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Wed, 29 Nov 2023
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The human condition: An unsolvable equation

sky water
© L.P. Koch
It is the classic dispute between conservatives and liberals: the question of the role of morality and the regulation of human behavior, whether by secular law, religious law, or social enforcement. A depressing issue it is, I would argue, because there seems to be no solution.

Simone Weil describes the two ends of the spectrum between laissez-faire liberalism and moral-cohesion-by-force as "Rome" and "Israel" respectively, where Rome stands for complete materialist decay — the proverbial morass of the decadent and godless late empire — while Israel stands for an authoritarian theocracy that micromanages people's every move.1

Both scenarios seem very unappetizing.


Once more on renowned fool Emily 'pandemic amnesty' Oster and the malign influence of Head Girls more generally

pandemic amnesty

That ratio though: Our governing elite are increasingly selected not for intelligence or ability, but for conscientiousness, agreeability and conformity. The consequence is a new kind of midwit tyranny.
Alas, Emily Oster's proposal that we just forget and forgive the pandemic insanity of the past few years has pleased no one. This is partly because her op-ed is tone deaf and stupid, of course, but it's probably also down to Emily Oster herself, and a growing cultural exhaustion with the kind of person she represents. Oster is, in the terminology of Bruce Charlton, an almost archetypal Head Girl — the typical "all-rounder" who "performs extremely well in all school subjects" and "is excellent at sports," while being "pretty, popular, sociable and well-behaved":
The Head Girl will probably be a big success in life, in whatever terms being a big success happens to be framed .... But the Head Girl is not, cannot be, a creative genius.

Modern society is run by Head Girls, of both sexes ... Modern colleges aim at recruiting Head Girls, so do universities, so does science, so do the arts, so does the mass media, so does the legal profession, so does medicine, so does the military...

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Color is in the eye, and brain, of the beholder

The way we see and describe hues varies widely for many reasons: from our individual eye structure, to how our brain processes images, to what language we speak, or even if we live near a body of water.

© Knowable Magazine
Color may seem like a physical reality, but our perception of it is shaped by everything from biology to psychology to culture and language.
What color is a tree, or the sky, or a sunset? At first glance, the answers seem obvious. But it turns out there is plenty of variation in how people see the world — both between individuals and between different cultural groups.

A lot of factors feed into how people perceive and talk about color, from the biology of our eyes to how our brains process that information, to the words our languages use to talk about color categories. There's plenty of room for differences, all along the way.

For example, most people have three types of cones — light receptors in the eye that are optimized to detect different wavelengths or colors of light. But sometimes, a genetic variation can cause one type of cone to be different, or absent altogether, leading to altered color vision. Some people are color-blind. Others may have color superpowers.

Our sex can also play a role in how we perceive color, as well as our age and even the color of our irises. Our perception can change depending on where we live, when we were born and what season it is.

To learn more about individual differences in color vision, Knowable Magazine spoke with visual neuroscientist Jenny Bosten of the University of Sussex in England, who wrote about the topic in the 2022 Annual Review of Vision Science. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


The crucial link between thought and feeling

Thoughts and feelings

Changing your mind can change everything
On the one hand, it is useful to distinguish between what we think and what we feel.

Thinking about the world is different from feeling pain after an injury; making plans is different from feeling joy at the sight of the first flowers blooming at the onset of spring.

From another perspective though — these are not mutually exclusive — it might be useful to look at thought and feeling as a unity.

Perhaps we can think of both as movements of the mind: in that picture, thinking and feeling are united by the primacy of mind.


Shoot That Arrow: Cleaning up your inner thought world for a lasting form of happiness

© L.P. Koch
Every change, every form of growth, has to do with our minds. As does every form of misery and suffering.

It is a rather sad state of affairs, then, that we modern people are seldom taught the crucial art of mind-ninjadom: the conscious and deliberate management of our thoughts. Indeed, we are not even taught that such a thing is possible.

Thoughts are so important that the only way to re-integrate hardened criminals into society, and essentially turn them into somewhat decent human beings, is a form of hardcore thought therapy over long time spans.1 In these interventions, the "therapist" ruthlessly corrects the criminal's thought world by making him aware again and again of the pathology of his reasoning. But even that only works in relatively few cases because, as with all therapy, the subject must show at least a minimal desire for change, which is typically not the case for example with more psychopathic individuals.

Comment: The reader may also find this book interesting.


Researchers ease nightmares by manipulating emotions in dreams


Epidemiological studies have found that up to 4% of adults have chronic nightmares at any given moment, a condition often associated with waking up during the night and lower-quality sleep.
Summary: Rehearsing positive versions of frequent nightmares before sleep and playing noises associated with positive daytime experiences during sleep helps reduce nightmare frequency, a new study reports.

Source: Cell Press

Nightmares, those fearful memories that re-emerge in dreams, can sometimes become regular occurrences, visiting people multiple times a week for months on end.

In therapy, dreamers may be coached to rehearse positive versions of their most frequent nightmares; however, in a study of such patients published October 27 in the journal Current Biology, researchers in Switzerland take this a step further.

Blue Pill

The quiet desperation of woke fanatics

protesters soup
© Just Stop Oil
Protesters with “Just Stop Oil” after throwing tomato soup at Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”
London, October 14, 2022
"The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves. They separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause."
— Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
Over the last few weeks, climate activists in Britain have blocked highways (because cars emit carbon dioxide), poured milk onto the floors of supermarkets (because livestock emits methane), and thrown tomato soup at Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" (because climate change is more important than art. Or something). The activists are a kind of reboot of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) climate protests in the UK in the fall of 2019.

People in the UK are at risk of dying from natural gas shortages. Still, the climate activists with "Just Stop Oil" think it's outrageous that their government is desperately trying to produce more natural gas for its people. But without more natural gas, there could be three-hour-long blackouts, which threaten the operation of medical equipment, and thus the lives of vulnerable people.


No, Lobaczewski wasn't a genocidal crackpot: A response to Ramon Glazov's review of Political Ponerology - Part 1

The Preaching of the Antichrist

“The Preaching of the Antichrist” by Luca Signorelli
So far the only remotely in-depth and critical review of Political Ponerology I've found is this one, from the keyboard of Ramon Glazov, written in 2020: "(((Bearded schizoidal fanatics))): pathologising character in the Trump era." I haven't run across Glazov before, but according to his bio he has written for Jacobin.

Some of Glazov's criticisms are valid. Most are not. Some are not even criticisms but rather knee-jerk emotion expressed in a verbalistic form. It's not a particularly good or serious review, but it's all there is, and I'm feeling argumentative, so join me as we journey into the weeds. In this post I'll cover the first part of the review, which I'll respectfully call the ad hominem section. In the next I'll respond to his criticism of the actual book.

Right out of the gate, Glazov's tone is sarcastic — the type which assumes a familiarity of feeling with the reader, a shared eye-roll, as if to say, "WE know this guy is crazy — am I right? It goes without saying." Well, I'll have some sarcasm of my own along the way.
Suppose that, riding the tram, you meet an elderly gentleman who claims to have been a psychologist in the old country and wants to tell you about a startling new truth he has discovered about history and world politics.


Myth versus ideology: Why free market thinking is nonideological

man throwing discus
I'll begin with a provocative thesis: socialism is ideological and free market thinking, while involving myth, is nonideological. I will show why socialism is ideological and why free market thinking involves myth but is nonideological by defining the terms myth and ideology and distinguishing them from each other.

The term "myth" has several connotations. The most common connotation today is that myth represents false belief. Thus, we see many uses of the term myth in which some myth or other is figured as something to be debunked. We can point to hundreds of titles in which the word myth signifies a belief that is mistaken and which the article or book aims to overthrow with evidence and reasoning. When entering "the myth of" into the search field on Amazon.com, for example, titles beginning with the phrase are suggested, including The Myth of Normal, by Gabor Mate; The Myth of American Inequality, by Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund et al.; The Myth of Closure, by Pauline Boss, and so on. Running the same search in an internet search engine yields similar results but includes articles on the myth of this or that, including a recent article by American Pravda (the New York Times), entitled "They Legitimized the Myth of a Stolen Election — and Reaped the Rewards," referring to the Congresspersons who sought to block the supposedly legitimate results of the 2020 election.

But one will also find, in both searches, titles like The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus; The Myth of Eternal Return, by Mircea Eliade; The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic, by Douglas Frame; and others. Or in a search engine one finds discussions of various Greek myths in encyclopedias and on YouTube. Clearly, these latter uses of the term myth are different from the usage in the debunking books and articles. Myth in this other sense draws on a different meaning. The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus is not an argument against the myth itself. Rather, myth in this sense connotes a kind of tale that conveys a truth, an aspiration, or a means of making sense of experience. It is a structuring device for seeing order, patterns, possibilities, probable outcomes, and so on. Myth in this sense also includes lessons to be learned and kept in mind when crafting a life or life mission. The myth of Icarus is a tale about human hubris, for example. The story of the Garden of Eden is generally understood in such terms — as a myth about seeking to be like God. The sinking of the Titanic has been seen in terms of such Greek myths as Icarus and other tales of human hubris.

It is this latter sense of myth that I use here — of myth as a means by which we structure experience, find meaning, and craft the trajectories of our lives.


Pre-Crime Landmark Success

Future society
© unknown
ARPA-H Releases stunning new data on the PC program, eliminating 92% of all domestic terrorism.

New York, May 25, 2032:

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) has announced a significant landmark event in its war against terrorism. In a massive undertaking, assisted by DARPA, DOJ, DOD, FBI, CCP and private sector partners, ARPA-H has just revealed that it's pre-crime program has prevented 92% of all potentially fatal domestic terrorist acts. From mass school shootings in major cities to homicides in sleepy country towns, the national program is being hailed a huge success. Over 1,026 terror attacks have been averted.

"We couldn't be more pleased," announced ARPA-H director Belinda Doors at today's press conference. "The data proves that our PC methodology and the swift action of the Department of Justice has saved hundreds, possibly thousands of lives, in the last 12 months," she said.

"Preemptive strikes to the very heart of terrorism works! Today we have irrefutable evidence that crime has been brought to its knees because of the PC program," announced the Attorney General via Zoom.

What started as an idea at the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) known as Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes (SafeHome) in the early 2020s, has now matured into what we know today as Pre-Crime (PC).

Comment: Snapshot of the future? 'Woke up' everybody: Dystopia is already here.