Free Radicals 2009-2010

Free Radicals – fearlessly going where too few went before (*)

Each of us arrives with a 2-minute pre-written point of view. All presentations delivered before any discussion.

  • Aspartame (“Equal”) has had an ongoing controversy over health safety. Investigate for yourself and make your opinion. Is it safe?
  • Does religion give a net benefit to humanity?
  • Freud, Jung & others proposed a layered human psychology with lots of strange stuff inside us. Has this viewpoint, and the therapy disciplines it spawned, helped us, or is it discredited or dangerous or just rubbish?
  • Is polyamory immoral ?
  • Did Jesus teach what is recorded?
  • What is truth?
  • You are an explorer/researcher from another galaxy, sent to observe and report back on the main life-forms that have been spotted on a newly discovered planet “earth”. Write a preliminary report on the observed habits and politics, and the presumed thinking and feelings and ethics (if any) of earth’s alpha inhabitants.
  • The late Mr Epicurus of Athens. Even judged against his hard-thinking colleagues (the likes of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle), Epicurus has been labelled as a free-thinking radical. But many seem to think he has been often caricatured and then too easily written off. Make your own investigations and decide what you think.
  • Suicide/euthanasia. Why does it remain taboo today?
  • What is our mind? Is it just our brain? Or something additional?
  • Why do we commonly hide orgasms (and other sexual activity)?
  • Why is music beautiful to us?
  • United Nation Declaration on Human Rights (1948). Is it a good statement?
  • What evidence is there for a god?
  • Is there anything we can usefully label as the human soul?
  • Occam’s Razor
  • Could we have socially evolved to our current modern cultures without many older civilisations built on slavery?
  • Why does evil exist? Does evil exist?
  • Different cultures on earth have different moral rules, taboos, life beliefs.  Make a list (in order of importance) of the things humanity can truly & profitably learn out of the disparate versions?
  • Should pornography be limited?
  • Why is religion politically and culturally protected, and even subsidised?
  • Does our existence / our life have a purpose?
  • Nietzsche: “Society encourages self-sacrifice because the unselfish sucker is an asset to others.” The GOLDEN RULE (“Do unto others …”) is often listed as the most elementary “natural evolved morality” in humans, and is Jesus’ basic rule also. Is it a con?
  • “Men and Woman can not be friends, for the sex thing always gets in the way.” – When Harry Met Sally
  • Is there such a thing really as “free will”? Or is it just a “fiction worth maintaining”?
  • What is outside of our physical body? ideas/essences/forms (as per Plato)? substances (as per Aristotle)? spirits (as per Christianity et al)? Maybe our mind with its consciousness and mental function is still a different & non-physical dimension from our physical body and its brain (as per Descartes)?
  • 10 Commandments: The first 4 seem to relate to our connection to god. Let us leave those aside for now. The next 6 are relating to our own human moral code. Replace or rewrite those 6.
  • Is there a god?
  • G.M. foods. Good technology and good economics battling superstition and beat-up fear? Or simply dangerous, a step too far?
  • Should gay marriage be legal?
  • Can censorship ever be useful? … desirable?
  • Should morality be based on a calculation of greatest good/happiness/pleasure? Utilitarianism.
  • Blasphemy – is it crossing a moral line that shouldn’t be crossed?
  • Islam and western liberalism are irreconcilable.
  • WHO AM I? What makes “me”, “I”, my identity, housed in this particular body/brain?
  • What makes a good dirty joke a good dirty joke?
  • “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Woolly new-age rubbish? Or a working & useful human stratagem?
  • Do we have any obligations in our life for what is after our death? (or) What do we owe to posterity?
  • Eugenics. Should we sterilise the feeble-minded?
  • What’s the problem with nudity?
  • Religious tolerance and moderation: oxymoron?
  • Our 19 logical fallacies. (That card we bring to every class.)
  • What makes anything good (or bad)?
  • Love, sex, breeding, monogamy, bonding and passion. Why does our set of rules & preconceptions give us so much trouble?
  • The Law – What obligations do we have to obey?
  • What is Love?
  • Can white civilisation in Australia ever be legitimate?
  • Could we KNOW anything if we had no language or words?
  • Hoaxes & conspiracy theories. Why are they so successful? How do we recognise them? How to check?
  • “I think, therefore I am” – cogito ergo sum. (Rene Descartes). What on earth was the poor bloke thinking?
  • Is Pacifism immoral?
  • Do we really have any rights? Where would any rights come from?
  • What is time?
  • Population explosion, resource depletion, warming. Was this always going to be inevitable on planet earth, given what humans have evolved to be?
  • What value is there in meditation?
  • Nietszche – “God is Dead!” Elaborate.
  • Why is sex fun?
  • The tabloid press is a barrier to moral debate and reform.
  • Could a machine ever think? Be conscious?
  • Do we ever deserve to be punished?
  • Belief systems. Instincts. Intuition. The Monty Hall puzzle.
  • “All men are created equal.” Sure?
  • Should we be eating meat?
  • Female circumcision. Some cultures believe in it and think it is morally good. Why should we judge them from our own moral perspective?
  • What caused the universe to exist? Why is it here? How is it here?
  • Should knowledge / intellectual property be ownable?
  • Are humans still evolving?
  • Is human behaviour infinitely or mostly malleable? Ie, Can we become any sort of animal, any sort of society/culture, with any sort of morality/conscience – all depending on our culture/conditioning? OR Are the “grimmest” parts of the human experience immutable, grounded in “instincts” and “innate drives”?  It is just “human nature”!
  • What is existentialism? And why did the philosophers find it absurd?
  • Should all drugs be decriminalised?
  • Plato/Aristotle (& Epicurus?): “What is the life worth living?”

(*) … but we have come across sandprints and logbooks of some earlier travellers, like Confucius, Moses, Socrates, Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Jesus, Origen, Augustine, Ibn Sina, Anselm, Aquinas, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Pascal, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Rousseau, Smith, Paine, Bentham, JS Mill, Kierkegaard, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Russell, Godel, Leary, Grof, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Diamond, Dawkins, Nitshcke.