Monday, February 25, 2008

Lessons of parenthood (part 1)

This is part 1 of a likely endless series about my personal experiences of being a father. It is also an excuse to post pictures of my son and brag about how cute he is. My son, James Dillon, was born on June 15th, 2007. I took him home on Father's Day and the next day, my first full day with him at home, was my 23rd birthday, so it was an all-around pretty special (and exasperating) weekend for me. I won't go into how "wonderful it is to be a parent," but it has provided me a unique perspective on life that I could not have had otherwise. The following are the effects of being a parent.

In the past month, James Dillon has learned how to get up on all fours, drink out of a cup, eat chunks of food, and lure cats into his grasp, just to name a few of his newfound talents. The point is that, as a baby, he is rapidly developing new skills, discovering new things and becoming more aware of the world around him.

As his father, I find this challenging. Baby or not, I am a competitive son of a bitch, and I want to be growing and learning at a faster rate than he is. Of course this is impossible, but it does keep me motivated to continue growing.

Imagine if babies just decided, "You know what? I'm happy where I am, with my ability to crawl, drink milk and liquidy solids, and babble incoherently. This is good enough for me." Well obviously the human race would not last long if this attitude were widespread among babies. That's why we are so obsessed with learning and growing at a young age.

The problem is that a lot of people seem to reach a plateau that they are satisfied with, somewhere from 14-24. This is not only accepted, but anticipated. In high school, I remember thinking that I had until the end of college to build myself up to a certain point of knowledge, and then coast through life from there. This idea is perpetuated in our culture, which commonly views your 20s as the peak of your life. A lot of this comes from our obsession with physicality. The most popular role models, athletes and actors (especially female actors), usually peak in their twenties and once they hit 30, "it's all downhill from there." We mistakenly equate our bodies' peak with our personal peak.

I almost literally get sick to my stomach every time I hear someone say that college is where you "discover yourself." This idea is the result of two problems: parents dictating who their children are before they become independent, and our own willingness to stop growing once our formal schooling is complete.

We often view life as a collection of segments: childhood, high school, college, working life, retirement. We partially define ourselves by which point we're at, and assume that we won't change all that much until we enter the next stage. Of course, the working life stage is becoming increasingly long and lasts at least 40 years. To expect, and accept, that we won't dramatically change in that time deprives us of most of our lives. If I reach my late 50s and find myself essentially the same person as I am now, I will probably become suicidal. Not to worry though, because my son is constantly challenging me to grow.

I don't know the intracacies of babies' minds, but my eight-month-old son's mind seems to be working non-stop, taking in new information all the time and learning from it. When I see that, it's hard for me to justify wasting my time playing solitaire or watching some Seinfeld re-run for the umpteenth time.

A year from now--when James Dillon will be walking, talking and recognizing himself in a mirror--I want to be able to look back at my 2/25/08 self and confidently say, "I am a better person than he was."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

This is our country

If you regularly read atheist blogs, you probably heard about this story: A religious high school in Kansas refused to let Michelle Campbell ref a basketball game because she does not have a Y chromosome. The story broke about a week ago, and atheist blogs were quick to bring it to light, and the responses on those sites were understandably disgusted.

Well yesterday, the story made it into the biggest sports spotlight, Unlike atheist blogs, which are largely read by free thinkers who are more likely to see the prejudice in this story, ESPN's "Sports Nation" is a good representative of the average American.

So I couldn't resist checking the comments, and the results were saddening but not surprising. There was only one "woman, get back in the kitchen!" post, which was most likely a poor attempt at humor. But what was more off-putting was the more subtle sexism that several people saw as reasonable.

The common arguments were as follows:

"Well I'm a democrat (loath the clown in charge) and I'm from a blue state, but I would be irritated if a female official showed up to call a game in which I was playing. I would also think a fair number of male players would not take the female official seriously. The men's game at all levels is much faster and more physical than the corresponding female version. Most officials played the game at one point in their lives and it stands to reason that very few, if any, female officials would have an accurate point of reference to judge the men's game (especially the physicality)."

This was a sentiment that was echoed by a few people, but look at the way this guy opens his comment. He's a democrat, hates Bush and is from a blue state. Okay, there's no way he can be sexist. Now let's move on to his reasonable argument: Women shouldn't officiate because (a) guys aren't comfortable with it, and (b) they are inferior refs. Just like men aren't comfortable having a female boss, and besides, females don't make good leaders. Just like white students weren't comfortable having classes with black students, and besides, black students don't make good students. Just like heterosexuals aren't comfortable with homosexuals getting married, and besides, homosexuals don't make good parents.
And the argument that females aren't familiar with the men's game because the game they played was different ignores the fact that most refs--especially at high levels of play--never played high level basketball, if they played at all. This is a clear case of males trying to justify their prejudice, even though this guy admits that he's just not comfortable with women being refs.

Another version of this argument:

"i'm not saying a woman refereeing a boys game would change the outcome, but it would be on the mind of every person in the gym and it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already. you can't win if you're a woman ref in this situation. so let me reiterate that i am not sexist, but i can understand where people would have a reasonable case not wanting the lady to ref, and i can completely understand how the lady ref and others would be offended."

If you're like me, you just about jumped out of your skin when you read "it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already." We don't want to face our prejudices (and we all have prejudices) because it makes us feel icky. So let's just ignore this whole thing.

The other most common argument was summed up by this commentator:

"A private school should be able to make any rule they want concerning their students if they believe its' in the kids' best interest. It is a private entity and if parents, would-be refs, teachers or any other potiental employee does not agree with the schools' ideology, then, by all means, have nothing to do with the's a free enterprise."

The first thing that gets to me about this position is that it is disguised as tolerence. I'm sure this guy (I'm assuming all these commentators are guys for obvious reasons) would claim to live by the "Live and let live" philosophy, but this is a horrible philosophy to take when it comes to a "private entity" practicing blatant discrimination or any other form of injustice.
But what really, really gets under my skin about this particular claim is that it fuels the ideology that parents have free reign to teach their kids anything they want. This is a touchy issue, and I want to post on it in depth in the near future, but it makes me want to scream whenever anyone says anything to the effect of "The parents can do what they want. It's their kids, and none of our business." It bugs me because it treats kids like possessions instead of individual persons...but that rant is for another day.

One more guy that thinks he's being tolerent:

"We are SO OVERLY SENSITIVE in this country it's sickening. No one can have opinions or beliefs without them coming into question from some jack### with an agenda. Spare me your phony outrage and moral high ground about equality, people. Many of those who preach tolerance need to learn what the word means and practice it themselves."

This is an all too common misstep in logic from tolerating someone's personal beliefs to tolerating their outward actions based on those beliefs. If you want to believe that your toaster talks to you, fine. That's your business. But if your toaster tells you to blow up a school, or even to steal a candy bar, then it's someone else's business. And that someone else has a right to react to your actions.
And when your beliefs result in continual unjust actions or inactions(this same school was in the news before when they refused to play a football team that had a girl on its roster) you're damn right we have a right to question those beliefs.

A lot of Americans point proudly to the fact that we've come a long way in equal treatment of all people. But the process is painstakingly slow simply because people are unwilling to question long-held beliefs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The value of human life without "souls"

One of the hardest things for people to accept in a godless universe is the realization that we, humans, are made up of the same ‘stuff’ as everything else. When I talk to people that are scared of a godless universe, more often than not the core of that fear is not the absence of god itself, but the absence of souls.

I have often heard people claim that atheists don’t care about human life. The arguments go from “If there is no purpose to our lives, there is no value to our lives” to “If you are an atheist then you must believe that walking into a bus and opening fire is no different from shooting empty aluminum cans.”

Of course, these arguments are absurd, and people who are accused of such views quickly dismiss them as absurd. But precisely because it’s so absurd, I haven’t heard too many people really explain why human life is still valuable without a god. So I would like to briefly show that you can be an atheist without necessarily being a nihilist.

If you gave me a pile of plastic, metal, some wire and rubber, I would probably throw that heap of junk in the trash. But when those pieces are organized in a way that makes a computer, all of a sudden I have a valuable tool that allows me to communicate with you, play solitaire, or watch endless amounts of porn. The internet is not a physical thing; it is the result of a lot of physical elements arranged in the right way to create a worldwide communication device. I don’t really know how it all works, and I don’t care, because I don’t have to understand how it works to use it.

We are the same type of sum of the parts. No single part of a computer can be called a computer. Similarly, there is no single atom or cell that holds consciousness. But a particular collection and arrangement of atoms brings consciousness into existence. So is an atom that is part of me any more valuable than an atom that is part of a snowflake? No. Even if you chopped off my hand, I would not be sad for the physical hand that will decompose without the rest of my body. I would be sad because of the pain it causes me, both physically and psychologically. The physical aspect of a human body is not what we value. What we value is consciousness, which some people call the soul. What we have learned from neurology is that this consciousness is a result of a completely physical process. The mistake that some people make is to then claim that consciousness is purely physical, and thus unimportant. But consciousness itself does not exist as a physical thing. Consciousness is what is created in the non-physical world when certain physical elements are perfectly aligned.

This is what makes human beings special. It’s not one physical aspect of humans, but the sum of the parts that creates consciousness. And consciousness is not the only non-physical phenomenon that should be valued. On the level of single atoms, no one is any more important than another, true. But this does not mean that everything is meaningless.

There is no objective way to define ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ but I don’t think anyone would disagree about the inherent value of certain feelings and interactions. Love is good. Hate is bad. Human connections, cooperation, justice, knowledge, understanding…all of these things are inherently and inarguably good things. Like consciousness, none of these things physically exist, but are instead a sum of the parts.As an atheist, these are the things I fight for. I don’t find value in physical things, but in the non-physical things that physical things can create. My goal is to increase the amount of these things in the universe. So I seek to increase these things in my own life, but also in other people’s lives. My physical being is valuable only in its ability to create these inherently good, non-physical occurrences.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Oops, I accidentally got drunk. Since I have a strict policy of no drinking and posting, there will be no post tonight. I will get my post up early tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The inherent problem with "Rational Christianity"

Today I went to my favorite place in the world, the bookstore. I went there specifically to pick up a copy of Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell," but I ended up also buying "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin and "Predictable Irrationality" by Dan Ariely. But my impulsive buying is not the point.

The point is that on the book racks in the front of the store, where just a couple months ago I saw books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, was an abundance of Christian books proclaiming to defeat modern anti-theistic arguments. And I think that's good. Any debate needs input from both sides.

I don't want to close myself off to people that I disagree with, so I made a point to read many of the introductions and flipped through some of the chapters of these books. Some of them made intriguing points, some of them did not. But there was one thing that they all had in common, which made them flawed: all of their arguments were ex post facto.

A wonderful professor I had in college once told our class that the most important thing you have to learn in grad school was what you didn't have to read, because you can't possibly read it all. And if something is fundamentally flawed, you shouldn't waste your time reading it. So when someone is arguing ex post facto, I simply feel no obligation to read what they have to say.

So of course, I did not have time to read the entire books. I would gladly read one or two of them in their entirety if they were lended to me, but I will not spend my own hard-earned money on these books, because they are fundamentally flawed in their arguments.

This is the basic problem with "rational" arguments for Christianity, or any other religion. Just as the church has retrospectively determined that the Bible actually doesn't condone genocide, infanticide, slaverly, sexism, and in some more liberal churches, homophobia...just to name a few, there is no attempt in religious rationalism to start from scratch.

I cannot and will not accept any argument that begins with the assumption that God exists and then tries to prove his existence through reason, because you are beginning with a basic logical fallacy of assumption.

The other thing I noticed in these books, from what I read, was that they never gave a hypothetical situation in which God's existence would be falsifiable. If a theory is not falsifiable, it is worthless.

I have no problem with Borders promoting such books because both sides of a debate should be given a voice, and Borders is not promoting one side as better than the other. But the (non)reason used in these books should be pointed out as actually proving nothing other than the necessity of blind faith in religion.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The flawed moral sense

“I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” – Ernest Hemingway

There is a dangerous idea out there that is being promoted by theists and atheists alike. That is the idea that we have an in-born, natural sense of right and wrong and thus a natural sense of morality that we can rely on to make moral decisions. Whether that sense comes from a magical apple or billions of years of evolution is beside the point, to me, because the statement itself is false; there is no point to discussing the origin of something that does not exist.

Many people see their “conscience” as a voice in their head that speaks up whenever we encounter a moral decision. Some people see it as the voice of God, some people see it as a naturally developed sense, but people from both sides often view this “voice” as flawless.

Of course, when we hear about someone who bombed an abortion clinic or kill their family because they heard God tell them to do it, most of us say, “That person is insane. He should have known not to listen to that voice in his head. It sure as hell wasn’t God.”

And that’s good to think that because those people sure as hell are crazy to listen to any internal voice that tells them to kill people. But there is a more subtle, and more common, belief that as long as we are not mentally ill, we can tell right from wrong, even if we might do the wrong thing every now and then—but when we do something wrong we know it’s wrong and feel guilty because of it. And I’m not hearing this argument from religious people; I’m hearing it from people who are generally non-religious that claim there is a natural, objective morality that has developed in humans for the benefit of our species. After all, without some sense of morality, society at large would be impossible. If everyone was just looking out for themselves, we would never have escaped the stone age, or even made it that far.

I’m not disputing the claim that we have an innate sense of morality and justice. But I am disputing that a perfect sense of morality could, hypothetically, be achieved if we were just willing to listen to that natural voice in our head that tells us what is right and what is wrong. I’m disputing the idea that our selfishness is the only thing keeping us from a perfect, or near perfect, sense of morality.

The problem with claiming that God installs a sense of morality in us is that if God created it, it has to be perfect. I find it ironic that Christians in this country claim that without religion, subjective morality would take over and “people would do whatever they felt like.” I find this ironic, because it is exactly what most Christians do themselves. Many born-again Christians are convinced that they can communicate directly with God. When they have a difficult decision to make, they can simply ask the God voice inside their head what they should do. How many times do you hear Christians talk about praying for guidance? And in the end, who is actually making the decision? Them, based on what they feel is right. Because the Bible is surprisingly vague on today’s “moral” issues like abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty, people have to rely on what their internal God tells them, and both sides can find plenty of scripture to back up their conclusion. But in the end, they’re just listening to the supposedly flawless voice inside their heads.

But Christians aren’t the only ones who do this. Just substitute “self-reflection” for prayer, and the process works just as well without any god. When it comes to making moral decisions, most people rely on what they feel. And as long as someone’s moral opinion doesn’t stray too far from the norm (like someone who feels like child molestation is okay), we are not supposed to criticize anyone’s moral decisions.

On one hand, we desperately want to believe that there is an objective moral code so that we can say definitively and objectively that rape, murder and theft are immoral. But when it comes to our personal lives, we feel like we are equipped to make the correct moral decision if we just stop and reflect on whether something feels right or not.

This is a mistake, because the tools we are equipped with are flawed. Evolution is a sloppy process that cares about one thing and one thing only: survival. I’m not sure whether morality developed as a direct benefit to human survival, or if it is purely a side-effect of our ability to understand another being’s thoughts, which leads to empathy, which leads to morality. I tend to lean toward the side-effect theory, but it’s beside the point in this case. The point is that just because morality developed and has proven beneficial does not mean it is perfect, or anything close to perfect. Relying on what we feel is right and wrong is a perfect way to allow ourselves to justify our immoral acts. Cold hard reason has to be a (big) part of our morality if we ever want to get anywhere close to living in peace.

Take racism, or any other kind of prejudice, as an example. While culture certainly plays a role in prejudice, there are underlying, natural, aspects of our brains that make us discriminate—mainly the need to categorize, which is necessary to our ability to comprehend the world and make decisions. And how is something like racism diminished? There wasn’t a generation that suddenly said, “We no longer feel good about treating someone differently because of the color of their skin.” It was the realization that “they” bleed, sleep, age and feel the same way that “we” do. Racial relations have been helped tremendously by proving scientifically that we share the same genes. On a personal level, the best way to conquer prejudice is to form relationships with people with different skin color, sexual orientation or social status. When you actually get to know people as individuals, you realize you aren’t all that different and can begin to chip away at your prejudices. One way or another, logic plays a role in overcoming the natural tendency toward prejudice.

Of course, even though we have a tendency toward prejudice, many of us still feel bad that we are prejudiced. So you could argue that there is still an overriding natural moral sense that has to battle with the separate natural sense of prejudice. But our moral feelings (the guilt or empathy that make us feel icky or good) do not always fall in line with what logically seems moral.

When our morality fails

Imagine that you were walking to work in your brand new $500 suit when you see a man lying in the street, bloodied and unconscious, but clearly still alive. There is a semi driving down the street toward the man, and it is obvious that the driver will not see the man in time to avoid him. You have plenty of time to drag the man out of the way, but you certainly do not have time to undress or try to wake him up. You do not save the man because you do not want to ruin your new suit with bloodstains.

Now imagine a second scenario. You are watching TV and a commercial comes on that shows pictures of starving children in Africa and a phone number you can call to sponsor a child for just five dollars a month. You continue to watch television and do not call the phone number.

In these situations, are you acting immorally or morally? If you are like 99% of people, you would say that in the first scenario you are acting immorally, but in the second scenario, you are not acting either immorally or morally.

But what makes these situations different? In both situations you have the opportunity to save a stranger’s life at your own expense. Why is inaction immoral in one case, and not in the other? You can say that in scenario one you are the only person that can save the man, while in scenario two you can rest assured that those children will be saved by someone else. But come on, you know that’s a lousy excuse. There is no shortage of starving children in the world, so even if 3,000,000 children were saved from other peoples’ donations, your donation would mean that 3,000,001 children were saved. You can try to come up with an excuse, but if you’re honest with yourself, the moral judgments of the two scenarios should be the same.

Because indirect contact with other human beings (through letters, telephone, email, webcams, etc.) is relatively new to us, our empathy does not translate very well to people we cannot physically see. It’s not completely absent, and in fact we often get angry that these sponsor-a-child programs play on our empathy by showing pictures of miserable children. But that feeling is not strong enough for us to actually save those children’s life. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have never personally donated to any of these causes myself. So I’m not getting on my high horse here; I’m just as guilty as anyone).

Should I feel guilty every time I go to the movies, since that money could save someone’s life? Well no, that kind of guilt would be crippling. But is it immoral for me to go to the movies when that money could save someone’s life? As uncomfortable as it makes me, it’s hard to say that it is not. In fact, I will say definitively right here that going to the movies or buying a four-dollar cup of coffee are immoral acts.

Of course, this sets a moral standard that is impossible for anyone to live up to. The idea that I can never be perfectly moral, no matter how hard I try is uncomfortable. But just because something makes us uncomfortable does not mean that we should deny it against all reason. And I just cannot come up with a reasonable argument for why I should not consider the mentioned cases immoral.

Even upon realizing this, I do not find myself in a constant state of guilt and shame because I am not giving every penny I earn to humanitarian causes. When I sit down and really think about it, sure I feel a little guilty, but just like I’m not continually baffled by my self-awareness, my feelings of guilt in these cases are not instinctive. If I steal money from my brother, as I did sometimes when we were kids (sorry Jordan), I instinctively feel guilty about it. I don’t have to sit down and consider that what I did was unjust, because my moral sense naturally activates feelings of guilt. This feeling of guilt will not go away until I justify my immoral actions, or make up for them. People that are constantly committing immoral acts are usually very good at quickly justifying those acts.

With the starving children on the other side of the world, however, my moral sense falls short. I have to consciously convince myself that my inaction is immoral before I feel any sense of guilt, and that guilt disappears immediately.

So what?

So what can we do about it without driving ourselves into poverty and starvation? Well, for starters, we can recognize that our moral sense is imperfect, and that we need to apply reason when it comes to making moral decisions; just because we don’t feel guilty about doing something does not mean we are doing the right thing.

The man in the road and child in Africa examples are extreme situations of when we do and don’t feel a moral responsibility to help someone, but most situations fall in a gray area. A lot of people have siblings that are significantly less or more fortunate than they are, but few people feel bad about buying a new Mercedes while their brother is living paycheck to paycheck and falling behind on his bills. If anyone suggests that you should feel guilty about not helping your struggling sibling, there are all kinds of justifications you can fall back on: “I earned this money, and my brother’s lazy,” “He’s not starving to death. He’s fine,” “If I give a handout to him, then everyone’s going to want one.”

Since my personal situation is a lot closer to the struggling brother, it is hard for me to criticize the inaction of the well-to-do brother. The common reaction is, “You’re just looking for a free handout. You just want people to give you something for nothing.” But I am just as guilty when I buy a $10 t-shirt instead of donating that money.

I am not attacking particular actions that I think are immoral. I am suggesting that we reevaluate how we define morality. Perfect morality as I have defined it is unattainable, but that does not mean we should not pursue it. A perfect understanding of the universe is unattainable, but we do not stop pursuing that. Like any good counselor will tell an alcoholic, admitting our shortcomings is the first step to recovery. We have to admit that our moral sense is incomplete. We cannot continue to insist that immoral actions will reveal themselves through our guilt, and moral actions will reveal themselves through our happiness, because this is not always the case. It may be uncomfortable to expand our definition of immorality, but our descendents will thank us. We are a long way from a peaceful existence, but I am confident that harmony is possible if we take the appropriate steps. And I believe that including reason in our moral decisions is an important one of those steps.

Sorry Hemingway, but you’re wrong.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mind undergoing improvements: please bear with me

"Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death." – Albert Einstein

Okay, I have been trying for hours to come up with a coherent post, because I promised one a week. I tried writing about consciousness, then morality, then something that didn’t even have a main point…everything ends up in incoherent rambling, and I’m just not confident enough in anything I’ve written to post it here.

Instead I want to talk about my rambling mind, because I think it is an important topic. My writing is all over the place because that’s where my mind is right now: jumping from tangent to tangent, unable to settle anywhere long enough to finish a thought. It makes it nearly impossible for me to communicate my thoughts to anyone else, which is frustrating, but I have come to realize that this incoherence is a good sign, and a necessary part of intellectual growth.

I have been vigorously stirring my mind (largely in part to a new, wonderfully thought-provoking book that I am in the middle of reading) so that all of my beliefs and opinions are swirling spastically like pulp in orange juice. While they are swirling, they are completely vulnerable to be shot down.

This is a vital process for any independent thinker. No matter how objective you think you are, you will always have a tendency to try to prove yourself right. And more than that, it is important to have some kind of base beliefs (beliefs that you have reached through evidence, reason and skepticism). If you absolutely doubted everything all the time, you would go crazy. You have to have some confidence in some things, some of the time.

But from time to time, I think you have to enter a state of complete uncertainty. That’s where I am right now. Of course, the beliefs with the most evidence (there is no god, for example) fall back into place pretty quickly. But my opinions on morality, consciousness and other complicated issues are undergoing some heavy internal fire, and hopefully I will come out with a better understanding and some intriguing thoughts on those issues.

But for the time being, I have very little confidence in any opinion I might express, and I cannot bring myself to write an opinion that I myself am not confident in.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Introduction to Very Special Monkeys

“Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah and his party didn’t miss the boat.” – Mark Twain

It is often noted that humans are not nearly as superior to other animals as we like to think we are. There is certainly an abundance of negative traits that are uniquely human. Our existence is not beneficial in any way to our environment, and we seem to care very little that we are actively destroying the planet we call home. Defending the human race is a near impossible task. But I’m trying to be an optimist, and I genuinely think we can justify our existence if we utilize the positive traits that are uniquely human.

Through the clumsy process of evolution, we have stumbled upon some wonderful gifts—reason, a sense of justice, and the desire to understand the universe—that could prove to be the tools we need to save our species.

“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.” – Bertrand Russell

Without question, religion is one of the biggest hindrances to human progress, especially moral progress. Religion promotes willful ignorance and blind faith over skepticism and reason. Religion undercuts the potentially unifying traits of humans because it proclaims itself to be sheltered from reason, and different religions have polarizing beliefs that make peaceful coexistence impossible.

I am an atheist and damn proud of it, but Very Special Monkeys is not meant to be a direct attack on religion. It is a direct attack at the broader problem that makes religion—but also several other human errors—possible: irrationalism.

Irrational thoughts are a trap for all people. And it’s not always bad; the emotions that we value (and the ones we detest) are results of irrationality. But when we are searching for Truth, and in order to find a way to peacefully coexist, we have to be able to put our own self-interests and subjective points of view aside.

The things that make us uniquely human allow us to experience happiness that goes far beyond any physical pleasure. Very Special Monkeys is a celebration of this ability, but more importantly VSM is a call to end the irrational thoughts that are keeping us from crossing the threshold that Russell spoke of. Sometimes I will make attacks on widespread irrational thoughts. Other times I will make attempts to advance contemporary explorations of reality. At all times, I will implement reason, logic and most importantly, skepticism.

Because I am somewhat of a perfectionist (I challenge you to find a grammatical or spelling error on my blog), my posts tend to take a long time to construct and usually end up rather lengthy because I do not want to miss any of the thought’s potential. In my blogging experience, this has meant a lot of large time gaps between posts. So to make it easy on my readers, I will simply promise you a new post every Wednesday night. If you need something substantial to chew on after a long week of your mindless job, check in every Friday morning and I’ll have you covered. If you only have time on the weekend, stop by then. The point is, I’ll make sure I have something fresh for you every week. I may make additional posts depending on newsworthy events, but the meat of my thoughts will go into my weekly post.

During the rest of the week, check out the other blogs I have linked, most of which make much more frequent posts. I promise they’re all good, but I have no problem telling you that my personal favorites are Atheist Revolution and Greta Christina’s Blog.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts of this very special monkey.