Category: Articles

Buying and Selling Luck: Taiwan’s Fudegong Temple and the Lucky Money Machine

Posted on February 22nd, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. No Comments

This morning, between about 10am and 12am outside my 5th floor apartment, was a never ending parade of drum, bad karoake and high pitched squeaking clarinets played by people with no training – all blasted from portable megaphones charged with a portable battery. It made me wonder where that old phrase, “everyone loves a parade” comes from. While the noise pollution, pierced sporadically by firecrackers, may seem quaint and exotic, after 8 years living in Taiwan it’s hard to excuse the distraction and invasion into my home office, where I’m trying to concentrate on editing some documents.

But it’s a special occasion – it’s the birthday of the Earth God (Tudigong). You might assume that this would be akin to Western “Earth Day”, where we all gather to make empty vows about recycling and healing our planet. You’d be wrong – Earth God’s birthday has principally become (at least in Taiwan) the day to go and give money to the temple, for your own financial benefit. Hence, all the parades may be seen as a form of power advertising: it’s Earth God’s birthday! Don’t forget to go give him some money, to bless and ensure your own prosperity!

Although this may seem … Read More »

Paradise Lost 2013 Movie: Who is the Hero of Milton’s Epic?

Posted on February 17th, by Derek Murphy in ancient history, archaeology, Atheism, Bible Blasphemy, Movie Reviews. No Comments

***Oops – the movie adaptation of Paradise Lost starring Bradley Cooper has been canned as of February, 2012! It’s a crying shame…Hope they revive it down the road.***

For the past decade, traditionally marginalized or “evil” characters have gained the limelight – witches, vampires and werewolves have changed from creatures of the night to tragically misunderstood victims of humanity’s bitter prejudice. At the same time, Western humanist values caused us to champion rebel heroes – heroes who fight against all hope to topple powerful governments or tyrants. What is less known is that this impetus towards “Freedom at all Costs” started with Milton’s depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost, whose brilliant speeches on the right to self rule and the right to overthrow government directly influenced the poets, artists and philosophers who developed the themes of resistance and rebellion and the need for absolute freedom and equality. The US Declaration of Independence and Constitution are indebted to the liberal ideology of Milton’s Satan.

So it is with extreme interest that I’m watching the development of Paradise Lost into an epic Hollywood movie made by Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers. Sure we’ve seen this kind of “rebel hero against the gods” motif before, … Read More »

Smart Drugs for cognitive enhancement: my experiences with Modafinil

Posted on February 13th, by Derek Murphy in Life-improvement. No Comments

If you’ve watched “limitless” you may have been inspired (as I was) to research into the “smart pill” debate that has been brewing for the past several years. Is there really a drug that can make you smarter? ADHD medication like Adderall and Ritalin are classified as nootropics and commonly referred to as “Mental Enhancers”. It should come as no surprise that such drugs, although regulated by prescription, will be taken off label. Gingko Biloba, which has never been proven to improve cognitive function, still sells several billion dollars worth of products claiming to do just that. We are a caffeine-fueled, ultra-competitive society of adventurers addicted to time management and productivity.

So as rumors grew that taking ADHD medication like Adderall and Ritalin can speed you up, make you think clearer, focus on manual tasks without distraction, be more efficient, and more focused, naturally “smart drugs” became a whole new kind of drug use. (I was tempted to use the term ‘recreational drug’ or ‘drug abuse’, but neither seemed fitting.

These are not drugs people take to get high or party – they are used by college and grad students, financial investors, professors and other people who need to be able to … Read More »

Supreme Court Exempts Church from Disabilities Act while Greece Classifies Pedophilia as Disability

Posted on January 15th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture, News. No Comments

If you found out that your employee was a child-molester, would you fire them? According to a new Supreme Court ruling, you may not be able to.

Here’s the story: a woman is working for a church, but she develops narcolepsy (she can’t help falling asleep). The church fires her and gets a new employee – but she threatens to sue because she should be protected under the Disabilities Act. But the Supreme Court refused her right to sue, on the basis that it could not interfere with a church’s right to chose its own representatives (freedom of religion, etc.)

The ethics of this conflict are murky: The Western practice of diagnosing everything as a disability means that soon everybody will be protected against firing, and employers can no longer count on hiring able and competent people to work for them. This does not mean I am anti-disability; people with disabilities who are just as capable of doing a good job, should have that opportunity. But having a job should not be a right guaranteed to disabled people – unless perhaps, the government is paying for it. But should the government force a private company to keep an employee who isn’t doing her job?

On … Read More »

God hates McDonalds: Should Christians be Vegetarians?

Posted on January 15th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture, News. No Comments

Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, are in a fight against fast food chain McDonalds. The reason: 50% of the town practices a form of Christianity that endorses a clean, healthy and vegetarian diet. In their defense, the town has statistically higher health than many places in the world. The conflict: should they be allowed to prohibit the other 50% of the people from eating garbage?

The “opposition” chosen to represent the heathens is a fat, batman-hat wearing guy who says “If you don’t want to be healthy, don’t be, if you want to be healthy, be healthy.” People should be allowed to choose unhealthy, health-harming (and by extension, ecosystem/economy destroying) practices.

But why? Spiritual traditions around the world, including Christianity, more or less agree that vegetarianism is better for ourselves and the world; it also seems to make people more relaxed, aware, and peaceful. I’m not vegetarian – but mostly because I eat whatever is cheap and convenient.
What would the world look like if the government took steps to ensure that what was available was also what was healthiest? What if they prevented huge corporations from using their resources to dominate the food growth, preparation and consumption market?

I’m pretty sure I … Read More »

Tim Ferriss reviews Sam Harris’ “Lying”: Credibility Issues?

Posted on January 4th, by Derek Murphy in Blog, News, Why I am not a.... 3 comments

Tim Ferriss and Sam Harris are two people I like. And their names are even pretty similar. But I was still surprised to see – on Sam Harris’ website page promoting his new essay “Lying” – a review by Tim Ferriss. Sam is a clever guy popular with atheists who criticizes organized religion. Tim uses his gargantuan ego, along with very smart and innovative marketing strategies, to self-promote his brand and sell a shit load of books – focusing on self-improvement and lifestyle design. I can see how there would be some fan crossover, and how some people (like myself) appreciate them both.

But I don’t think there is enough overlap between them that Tim’s review is at all meaningful. How is Tim qualified to judge an article by a neuroscientist? (Ok ok, I know Tim is into science, medicine, testing and results – I can see how Tim might be interested in Sam’s writing). But what about credibility? How does Tim earn a place next to an Astrophysicist?

But maybe book reviews are not about credibility anymore; they are meant, after all, to sell books – what Tim brings to the table is an enormous herd of followers; followers that aren’t already … Read More »

Proving that Satan Really Exists: St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument in Reverse

Posted on January 4th, by Derek Murphy in Bible Blasphemy, Humor, Theology. 6 comments

Here’s an interesting mental exercise for you:

1. Let’s define Satan as the worst thought you can think. So anything bad, evil, disagreeable, wrong… all that stuff is “Satan” or “Satanic”. He’s the absolute most vile, ugly, scary creature you can imagine, with fangs, horns, and lots of eyeballs.

2. Ok, are you picturing it? Can you conceive of this idea? Now in your mind, take this concept a bit further by imagining that it exists in reality. This Satan that exists in reality is definitely worse then the Satan that exists in your mind only, right?

3. Since the Satan that really exists is worse, only it is the real Satan. The other Satan you were thinking of, the one that only exists in your mind, isn’t the real Satan (because he’s not as bad as the one that exists in reality.)

4. Therefore, Satan exists in reality.

***There seems to be some gap in logic between steps 3 and 4; I can’t quite tell right now whether it is my fault or St. Anselm’s. He moves a little slower than me, but I think the logical process is the same. What do you think?***