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Continuing from the meeting on[masked]... In my 2008 book, I argue that a secession procedure should have been included in the United States constitution on both theoretical and practical grounds. The theoretical ground is to affirm the self-determination principle of the declaration of independence, while the practical ground is to avoid the unsatisfactory results of unilateral secession, the worst result being war. To make this idea concrete, I present a secession article. I go on to argue that had the constitution provided a sound secession procedure, probably few states would have seceded, and there probably would have been no war. I also discuss the question of why no secession procedure was included in the constitution. In this meeting we'll discuss these issues of profound import to our understanding, not only of American history and American governance, but of governance in general. The organized meeting will last till about 4 or 5, as per group preference as we're proceeding with our discussion. You can leave whenever you want to. I've reserved the room till 5:45 for whoever might like to stay for informal conversations. Feel free to bring a non-alcoholic beverage that won't stain and that is in a container with a lid in order to minimize the chance of spills. I'm responsible for damage to the room.
The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud is famous for promoting the idea that most mental activity is unconscious, and today most people think that Freud introduced this idea into our understanding of the mind. In fact, in 1870 the internationally eminent British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley published a brief theory of automaticity in Body and Mind. Maudsley's goal was to establish the theory of mental activity on a scientific basis so that psychiatrists would think scientifically about mental activity just as scientists think scientifically about the subject matters of their fields of study. Maudsley wanted to rid the theory of mind of its pre-scientific vestiges, just as biologists and biochemists were ridding biology of the concept of vitalism. Unfortunately, when Freud published his theories a few decades after Body and Mind, rather than building competently on Maudsley's theory, Freud did what Maudsley had explicitly eschewed in Body and Mind: Freud added needless complexity to the theory of mind. All that we need in order to understand the unconscious activity of the mind is to take Maudsley's idea of automaticity and develop it competently. I present such a theory of the mind in my book Why Human Life Makes Sense, Edition 2 (2012), which, by the way, I developed before I discovered Maudsley's work. Here is a summary of relevant facets of the model of the mind that I developed. Volitional unit vs. automatic unit The mind has four basic components or units: volitional, automatic, sensory, and motor. The sensory unit brings sensory signals to the mind, while the motor unit carries motor signals to the body. The automatic unit processes information automatically, without direct volitional control, while the volitional unit processes information intentionally, under direct volitional control. Automatic processing is unconscious and decentralized, while volitional processing is conscious and centralized. The automatic unit manages the ongoing, life support processes of our body, such as causing our heart to beat and our lungs to breathe. The automatic unit also stores all of the information that we learn. By contrast, the volitional unit supervises the cognitive processing that we intentionally decide to do. The dual roles of the automatic unit and the volitional unit in the learning process are well summarized in the following adage: Practice makes perfect The volitional unit guides the practicing of some skill, such as playing a C chord on the guitar, while the automatic unit learns how to perform the respective skill. With sufficient practice, the skill becomes automated so that if we wish to perform it, say, playing a C chord, we only need to decide to play the chord, and the automatic unit will cause our fingers to efficiently play the chord without the volitional unit having to intentionally guide our fingers. This is the way that all of our skills — thinking, speaking, acting — are learned and refined. Although volitional, conscious processes are relatively slow, automatic, unconscious processes can become very fast with sufficient practice. Reason vs. intuition We know what reasoning consists of, but what is intuition? Intuition seems mysterious, yet we know that it is an integral and essential facet of our cognitive processing. So what it is? Intuition is nothing more than results produced by the automatic unit of our mind, and this explains the mystery. Automatic processing is unconscious, so our intuitive insight seems mysterious, almost magical, coming from nowhere — a sixth sense. But, in fact, it is the result of the extensive learning and skill-development that we have engaged in throughout our life. To illustrate, suppose that you are in a life-threatening situation of some kind, say, a tornado. Whose intuition would you trust more: the intuition of someone having years of experience with tornados, or the intuition of someone without any such experience? Conscience What is conscience? Conscience is our intuition pertaining to moral issues. Thus, our conscience is the result of innate propensities and learning, so the particulars of conscience vary from person to person. Here is our meetup on this topic: Should you trust your conscience? http://www.meetup.com/Why-human-life-makes-sense/events/136622822 Faith What is religious faith? Western religions base their claim of truth, not on reason, but on faith. According to such teaching, faith provides direct insight into the truth of the respective religion. What is faith? Faith is just intuition pertaining to religious matters. Hence, faith is the result of innate propensities and learning, so the ostensible insights of faith vary from person to person. Here is our meetup on this topic: Where does religious faith come from? http://www.meetup.com/Why-human-life-makes-sense/events/138411362 Emotion I think that the simplest way to understand emotion is that it is psychological energy that can be realized in different forms just as light can be realized in different colors. Thus, we have emotional colors such as love, joy, sorrow, anger, hatred, sexual passion, etc. But these are only extremes of realization. We live with an ongoing ambient realization of psychological energy that underlies our ongoing daily motivation to live and to be productive. Men vs. women We can now understand the overall difference between men and women. Note that by overall difference I mean the frequency distribution for men vs. the frequency distribution for women. For example, when plotted, the frequency distribution for the height of men lies largely to the right of the frequency distribution for the height of women, but there is overlap because some women are taller than some men. Based on my experience in life, I think that men tend to use explicit reasoning more than women do. Complementing this, I think that men tend to trust the results of explicit reasoning more than women do, while women tend to trust intuition more than men do. What does emotion have to do with this difference between men and woman? Nothing. The association of emotion with this difference in cognitive preference is a fallacy that is inadvertently conveyed in use of the word feeling. The word feeling is used to refer both to intuition and to emotion, and this is where the confusion lies. If someone says, "I feel that we should take the freeway," the word feel does not refer to emotion but to intuition. I think that once the concepts of emotion and intuition are accurately understood, there is no reason to believe that women are more emotional than men are. There are differences between men and women in the expression of emotion, but I think that these differences are largely due to cultural norms. For example, it is more acceptable for a man to express strong anger than for a woman to express strong anger. I think that part of the reason for this is that a man's lower voice and larger body enable him to express strong anger more effectively than a woman can. As another example, at a memorial service for a person, it is more acceptable for a woman to cry publicly than it is for a man to cry publicly. In our culture, it is expected that a man will suppress the expression of sorrow sufficiently to prevent public crying, while it is acceptable if a woman does not. Here is our meetup on this topic: Are women more emotional than men? http://www.meetup.com/Why-human-life-makes-sense/events/135475642 Developing a relation When two people are trying to develop a close friendship with each other, it is similar to their trying to walk together at the same pace through a range of walking situations. The difficulty in achieving this will vary from pair to pair due to similarities and differences in their personalities and their life experiences. As such a friendship successfully develops, what happens over time may be characterized in terms of practice makes perfect, for it is the result of the automatic unit of each person's mind learning how to keep stride with the other person so that keeping stride becomes automatic and seems natural. The closer the friendship, the greater the skill is of both people's automatic units in keeping stride. A deeply satisfying marriage exemplifies the ultimate in such achievement. Meeting format At the meeting, I'll briefly present my model of the mind, using figures from my book. Then we'll have an open discussion about the ramifications of the model in understanding the many relevant issues of human cognition and human behavior, including conscience, religious faith, and gender differences. The organized meeting will last till about 4 or 5, as per group preference as we're proceeding with our discussion. You can leave whenever you want to. I've reserved the room till 5:45 for whoever might like to stay for informal conversations. Feel free to bring a non-alcoholic beverage that won't stain and that is in a container with a lid in order to minimize the chance of spills. I'm responsible for damage to the room. The Montlake library is located at the NW corner of 24th and McGraw. To avoid a two-hour parking limit, park in one of the following locations: library parking lot (small and cramped, enter from 24th); directly in front of library on 24th (parallel parking); directly across McGraw to south (diagonal parking); on 22nd from Lynn south (parallel parking).
At the meeting on volitional processes (http://www.meetup.com/Why-human-life-makes-sense/events/193576252), the topic of sleep arose during the discussion. I presented some info about sleep that I had learned from Craig Heller's Teaching Company course on sleep. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/secrets-of-sleep-science-from-dreams-to-disorders.html In this meeting, I will present more info about sleep from Heller's course. Regarding the topic of dreaming, I have the following insights from my own analysis. It is commonly said that we dream while we sleep and that if we awaken during a dream, we will remember the last part of the dream. The earlier part of the dream will be lost. This commonplace understanding of dreaming contains a contradiction, as follows. Dreaming, here, is understood in terms of the conscious experience of dreaming. But while we are asleep, we are unconscious, so it is a contradiction to say that we dream while we sleep. Meeting format I will present info about sleep from Heller's course, along with my theory of dreaming. We'll interleave discussion with my presentation as people wish to.
In December last year (2015), Pope Francis made the following statement — referring to devout religious people: “We all worship the same God.” In view of this statement, it is worth asking if the pope is in the process of destroying Christianity. To set the context for this analysis, let’s consider the historical background of western religion. Historical background By the 500s BCE, Zoroastrianism had developed in Persia. Zoroastrianism was the first of the family of Near Eastern monotheist religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Zoroastrianism introduced, what would become, four defining features of western religion: Monotheism Cosmic antagonist to God — Satan in Judaic terms Dichotomous afterlife — heaven vs. hell in Judaic terms Apocalypticism — ultimate victory of God over Satan In the mid 500s BCE, the Persians began their conquest of the Near East under Cyrus the Great. Cyrus established the Persian legacy of benevolent rule, allowing the peoples that the Persians conquered to maintain their way of life, including their religions. In the early 500s, the kingdom of Judah had been conquered by Babylon, and much of the Jewish population had been taken into captivity to Babylon. But after the Persians conquered Babylon, they allowed those Jews who wished to return to Palestine to do so in order restore their way of life and their temple. This is conveyed in the Judaic Bible — the Christian Old Testament. Zoroastrian influence spread throughout the Near East as the Persian empire spread, and by the time of Christ, the four Zoroastrian concepts cited above were integral to some Judaic sects, in particular the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a family-oriented and community-oriented sect, contrasting with the Sadducees, who were the elite caretakers of the official religion. In this role, the Sadducees had, by now, adopted the ideas of monotheism and Satan, but they had not adopted the idea of afterlife, as conveyed in the New Testament. After the Roman empire destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 CE — the magnificent temple built by Herod — the role of the Sadducees vanished. What remained viable of Judaism was the Pharisaic movement, which, in time, developed into Rabbinic Judaism. Having considered the development of Zoroastrianism and Judaism, let’s turn to Christianity and Islam. Today, our highest attribution for someone of great achievement is that they are a genius. Literally, genius is ability conferred by a genie. At the time of Christ — when polytheism was prevalent — the highest attribution for someone of great achievement was that they were a god, with a lower attribution being son of a god. Christians were originally Judaic monotheists, so referring to Jesus as a son of God made sense, but how could they refer to Jesus with the highest attribution, namely, that he was a god? To accommodate this highest attribution, Christians conceived of Jesus as God incarnate. Eventually the idea of trinity was developed, in which God has three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. In the mid 600s, Islam developed in Arabia. Muhammad claimed that Islam superseded and fulfilled Judaism and Christianity. This claim followed the example of Christianity, which claimed to supersede and fulfill Judaism. With the emergence of Islam, there were now four Near Eastern monotheist religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The warriors of Islam soon conquered much of the Near East and north Africa. But Muhammad and his followers knew nothing of the relation of Zoroastrianism to Judaism because Judaic teachings said nothing about the relation. This may have been intentional, on the part of Jewish scholars, in order to elevate the status of Judaism, showing no dependence on another religion. As a result, when the Muslim warriors ran into Zoroastrians, they persecuted them as worshipers of a false religion. Due to this persecution, when the Muslim warriors conquered Persia from the west, the Zoroastrians largely fled east to India, which today has the largest Zoroastrian population. Theology Given the four fundamental concepts of western religion cited at the outset, how do we distinguish theologically among Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? The primary concern of each religion is the means for getting to heaven when you die. Nothing else matters more because you definitely don’t want to end up in hell. In all religions — with one exception — the means for getting to heaven is a combination of belief and behavior. The one exception is Protestant Christianity, which takes its teaching from Paul’s letters in the New Testament: salvation does not depend at all on behavior, only on belief. Why? Because, according to Paul, Jesus died to make it possible for people to obtain salvation, and no meritorious behavior of a person could possibly add anything of value to the death of the sinless Son of God. Do we all worship the same God? Returning to the theme of Pope Francis, do “we all worship the same God”? More specifically, do followers of the four monotheist religions all worship the same God? Christianity is distinct from the others because, according to Christianity, Jesus is God incarnate and, as such, provides the means of salvation. But Christianity understands itself as a fulfillment of Judaism by augmenting Judaism with the role of Jesus as both Jewish Messiah and as the means of salvation. By contrast, Islam explicitly rejects the idea of the incarnation of God in Jesus, so not only does Islam espouse a different means of salvation, Muslims consider Christians to be idolaters in worshiping Jesus as God incarnate. In fact, Muslims consider Christians to be polytheists due to the trinity. Here is a link to an article on this topic by Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim who became a Christian: http://rzim.org/global-blog/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god Note that, due to the Islamic death sentence for apostates, Qureshi risks his life in promoting Christianity: http://www.meetup.com/Why-human-life-makes-sense/messages/boards/thread/49412025/0#[masked] Presumably, Zoroastrians have a similar attitude toward Christianity as do Muslims, but I don’t know enough about Zoroastrian theology to say for sure. Is the pope destroying Christianity? It seems to me that the pope is destroying Christianity for two reasons. First, with regard to theology, in saying that “we all worship the same God,” the pope is destroying the uniqueness of Christianity, namely, the incarnation of God in Jesus and the role of Jesus in salvation. Second, with regard to practicality, in saying that “we all worship the same God,” the pope is destroying the uniqueness of Christianity, and, hence, the appeal of Christianity. Why bother to become a Christian if you can just as well become a member of some other religion — or no religion — and worship the same God? Finally, while I believe that the pope is destroying Catholic Christianity, I have no doubt that conservative Protestants will remain steadfast in holding to the beliefs that defined Protestantism in the beginning and that continue to inform their worship and inspire their lives. Conclusion The pope is seeking to develop goodwill among members of different religions, and this is a commendable goal. But this cannot be achieved by making theological statements, especially those that degrade the pope’s religion, namely, Christianity. In order to develop goodwill among members of different religions, the leaders of these religions should identify charitable causes that they can all support and then fund the creation of organizations which will employ members of the respective religions to work together to achieve the designated goals. In short, the way to achieve goodwill among people who differ substantially in their beliefs about matters that are important to them is for the people to identify goals that they agree on and then work together to achieve those goals.