This is a story about how the United States came to embrace assassination as a central part of its national security policy.

No one can scientifically predict the future consequences of drone strikes, cruise missile attacks and night raids. But, from my experience in several undeclared war zones across the globe, it seems clear that the United States is helping to breed a new generation of enemies in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout the Muslim world. Those whose loved ones were killed in drone strikes or cruise missile attacks or night raids will have a legitimate score to settle.

In November 2012, President Obama remarked that “there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” He made the statement in defense of Israel’s attack on Gaza, which was launched in the name of protecting itself from Hamas missile attacks. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians,” Obama continued. “And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.” How would people living in areas of Yemen, Somalia or Pakistan that have been regularly targeted by US drone or missile strikes view that statement?

Jeremy Scahill - Dirty Wars


Many readers might wonder how can we base our values on something as difficult to define as “well-being”? It seems to me, however, that the concept of well-being is like the concept of physical health: it resists precise definition, and yet it is indispensable. In fact, the meanings of both terms seem likely to remain perpetually open to revision as we make progress in science.

For my argument about the moral landscape to hold, I think one need only grant two points: (1) some people have better lives than others, and (2) these differences relate, in some lawful and not entirely arbitrary way, to states of the human brain and to states of the world.

I have made the case elsewhere that religion and science are in a zero-sum conflict with respect to facts. Here, I have begun to argue that the division between facts and values is intellectually unsustainable, especially from the perspective of neuroscience. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that I see very little room for compromise between faith and reason on questions of morality.
Currently, most scientists believe that answers to questions of human value will fall perpetually beyond our reach—not because human subjectivity is too difficult to study, or the brain too complex, but because there is no intellectual justification for speaking about right and wrong, or good and evil, across cultures. Many people also believe that nothing much depends on whether we find a universal foundation for morality. It seems to me, however, that in order to fulfill our deepest interests in this life, both personally and collectively, we must first admit that some interests are more defensible than others. Indeed, some interests are so compelling that they need no defense at all.
This book was written in the hope that as science develops, we will recognize its application to the most pressing questions of human existence. For nearly a century, the moral relativism of science has given faith-based religion—that great engine of ignorance and bigotry—a nearly uncontested claim to being the only universal framework for moral wisdom. As a result, the most powerful societies on earth spend their time debating issues like gay marriage when they should be focused on problems like nuclear proliferation, genocide, energy security, climate change, poverty, and failing schools. Granted, the practical effects of thinking in terms of a moral landscape cannot be our only reason for doing so—we must form our beliefs about reality based on what we think is actually true. But few people seem to recognize the dangers posed by thinking that there are no true answers to moral questions.
If our well-being depends upon the interaction between events in our brains and events in the world, and there are better and worse ways to secure it, then some cultures will tend to produce lives that are more worth living than others; some political persuasions will be more enlightened than others; and some world views will be mistaken in ways that cause needless human misery. Whether or not we ever understand meaning, morality, and values in practice, I have attempted to show that there must be something to know about them in principle. And I am convinced that merely admitting this will transform the way we think about human happiness and the public good.

Sam Harris - The Moral Landscape


condescending contempt

I struck her just twice with a switch--there were no marks even...

I only used the whip twice in all our seven years (not counting a third occasion of a very ambiguous character.

"She has certainly gone mad!" he said to Raskolnikov, as they went out into the street. "I didn't want to frighten Sofya Semyonovna, so I said 'it seemed like it,' but there isn't a doubt of it.

[…] and finally resorted to the most powerful weapon in the subjection of the female heart, a weapon which never fails one. It's the well-known resource--flattery.

Now good-bye for the present

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment




Thought Police.

You were abolished, annihilated: VAPORIZED was the usual word.

[…] a minority of one.

‘Room 101,’

George Orwell - 1984

Quantum theories can be formulated in many different ways, but what is probably the most intuitive description was given by Richard (Dick) Feynman, a colorful character who worked at the California Institute of Technology and played the bongo drums at a strip joint down the road. According to Feynman, a system has not just one history but every possible history. As we seek our answers, we will explain Feynman’s approach in detail, and employ it to explore the idea that the universe itself has no single history, nor even an independent existence. That seems like a radical idea, even to many physicists. Indeed, like many notions in today’s science, it appears to violate common sense.

Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life.

The base ten number notation we find so convenient for arithmetic dates back only to around AD 700, when the Hindus took the first great strides toward making that subject a powerful tool. The abbreviations for plus and minus didn’t come until the fifteenth century. And neither the equal sign nor clocks that could measure times to the second existed before the sixteenth century.

[…] in 1277 Bishop Tempier of Paris, acting on the instructions of Pope John XXI, published a list of 219 errors or heresies that were to be condemned. Among the heresies was the idea that nature follows laws, because this conflicts with God’s omnipotence. Interestingly, Pope John was killed by the effects of the law of gravity a few months later when the roof of his palace fell in on him.

To paraphrase Einstein, a theory should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Stephen Hawking - The Grand Design

[…] crimes that [Kissinger] can and should be placed on a proper bill of indictment […]:
1. The deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina.
2. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination, in Bangladesh.
3. The personal suborning and planning of murder, of a senior constitutional officer in a democratic nation - Chile - with which the United States was not at war.
4. Personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state in the democratic nation of Cyprus.
5. The incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.
6. Personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist living in Washington, DC.

In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic "worked," in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the "peace plank" on which the Democrats had contested it. In another way, it did not "work," because four years later the Nixon administration concluded the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question is that, in those intervening four years, some twenty thousand Americans and an uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians lost their lives.

In a famous expression of his contempt for democracy, Kissinger once observed that he saw no reason why a certain country should be allowed to "go Marxist" merely because "its people are irresponsible." The country concerned was Chile, which at the time of this remark had a justified reputation as the most highly evolved pluralistic democracy in the southern hemisphere of the Americas.

[…] but when the Chinese regime turned its guns and tanks on its own children in Tienanmen Square in 1989, it had no more staunch defender than Henry Kissinger. Arguing very strongly against sanctions, he wrote that "China remains too important for America's national security to risk the relationship on the emotions of the moment." Taking the Deng Xiaoping view of the democratic turbulence, and even the view of those we now suppose to have pressed Deng from the Right, he added, "No government in the world would have tolerated having the main square of its capital occupied for eight weeks by tens of thousands of demonstrators." Of course, some governments would have found a way to meet with the leaders of those demonstrators. ... It is perhaps just as well that Kissinger's services were not retained by the Stalinist regimes of Romania, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, which succumbed to just such public insolence later in the same year.

Christopher Hitchens - The Trial of Henry Kissinger

In reality, the male brain is a lean, mean problem-solving machine.

During fetal development, [boy] brain [is] built in two stages, First, during weeks eight to eighteen, testosterone from his tiny testicles masculinize[s] his body and brain, forming the brain circuits that control male behaviors. As his brain [is] marinating in testosterone, that hormone beg[ins] to make some of his brain circuits grow and to make others wither and die.

Next, during the remaining months of pregnancy another hormone, MIS […] join[s] with testosterone and deformize[s his] brain and body. They suppress his brain circuits for female-type behaviors and kill off the female reproductive organs. His male reproductive organs, the penis and testicles, gr[ow] larger. Then, together with testosterone, MIS may have help form [boy’s] larger male brain circuits for exploratory behavior, muscular and motor control, spatial skills, and rough play. Scientists discovered that when they bred male mice to lack the MIS hormone, they did not develop male-typical exploratory behavior. Instead, they behaved and played more like females. The female brain circuits that make a girl a girl are laid down and develop without the effects of testosterone or MIS.

[…] scientists have discovered that the pleasure center in the teen boy brain is nearly numb compared with the area in adults and children. The reward center in [boy] brain [is] less easily activated and [isn’t] sensitive enough to feel normal levels of stimulation. He [isn’t] acting bored. He [is] bored, and he [can’t] help it. […] the teen boy brain needs to be more intensely scared or shocked to become activated even the tiniest bit.

[…] teens have two distinct systems running their brains.

The activating system – led by the amygdala – develops first. It is impulsive and gets double the stimulation when he’s with his peers. It’s like a gas pedal. It accelerates. The second system, the inhibiting system – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – is like a brake. It carefully thinks things through, weights the risks, and when working smoothly, it stops us from doing things that are dangerous and stupid. […] the inhibiting system doesn’t mature in boys until their early twenties.

Louann Brizendine 'The Male Brain' 

In the brain centers for language and hearing, for example, women have 11 percent more neurons than men. The principal hub of both emotion and memory formation – the hippocampus – is also larger in the female brain, as is the brain circuitry for language and observing emotions in others. This means that women are, on average, better at expressing emotions and remembering the details of emotional events. Men, by contrast, have two and a half times the brain space devoted to sexual drive as well as larger brain centers for action and aggression.

[…] some verbal areas of the brain are larger in women that in men and that women, on average, talk and listen a lot more than men. […] on average girls speak two to three times more words per day than boys. […] girls speak earlier and by the age of twenty months have double or triple the number of words in their vocabularies than do boys. Boys eventually catch up in their vocabulary but not in speed or overlapping speech. […] In Colonial America, women were put in the town stocks with wooden clips on their tongues or tortured by the “dunking stool,” held underwater and almost drowned […] for the crime of “talking too much.” […] Female rhesus monkeys, for instance, learn to vocalize much earlier than do males and use every one of the seventeen vocal tones of their species all day long, every day, to communicate with one another. Male rhesus monkeys, by contrast, learn only three to six tones, and once they’re adults, they’ll go for days or even weeks without vocalizing at all.

Women […] also look for mates who are, on average, at least four inches taller and three and a half years older.

The amygdala is the brain center for fear, anger, and aggression, and it’s physically larger in man than in women, whereas the anger, fear, and aggression control center – the prefrontal cortex – is relatively larger in women. As a result, it’s easier to push a man’s anger button. The male amygdala also has many testosterone receptors, which stimulate and heighten its response to anger, especially after the testosterone surges at puberty. That’s why men whose testosterone levels are high, which includes younger men, have short anger fuses. Many women who start taking testosterone also notice that their anger response is suddenly quicker. As men age, their testosterone naturally declines, the amygdala becomes less responsive, the prefrontal cortex gains more control, and they don’t get angry as fast.

Louann Brizendine 'The Female Brain'

[…] the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself. Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.

[…] it is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.

Jesus Christ – who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens – can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad?

The justification for [torture] came straight from Saint Augustine, who reasoned that if torture was appropriate for those who broke the laws of men, it was even more fitting for those who broke the laws of God.

[…] not a single German Catholic was excommunicated before, during, or after the war [World War II], “after committing crimes as great as any in human history.” This is really an extraordinary fact. Throughout this period, the church continued to excommunicate theologians and scholars in droves for holding unorthodox views and to proscribe books by the hundreds, and yet not a single perpetrator of genocide – of whom there were countless examples – succeeded in furrowing Pope Pius XII's censorious brow.

Within the House of Islam, the penalty for learning too much about the world – so as to call the tenets of the faith into question – is death. If a twenty-first-century Muslim loses his faith, though he may have been a Muslim only for a single hour, the normative response, everywhere under Islam, is to kill him.

The irony here is almost a miracle in its own right: the most sexually repressive people found in the world today [Muslims] – people who are stirred to a killing rage by reruns of Baywatch – are lured to martyrdom by a conception of paradise that resembles nothing so much as an al fresco bordello.

The Arab world is now economically and intellectually stagnant to a degree that few could have thought possible, given its historical role in advancing and preserving human knowledge. In the year 2002 the GDP of all Arab countries combined did not equal that of Spain. Even more troubling, Spain translates as many books into Spanish each year as the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.

Think of all the good things human beings will not do in this world tomorrow because they believe that their most pressing task is to build another church or mosque, or to enforce some ancient dietary practice, or to print volumes upon volumes of exegesis on the disordered thinking of ignorant men.

[…] event the most docile forms of Christianity currently present insuperable obstacles to AIDS prevention and family planning in the developing world, to medical research, and to the development of a rational drug policy – and these contributions to human misery alone constitute some of the most appalling failures of reasonableness in any age.

In the United States, and in much of the rest of the world, it is currently illegal to seek certain experiences of pleasure. Seek pleasure by a forbidden means, even in the privacy of your own home, and men with guns may kick in the door and carry you away to prison for it. One of the most surprising things about this situation is how unsurprising most of us find it. As in most dreams, the very faculty of reason that would otherwise notice the strangeness of these events seems to have succumbed to sleep.
Behaviors like drug use, prostitution, sodomy, and viewing of obscene materials have been categorized as “victimless crimes.”

When was the last time that someone was criticized for not “respecting” another person's unfounded beliefs about physics or history? The same rules should apply to ethical, spiritual, and religious beliefs as well. Credit goes to Christopher Hitchens for distilling, in a single phrase, a principle of discourse that could well arrest our slide toward the abyss: “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” Let us pray that billions of us soon agree with him.

Sam Harris from 'The End of Faith'

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further

Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers', no Northern Ireland 'troubles', no 'honour killings', no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money ('God wants you to give til it hurts'). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it. Incidentally, my colleague Desmond Morris informs me that John Lennon's magnificent song is sometimes performed in America with the phrase 'and no religion too' expurgated. One version even has the effrontery to change it to 'and one religion too'.”

Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of, standing tall to face the far horizon, for atheism nearly always indicates a healthy independence of mind and, indeed, a healthy mind.

I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsing, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: 'When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.' by Richard Dawkins from “The God Delusion”

Richard Dawkins from 'The God Delusion'

Les Knight, the founder of VHEMT – the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement – is thoughtful, soft-spoken, articulate, and quite serious. Unlike more-strident proponents of human expulsion from an aggrieved planet – such as the Church of Euthanasia, with its four pillars of abortion, suicide, sodomy, and cannibalism, and a Web site guide to butchering a human carcass that includes a recipe for barbeque sauce – Knight takes no misanthropic joy in anyone’s war, illness, or suffering. A schoolteacher, he just keeps doing math problems that keep giving him the same answer

Alan Weisman from 'The World Without Us'

The Gay Brain
Brain scans show how, in homosexual people, important brain structures involved in mood, emotion, anxiety, and aggression tend to resemble those of heterosexuals of the opposite sex. Heterosexual men tend to have asymmetric brains, with the right hemisphere slightly larger than the left, a characteristic shared by gay women. Patterns of brain connectivity are similar between heterosexual women and gay men, particularly in areas involved with anxiety.

Brain Chemistry
High natural levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine may explain why some people are unusually quick to pick out patterns. Believers are known to be more likely than sceptics to see a word or face in nonsense images, and sceptics more likely to miss real faces or words that are partly hidden by visual “noise” One study found that sceptics' tendency to see hidden patterns increased when they were given L-dopa, a drug that increases dopamine levels. 

Rita Carter from 'The Human Brain'

"Yes! For three weeks the war had been going on inside Germany, and all of us knew very well that if the girls were German they could be raped and then shot. This was almost a combat distinction. Had they been Polish girls or our own displaced Russian girls, they could have been chased naked around the garden and slapped on the behind – an amusement, no more."

"Interrogator Fyodorov […] stole a wristwatch while searching the apartment of the free person Korzukhin. During the Leningrad blockade Interrogator Nikolai Fyodorovich Kruzkhov told Yelizaveta Viktorovna Strakhovich, wife of the prisoner he was interrogating, K. I. Strakhovich: “I want a quilt. Bring it to me!” When she replied: “All our warm things are in the room they've sealed,” he went to her apartment and, without breaking the State Security seal on the locks, unscrewed the entire doorknob. “That's how the MGB works,” he explained gaily. And he went in and began to collect the warm things, shoving some crystal in his pocket at the same time. She herself tried to get whatever she could out of the room, but he stopped her. “That's enough for you!” - and he kept on raking in the booty."

Aleksandr L Solzhenitxyn from "The Gulag Archpelago"

"Why do we come in two sexes? Why do we make one big egg and lots of little sperm, instead of two equal blobs that coalesce like mercury? It is because the cell that is to become the baby cannot be just a bag of genes; it needs the metabolic machinery of the rest of a cell. Some of that machinery, the mitochondria, has it own genes, the famous mitochondrial DNA which is so useful in dating evolutionary splits. Like all genes, the ones in mitochondria are selected to replicate ruthlessly. And that is why a cell formed by fusing two equal cells faces trouble. The mitochondria of one parent and the mitochondria of the other parent wage a ferocious war for survival inside it. Mitochondira from each parent will murder their counterparts from the other, leaving the fused cell dangerously underpowered. The genes for the rest of the cell (the ones in the nucleus) suffer from the crippling of the cell, so they evolve a way of heading off the internecine warfare. In each pair of parents, one “agrees” to unilateral disarmament. It contributes a cell that provides no metabolic machinery, just naked DNA for the new nucleus. The species reproduces by fusing a big cell that contains a half-self of genes plus all the necessary machinery with a small cell that contains a half-set of genes and nothing else. The big cell is called an egg and the small cell is called a sperm.

Once an organism has taken that first step, the specialization of its sex cells can only escalate. A sperm is small and cheap, so the organism might as well make many of them, and give them outboard motors to get to the egg quickly and an organ to launch them on their way. The egg is big and precious, so the organism had better give it a head start by packing it with food and a protective cover. That makes it more expensive still, so to protect the investment the organism evolves organs that let the fertilized egg grow inside the body and absorb even more food, and that release the new offspring only when it is large enough to survive. These structures are called male and female reproductive organs. A few animals, hermaphrodites, put both kinds of organs in every individual, but most specialize further and divide up into two kinds, each allocating all their reproductive tissue to one kind of organ or the other. They are called males and females."

Steven Pinker from "How the Mind Works"

"A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies."


Karl Marx from "Communist Manifesto"

We spend far more, per capita, on health care than any other society in the world, and yet two thirds of Americans are overweight, and over 15 million Americans have diabetes, a number that has been rising rapidly. We fall prey to heart disease as often as we did thirty years ago, and the War on Cancer, launched in the 1970s, has been a miserable failure. Half of Americans have a health problem that requires taking a prescription drug every week, and over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol.

To make matters worse, we are leading our youth down a path of disease earlier and earlier in their lives. One third of the young people in this country are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Increasingly, they are falling prey to a form of diabetes that used to be seen only in adults, and these young people now take more prescription drugs than every before.

These issues all come down to three things: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be reversed by a healthy diet. Other research shows that various cancers, autoimmune diseases, bone health, kidney health, vision and brain disorders in old age (like cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer's) are convincingly influenced by diet. Most importantly, the diet that has time and again been shown to reverse and/or prevent these diseases is the same whole foods, plant-based diet that I had found to promote optimal health in my laboratory research and in the China Study. 

T Colin Campbell from 'The China Study'

There's some evidence that men, no matter what their age, actually process the information they hear differently than women do because of fundamental differences in their brains. In general, humans use the left part of the two symmetrical halves of our brains to produce language and understand speech, and the right for dealing with tasks that involve our physical position and other spatial relationships.

Some of the differences between men's and women's brains that may cause differences in the way we process and produce information include the following:

  • Women have more nerve cells in the left half of the brain, the seat of our ability to process language.

In the brain, quantity of cells often does correlate with quality. In the brain of a gymnast, for instance, the part of the brain that controls balance and motor skills is larger than it is in other people, and the more she practices, the larger it gets.

  • Women have a greater degree of connectivity between the two parts of the brain.

The thick network of fibers that connect the two halves of the brain, called the corpus callosum, is larger in women than it is in men. This may lead to greater traffic between the two halves of the brain in women. For example, men and women appear to process single words in a similar fashion, but when they're interpreting full sentences, men tend to use a single specific area in the brain, while women mobilize the same area, but in both sides. A study at Indiana University in 2000 showed that women used an area of the brain just above the ears in both halves of their brains in listening to an excerpt from a John Grisham book, while men used the same region, but only on the left side. [...]

  • Women have more dopamine in the part of the brain that controls language.

Nerve cells don't talk to each other by touching; they release chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which are picked up and “read” by other nerve cells. Women have higher concentrations of the neurotransmitter called dopamine in the part of the brain responsible for language and memory skills. In other words, their cells have more messengers at their disposal, and more messengers means more information delivered more efficiently. Researchers believe that women score higher on tests of verbal learning than men, particularly if they are younger, in part because of this higher dopamine availability in their brains.

Marianne Legato from 'Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget'

Quick chemistry – I mean, nutrition – lesson. There are four kinds of fats: monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. The first two are “good” fats, saturated fat is bad fat and trans fat is by far the worst. Trans fats severely lower your HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and drastically increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol, which hardens and clogs your arteries, which leads to heart attacks. Oh, and it promotes diabetes, as well.

The United States is the fattest nation on earth. Sixty-five percent of American adults are overweight; 30 percent are obese. According to the American Obesity Association, 127 million Americans are overweight, 60 million Americans are obese and 9 million are “severely obese.” In the decade between 1991 and 2001, obesity figures ballooned along with our own figures: from 12 percent of us being obese in 1991 to 21 percent in 2001. [...] As of fall 2004, obesity is highest in Alabama (28.4 percent) and lowest in Colorado (16 percent). All that mountain climbing and hiking really must be good for you.

Morgan Spurlock from 'Don't Eat This Book'

The Big Bang in animal evolution was perhaps the most dramatic event in the history of life on Earth. During this blink of an eye in such history, all the major animal groups found today evolved hard parts and became distinct shapes, simultaneously and for the first time. This happened precisely 543 million years ago, at the beginning of a period in geological history called the Cambrian, and so has become known as the 'Cambrian explosion'

In near-surface waters, such as the angelfish's Amazonian habitat, sunlight exists in the form of a beam like a spotlight, as it does on entry through the Earth's atmosphere. But below these waters the beam formation is broken, and sunlight is scattered in every direction. So here objects are illuminated equally from all directions, and no shadows are cast. A mirror in these waters vanishes from sight because in the mirror one sees only a weak reflection of the environment. The mirror becomes an optical illusion – in the direction of the mirror there appears to be only the background environment, with nothing in the way. In the ocean a silver fish is effectively a mirror. A predator looking directly at a silver-sided, or mirrored fish from below sees only a reflection of the surface. So in the direction of the fish there is ... no fish!

Andrew Parker from 'In The Blink Of An Eye'

Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other – by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others. At the cost of a few society members who die in battle as soldiers, the whole society becomes much more effective at conquering other societies or resisting attacks.

Obvious [...] part of the reason for states' triumphs over simpler entities when the two collide is that states usually enjoy an advantage of weaponry and other technology, and a large numerical advantage in population. But there are also two other potential advantages inherent in chiefdoms and states. First, a centralized decision maker has the advantage at concentrating troops and resources. Second, the official religions and patriotic fervor of many states make their troops willing to fight suicidally. The latter willingness is one so strongly programmed into us citizens of modern states, by our schools and churches and governments, that we forget what a radical break it marks with previous human history. Every state has its slogan urging its citizens to be prepared to die if necessary for the state: Britain's “For King and Country,” Spain's “Por Dios y Espana,” and so on. Similar sentiments motivated 16-th century Aztec warriors: “There is nothing like death in war, nothing like the flowery death so precious to Him {The Aztec national god Huitzilopochtli} who gives life: far off I see it, my heart years for it!”

Jared Diamond from "Guns, Germs, and Steel"

" We need protection from our own multi-millionaire, corporate terrorists, the ones who rip off our old-age pensions, destroy the environment, deplete irreplaceable fossil fuels in the name of profit, deny us our right to universal health care, takes peoples' jobs away whenever the mood hits them. What do you call a 19 percent increase in the homeless and the hungry from 2001 to 2002? Are these not acts of terrorism? Do they not cost lives? Is it not all part of a calculated plan to inflict pain on the poor and the working poor, just so that a few rich men can get even richer?"

Michael Moore from "Dude, Where's My Country"


"We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. […] Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton . We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. [...] [T]here is more to personal identity than genes, as identical twins (who separate after the moment of fertilization) show us."

Richard Dawkins from "Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and The Appetite For Wonder"


"the opposite of 'injustice' is not 'justice,' but 'love'"

 Lawrence LeShan from "How to Meditate"

"The implications of directed neuroplasticity combined with quantum physics cast new light on the question of humankind's place and role, in nature. At its core, the new physics combined with the emerging neuroscience suggests that the natural world evolves through an interplay between two causal processes. The first includes the physical processes we are all familiar with - electricity streaming gravity pulling. The second includes the contents of our consciousness including volition. The importance of this second process cannot be overstated, for it allows human thoughts to make a difference in the evolution of physical events."

Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley from "The Mind & The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force"

"The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals 'utility' or the 'greatest happiness principle' holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. (...)

It must be admitted, however, that utilitarian writers in general have placed the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency, safety uncostliness, and so on, of the former - that is, in their circumstantial advantages rather than in their intrinsic nature. (...)

Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs. (...)

A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering and certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence. (...)

It may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures occasionally, under the influence of temptation, relegate them to the lower. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superior of the higher. Men often, from weakness of character, make their choice for the nearer good, thought they know it to be the less valuable.

But I do not believe that those who undergo this very common change voluntarily choose the lower description of pleasures in preference to the higher. I believe that, before they devote themselves exclusively to the one, they have already become incapable of the other."

John Stuart Mill from "Utilitarianism"

"Altruism, compassion, empathy, love, conscience, the sense of justice-all of these things, the things that hold society together, the things that allow our species to think so highly of itself, can now confidently be said to have a firm genetic basis. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, although these things are in some ways blessings for humanity as a whole, they didn’t evolve for the “good of the species” and aren’t reliably employed to that end. Quite the contrary: it is now clearer than ever how (and precisely why) the moral sentiments are used with brutal flexibility, switched on and off in keeping with self-interest; and how naturally oblivious we often are to this switching. In the new view, human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse."

Robert Wright from "The Moral Animal: Why We Are The Way We Are: The New Science Of Evolutionary Psychology"

"The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seems to have been the effects of the division of labor..."

Adam Smith from "The Wealth of Nations"

"No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear."

John Stuart Mill from "On Liberty"

"It is easier to write ten volumes of philosophy than to put one principle into practice."

Leo Tolstoy in Stefan Zweig, "Tolstoy: Struggle for Realization," Master Builders: A Typology of the Spirit


"Personality can never develop unless the individual chooses his own way, consciously and with moral deliberation."

Carl G. Jung from "The Development of Personality"

"The State, its laws, its arrangements, are the rights of its members; its natural features, its mountains, air and waters are their country, their fatherland, their outward material property; the history of this State, their deeds..."

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel from "The Philosophy of History - The Idea of The State"

"Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts have been perfected, not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor."

Charles Darwin from "The Origin of Species"

"It has been objected, that upon the abolition of private property all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us."

Kark Marx and Friedrich Engels from "The Communist Manifesto"

"The aim of this society is the triumph of the principle of revolution in the world, and consequently the radical overthrow of all presently existing religious, political, economic and social organizations and institutions and the reconstitution first of Europeans and subsequently of the world society on the basis of liberty, reason, justice and work."

Michael Bakunin from "Anarchism"

"It is the very essence of our striving for understanding that, on the one hand, it attempts to encompass the great and complex variety of man's experience, and that on the other, it looks for simplicity and economy in the basic assumptions."

Albert Einstein from "My Views"

"There was a path that led from violence to right or law. What was that path? It is my belief that there was only one: the path which led by way of the fact that the superior strength of a single individual could be rivaled by the union of several weak ones."

Sigmund Freud to Albert Einstein on "Why War?"

"What is understood, need not be discussed."

Loren Adams

"It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend of his faults.... To speak painful truth through loving words — that is friendship."

Henry Ward Beecher from "Life Thoughts"