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Restoring free speech at our universities

© RagesossYale University
Now that the autumn semester is well underway, it is worth asking whether students have a chance to participate in free and open debate. The short answer is "No, they don't." They don't have a chance to explore unpopular ideas and controversial opinions. They are "protected" from ideas that might make them uncomfortable. What's being stifled here is more than speech. It's their education and, with it, their preparation to live in a tolerant society, where fellow citizens hold different views.

As Hanna Holborn Gray, one of America's finest university presidents, once observed:
"Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom."
She was absolutely right.


The Betrayal of the Intellectuals

The opportunity that I had to study at Yale College as an undergraduate and later at Harvard University for my Ph.D., the chance I had to wander among the gothic buildings, to imbibe confidence and purpose, and to learn to think, learn how things work, from distinguished scholars, was a point of stubborn pride for me when I started my career as a professor, but that legacy had devolved into a nightmare, into a travesty.

I watched up close how the thoughtful and insightful men and women who were my classmates at Yale and Harvard, who were my colleagues as a professor, responded to the horrific institutional decay of the United States over the past two decades. Sadly, although I remember fondly the moments of deep insight and kind exchanges of those good old days, I observed how they, as intellectuals, as lawyers, doctors, engineers, executives, professors and government officials, how they betrayed their fellow citizens and buried the wisdom they had obtained at those temples of learning deep in the excrement of fraud and hypocrisy.

You see, they forgot the entire point of that elite education they had received. It was not supposed to be something you boasted about, or that you possessed like a yacht[P1] or a racehorse, a special key that got you into the club. No! That sort of thinking is the outgrowth of deep moral decay.

That education was a privilege alright, but one that brought with it an absolute obligation to serve society, to stand up bravely for the interests of the nation, and above all for the interests of those who have not had the opportunity to learn how the system works, to study about science and technology, about foreign lands and ancient things.


New research suggests psychedelic drugs can be almost as life altering as near-death experiences

oobe out of body experience
© sezer66/ShutterstockPsychedelic trips and near-death experiences share some common features.
Occasionally, people who suffer intense turmoil and trauma undergo a profound change. They feel a new sense of wellbeing, purpose and appreciation of life. Their relationships become more authentic and intimate. They feel as if they've woken up and are living in a more intense way.

In my recent book Extraordinary Awakenings, I show that transformation often follows bereavement, cancer diagnosis, a period of depression or addiction or time in prison. However, I've found the most transformational event human beings can have is a near-death experience (NDE), when a person either comes extremely close to death or dies for a short time.

I was fascinated to read a recent new study, comparing the transformational effects of NDEs and psychedelics, conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.

Comment: See also:

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SOTT Focus: MindMatters: Trans-ing Reality: From Transhuman Flesh to Transcendent Spirit

Materiality. Spirituality. Pathology. Normal healthy behavior. All came to the fore recently in the story about the Canadian trans teacher who came to his class wearing gigantic prosthetic breasts complete with shirt-popping plastic nipples. What does this behavior say about him that he would chose to express himself in such a way? And what does his inner makeup have in common with the other 'trans' currently making societal waves these days - transhumanism?

Join us this week as we take a look at the trans trends that seem so at odds with higher values, the inclinations of which seem to serve our very worst potentialities as individuals. And moving on from the transhuman delusion, we contrast the flesh to the spirit, with one of Luc's latest writings as inspiration.

Running Time: 01:10:47

Download: MP3 — 97.2 MB


New research demonstrates that political ideology can taint logical reasoning

brain gears materialism
New research provides additional evidence that political ideology can interfere with logical reasoning. The findings, published in the scientific journal Thinking & Reasoning, shed light on how politically motivated reasoning impacts the ability to correctly evaluate syllogisms.

A syllogism is a kind of logical argument that applies deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion based on two propositions that are asserted or assumed to be true. ("All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.") Syllogisms can be valid or invalid, depending on whether the conclusion follows logically from the premises. Importantly, the validity of a syllogism depends on the form of the argument, not on the truth of the premises.

"I have always been interested in the psychology behind political opinions and how people judge whether a politically laden statement is true or false. Studying the ability to identify logically valid conclusions on policy issues felt particularly important in the supposedly post-truth world we live in," explained study author Julie Aspernäs, a PhD Student at Linköping University in Sweden.

Comment: It's not a surprising conclusion: ideology short-circuits reasoning.

People 2

The triumph of the blank state

2 on bench
© Relationship InstituteDifferences between Men and Women
As a depressive conservative who always sneered at the new atheist movement, I've enjoyed a certain, almost masochistic smugness about the way the sharp decline in American religious practice has led to a proliferation of wacky beliefs. I told you so, I laugh, as our boat heads for the rocks and certain doom for all of us. And every month I read something else in the media which makes me think, with the best will in the world and a sincere belief in improving our lot, that country's ruling class is losing its grip on reality.

To take one example, an article in the Atlantic recently made the case:
'Separating sport by sex doesn't make sense, because it 'reinforces the idea that boys are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger than girls in a competitive setting — a notion that's been challenged by scientists for years.'
The author stated that 'though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don't know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.'

Comment: 'Preparing' human minds for AI, perhaps?


How to avoid a hybrid Orwellian-Huxleyian dystopia

Guy Fawkes mask
One thing I've learned along the way of my explorations into the human condition is that, when we get chronically stuck in defensive nervous system states (fight, flight, fawn or freeze), we tend to become more: self-centred; manipulative; self-delusional; able to self-justify wrong-doing; resistant to admitting we are wrong, even to ourselves; resistant to backing down or apologising; prone to constructing own self-supporting narratives; unable to listen to advice from others or to understand different points of view; incapable of affinity, compassion or empathy.

After all, the purpose of these defensive states is self-preservation, which includes the preservation of sense-of-self, identity, and belief systems.

I feel that similar conclusions about defensive states carry over at a larger scale, at the institutional level, see: Trauma at the Institutional Level.

Heart - Black

The types of coerced

When coercion is applied to information or belief, people can tend to react in a set of predictable ways, some with differences, causes and effects that aren't immediately obvious. I've found it useful to categorize them. You might find these categories useful descriptors for those around you as well.

Type 0 - The Indifferent

A person who believes something and has little to no doubts about it because they are generally incurious, underinformed, and unconcerned with the area of information, logic or experience that might lead them to know they are being deceived. As many deceptions one might face are identifiable as a likely deception using only one's own life and past experience, the type 0 won't likely be very introspective. No coercion is therefore necessary.

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Boys and men experience more social isolation than girls and women, study finds

social isolation
A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior has found that boys and men experience more social isolation than girls and women, with this difference disproportionately affecting the unmarried, or individuals with disrupted relationship histories. Further, levels of social isolation increase from adolescence through later life for both genders.

Social isolation - the objective state of having limited social relationships or contact with others - is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes, as well as increased risk of mortality. In this work, Debra Umberson and colleagues pursue two research questions. First, whether there are gender differences in social isolation and its trajectories from adolescence to older adulthood. Second, whether gender differences are dependent on marital or partnership histories.

This research used data from two longitudinal studies, including the Add Health, and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Add Health followed U.S. adolescents between grades 7-12 in 1994-1995, with 5 interviews between 1995 and 2018. The HRS is an ongoing biannual survey that was launched in 1992, including adults born between 1931-1941, and their partners of any age. Every 6 years, a cohort of adults ages 50-55 are added to the study. The total sample of the current work included 12,885 women and 9271 men.


Dark personality traits linked to a greater desire to enhance oneself using technological methods

brain graphic exploding
© Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
People with dark personality traits are more likely to want to enhance their brain power with futuristic technologies, according to new research published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

"Enhancement of human abilities has been a prominent topic throughout human history, but has received little attention from psychological research," said study author Elena Schönthaler of the University of Graz.

"Nowadays, thanks to advanced technology, there are significantly more possibilities and means to optimize one's abilities. Finding out who would use enhancement methods has thus become an urgent question to answer. Our research aimed to shed more light onto individual differences, personality traits, and inner values of those who would enhance themselves using technological methods or devices."

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