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Sun, 22 May 2022
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


6 million Canadians detained in largest prison in the world

Travel refused
© Shutterstock
Travel Ban Restrictions Apply
I am one of over 6 million Canadians who are currently forbidden to board an airplane, train, boat or long-haul bus to travel across Canada or leave Canada. The Federal Ministry of Transportation put this rule into effect in October 2021. Now it is late April 2022. The Federal Government of Canada continues to refuse to lift this travel ban. Period. No comment. No discussion. No debate. In addition to the Canadian government travel ban, the United States government forbids us to cross the border by car into the USA.

I am one of over 6 million Canadian citizens who are currently being held as political prisoners. The walls of this very large prison are the borders and shorelines of Canada. There are vast amounts of land within the walls of this prison, so it would appear to other Canadians that we are free. But the travel ban has created walls that feel as real as the Berlin Wall once was. I wake up at night, my flight response activated, heart pounding, adrenalin running, terrified. During the day I listen to friends, neighbours and collegues talk about their recent trips to visit family in Canada or holidays abroad. Many are oblivious to the fact that I am one of the invisible prisoners. This disturbs me even more deeply than the midnight panic attacks.

Comment: Weak leaders oppress to remain in control.


Cracking consciousness: how do our minds really work?

brain imaging scan
© Getty Images
With scientists mapping our neurons in ever greater detail, and programmers creating ever more humanlike artificial intelligence, the gap between brain and machine seems to be rapidly shrinking — throwing the question of consciousness, one of the great philosophical mysteries, back into the heart of scientific debate. Will the human mind — that ineffable tangle of private, first-person experiences — soon be shown to have a purely physical explanation? The neuroscientist Steven Novella certainly thinks so:

'The evidence for the brain as the sole cause of the mind is, in my opinion, overwhelming.'

Elon Musk agrees:

'Consciousness is a physical phenomenon, in my view'.

Google's Ray Kurzweil puts it even more bluntly:

'A person is a mind file. A person is a software program.'

Comment: See also:


Study finds psychopathic individuals are more likely to have larger striatum region in the brain

Assistant Professor Olivia Choy
© Nanyang Technological University
Assistant Professor Olivia Choy, a neuroscientist from NTU’s School of Social Sciences, presenting diagrams of the human striatum.
Neuroscientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), University of Pennsylvania, and California State University, have established the existence of a biological difference between psychopaths and non-psychopaths.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, they found that a region of the forebrain known as the striatum, was on average 10% larger in psychopathic individuals compared to a control group of individuals that had low or no psychopathic traits.

Psychopaths, or those with psychopathic traits, are generally defined as individuals that have an egocentric and antisocial personality. This is normally marked by a lack of remorse for their actions, a lack of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.

Comment: See also:

Eye 1

21st century schizoid man

schizoid man
In his psychoanalytic take on the psychology of politics, Pyschopathology and Politics, Harold Lasswell observed:
The special value of the psychopathological approach is that it represents a supermicroscopic method of utilizing individual instances for the study of culture patterns. (p. 258)

The distinctive mark of the homo politicus is the rationalization of the displacement [of private motives onto public objects] in terms of public interests. (p. 262)

Political acts depend upon the symbolization of the discontent of the individual in terms of a more inclusive self which champions a set of demands for social action. (p. 265)
Political ponerology operates on a similar principle, but with a focus on personality disorders. One of its arguments is that the distinctive cognitive and emotional features of various personality disorders — in other words, their typical "worldviews" — influence what types of politics their holders are attracted to, and what place they might find within such a system. As an example of such a worldview, here's how Nicholas Thomson summarizes the psychopathic worldview:
"I can do whatever I want because I have been wronged in the past; everyone else is dishonorable, selfish, weak and manipulative; therefore, I am justified to take advantage of them." (Understanding Psychopathy, pp. 29-30, slightly adapted)

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The anxiety pandemic created by SAGE's Project Fear

masked woman reflection
© Unknown
Anxiety's Reflection
Much has been said about how fear has been used to drive the narrative and help impose restrictions on personal liberty we have faced during the pandemic. In this article I would like to suggest that anxiety, rather than fear itself, has become the much bigger concern, and one whose effects will haunt us for years to come.

If we take a step back for a moment, we can see that psychological language has been in the spotlight throughout the last two years. Some sections of the media and various bodies of experts have undoubtedly used their influence to generate fear in the general public. Although fear can paralyze our thoughts and actions, I believe that what we have actually been subject to has been a deliberate attempt to generate massive levels of societal anxiety. As a psychologist, I believe that anxiety, rather than fear, will turn out to be a major health problem facing individuals in the years ahead. Due to a number of complex factors operating at personal and community levels, the incidence of clinical and sub-clinical anxiety has never been higher in the U.K. population. The data to support this claim are well known, and yet, we have just been through a situation where psychologists on SAGE supported by others have deliberately stoked anxiety to increase compliance around various Covid measures.


The price we paid for the DIEing academy

lion creature
For a generation we've watched academia go slowly mad. These past two years we found out why that matters.

In the previous post in this series, I laid out a bird's eye view of why the academy is DIEing.

There are real consequences to the death of the academy.

Societal institutions are meant to serve specific functions. The police are meant to keep order. The military, to defend the frontiers. The media, to inform about important current events. Of course, sometimes there can be multiple subsidiary functions - traditionally, for instance, the military has served as a coming-of-age mechanism that turns boys into men. But the subsidiary purpose is always something that flows naturally out of the primary purpose. To use the military example, turning boys into men is a natural outgrowth of the hardships of training and, during war time, the emotional impact of being blooded in combat; as such there is no conflict between the secondary purpose of providing a male coming-of-age ritual and the primary function of national defense (or, for more aggressive nations, conquest).

The primary function of academia is to serve as an arena in which the truth of the world is ascertained, to whatever degree of accuracy and precision it is practical to do so. Academia is the place where facts about the world are gathered, and the veracity of those facts and interpretations of those phenomena developed and debated, in order to arrive at an understanding of the underlying mechanisms that explain that which is actually observed. That might be a scientist's way of seeing things, and you might object that there's a certain arrogance there - do scholars of literature use the scientific method? But even in the soft disciplines it is not so different: the existence of works of culture in the human world is a fact, and it is the function of humanities scholars to understand their subject matter - the psychological, historical, and cultural contexts in which creative works were born, and the subsequent cultural and historical impact of those works - just as it is the function of an organic chemist to understand the properties of chemical structures of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.


Consciousness is the collapse of the wave function

Quantum mechanics and the organic light of consciousness.
Consciousness & Wave Function
© The Institute of Art and Ideas
Quantum mechanics suggests that particles can be in a state of superposition - in two states at the same time - until a measurement take place. Only then does the wavefunction describing the particle collapses into one of the two states. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the collapse of the wave function takes place when a conscious observer is involved. But according to Roger Penrose, it's the other way around. Instead of consciousness causing the collapse, Penrose suggested that wavefunctions collapse spontaneously and in the process give rise to consciousness. Despite the strangeness of this hypothesis, recent experimental results suggest that such a process takes place within microtubules in the brain. This could mean that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality, arising first in primitive bio-structures, in individual neurons, cascading upwards to networks of neurons, argues Roger Penrose collaborator Stuart Hameroff.

Consciousness defines our existence. It is, in a sense, all we really have, all we really are, The nature of consciousness has been pondered in many ways, in many cultures, for many years. But we still can't quite fathom it.

Consciousness is, some say, all-encompassing, comprising reality itself, the material world a mere illusion. Others say consciousness is the illusion, without any real sense of phenomenal experience, or conscious control. According to this view we are, as TH Huxley bleakly said, 'merely helpless spectators, along for the ride'. Then, there are those who see the brain as a computer. Brain functions have historically been compared to contemporary information technologies, from the ancient Greek idea of memory as a 'seal ring' in wax, to telegraph switching circuits, holograms and computers. Neuroscientists, philosophers, and artificial intelligence (AI) proponents liken the brain to a complex computer of simple algorithmic neurons, connected by variable strength synapses. These processes may be suitable for non-conscious 'auto-pilot' functions, but can't account for consciousness.

Finally there are those who take consciousness as fundamental, as connected somehow to the fine scale structure and physics of the universe. This includes, for example Roger Penrose's view that consciousness is linked to the Objective Reduction process - the 'collapse of the quantum wavefunction' - an activity on the edge between quantum and classical realms. Some see such connections to fundamental physics as spiritual, as a connection to others, and to the universe, others see it as proof that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality, one that developed long before life itself.


Lessons from a life lost too soon

Lost Too Soon

“What you tell yourself every day will lift you up or tear you down. Choose wisely.” ~Unknown
It was a story I just couldn't get out of my head. A young teen had died in a town not far from where I live, a town where I used to live. I knew people who had kids who knew this girl.

I heard she was a swimmer, bright and popular. At first the talk was about how she'd died. I heard someone surmise that she was killed. Someone else said it was a horrible accident, and of course, there were murmurings that maybe she had done it herself. And then, I heard nothing.

Months passed and I eventually put the whole incident out of my mind, until I came across an article in our major metro newspaper. The girl's parents had come forward to share the terrible truth about their beautiful teenage daughter who threw herself off an overpass.

Comment: See also:


Psychopathy and crimes against humanity

general and soldiers

General Pinochet reviews the troops
Just a week or so after the new edition of Political Ponerology was published in March 2022, I saw this tweet:

As something of a nerd, I was quite excited. Especially after I saw that Robert Hare was the lead author. Dr. Hare is the leading expert on psychopathy, developer of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, and this was his first foray, to my knowledge, into the explicitly political dimensions of psychopathy, something of an obsession of mine (though his work with Paul Babiak did introduce and popularize the idea of the white-collar, corporate psychopath).

You can read the full paper here. I discuss it in depth here (audio), video form below.

Light Saber

Good storytelling, lasting values and Disney's demise — this is not the way

The Mandalorian
We live in an age of maximum arrogance. When you watch companies with some of the most marketable brands in the world torch them on an altar of political correctness, it's easy to just think them stupid or going with the flow of history.

But they aren't.

Because not only do we live in an age of maximal arrogance, we also live in the biggest self-created false realities in human history.

It is the height of irony that the biggest brand in storytelling, Disney, has succumbed to its own arrogance and self-delusion, becoming trapped in a false reality that Disney should dictate the direction humanity should accept.

That's what lies at the heart of Disney's troubles today. It arrogantly believed it has an obligation to decide what is and is not culturally acceptable to a majority of its customers. It completely misread the room in thinking a large percentage of its business comes from the insufferably woke suburban moms who are just as fucked up as the kids they've raised.

The good news is Disney got the message loud and clear that they are not the arbiters of when it's appropriate to groom children for adulthood. The bad news is they may not have heard it.