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Wed, 02 Dec 2020
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How kind is humankind? Kinder than we imagine

fireman london bombing
© Getty Images
A fireman rescues a toddler after a bombing raid in London in 1940. Our true colours reveal themselves in times of crisis, according to Rutger Bregman.
Augustine had it that 'no one is free from sin, not even an infant'. Machiavelli deemed that humans are 'ungrateful, fickle hypocrites', and even the founding father John Adams, the paragon of American democracy, was sure that all men would be tyrants if they could. Thucydides, Luther, Calvin, Burke, Bentham, Nietzsche, Freud — all were wrong about our natures. So was William Golding, creator of Lord of the Flies, himself a child-beater and a drunk. For a treatise on human kindness, Rutger Bregman's new book Humankind has surprisingly many villains.

Here's 'a radical idea... a mind-bending drug... denied by religions and ideologies', we're told. Humans are not evil. Deep down, at least most of us are pretty decent. Left to their own devices, children will not tear each other apart on an island: quite the opposite. In the clash between Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it was the Genevan, not the man of Malmesbury, who had it right. How do we know? Hobbes and Rousseau were armchair theorists, but today we have science. And science, according to Bregman, says that we're good.

This wasn't always true. Scientists have been lying to us for a long time. Take, for example, Stanley Milgram, of obedience to authority fame, who showed that ordinary people would administer electric shocks of up to 450 volts to innocents if only told to do so by a person dressed in a white lab coat. Turns out Milgram was after fame and fudged his results. Most participants didn't actually believe they were inflicting pain, and a majority of those who did quickly called it quits.

Comment: See also:


Eye 1

The #1 myth about psychopaths and narcissists: What people get wrong

Masks of psychopaths
© psychopathsinlife.com
One of the biggest misconceptions about psychopaths and malignant narcissists who have psychopathic traits is the idea that they are lashing out from pain when they engage in aggressive behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The defining characteristic of a psychopath is their tendency to engage in what is known as instrumental aggression (Glenn & Raine, 2009). Instrumental aggression is deliberate aggression waged against a victim for the purpose of fulfilling an agenda or getting some sort of reward. This type of aggression, also known as proactive or predatory aggression, is planned, premeditated, and often unprovoked by their victims; it is controlled, purposeful, and used to achieve personal gain, usually an external goal like money, social status, fame, drugs, or even sadistic pleasure derived from the act of inflicting pain.

Research has found that psychopathic criminals are more likely to engage in predatory instrumental violence, while non-psychopathic violent criminals are more likely to engage in reactive violence - violence in response to a perceived threat.

Comment: See also: I, Psychopath


Cross

Does science support miracles? New study documents a blind woman's healing

smiling
She once was blind, but now she sees — a peer-reviewed medical journal has published the extraordinary case study of a woman whose eyesight was spontaneously restored after prayer for healing. It's the latest example of how researchers are increasingly using scientific methods to investigate claims of miracles.

The study details the medical history of a woman who was blind for more than a dozen years from juvenile macular degeneration, an incurable condition. She had attended a school for the blind, used a white cane for mobility, and read braille.

One night at bedtime her husband, a Baptist pastor, got on his knees to pray. He put a hand on her shoulder as she laid on the bed. They were both crying as he prayed: "Oh, God! You can restore ... eyesight tonight, Lord. I know you can do it! And I pray you will do it tonight."

Comment: This would seem to scientifically confirm the efficacy of prayer and healing touch via a method like Reiki. See:


Grey Alien

Latest DMT study addresses eerie prevalence of hallucinations of 'interdimensional entities'

dmt psychedelic hallucination
© XAVI/xaviart.com
Podular Manifestation
Last month researchers released a new study on the hallucinogen DMT (or dimethyltryptamine) that provided fresh survey data on the phenomenon of DMT users experiencing and encountering sentient 'entities' while tripping. Scientists believe the findings could help to better understand near-death experiences and alien-abduction experiences, as well as develop treatments for mood and behavioral disorders.

The study involved surveying over 2,000 DMT users, the majority of whom claimed to have had positive encounters and even emotional exchanges with beings they felt were advanced and benevolent. Most of the users, upon coming down from the drug, felt the beings were real and not manufactured solely by a hallucination.

The survey produced the following additional data: 99% had an emotional response and of those, 58% believed the entity they encountered also had an emotional response and the feeling was overwhelmingly positive, though some reported instances of fear; 81% of respondents felt the 'entities' were real; and two-thirds believed they had received "a message, task, mission, purpose, or insight from the entity encounter experience."


Comment: Perhaps the worst consequence of the New Age movement has been the uncritical, blind trust in one's emotional reactions. Heroin makes you feel good; that doesn't mean it is good for you. A psychopath can make you feel like a prince or princess; that doesn't mean they have your best interests at heart - just the opposite.


The study adds more anecdotal corroboration that the DMT psychedelic experience is unique from other drugs.

First discovered as a psychoactive agent by Hungarian psychopharmacologist Stephen Szara in the 1950s, DMT is a psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family. It's the only psychedelic that is found both in nature and produced naturally by the human body. Because its chemical structure strongly resemble neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, some refer to it as 'nature's serotonin.'

As an endogenous chemical, produced naturally by the human body, it has also been referred to as the "brain's own psychedelic."

Family

Self-awareness: How and why you should cultivate it

self awareness mirror
Self-awareness seems to have become the latest management buzzword — and for good reason. Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We're less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we're more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.

As an organizational psychologist and executive coach, I've had a ringside seat to the power of leadership self-awareness for 15 years. I've also seen how attainable this skill is. Yet, when I first began to delve into the research on self-awareness, I was surprised by the striking gap between the science and the practice of self-awareness. All things considered, we knew surprisingly little about improving this critical skill.

A few years ago, my team of researchers and I embarked on a large-scale scientific study of self-awareness. In 10 separate investigations with nearly 5,000 participants, we examined what self-awareness really is, why we need it, and how we can increase it. (We are currently writing up our results for submission to an academic journal.)

Comment:


Stormtrooper

Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist


Comment: This was first published in November 2019, but it's 'timeless advice' for the general situation we currently find ourselves in...


baby hitler moustache
© consentfactory.org
OK, we need to talk about fascism. Not just any kind of fascism. A particularly insidious kind of fascism. No, not the fascism of the early 20th Century. Not Mussolini's National Fascist Party. Not Hitler's NSDAP. Not Francoist fascism or any other kind of organized fascist movement or party. Not even the dreaded Tiki-torch Nazis.

It's the other kind of fascism we need to talk about. The kind that doesn't come goose-stepping up the street waving big neo-Nazi flags. The kind we don't recognize when we're looking right at it.

It's like that joke about the fish and the water ... we don't recognize it because we're swimming in it. We're surrounded by it. We are inseparable from it. From the moment we are born, we breathe it in.

We are taught it by our parents, who were taught it by their parents. We are taught it again by our teachers in school. It is reinforced on a daily basis at work, in conversations with friends, in our families and our romantic relationships. We imbibe it in books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, pop songs, the nightly news, in our cars, at the mall, the stadium, the opera ... everywhere, because it is literally everywhere.

It doesn't look like fascism to us. Fascism only looks like fascism when you're standing outside of it, or looking back at it. When you are in it, fascism just looks like "normality," like "reality," like "just the way it is."

Info

A new study may explain why some psychopaths are 'successful'

Psychopathy
© Getty Images
A new study conducted by VCU researchers sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the formation of “successful” psychopaths.
Psychopathy is widely recognized as a risk factor for violent behavior, but many psychopathic individuals refrain from antisocial or criminal acts. Understanding what leads these psychopaths to be "successful" has been a mystery.

A new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the formation of this "successful" phenotype.

"Psychopathic individuals are very prone to engaging in antisocial behaviors but what our findings suggest is that some may actually be better able to inhibit these impulses than others," said lead author Emily Lasko, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. "Although we don't know exactly what precipitates this increase in conscientious impulse control over time, we do know that this does occur for individuals high in certain psychopathy traits who have been relatively more 'successful' than their peers."

The study, "What Makes a 'Successful' Psychopath? Longitudinal Trajectories of Offenders' Antisocial Behavior and Impulse Control as a Function of Psychopathy," will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment.

When describing certain psychopathic individuals as "successful" versus "unsuccessful," the researchers are referring to life trajectories or outcomes. A "successful" psychopath, for example, might be a CEO or lawyer high in psychopathic traits, whereas an "unsuccessful" psychopath might have those same traits but is incarcerated.

Brain

Neurological basis for lack of empathy in psychopaths

Robert Hare psychopathy research
© hare.org
When individuals with psychopathy imagine others in pain, brain areas necessary for feeling empathy and concern for others fail to become active and be connected to other important regions involved in affective processing and decision-making, reports a study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow affect, glibness, manipulation and callousness. Previous research indicates that the rate of psychopathy in prisons is around 23%, greater than the average population which is around 1%.

To better understand the neurological basis of empathy dysfunction in psychopaths, neuroscientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brains of 121 inmates of a medium-security prison in the USA.

Participants were shown visual scenarios illustrating physical pain, such as a finger caught between a door, or a toe caught under a heavy object. They were by turns invited to imagine that this accident happened to themselves, or somebody else. They were also shown control images that did not depict any painful situation, for example a hand on a doorknob.

Cross

John Rao: Pandemic reaction is a 'horrifying illustration' of the 'diabolical disorientation' accompanying ravages of modernity

john rao
The respected Catholic historian John Rao has written the following incisive reflection on the coronavirus pandemic which places much of the current disturbing situation in context.

For many years, Dr. Rao, who is associate professor of history at St. John's University in New York City, has run the Roman Forum which was founded in 1968 by Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand as a means of defending Catholic doctrine and culture following internal Church disputes over Humanae vitae.

These lectures, which now take place in Gardone, Italy, and New York City, have become increasingly popular. The Forum is now in its 28th year.

Pi

Ethics and Fundamental Values in Times of Corona

Morality, good and evil, devil and angel
When it comes to the so-called Corona crisis, everyone seems to be talking about numbers. Isn't the virus not much worse than the flu? If so, why didn't we have a lockdown during the flu season? And even if Covid-19 is worse - aren't the lockdown measures actually killing more people than the virus itself?

While these are valid and important arguments, they still operate on a simplistic utilitarian understanding of ethics: it's all about calculating the best outcome, counting the dead, maximizing humanity's well-being by weighing one thing (the virus) against another (the measures). The dispute is just about the variables.

But I think most of us who are critical of the current madness feel it in our bones that there is something deeply wrong here, and it has little to do with the numbers.

Suppose that this virus really was a deadly killer and we could reasonably expect it to kill off, let's say, 10% of the population in every country. Would you accept the current measures then? Would you find it okay that the state takes away your freedom and responsibility to come to the right decisions in your life? To visit your friend in trouble, to hug your father, to attend church, or to sell your products and services to those still willing to buy them?

More to the point, shouldn't you be able to decide whether you want to take the risk of visiting your fragile parents, if you don't have any symptoms for example, because this deep care outweighs the risk of transmitting the virus? Shouldn't the elderly decide for themselves whether they want to cuddle their grandchildren? Or shouldn't you be the one who decides whether to meet some friends to make some music or not, weighing between risk of death and the very thing that makes life worth living in the first place?

If your answer is no to any of those questions, then you are in trouble. Because in today's world, we seem to lack the knowledge to justify our gut feeling that some things just should never be prohibited, some freedoms never be curtailed, and some things never dictated by the state. If we say we want to attend church or hug our parents, or visit a friend who needs us, and somebody replies that this might kill people and surely, avoiding death is more important than hugging your dad, what are we to say? It leaves us speechless. We kind of see the point, but then again, we kind of don't.

And it's not enough to point to the constitution either. If we don't understand why something is in the constitution in the first place and can't defend it, if even just to ourselves, then why should anybody bother? People will just point out that saving lives is more important than some petty legal argument.

So let's take a step back and clear up a few things about the philosophical background of our Western constitutions and how this relates to the Corona measures.