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woohooligan Jan 5, 2012
woohooligan NEW! Check out our best laughs from 2016!
This is a bit of a departure from my usual work... I never know how to describe something like this... so here are a few thoughts:

· I'm a Unitarian (not an atheist)

· I'm not picking on Christianity... I'm picking on Economics majors.

· My prediction of the way people will respond :
Economics Wonks will attempt to calmly explain to me why the view described in the 2nd panel is absolutely correct while the other 2 are complete rubbish

Hard Sell Christians (as opposed to reasonable Christians) will tell me that I'm wrong and that I'm going to hell and then attempt to either convert me or "bring me back into the fold" (ignoring the fact that I never really left it)

· I guess sometimes people just see what they want to see. ;P




And now for some science!

When I took my first economcis course back in the early 1980s, our professor ... offered an important clarification ... Economics, she explained, wasn't the study of money. It was the study of behavior. In the course of a day, each of us was constantly figuring the cost and benefits of our actions and then deciding how to act. Economists studied what people did, rather than what we said, because we did what was best for us. We were rational calculators of our economic self-interest.

When I studied law a few years later, a similar idea reappeared. The newly ascendant field of "law and economics" held that precisely because we were such awesome self-interest calculators, laws and regulations often impeded, rather than permitted, sensible and just outcomes. I survived law school in no small part because I discovered the talismanic phrase and offered it on exams: "In a world of perfect information and low transaction costs, the parties will bargain to a wealth maximizing result."

Then about a decade later, came a curious turn of events that made me question much of what I'd worked hard, and taken on enormous debt, to learn. In 2002, the Nobel Foundation awarded its prize in economics to a guy who wasn't even an economist. And they gave him the field's highest honor largely for revealing that we weren't always rational calculators of our economic self-interest and that the parties often didn't bargain to a wealth-maximizing result. Daniel Kahneman, an American psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics that year ... helped force a change in how we think about what we do. ...

Kahneman and others in the field of behavioral economics agreed with my professor that economics was the study of human economic behavior. They just believed that we'd placed too much emphasis on the economic and not enough on the human. That hyperrational calculator-brained person wasn't real. He was a convenient fiction.


- Drive by Daniel H. Pink

So... people have emotions... hmmm... I guess that explains why if you ask a stranger on the street to help you move a couch, they'll often do it for free, but if you offer them money for helping, those same people can't get away from you fast enough. Not much rational self-interest there. ;P

For the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only--mental illness--and has done fairly well with it. ... We now know a good deal about how these troubles develop ... genetics, biochemistry, and psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve these disorders. ... But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable, it seems, has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. But people want more than just to correct their weaknesses. They want lives imbued with meaning, and not just how to go from minus five to minus three and feel a little less miserable day by day. ... The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the "good life".

While the theory that happiness cannot be lastingly increased is one obstacle to scientific research on the subject, there is another, more profound obstacle: the belief that happiness (and even more generally, any positive human motivation) is inauthentic. I call this pervasive view about human nature, which recurs across many cultures, the rotten-to-the-core dogma. ... The doctrine of original sin is the oldest manifestation of the rotten-to-the-core dogma, but such thinking has not died out in our democratic, secular state. Freud dragged this doctrine into twentieth-century psychology, defining all of civilization (including modern morality, science, religion, and technological progress) as just an elaborate defense against basic conflicts over infantile sexuality and aggression. We "repress" these conflicts because of the unbearable anxiety they cause, and this anxiety is transmuted into the energy that generates civilization. So the reason I am sitting in front of my computer writing this preface--rather than running out to rape and kill--is that I am "compensated," zipped up and successfully defending myself against underlying savage impulses. Freud's philosophy, as bizarre as it sounds when laid out so starkly, finds its way into daily psychological and psychiatric practice ... Thus the competitiveness of Bill Gates is really his desire to outdo his father, and Princess Diana's opposition to land mines was merely the outcome of sublimating her murderous hatred for Prince Charles and the other royals.

The rotten-to-the-core doctrine also pervades the understanding of human nature in the arts and social sciences. Just one example of thousands is No Ordinary Time, a gripping history of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the great living political scientists. Musing on the question of why Eleanor dedicated so much of her life to helping people who were black, poor, or disabled, Goodwin decided that it was "to compensate for her mother's narcissism and her father's alcoholism." Nowhere does Goodwin consider the possibility that deep down, Eleanor Roosevelt was pursuing virtue. Motivations like exercising fairness or pursuing duty are ruled out as fundamental; there must be some covert, negative motivation that underpins goodness if the analysis is to be academically respectable.

I cannot say this too strongly: in spite of the widespread acceptance of the rotten-to-the-core dogma in the religious and secular world, there is not a shred of evidence that strength and virtue are derived from negative motivation.


- Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman (Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and "father of positive psychology")

Honestly I think if you want to understand what's natural for people, you have to look at the behavior of tiny infants. These tiny little people are neither the purely selfish calculators described by economics nor are they bundles of hate-filled rage as described by Freud or the Bible. In fact, in experiments it's been shown that babies who can't yet talk derive pleasure from helping other people! I remember when my daughter Alex was a baby, and even knowing now that she's somewhere on the autism spectrum, she was still able to understand crying. When another baby would cry in the day care, she would crawl over to them and try to comfort them as best she could. :D

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ThornsInOurSide People may be all of the above.
Unka John Jan 5, 2012
Unka John Truly awesome update.
woohooligan Thanks, John! :D
geekgrrl Jan 6, 2012
geekgrrl Or there are Christians that just roll their eyes because there is yet another internet joke about how they are terrible. :P (Though I did like the comic, there ARE people like the capital Cs that out there. And they are annoying.)
woohooligan Thanks G! :D

Yeah, not all Christians are "Capital C" -- that's what I call the overly srs bsns Christians who can't take a joke and are constantly trying to convert people by insulting them. ;P In fact, most of the Christians I know don't fall into that category... it's just that the few Capital C Christians stick out because they make such asses of themselves. ;P Y'know, the whole rotten-apple thing...

The point of the comic though is actually that Christians in general (and everyone else) are much better people than the core Christian doctrine teaches. So it's not that Christians are terrible, just that their core doctrine is flawed.
waf Apr 5, 2013
That's islam too, brilliance.
Col Klink Apr 28, 2013
The origin story - Is a little different than you think.

Adam + Eve + Garden-of-Eden = allegory. But what allegory?

Normally presented as "the fall of Man", by eating from the tree of knowledge.

But really, it was "the fall of Men". (note spelling diff)

Before, it was the idyllic arrangement--the Garden was abundant, providing everything needed. After, well, abundance was still there, but we were going to have to work for it. Bad.

How did this really happen?

Prehistory: early man was hunter/gatherer. A successful hunt provided food for days; days that could be spent lounging. Men are th hunters, by virtue of strength, speed, and not having to bear/wacth kids. Women are gatherers. The tribes are wanderers. Eventually they arrive someplace where is so much available, they don't have to leave. So they stay for years.

Humans have bigger brains, and aren't stupid. If they see something often enough, they will eventually understand it, to an extent. This turns out to be the women, because the women don't hunt. They see this happen repeatedly, for years, and make the connection between food, seeds, sprouts, plants and then more food--the Tree of Knowledge: you can arrange to do your own growing, rather than depend on wandering around.

Women discovered agriculture...but the men had to do it. Thus they fell, from the grace of just chasing an animal, to the back-breaking labor of agriculture, work that never ends.

And blamed the women for it. forever.

That is the allegory. The women sinned, the men suffered, therefore we are all bad, we are to be endlessly punished for it, as though it was something that was somehow avoidable, were it not for our rotten natures.

Baloney. It was 100% inevitable. Why? Because the thing our brains do best is find and match patterns. The patterns of life, growth, death. And rebirth. And the ability to invent new ones, and try them out.

New ways of doing things. That is growth. Anything else is death.
Discrider Jun 23, 2013
I disagree to this depiction quite strongly.
Okay, so Cognitive Science says people want to be happy, and Economics says people act in self-interest. Christianity says that this is why we are unhappy. It's not that we're inherently evil, but that we act on self-interest and this means we don't act in a way to maximise happiness.
The curse wasn't "You disobeyed me so you'll all be evil forever." it was "You'll know the right thing to do but be unable to do it. Also no more free stuff".
Jesus had to die to prevent us from facing the full consequences of our behaviour, but I don't think that was the entry of God's grace into the world, just the ultimate expression of it.
woohooligan Jun 23, 2013
woohooligan Discrider: That's an interesting viewpoint. Seems like an unusual interpretation of the core message of Christianity to me, however, having been raised Christian. Also, economics is way wrong about people's motivations, which would mean any further thesis based on the core beliefs (they're not findings) of traditional economics would also be flawed.
Krahog Sep 10, 2013
Christianity - Being one of the Capital "C" Christians, I felt obliged to comment, though not in a way you presumed.

To my knowledge, Isaac Asimov explained jokes as mental images or processes which force a sudden change in the unwritten rules we adhere too onto us: the bigger the change, the better the joke.

According to this theory, every time somebody makes a joke or parody of the side of christianity, I laugh, because to me, that means the joker is actually a believer, otherwise that wouldn't be funny by his standards.

The sad part is, that for all the slack we get, the responsible people are usually not christians at all, yet they claim to be (by which I mean pedo priests, "christian" politicians, modern day inquisitors, thugs with a rosary around their neck's etc.)
woohooligan Sep 11, 2013
woohooligan Thanks, Krahog, I really appreciate that.

I'm not sure I would describe you as a "Capital C Christian" however -- I use that term in essence to describe the people who spend every waking moment bashing everyone else over the head with a Bible in an attempt to convert them.
BladeofBone Jul 24, 2016
Cap "C" christians - I am a Christian, but I believe in science, evolution, and the rest. The reason I state this is that God created us in his own image. The term create can mean from nothing or by using a medium, aka dirt, clay, or a rib, to make something new. That means that God could have created us in his image and we still could have evolved from the great apes, as apes and monkeys are fundamentally different. I hate going to a church that a pastor preaches to you about God and how you should change your ways or be sent to hell. I also have Autism, but people can not normally tell. Here is a bit of trivia for you. Did you know that histories greatest inventor and artists are said to have Autism? These people include Albert Einstein, Galileo, Micoangelo, Shakespeare, and many more. You can spot differences in their lives and how they thought that was different, sometimes to the extreme of those of their time.
woohooligan Jul 24, 2016
woohooligan Thanks, B. Yeah, there's loads of examples. Dan Aykroyd has said in interview that he's autistic... I don't personally like to say our "greatest inventors / artists" were mostly autistic. For one I don't think it's likely true -- art is subjective, and sure we could measure the greatness of invention by the number of years of life given, etc. although that gets us into a big philosophical debate about the quality or quantity of life... But even still, I just think historically autistic people have probably been spread pretty evenly among the famous and the forgotten (an awful lot of them took their own lives). In any event, I think it's fine to have pride in who you are - black, white, men, women, autistic, allistic... I just feel like we're probably better served by keeping in mind that "great people" come from all walks of life.
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