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Wed, 22 Mar 2023
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Book 2

A history of lost adventure: On the tragic death of the boys' adventure novel

haggard she
"If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day."
— Robert Louis Stevenson, while writing 'Treasure Island'
In 1887, H. Rider Haggard wrote a novel called She. She was an adventure into deepest Africa to rediscover a lost civilization dominated by a mysterious white goddess. The novel was an immediate success and a phenomenon at all levels of society. Freud and Jung referenced it in their psychoanalytic theories. Authors such as Rudyard Kipling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Graham Greene, and Henry Miller have acknowledged its influence on their own writing. The novel even developed many of the 'lost world' tropes that underlie the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and Abraham Merritt. Everyone, in other words, read She. Yet Haggard said he wrote it for boys.

Haggard isn't the only writer who wrote similar boys' adventure stories. Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island tells the story of young Jim Hawkins, and Dick Shelton, the hero of The Black Arrow, is "not yet eighteen." Stevenson, after being struck from the canon by Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, has enjoyed a minor resurgence among academics prompted by Roger Lancelyn Green, one of the Inklings, who also wrote for boys. And, of course, many of those who I mentioned admiring Haggard also admired Stevenson and wrote boys' adventure fiction of their own. I would also be remiss not to mention the Hornblower series by C. S. Forrester, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, and the works of Harold Lamb, Jack London, Daniel Dafoe, Erskin Childers, Anthony Hope, and Rafael Sabatini.

But the boys' adventure novel - that is, stories written to boys "not yet eighteen" and set in exotic, but still broadly historical locales, with perhaps some light fantasy or romantic elements - is something of a dead letter these days. The Young Adult field today is far more focused on the fantasy elements and on stories written to a much broader audience to the degree that the two become easily distinguishable. Perhaps the last culturally relevant example of boys' adventure is Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, debuting in 1981. The series sold very well, but it's the exception that proves the rule. If you mention Alan Quartermain today, you'll be lucky if someone remembers Sean Connery's character from the 2003 film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The League opened alongside Pirates of the Caribbean, partly an homage to Stevenson's Treasure Island and itself the last great boys' adventure film. For twenty years that well has been dry as a bone.


Neurologists offer explanation for political polarization in societies

MRI scan
© Johnny Greig/Getty Images
MRI Scan
A study published in Science Advances links diametrically opposite perceptions to differences in neurobiological mechanisms...

The sheer level of political polarization witnessed in many societies these days may be down to the neurological makeup of those involved, a fresh study has indicated. Researchers believe the fact that different people perceive the very same event or notion in profoundly dissimilar ways may be a sign that their brains function differently.

The study published in Science Advances in early February, started with the premise that previous theories were missing some key factors when they postulated that political polarization is the result of people consuming information from selective news outlets. A team of researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island suggested the formation of entrenched political opinions may start at an earlier stage.

Comment: Are we thinking or reacting? What's your filter?


Reclaiming Diversity

diversity street fighter video game characters
© Capcom
This is diversity.
Tonic intersectionality is what makes everything awesome

All the best words get stolen from us. Woke now means its opposite. Therapy used to mean, well, therapy. Now it means castration. Inclusion used to be an inviting word. Now it pretty much means its opposite, self-censorship, and copy-and-paste thinking. "Gaslight" used to mean something. Now it just means someone is saying something you disagree with. Toxic used to be a good word too. No longer. Rainbows used to be cool.

Yes, Marxcissism is where words go to DIE.1

But one of my favorite words has been so maligned that I feel something must be done to rehabilitate its battered and flayed corpse: diversity. Not only is it the source of everything good in life, it's one of the basic principles underlying all of creation. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Over at The Radical American Mind, Grant Smith posted something you should definitely check out:


Tonic Intersectionality

race harmony hands interlinked tonic masculinity
© woraput/iStock
In the year 1989 Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced a new word to better articulate the overlapping nature of identity and its impact on how people relate to one another. As a prominent scholar of Critical Theory, Crenshaw noticed that discrimination laws weren't adequate in circumstances where discrimination was dependent on both gender and race. She was right of course. Laws meant to force people to treat everyone the same are difficult to enforce when what constitutes a protected class is very clear, let alone make determinations that consider the complex intersection between protected classes. This is a logical consequence of the fact that proving discrimination when it is directed towards a particular amalgam of these groups is nigh impossible, unless of course, you can read minds. The thing is, Crenshaw wasn't concerned about some random amalgam, as a self-described black feminist she was concerned about the intersection of discrimination against African American women specifically.

The classic example Crenshaw uses to illustrate this concept is the constructive discrimination against black female employees at General Motors in the 1970's who were fired under the auspices of a "last-hired-first-fired" seniority based provision in the company's labor agreement. The court recognized race and gender as protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights act, but expressed concern regarding the idea of creating new protected classes out of the various possible permutations of those already recognized. Judge Wangelin expressed his concern thus:
The prospect of the creation of new classes of protected minorities, governed only by the mathematical principles of permutation and combination, clearly raises the prospect of opening the hackneyed Pandora's box.


Near-death research slowly fills in the picture

© Unknown
In a survey article at Business Insider, Erin Heger points to several studies that shed light on what happens when we die.

She starts by referencing Julia A. Nicholson's recent account of her own NDE when she was 18, as a result of a near-fatal car crash:
"I didn't feel any pain but I heard voices around me. I could then hear my sister screaming, "She's dead, my sister is dead." So I believed that I must have died. I remember my sister, Allan, and John saying, "If you can hear us, move, or touch something," but I couldn't move at all.

"After I started to regain consciousness, I remember seeing the faces of the people that I loved flashing before my eyes. Every single face that appeared in my memory had something in common: they were the people that I loved and deeply cared about. I thought: I love all of these people, and I never got to tell them."

Nicholson survived to tell the story, of course, and — looking back — she reflects:
"Having a near-death experience caused me to have a sense of urgency to get things done, not knowing if my next minute alive would be my last. It also allowed me to live my life to the fullest, not worrying about other people's opinions or the fear of 'failure.'"
Near-death experiences are commonly life-changing events that provide evidence that the human mind is not simply a function of the body and appears, at times, to operate independently of it.


Brain area necessary for fluid intelligence identified

fluid intelligence
A team led by UCL and UCLH researchers have mapped the parts of the brain that support our ability to solve problems without prior experience -- otherwise known as fluid intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is arguably the defining feature of human cognition. It predicts educational and professional success, social mobility, health, and longevity. It also correlates with many cognitive abilities such as memory.

Fluid intelligence is thought to be a key feature involved in "active thinking" -- a set of complex mental processes such as those involved in abstraction, judgment, attention, strategy generation and inhibition. These skills can all be used in everyday activities -- from organising a dinner party to filling out a tax return.

Better Earth

Jordan Peterson against the spirit of totalitarianism

The article below was originally written for our Icelandic website at my request. The author knows Peterson well and has brought him over here twice for lecturing, with great success.

Gunnlaugur Jónsson is the founder and CEO of the Reykjavik Fintech Cluster. He is one of the founders of a startup called Veriate, whose mission is to transform discussions on the internet. His book on the banking system, personal responsibility and freedom, Ábyrgðarkver (The Little Book on Responsibility), was published in Iceland in 2012. He invited Dr. Jordan Peterson to deliver lectures in Reykjavik in June 2018 and June 2022.

* * * * *

I first became aware of Jordan Peterson over six years ago, when he publicly protested legislation designed to force people to use and memorize other people's made-up personal pronouns. I didn't get to know him personally then, but I followed what he posted online. Although his protest was important, it was not the most remarkable thing about him. His lectures in psychology had been available on YouTube for years and they were a treasure trove of musings, wisdom and knowledge.

2 + 2 = 4

Is life after death incompatible with physics?

Back in 2011, particle physicist Sean M. Carroll wrote a guest blog at Scientific American, dismissing the idea of life after death or the immortality of the soul. He began by responding to astrophysicist Adam Frank's reflections at NPR:
For myself I remain fully and firmly agnostic on the question. If ever there was a place where firm convictions seem misplaced this is it. There simply is no controlled, experimental verifiable information to support either the "you rot" vs. "you go on" positions.

In the absence of said information we are all free to believe as we like but, I would argue, it behooves us to remember that truly "public" knowledge on the subject — the kind science exemplifies — remains in short supply.

Carroll was having none of that!
I have an enormous respect for Adam; he's a smart guy and a careful thinker. When we disagree it's with the kind of respectful dialogue that should be a model for disagreeing with non-crazy people. But here he couldn't be more wrong.

Adam claims that there "simply is no controlled, experimental[ly] verifiable information" regarding life after death. By these standards, there is no controlled, experimentally verifiable information regarding whether the Moon is made of green cheese. --SEAN M. CARROLL, "PHYSICS AND THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL" AT SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (MAY 23, 2011)


Pre-schoolers, puppets and promise: More evidence kids are smarter than you think

bunny rabbit puppet
© elenacastaldi77 / Getty Images
If you are breaking a promise to a child, be sure to have a solid reason.

Pre-school children can tell the difference between a reasonable explanation and cop out when it comes to breaking promises.

In a paper published in Cognitive Development, psychologists from Duke University in the US studied the responses of 64 children, aged three to five, after animal puppets promised to show them a cool toy - and then failed to do so.

Afterwards, the puppets either gave a good excuse for going back on their word ("I had to help my friend with his homework"), a bad excuse ("I wanted to watch TV"), or no explanation at all.


We are at a metaphysical nexus

Back in the 1930s, the British philosopher R. G. Collingwood developed an idea that would puzzle — even anger — his colleagues. Some, like his friend T. M. Knox, even went so far as to suggest that Collingwood's later ideas might have been the product of a deteriorating mind caused by illness.1

What was it that people had such a hard time wrapping their heads around, perhaps even to this day?

Simple. Collingwood believed that when it comes to metaphysics, we should give up our ambition to finally, one day, arrive at the truth. Instead, he held that the metaphysician's job was to uncover and describe the historical evolution of metaphysical thought, including the logic inherent in these developments. While he saw value in the formulation of philosophical systems, he was convinced that they will never be able to pass the test of time and can never be considered true (or false).