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Sat, 19 Oct 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


New research shows racial bias has its roots in sensory perception

Racial Bias
© Adrian Nakic/Getty Images
Race biases extend as far down as our sensory processes, new research suggests.
People's tendency to perceive members of their own racial group as different to each other and folks from other races as more homogenous could start early in the perceptual process, a new US study has found.

Intergroup bias is a well established psychological phenomenon that can result in stereotyping and discrimination, with real-world impacts ranging from the embarrassment of mixing two people up to the seriousness of selecting the wrong suspect from a police line-up.

But its cause is poorly understood. Brent Hughes, from the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues asked, "Are such mistakes based in errors of recollection and judgement, or do they emerge in the very way that we perceive members of other social groups?"

To test this, they took neural functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of 20 white people aged around 20 years while exposing them to a large set of ingroup (white) faces and outgroup (black) faces that changed gradually in similarity from identical to different.


The four stages of life and the search for meaning and purpose within each

life stages
Life is a bitch. Then you die. So while staring at my navel the other day, I decided that that bitch happens in four stages. Here they are.

Stage One: Mimicry

We are born helpless. We can't walk, can't talk, can't feed ourselves, can't even do our own damn taxes.

As children, the way we're wired to learn is by watching and mimicking others. First we learn to do physical skills like walk and talk. Then we develop social skills by watching and mimicking our peers around us. Then, finally, in late childhood, we learn to adapt to our culture by observing the rules and norms around us and trying to behave in such a way that is generally considered acceptable by society.

The goal of Stage One is to teach us how to function within society so that we can be autonomous, self-sufficient adults. The idea is that the adults in the community around us help us to reach this point through supporting our ability to make decisions and take action ourselves.

But some adults and community members around us suck.1 They punish us for our independence. They don't support our decisions. And therefore we don't develop autonomy. We get stuck in Stage One, endlessly mimicking those around us, endlessly attempting to please all so that we might not be judged.2

In a "normal" healthy individual, Stage One will last until late adolescence and early adulthood.3 For some people, it may last further into adulthood. A select few wake up one day at age 45 realizing they've never actually lived for themselves and wonder where the hell the years went.


You Are Fighting in The Most Important Battle of All Time

corporate media
If you are reading this, it's most likely the result of a series of events in your life which have drawn your interest and attention to the fact that our world is quite a bit different from what we've been told by our school teachers, by the news media, by Hollywood, and by politicians.

At some point, for whatever reason, you've come to realize that the consensus narratives in our society about what's going on are false. The tools that people are taught to use to inform themselves about their government, their nation and their world are not just full of inaccuracies, but deliberate distortions, ranging from the reasons we're given for why wars are started, to the way our political systems work, to where real power and authority actually lies, to the way nations and governments actually behave in the world.

This awareness has come with a degree of alienation. Not buying into the same consensus narratives about the world as your friends, loved ones and peers comes with an inability to relate to them on some levels, which can cause you to feel a lack of intimacy in those areas. You may have also found yourself the odd one out in conversations about politics or other controversial issues, maybe even lost old friends over it.

But you kept going anyway. For some of us, it's more important to be true to the truth than it is to fit in. You're one of those people.


Working with your hands does wonders for your brain

pottery wheel

Activities that use your hands relieve stress and help you solve problems.

I've been working hard on a proposal for a new book. This involves a lot of sitting and thinking. Since I started working on this project, a strange phenomenon has emerged.

I want to clean all the time.

While sitting at my desk, I fantasize about scrubbing things. I long to get at the dirty-ish sliding glass doors that I stare off into space through, while pondering my writing. I cleaned the bathroom last week as a "treat" and got a high from cleaning the tub. It's really weird.

Could this be a new way to procrastinate my writing that my sneaky brain has come up with?

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MindMatters: The Nature of Reality: Mindless Matter, or Universal Consciousness?

What is the nature of reality, and why does it matter? Whether we know it or not, we all have a worldview - a set of very core beliefs and assumptions about the way the world works and our place within it. Sometimes those assumptions work, sometimes they don't, but as long as they are left unexamined, we can't say we've come any closer to actually understanding who we are and what we're doing. That's the great gift that philosophy can give us: a roadmap for meaning.

That doesn't mean it's easy, of course. The number of options on the table is daunting. Is materialism true? Are we just chunks of meat, devoid of any degree of freedom to choose? Are we disembodied minds dreaming up our own existence? Is consciousness fundamental, or an epiphenomenon of a more fundamental, senseless matter? The fact is, our beliefs will influence how we live our lives, whether we know it or not. So why not take a closer look at those beliefs?

Today on MindMatters, we do just that, taking a look at some of the offerings on the philosophical table - including the idealism presented by Bernardo Kastrup in his book, The Idea of the World. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Well, according to the dominant philosophical worldview today - physicalism - the world is still not worth living. So join us as we try to find an alternative that makes life great again - in which meaning and consciousness have a real role to play, and set the stage for the strange and mysterious adventure we call reality.

Running Time: 01:28:21

Download: MP3 — 80.9 MB


'Mystical' DMT compound found in normal brains

Ayahuasca retreat
© Temple of the Way of Light
Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru.
In the past few years, thrill-seekers from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond have been travelling to South America to take part in so-called Ayahuasca retreats. Their goal: to partake in a brewed concoction made from a vine plant Banisteriopsis caapi, traditionally used by indigenous people for sacred religious ceremonies. Drinkers of Ayahuasca experience short-term hallucinogenic episodes many describe as life-changing.

The active ingredient responsible for these psychedelic visions is a molecule called dimethyltryptamine (DMT). For the first time, a team led by Michigan Medicine has discovered the widespread presence of naturally-occurring DMT in the mammalian brain. The finding is the first step toward studying DMT-- and figuring out its role -- within the brains of humans.

"DMT is not just in plants, but also can be detected in mammals," says Jimo Borjigin, Ph.D., of the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Her interest in DMT came about accidentally. Before studying the psychedelic, her research focused on melatonin production in the pineal gland.

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Rene Descartes claimed that the pineal gland, a small pinecone-shaped organ located deep in the center of the brain, was the seat of the soul. Since its discovery, the pineal gland, known by some as the third eye, has been shrouded in mystery. Scientists now know it controls the production of melatonin, playing an important role in modulating circadian rhythms, or the body's internal clock. However, an online search for notes to include in a course she was teaching opened Borjigin's eyes to a thriving community still convinced of the pineal gland's mystical power.


The incredible link between nature and your emotions

hiking outdoors nature
Thirty-five years ago, a young researcher at the University of Delaware conducted a remarkable study. Having spent his childhood sick with kidney disease, in and out of "gloomy, sometimes brutal" hospitals, Roger Ulrich was interested in finding ways to improve "the environments where patients are treated." So he sought to test the potential influence of an old friend that had brought him comfort as a child: a solitary pine that he could view through the window by his sickbed. "I think seeing that tree helped my emotional state," he recalled in an interview decades later.

That small study would give birth to thousands of replications and expansions - and an entire movement in architecture. Ulrich managed to find a hospital ward where, for years, patients had recovered from gallbladder surgery in identical rooms that overlooked either a small stand of deciduous trees or a brick wall. After pouring through nearly ten years' worth of ward records, Ulrich found that patients with a view of the trees fared far better than the miserable patients with nothing but a wall to look at, even if their cases were identical. Those with a view took fewer painkillers, were rated by their nurses as being in better spirits, and, on average, left the hospital nearly a day earlier than those without a view. What was going on?

Comment: See also:

People 2

Jordan Peterson on the Psychological and Social Significance of Identity, and the Danger of 'Gender Fluidity' Indoctrination

Back in September of 2016, I released three videos, expressing my concern about Bill C-16, which was then under consideration by the federal government, following the passage of similar legislation in a number of provinces. C-16 purported to merely add "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. However, it was embedded in a web of policy, much of it created by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which indicated that the bill comprised the tip of a very large iceberg. I was particularly upset with the insistence that failure to use the "preferred pronouns" chosen by individuals whose gender-related identity did not fit neatly, according to their personal judgement, into the standard categories of boy and girl or man and woman would now become an offence punishable by law.

Worse is the insistence characteristic of the bill, the policies associated with it, and the tenth-rate academic dogmas driving the entire charade that "identity" is something solely determined by the individual in question (whatever that identity might be). Even sociologists (neither the older, classical, occasionally useful type, nor the modern, appalling, and positively counterproductive type) don't believe this. They understand that identity is a social role, which means that it is by necessity socially negotiated. And there's a reason for this. An identity - a role - is not merely what you think you are, moment to moment, or year by year, but, as the Encyclopedia Britannica has it (specifically within its sociology section), "a comprehensive pattern of behavior that is socially recognized, providing a means of identifying and placing an individual in society," also serving "as a strategy for coping with recurrent situations and dealing with the roles of others (e.g., parent-child roles)."


The inner nature of freedom

Cranach the Elder Adam and Eve
All the while, that reign of desires savagely tyrannizes and batters a person's whole life and mind with storm's ranging in all directions. On this side fear, on that side desire, on this side anxiety, on that side empty spurious enjoyment, on this side torment over the loss of something loved, on the ardor to acquire something not yet possessed, on this side sorrows over injuries received, on that the burning desire to redress it. Whichever way one turns greed can pinch, extravagance squander, ambition enslave, pride puff up, envy twist, laziness overcome, stubbornness provoke, submissiveness oppress-these and countless others throng the realm of lust, having the run of it.

~St. Augustine, On the Free Choice of the Will
In an earlier article with Ben Burgis, we argued that it was a mistake to claim that the fundamental divide between the political Left and Right was between an emphasis on equality by the former and liberty by the latter. As we put it, almost "everyone values freedom" regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. Or, at least, they profess to do so, although things often turn out quite differently in practice. The primarily political differences, therefore, emerge over how best to realize freedom, and of course, what freedom itself means. Does it simply mean the absence of coercion by state authorities, or should we develop a more substantive conception? Professor Burgis and I defended the latter position.

Here, I want to build upon some of these earlier themes by examining a somewhat different issue. That is: to what extent can an individual be uncoerced by the state, and yet remain unfree? This is, of course, a far more speculative question than the purely political one examined earlier, and I do not intend to answer it here. Instead, I want to show how major figures in philosophy and other disciplines have long acknowledged that freedom is not simply a matter of non-coercion, but has an important inner dimension. In the conclusion, I will briefly spell out the political consequences we might infer from taking such an inner conception of freedom seriously.

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MindMatters: Do You Believe In God? Jordan Peterson on Consciousness and Faith

believe in god
"Do you believe in God?" It's the mother of all loaded questions. What does the questioner really want to know? That you're part of their tribe? Whether or not you're a superstitious simpleton? What do they mean by belief? What do they mean by God? It's not a simple question, and the answer is never so simple as yes or no.

In his recently published talk, "Who Dares Say He Believes in God?", Jordan Peterson gives his reasons for not liking the question. But he goes deeper into the question behind the question than he ever has. What does it really mean to believe in God? What implications does that have for who you must be as a person? And given those implications, who can dare to even utter the words without the fear of God reducing them to a mass of lightning-struck insignificance?

Today on MindMatters we discuss our thoughts on Peterson's talk, bringing out the connections to other streams of philosophy, psychology, and early Christian belief. It turns out that the Apostle Paul probably would have given an answer very similar to Peterson: belief without action is hollow, because a true belief will transform you completely.

Running Time: 01:04:31

Download: MP3 - 59.1 MB