All this morning and into the noon hour I’ve been thinking, TGIF! But it’s Thors-day.
And why is Friday so good? The feeling of being close to Saturn’s Day?
Speaking of, the above is a NASA pic of Saturn’s moon, Titan.
Maybe I’m in a Titan state of mind. At least in terms of the “titanic disappointment” I’m feeling.
[Warning: When wearing my scientist cap, I don't judge one reproductive strategy as better than another -- whether the species be of amphibian or human.]
A common moral couplet might be expressed this way:
Men who only look at a woman’s body, not at her face and into her eyes — they are slimeballs.
The gentlemen who keep their gaze above the neck of a woman, and — bonus! — express their feelings, these are good guys. The marrying kind.
While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the “slimeball” decree of the first part, my guess is the conclusion to the second has some merit. Some type of men, as manifest by their behavior, are more the “marrying kind.” And a new science finding lends some indirect support -
Men who are looking for short-term companionship are more interested in a woman’s body than those looking for a long-term relationship, who focused on a woman’s face, according to new research from psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin. [emphases added]
Short-term “companionship” — if that’s not a euphemism, I don’t know what is. A better way of expressing the matter than using that term, and “long-term relationship” as well, is provided by the title. Short-term vs. long-term mates. That’s more scientific. And what do mates do? They mate. Digging even deeper beneath any culturally-dependent moral overlay, it is reasonable to argue that the true issue is mating strategy.
Roughly speaking, there are two primary mating strategies found in nature: high quantity offspring with little or no care by one or both parents and low quantity offspring with high quality care. With the first strategy, relatively more time and energy is spent generating offspring. In the second, much time and energy goes into caring for them to insure their survival.
Is one strategy better than the other? Ultimately, no. For humans? Well, in today’s stable, affluent, high-population world, probably the second. But at all times under all circumstances? I imagine some degree of plasticity in sexual and parenting behavior has proved adaptive for our kind.
Might we then say that the slimeball dude, the guy who objectifies women, is operating under the influence of “quantity offspring” impulses, while the marrying type under the “quality offspring”? I wonder.
Upon reading the above finding about men focusing on faces vs. bodies, I thought, Well, that make some sense. While bodies provide signs of sexual maturity from afar, in faces one finds general clues as to overall health (better mom genes, better child genes), as well as other more psychologically relevant information (concerning pair-bonding and parenting).
The hips don’t lie. For the guy looking for a short-term mate, they are a more reliable guide than the face. Consider those especially ridiculous pre-teen beauty pageants (Oops, got a little moralistic there). If a “slimeball” wants to avoid sleeping with a minor (today, in part for legal reasons, ancestrally, to increase his odds at hitting it big in the progeny lottery) he better check her secondary-sexual-characteristics-ID. Is she sexually mature; does she have the physical resources to “grow” and deliver a child?
Also — here venturing further into likely speculation-land — it seems to me that the guy seeking a short-term mate (again – possibly operating in quantity-offspring mode) would be better off avoiding prolonged eye-contact. Why? The more eye-contact, the more emotionally intimate a couple becomes. The more eye-contact, the more trust can build and bonds can form. Bonds. Being a successful slimeball and emotionally bonding with women are likely mutually exclusive. Which is part of the “logic” of objectifying females. Don’t get attached. If you do, quantity goes wayyyy down.
Of course, females aren’t passive participants in the mating game. I’m sure there are many who likewise tend to “objectify” males and seek shorter-term . . . companionship. But they aren’t slimeballs. They are sluts. Or so continues to assert our superficial moral code.
On a personal note, what was I doing at the moment I realized my wife of 20+ years was “the one for me” (second strategy)? We were gazing at length into each other’s eyes. And what a feeling it was — as powerful as drugs! Those drugs have apparently yet to wear off.
Years ago, in his chart-topping opus, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking notoriously wrote,
“But if the universe is completely self-contained . . . that has profound implications for the role of God as Creator. . . . Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? And who created him? . . . If we do discover a complete theory . . . . it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we would know the mind of God.” [emphasis added]
For our generation, Hawking is considered the quintessential genius: a soaring intellect carried by a cruel joke of a crippled body. He seems other-worldly. But alas, he is mortal, and he can be wrong, as he himself has acknowledged.
In the above passage from this great thinker, we get some reasonable questions and speculations about the universe and a god’s possible role in it. In fact, Hawking questions “God.” (As it it seems he does more directly and at length in his recent book, The Grand Design.) But then, like so many writers of fiction and even non-fiction, he resorts to the poetic use of the word. And quite effectively, for “then we would know the mind of God” has dramatic panache.
But I don’t like it. First, the hefty final phrase does not logically follow his previous lines. It is akin to a hotel clerk saying, “Well, I don’t know if the room comes with a microwave or not, but go out and buy some popcorn anyway, so then you can use the microwave.”
I additionally don’t like poetic god-talk in scientific literature because by borrowing the term to add sparkle to their prose, the writers give this very unscientific term legitimacy-by-association.
Most scientists at the top of their fields who believe in a god tend to believe in a god that resides or exists beyond our universe. Or maybe the god is indistinguishable from the laws of nature and/or nature itself. The word then becomes simply a sexy synonym for “the universe.” Indeed, the majority of educated thinkers understand that the universe works just fine without a god. Adding a god, or adding any other supernatural factor, would be like inserting a smiley face into E=MC2. It contributes nothing, hence there is no good reason for it.
Because scientists frequently have a much different conception of what “god” means than the average reader, if they use the term they ought to behave like a scientist through-and-through and first define what they do mean. Otherwise, they are misleading their audience. Furthermore, if a scientist simply means “the laws of the universe” when he or she uses the word “god,” there is no justification for opting to use a fully abstract term, however exciting it may sound.
Some new science findings, briefly put:
1. Adolescents who have abortions experience no greater risk for common mental maladies.
This finding is both news and old news. How so? It’s old because the previously alleged link between abortion and poorer mental health was thrown into doubt many years ago. It’s new for two reasons. 1. The science was recently conducted and it confirms a previous conclusion. Which is an important finding. and 2. -
The study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University and University of California, San Francisco, is the first to use both depression and low self-esteem as outcomes with a nationally representative sample of adolescents.
The researchers found that young women in the study who had an abortion were no more likely to become depressed or have low self-esteem within the first year of pregnancy – or five years later – than their peers who were pregnant, but did not have an abortion. [source, emphases added]
Ah. The mental health variables were targeted, and an apples-to-apples comparison made. Looks like pretty good work.
2. A Curious Symptom of Autism
[A] new study has found that most children aren’t susceptible to contagious yawning until they’re about 4 years old—and that children with autism are less likely to yawn contagiously than others. [source]
Interesting. Yet another way that autistic people have different social . . . inclinations? instincts? habits? reflexes? (a good word escapes me).
3. Moral Myopia
Guess what — our minds are handicapped. Limited. Just like our bodies. While people readily accept the fact that we are unable to physically fly, for some reason many people seem to think our minds are capable of, in a sense, flying. They aren’t limited, thus we we are capable of clearly seeing whatever it is we put our . . . minds to.
But it ain’t true. Our mental capacities are likewise limited. Consider this finding on an innate mental handicap in the area of morality:
In a nutshell, the research confirmed that -
large-scale tragedies don’t connect with people emotionally in the same way smaller tragedies do.
Well that doesn’t make sense. What limits our ability to better weigh small and large-scale tragedies?
The researchers noted that this “victim identifiability effect” allows people to form more vivid mental representations of a smaller number of victims.
This means that the news of a little-known neighbor losing a lower leg in an accident will strike the average person as more significant than the news of hundreds of men losing lower legs to land mines in another part of the world. Our moral perspective seems quite near-sighted. Myopic. Where do we find corrective lenses.
Placebo treatments, though fully inert, actually do work. How well and for what duration — these are good questions.
Slap the label “Sex Magnet” on a bottle of otherwise ordinary perfume or cologne, and, presto, you’ve got a placebo treatment. I’m willing to bet that self-reported data of users of this placebo would reveal that it “works.” How does it work? Guestimating here – by making the user think sexier thoughts, feel sexier feelings and behave more sexy. The “behave more sexy” could attract more sexual attention. It works! And the sexier thoughts might make a person perceive otherwise non-sexy interactions as sexy.
But don’t take my word for it. Consider this bit of science news. From, Placebo successful in treating women with sexual dysfunction –
A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that women with low sexual arousal experienced clinically significant symptom changes after taking a placebo….
Results showed that, after 12 weeks of treatment, symptoms in about one in three of these women improved to a degree that most clinicians would consider a meaningful change. Most of that improvement seemed to happen during the first four weeks.
As has been known for quite some time, placebo treatments are most effective for maladies that have significant psychological/subjective components, such as pain an anxiety. Still, if you can alleviate these to some degree, the treatment can be called a success. Right?
In the case of the above study, I’d like to know just significant the “clinically significant symptom changes” were. And I wonder what a longer-term outcome might be.
Of course, it is possible that a placebo treatment can bring long-term benefits. For brains and overall biology is plastic. If a person adopts a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving for any amount of time . . . it’s likely that changes to “their biology” will result (blood flow and/or activity level to specific brain regions, etc.).
In this light, could one view psychotherapy — one or another form of “talk therapy” — as fully residing in the domain of placebo treatments?
Hmm. One thing is for certain: I’m going to have to give the notion of “just a placebo” more thought. And keep my eyes open for additional research.
And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the alter the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces (Leviticus 9:23-24, King James Version).
This Biblical account of a little kitchen-fire incident could have been prevented by following OSHA standards. The fat was heated too high! Of course it was going to combust. And where was the fire extinguisher when they needed it? In the garage? There was no need to get over-excited and fall down.
Imagine traveling back in time, taking with you a trunk of Chinese fireworks. With the strike of a match, Fashizzle & Pow! there’s a new messiah in town. “Think your god is powerful with his ho-hum flames? Watch this!” And the heavens would explode with the colors of your own god’s wrath and glory.
Or maybe the sky would simply light up with phosphorous and sodium and whatever else oxidizes in the impressive display. Animal fat, saltpeter — no big dif.: natural phenomena mistakenly perceived as supernatural.
The smarter response to witnessing something you can’t explain is not to fall to your knees. Scratch your head instead, and then maybe do some information-gathering. If you still can’t explain it, shrug your shoulders.
Many people approach puzzling experiences as if they were a multiple-choice test, with the d) choice being not “none of the above,” but “the One Above.” In mysterious events what we are more often faced with is a fill-in-the-blank exam with no time limit. If we get stumped, we’re free to skip ahead to questions we have solid responses to. When personal and/or worldly knowledge increases on the skipped topic, re-visit it.
Yeah — not quite as fulfilling in a dramatic sort-of-way as shouting and falling on your face. But self-control and patience do have value. One that pays off in the longer term.
The above is a Photoshop-filtered image. Any idea what it is? Hint – I had to look up to snap the photo. Answer and original pic below the fold.
[recycled material - first appeared here]
Evolutionary psychology is a fascinating field of
conjecture study. Yes, the data it relies upon is indirect and thus ideas based upon it should be expressed tentatively. Still, I’m drawn to it, as a child in a zoo seeing a solo rhinoceros for the first time might be drawn to the animal’s horn. What is that for?
When I scan headlines for science news, titles like this one will catch my eye: Xenophobia, For Men Only.
Hmm. What’s this about?
It’s known that people are more fearful of “out-groups” – that is, people who are different from them, and this fear of “the other” has been clearly demonstrated with race. But Navarrete found that volunteers’ most persistent fears were reserved for men – that is, male members of the out-group. So white men and women feared black men, and black men and women feared white men; all the other lab-induced fears, including any conditioned fear of women diminished.
Shouldn’t the title then be, “Xenophobia, Of Men Only”? Further tests revealed that -
Those with close relationships outside their own race had less persistent fears than did those with little interracial experience.
Interesting and potentially helpful.
The article ends with, surprise, a tentatively worded explanation.
Why would gender influence these ingrained fears as much as race? It may be that men were more often the aggressors over evolutionary time, so that male faces became a potent cue for danger. So xenophobia is not an equal-opportunity emotion.
Evolutionary psychology doesn’t “close the book” on an inquiry with neat, tidy and complete solutions. It opens it.
I’m in a Friday kind of mood, despite the rain.
O.E. frigedæg “Frigga’s day,” (see Frigg), Gmc. goddess of married love, a W.Gmc. translation of L. dies Veneris, “day of (the planet) Venus,” which itself translated Gk. Aphrodites hemera. Cf. O.N. frijadagr, O.Fris. frigendei, M.Du. vridach, Du. vrijdag, Ger. Freitag “Friday,” and the L.-derived cognates O.Fr. vendresdi, Fr. vendredi, Sp. viernes. In the Gmc. pantheon, Freya (q.v.) corresponds more closely in character to Venus than Frigg does, and some early Icelandic writers used Freyjudagr for “Friday.” [all emphases mine]
Frigging-a! It’s Frigga’s day!
Frigg (sometimes anglicized as Frigga) is a major goddess in Norse paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism. She is said to be the wife of Odin, and is the “foremost among the goddesses” and the queen of Asgard. Frigg appears primarily in Norse mythological stories as a wife and a mother. She is also described as having the power of prophecy yet she does not reveal what she knows. Frigg is described as the only one other than Odin who is permitted to sit on his high seat Hlidskjalf and look out over the universe. The English term Friday derives from the Anglo-Saxon name for Frigg, Frige.
Odin (pronounced /?o?d?n/ from Old Norse Óðinn) is a major god in Norse mythology. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon ?o-den and the Old High German Wotan, the name is descended from Proto-Germanic *Wo-?inaz or *Wo-?anaz. “Odin” is generally accepted as the modern English form of the name, although, in some cases, older forms may be used or preferred. His name is related to o-ðr, meaning “fury, excitation,” besides “mind,” or “poetry.” His role, like that of many of the Norse gods, is complex. He is considered a principal member of the Æsir (Norse Pantheon) and it is associated with wisdom, war, battle, and death, and also magic, poetry, prophecy, victory, and the hunt.
The Bible describes Yahweh as the one true God who delivered Israel from Egypt and gave the Ten Commandments: “Then God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you lived as slaves. You shall have no other gods to rival me.’” Yahweh revealed himself to Israel as a God who would not permit his people to make idols or follow gods of other nations or worship gods known by other names, “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, or My praise to idols.” Yahweh demanded the role of the one true God in the hearts and minds of Israel, “Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
Hmm. Where’s the one true god who will deliver me from Florida into a land of eternal youth, reciting poetry all the way?
[Photo, thanks to NASA, is apropos nada. Save for the initial leap.]
Three quickie science findings this morning. Each are interesting, perhaps important.
Want to know how a Japanese person is feeling? Pay attention to the tone of his voice, not his face. That’s what other Japanese people would do, anyway. A new study examines how Dutch and Japanese people assess others’ emotions and finds that Dutch people pay attention to the facial expression more than Japanese people do.
“As humans are social animals, it’s important for humans to understand the emotional state of other people to maintain good relationships,” says Akihiro Tanaka of Waseda Institute for Advanced Study in Japan. “When a man is smiling, probably he is happy, and when he is crying, probably he’s sad.” Most of the research on understanding the emotional state of others has been done on facial expression; Tanaka and his colleagues in Japan and the Netherlands wanted to know how vocal tone and facial expressions work together to give you a sense of someone else’s emotion. [all emphases in post added]
Hmm. I wonder if differences might be found in different ethnic groups within our country. What about Japanese Americans? 2nd generation Japanese Americans?
People with autism tend to have difficulty picking up social/emotional cues. I wonder if this is equally true for facial and vocal cues.
A new study just published in Child Development describes an intervention that is effective in eliminating the gender gap in spatial abilities. While the research doesn’t yet show that the intervention leads to better achievement in science, math, and engineering for girls, this is a promising direction for supporting girls’ achievement and eventual contributions in these areas. . . .
Hmm. Assuming that spatial ability gap is determined to some degree by “nature” (genes), it seems possible to close the gap via nurture (learning experiences). Or perhaps it is possible to counter-nurture the previous nurture experiences responsible for the size of the gap.
I wonder: Has the pendulum swung and now the psychological sciences are focusing more on women and female issues? There is a greater number of female psychologists now. Why not an equal concern over the gap between males and females in verbal abilities or social skills? It seems guys are relatively “behind” in those areas. Is it because spatial abilities are more clearly linked to achievement in more highly esteemed and lucrative fields?
“Our findings tell us that it’s unlikely that traditional cookie-cutter violence-prevention programs will be effective for everyone,” said Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri, instructor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and lead author of a new study, available online and in the September/October issue of Academic Pediatrics. . . .
The researchers found that Caucasian and Latino teens who reported either smoking or alcohol consumption were more likely to fight, as were African-Americans living below the poverty threshold.
In addition, the study is the first to suggest that depression may increase the risk of fighting for Latino youth. Dr. Shetgiri said that finding is significant because prior investigations have shown that Latino adolescents have higher rates of depression than other groups.
Another case of one-treatment-does-not-fit-all. In this case, one type of preventative program. Where there are different risk factors, it doesn’t make sense to focus on one risk factor among many when that one may not even be factor for large numbers of people.
Crows gather in flocks during the off-season. Migrating season and over the winter months. What draws them to one another during these times? Or is it instead the case that during breeding/offspring-rearing season something overtakes their default, more social orientation?
I’ve noticed that when stuck in the cabin of a jetliner, flying to some far-off destination, I tend to make temporary “friendships.” Why is that? Is human friendliness of a completely different order than that of crows seeking out the company of fellow crows and then behaving peaceably toward them?
In the well-understood universe, what can’t be predicted with 100% accuracy isn’t “random.” We just lack adequate information of the myriad variables involved to be capable of determining each and every turn of events. In the case of basketball players, we can’t perfectly determine the outcome of a single throw, even among pros — what relatively slackened or tightened bunch of muscle fibers might result in a slightly “off” trajectory and a bounce of the ball off the rim. But we can determine the probability that the shot will hit. No, basketball shooting is not random. One person is not as good as the next. Single events of this complexity are just unpredictable.
But wait. A new study makes this claim in the headline and body:
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen have constructed a device that works on the principle of true randomness. With the help of quantum physics, their machine generates random numbers that cannot be predicted in advance. [all emphases mine]
True random numbers. This means there are no hidden patterns and laws — no unknown but fully knowable variables involved — governing which number comes up next. Is that possible?
Echoing the point of my lead paragraph, the article relates,
“The phenomenon we commonly refer to as chance is merely a question of a lack of knowledge.”
But not in the quantum case? Why not?
Imagine if you were to present Aristotle with a series of drawings. Like shuffled playing cards, but of ten Greek Senators. In the background you’ve got a computer with a random-number generator to determine which drawing you present next. It is very likely that Aristotle would conclude that, yup, that’s a random ordering of the Senators. His inability to predict which came next would reflect a lack of knowledge. Yet if he were to conclude the series was fully random, he would be wrong. As the article tells us -
Even if they are designed for this purpose, the results provided by computer programs are far from random: “They merely simulate randomness but with the help of suitable tests and a sufficient volume of data, a pattern can usually be identified,” says Christoph Marquardt.
So how did the researchers achieve what they claim is an unequivocal randomness?
True randomness only exists in the world of quantum mechanics. A quantum particle will remain in one place or another and move at one speed or another with a certain degree of probability. “We exploit this randomness of quantum-mechanical processes to generate random numbers,” says Christoph Marquardt. . . .
This completely random noise only arises when the physicists look for it, that is, when they carry out a measurement.
Is the “noise” truly random, or just fully beyond our ability to know it?
Mind you, I’m no physicist. Just a well-read, curious skeptic.
There are two main reasons why I suspect the quantum realm is perfect for finding faux-random phenomena: First, it is at the very frontier of our knowledge. And where knowledge runs low, the chances of concluding something is random runs high. Second, with quantum events the very act of measuring, of attempting to know, disturbs the system. Perhaps this is like hitting the “reset” button each time you plot one point. Damn. One bit of information, and then things change. Maybe it’s akin to a blind person trying to perceive the shape of a table-top connect-the-dots figure made with fresh wads of bubble-gum. Upon detecting one wad, it sticks to the fingers, and then the shape is forever changed. Darn.
I wonder, in “quantum dice” do we have absolutely random phenomena, or a practical randomness?
This conundrum reminds me of the line from an e.e.cummings poem -
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
Trouble is, the hands of science are just too big to clearly and cleanly probe the quantum realm. Will we ever be able to fashion hands small enough to probe the tiny darknesses without simultaneously wrecking things? If not, does that mean the events are truly random, or just that our knowledge has met an uncrossable barrier?
Oh man. This NASA photo of the “northern lights” phenomenon really blows my mind. When living in Vermont I once experienced it like that. I was in the middle of a huge field, not a single house in view. I nearly fell to my knees, so awesome was the experience.
Why almost fall to my knees? The awesomeness was certainly bigger than me. And, as a first-time experience of this magnitude, “what happens next” was unknown. Perhaps an evolutionary ancient instinct kicked in: Save your life by showing submission to forces you fear might annihilate you.
That’s just a hunch, of course. I look forward better understanding the phenomenon, via scientific research.
As I child I did a brief stint as an altar-boy. It was my mom’s idea. I remember one summer afternoon during that stint. My mother had sent my eldest brother to fetch me from my duties. Rick and his buddy showed up. The three of us began the half mile walk home. It seemed a privilege for a little runt like me to be accompanied by two college students on summer break.
Rick’s friend was a seminary student. He asked me a few questions about my important role as an altar boy. I was not a senior altar boy, so I never got to carry the large gold cross at the head of the procession. I did ring the bells during the service, most of the time without needing the priest to prompt me with a glance over the top of his glasses. I also held the shiny gold plate beneath the chins of those who received communion.
The friend asked me if I might want to become a priest one day. I had never considered it, but coming from him it seemed a compliment. I answered, “Yeah.” Did he think I was priest material? Who wouldn’t want to be a priest? They were esteemed members of the community. People listened to them. I ran ahead of them a few yards and skipped along for a couple more.
The road home skirted an expansive horse pasture. Pointing to the far line of trees and the torn white clouds above, I said, “That’s so beautiful.”
“Yes,” the priest-in-training replied. “Only God could create a world so beautiful.” I skipped once or twice more, hardly containing my enthusiasm for life.
Why is there beauty? Well, because beauty is a god’s gift to us. But what is beauty? Well, it is a god’s gift to us. But why is it beautiful? Because a god made it. Why are some things beautiful and others not? Because a god made it that way. How come? Just because.
Years later I would better comprehend the subjective nature of beauty. Some individuals like desert landscapes, others prefer tropical forests. Many like nothing better than a bustling city. And although there may be a few human universals, but these are not universal to all animal minds.
The howler monkey, I am willing to bet, would not consider a prairie beautiful. Likewise, a prong-horned antelope wouldn’t find beauty in a dense jungle. A dung beetle finds nothing more attractive than a pile of fresh dung. Or maybe a dung beetle finds another dung beetle of the opposite sex more attractive than anything in the world. A woodpecker, besides being attracted to opposite-sexed woodpeckers, probably finds nothing more alluring than dead trees. Beauty is in the eye of the species.
We visually-oriented bipeds, capable of adapting to a diverse range of ecosystems, have a wide array of what we can consider beautiful. A big view is one of those things. Big views contain a lot of visual information. We can spot predator and prey from a distance. Fruiting trees, too. And as with most species, top on the list, even higher up than big views, is the sight of a member of the opposite sex.
A naked woman reclining on a couch-beautiful. The same woman lying in the middle of the highway with her intestines spilled out-not beautiful. Why not? There are reasons, and I don’t think “a god decided to make it that way,” is one of them. My guess is that seeing a broken woman with her intestines on the outside triggers an innate perception that something has gone badly wrong. Does the badness have to do with pure aesthetics or ultimately with survival?
My guess is that we find intestines-on-the-outside to be extremely un-attractive because it signals that survival is questionable. Or there may be germs lurking.
Feelings of attraction and repulsion help us to successfully navigate within our particular environments. To a woodpecker, a well cared-for park cleared of all dead branches, while attractive to humans, is a wasteland. No good can come from such a place. To a circling vulture there is probably little more attractive than spilled guts.
Years following that memorable walk, when attending college myself, what scant unquestioning faith I had would drop flat out of existence. Religion would go down for the count, it would swirl around a porcelain bowl of thought and descend, fully gone with nary a gurgle. While pursuing an education, I lost my soul, my spirit, and my holy ghost. What I gained was intellectual freedom.
On one afternoon, during a busy day of skipping classes, I lay in my dorm room listening to an album titled, Nilsson Schmilsson. I had just sung along to lyrics that went, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Christ you’re tall; Someday, Someday, I hope you learn to play basketball.” Then came the song “Good for God.” Nilsson warbled, “He knows when every sparrow falls, but who can answer all those calls! Good for God.” Like a bolt of lightning from my stereo’s 12-inch woofers, the realization came: religion is bullshit! My life forever changed.
That last bit was a tall tale, actually. I don’t really know when I completely spit out the cognitive pacifier we call religion. But it’s nice to have a succinct, definite answer, isn’t it? Saying it happened at x place and y time for z reason is much more satisfying than shrugging your shoulders and muttering, “I don’t really know.”
The real answer as to what precipitated my complete break from religion: I don’t know. And I’m okay with that.
Quite a few months have past since I snapped the above photo. Maybe 10. I can tell, in part, because the feeder and the male cardinal are in the bald cypress tree in our side yard. And the tree in the photo is bald. Of leaves. Looking out the same window now, the tree is draped in a feather-like green. But . . . the leaves are definitely looking duller than a couple weeks ago, outright tan in some areas.
Yup, the season is turning. Temps have been cooler these last bunch of days by nearly ten degrees. And the raintree in our backyard is pushing out flower stalks. It will bloom soon, than go totally bald. No, it’s not summer anymore. True, we recently started an autumn vegetable garden, but here in central Florida there are indeed distinct seasons. They’re just different. More subtle.
I recently took part in a thought-provoking Facebook comments-discussion. The topic: A father in Florida had entered a school bus and verbally confronted (assaulted?) the student who had been bullying his handicapped child. The school failed to do anything about it, so the father took matters into his own hands. The police were called in.
As you might imagine, that Facebook post generated quite a few comments and back-and-forth dialogue. Was the father right or wrong in what he did? What is the best way to discipline a bully? Etc. The comment that most got me thinking, however, implied this point: Because you are not a parent, you can’t fully understand.
That, to me, is a fallacious argument. You might call it “argument by the authority of one’s personal experience.”
Of course, the statement, Because you aren’t a parent, you can’t fully empathize with the father, would have been much more reasonable. I might still be a little skeptical of the claim, for it is possible that parental feelings and instincts exist before individuals become parents and these same feelings may be virtually-aroused in non-parents.
As for understanding the situation and what should be done about it, what matters most is not the source of information, but the quantity and quality of that information. Yes, parents do have a quantity of first-hand experience as information. But how large and truly representative is that quantity? What is the quality of that information?
Immediately after reading the comment implying that non-parents can’t fully understand the situation, my mind recalled reading the same argument made by members of the anti-vaccine community: those who continue to believe that vaccines cause autism, despite a great quantity of high-quality information provided by science that shows otherwise.
Many an anti-vaxxer parent has asserted, Because you don’t have an autistic child, you don’t understand that vaccines do indeed cause autism. Um. Sorry, but that argument doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s no more silly than claiming, Because you haven’t visited receding glaciers yourself, you can’t fully understand global warming.
Here’s the thing about personal experience: It is personal, thus it feels more relevant than other sources of information. Yet feelings can impede rationality.
Why is personal experience not a good source of information? First, quantity. In the case of parents, how many different children in how many different social environments can one parent observe? Additionally, one parent is just one parent, so all observations are through the same parental lens, so to speak. Yet all parents are not the same. Not by a long shot.
As for that “personal lens,” a mountain of psychological research has found that personal experiences will more readily reinforce pre-existing beliefs and prejudices than it will generate new ones.
Which brings me to Islam. It maddens me to encounter so many poorly-informed, gross generalizations made about Islam/the Muslim religion.
All Muslims are dangerous. I know this due to my sources of information (Maybe Fox News and talk radio?).
Islam is a religion of peace. It is no different than other religions. I know this due to my sources of information (a liberal education and watching PBS, maybe.)
Or even, I’ve visited and/or lived in an Islamic part of the world, so I have first hand knowledge. Or, My best friend is a Muslim.
Oh please. The truth about Islam? It is likely a lot more complicated than our limited perspectives and sources of information tell us.
In my opinion, you can’t easily compare religions, because to a differing degree, and particularly with Islam, they come embedded in a culture, a culture with which they are inter-dependent. Furthermore, cultures do not exist in isolation. There may be essential economic and political factors involved as well.
In other words, the Islamic religion as practiced in America is likely very different than in other parts of the world, particularly if it is practiced within the context of the American culture and not a bubble of imported culture.
Yes, it’s complicated.
The overall point I’ve somewhat rambled away from: To be more rational and truly better understand the world, we need to look beyond ourselves and our limited sources of information that generate the feelings of what is or should be true. We need more information. We need better information.
I really don’t know what to make of this study. Maybe I need more coffee.
Adults with congenital heart disease are more likely to suffer heart-focused anxiety — a fear of heart-related symptoms and sensations — if their parents were overprotective during their childhood and adolescence. [source]
Hmm. That’s quite a link, if there is indeed one. A link that stretches for decades, it seems. How was it discovered? Good question.
[Dr. Lephuong] Ong and team investigated the relationship between patient recollections of parental overprotection — defined as intrusion, excessive contact, infantilization and prevention of independent behavior — and heart-focused anxiety in adults with congenital heart disease. The researchers assessed heart defect severity, heart-focused anxiety and perceived parental overprotection during childhood for a sub-sample of 192 adults participating in the study.
Their analyses showed that levels of heart-focused anxiety rose as levels of parental overprotection increased. Disease severity was also linked to higher anxiety levels. Surprisingly, levels of parental overprotection did not vary with disease severity. [emphases added]
Well, that’s a partial answer. But just how, I wonder, did the researchers “assess” “perceived parental over-protection, for one?
Of course, the finding may very well be valid. I don’t doubt it — I’m skeptical, yes, but I don’t accept it with confidence either. And I can imagine (speculate) how parental over-protection might influence later-in life health-related anxiety. Something like this:
When parents intervene too much they send the inadvertent message that the child is weak and can’t effectively handle problems themselves, and/or that such problems are a really big deal, for mom/dad needed to get involved.
But is there any merit to that speculation or others like it? A bit. Social learning theory tells us that individuals may have differing levels of belief in their self-efficacy. And our learning experiences will influence these personal beliefs in self-efficacy. (For self-efficacy think “ability to positively impact the outcome of a challenge” — my low-caffeine-level paraphrase.) Other research has found some links between health measures and beliefs about how effective we are as independent agents.
So there very well may be a the link between heart-health anxiety and parental over-protection. May be.
The half cup of coffee on my desk has gone cold. Actually, room-temperature. Darn. Should I just chug it? In my opinion, coffee is one of those things that is good either hot or cold. But luke warm coffee? Why is that so bland?
So many questions.
Had the King James Bible existed back then, Jesus would have sworn upon a stack of them before informing his disciples that anyone who deserts their family and forsakes their livelihood will receive one hundred times more in the age to come (Luke 10:29-30).
This is a very good investment, providing, of course, there is an age to come. Otherwise–not so good. Because there is no unbiased (non-delusional?) evidence for a Christian afterlife, making that investment couldn’t be called a rational decision.
In his famous wager for belief, Pascal argued that belief (in the Christian god — important point) is rational. Why? Because if you are wrong, what have you lost? If you are right . . . what a gain! So why not wager?
A common rebuttal to the argument is exposing the assumption that there is just one religion — the true one (a.k.a., Christianity) — to place on one side of a two-sided scale. But there are many. And in many if not most of the religions, to believe in other religions is no better than not believing at all. So to truly make this wager you need more hands than Kali, the many-armed Hindu goddess of death.
And as many people have pointed out, belief does have a cost. As reflected in the above verse. To believe and practice that belief you must desert and forsake. In the least — other options. Beyond that? Time, resources, perhaps relationships.
No, belief is not cost-free. In fact, “having religion” can be a very costly.
[cartoon thanks to atheistcartoons.com]
[recycled post - first appeared here]
Are you sitting down? Good. Wouldn’t want you floating off into space. Here’s something you may find shocking: I doubt gravity more than I do evolution. Before you conclude I’m a loony, allow me to explain.
Friday afternoon I had a few beers with a buddy. We talked about how it can take quite awhile for people to get used to new ideas. People may even resist them, for new ideas tend to conflict with what a person already thinks and how they interpret their experiences (informal observations). There may even be innate biases getting in the way. A popular example is the round-earth idea. People did not quickly embrace that one.
Saturday morning I was sipping coffee in the backyard and my mind wandered to the thought of the speed and angle a projectile needs to circle the earth. I imagined using a very powerful rifle. And I encountered a sort of hidden glitch in my own thinking.
When contemplating the flight of a bullet, I perceived, on some level, that the slug would eventually “get tired” and succumb to gravity. The faster it flew, the longer it would take to lose the fight and fall down. But not all at once.
But that is wrong. Very wrong. The fact is that a bullet “loses its fight” with gravity immediately (all other variables being equal) and begins falling the moment it leaves the rifle barrel. At high speeds the arc of that fall is stretched out so extremely we can hardly perceive the falling. It’s only when the speed falls off that the arc becomes noticeable.
(At least that’s what I think happens. My field is psychology so don’t quote me. And please correct me if I’m wrong.)
Why does the bullet fall? Gravity. Does gravity exist? Yes. Do I believe in gravity? Um . . . I don’t know. Why don’t I know? I’m unsure as to what, exactly, I’m supposed to believe in. An invisible force, a warp in space-time, what?
Strong theories both predict and explain. Evolutionary theory is strong because it has made countless correct predictions. It also explains: it elucidates the mechanisms/processes behind the diversity of life-forms we observe. Reproduction, variation, selection . . . .
My understanding of the “theory of gravity” is that it primarily consists of equations. Equations that make very accurate predictions. But as for explaining/disclosing any underlying mechanism(s) . . . .
In a sense, gravity is just a word. A person could call it ”mass magnetism,” and, minus the bogus connotations, I don’t see how one term is clearly better than the other. What lay behind the word?
Does gravity transmit its force via waves or particles or field disturbances or what? Yes, it reliably and predictably does what it does. Yet the mechanism(s) involved have yet to be fleshed out.
So I wonder. And when I hear people speak of gravity as a slam-dunk “known,” I even doubt.