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Sun, 27 May 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Responsibility is the antidote to tyranny by starting small

The timeless wisdom of 'The Gulag Archipelago' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
barbed wire fence
Life is filled with suffering. That suffering can be magnified and multiplied by an endless stream of malevolence. I am discovering this firsthand as my mother lies in a hospital bed beside me, a victim of violent assault. It's the act of evil committed upon the innocent that shatters us the most; no one is immune. The arbitrary nature of evil cannot be denied. It is self-evident, and there is no shortage of examples. Having acknowledged this fact, the question that each and every one of us should ask ourselves is: how should one walk in the face of such evil?

While I sat beside my unconscious mother, I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn'sThe Gulag Archipelago, a mammoth Nobel prize-winning book written by a Russian dissident who suffered at the hands of a brutal Communist regime. Solzhenitsyn was a soldier who had served in the Second World War. While fighting against the German army, he witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by the Red Army against German and East European civilians.


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Black children commit suicide at twice the rate of whites - white teens at twice the rate of blacks

sad depressed
Suicide rates for children ages 5 to 12 are roughly twice as high for black children as for white children, according to new data. But for adolescents ages 13 to 17, the pattern flips, with white kids having higher suicide rates, researchers report online May 21 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The new study is based on an analysis of suicide rates among children ages 5 to 17 from 2001 to 2015. Suicide was relatively rare among young children, the scientists found, but rates for both black and white kids in the United States increased with age.

"We really need to understand what are the risk and protective factors for not only suicide, but suicidal behavior in young people of color," says study coauthor Jeff Bridge, an epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Most studies investigating psychological or social risk factors for suicide in young people are of predominantly white youth, he says.

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The Truth Perspective: Free Will Is Not An Illusion: Why Materialists Are Wrong To Deny Their Own Freedom

choices doors free will
The great free will debate has raged for generations. But now we live in a world where the establishment intellectuals either deny freedom's existence completely, or tacitly accept it but can't adequately explain it. One poll showed that more than 40% of Americans didn't believe in free will. Given how fundamental free will is to everything about our lives - from our interactions with loved ones to our intellectual and career activities, and our legal systems - this is a scary thought.

Materialists will often cite finger-tapping experiments as evidence that free will doesn't exist. The brain shows signs of activity before subjects are consciously aware that they are going to move their fingers. But as Jordan Peterson and others have pointed out, this is not the only (or the best) interpretation of the data.

Today on the Truth Perspective, we take a look at Professor Peterson's recent defense of free will and share our thoughts on what free will is and isn't, and why it makes no sense to deny a certain type of freedom of will.

Tune in this Saturday, May 26, at noon Eastern Standard Time, and find out if you're a completely controlled automaton, an unlimited divine being, or just a regular part of creation with some degree of freedom and a whole lot of limitations.

Running Time: 01:40:17

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Does clutter cause anxiety & stress?

Clutter in our home or office certainly does cause stress, according to an article in Psychology Today. Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter lists the following 8 reasons that stress may ensue from a cluttered environment:
  1. Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.
  2. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
  3. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
  4. Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
  5. Clutter makes us anxious because we're never sure what it's going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
  6. Clutter creates feelings of guilt ("I should be more organized") and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
  7. Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brainstorm, and problem solve.
  8. Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the "pile" or keys swallowed up by the clutter).

Comment: Cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?


Is consciousness needed for emotions?

© Shutterstock
An increasing amount of evidence suggests that consciousness is not a requirement for feeling emotions. This opens up a minefield of questions for how best to treat unconscious people.
A young woman, let's call her Jane, survives a car accident. Her injuries are so severe that she is diagnosed as being "in a vegetative state," or what medics call unresponsive wakefulness syndrome.

Yet scans show that her brain responds to the sound of someone else's voice.

So is Jane conscious or unconscious?

The answer is that consciousness and the unconscious might be much more similar than we think.

Recent developments in cognitive science provides empirical evidence that the unconscious brain is able to perform almost all the activities that we (wrongly) think are exclusive to conscious beings.

This means that unconscious beings are not only cognitively active, but might also experience emotions-both positive and negative.

The very idea that consciousness is not a requirement for feeling emotions opens up a minefield of questions for how best to treat unconscious people, like Jane, who despite their unconscious state might still feel pleasure and pain.

Clearly, we need to examine the ethical implications of this new picture of human consciousness and what it means for our identity as humans.

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The Health & Wellness Show: Dunning-Kruger Effect: Stupid is as Stupid Does

Dunning Kruger
What makes people think that they are better-than-average? Why do some people have an unwavering tendency to overinflate their skills? Having a realistic view of the world and oneself is considered to be the foundation of good psychological health. However, many of us tend to move through life with a sense of unconditional, positive self-regard -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- and downplay or ignore our faults to the detriment of ourselves, our families and society at large. Researchers have discovered that unrealistic positivity is a fundamental feature of human nature.

We've all seen it; the blowhard who can't stop spouting off about topics of which they know very little, the highly sensitive co-worker who doubles down in the face of constructive criticism, the 'expert' who misleads with false claims. On this episode of The Health and Wellness Show we discuss the Dunning-Kruger effect, the illusion of competence and the pitfalls of failing to recognize the extent of one's own -- and other's -- limitations and lack of knowledge.

And stay tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment, where she explores the age old question: Do animals think?

Running Time: 01:07:06

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Child Development research shows siblings play a role in the development of empathy

© (Unsplash/Aman Shrivastava)
For decades, researchers have demonstrated the numerous ways in which parents can positively influence their children's development. This includes how confident they are, how well they do in school and how they interact with their friends

Far less attention has focused on the impact of children's relationships with their brothers and sisters, despite the fact that most people grow up with at least one sibling and they tend to spend more time with one another than with parents or friends.

Our research at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto shows that siblings, like parents, can have a dramatic impact on one another's development. We've found, for example, that warmth and support from an older sibling can help boost the younger sibling's language development and their understanding of others' minds and points of view.

Comment: Sibling rivalry: Study reveals if eldest children are more intelligent - and if it matters


Practicing situational awareness can save your life

airplane cockpit

In December 1972, three days before New Year, Eastern Airlines flight 401 from New York crashed on approach to Miami when the pilot and crew, all focusing on a malfunctioning landing light, failed to register the plane was losing altitude. In 2007 a truck and train collided on a rail crossing in Kerang, Australia, when the truck driver failed to notice the approaching train. In 2010 the crew of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico seemed unaware of the scale of the problem until the rig exploded.

Although each case is unique, the same phrases appear: "Failed to notice", "unaware of", "lack of awareness". These all point to a lapse in "situation awareness" - an important factor in the run up to each incident. But what exactly is situation awareness, what can lead to a lapse and how can you improve and develop your own sense of it?

Comment: More on the benefits of practicing situational awareness:


Study finds transgender children's brains more similar to those of their preferred gender

mri lab
© Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters
A new study using MRI scans of the brains of transgender children reveals similarities between brains of their preferred gender, suggesting trans people are born with their differences.

The study reveals the brains of transgender individuals who identify as women are more similar to the brains of women than men, and the same goes for transgender people who are born in a woman's body but identify as males - their brains are more like males than females.

The study, carried out by the University of Liege in Belgium, examined 160 children with gender dysphoria (when someone feels their emotional and psychological identity is different to their biological sex) and a number without the condition. It used an MRI scan to study the subjects' brains. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the body.

'Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria' revealed the brains of those with gender dysphoria have both structural and neurological patterns that match the brains of those of their preferred genders.

Comment: In other words: gender is not a social construct - it's biological. And a male with a more female brain feels more like a female. That makes sense, and it's a whole lot different than saying they simply "choose" to be the other gender, or that the traditional gender characteristics they identify with are social constructs.

Now, it would be interesting to have a long-term study following a cohort of transgender children in order to see if their brain structures change over time. The fact that most children with gender dysphoria grow out of it would suggest this might be the case.


Scientists identify physical source of anxiety in the brain and they can control it with light

anxiety illustration
© Illustration Forest/Shutterstock
We're not wired to feel safe all the time, but maybe one day we could be.

A recent study investigating the neurological basis of anxiety in the brain has identified 'anxiety cells' located in the hippocampus - which not only regulate anxious behaviour but can be controlled by a beam of light.

The findings, so far demonstrated in experiments with lab mice, could offer a ray of hope for the millions of people worldwide who experience anxiety disorders (including almost one in five adults in the US), by leading to new drugs that silence these anxiety-controlling neurons.

Comment: While shutting down anxiety completely would not be beneficial (we feel anxiety for a reason, after all) learning more about how anxiety works at the brain level, and how it can begin to work badly in anxiety disorders, is a promising step in the treatment of anxiety conditions. And the fact that the cells are sensitive to light is interesting in relation to circadian rhythms and functioning of the brain.

See also: