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Mon, 27 Sep 2021
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Longtime skeptic now accepts parapsychology as a science (with caveats)

Chris French skeptic ufo parapsychology
© Bill Robinson
Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Read the fine print. It's a matter of determining what can be considered a science statement, whether it is proven or disproven

University of London psychology prof Chris French has a complex relationship with parapsychology (research into, for example, extrasensory perception or ESP). At one time, he believed in it, then was, for four decades, a skeptic — but he has now come round to a new approach to the question: How do we decide what is and isn't "science":
Before we can assess the scientific status of any discipline, we must first consider what philosophers of science refer to as the demarcation problem. What criteria must be applied in order to decide whether a discipline is a true science or not? This is a fascinating topic that has been a subject of discussion amongst philosophers of science for a very long time. A full discussion of this issue is way beyond the scope of the current article. Suffice it to say that many commentators have ultimately concluded that it is simply not possible to devise a set of strict criteria that can be applied in such a way that they correctly classify all true sciences as such and exclude each and every example of non-science, including pseudosciences.

Does that mean that there is no difference between science and pseudoscience? No, it does not. Although there is no definite dividing line between day and night, we can all agree that clear examples of each are easy to find. In the same way, we can all agree that, say, physics and chemistry are clear examples of true sciences and astrology and homeopathy are excellent examples of pseudoscience. So how are we doing this?

The best approach appears to be one that does not attempt to apply a definitive list of strict criteria but instead accepts that there are certain 'benchmarks' that characterise what we think of as good science.

Chris French, "Why I now believe parapsychology is a science not a pseudoscience" at The Skeptic (September 22, 2021)

Dominoes

Conscientious objections to the COVID vaccine should be honored

Ditched mask
© Bill of Health/KJN
Ditching the Mask
As employers and governments have become more stringent with COVID vaccination requirements, many are no longer honoring conscientious or religious exemptions to the vaccine. Several states have dropped or are in the process of dropping these exemptions. Some hospitals and health departments, such as the New York Department of Health, have eliminated religious exemptions. In the private sector, United Airlines has announced that employees with religious exemptions to the vaccine will be placed on unpaid leave.

Even if vaccination is a wise idea, removing these exemptions is morally wrong and unjust. The rights of conscience and religious liberty must be respected as a precondition for responsible decision-making of all kinds.

Why Conscience Matters

Why should conscience matter at all? Many people think that appeals to conscience (religious or non-religious) are just convenient excuses to get around the rules. But this is a grossly unfair way of characterizing what conscience is and why it matters. Let me explain.

Brain

Study: Left-wing authoritarians share key psychological traits with far right

chess black king standing
© Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
People with extreme political views that favor authoritarianism — whether they are on the far left or the far right — have surprisingly similar behaviors and psychological characteristics, a new study finds.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published the research by psychologists at Emory University — the first comprehensive look at left-wing authoritarianism.

"We took the long history of research into right-wing authoritarianism and used insights from that to develop a conceptional framework and measures to test for authoritarianism in the political left," says Thomas Costello, an Emory Ph.D. student of psychology and first author of the study. "We found that in terms of their psychological characteristics and their actual behaviors, left-wing authoritarians are extremely similar to authoritarians on the right."

Comment: It's a mistake to think of authoritarianism as a phenomenon found only on the right side of the political spectrum. If one looks objectively at the current state of the world, one will see left-wing authoritarianism is alive and well.

See also:


Info

Gut bacteria influence brain development

Brain Development
© Seki et al., 2021)
Seki et al. have established a comprehensive, time-resolved profile of microbiota, immune, and neurophysiological development in premature infants. Their research linked early-life microbiome establishment to immunological and neurological development, identifying candidate biomarkers of perinatal brain injury. In summary (left), their results showed that pro-inflammatory T cell response correlates with suppressed electro-cortical maturation. γδ T cells seemed to have central implications for this suppression and the pathogenesis of brain injury. Furthermore, Klebsiella overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract was highly predictive for brain damage. To the right, manifestations of such brain injuries are shown as representative cranial magnetic resonance (cMRI) images at term-equivalent age for intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH; upper right corner) and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL, lower right corner).
Researchers discover biomarkers that indicate early brain injury in extreme premature infants

Extremely premature infants are at a high risk for brain damage. Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have now found possible targets for the early treatment of such damage outside the brain: Bacteria in the gut of premature infants may play a key role. The research team found that the overgrowth of the gastrointestinal tract with the bacterium Klebsiella is associated with an increased presence of certain immune cells and the development of neurological damage in premature babies. The study is now published in journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Complex interplay: the gut-immune-brain axis

The early development of the gut, the brain and the immune system are closely interrelated. Researchers refer to this as the gut-immune-brain axis. Bacteria in the gut cooperate with the immune system, which in turn monitors gut microbes and develops appropriate responses to them. In addition, the gut is in contact with the brain via the vagus nerve as well as via the immune system. "We investigated the role this axis plays in the brain development of extreme preterm infants," says the first author of the study, David Seki. "The microorganisms of the gut microbiome - which is a vital collection of hundreds of species of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes - are in equilibrium in healthy people. However, especially in premature babies, whose immune system and microbiome have not been able to develop fully, shifts are quite likely to occur. These shifts may result in negative effects on the brain," explains the microbiologist and immunologist.

Patterns in the microbiome provide clues to brain damage

"In fact, we have been able to identify certain patterns in the microbiome and immune response that are clearly linked to the progression and severity of brain injury," adds David Berry, microbiologist and head of the research group at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) at the University of Vienna as well as Operational Director of the Joint Microbiome Facility of the Medical University of Vienna and University of Vienna. "Crucially, such patterns often show up prior to changes in the brain. This suggests a critical time window during which brain damage of extremely premature infants may be prevented from worsening or even avoided."

Info

Why words become harder to remember as we get older

Words
© Pexels.com
Not only in games, but also in conversation, we sometimes run out of words. In old age, it takes increasingly longer to find a certain word. Researchers have discovered that this is due to a change in the use of certain networks in the brain.
As we get older, we find it increasingly difficult to have the right words ready at the right moment - even though our vocabulary actually grows continuously over the course of our lives. Until now, it was unclear why this is. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University of Leipzig have now found out: It is the networks in the brain that change their communication over time. This makes them more inefficient.

The researchers investigated these connections with the help of two groups - younger study participants between the ages of 20 and 35 and older ones between the ages of 60 and 70. Both groups were asked to name words in the MRI scanner that belong to certain categories, including animals, metals or vehicles.

Info

New reward circuitry discovered

In a paper published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers pushed the science forward on our reward pathways.
Reward Circuitry
© Getty Images
The process of better understanding the brain is like building a puzzle whose pieces grow in number over time.
The key to overcoming addictions and psychiatric disorders lives deep inside the netherworld of our brains and the circuitry that causes us to feel good. Just like space, this region of the brain needs more exploration.

The oldest and most known reward pathway is the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is composed of neurons projecting from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens -- a key structure in mediating emotional and motivation processing,

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when the brain is expecting reward. A spike in dopamine could come be from eating pizza, dancing, shopping and sex. But it can also come from drugs, and lead to substance abuse.

In the search for new therapies to treat addiction and psychiatric illness, researchers are examining pathways beyond dopamine that could play a role in reward and reinforcement.

In a paper published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the Bruchas Lab at UW Medicine pushed the science forward on our reward pathways and found another such pathway.

Toys

Hearing mother's voice can lessen pain in premature babies, study suggests

neonatal nurse premature baby
© Hannah McKay/Reuters
A neonatal nurse caring for a premature baby. The author of the study said the team focused on voice because it was not always possible for parents to hold their babies in intensive care.
Researchers measured pain responses in preterm babies during routine procedures in neonatal unit.

Premature babies appear to feel less pain during medical procedures when they are spoken to by their mothers, researchers have found.

Babies that are born very early often have to spend time in neonatal intensive care units, and may need several painful clinical procedures. The situation can also mean lengthy separation from parents.

Comment: See also:


People

Are incels a violent terrorist subculture, or collection of disenfranchised, misguided souls who need compassion and treatment?

Gravesite stuff
© AFP/Niklas Halle'n
North Down Crescent Park in the Keyham area of Plymouth, southwest England
August 14, 2021
Britain has been rocked by a rare mass shooting, carried out by an incel. The US has already witnessed several attacks by incels. But why are they happening and are tougher laws the answer?

A three-year old girl, her father, two passers-by, and the gunman's mother were murdered in cold blood in Plymouth, southwest England last week. Mainstream reports attributed the blame to Jake Davison identifying as an incel, a term short for involuntary celibate.

According to them, the subculture is creating dangerous killers.

As proof of how that narrative is being consumed by the public, an online petition was created to have incels formally recognised as a terrorist group in the UK. The direct link with terrorism was repeated by platforms such as Sky News and The Guardian, which wrote that previous shootings should have "brought misogynist terrorism into the awareness of law enforcement around the world."

It's true there have been several high profile incidents, most notably when Eliot Rodger killed six people in a stabbing spree in California, back in 2014 and when Alek Minassian took 10 lives by driving into pedestrians in Toronto in 2018.

But the reality is, incel culture is vastly misunderstood.

Evil Rays

Mass Psychosis: How to Create a Pandemic of Mental Illness

insane crowd mass psychosis
The 20-minute video above, "Mass Psychosis — How an Entire Population Becomes Mentally Ill," created by After Skool and Academy of Ideas,1 is a fascinating illustration of how mass psychosis can be induced.

Mass psychosis is defined as "an epidemic of madness" that occurs when a "large portion of society loses touch with reality and descends into delusions."

One classic historical example of mass psychosis is the witch hunts that occurred in the Americas and Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, when tens of thousands of people, mostly women, were tortured, drowned and burned alive at the stake. The rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century is a more recent example of mass psychosis.


Eye 1

Gaslighting: The psychology of shaping another's reality

Gaslighting

Still from 1942 movie Gaslight
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

- Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
We are living in a world where the degree of disinformation and outright lying has reached such a state of affairs that, possibly for the first time ever, we see the majority of the western world starting to question their own and surrounding level of sanity. The increasing frenzied distrust in everything "authoritative" mixed with the desperate incredulity that "everybody couldn't possibly be in on it!" is slowly rocking many back and forth into a tighter and tighter straight jacket. "Question everything" has become the new motto, but are we capable of answering those questions?

Presently the answer is a resounding no.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's: NewsReal: Echoes of Nazism - Governments' Vaccine Passports Spark Mass Disobedience