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Tue, 29 Nov 2022
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Science of the Spirit


Needle Points: Why so many are hesitant to get the Covid vaccines, and what we can do about it

vaccine caduceus
'Needle Points,' Tablet's exploration into the sources and nature of vaccine hesitancy, is presented in four parts. Chapter I begins below. Continue to Chapter II, III, or IV . To download a free, printer-friendly version of the complete article, click here.

Since my days in medical school, I have had a fascination with the kernel insight behind vaccination: that one could successfully expose a person to an attenuated version of a microbe that would prepare and protect them for a potentially lethal encounter with the actual microbe. I marveled at how it tutors an immune system that, like the brain, has memory and a kind of intelligence, and even something akin to "foresight." But I loved it for a broader reason too. At times modern science and modern medicine seem based on a fantasy that imagines the role of medicine is to conquer nature, as though we can wage a war against all microbes with "antimicrobials" to create a world where we will no longer suffer from infectious disease. Vaccination is not based on that sterile vision but its opposite; it works with our educable immune system, which evolved millions of years ago to deal with the fact that we must always coexist with microbes; it helps us to use our own resources to protect ourselves. Doing so is in accord with the essential insight of Hippocrates, who understood that the major part of healing comes from within, that it is best to work with nature and not against it.

And yet, ever since they were made available, vaccines have been controversial, and it has almost always been difficult to have a nonemotionally charged discussion about them. One reason is that in humans (and other animals), any infection can trigger an archaic brain circuit in most of us called the behavioral immune system (BIS). It's a circuit that is triggered when we sense we may be near a potential carrier of disease, causing disgust, fear, and avoidance. It is involuntary, and not easy to shut off once it's been turned on.

The BIS is best understood in contrast to the regular immune system. The "regular immune system" consists of antibodies and T-cells and so on, and it evolved to protect us once a problematic microbe gets inside us. The BIS is different; it evolved to prevent us from getting infected in the first place, by making us hypersensitive to hygiene, hints of disease in other people, even signs that they are from another tribe — since, in ancient times, encounters with different tribes could wipe out one's own tribe with an infectious disease they carried. Often the "foreign" tribe had its own long history of exposure to pathogens, some of which it still carried, but to which it had developed immunity in some way. Members of the tribe were themselves healthy, but dangerous to others. And so we developed a system whereby anything or anyone that seems like it might bear significant illness can trigger an ancient brain circuit of fear, disgust, and avoidance.


How to master the art of conversation, according to psychology

Every time we catch up with a friend, we share the stories of our lives, from the mundane to the profound. Swapping stories — and especially secrets — helps to create friendships in the first place. Now new research is providing some intriguing insights into how to get that process going, and keep it going — on how best to handle conversations, to turn acquaintances or even strangers into new friends, and new friends into life-long confidantes.

Do talk to strangers...

Back in 2014, a pair of psychologists published a now classic study of Chicago commuters, which found that although our instinct is to ignore strangers, we are happier when we chat to them. Importantly, this was true for introverts as well as extraverts. The researchers also found that the commuters' reluctance to strike up a conversation with a stranger was down to a mistaken belief that strangers wouldn't want to talk to them. In 2021, a team that included Nicholas Epley, one of the authors of the initial paper, published very similar results from a study of train commuters in the London area. Clearly, this phenomenon applies to British people, too. So, go on, next time you're with a stranger, why not try striking up a conversation — it'll probably go better than you think.


Dogs understand many more words than we think

dog high five
Sophie Jacques, Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, came up with some interesting figures on dogs recognizing words. Starting in 2015, she and a colleague
developed a list of 172 words organized in different categories (for example, toys, food, commands, outdoor places) and gave it to an online sample of 165 owners of family and professional dogs. We asked them to select words that their dogs responded to consistently. We found that, on average, service dogs respond to about 120 words, whereas family pets respond to about 80 words, ranging between 15 to 215 words across all dogs. We also found that certain breed groups, such as herding dogs like border collies and toy dogs like chihuahuas, respond to more words and phrases than other breed types like terriers, retrievers and mixed breeds.

Sophie Jacques, "Yes, Your Dog Can Understand What You're Saying — to a Point" at The Epoch Times (January 22, 2022)
There is a practical value to Jacques's work with dogs and language:

Comment: See also: Dogs recognize when humans speak different languages


Breathing: the master clock of the sleeping brain

LMU neuroscientists have shown that breathing coordinates neuronal activity throughout the brain while sleeping and resting.
© IMAGO / Ikon Images / Ian Cuming
While we sleep, the brain is not switched off, but is busy with "saving" the important memories of the day. To do this, brain regions are synchronized to coordinate the transmission of information between them. Yet, the mechanisms that enable this synchronization across multiple remote brain regions are poorly understood. Traditionally, these mechanisms were sought in correlated activity patterns within the brain. However, LMU neuroscientists Prof. Anton Sirota and Dr. Nikolas Karalis have now been able to show that breathing acts as a pacemaker that entrains the various brain regions and synchronizes them with each other.

Breathing is the most constant, enduring, and essential bodily rhythm and exerts a strong physiological effect on the autonomous nervous system. It is also known to modulate a wide range of cognitive functions such as perception, attention, and thought structure. However, the mechanisms of its impact on cognitive function and the brain are largely unknown.


When art transports us, where do we actually go?


The Hunters in the Snow (1565) • Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Courtesy: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
An old Chinese legend tells of the painter Wu Daozi (680-c760), who learned to paint so vividly that he was finally able to step inside his work and vanish into the landscape. Magical though it sounds, this legend iterates the common intuition that artworks are more like portals than ordinary objects: they can transport us into other worlds. When I look at Pieter Bruegel's The Hunters in the Snow (1565), I feel like I was there in the frost-bitten village, rather than the galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. When reading Crime and Punishment (1866), the letters on the page conjure a whole world, and in some sense I am no longer in my living room but right there in Dostoevsky's Russia; the cinema, too, is a gateway to faraway galaxies and past centuries.


Should philosophers censor Kevin MacDonald?

censorship cover eyes
© Canva
According to the mainstream narrative about race, "white supremacy" is an all-controlling social force responsible for bad outcomes such as racial disparities. According to an alternative narrative popular on the far-Right, Jewish influence is a similarly powerful force, which explains outcomes disliked by those on the Right, such as multiculturalism and mass immigration.

Last year, I published a paper in the Israeli philosophy journal Philosophia arguing that both the woke and the far-Right narratives are wrong and rooted in similar errors. I focus on the work of Cal State Long Beach psychologist Kevin MacDonald. MacDonald argues that Judaism is a "group evolutionary strategy," and that Jews were a necessary condition for the triumph of liberalism, which he sees as bad for white gentiles. His approach is similar to that of MSNBC anchors who cherry-pick (real or imagined) examples of racism and then spin fanciful stories about how these isolated cases illustrate a "system" of "white supremacy." MacDonald points to examples of prominent Jews promoting liberalism, ignores prominent liberal gentiles, and claims to find evidence that Jewish liberals are secretly motivated to undermine gentile society for the benefit of their co-ethnics.

In my paper I address three specific false claims made by MacDonald and other advocates of the anti-Jewish narrative: Jews (a) are highly ethnocentric, (b) hypocritically promote liberal multiculturalism for gentiles/Western countries but not for Jews/Israel, and (c) were responsible for liberalism and mass immigration to the US.

Comment: The antidote to the circulation of bad ideas is to debate them, not to censor them. This is how we get to the truth. The worst that could happen is you find out you're wrong.

Black Cat

Breaking the Spell: MindSpace, Trance Warfare, and Neuro Linguistic Programming

brain circuits nlp brainwashing artificial intelligence
"Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.

Bertrand Russell
- The Impact of Science on Society (1951)
This article is for anyone who has found themselves frustrated as they tried to speak with family members, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers about the official covid-19 narrative and pandemic response, only to find any kind of rational discussion nearly impossible. This article is for those who have raised concerns over the totalitarian power grab by governments, only to find a significant portion of people "spellbound," with their stories and identities "reframed" to fit the narrative.

From collective sacrifices for the common good being ritualized in the form of "Zoom calls" among atomized individuals and families kept apart by "lockdowns" to the artfully vague and constantly shifting messaging around "stopping the spread" of a virus with a 99% survival rate, this article will demonstrate the attempts to "reframe" humanity using a new form of mass hypnosis. It will demonstrate how common-sense thinking has come to be seen as morbidly eccentric due to the fact that a significant portion of the population has been reprogrammed using a series of trance-inducing public messaging "incantations." Above all, this article will seek to demonstrate how the spells cast over the last two years may be finally broken and the incantations reversed.


Dogs recognize when humans speak different languages

dog owner reading
© Nenad Stojkovic
Most dog owners out there know their pups are stellar at picking up cues — even very subtle ones. (Especially when it comes to anything having to do with the kitchen.) But a new study from researchers in Hungary shows that dogs are so adept at detecting changes in human behavior they even know when we're speaking a different language. Hopefully their spelling still isn't great though because they get too excited when it's time for a W-A-L-K.

Gizmodo picked up on the new study, which researchers recently published in the journal NeuroImage. The researchers note in their study that "the extent of [dogs'] abilities in speech perception is unknown," and that this study was, in essence, a way to test speech detection and language representation in the canine brain.

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: The Managerial Revolution and the Circulation of the Elites

managerial class
MindMatters is back! On this New Year's episode, we discuss the work of Michael McConkey on the managerial revolution in the West, its relevance for ponerology, and McConkey's new substack "The Circulation of Elites," which discusses all these topics. Tune in for insights on the "new class", why it provides the perfect cover for political psychopaths, the fundamental (but fixable) weaknesses inherent in liberalism, and more.

Running Time: 01:12:43

Download: MP3 — 99.9 MB


Power vs Force: The inevitable collapse of the New World Order

Bohm and Krishnamurthi
© Off-Guardian
When the famous quantum theorist, David Bohm, read Jiddu Krishnamurti's "The First and Last Freedom", he was blown away by his insight and knowledge regarding the phenomenon of the observer and the observed. Despite having no university-level training, much less formal education in the sciences, Krishnamurti had, through his philosophical writings, demonstrated a profound understanding of various concepts related to quantum mechanics.

Krishnamurti, an Indian writer, philosopher and speaker, was, at an early age, taken in by the Theosophical Society and groomed to become the new World Teacher. Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, the leaders of the Theosophical society at the time, nurtured Krishnamurti at their headquarters in Madras.

They, along with a few select associates, undertook the task of educating him, guiding him through mystical teachings and generally 'preparing' him to become the vehicle for 'Lord Maitreya', a highly evolved spiritual being committed to aiding the evolution of mankind.

However, when it came time to 'unveil' Krishnamurti to the world as a great teacher and leader of humanity, Krishnamurti broke all ties with the theosophists, denounced all organised belief, denounced the notion of gurus (and the whole teacher-follower relationship), and devoted himself instead to the pursuit of freedom for both himself and humanity at large.

By the time Bohm had read The First and Last Freedom, Krishnamurti's teachings had developed beyond the point of theosophical influence. Bohm recognized that Krishnamurti's insights were reflected in his own work in quantum theory and felt it urgent to meet with him as soon as possible. Eventually, the two of them did meet face-to-face in London where they exchanged ideas and engaged in rich conversation.

Bohm described his first meeting with Krishnamurti as follows:
I was struck by the great ease of communication with him, which was made possible by the intense energy with which he listened and by the freedom from self-protective reservations and barriers with which he responded to what I had to say."
Bohm recognized his meeting with Krishnamurti as a meeting of minds not unlike that which he felt when talking to other scientists. In fact, he even compared Krishnamurti to Albert Einstein, stating that the two of them "showed a similar intensity and absence of barrier".

Bohm and Krishnamurti met each time they were in London and probed deeply into the nature of time, space and mind. The two of them would inevitably hit on the topic of consciousness and this is where Krishnamurti's insights shined.