Science of the Spirit
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Roses

Plant Consciousness and the Ethics of Plant Life

Although plants may not have the capacity to experience pain, they relate to the world around them in a unique way.

© Reuters
'Most people consider plants to be bordering on machines, wholly determined by external factors'
When, almost two months ago, I penned an op-ed titled If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them? for "The Stone" philosophy section of the New York Times, I did not expect that it would stir as much controversy as it did in the following weeks.

My argument was attacked by everyone from Christian fundamentalists to vegans and from neuroscientists to humanist rationalists. Since then I have responded to some of the criticisms in another Times piece, Is Plant Liberation on the Menu? and participated in a debate on plant ethics with the animal rights advocate, Professor Gary Francione. Despite the occasionally heated polemics, I take the interest in this topic to be an encouraging sign that the current attitudes toward plants may be starting to shift. The sheer fact that they can become the subjects of intense discussion and debate implies that plants do not have to be forever confined to the inconspicuous background of our everyday lives.
Alarm Clock

Conscious or Unconscious Consciousness?

© Unknown
Are you conscious now?"

A simple enough question, but one that had scientists in a muddle last week at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness conference in Brighton, UK.

Susan Blackmore of the University of Plymouth, UK, challenged visitors to the conference with this problem during her talk on meditation and consciousness.

We were given a gentle introduction, and ten minutes later I found myself in the middle of a silent room full of meditating psychologists and philosophers, trying (and not really succeeding) to calm my mind before struggling with Blackmore's tricky questions.

I found it easy to say "Yes, I am conscious now, because I'm thinking about it", but did that mean I wasn't conscious before? I couldn't have become "more" conscious so I'm left wondering what was happening, and what continues to happen, when I'm not thinking about this question. Ultimately, says Blackmore, what we really want to know is "What is consciousness like, when I'm not asking what it's like?"
Eye 1

Eye movement direction not correlated with lying

New research refutes a commonly held belief that certain eye movements are associated with lying. The idea that looking to the right indicates lying, while looking left suggests truth telling, is shown to be false in a report published July 11 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The researchers, led by Caroline Watt of the University of Edinburgh, completed three different studies to show that there was no correlation between the direction of eye movement and whether the subject was telling the truth or lying.

"A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses." Watt notes. "Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit"
Bulb

The more gray matter you have, the more altruistic you are

© Unknown
This press release is available in German.

The volume of a small brain region influences one's predisposition for altruistic behavior. Researchers from the University of Zurich show that people who behave more altruistically than others have more gray matter at the junction between the parietal and temporal lobe, thus showing for the first time that there is a connection between brain anatomy, brain activity and altruistic behavior.

Why are some people very selfish and others very altruistic? Previous studies indicated that social categories like gender, income or education can hardly explain differences in altruistic behavior. Recent neuroscience studies have demonstrated that differences in brain structure might be linked to differences in personality traits and abilities. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich headed by Ernst Fehr, Director of the Department of Economics, show that there is a connection between brain anatomy and altruistic behavior.
Bomb

It's "Covert Aggressive" Not "Passive Aggressive"

© Alcino - http://flic.kr/p/efHAL
Covert-Aggressive Personalities are the archetypal wolves in sheep's clothing that I introduced in my first book, In Sheep's Clothing [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. These individuals are not openly aggressive in their interpersonal style. In fact, they do their best to keep their aggressive intentions and behaviors carefully masked. They can often appear quite charming and amiable, but underneath their civil façade they are just as ruthless as any other aggressive personality. They are devious, underhanded, and subtle in the ways they abuse and exploit others. They have usually amassed an arsenal of interpersonal maneuvers and tactics that have enabled them to effectively manipulate and control those in relationships with them. The tactics they use are effective because they simultaneously accomplish two objectives very effectively:
  • The tactics conceal obvious aggressive intent. When the covert-aggressive is using the tactics, the other person has little objective reason to suspect that he is simply attempting to gain advantage over them.
  • The tactics covert-aggressive personalities use effectively play on the sensitivity, conscientiousness, and other vulnerabilities of most persons - especially neurotic individuals - and therefore effectively quash any resistance another person might have to giving-in to the demands of the aggressor.
Health

Evidence Supports Health Benefits of 'Mindfulness-Based Practices'

© byheaven / Fotolia
Specific types of "mindfulness practices" including Zen meditation have demonstrated benefits for patients with certain physical and mental health problems.
Specific types of "mindfulness practices" including Zen meditation have demonstrated benefits for patients with certain physical and mental health problems, according to a report in the July Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

"An extensive review of therapies that include meditation as a key component -- referred to as mindfulness-based practices -- shows convincing evidence that such interventions are effective in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and pain, when used in combination with more conventional therapies," according to Dr William R. Marchand of the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Mindfulness Techniques Show Health Benefits Dr Marchand reviewed published studies evaluating the health benefits of mindfulness-based practices. Mindfulness has been described as "the practice of learning to focus attention on moment-by-moment experience with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance." Put another way, "Practicing mindfulness is simply experiencing the present moment, without trying to change anything."

Comment: There is one proven technique that can assist you with managing pain, reducing stress, calming and focusing your mind, creating better links between body and mind and thus improving quality of life, increasing sense of connection with others in your community. It will help you to have improved overall health, a stronger immune system, better impulse control, reduced inflammation, etc. It will also help you to heal emotional wounds; anything that may hinder or prevent you from leading a healthy and fulfilling life.

The Éiriú Eolas technique grew out of research conducted by the Quantum Future Group under the direction of Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Gabriela Segura, M.D. The practice has been thoroughly researched and proven to work by the thousands of people who are already benefiting from this unique program. The effects are cumulative and results and benefits can be seen in only a very short time, sometimes after just one session!

There is a myriad of relaxation techniques out there, but not many of them can attest to having not only immediate effects, but also having a highly practical application. With Éiriú Eolas, there is no need to sit in special postures, or be present in a carefully prepared relaxing atmosphere. The strength of the program comes from its high adaptability to stressful conditions of the modern world. Anyone can do it, be it a student, sitting outside of a lecture hall before the exam, a mechanic needing a break from tackling problems all day, a businessman just before signing an important deal, a mother having to raise three children and worrying if she will have enough money to pay the mortgage, etc.

Visit the Éiriú Eolas site or participate on the forum to learn more about the scientific background of this program and then try it out for yourselves, free of charge.

Bulb

Memories Serve as Tools for Learning and Decision-Making

When humans learn, their brains relate new information with past experiences to derive new knowledge, according to psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, led by Alison Preston, assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology, shows this memory-binding process allows people to better understand new concepts and make future decisions. The findings could lead to better teaching methods, as well as treatment of degenerative neurological disorders, such as dementia, Preston says.

"Memories are not just for reflecting on the past; they help us make the best decisions for the future," says Preston, a research affiliate in the Center for Learning and Memory, which is part of the university's College of Natural Sciences. "Here, we provide a direct link between these derived memories and the ability to make novel inferences."

The paper was published online in July in the journal Neuron. The authors include University of Texas at Austin researchers Dagmar Zeithamova and April Dominick.
Heart - Black

Pathological Relationships Need More Than A Positive Attitude

"Some of the most disturbing realities are not that pathology exists, but that so little public pathology education for the general public exists."
-Sandra L. Brown, M.A., The Institute

The Problem of the Unrecognized Face of Pathology

© Unknown
We live in an age where 'Positive Psychology' has ingrained a mantra into society's psyche - which is:

If you think it

(i.e., the narcissist/psychopath needs to change his behavior)

Then you can make it happen

(i.e., your relationship will be successful when he changes)

That may be true when you are with a person who has normal psychology. But it's a long way from being true for those who have pathology.

For many years, people have thought that if they focused hard enough, loved long enough, tolerated more, and carried a positive attitude, their partner would somehow become unaffected by the personality disorder - even the psychopathy they bore. People believed this because they were often told this by professionals - all under the guises of different therapy approaches and theories.
Butterfly

Compassion Meditation May Be Key to Better Caregiving

meditation
© unbekannt
Empathy is the faculty to resonate with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering. Neuroscience has proven that similar areas of the brain are activated both in the person who suffers and in the one who feels empathy. Thus empathic suffering is a true experience of suffering.

When some empathic caregivers are exposed to others' suffering day after day, their continuous partaking in this suffering might become overwhelming and can lead to burnout. Other caregivers may react by shutting down their empathic feeling and drawing an emotional curtain between themselves and their patients. Both these reactions are far from optimal.

Could mind training and meditation on altruistic love and compassion serve as an antidote to burnout? An example of this is the caregiver who naturally displays overflowing kindness and warmth toward his patients and does not experience any burnout.

Comment:

There are a myriad of relaxation techniques, but not many of them can attest to having not only immediate effects, but also having a highly practical application. With Éiriú Eolas, there is no need to sit in special postures, or be present in a carefully prepared relaxing atmosphere. The strength of the program comes from its high adaptability to stressful conditions of the modern world. Anyone can do it, be it a student, sitting outside of a lecture hall before the exam, a mechanic needing a break from tackling problems all day, a businessman just before signing an important deal, a mother having to raise three children and worrying if she will have enough money to pay the mortgage, etc.

Visit the Éiriú Eolas site or participate on the forum to learn more about the scientific background of this program and then try it out for yourselves, free of charge.

Bulb

Dangerous Mind: Criminal profiling made easy

On November 16, 1940, workers at the Consolidated Edison building on West Sixty-fourth Street in Manhattan found a homemade pipe bomb on a windowsill. Attached was a note: "Con Edison crooks, this is for you." In September of 1941, a second bomb was found, on Nineteenth Street, just a few blocks from Con Edison's headquarters, near Union Square. It had been left in the street, wrapped in a sock. A few months later, the New York police received a letter promising to "bring the Con Edison to justice - they will pay for their dastardly deeds." Sixteen other letters followed, between 1941 and 1946, all written in block letters, many repeating the phrase "dastardly deeds" and all signed with the initials "F.P." In March of 1950, a third bomb - larger and more powerful than the others - was found on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. The next was left in a phone booth at the New York Public Library. It exploded, as did one placed in a phone booth in Grand Central. In 1954, the Mad Bomber - as he came to be known - struck four times, once in Radio City Music Hall, sending shrapnel throughout the audience. In 1955, he struck six times. The city was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere. Late in 1956, in desperation, Inspector Howard Finney, of the New York City Police Department's crime laboratory, and two plainclothesmen paid a visit to a psychiatrist by the name of James Brussel.

Brussel was a Freudian. He lived on Twelfth Street, in the West Village, and smoked a pipe. In Mexico, early in his career, he had done counter-espionage work for the F.B.I. He wrote many books, including "Instant Shrink: How to Become an Expert Psychiatrist in Ten Easy Lessons." Finney put a stack of documents on Brussel's desk: photographs of unexploded bombs, pictures of devastation, photostats of F.P.'s neatly lettered missives. "I didn't miss the look in the two plainclothesmen's eyes," Brussel writes in his memoir, "Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist." "I'd seen that look before, most often in the Army, on the faces of hard, old-line, field-grade officers who were sure this newfangled psychiatry business was all nonsense."
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