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Sat, 23 Sep 2023
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Scientific American: Social bullying is the best motivator for green behaviour

© Greenbiz/KJN
Be Green or Be Gone
"... social pressure had the strongest effect on behavioral change. Such pressure can take passive forms, ... or more active ones, such as home energy reports that compare our energy use with our neighbors ..."
What Makes People Act on Climate Change, according to Behavioral Science
To get people to shift to more climate-friendly behavior, what works best? Education? Payments? Peer pressure?
By Andrea Thompson on April 19, 2023
Though education can be necessary to make the public aware of a problem in the first place, "we find over and over again that it's not very effective" at actually changing behaviors, says study co-author Magnus Bergquist, a psychologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. It's similar to how knowing that we should exercise more or drink less alcohol doesn't mean we will do so, he explains. "Just knowing what's right, or healthy, or environmentally friendly isn't really a sufficient model for changing behaviors," Bergquist says.

On the flip side, the new research found social pressure had the strongest effect on behavioral change. Such pressure can take passive forms, such as the sight of a larger number of our neighbors adding solar panels to their houses or purchasing electric cars, or more active ones, such as home energy reports that compare our energy use with our neighbors'.
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Can you smell the whiff of Chinese social credit systems - in which the government increasingly becomes involved in bullying people who don't conform to the direction of their leaders?


A new theory of embodied consciousness - Consciousness begins with feeling, not thinking

Forget 'I think therefore I am'. In a new theory of embodied consciousness, the neuroscientists Antonio Damasio and Hanna Damasio propose that feelings are the source of consciousness. Long dismissed as secondary to reason, feelings are where consciousness begins. Without them, consciousness is impossible, they argue - with radical implications for the 'hard problem' of consciousness and the future of AI.
Brain and consciousness
© The Institute of Art and Ideas
Please pause for a moment and notice what you are feeling now. Perhaps you notice a growing snarl of hunger in your stomach or a hum of stress in your chest. Perhaps you have a feeling of ease and expansiveness, or the tingling anticipation of a pleasure soon to come. Or perhaps you simply have a sense that you exist. Hunger and thirst, pain, pleasure and distress, along with the unadorned but relentless feelings of existence, are all examples of 'homeostatic feelings'. Homeostatic feelings are, we argue here, the source of consciousness.

In effect, feelings are the mental translation of processes occurring in your body as it strives to balance its many systems, achieve homeostasis, and keep you alive. In a conventional sense feelings are part of the mind and yet they offer something extra to the mental processes. Feelings carry spontaneously conscious knowledge concerning the current state of the organism as a result of which you can act to save your life, such as when you respond to pain or thirst appropriately.

The continued presence of feelings provides a continued perspective over the ongoing body processes; the presence of feelings lets the mind experience the life process along with other contents present in your mind, namely, the relentless perceptions that collect knowledge about the world along with reasonings, calculations, moral judgments, and the translation of all these contents in language form. By providing the mind with a 'felt point of view', feelings generate an 'experiencer', usually known as a self. The great mystery of consciousness in fact is the mystery behind the biological construction of this experiencer-self.

People 2

A researcher studied the most common last words of suicidal men

Detail of Fallen Angel

Detail of Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel, 1847
*The following contains discussions of suicide and may be triggering to suicide survivors or anyone bereaved by suicide.

When Wellington Lytle checked into a Milwaukee hotel after the 1929 stock market crash, he was down to his last four cents and emptied of hope.

But before he put a revolver to his head, he took out a pen and left the following note:
"My body should go to science, my soul to [Secretary of Treasury] Andrew W. Mellon, and sympathy to my creditors."
Even in his last moments, Lytle wanted his corporeal remains and soul utilized by the world he was leaving. A century later, men still carry this burden — their self-worth is tied to their usefulness.

Today we call these utilitarian men "good providers." And while society ties itself in knots, defining what it means to be a provider, for many men, it comes down to feeling useful.

Unfortunately, when men are asked to lie down in this Procrustean bed, many respond in one of two dangerous ways.


Inside the 'Gateway Process,' the CIA's quest to decode consciousness and unlock time travel

The goal? To convert the energy of your mind and body into a kind of laser beam that can transcend spacetime.
Different Dimensions

In 1983, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Wayne M. McDonnell was asked to write a report for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about a project called the Gateway Process. His report, declassified in 2003, gives the "scientific" underpinnings — as well as instructions and technical assistance — to help people convert the energy of their minds and bodies into a kind of laser beam that can transcend spacetime. The goal was to "gain access to the ... intuitive knowledge which the universe offers," as well as travel in time and commune with other-dimensional beings.

Even more intriguing, one seemingly crucial part of the document, page 25, went missing for 40 years.

Gateway Process
For a lot of people, hearing about this report was right up there with finding out that the CIA had tested clairvoyance as a spying tool, or that U.S. Department of Defense had been secretly collecting data on Unidentified Flying Objects, even as it labeled UFO spotters as crazy. Non-scientists have long been frustrated by scientists claiming the exclusive right to pose implausible theories with impunity. After all, scientists expect to be believed when they say that 95 percent of what's in the universe is invisible, composed of dark matter and dark energy. They say it's conceptually possible that, as in The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, we create new timeline universes through daily decisions. And many lauded scientists embrace string theory, which suggests our universe might be a multi-dimensional hologram.

But when someone tries to apply this information to postulate a deeper meaning behind human existence, many physicists roll their eyes. It's one thing to claim that quantum field theory says the universe comprises multiple energy fields that connect everything; it's another when someone applies that to humans' communing with trees. Scientists' theories are the result of mathematical equations that can be replicated, not human experience, which can be easily faked or imagined. As far as many physicists are concerned, the question "Why are we here?" has the same answer as the question "By what process did we come into being?"

So a project like Gateway that marries science with the human yearning for meaning seemed awfully promising. But, as it turned out, the process was not a gateway between materialistic science and experiential consciousness; it was more like an effort to write a technical manual for the ineffable.


Forbidden Science

Forbidden Science
© Wkipedia
What still belongs to Science and what does not? Who is to decide what is science and what is para-science or pseudo-science? Some kinds of research are welcomed at one university, but not at another. There are respected scientists, some of whom are Nobel Prize winners, who are ostracized, most of the time by gossip, by various covert activities of their colleagues, simply because they dare to ask questions and research phenomena that others consider as "unworthy". I have already mentioned several such cases, one example being the treatment of the "strange interests" of Alfred Wallace by Encyclopedia Universalis.

Someone - we do not know who it was - decided that a major part of the research of a distinguished scientist should be suppressed - the public should not be told about it, that it is better to tell a lie than to tell an inconvenient truth.

Science in Secret?

A friend of mine, a distinguished French scientist, who is interested in many "esoteric" areas, tells me that one should keep these interests to oneself, otherwise one will be punished; covert actions of others will destroy your scientific career; and that is what he does - he will discuss certain things in private, but will never dare to say them in public. What kind of science forces scientists to work in secret, from fear? What kind of society gives birth to that kind of science?

William Crookes

While reading the remarkable autobiography of Alfred Wallace, Darwin's colleague, the co-discoverer - if not the original discoverer of the mechanisms of evolution, I found the following interesting paragraph:
During the years 1870-80 I had many opportunities of witnessing interesting phenomena in the houses of various friends, some of which I have not made public. Early in 1874 I was invited by John Morley, then editor of the Fortnightly Review, to write an article on "Spiritualism" for that periodical. Much public interest had been excited by the publication of the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, and especially by Mr. Crookes's experiments with Mr. Home, and the refusal of the Royal Society to see these experiments repeated. (Italics, mine.)
Who is Mr. Crookes? And what were these experiments that the Royal Society did not even want to witness? Remember: curiosity is a condition "sine qua non" of a true scientist! The Royal Society was not curious? Why? Perhaps the experiments of Mr. Crookes were not worthy of the attention of the learned society, because they did not suggest anything new?


Welcome to the age of average

Komar and Melamid, People’s Choice

Komar and Melamid, People’s Choice

In the early 1990s, two Russian artists named Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid took the unusual step of hiring a market research firm. Their brief was simple. Understand what Americans desire most in a work of art.

Over 11 days the researchers at Marttila & Kiley Inc. asked 1,001 US citizens a series of survey questions.

What's your favourite colour? Do you prefer sharp angles or soft curves? Do you like smooth canvases or thick brushstrokes? Would you rather figures that are nude or clothed? Should they be at leisure or working? Indoors or outside? In what kind of landscape?


Obstacles to gratitude and its life-changing power

George Simon

Comment: The following is the transcript to one video from George Simon's Character Matters series where he tackles what he terms, the biggest issue of our time, character disturbance, i.e. pathology and that what is sorely missing in our modern era is the development of true character.


Hello, I'm Dr. George Simon and welcome to another edition of the new, Character Matters. This is the program where we talk about all things pertaining to character and character disturbances. And over the past couple of programs, we've been talking about, what I term, in the upcoming book on the subject, the second commandment of character which has to do with overcoming any sense of entitlement and developing a profound sense of gratitude and the resulting obligations that come with feeling inherently indebted for the many gifts that we have, that are in fact, unearned.

Now, today I would like to focus a little bit more on some of the impediments that there are - especially in our day and time - to feeling grateful. And the reason I would like to spend some time on it is because the research on gratitude, conducted by several researchers at the University of California at Berkeley - and others in conjunction with the lead investigator Robert Emmons, who has written several books on the topic. The research is very clear. Gratitude, it turns out, is really good for and in many different ways.

Obstacles to Gratitude

These days, in our culture of entitlement, it's very hard to develop any feelings of gratitude. But the research is very clear, gratitude is good for you. And as the rhyming phrase suggests, gratitude is purely a matter of attitude. You don't have to make a laundry list in your mind of all the things that we enjoy and that you can feel grateful about, gratitude is more a pervasive attitude of how to approach life and the totally unearned gift that it is.

Comment: See also:


The win condition: Rethinking one's online life

grafitti usa qanon shaman street culture
© Karwai Tang/WireImage
Can our entanglement with online life be redeemed?

My grandmother carried a book with her for as long as I can remember: The Lives of the Saints. She was deeply religious, a devout Catholic, and would often read to me from the book in the evenings. The story of Saint Barbara, patron of miners, was the one she treasured most. It helped her make her peace with the perils my grandfather faced working in one of Romania's most dangerous coal mines. The powerful example of Barbara's equanimity and martyrdom got her through three major mine collapses, including one in which my grandfather was trapped under the rubble for over a week, had his back broken, and was thought dead until he was miraculously pulled out from next to a ventilation shaft. He had to go back into the mines a few months later. Throughout it all and until the day she died, the figure of Saint Barbara was a comfort and guide to my grandmother.

Though veneration of the saints seems like a world away from most of our current preoccupations, it speaks of a universal human need. This need has been best crystallized in the ideal of the imitation of Christ, but in our time it has been highlighted and explored by thinkers such as René Girard, who propounded the idea that humans are fundamentally mimetic creatures — that our desires are not our own, but the product of the desires of others. We see others seeking an object, a partner, or a lifestyle, and we are entranced. The need for role models, patterns of life, and aspirations are all natural outgrowths of our humanity.


Towards building the American lyceum

american lyceum roman soldier modern background
© Nikolas Joao Kokovlis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
The collapsing of American higher education presents us with a unique and novel opportunity to begin to recover what has been lost, and to revitalize both our heads and our hearts.
"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." — Aristotle
American higher education, in its present form, is completely lost. There is no going back. That much is clear.

From Buckley, to Bloom, to Horowitz, to Sowell, to Boghossian, to Peterson, and others, the gradual degeneration of American academia has been well-documented, and for some time now; its death throes more spastic, comedic, and outlandish with each passing month.

Given the rapid, aggressive, and unremitting bleed-out of the Left's pernicious ideas and ideologies straight from the ivory tower directly into the rest of America's cultural institutions, an otherwise normal attitude of mockery and dismissiveness should now be replaced by one of stark seriousness and righteous indignation. The degeneration of American higher education tracks with the degeneration of the American citizen in general. And a republic lacking in the necessary attributes of proper education and proper citizenship cannot stand for much longer.

Accordingly, for those of us concerned about the next chapter in America's history, both with respect to the culture generally and higher education specifically, the crucial question now in need of proper answering is what comes next?

Eye 2

Reaching for the Mark of the Beast

Monkey to Man to the Machine

Evolution proceeds from Monkey to Man to the Machine
Authorities want to require vaccines in order to buy, sell, or trade. Christians are alarmed. Anyone else with a brain should be, too.

The new totalitarianism is getting a test run in the wake of COVID-19. Across the globe, every person must submit to "health and safety." So long as officials "can save just one life," any draconian policy is justified. In response, millions of Christians are refusing the 'rona vaccine for fear it's the Mark of the Beast. Their refusal has invited waves of weaponized condescension from dogmatic doctors and Rainbow Xians alike.

On September 9, Joe Biden demanded that the entire nation receive the jab — young or old, with or without natural immunity. Addressing unvaxxed Americans, the nominal Catholic warned, "We've been patient. But our patience is wearing thin."

For many Christians of all races and nationalities, the supposed president's aggressive tone carried the weight of prophecy fulfilled. They see present-day history as manifesting the Bible's symbolic structure.

Are they wrong?