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Technical Difficulties With Automated Blog Posts

[20100131] The blog is still refusing mail from gmail. I've stopped the forwarders. When the mail server stops trying to deliver mail (probably by the 5th). I'll try another strategy.
I'm trying to find the equilibrium between Google News Alerts, Gmail and Blogger to permit automated posting of Google News Alerts to the blog so I can have them for reference and work on other things. My goal is not to focus on one news topic, but to have the varied topics in the news feeds automatically posted in the blog daily or weekly because I can capture more unique data that way.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Reasonable Doubt About Sin, Biological Bases For Behavior

This article expresses doubt about sin. It challenges the concept of Sin and Eternal Reward and Punishment. Human behavior is too complex to be handled by a dichotomy of "reward and punishment".

It is a very long article, and i apologize but it is so long exactly because it gets to the heart of Christianity and shows how ignorant of human behavior the authors were. It argues that if God created us, that since we have biological bases for behavior that heavily influence our freewill, the dichotomy of reward and punishment rather than remediation is unjust because he designed us with a high potential to fail. The article is divided into two sections. The first section is a general overview of the argument, and the second part is more technical with links to data.

Even as a Christian, I have always thought the policy that people were more bad than good was odd. I just took it on faith that it was true. Then I just took it on faith that all the little tiny sins amounted to something that was relatively disgusting to a god, however much I couldn't understand it. But since I lost my faith, I now believe that Christianity follows in the footsteps of all the other religions before it that correlate blood with fertility, Gods with kings and heroes who struggle with death. Humans have a special part as subjects and should constantly strive to behave better. Basically, religion creates a problem by exaggerating the bad then sells the solution. Its a tried and true technique, that many different organizations (including marketing) practice today. People are bad and they need God or a King to keep them in line. In fact, I just heard about how nasty people were from my co-worker, then I challenged him to walk around the building with me and point to "nasty people". "Nasty People" are a minority. If they weren't there would be no civilization. Its The Blame Game. The claim goes "People are Evil, Lazy, Unmotivated and Stupid because they choose to be, but don't despair, there is a solution!"

Human behavior is and has typically been viewed as good or Bad/Evil. Supposedly Jesus cast out demons, and this practice continues today. But this idea of spirits causing bad behavior was left behind by science. Science has taken a slow track to the point it is today because until recently fruitful "non-destructive" brain research has been impossible. Science has exposed the good/evil false dichotomy and shows that Christianity ignores a lot of very important qualifiers about human behavior. Even in the cases of ordinary behavior of the people you work with, their behavior doesn't stem from them being a "bad" or "good" person. Human behavior is influenced by the following inter-dependent factors and the human is more or less unaware of them.
- Population and Species attributes
- Natural selection
- Genetic Makeup
- Fetal Development
- Perinatal Biology
- Development
- Acute Hormones
- Environmental Triggers
- Neurobiology

What you will notice is that Freewill is missing. That is because freewill itself is made up of those components. We don't have as much "freewill" as we imagine we do. Where do you draw the line between normal behavior and a disorder? Where do you draw the line of culpability?

Additionally as I discussed in Reasonable Doubt About The Problem of Evil/Needless Suffering As A Test there is a negative feedback loop between stress and our behavior. The influence that environmental and biological factors have on the function of the brain limits options and performance without the person even realizing it. These factors are an inseparable part of the decision making process.

When we see behavior exhibited by a person, it is a result of these factors. Whether or not the behavior meets our expectations or that of God, it originated out of the frail bodily organ that is the brain. It may be that these factors cannot really be appreciated until they are put under stress or do not work properly. Many times the result is behavior that is outside the norm and/or doesn't meet our expectations. How much culpability does a person have when the tools they are given are not adequate for the task at hand? In the context of having our behavior judged by God, there is only eternal reward or eternal damnation. Curiously there is no facility for treatment except for the bible, church, prayer and repentance. But living in a constant state of repentance causes stress, poor self-esteem and approaches depression. With the advances in biological sciences in the last few decades, Western Judicial Systems have been forced to re-evaluate policies to determine if treatment rather than punishment is the better decision, because everyday secular science gets one step closer to easing a previously mysterious malady.

I argue that if we were put here as a test, then we should have been designed exactly opposite. As it is now, resisting temptation and denying our nature causes frustration and stress. It seems to be a backward system where following the rules results in angst, frustration, poor health and ultimately unhappiness. It seems to be a system designed to demotivate. It seems to be a system designed to foster failure.

If god made us, then obviously he is responsible for our architecture. The bible says we prefer sin, and using the definition of sin in the bible, it seems to be true. But what is sin? Who decides what sin is? Is sin being promiscuous or overeating? Human beings would have never survived if they did not act this way. It is necessary behavior in the survival of organisms to procreate as much as they can and eat when they can find food. Natural Selection has filtered this behavior to prominence because those organisms that behaved that way, passed on more copies of themselves, their genes.

How do we stay motivated to do things that promote our survival? We have to have some internal 'detector' that makes us want to do something that promotes our survival. Sex feels good doesn't it? Eating when you are hungry feels good doesn't it? Dopamine receptors in the brain receive Dopamine that gets released into the blood stream by the endocrine system that provides some of that positive feedback. But a malfunctioning dopamine system or the introduction of foreign bodies that are similar to dopamine can cause addictions. It is a flawed process that can be easily fooled by things such as food, alcohol and cocaine into malfunctioning. Not the high quality I would expect out of the workshop of a God.

Do people choose who they are sexually aroused by? I didn't choose my sexual preference, and by the way most people talk, they didn't either, but to hear a Christian denounce homosexuality as abhorrent behavior you'd think they are attracted to both sexes but choose to be heterosexual. I don't buy it because I know that pheromones or at least something that is given off by an individual has an effect on arousal. I know that 1 in 6000 humans are born with both genitalia and I know that some people are pseudohermaphrodites (they have the normal genitalia but with opposite gender ovaries or testicles partially developed in the lower torso). I also know that scientists can biologically manipulate the sexuality of Mice and Fruit-flies in the lab and that there are over 1500 species of animals that are know to exhibit homosexual behavior.

I challenge the whole concept of sin. I think it is a misunderstanding of evolutionarily developed behaviors and human biology that were not understood at the time the scripture was written. I say we are at least as 'good' as we are 'sinful' and in reality the lines of 'good' and 'sin' are blurred by context. The act of lying is a good example of that. Organisms use a mixture of strategies such as Individual Selection, Kin Selection and variations of "Tit-for-Tat" to survive. Game theory mathematics predicts some behaviors such as cooperation and selecting for cooperative mates. "Tit-for-Tat" is a logical strategy not specific to humans that naturally evolves out of situations as demonstrated in nature and between armies in World War 1 and 2.

Christians say this 'death' came after Adam disobeyed god, but I say that the evidence is reasonably conclusive that there never was an Adam and Eve. The only evidence for Adam and Eve come from the bible, the Egyptian myth of the potter that makes humans out of clay, and the Sumerian myth of the god that was killed and his blood was mixed with the earth to make humans. Experts on the bible, Christians and scientists discount the Egyptian and Sumerian accounts so all that is left is the Bible as the sole source. If Adam and Eve did exist then for them to have conceived of choosing to disobey god, the mechanism to do that would have had to already existed. They would have already had to have the architecture in place to allow that to happen. If not, then God would have had to make a "Great Overhaul" of human and animal physiology to 'curse us'. Alternately to say that Adam and Eve are just Metaphors for mans sinful nature is to admit that we were made from the beginning to "prefer sin" or somewhere along the line, we were perfect and then decided to sin and the "Great Overhaul" occurred, but anthropology does not support that conclusion in any measure.

If God made us this way then we are sabotaged to prefer to sin (survival strategies), and to resist it causes stress which adversely affects our happiness and sometimes our health. Some of our biological features had evolutionary advantages that don't make sense anymore. Such as overeating and sexual promiscuity. Addictions are evolutionary processes running amok that never had the ability or time to compensate for error. To say that God sabotaged us to prefer sin is obviously a ridiculous charge against the Christian God, therefore the alternative is that he didn't have anything to do with our creation.


It is the result of a feedback loop between the environment and a biological system of feedback loops that all influence each other circularly. As research progresses, it is removing the mystery and supernatural aspects of who we and how we behave. There are biological factors involved in who we vote for, what we believe in, what we like, what we think about, what we experience, what makes us an "I", what makes up our essence.

Through a strategy of reproducing, eating when food is available, selecting for things that 'feel good' and/or selecting for things that support its well being organisms naturally survive. There is a point when their behavior prevents them from dying, and another point when it causes them to thrive, and another point when their behavior is not appropriate in the environment anymore. The more of these organisms that survive, the more they reproduce and the more copies they make of themselves. Over time, survival strategies evolved naturally. Some of these were discovered after that "Beautiful Mind" John Nash created a mathematical model of economic behavior. This model was expanded into what is now known as "Game Theory". In Game theory a strategy known as "Tit-for-Tat" was discovered, where participant A trusts participant B till B does something that violates it, then A will do something against B until B's behavior conforms, and vice versa. The most famous example of this spontaneous non-violent behavior is in the "Christmas Truce" of World War One in 1914 which was an instance of the "Live and Let Live" spontaneous cooperation behavior. Not only are these cooperative behaviors selected for because they result in the survival of the organism, the organism selects partners that it sees will cooperate. These naturally arising survival strategies ensured early humans could pass on copies of themselves. Generally speaking, our behavior has evolved to ensure the successful copying of our genes.

Genes are the foundation for biological systems including the brain. They are a hereditary unit consisting of a sequence that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and determines a particular characteristic in an organism. DNA is a nucleic acid that carries the genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA. DNA consists of two long chains of nucleotides twisted into a double helix and joined by hydrogen bonds between the complementary bases adenine and thymine or cytosine and guanine. The sequence of nucleotides determines individual hereditary characteristics. Genes undergo mutation when their DNA sequence changes by suboptimal process execution. They result in differences in eye color, body style, "quality" of blood, bones, teeth, cells, TEMPERAMENT, etc.

There are genetic factors that promote or detract from survival. Those genetic factors that promote survival will get more copies made. Organisms that survive will pass them on. A famous genetic mutation is Sickle Cell anemia. It evidently created an evolutionary advantage against malaria, but over time the need has diminished and now it is a disease because the context changed. Additionally, sometimes genes get distorted and a mutation occurs. Most of the time these mutations don't have much affect but sometimes they do. A striking behavioral example of this is Frontotemporal dementia. It is a neurological disorder (most often due to a specific mutation) in which disintegration of the frontal cortex occurs. This one genetic variant affects two people with opposite temperaments in opposite ways, turning a meek person into a wild one and a wild one into a meek one. Temperament is defined as the part of the personality that is genetically defined. Patterns of behavioral traits run in families. Another example is how Genital Arousal Disorder Adversely Impacts Women's Lives. Its challenging for us to make sense of 'who's the them inside there that's doing that'.

Genes code for the architecture of the neuron. The neuron is made up of a cell body (Soma) a dendritic tree and an axon . The axon is covered by a myelin sheath made of glial cells that provide support in the form of nutrition and insulation. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that attacks the myelin sheath. When the neurons are working properly, they communicate via electrochemical mechanisms. This results in the release of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine and Serotonin. Dopamine and Serotonin levels affect the brain and are used by a mechanism of recycling. When the levels of Dopamine and Serotonin are incorrect or interrupted, it results in diseases such as depression, bi-polar disease, schizophrenia, and others including addiction and possibly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. For example, categorically speaking, serial killers have reduced levels of Serotonin. Additionally, cocaine is a type of drug that causes premature release of Dopamine transmitters and makes the drug highly addictive. Once a person is accustomed to the feeling created by the release of dopamine, when they don't have it, they miss it and will try to regain it. This is an effective evolutionary survival strategy. This is one reason why addiction is so powerful. It works on the central processing unit of the body. Manipulating neurotransmitters in the brain are a powerful way to manipulate moods and behavior in humans. Diseases such as schizophrenia are a result of poor neurotransmitter performance and are passed genetically. A less debilitating version is called Schizotypy. It has negative dimensions to it such as reduced social behavior but in some cases it results in higher incidences of creativity in individuals. Statistically, artists and authors have a higher incidence of schizophrenia in their families. Schizophrenia not only affects behavior, it also affects perception.

Another important factor in the development of this architecture of behavior is fetal development. We all know that mothers that smoke and drink alcohol increase the risk of harm to the baby, but we don't think about the mothers environment. Excessive stress is known to be harmful to the baby and mother. For example, excessive stress in the third trimester is known to correlate to a smaller head size. Poor nutrition is another factor that negatively impacts the fetus. Over successive pregnancies the womb compensates and modifies itself to account for what has been going on inside of it. It compensates for hormones, and correlates to fetus sexual development. I'm not saying that homosexuals are made in the mothers womb, but I am saying that Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a pathology which makes a biological base for homosexuality very plausible. Additionally, factors that negatively impact the brain, nervous system, or endocrine system put the organism at a disadvantage before it leaves the womb. These factors play a part in developing the architecture that will produce behavior. The brain is made up of around 100 billion neurons each with connections to between 1000 - 10,000 other neurons, it uses a combination of electrical, chemical, analog and digital "state change" signaling to accomplish communication between them. There is a lot that could go wrong in a system like that. For example people under 16 years of age can't be given death penalty because it is recognized that the frontal lobe is not fully developed yet. This article from discusses Why Teens Are Such Impulsive Risk-takers. Biological factors reduce reasoning in one area while wildly enhancing it in others (Autism) reduce inhibitions, and leads to thinking about things that were previously unthinkable as evidenced in the following section.
Reasonable Doubt About The Atonement, Psychopathy
Reasonable Doubt About The Soul

This section shows the loop-back between the body and the brain.
Once the organism is born, in the early stages, its behavior will be mostly a result of reacting to its environment and the quality of the processes that result from the architecture that was formed in the womb. Babies that don't feel good, cry. Crying babies cause stress in the care provider. Crying babies will naturally motivate other babies to cry. Stress releases hormones from the organs (endocrine system) of both organisms. These hormones affect the frontal cortex and the limbic system, two systems that play a large role in behavior. But like all systems, organisms burn energy and use resources. There is never an endless supply of resources so the organism or system must reduce its activity to replenish resources or risk degraded performance. For example Sugar Affects Our Ability To Resist Temptation. A person that is chronically aggressive must spend more energy than those that are not resisting that feeling of aggression. Aggression is so basic that it can manifest itself through a genetic predisposition (MAOA), a tumor in the frontal cortex as in the famous case of Charles Whitman and the famous case of a recurrent tumor that caused recurrent pedophilia in a man, or testosterone and estrogen. Additionally, other ways hormones affect behavior is in the affect that male sweat has on females, female hormones have on each other (Menstrual syncronicity) , and how Subliminal Smells Bias Perception About A Person's Likability

As organisms interact in their environment, they behave according to internal factors, according to things they have learned and according to things they have stored in memory. They have the function of their internal processes influenced and shaped as time goes on. While it can be shown that a kind of xenophobia naturally results in the brain and the evolutionary advantage is apparent, people can reduce its impact by learning about the stranger and creating positive feelings about them. A practical example of this is Racism, and the fact that racism can be diminished through learning to trust one another. Xenophobia is a neurological reaction, an automatic dislike of strangers, and likewise there are some factors that make us feel the opposite automatically. A pleasing view or sound, or sensation on the skin is an example. The Biological clock has been shown to be regulated by light, and blue light at the wavelength of 480nm supports alertness and cognitive tasks. Sound at subsonic wavelengths from 17hz to 0.001 (aka infrasound) has been known to cause feelings of awe or fear in humans. Some reactions are automatic and set off reactions in the endocrine system that regulates the brain. Some stimuli gets that dopamine released and headed for those receptors. But what if something we like naturally is harmful? What if watching an organism experience fear causes dopamine to get released? Or what if we don't get the feedback we need to help shape our behavior one way or another? What if those paths between portions of the brain don't work efficiently because of a "Silent Stroke" or some natural defect? Sociopathy and Psychopathy are results of poor performance in emotional responses, and speaking less pathologically Schizotypy can result in a "wall flower", science fiction and fantasy enthusiast (like me) that can be amplified or reduced by the home environment.


People are very easy to influence. For example, the more in sync we are with the people around us, the more we like a movie. Reasoning properly is not something we are born with. There are many books related to sales that teach you tricks for how to influence people in a positive way to a sales pitch. Robert Cialdini is probably the most famous doctor to popularize principles of influence. In business we have to overcome many counter-intuitive biases to come up with a sound successful business strategy. We have to gather data in a certain way and use learned principles of interpreting that data to come to sound conclusions of what 'truth' it represents. We have to overcome the tendency to confuse correlation with cause, etc. We have to be trained to think properly to overcome biases that are either learned or 'hardwired' in us. One bias is the famous "Pascals Wager". It is a simple heuristic that is analogous to the survival instinct. It says "minimize risk". While this is a sound principle, how one goes about is the hard part. We have to teach children to "reason away" the fear of something under the bed, in the closet or noises in the house. This is where the discipline in thinking comes into play, the inference from statistics, and learning the difference between correlation and cause and effect.

How much freewill is left in the pie chart of decision making? It is said among Christians that God gave us freewill as a gift and we are supposed to use it to choose to love and obey him. They say that he won't influence our freewill. If god will not influence our freewill, then it doesn't follow that he made us. If he made us, he built in all kinds of factors that influence our freewill.

So how does this figure in when we have to love god, or love our neighbor in the middle of living in this "evil" world? Stress reduces our ability to behave as we would like. It doesn't make it easy and your prayers may or may not get answered, and we may even find ourselves having to decide to jump to our death or burn to death when its all over.

Alternately, Biological Bases for Behavior make it plausible that atheists have no real choice but to be atheists in the same sense that creative thinkers have no choice in thinking creative thoughts or paranoids believe that people are out to harm them. It is likely that some are "wired" to be less susceptible to belief not supported by a certain level of criteria for evidence. Biological Bases for Behavior makes it plausible that 85% of the world are ABLE to believe, but 15% aren't. The Christian would be in that 85% and the Atheist would be in that 15%.


If we are to be judged according to our thoughts, actions and decisions, and our thoughts, actions and decisions are influenced and or created by physiological factors, then we cannot be judged according to any standard since all people are physiologically unique and some behave in ways that they otherwise would not in different circumstances. How can we be judged for disobeying god when we cannot completely control our thoughts? To say, for example, that we are guilty of adultery for thinking about it (as Jesus did) is to say that there is no hope for redemption unless we are in a constant state of repentance. I should be repentant for something that I cannot control? For an aspect of my physiological makeup? Should I be sorry because I am ugly? I will be sent to eternal punishment because I am what I am? I am not able to live up to an unreachable standard so I am to be punished? If we are all supposed to do as well as we can and be repentant for the rest, what is the point at all? And how long can we stay repentant for something that never goes away? If our ability to avoid temptation is reduced as the amount of glucose is reduced, isn't it likely that as brain resources in general are reduced so are the associated processes? Are people to blame if they get tired of being repentant? Can someone be blamed for not being repentant about not being repentant? How can what we learn on the physical earth possibly transfer into our 'final reward' which is completely different? How is the ethereal 'soul' linked in any way to these physical processes? Is it affected as my glucose depletes?

Since the brain is a biological device. It can be influenced by physiological factors, and physiological factors induce desire and motivation. Since we cannot get outside of our thoughts and feelings, they make up our personality our "essence". This renders any judgment by an external supernatural creator meaningless because it would know that we are helpless to feel any other way than our physiological make up will support at the time, and that our behavior and desire will follow that. We are helpless to think any thoughts that are not supported by our physiological make up at the time. The physiological factors would have to be eliminated to make any judgment meaningful.

There is a theory that the brain is wired to do what it thinks and that it is because of an 'inhibitory circuit' in the brain that we can control our actions. When this is damaged, then we do things that we would ordinarily not do and in some cases do not realize it is wrong. I know bigots, and self-important arrogant people that don't even realize when they are being condescending and judgmental and don't even realize that what they are doing is wrong or unpleasant to be around. Any mention of it and I am the one that is in error because I am too sensitive or "exaggerated" or "self-righteous". Since our thoughts are determined by what state our brain is in at any given time, then so is our freewill and our moral compass. Our will, or motivation and desire is determined by what state our brain is in at any given time. This is not to say that we absolutely cannot control our behavior, it is just to say, that behavior outside the norm should be remediated, analyzed and assessed rather than judged.

None of this is laid out for understanding in the Bible. It was all misunderstood. Western Judicial Systems are on the edge of a cognitive science wind of change about why we behave the way we do and thinking about our culpability. At an AAAS Conference, Judges Explored the Impact of Neuroscience on the Justice system. They realize, as we all should, that the line between the essence of who we are and the biological factors tossing that essence about is getting shown be blurred.

Below are some links and notes I collected doing this research that support the article further.

* Time magazine,
- Ape with a conscience, pg. 54. vol 170, no. 23. Dec. 3, 2007
- The Science of Addiction, pg. 42. vol 170, no. 3. July 16, 2007
- The Science of Appetite, pg 32. Canadian Edition vol 169, no. 24. June 11, 2007.
* Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition
* University of Berkeley webcast courses: Psych 1 General Psychology
* Norman Geschwind can be considered the father of modern behavioral neurology in America.
* Pseudohermaphrodites
* Search for Craving Response on Research on addiction
* Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
* Epilepsy, religious figures
* Twin Studies
* Phineas Gage
* Tourette Syndrome
* Bipolar Disorder
* Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
* Borderline Personality Disorder
* Nymphomania
* Kleptomania
* Neophobia
* Depression
* The Role of Persuasion In The Question Of The Holy Spirit
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