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Mon, 20 May 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

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Social media has created a generation of narcissists

kendall and kylie jenner
Social media has shaped mass culture in an enormous way. It has changed everything!

Social media has changed the way we communicate with one another it has turned an entire generation into narcissists. People are not concerned with world issues anymore. The majority of us are content spending our free time taking deceptive selfies and editing them in order to make ourselves more attractive so that we can post then all over our social media accounts.

Social media has taken over our lives and we pick and choose the things to post in order to make our lives seem a little less meaningless and more fulfilled. We are self-centered in all ways possible. Most teenagers never even leave their rooms, finding joy simply watching television and playing on their smartphones. Some people claim we are more connected thanks to social media but in some ways we are more separated, more broken.

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People 2

To understand Facebook, study Capgras syndrome

Dadu Shin illustration
© Dadu Shin

We start with the case of a woman who experienced unbearable tragedy. In 1899, this Parisian bride, Madame M., had her first child. Shockingly, the child was abducted and substituted with a different infant, who soon died. She then had twin girls. One grew into healthy adulthood, while the other, again, was abducted, once more replaced with a different, dying infant. She then had twin boys. One was abducted, while the other was fatally poisoned.

Madame M. searched for her abducted babies; apparently, she was not the only victim of this nightmarish trauma, as she often heard the cries of large groups of abducted children rising from the cellars of Paris.

As if all this pain was not enough, Madame M.'s sole surviving child was abducted and replaced with an imposter of identical appearance. And soon the same fate befell Madame M.'s husband. The poor woman spent days searching for her abducted loved ones, attempting to free groups of other abducted children from hiding places, and starting the paperwork to divorce the man who had replaced her husband.

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If we can learn from anyone - why is it so hard to take advice?

Wade LeBlanc

Wade LeBlanc
"Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice." - Armando Christian Perez (aka the rapper "Pitbull")
One morning in July of 2011, a taxi sat idling outside Petco Park stadium in San Diego, and Wade LeBlanc, struggling pitcher for the Padres, climbed in. "To the airport, please," he told the driver. LeBlanc was headed to Tucson, home of the club's triple-A affiliate. He'd been sent down to the minors. Again.

Eight times in the last three years LeBlanc had clawed his way up to the big league only to blow his chance and be sent packing. It was all becoming a cosmic test of character in a career that had started so promisingly, when the Padres drafted him out of college, in 2006, on the strength of his tricky change-up.

"You're Wade LeBlanc," the cab driver said.*


"You got some good stuff."

This surprised the pitcher, after the previous night's disastrous performance.

"I think there's some things you should think about trying, some things that might make a difference," the driver continued. "I don't know, I'm not a player. Maybe something like going over your head in your windup."

Comment: See: The Truth Perspective: Insight, Or Why It's Not Just Your Boss Who Lacks Self-Awareness


Four types of grief that are hardly ever discussed

grieving man
The word grief has come to be understood solely as a reaction to a death. But that narrow understanding fails to encompass the range of human experiences that create and trigger grief. Here are four types of grief that we experience that have nothing to do with death:

1. Loss of identity: A lost role or affiliation. Examples include:
  • A person going through a divorce who feels the loss of no longer being a "spouse."
  • A breast cancer survivor who grieves the lost sense of femininity after a double mastectomy.
  • An empty nester who mourns the lost identity of parenthood in its most direct form.
  • A person who loses their job or switches careers grieves a lost identity.
  • Someone who leaves a religious group feels the loss of affiliation and community.
Whenever a person loses a primary identity, they mourn a lost sense of self. They're tasked with grieving who they thought they were and eventually creating a new story that integrates the loss into their personal narrative. In some instances, the identity feels stolen, as in the cases of the person who feels blindsided by divorce and the breast cancer survivor. For those individuals, the grief may feel compounded by the lack of control they had in the decision. Others choose to shed an identity, as in the case of switching careers or leaving a religious community. Though this may sound easier, those individuals may feel their grief compounded by the ambivalence of choosing to leave something they will also mourn. They may feel less entitled to their grief and lost sense of self because the decision was self-imposed.


Can mind affect matter? New study finds changes in cancer cells when exposed to 'Energy Healing'

energy healing
A question that's become more prominent within mainstream scientific circles is whether or not the mind can affect matter.

The connection between human consciousness or factors associated with human consciousness such as intention, thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the physical realm is fascinating. This is precisely why nearly all of the founding fathers of quantum physics were so preoccupied with learning more about consciousness and "non-material" science in general. For instance, the theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, Max Planck regarded "consciousness as fundamental" and matter as a "derivative from consciousness." Eugene Wigner, another famous theoretical physicist and mathematician, also emphasized how "it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness."

Comment: Read more about the benefits of energy healing:


'Physicalism' isn't just an abuse of language - it's wrong

mind physics
© Getty Images
The most widely accepted attempt at describing the nature of embodied thought in this materialistic age is called physicalism. (It has a variant called materialism, but I'll use the terms interchangeably.) There are many nuanced versions of physicalism, but in its basic form, it says that all the mental things - sensations, thoughts, ideas, all experiences - are really physical things: matter, energy and physical processes. But does such an idea make sense? Can it mean anything meaningful to say that the contents of minds are physical? I say no.

Let me start by saying that the debate about how to describe the nature of the mind is at its heart an argument about the proper language in which to do so. Although this might make the debate sound trivial or fussy, it is not. This is firstly because what we say about the mind will be fundamental for our understanding of the nature of reality, so to accurately describe the nature of the mind is not trivial but vital. Secondly, using the correct language is what makes the difference between describing something truthfully rather than falsely. And I want to say that describing the mind as 'physical' is a grossly false way of speaking about the mind that will hold metaphysics back for as long as people talk that way. In fact, I will argue that people can only believe physicalism because they haven't thought hard enough about what its core ideas actually imply or they are using the term 'physical' so imprecisely that it's meaningless.

Comment: For more on the topic, check out MindMatters:


Sex, Love, and Knowing the Difference

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca
We all remember the first time we fell in love. No matter how strong or independent or free you thought you were, all at once, you became powerless in the face of feelings that, to others, seemed obsessive and irrational.

When you're in that state, everything reminds you of the one you love. They become the center of your world. Friends say your face lights up when you talk about them. You can't sleep, you can't eat. The thought of being without them feels like losing a part of yourself.

There are biological reasons that explain why the experience of being in love feels so overwhelming. These emotions serve an evolutionary purpose. Specifically, they allow two people to bond in a way that increases the likelihood they'll procreate and maintain an environment in which the resulting offspring survive.


Advice from medieval monks about how to reduce digital distractions

Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God. They even worried about getting distracted in their dreams.

Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body's base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John Cassian, whose thoughts about thinking influenced centuries of monks, knew this problem all too well. He complained that the mind 'seems driven by random incursions'. It 'wanders around like it were drunk'. It would think about something else while it prayed and sang. It would meander into its future plans or past regrets in the middle of its reading. It couldn't even stay focused on its own entertainment - let alone the difficult ideas that called for serious concentration.

Arrow Up

At what age is our sense of optimism at its highest?

optimist smiling woman
Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. But what about optimism?

New research published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science offers an in-depth look at how our sense of optimism evolves as we age.

To study this question, researchers at the University of California Davis analyzed data from a large sample of Mexican-Americans between the ages of 26 and 71. At four time points across a seven-year period, participants were asked to complete the Life Orientation Test, a widely used and validated measure of optimism. The Life Orientation Test consists of six questions, listed below:
  1. In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
  2. If something can go wrong for me, it will.
  3. I'm always optimistic about my future.
  4. I hardly ever expect things to go my way.
  5. I rarely count on good things happening to me.
  6. Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.

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No, secular humanism is not another religion

faith in science sign
These days you can dismiss anything you don't like by calling it "a religion." Science, for instance, has been deemed essentially religious, despite the huge difference between a method of finding truth based on empirical verification and one based on unevidenced faith, revelation, authority, and scripture. Atheism, the direct opposite of religion, has also been characterized in this way, though believers who criticize secular worldviews as religious seem unaware of the irony of implying, "See - you're just as bad as we are!" Even environmentalism has been described as a religion.

The latest false analogy between religious and nonreligious belief systems is John Staddon's essay "Is Secular Humanism a Religion?" for Quillette. Staddon's answer is "Yes," but his reasoning is bizarre. One would think that it should be "Clearly not" for, after all, "secular" means "not religious," and secular humanism is an areligious philosophy whose goal is to advance human welfare and morality without invoking gods or the supernatural.

Comment: Indeed. Coyne might not like it, but calling secular humanism a religion is an insult to religions. But then again, calling religions science is an insult to sciences. The fact is, both have their advantages, and one without the other is the height of folly. Unfortunately, Coyne is just fine revelling in his own folly. He's a Darwinist, after all.

Nevertheless, Staddon makes an oddly tendentious argument for the religious character of secular humanism. After first giving a three-part definition of religion, he then admits that secular humanism violates two of the parts. That itself should have put paid to his claim. But he persists, arguing that secular humanism is still religious because, like some religions, it has a moral code that impels action. (He notes, however, that a secular moral code is inferior because it's based not on superstition but on reason, and leads to unpalatable views.) In other words, he argues that secular humanism is religious because it embraces secular morality.

Comment: Neither Staddon nor Coyne are entirely correct here. The fact that secular humanism embraces a weak-sauce secular morality just makes it something akin to a bad religion.