Sunday School

Sunday School August 14th 2022

This topic contains 32 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  jakelafort 1 month, 1 week ago.

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  • #44149

    I am pressed for time today so I am leaving out the usual first section that covers religious bullying and crimes. The ones I had prepared are too sick to include on such a fine sunny day so lets all take a break from them. Many of the posts are “long reads” but that only means they are well researched. I hope you will find some to be of interest.

    Surveillance is pervasive: Yes, you are being watched, even if no one is looking for you.

    Synthetic embryos raise serious ethical questions.

    ­Galileo’s sketches of the moon from 1609.

    Has Physics solved the mystery of consciousness?  Self-supervised learning is what will lead to A.I. ‘consciousness’.

    What is Nothing?

    Cognitive biases and brain biology help explain why facts don’t change minds.

    What is Christian Nationalism?

    SCOTUS wants to end the separation of Church and State with some influential decisions in recent months.

    Religious imposition in healthcare, education and public services can harm mental health.

    A decent society should not consign a person to prison for life.

    The myth of ‘transgender social contagion’ is steeped in pseudoscience and prejudice.

    Yes, the Universe really is 100% reductionist in nature.

    How your brain fills in the blanks using previous experience.

    Mischievousness can be a virtue.

    Life for one family a year after U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan.

    A new study suggests bees can feel pain while gorillas learn to ‘talk’ with the zookeeper. See also book review below.

    Sunday Book Club:  If Nietzsche were a Narwhal.

    Some photographs taken last week.

    While you are waiting for the kettle to boil……

    Coffee Break Video:  Christopher Hitchens in conversation with Salman Rushdie. Tumble into the Cartwheel Galaxy. The Big Bang is probably not what you think it is.  Here is a Catholic apologist in full swing. Are you any more knowledgeable after listening to him?

    #44151

    Have a great week everyone!

    #44153

    Strega
    Moderator

    Thanks, Reg!!!

    #44154

    Autumn
    Participant

    Cognitive biases and brain biology help explain why facts don’t change minds.

    Add group/ social dynamics into the mix, and it becomes even more complicated. When we talk about human rights issues, two things become important:
    i) The perception of what the majority believes.
    ii) The cost/ benefit of holding a belief.

    I think if you can grasp those two things, people often become more malleable.

    On an individual level, there is also a question of how entrenched a belief is or what actually motivates that belief. For instance, anti-immigration sentiment often targets Muslims directly or indirectly. But in many cases I’d wager the issue isn’t Muslims specifically. That’s just the group painted most at odds with so-called ‘Western values’.

    My suspicion is that people fear loss of stability and identity. So when people come up with excuses for denying visas to people from predominately Muslim countries, facts about immigrants who are Muslim won’t likely make a dent in the underlying fear. Accusations of racism or bigotry may entrench their views because they truly don’t see their views as bigoted.

    But that’s where it gets weird. If such a person becomes convinced that the prevailing view is that voicing concerns about Muslim immigrants will be viewed as racist, it may be socially disadvantageous to voice that concern too freely. It may result in a situation where anti-Muslim fear-mongering quiets down. And without that fear constantly being agitated, it may reduce the emotional impulse to give a shit about anti-Muslim immigration views one way or the other.

    However, it could also just push certain beliefs underground. Such a person may start believing in a ‘silent majority’ that feels the way they do, but is pressured into silence. Now it’s conspiratorial. And that’s were we see certain grooming type behaviours to amass networks of people with similar fears or views. And the risk/ reward aspect becomes really difficult to account for.

    Obviously I am generalizing and speculating, but that’s sort of how I see it in broad strokes.

    #44163

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Obviously I am generalizing and speculating, but that’s sort of how I see it in broad strokes.

    But it makes sense to me. While I have another kind of speculation to add…

    From the intro of that article:

    Our worldview forms during childhood as a result of our socialization within a particular cultural context. Our views get reinforced over time by the social groups we keep, the media we consume, and even the way in which our brains are wired. Challenging our worldviews with facts can feel like an attack on our personal identities and can often result in hardening our positions.

    A few thoughts come to mind, admittedly because of my strong tendency to speculate about evolutionary origins of human nature.

    1. What did early humans think were “facts”, before they had sophisticated language and communications?
    2. Speaking of “personal identities”, I think they must have been even more significant determinants of behavior in band and tribal settings than they are today. In fact I think strongly held identities powered and perpetuated day-to-day behavioral interactions for the purpose of daily survival, not just matters of political opinion or other personally held beliefs we can ponder on a sofa.
    3. The article’s recommendations for how to overcome our personal biases make sense, but they’re only relevant and useful since we’re all able to read them in print. No band or tribe leader in our past could have passed on such sophisticated observations and remedies. Nor could any band or tribal leader have misled us so badly as we’re seeing today.

    Evolving sapiens, before complex language was invented, must have had to depend solely on body language, especially evolved facial and primitive vocal expressions, to communicate emotionally, before words existed. (We know that we’ve only recently evolved new facial muscles and control.) The daily, existential need was to cooperatively gather and hunt for food, always with face-to-face interactions, and a heavy emphasis on learning such skills by watching each other, and choosing our mentors and mentees.

    What few kinds of “debates” were even possible? Just practicing daily survival was the whole group’s focus. There were no survival pressures to evolve cognitive-based, language-filled debating skills, much less religious sermons, political discussions, or fact-finding investigations. And when those skills eventually culturally evolved, we also “evolved” (for better and for worse) toward in-group vs out-group competitions and war, religion and politics, and so on… to such an extent that we’re blinded or overwhelmed by current events, and we remain mostly clueless or even interested about our past and natural origins. (Other than the mythical explanations of our origins.)

    Meanwhile, Reg, great article anyway! The science is very important to me, and we have to improve it and use it somehow to overcome our modern day deficits and newly-evolving societal challenges.

    #44169

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    What did early humans think were “facts”, before they had sophisticated language and communications?

    You’re talking about before the dawn of the scientific method.  So probably, “facts” were a mixture of observation, report, and speculation.

    Speaking of “personal identities”, I think they must have been even more significant determinants of behavior in band and tribal settings than they are today.

    Surely my identity is who I am to myself and who I am to the world.  In prehistory, I think the identities that mattered were 1) cooperative identity – how cooperative I am, which determined whether people would want to cooperate with me or not; 2) tribal or group identity.  The group identity would have been important not for fighting against other groups, because there is no evidence of warfare in prehistory, but for purposes of coordination: in our tribe, we all do things “this way”.  If you mark your face with a blue stripe, and so do I, it means we can coordinate our activities.

    There were no survival pressures to evolve cognitive-based, language-filled debating skills,

    That’s where I think you’re wrong.  Facts help us to survive; reasoning about facts with others helps us to survive; thinking of reasons to give others helps us to survive.

     

    #44170

    Autumn
    Participant
    1. What did early humans think were “facts”, before they had sophisticated language and communications?

    Something in us (and many species) seems capable of modelling the universe around us on some level—capable of learning, I suppose. Just, prior to complex language, facts probably had a lot more immediacy to them.

    Our ability to reason and communicate complexity possibly muddles the ability of the individual to accept new facts in some scenarios more than it enhances it. As humans, we tend to make the mistake of assuming that because we are capable of reason and rationality what we think is often reasonable and rational. But I don’t know that our brains are wired to put rationality first. So we can use the illusion of rationality to entrench incorrect information in ways we other wise might not have been able to do.

    #44176

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    But I don’t know that our brains are wired to put rationality first. So we can use the illusion of rationality to entrench incorrect information in ways we other wise might not have been able to do.

    There’s the famous example of brown beetles which try and have sex with discarded brown beer bottles, because they look like brown beetles.

    In other words, it seems that organisms are evolved to look for fitness benefits rather than facts per se.  Facts are just one example of fitness-enhancers, that humans with their rational brains and science are better than most species at digging out.

    #44177

    Autumn
    Participant

    Shame those beetles didn’t succeed. What an interesting hybrid that would be.

    #44179

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I am optimistic there will be a way to decipher our brain block. It is so clear that optimal reasoning in each mind varies in terms of capability. It is also clear that within each of us it varies depending on the topic or issue. Sure we vary in terms of aptitudes but lets say general analytical capability.

    However well one reasons there is a severe reduction analogous to a blockage/obstruction when the subject is ideologically influenced. I am guessing we evolved to impute agency to damn near everything. That has a role in the obstruction is my guess. Neuroscience will ultimately get there. I think…

    #44180

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I am wondering if any of you read the sunday article about consciousness. If so what is your impression. It strikes me as nonsense. Maybe i need to read it a second time.

    #44182

    Autumn
    Participant

    The article makes sense to me. Whether it is correct or not, I’m not in a place to say, but it’s a coherent concept and an interesting one. People in the comments seem really bent out of shape about it though.

    #44183

    Autumn
    Participant

    The myth of ‘transgender social contagion’ is steeped in pseudoscience and prejudice.

    This actually pairs well with the article on the usefulness of facts. The ROGD study did collect data, and that data does indicate something. The question is, what is it actually measuring? The only thing we know it measures is parental perception within a subset of the parenting population. If you look at the study, that much readily becomes clear. The study lacked the capacity to either prove or disprove ROGD.

    But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was a study, and for those seeking to reinforce cognitive bias, what mattered was the conclusion no the data nor the methodology.

    And this is a persistent problem with regard to interpreting research, especially where transgender people are concerned, even morse so transgender children and youth.

    As another example, people often cite high rates of desistance in childhood tans identities as a reason to prevent providing medical care to transgender youth. A 2013 study published by Thomas Steensma is often touted as supporting high rates of desistance. But if you read the study and Steensma’s subsequent comments, that’s not really what the study addresses neither is it what it demonstrates.

    The difference between the former and latter studies is Steensma’s study is misrepresented. Littman’s, on the other hand, appears to be constructed to reach a very specific conclusion. And Littman’s study follows a trend that’s really common in society at large—it dramatically overvalues the narratives of cisgender people to the exclusion of transgender people reporting our actual experiences.

    #44184

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think the consciousness article makes sense, in that consciousness is subjectively felt and objectively measured. The subjective experience is a process of being measured by one’s own brain. Beyond that, I’m not sure what the implications are.

    #44185

    Autumn
    Participant

    I think the article is taking it one step further stating the way consciousness is patterned and experienced in the individual is relativistic. So even if there are objective mechanisms for how consciousness operates, its actual appearance is relative to how it was shaped in the individual.

    In a similar sense, they used movement as an example. Speed can be objectively measured and its mechanics described by physics, yet the way we do so is relativistic. When I say my car is moving 110km/h, that’s relative to the Earth as a reference point. If I were situated outside the Earth and stationary, measuring the speed of my car might yield a different number even though nothing changed in the movement of my vehicle nor the underlying physics.

    In order to measure consciousness, we similarly require that relativistic framework to clock what 110km/h actually means in cognitive terms.

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