Welcome to Sott.net
Fri, 21 Sep 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Wedding Rings

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person (and why it doesn't matter)

It's one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.

Partly, it's because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don't know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: "And how are you crazy?"

Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we're tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody's perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don't care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We visit their families. We look at their photos, we meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we've done our homework. We haven't. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don't know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.

Comment: After penning the above, Alain de Botton was asked for a presentation, in which, as you can see below, he expands the theme in his unique and delightful manner. Highly recommended, for his "counsel and consolation" as he calls it, can be applied to all our relationships, not just our romantic or legally bound ones:


Why boys need their fathers (or at least fatherly role-models): Masculinity becomes toxic only when it's without MEANING

Comment: We're re-running this because it can't be said enough...

© Frank Polich/Reuters
When you spend time with boys and girls, one of the first things you notice is that they're generally profoundly different. I say generally, of course, because there are exceptions to every human behavioral rule. All girls aren't the same. All boys aren't the same. But there are general truths, and those who view the world with honest eyes can see them every day.

I sometimes think back to the week I spent a few years ago chaperoning my daughter's eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. It was like shepherding two different colonies of humans. There was the girl group - quiet, dutiful, occasionally tearful, but handling their drama via text message and social media. Then there was the boy group, best described as a rolling, nonstop low-level brawl. They were constantly pushing, grabbing, and mocking. One could often discern the best friendships by finding the guys who most aggressively attacked each other, verbally and physically.

The patterns - though less pronounced, since everything is less pronounced outside of middle school - persist throughout life. Boys are stronger than girls. They're more physically active, less willing to sit still. They're more aggressive. In many ways, their very nature rebels against the increasing emphasis on order and quiet in American schooling. There is less room for play. There is less room for conflict. There is less room for boys.

Comment: See also:


Living with aphantasia: 'I can't picture things in my mind'

Mia Tomova aphantasia
© Nikolay Doychinov for the Guardian
Mia Tomova: ‘I’m dreadful with directions because I can’t remember landmarks.’
I have a condition called aphantasia where I can't visualise things. When I try to picture my daughter when she's not there, I see nothing

I was seven when, in hindsight, I first questioned my imagination. I remember watching the first Harry Potter film and my friend, who was a huge fan, was complaining that the characters weren't how she imagined them to be. I couldn't understand what she meant because, in my mind, they had never been images at all, just concepts. When I shut my eyes, I see nothing. It is black. I have no visual imagination.

I thought everyone's minds worked this way until about two years ago, when I stumbled across a blog post about aphantasia; a condition where you lack a functioning mind's eye. I was 23, and it blew my mind to learn that others could visualise things. I'd never known any different but it was clear I had aphantasia, too, and a lot of things started to make more sense.

Comment: Can't see images in your mind? You may have aphantasia

Book 2

The wide-ranging, negative consequences of skim reading: We're losing our ability for complex thought and emotion

reading brain
© Sebastien Thibault
‘We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate’ reading brain’
Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don't read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain's ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing - a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.

As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species' brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one's herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential "deep reading" processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading.

This is not a simple, binary issue of print vs digital reading and technological innovation. As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.


Advice for lack of motivation: Give advice, don't seek it

tired depressed
Per traditional self-help narratives, if you can't accomplish your goal, you should ask for advice. Find someone who has successfully landed the job, gotten the promotion, made the grades, achieved the weight loss, or created the financial stability that you want. Tell this person you're struggling. Then do what she says.

According to two leading psychologists, this theory isn't just hackneyed, it's wrong. Their research suggests that the key to motivation is giving advice, not receiving it.

Writing in MIT Sloan Management Review, Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, a Wharton psychologist who studies motivation, and Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science at University of Chicago Booth, explain that psychologists have long known problems related to self-control are connected to a lack of motivation to transform knowledge into action.

"Realizing this, we decided to turn the standard solution to self-control on its head: What if instead of seeking advice, we asked struggling people to give it," write Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach. To answer this question, they conducted a series of experiments that appointed people struggling with self-control to advise others on the very problems they themselves were encountering. The population samples they studied included unemployed adults struggling to find a job, adults struggling to save money, adults struggling with anger management, and children falling behind in school.

"Although giving advice confers no new information to the advice giver, we thought it would increase the advice giver's confidence," they write. "Confidence in one's ability can galvanize motivation and achievement even more than actual ability."

Comment: Another counterintuitive solution that just goes to show the depth psychologists were right all along: we are strangers to ourselves. A great and somewhat ironic example of the above dynamic is Tony Robbins, who became successful by telling other people how to become successful. People tend not to take care of themselves as they should, and they also tend not to enjoy being hypocrites. By forcing yourself to give advice, you adopt a position of responsibility, and tend to become a little more responsible in the process. But keep the caveat in mind: you have to know what you're talking about.


Those who can do, can't teach: A curse of genius

ideas communication
© Leif Parsons
Advice for college students: The best experts sometimes make the worst educators.

If you want to be great at something, learn from the best. What could be better than studying physics under Albert Einstein?

A lot, it turns out. Three years after publishing his first landmark paper on relativity, Einstein taught his debut course at the University of Bern. He wasn't able to attract much interest in the esoteric subject of thermodynamics: Just three students signed up, and they were all friends of his. The next semester he had to cancel the class after only one student enrolled. A few years later, when Einstein pursued a position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the president raised concerns about his lackluster teaching skills. Einstein eventually got the job after a friend vouched for him, but the friend admitted, "He is not a fine talker." As his biographer Walter Isaacson summarized, "Einstein was never an inspired teacher, and his lectures tended to be regarded as disorganized."

Although it's often said that those who can't do teach, the reality is that the best doers are often the worst teachers.


The science on the importance of fathers

father and son retro
© flickr
In 1960, only 10% of children were raised without a father in the home.

Today, 40% are.

There are many reasons behind this sobering statistic. The clichéd case of a man knocking up a woman, and then leaving town never to return certainly still occurs.

But sometimes a man's ex-wife petitions for primary custody of their kids, and sympathetic family courts unjustly grant this request about 80% of the time.

Comment: See also:


Why our heroes always let us down

Ocasio-Cortez tweet
Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is drawing fire from the antiwar left, and not for the first, second or third time. The same leftist contingent which has been energizing Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and elevating her to the public spotlight has been voicing increasing concerns about her antiwar platform temporarily vanishing from her campaign website, about her walking back from her position on the Israeli government's massacring of Palestinian protesters with sniper fire, about her weirdly hawkish criticism of the GOP as being "weak on national security", and her deference to the establishment Russia narrative.

And now, as multiple outlets have documented in articles released in the last few hours, many of Ocasio-Cortez's supporters have been upset with a statement she made praising the recently deceased warmongering psychopath John McCain and his blood-soaked legacy.


Corporate psychopaths threaten us all

Psychopaths Rule our World
© SOTT.net
The agribusiness giant Monsanto has been found guilty in a San Francisco court of concealing its knowledge that its flagship herbicide Roundup can cause cancer. Lawyers for the prosecution showed the jury secret internal documents proving Monsanto executives had known for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient, could cause cancer, despite steadfastly assuring the public that Roundup was safe.

The plaintiff was 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, a former groundkeeper, who suffers from terminal lymphatic cancer after repeatedly using Roundup in his former job.

The jurors found that Monsanto must pay $US39 million in compensatory damages and $US250m in punitive damages, and said Monsanto had acted with "malice or oppression". Johnson's lawyer said the verdict sent a "message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup are over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits". Over 5000 other cases are pending.

People who aggressively market a product in full knowledge that it could potentially cause the deaths of thousands worldwide have no conscience. Such individuals are psychopaths.

Comment: See also:

SOTT Logo Radio

The Truth Perspective: The Strange Order of Things: The Common Roots of Consciousness and Culture

strange order of things
Renowned neuroscientist Antonio Damasio's newest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, makes some revolutionary claims. All organisms with nervous systems have consciousness. Feeling-based images are at the root all human experience. Consciousness would be impossible without feelings, which provide the subjective experience of homeostasis - a biological state of order that aims toward the future. Culture is rooted in feeling and is the complex means by which humanity seeks to survive and thrive within that homeostasis.

Today on the Truth Perspective we discuss Damasio's main arguments, where his genius shines through, and where his thinking is hampered by a philosophy that ultimately cannot account for the phenomena he seeks to explain. With reference to other thinkers and philosophies, we provide an alternative explanation that takes these mysteries seriously - the so-called emergence of consciousness and value, the nature of the individual, and the source of transcendence - and what it means for how we should think about life, our place in the world, and our ultimate responsibilities.

Running Time: 01:34:37

Download: OGG, MP3

Listen live, chat, and call in to future shows on the SOTT Radio Network!