A gender neutral marriage law was recently affirmed in the Finnish parliament. This aroused some attention and controversy. There were arguments for and against it being presented. They were much the same as in this issue around the globe where ever it has become into focus. I do not even try to repeat them all here. There are a couple of concerns I would like to address about this discussion.

“Born this way.” The question wether, or not, homosexuality is a trait a person has from birth is not and should not be brought up in the entire discussion about marriage. It is totally irrelevant. Even the question, if someone chooses, or not, to be a homosexual is irrelevant to the question of marriage. We do not really know, if people are genetically caused to be homosexuals or wether it is a trait that developes onto the person. We do know that a lot of homosexuals would choose not to be homosexuals, if they possibly could. The reason to that is, that the society around them has trouble accepting them as they are and in respect to that some of them even learn to have similar cultural reasons of having trouble of accepting themselves as they are.

The real question is not what causes homosexuality, but wether we have any actually rational and sane reasons to think it is wrong on any level. We do not. The “reasons” presented to make the claim, that there is something wrong about homosexuality are presented as follows and often the path from one claim to a nother are presented on this line of thought:

Is it a sin? Now, sin is something determined to be some sort of violation of the will of some particular gods. Freedom of religion however dictates necessarily for a peacefull and mutually respectfull society to exist, that the beliefs about the divinities, or the supernatural in general, may not decide legal processes, or be used to step on the rights of a nother individual. Not even within a religious group that has accepted one doctrine or a nother. That is, even if the Catholic church and all the victims of rape by Catholic priests thought it was not really a crime, by the secular mutual standards of the modern soceity, they still are and should be treated as such. Therefore even if the majority of religions in any given country thought, that eating shellfish or being homosexual was a sin, they could not ethically make it illegal based on that imaginary guess on what their god supposedly thought was a sin.

Because the entire issue of marriage equality has been raised mostly in secular countries (and not in the Vatican or Iran), the question wether it is a sin is irrelevant. In modern democracies religions are a private matter and sin is something you discuss privately with your particular god, if you wish, who then redeems you from it, or judges you from it. Or you do not bring this or any other subjects to your god, if you even have one in the first place. This is why the people whose dislike of something like homosexuality often is derived from religious prejudices, often move to the camp of inventing seemingly secular “reasons” to justify their feelings about the issue.

Is it unnatural? There are people who try to frame sexuality into this tight box of reproduction. They have the right to do so in the privacy of their own homes, but not force the idea on others. No doubt that this line of argumentation appeals to all sorts of simpletons, as it seems simple. However, human sexuality is far from simple. I could discuss how a lot of animal species have homosexual behaviour, but from experience I know that this tends to lead down the rabbit hole of humans not being animals. Wich strangely often leads us back to the idea of sin. No, humans are not the same animals as those other animals that also engage in homosexual behaviour. That is there just to show you, that it is natural in the sense that it happens in the nature. But wether or not any animals engaged in homosexual behaviour does not in any way address wether it is right or wrong. Animals do not drive cars, but we do not try to ban driving a car because we see it as unnatural. Sex is as much just a form of reproduction and should be as much limited to that, as human transportation is all about walking and should be limited to walking. If you do not want to run or ride a bike, fine then don’t. But do not try to make running illegal. OK?

Gods are by definition unnatural. They are not part of nature, if they even exist beyond our natural brains. Should we ban gods because they are unnatural? Everything that happens in nature is natural. Salt is natural. Polio is natural. Homosexuality is natural. The only relevant question about homosexuality regarding laws is wether it is harmfull or not and if then to what extent. The entire question wether it is unnatural is ridiculous.

Is it harmfull? People see a lot of harm done to the homosexuals by people who feel justified in disliking, or even hating them for the “reasons” they give, that I listed abowe. There are also people who have been harmed by homosexuals. This works much the same way as with racism. When people are harmed by the representative of this, or that group of people, they make the connection between the group and the deed. Despite wether or not the group identity, or what ever makes the purpetrator of the harm part of that group – even skin colour, or sexual orientation –  was actually the motive for the deed. If a homosexual rapes a child, it is not the homosexuality that caused the deed. Any more than, if a white man shoots a black man, him being white was his motive for the act. The rape of a child is the result of the rapist being a) rapist and b) pedophile not being homosexual. If the rapist was not a homosexual, he would simply have chosen his target differently. The white man shooting the black man may have been motivated by any number of reasons from theft to racism. But even if it was racism, the motive was not him being white.

As for the marriage equality, there have been a number of more, or less comic attempts to stop the change, that has now finally taken place. There is this notion, that a family unit ideally consists of a father, a mother and some children. The idea has been, that the reason why the society recognizes a marriage as a special status between two people is because they are able to reproduce and should be given social support to be better able to do this. It is a ridiculous notion, in that even if that could be proven to be some form of ideal family unit, it does not mean all families need to reach such an ideal. Especially not those families who do not find the arrangement ideal in any way. By the same token, people who can not have children should not be allowed to get married and old people whose children have grown to adulthood should divorce.

There is this claim, that there is some sort of harm done to adopted children in same sex marriages. This claim has not been confirmed in any scientific arena. But even if it could ever be proven that the children have it better in a heterosexual family than in a same sex family, that would be a moot point. It is like saying that since the rich families can better nourish the needs of their kids, than the poor ones we should ban the poor people from getting married, and/or from having children.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle aito avioliitto mielenosoitus

The picture abowe is from a “Genuine Marriage” demonstration at 24. september 2016 , that gathered almost a hundred demonstrators (wich is pretty few even in Finnish terms) in Helsinki to protest against the gender neutral marriage law. It seems they had more balloons than demonstrators.

Last but not least the most stupid argument against the gender neutral marriage must be the slippery slope argument. Wich is that if this is allowed, what next? Shall we allow polygamy, marriages with children and marriages with house pets? It shows the level of stupid from the political side that opposed the gender neutral marriage, that they themselves did not laugh at the representative who presented this ridiculous argument. Was it not the same as arguing that if we allow people to drive cars, we may have to allow people to drive tanks next? If you do not understand the difference between two consenting adults havign sex and sex with a child or an animal, never get any children or pets. As for the polygamy, where in any holy books ever does it even hint that, that was a sin? It is a separate discussion we may have in the future, but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the gender neutral marriage law.

There are and have been a lot of conspiracies in the real world. Because the conspiracy is something secret it is often hard to prove, or disprove.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle new york skyline 2000

Some of the most extreme conspiracy theories have captivated the minds of millions. Some are so ingraned to society, that they are not even discussed when examples of conspiracy theories are presented.

Examples of typical conspiracy theories are the ideas, that the US officials knew before hand about the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbour, or the terror attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. Both of these conspiracy assumptions represent deep distrust a large part of the US citizens have for their government. They also represent the fact the US citizens who pay dearly as taxpayers for an ultra expensive military and extremely secretive agencies – both of wich have been found red handed in ethically questionable actions – do not feel safe. The blatant disregard for legality, or ethics these powerfull institutions have shown, does not make people feel any safer, nor the fact that these very expensive institutions are caught with their pants down. The average person likes to think they are safe and that is the main reason why they agree to big spending keeping such institutions costs. However, when something surprizing happens, that shows how woulnerable people are, they find their previous misplaced trust hard to accept, and try to look reasons for having been wrong from elswhere. Like that they had every reason to believe they were safe, exept for this conspiracy theory.

One major conspiracy theory in this same category is the Nazi hatred of the Jews. As the Germans could not accept their loss in world war I, they had to find a scape goat. Someone to blame that the promised victory never came. Racism is a similarly unfounded prejudice as the idea that a big military will keep your country safe and you personally out of reach of violence. Usually the effect is contrary, since a big military is often used for unsavioury actions to “protect the intrests” of the country, or more likely the corporate capitalism, or some obscure political ideology. This is prone to create enemies, who in face of overwhelming military power need to form conspiracies of their own to fight their oppressors.

However, if you thought any of the abowe were wild and implausible conspiracy theories, there are some that are by far even more ludicurous. For example a couple of surprizingly popular and mad conspiracy theories, that have the same roots and often the same believers are the climate change denialism and evolution denialism. Both are based on a claim that the scientific community has a major conspiracy going on.

Climate change denialists state, that the entire climate change is a hoax and even if it is not a hoax, but true, the change is not a bad thing, nor is it a human caused phenomenon. One of the climate change denialists is the new president of the USA a nation that is responsible for a very large portion of pollution. He has stated in his campaign, that it is a conspiracy by the Chinese to undermine US economy. His main advisor in environmental issues has claimed (while on the payroll of Exxon), that it is a conspiracy by the EU. I am curious as to wich one they are going to settle between them as the purpetrator of this conspiracy. This is a demonstration why conspiracy theories are not just us laughing at the stupid mentally disturbed individuals who think the world is secretly led by lizard people. Ignorance that leads to such nonsensical conspiracy theories is dangerous for the entire world. They make people distrust science and turns them to hand power over to self interrested authoritarianistic demagogues.

Just as with the climate change denialism, the evolution denialism starts with the assumption that the entire scientific community is in conspiracy, a secret pact, to lie to people contrary to their better information. The problem is how to prove such a conspiracy. The scientific method after all is the best method we have to evaluate reality as objectively as we possibly can and the scientists supposedly involved in this conspiracy are the ones who are best equipped to research both evolution and the climate. It would be ridiculous, if it was not so serious, that for these conspiracy theories to propagate themselves, they do not need to be investigated. People take them as true without the least bit of effort to investigate them, or precisely because they are ill equipped to investigate reality. They are most often believed by people who have been from childhood taught and indoctrinated to belive, that faith is a virtue. That their gut feeling is the best judge and somehow in more or less direct connection to some ultimate moral arbitrator creator entity – That in turn has never been falsified to exist on any level of reality. That means these people are effectively adults, who are totally subjected to their prejudices.

If the believer in any wild conspiracy theory is prejudging the reality around them according to some arbitrary tribally moralist ideal, be it something like a religion, or nationalism, they are helplesly biased. For example, to think they have every right to own a big polluting car, as the car is part of their identity, way of life and a continuation of their sexuality and self image. Or for a nother example to think, evolution must be untrue, as it challenges the fairytale they think is the ultimate truth from some god they worship, and feel as a base for their morality and sometimes even the justification of their very existance and possibly a redeemer of their guilt from the evil they have done because of their arbitrary understanding of morality.

As with everything else, the time to believe in an extreme conspiracy is when the evidence is presented, and the evidence is achieved by using the scientific method, as it is the only even remotely objective way to achieve reliable information. In addition, the more extraordinary the claim for a conspiracy is, the more extraordinary should the evidence be.

It seems to me, people believe the most extreme things when they are ill-educated, ill-informed and when the theory supports their preconceptions. Did I get this right?

Most people do not think about death too much, because it is an unpleasant thought. Many people have been led by superstitious cultural heritage to tell themselves they or their loved ones are not going to die at all, but continue in some sort of pelasant paradise after their bodies die out. Some people have managed to provide themselves an income by providing a service of rituals that perpetuate this baseless, but pleasant notion. There are even a few, that get some form of sick satisfaction from the idea that bad people will suffer for an eternity in this assumed afterlife. No surprice the definition for the bad people is typically tribally moralistic, that is, people who are not part of the “tribe”, or “club” that has certain tenets and rituals.

Death is inevitable, but many a cultural movement, that are built around the blatantly obvious form of wishfull thinking, that it is not and there is some form of afterlife, have managed to make themselves exempted from being taxed. Some of them even get support from other taxpayers and indeed they all collect a form of taxes themselves to provide the income to their ritual experts. This is a widely accepted situation in almost any given society. Why?

A couple of years back here in Finland the government decided to stop collecting fees for owning a TV-set and provide funding for the national radio and TV broadcasting network YLE (much like the BBC in Britain) by taxes instead of the previous obsolete method of collecting money. The new tax was named the YLE-tax according to the name of the national and government owned broadcasting company. Now the vice president of the youth section of the (True) Finns party Aleksi Hernesniemi, has launched a citizen campaign to stop the YLE-tax. This is possible through a nother new law we have, wich is that if you can collect 50 000 names to support an initiative, the parliament has to have a discussion about the matter. This is how our new marriage equality laws for example were finally led to the parliament vote.

The main complaint against the YLE-tax is about it being unfair, as it is a network under political guidance. Hernesniemi complains also about the bad quality of the programmes as provided by YLE channels. It is sometimes very difficult to fathom how stupid people are. The president of the political guidance for YLE has been for almost a year a member of the same party as Mr. Hernesniemi. Is he now complaining against his fellow party member, or what? To what is he comparing the quality of the programmes as sent by YLE? One can argue, that the newest series by HBO, that the YLE keeps sending are not quality programme, but that is a rather subjective view at best and they do get high ratings. YLE sends out a wide range of movies, other entertainment and documentaries from around the globe and it provides those online to be watched at the convinience of the audience. I have watched a variety of commercial channels, and none can compare with quality, or wider selecltion to that as sent by YLE. Yes, it is true, that YLE does not produce Big-Brother type of social porn, send out ridiculous “documentaries” such as produced by for example the History channel and that their news are “biased”, to research the facts behind the news stories before airing them out, instead of spouting out racist hatred. Like some small time private tabloids, that are not even members of the journalistic unions have done. That can hardly be called partisan bias, even though the party of Mr. Hernesniemi has based much of it’s xenophobic populism on such.

I for one would much rather see news from a company led by constitutional and journalistic principles and a democratically chosen political guidance to regulate that those principles are held, than by newscompanies led by the popular vote of the viewer masses, advertising sponsors and the preferances of billionare owners. In any case , it can not be argued, that one or the other was any cheaper to me. If anything the commercial channel is prone to be more expensive, because not only does it need the money to run it, but it must also provide for winnigs of the owners. I either pay for the service through some form of taxes, or by the extra cost in products for advertising them.

So, indeed there are ways to awoid taxes, even if there are no ways to awoid death. However, it should be observed how much it is going to cost us, to awoid the taxes.

A crowd beat up a young woman to death in Afghanishtan. Then they burned her body. The entire episode ended up on video and to the social media. It raised objection throughout the world and demonstrations against such religious violence in many other Islamic nations. The reason why this student of the Koran was murdered and then burned was because of malignant rumour, that she had alledgedly burned said holy book. Now 49 people stand trial for this heinous religiously inspired murder. 19 of those are policemen.

The rumour about her burning a book may have been totally made up, as she had apparently angered some people by telling the crowd visiting a mosque not to buy amulets, as such traditional culture in  is against Islam and those had possibly set about this false rumour. I personally detest burning any books, but killing someone on mere rumour is just wildly mad and murder based on some sacriligious act, be that true or not, is just as insane.

I can see how such barbarous act may bring up islamophobia in the West, but I urge all you Christians to ask yourselves to be honest and remember, that it has only been a couple of hundred years, that the secularisation of western society – not the love of Crhist – has forced such demonstrations of religious devotional violence out of practice in most of “Christendom”.

This is why I find it hard to agree with people who think religions as cultural traits should be left alone and we should let people believe in what ever nonsense they ever want to. Because, left unchecked, they end up burning other people… Apparently, when the imagined ultimate authority of a god is backing you up, you are entiteled to do just about any heinous crime and infact your god demands such as these alledgedly incredibly powerfull gods are totally incapable to defend themselves, or to interfere, if someone is doing something wrong…

Often enough we hear people appeal to values as a foundation for the society, but where do they come from? Separation of state and science from church is a big issue today even globally, while one can hardly dissect religious values out of politics as long as people have religious feelings. Different societies have different values and many, if not all, societies have even within them a confrontation of values. Are our social values just some form of human interpretation of some invisible fight between two groups of opposing supernatural entities, that we have decided to call the ones benevolent to mankind good and the ones not evil?

Saynte George?

Medieval angel

A traditionally conservative perspective on values is, that they have been inherited from our ancestors and that they are good because they have provided us with the current exellent society. This is the same in almost any society we are talking about. But how good are the societies we live in? Are we moving towards a better society, or from it?

The blind spot of cultural tradition providing us with values lies in people not really recognizing history as something real. The past generations may have had the same religions as the people today, but only in name. The average Christian of the 14th century would not understand the values of the average Christian of today. They might recognize the rituals, and the most obscure and vague, though seemingly important, concepts of the supernatural, like the idea of the salvation. But the actual practical applications of any value based choises would be totally alien to them. The further we as individuals but also as societies come in our understanding of reality, the better information we have at our disposal, the better we become in dissecting what could be objective from our subjective minds, to make ethical evaluations of any given situations. Yet, religions provide authority of these hypothetical god-characters to the values they happen to hold at the moment. As the major religions are also social powerstructures they typically hold on to the values of the previous generation. Minority religions are sometimes even more strict, because they need to keep their adherents on a tighter leash as the values they present as their own are not universally accepted by the society.

Majority religions are strong currents of tradition within societies and they often stand for the status quo of any society. The stagnant situation may be seen as good merely just as an option to possible social unrest. But the biggest religions are often the oldest and inherited from rather socially primitive and ignorant socieities. The ancient religious scriptures and other traditions often enough sport both moving humane issues, that we can recognize even after generations, but equally they are tribally moralistic works of fiction and obvious superstition. It seems universal, that most people become blind to the superstitions of their own cultural heritage, while they are fully capable of recognizing such in some foreign culture. Equally the values inherited from our own culture are seen as good and the cultural values of others (puttin exoticism aside) as evil, or at least strange and questionable. There are simple and easy methods to evaluate the justification and ethics of any cultural values, but these are not often even taught in schools. Why? Because of the fear, what they might reveal us about ourselves to our offspring?

We are all engaged in ethical evaluation all the time, wether we know it or not. Because, basicly ethical evaluation is only the evaluation of harm and benefit to us as individuals and us as members of the surrounding society. By society here, I mean the many layers begining from the closest family, friends, social groups, nations and even the entire humanity. As mammals we share with other such an empathetic skill inherent to all social species. It dictates a lot about our behaviour towards each other. We are to individually varying degrees both social and selfish. Most of us learn through our empathetic ability the most simple tools of ethical thinking, like putting ourselves in the position of another, already as little children. The trouble with such a simple tool seems to come from cultural traditions in wich we start to put each other into boxes in order to cope with strangers and to intuitively react to possible threats they present. For example, we form and learn stereotypics of different nationalities, tribes, cultures and at worst even according to the perplexion of people. It seems to be just too hard for some people to try to cope with individuals as the individuals they are and not some predeterminable representatives of this, or that bigger group of people and preferably recognizing such from others with the most superficial glance possible.

Values are results of processes, not some fixed ideals, that could stand on their own just because a god said so, or because we chose them through equally arbitrary method and then mutually simply agreed upon them. But processes represent change and that alone seems overwhelmingly threatening to some people. As if some of us were so inherently fearfull of even a thought of a change. The question is for us to evaluate the processes and choose them according to best results. How then do we decide what is best, or even good? To put it as simply as I can, the method to choose what is good and valuable is, to choose the values, that under most objective scrutany give us the results for general human wellbeing only for the simple reason, that we making the choise are indeed humans. As chosen by the largest group of people with the best awailable information who would prefer the values and conditions resulting in them to themselves and equally to others. That is the value of democracy.

The alledged opinions of supernatural entities have the ethical right to try to influence our ethics, if they can first demonstrate themselves to exist through the most objective scientific methodology we have. If these alledged entities are clever enough to have something worthwhile to say, they bloody well, ought to be able to reveal themselves to us all in an equal manner. Otherwise to hell with them.

Some people have told me, that the medieval people knew, that the earth we are standing on is a sphere. This can be traced down, for example, from some medieval illustrations in which the planet is depicted as round. The interresting question is, who in the medieval times was aware of this? Was it common knowledge among the vast masses of people, or was it only privy knowledge of the University professors who knew about the Ptolemic model of the Universe? What was their understanding of it?

I have also been told, that Galileo Galilei was NOT martyred for science, because the medieval church was NOT opposed to science. Yes I know, put like this, it sounds a bit weird and it is a bit of a simplification of the idea, but essentially what I have been told to think. Well, he was not burned on the stake, because he recanted his statements, so I guess it must be so. Is it? The interresting question here is, who in modern times even knows why poor Galileo was accused of herecy? Most people have heard his name…

Galileo Galilei was accused of herecy because of his heliocentric views in 1633. He recanted, and was not sentenced.  Eventually heliocentricity was lifted from the cencorship list of the Catholic church in 1758 (only some hundred years after the trial, but who is counting) and allready in 1992 (less than 400 years after the trial) the pope John Paul II apologized the treatment of Galileo!!! Besides, today we know, that Galileo was indeed wrong – The sun is not the center of the universe.

According to a couple of recent studies 66% of people in Europe and 74% in the US are aware that the earth revolves around the sun. In these studies it was also revealed that only 66% of Europeans and some 48% of US population were aware, that human beings have evolved from other animal species. Or to be more precise, these are the persentages of people who got it right when asked. This essentially means that a good part of them only managed to guess right. While all the people who got it wrong obviously did not know these elementary scientific facts, there is a group of people who also have little, or no clue, but managed to make the right guess. Even accepting that these studies do not tell the entire story, I find this alarming. Do you?

Have you ever wondered about sci-fi movies where the film makers obviously could not understand the difference between a galaxy and a solar system? Or why on earth do the alien species from other planets look like humans with rubber masks on? Well, call me a geek, but I have. No longer do I have to wonder such blatant idiocies. If almost half of the audiences even here in the western world have no clue wether the earth revolves around the sun, or that human beings are animals evolved under specific conditions from other species on this particular planet, then none of such stupid and illogical things should disturb them a bit. And after all it is all just entertainment.

The really frightening thing is, that these are more or less democratic countries where we, the adult population are all voters. When we are voting for candidates do we understand what sort of leaders we are choosing? If the basic understanding of science is this poor, the choises made can be really bad. It is paradoxical how far our science has taken the limits of human information and how little of it the common man understands.

Our position in the universe, or our origins as a species may seem like trivial things in modern politics, but when people are choosing representatives to make decisions about things like nuclear power, military funding, climate change, euthanasia, abortion, or any other decision involving ethics and science, then what kind of choises will be made and on what grounds? Their personal beliefs in their preferred superstition (read religion)? Can we expect the politicians to make informed choises based on known facts, if they are chosen by and representing people who have no clue of the most basic facts?

How important is this lack of information and understanding of it? As whith any choises we have to make,  whith better information better choises are made. Correct?

*The research about European knowledge was an Eurobarometer from 2005 and the research about US science knowledge was a study by the National Science Foundation on Public Attitudes and Understanding 2012.