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Tue, 26 Mar 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Jaded: Voters have high tolerance for politicians who lie, even those caught doing it

Bill Hillary Clinton
© Reuters / Pool
In a modern democracy, peddling conspiracies for political advantage is perhaps not so different from seeding an epidemic.

If a virus is to gain a foothold with the electorate, it will need a population of likely believers ("susceptibles" in public-health speak), a germ nimble enough to infect new hosts easily (an irresistible tall tale), and an eager "Amen choir" (also known as "super-spreaders").

Unleashed on the body politic, a falsehood may spread across the social networks that supply us with information. Facebook is a doorknob slathered in germs, Twitter a sneezing coworker, and Instagram a child returning home after a day at school, ensuring the exposure of all.

But if lies, conspiracies and fake news are really like germs, you might think that fact-checking is the cure, and truth an effective antidote.

If only it were that easy.

Snow Globe

'Stupid' & 'lazy': The road to hell is paved with overly simplistic labels


"This is my favorite thing about being raised in Africa: We don't do labels very well; we don't do this, 'Oh, you're a Democrat; oh, you're a Republican.' Because we live in the real world."
-Dambisa Moyo

Unfortunately, many of us have developed corrosive habits in how we relate to ourselves and others. It's critically important that we approach this conversation with curiosity, rather than criticism, to avoid perpetuating a vicious cycle, though it is often hard to avoid pangs of regret when trying to figure out how to do a better job. It's challenging, especially early on, to tolerate the shameful and painful emotions which can come up when we really start to work on issues, and even more challenging early on to be grateful for the opportunities we give ourselves.

The road to hell is paved with overly simplistic labels

Counterproductive habits show up in many ways, typically unconsciously shaping our choices so that we repetitively feel bad and get into negative situations without quite knowing why. In the absence of self-awareness, when we feel incapable of doing anything well, it's much harder to see the possibilities for realistic, positive change. It's pretty much also impossible to stay with the details of what is going on so we can sort things out. One way we can begin to pay attention is by catching the words we use during self-talk, the labels we use with ourselves and others when we are coming from more toxic places. When I hear people use these words, I take it as a clue there is more to the story than there appears to be.

Comment: The author does have a point - people have become careless in flinging epithets, often without any consideration of whether they are justified. We also often shortchange ourselves by using overly harsh labels. However, there are times when such labels are entirely appropriate, and saying that we should always refrain from using them borders on snowflakery. Can we no longer handle unvarnished truths?


Addiction and a lack of purpose


How the opioid epidemic is related to a "purpose deficient" culture.

As you are no doubt aware, presently the United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic. There are many reasons for this - one of the most obvious being the reckless over-subscription of opiate-based painkillers by doctors, leading to dependency. But on a psychological level, we have to take into account the strong relationship between addiction and the lack of a sense of purpose.

To some extent, addiction is the result of a lack of purpose. It's partly the consequence of experiencing what the psychologist Viktor Frankl called the 'existential vacuum' - feeling as though there is no purpose or meaning to your life. With a strong sense of purpose, we become very resilient, able to overcome challenges, and to bounce back after setbacks. We are also better able to deal with - and perhaps more motivated to overcome - the painful effects of past trauma. We never wake up in the morning with no reason to get out of bed. Life seems easier, less complicated and stressful. Our minds seem somehow tauter and stronger, with less space for negativity to seep in.

Comment: Social connections and bonding: Everything we think we know about addiction is wrong


Extrinsic goals vs intrinsic goals: The reasons why there is a rise in children's mental disorders

children at play
There's a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. Today, by at least some estimates, five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. This increased psychopathology is not the result of changed diagnostic criteria; it holds even when the measures and criteria are constant.

The most recent evidence for the sharp generational rise in young people's depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders comes from a just-released study headed by Jean Twenge at San Diego State University.[1] Twenge and her colleagues took advantage of the fact that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a questionnaire used to assess a variety of mental disorders, has been given to large samples of college students throughout the United States going as far back as 1938, and the MMPI-A (the version used with younger adolescents) has been given to samples of high school students going as far back as 1951. The results are consistent with other studies, using a variety of indices, which also point to dramatic increases in anxiety and depression - in children as well as adolescents and young adults - over the last five or more decades.

Magic Wand

Don't Deny Girls the Evolutionary Wisdom of Fairy-Tales and Princesses

snow white
The view from moral high ground is best enjoyed after the check (for whatever you're moralizing against) clears.

Rather like animal-rights activists who own a string of steakhouses, Disney film stars Kristin Bell and Keira Knightley spoke out recently against the bad examples they feel Disney princesses convey to girls. (Bell voiced the role of Princess Anna in Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen, and Knightley stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Disney's new live action feature, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.) Knightley even used her Nutcracker promo tour to reveal that she's banned certain Disney films from her own home. The Little Mermaid is one prohibited flick, and Cinderella is another - because, Knightley explains, Cinderella "waits around for a rich guy to rescue her."

Of course, Knightley and Bell aren't alone in their disapproval. There's been a war on "princess culture" for some time. Legions of pink-phobic parents all but go into mourning whenever their daughter begs for some glitter-flecked, rosy-hued item in a store - as if it might cast a spell on her, sending her down the path to Stepfordhood instead of STEM.

snow white

Snow White is kissed by her prince in the 1937 Disney production
Bell even manages to find the #metoo in Snow White's wakeup kiss from the Prince, lecturing her daughters that "you cannot kiss someone if they're sleeping!" By this logic, one of the most beautiful forms of affection - a mother kissing her sleeping child - becomes a form of inappropriate contact.

This is crazythink. Children are not helped by adults projecting their fears in this way - stretching a prince chastely kissing a comatose princess back to consciousness into a thumbs up for having sex with a girl who's passed-out drunk at a fraternity party.

Yet, this is the sort of hysteria used to justify yanking away the wonderful fun of watching Disney princess films. Remember fun? It's a vestige from pre-1990 America - back before padded playgrounds, criminal background checks for parents working the school bake sale, and first-graders slaving over more nightly homework than I ever got in high school.

Ironically, far from contaminating young female minds, these Disney princess stories - and their fairy-tale-fic precursors - provide vitally helpful messages that parents could be discussing with their girls.


Slowly but surely, psychology is accepting that faith might play a role in treatment

talk therapy, depression
For anyone who took a college course in psychology more than a decade ago or who is even casually acquainted with the subject through popular articles, a close examination of today's field would undoubtedly prove surprising. The science that for most of the 20th century portrayed itself as the enlightened alternative to organized religion has taken a decidedly spiritual turn.

Bowling Green State University professor Kenneth Pargament, who in 2013 edited the American Psychological Association's Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, notes just how dramatically his profession's attitude towards faith has changed in recent times. As a young academic interested in the connection between mental health and religion, he would "go to the library once a semester and leisurely review the journals" only to be disappointed by how little his colleagues had to say about it. But "no more," Pargament happily reports. In fact, he adds, "it is hard to keep up with the research in the field."

Today's psychology tells us that faith can be very helpful in coping with major life setbacks, including divorce, serious illnesses, the death of a loved one, and even natural or human-caused disasters. A study by the RAND Corporation, published in the New England Journal of Medicine just after the 9/11 attacks, found that 90 percent of Americans coped with the trauma by "turning to God." During the week that followed, 60 percent went to a church or memorial service, and sales of the Bible rose more than 25 percent.


Russian Hachiko: Loyal pooch spends weeks outside hospital awaiting owner's recovery

Dog looking in window
© YouTube / Мост ТВ
Heavy snowfall, chilling wind, and temperatures far below zero are no obstacle for true love as proven by a loyal dog, who has been waiting for her sick master outside a hospital for two weeks now.

Her amazing fidelity has quickly made, Cherry, from the Russian city of Voronezh a media sensation and led to obvious comparisons with Hachiko.

Back in the 1920s, a Japanese dog had been waiting for her owner's return outside a train station for nine years, not knowing that he passed away, to become an ultimate symbol of friendship.

Comment: See also: Loyal Dog In China Refuses To Leave Owner's Grave, Goes Week Without Food

SOTT Logo Radio

The Truth Perspective: Unlocking the Secrets of Consciousness, Hyperdimensional Attractors and Frog Brains

walling hicks consciousness
Welcome back! On today's show we discuss the ground-breaking work Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul. Written by Peter Walling and Kenneth Hicks, this short little book takes aim at the Mt. Everest of scientific, religious, and philosophical questions - what is consciousness? Using mathematics, experiment, and probing insight, Walling and Hicks make a compelling case as to the nature, earthly evolution, and even the location of consciousness.

Described as a "thrilling romp through the last billion years," Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul takes the reader down a rabbit-hole into a mathematical world of flat-land and hyperspace, toroids, and beyond. So join us today on the Truth Perspective as we discuss this breathtaking landscape and the implications it has for each of us on our own individual paths of evolution.

Running Time: 01:43:11

Download: MP3

People 2

Feminists find 'sexist' men more attractive than 'woke' men

chivalry umbrella

Why do women find sexist men appealing?

Women like bad boys. At least, that's the story. And there's lots of writing and anecdotal experience to back that up. Men frequently complain about being "friendzoned," the idea being that men who are respectful toward their female interests get placed into the role of friend, rather than potential boyfriend. The "pickup artist" community has embraced this concept, teaching men how to behave in assertive, dominant ways that, allegedly, are more successful with women. Many of these concepts and dynamics themselves have been called sexist and misogynistic, reflecting underlying beliefs that women "owe" men sex. The "incel" community, a group of online males who complain bitterly, violently, and angrily about being "involuntary celibates" attack women for choosing "Alpha males" rather than softer, kinder men. . . like themselves.

Women who admit to liking bad boys - being attracted to men who are assertive or dominant - are sometimes criticized as having "internalized" misogynistic attitudes, or simply as naïve and foolish, failing to recognize or admit that sexism is damaging. During the 2016 presidential campaign, female fans of then-candidate Trump proudly invited their candidate to grab them, following release of tapes of Trump discussing grabbing women without consent. These women were proclaimed traitors to other women, or decried as simply deluded. Others have suggested that women may choose bad boy types in order to acquire protection from other, more aggressive and hostile men, a theory referred to as the "protection racket." Some simply suggest that sexism is insidious, and that these dynamics infiltrate our choices without us noticing.

Comment: It's amazing that we live in an age where chivalry and respect are equated with sexism. Men have traditionally played a courteous and protective role towards women, yet today we find women complaining that men are holding the door for them, as it it suggests they aren't capable of opening the door themselves. Yet the study mentioned above suggests that "benevolent sexism" is actually more attractive to women, feminist or not. Perhaps our in-built drives outweigh culturally "progressive" programming after all.

See also:


Understanding the Vagus Nerve: Interview with Dr. Stephen Porges

© Daniel Hjalmarsson
Yogis know that practice positively affects physical health-but what's the deal with the vagus nerve? Renowned neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges explains.

It might seem obvious, but our nervous system is affected by everything we do. In the trauma-filled wake of recent gun violence in schools and the overwhelmingly heartbreaking stories shared during the #MeToo movement, conversations around wellness, trauma, and mental health have been thrust into the mainstream. Now more than ever, people are questioning what it means to be safe and what happens when we are threatened, on edge, and stressed.

Comment: The Polyvagal Theory explained