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Archive for August, 2008

J.J. Abrams traces his love of the unseen mystery — the heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield — back to its own magical beginnings, which may or may not include an early obsession with magic, the love of a supportive grandfather, or his own unopened Mystery Box.

One of Abrams’ interesting insights: Mystery is the catalyst for imagination. There are times that mystery is more important than knowledge.

It’s that sense of infinite possibility that drives human curiosity, and inspires man to expand his awareness of the universe. However, on the flipside of that argument: is that man’s love for mystery can blind him from the truth–and forces man to cling to myths.

Wonderful insights from this talk from TED.

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AIDS and HIV are two aspects of world society we now have come to take for granted since its emergence in the 1980s. The disease and the virus that causes it have become staple facts that no one dares to challenge.

However, the ease and availability of information via the internet have made it possible for myths and propaganda to be challenged, and recently AIDS dissidents have found a voice to air their side. The basic facts about AIDS commonly accepted now:

  • HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
  • HIV was first contracted in Africa from monkeys.
  • HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact with infected partners, secondarily from infected needles, tertiarily from infected mothers to their infants.
  • Irresponsible homosexual males and intravenous drug abusers are at high risk from AIDS, but everyone is at risk from the disease.
  • These are the facts, or are they? What if like many things taken for granted, AIDS is simply the product of clever marketing and potent propaganda?

    Gary Null produced a video that tackles these very issues and provides a venue for AIDS dissidents to speak out. Check out Null’s work here.

    The debate that has sparked since Null’s documentary have people taking rabid sides. Two websites present their arguments and counter-arguments on this issue:

    1. VirusMyth is a website dedicated to AIDS dissidents presented by Gary Null. They compile petitions, testimonials, and research disproving the basic facts about AIDS.
    2. In response to VirusMyth, AIDSTruth.org was formed to debunk the counter-arguments of AIDS dissidents, classifying them as denialists and their research as pseudo-science. The website presents research of its own that answes the basic challenges of AIDS denialists.

    Considering the massive global funding on AIDS, this debate is one of the most controversial of our times and is a perfect study in the ability of an idea to take on a life of its own.

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    People Power in 1986 was a singular and powerful event that freed the country from the clutches of oppressive dictatorship and provided a venue and expression for free thought that had been repressed for decades in the Philippines.

    However, the modern idea of People Power has been changed from its purest expression into one that is used to manipulate people.

    This is the harsh critique of benign00 in YouTube who expresses a message for all Filipinos.

    A transcript of her message follows:

    Filipinos have become addicted to People Power revolutions. Our society is dying from this addiction.

    In September 2005, the first impeachment bid against President Arroyo failed to pass Congress. Former President Cory Aquino took the cue to lead a protest rally in Commonwealth Avenue that was expected to lead to another People Power spectacle–presumably to continue where Congress failed.

    That fizzled out spectacularly.

    Arroyo is still president today and Aquino has gone from Ms. Edsa Revolution to pathetic chump. So you just have to ask why we again see her in her ho-hum yellow outfit with the rest of the Catholic mafia knelt in prayer before the paparazzi.

    Groups addicted to People Power clamoring for a modern democratic society fail to see the irony in what Cory Aquino, the Catholic Church, and the 2008 opposition would have us do. Yet again ignore modern institutions and due process in favor of the Inquisition.

    What can be a more fitting reminder of primitive medieval sorcery than the sight of feudal land owners and oligarchs hand-in-hand with the clergy inciting misguided fervor on an ignorant throng of people. Do we want a modern country run by modern institutions or a primitive country run by organized religion? Do we as a people want to continue to play the part of the ignorant throng dancing to the tune of these characters?

    At the heart of this crisis there is no pro-Arroyo or anti-Arroyo. This is about what we want to be as a society. We want to be known as a people who want to do things properly. In 1986 there was no alternative to People Power. Today, 2008, people will have us believe that we are fighting for freedom. Yet the reality is that we already have this freedom. We only choose to misuse it–hitting the streets at the drop of a hat whenever Cory Aquino and a bunch of bishops are not happy. Contrary to what they say, we are a free people, and we are free to do the right thing today. Use the proper channels to reach your representatives in Congress.

    And next time, vote for the right people.

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    Murray Gell-mann is a physicist who reflects on the “theory of everything”. He mentions that there seems to be a relationship with elegance and beauty to finding truth.

    What are things that can be said to be beautiful or elegant? Elegance refers to simplicity. Elegance refers to something all-encompassing. Elegance is something that isn’t complicated. Elegance is something that you can immediately relate to–something you can immediately say is beautiful or elegant.

    Beauty is a unified theory. There is a simple statement that explains everything. Beauty is symmetry. Beauty is a self-similarity in Nature on all levels. We search for this beauty and we will be closer to truth.

    K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!)

    Are elegant questions more likely to be right than inelegant ones? Do you need something more, something supernatural, something inexplicable–to explain reality?

    Murray Gell-mann reflects on these things in this wonderful talk on TED.

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    More about the assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. The official verdict: the Senator was shot while descending the stairs from his airplane by his military escort–thus Aquino’s death was a military conspiracy, which loosely places the blame on incumbent President: Ferdinand Marcos.

    This thought was the spark that set off a critical chain of events that culminated in the ouster of Marcos in 1986.

    However, what if the verdict was wrong?

    Now, more than 20 years after Ninoy’s death, more and more witnesses and arguments are coming to fore that exonorates the military soliders accused of killing Senator Aquino, and placing the blame on Rolando Galman–the other person shot on the tarmac on the day of Aquino’s death.

    Here is the account of the sole civilian witness of Aquino’s assassination that day:

    In the same breath, more calls to reopen the case on Ninoy’s assassination, backed by more forensic studies that exonorate the soldiers:

    Finally a local forensic expert makes an argument against the official verdict against the soldiers:

    However the arguments are compelling, the case remains closed to this day.

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    Let us first start with the definitions: http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/faith

    faith audio� (fth) KEY NOUN:

    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_mechanism

    In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defence mechanisms or defense mechanisms (see -ce/-se) are psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Healthy persons normally use different defences throughout life. An ego defence mechanism becomes pathological only when its persistent use leads to maladaptive behavior such that the physical and/or mental health of the individual is adversely affected. The purpose of the Ego Defence Mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety, social sanctions or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.[1]

    Let’s use the definition of faith in number two. The person concerned does not believe his religion due to rationalization but probably due to authority. I personally don’t find anything wrong with having a belief which has not been validated by rationality. What seems weird though is, some people believe that their beliefs are definitely the truth with no room for error. Now that seems stretching it a bit too far. We all know that when we were kids we believed that our parents were infallible. But as we grew up we noticed that they just simply knew more. Now why would grown up humans, supposedly rational at that, actually believe that some supposedly representative of God is infallible. Has there even been any perfect track record of that person? Has the that organization which supposedly represents God been acting immaculately clean? To put everything in perspective, let us think that this religious organization is a company which your pretty freshly graduating daughter would want to apply to for a job. Say you are looking for a company, not only for your daughter’s financial future, but also for her moral well being. These would possibly be a list of a few requirements:

    1. The company or its employees should have no history of criminal activity.
    2. The company’s employees should have no history of internal sexual harrassment.
    3. The company should be ethical in its principles.
    4. The company should always tell the truth and not tell half lies in order to save itself.
    5. The company should not use fear in order to be followed.

    Now since religion is primarily for being good and going to heaven, it should not only pass the above requirements, but should actually pass it with flying colors. So, does your religion pass? Is my analogy reasonable? To put it more bluntly, would you let your pretty daughter get employed in a company which employs several people who are accused of sexual harassment or even sexual intercourse with minors of the same sex? And worse of all manages to shuffle them to another location where they are near other minors instead of quarantining them? If they can’t pass that simple test! How can you even state that everything they are saying is absolutely true? On to ‘defense mechanisms’. As state in the above quote: “are psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image” “The purpose of the Ego Defence Mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety, social sanctions or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.” You may ask, what are the realities that a human being has to cope with which is addressed by religion.

    1. To be given hope when one is down.
    2. To be given a parental figure, specially if one feels that he/she is missing such.
    3. To be given hope that there is life after death.
    4. To feel that justice will be given to the ones who have wronged him/her.

    Does the above make sense? I have been to several internet forums where discussions take place. When logic begins to batter believers, usually one angle they resort to is that life will be better if one believes in something, if one has hope.

    Hmm…..

    Try checking out the definition of one of the “psychological defence mechanisms” called “denial”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial

    Denial (also called abnegation) is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. [1] The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimisation) or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference). The concept of denial is particularly important to the study of addiction. The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Anna Freud. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind, because it conflicts with the ability to learn from and cope with reality. Where denial occurs in mature minds, it is most often associated with death, dying and rape. More recent research has significantly expanded the scope and utility of the concept. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross used denial as the first of five stages in the psychology of a dying patient, and the idea has been extended to include the reactions of survivors to news of a death. Thus, when parents are informed of the death of a child, their first reaction is often of the form, “No! You must have the wrong house, you can’t mean our child!”

    The problem with this hope is, it seems to fit into this “defense mechanism”. There are 4 levels of defense mechanisms, from the least mature starting with level one to the most mature being level four. Denial is a first level “defense mechanism”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_mechanism

    Level 1 Defence Mechanisms

    The mechanisms on this level, when predominating, almost always are severely pathological. These three defences, in conjunction, permit one to effectively rearrange external reality and eliminate the need to cope with reality. The pathological users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or insane to others. These are the “psychotic” defences, common in overt psychosis. However, they are found in dreams and throughout childhood as healthy mechanisms.

    They include:

    • Denial: Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an anxiety-provoking stimulus by stating it doesn’t exist; resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality.
    • Distortion: A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs.
    • Delusional Projection: Grossly frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature.

    I don’t know what Psychology officially thinks about religious faith. I don’t know if they even consider my analogies above to be reasonable or if they are just skirting the issue and just being religiously tolerant.

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    August being the anniversary of the assassination of Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino Jr., it merits a closer look at the man and his life. He is currently recognized as a national hero, his death in 1983 being the spark that caused a national outrage against Marcos that culiminated in the 1986 uprising that ousted the dictator from the Philippines.

    Our media and minds are filled with memes associated with Ninoy such as “The Filipino Is Worth Dying For” and others, and the common Filipino might treat Ninoy as a person who willingly died to restore democracy to the country.

    However, we have to ask an important critical question: did Aquino really want to die? Did he consider himself martyr material? Let’s take a closer look at Ninoy from what scant material we have in the media.

    Batas Militar Documentary

    Here’s an excerpt from the TV documentary “Batas Militar” which talks about Ninoy’s life and epitomy as a politician. Ninoy in history has always been a great orator and commentator, and his communication skills were excellent tools in politics. However, it is his story as a Philippine martyr that overwhelms most references to him, probably due to the extreme emotional outrage that his death sparked amongst his fellow Filipinos.

    700 Club

    Here’s an interview of Ninoy in the Christian show 700 club. More of how Ninoy is able to effectively communicate and use the sensibilities of his audience to rally people to his cause.

    Japanese Media

    Here are few media snippets of his interview prior to his arrival in Manila.

    ANC: The Big Picture

    Finally here is the best insight into Ninoy’s mind prior to his return. In a recorded conversation with close friend Steve Psinakis, Ninoy shares his motives for coming home and the trump cards he had prepared to garner Marcos’ support.

    Some things that isn’t top of mind to the common Filipino about Ninoy Aquino:

    1. He had nothing to do with the EDSA revolution that led to Marcos’ ouster (that was after the fact, long after he died). And yet, most Filipinos associate EDSA with Ninoy Aquino.
    2. He wanted to become President of the Philippines at any cost–whether it was against or with the blessing of Ferdinand Marcos, he had no preferences. Until the day of his departure for the Philippines from Boston, Ninoy was heavily entertaining the chance to speak and negotiate with Marcos to sell himself as his successor.
    3. It is very likely that Ninoy thought that best chance of him becoming President was through Marcos’ endorsement. He was already negotiating behind the scenes to ensure his transition after Marcos–ASEAN, the MILF, the US, and Japan.
    4. Ninoy Aquino never intended his wife Cory to stand in for him in case of his death. 
    5. The US was less inclined to support Ninoy due to the instability his presence could cause in the Philippines, which threatened the status of US military bases (Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Bay).

    History is written by the victors in any conflict. Of Ninoy, we know the hero, but not much of the consummate politican and statesman. Had he survived, perhaps our idea of Ninoy would be very different–not far from how we treat other politicians. He was an old-school player of the game, and a very good one at that–still posing Marcos a threat even while in exile.

    Meanwhile, history will always remain played out the way it did–and so will our collective understanding of Ninoy–or the idea of Ninoy, far from the reality that Ninoy really was, or intended himself to be. We can’t rely on the history books for that. Only Ninoy can really say for sure.

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