 20:00
horas en el Café Comercial, en la Glorieta de Bilbao, en el primer piso.
Esta vez va a ser un recital de poesía de dos muy buenos y acreditados poetas, Gonzalo Escarpa y
Jesús Urceloy. El Título del recital es: El Humor en la Poesía. El Humor en La Libertad.
Como siempre el recital es gratuito, aunque es obligatoria una consumición.
En breve vas a recibir el Programa Anual de las actividades del Club, que este año está muy completo
con 12 eventos mensuales en diferentes lugares. Este año tenemos 10 programas socio-culturales, y
quisiéramos invitarte a participar en ellos.
Espero que sea de tu interés. Aprovecho para pedirte una opinión, quién crees que merece ganar el
Premio a Promotor de La Libertad en España 2011? Cualquier persona u organización sirve. Para
confirmar asistencia, contestar a la encuesta ó cualquier pregunta dirígete al: (PLEASE ASK ME FOR
DETAILS – thanks Lawrence)
Adjunto encontrarás el Curriculum de los dos poetas.
Saludos cordiales, hasta pronto.
J. Santiago R. Samaniego, Presidente
Club del Hombre Libre
------------------------------------------------------------------

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Science vs Magic + NEWS

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From Lawrence, maths meeting this Friday: Mathematics with a human face

Dear Friends,


Miguel has sent me details of a Mathematics meeting he is organising this Friday, 30th. I thought
you might appreciate advance notice since it seems to be very interesting.


I will send my usual email on Thursday and for those who cannot wait the topic is: Science vs Magic.


Best

Lawrence

Estimado tertuliano,

Espero que hayas tenido un buen verano. Por si fuera de tu interés te envío información de la
conferencia siguiente:


Mathematics with a human face, impartida por el prof. Edward Frenkel, catedrático de Matemáticas en
la universidad de Berkely
Viernes 30 de Septiembre de 2011, 19:30, en la Residencia de Estudiantes, c/Pinar 21-23 Madrid


Más información en http://www.residencia.csic.es/act/calendario/calendario.htm#

Aprovecho la ocasión para enviarte un cordial saludo,

J.Miguel

P.S.: Si quieres impartir una conferencia de contenido matemático envíame un mensaje de correo para
tratar los detalles.
Si quieres darte de baja en esta lista de correo envía otro con "Baja" en el campo
"Asunto" del mensaje.


From Lawrence, maths meeting this Friday: Mathematics with a human face

Thursday, September 22, 2011

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: The nature of desire

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The Nature of Desire.

As we know, desire belongs to a group of words which include: want, wish, need, and maybe, demand,
request, and require.

Desire reflects something we would like to have, but maybe is difficult to obtain. Difficult does
not mean impossible, but maybe in the scheme of things will take time to acquire.

The other important aspect of desire is that it is of something that makes us feel good, or at the
very least, we strongly believe it makes us feel good. But feeling good does not mean it is good for us.

In the meantime I look forward to our discussion on Sunday.
Best
Lawrence
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: The nature of desire

Thursday, September 15, 2011

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Why are religions obsessed with s€x?

Notes by Matilde and a short essay
Dear friends,

The subject for this Sunday is: Why are religions obsessed with s€x? And because of today's paranoia
with anything that is human, I have replaced the "s" word with s€x.

We are lucky that this time we have some notes from Matilde, but unfortunately she won't be able to
come to the meeting.

No doubt this is a very interesting subject to discuss after such an eventful summer. On the other
hand it is also a subject that might touch a few raw nerves.

In the meantime, this Sunday we will be back to the Centro Segoviano. The meeting details are therefore:

Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
Take care
Lawrence

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Why are religions obsessed with s€x?
----------------notes by Matilde----------
Dear friends,
I won't be able to attend the next tertulia. Nevertheless, I've been thinking about the topic and
got a few notes.
The origin of the s€x mania in religions could come from a policy to avoid pregnancies out of
marriage, let's say, kind of birth control, in favour of the family institution.
But in those days, the only way to obey was to involve sin, punishment, God, and all that jazz in it.
Something similar to the prohibition of eating pork or drinking alcohol in Islam, which were hygiene
measures at the beginning, but nobody followed till they were turned into sins.
The problem is that religions don't change with the times. They go on and on, and on for centuries Amen.
Sorry for not being with you to discuss the topic.
Matilde

---------short essay--------------
There are good reasons for religions to be obsesses with s€x and those reasons are more encompassing
than why, for example, health services are obsessed with s€x. Unfortunately for religions, their
teachings and their dogma about s€x, have failed their followers and more importantly they have
failed society.

However, the topic itself seems to be more relevant in sociology or anthropology or even theology to
wit, but of course philosophical investigation can me applied to most things. And I would argue that
the first step we need to do to understand the question is to prepare the ground, or the mind set,
for our discussion. And that mind set involves an epistemological problem.

Consider the situation where a state amends its constitution limiting the activities of the
government because of inequitable behaviour of a minority group in society with probably
disproportionate influence in that society. In effect the amendment takes away a right from the
general population, to confer a privilege and to guarantee the function to the said minority group.

Now, as most of us know, constitutions, or at least equitable constitutions, are there to confer
rights and to protect the rights of the whole nation and not to favour a minority group. Of course,
many jurisdictions pass laws to protect people against racism and prejudice. However, constitutions
that confer all the privileges and minority group at the expense of the rest of society, would be
regarded as apartheid.

Going back to our subject, are people in a hundred years time more likely to remember the real
causes for the introduction of the inequitable amendment, or are they more likely to view the
constitution as being inequitable?

This, I would argue is precisely what happened with religions and s€x. Today, we remember (or are
conscious) the obsession of religion with s€x, but forget the real reason for the obsession in the
first place. No doubt, and this is not to argue against the obsession (or amendment), the beliefs
and measures at the time of need might have been seen as a good short term solution to a long term
problem. But short terms solutions, I would argue, should best be kept to the short term; a stop
gap, need not be a suspension bridge.

A philosophically relevant and fundamental difference between religion and s€x, and by religion I am
limiting myself to those originating from the Middle East - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - is
that a religion is a rational solution to a major problem for humanity, whilst s€x is a functional
solution for biological life.

In other words, the raison d'être for religion is diametrically opposite to the raison d'être for
s€x. Now, s€x is a biological solutions for reproduction which has been adopted and successfully
selected by a number of biological species for reproduction. And in effect the s€xual act is just a
small part of the whole process of the reproduction cycle.

I would argue that religions are a rational solutions created by human beings to solve a major
problem in a society that is made up of more people than a natural family unit. Precisely, I would
say that religions were set up, first and foremost, to rationalise actions that would bring about
stability in society based on law and order. Indeed, at the heart of a religion is the desire to
reduce aggression and inequity in a society. For example, all religions advocate charity and helping
the weak, in many religions helping the weak is even a duty, in others they even have or given rise
to a whole ethical code of conduct on how to treat an enemy.

Of course, unlike the amendment to the constitution, we are today not privy why our ancestors
decided to be so obsessed with s€x. And even though religions are obsessed with s€x, not all of them
adopt the same level of obsession, not the same dogma on the issue, and none out law s€x completely.
(Wikipedia on Religion and S€x and what happened to those religions who outlawed s€x see Daniel C
Dennett, Freedom Evolves – basically they disappear!) This suggest that matters of s€x are not that
easy and clear cut.

But maybe we do not need to be privy to the thinking of the founding fathers and mothers of
religions to understand why they adopted obsessive policies. After all, today we have enough
knowledge on the biology and scope of s€x to be able to deduce relevant arguments.

Despite the often heard claim that our ancestors did not easily make the connection between s€x and
procreation, I find it difficult to believe that at least the leaders of society did not have an
inkling to what was going on. Indeed, we can safely assume that many women would have figured out
the real connection between s€x and procreation, hence the mothers above.

So, the first problem with s€x is that s€x can easily lead to conception with the real danger of
maternal death (mothers dying giving birth) to any mother to be. The Wikipedia article, Maternal
death, gives a global figure of 342,900 maternal deaths in 2008. We can only assume that the further
back we go in time, the more serious the problem becomes.

A challenge that society, and especially a small society, has to grapple with is to make sure that
the female population does not die out because of the reproduction cycle, as a consequence of
promiscuity. This fact alone is enough to give any rational being long sleepless nights.

I also find it difficult to believe that no one in the long distant past had not connected the
possibility of being sick and dying with s€x. S€xually transmitted diseases, whether acknowledged or
suspected, would be another reason for religion to be obsessed with s€x. I would argue that being
rational does not mean that one acts from a position of perfect knowledge, but rather from an honest
belief that something might be the case ( a chance that something is the case.)

Thus, if someone suspects that there is a connection between s€x and ill health it would be rational
to stop/limit having s€x in order to prevent ill health, even if this is not necessarily the only
cause of ill heath or too late to prevent ill health. It would therefore be correct and rational for
a religion to be obsessed with s€x.

But the first and foremost pre occupation of any religion might have about s€x is that s€x is a very
aggressive behaviour. First of all s€x is a biological trait based on competing people. Hence, s€x
can be the cause of aggression between competing people for a partner (male rivalry), between
partners (domestic violence), and between different groups (tribal conflicts, social classes etc).
Thus by prescribing when s€x can be performed, with whom and how, I would argue, that religions are
trying to limit the opportunities of aggression.

But s€x itself is a challenge to rationality that attempts to employ models of social coherence
based on equity and fairness. S€x, given it biological function, is a subjective act, based on
instinct and prejudice. It is an accepted fact of biology that creatures try to mate with a partner
they perceive to be the best within their group. Subjectivity and selfishness are of course not
compatible with equity and fairness; or at least we do not perceive them to be so.

So why is it that most of us, today, interpret obsession to have a negative connotation, and not a
positive implications as the rationale I outlined above seems to suggest. Of course, the first
reason is that today we have lost that rationale and just have the incongruence between the dogma
and real life. More or less the same position decedents of those living under today's constitution
would be in a hundred years time.

But of course, the main problem with religion and s€x is that religion does not necessarily live up
to the promise of keeping a stable society based on equity and fairness. Those with money or power
still have a higher chance of partnering with the most desirable people in society. And this is
important since religion only prescribe s€x within marriage for life. Moreover, in matters of s€x we
still apply the subjective criteria of selection rather than fairness. Indeed, can there be such a
thing as a selection of a s€x partner based on fairness? This does not make sense because s€x is
amoral irrelevant to the idea of fairness.

The most serious problem of all for religion is that although religion and its premises are
rational, its prescriptions are dogmatic and not educative. Dogma states what has to be done,
education helps us find a way of what is best to do. Religions today, in my estimation, know, for
example, that syphilis (or AIDS to be up to date) is a s€xually transmitted disease, but instead of
being dogmatic about seeking medical advice and following any treatment prescribed by a health
carer, we get the impression that religion tries to solve the presence of a disease by being
dogmatic about abstaining from s€x. For those with syphilis, any dogma about abstaining from s€x is
as useful as an ice cube in the middle of Antarctica.

But dogma itself is of course a form of biological aggression, except that instead of using brute
force we use brute emotional language. Moreover, dogma is not necessarily the best way to deal with
a changing and dynamic world. A solutions to threatening events (e.g. maternity mortality) cannot be
a code of conduct based on coercion, but rather in this case on medical investigation and education
on how biology actually work in life.

We can change our education and body of knowledge on how things function, but dogma is fixed and
impinges on our emotions. It is very difficult for most of us to accept changes to the principle of
universally available free health service at the point of use, than to change the pills our family
doctors prescribes us because of more effective therapy.

And to end, I purposely did not mention the ethical properties religions ascribe to s€x. And my
reason is simple, s€x does not have any ethical properties, only physical and biological ones. Thus,
by ascribing ethical properties to s€x, such as bad and evil, we are really falling foul of the
ought/is fallacy. Just because something has undesirable physical consequences, it does not
automatically follow that it ought to be evil and immoral. No reasonable person would suggest that
chemotherapy is evil and immoral, despite being one of the most toxic and deadly things a person can
experience.

The main problems presented by s€x are probably best solved by education, supervision, medical
advancement and creating an environment where abuse and exploitation are prevented. And the main
problem about religions, like constitutions, is that they bother themselves too much with the ought
and the prose and not enough with solutions to real problems people have.
Best
Lawrence
from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Why are religions obsessed with s€x?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: good news! The Boomerang Effect

Dear Friends,

Good news. Diana was told that the football matches on Sunday are not important; we can have our
meeting this Sunday at Finningans. So for Sunday it is the Boomerang Effect.
Just in case you lost the link to the article at ABC News:
The Boomerang Effect, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=3075690&page=1. It might be worth a
look.
In the meantime we are still meeting in Finningans at 6:30pm
Finnegans Irish pub
Plaza Salesas, 9
http://maps.google.es/maps?hl=es&tab=wl&q=Plaza%20Salesas%2C%209%20Madrid%2C%2028004

Take care and see you Sunday,

Lawrence
from Lawrence, this Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: good news! The Boomerang Effect

Thursday, September 01, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: I’m afraid it’s football meet at 7pm Alonso M.

Dear Friends,

Given that last Sunday we were unable to have the meeting because of the football I think that we
should just meet for drinks for the next two weeks until we return to the Segoviano.
I know this is upsetting for all of us, but at least this way we won't put any undue stress on our
blood pressure from the hassle of being interrupted by the football.
May I suggest we meet at 7pm outside Alonso Martines Station (Square exit) and then we take it from
there.
Best and see you Sunday
Lawrence

from Lawrence, this Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: I'm afraid it's football meet at 7pm Alonso M.

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