Friday, 31 May 2013

Which infinities are easiest to believe?


If you push any belief system - any set of metaphysical assumptions or any theology or philosophy - back to its logical roots, then you will find some kind of 'infinity' which is hard to defend, hard to believe, absurd in a sense.

Something of the sort is unavoidable, so far as I can tell.

However, some of these infinities seem easier to believe than others.


My understanding of hunter gatherer metaphysics (reinforced by the world-view of early childhood) is that they believe that the essence of life is something like energy in a fixed quantity which permanently circulates while transforming into different forms (different people and some animals, maybe some other beings); and this has 'always' been the situation.

So, there does not seem to be a problem in believing:

1. An infinite regress of ancestors - or else, if pushed... termination of that regress in a primordial ancestor (or several ancestors) who was 'always' there.

2. An acceptance of what is (tradition) as best, and always and everywhere valid

3. A world - matter, stuff, energies - which was 'always' there; albeit in a state of cyclical transformation.

4. A personified world, a world of intelligence, awareness, relationships.


What does not seem natural or spontaneous to humans are ideas such as:

1. Eternal stasis, purposelessness

2. Eternal progress, purpose, an end-point to things

3. Creation from nothing

4. Domination by impersonal entities such as forces, rules, laws


These (or something similar) built-in dispositions to believe some things, and fail to understand other things underpin all belief systems - and create unresolvable tensions in all religious systems at a deep level - these tensions being experienced as phenomena such as alienation, despair, solipsism, anger - and disbelief; where disbelief = the inability live-by an idea.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Christian leadership and the willingness to employ lethal force for the sake of what is right


From Alastair Roberts:

It isn’t much reflected upon, precisely because it is so scandalous to contemporary sensibilities, but among the chief common traits of the great leaders of the people of God in Scripture is their peculiar willingness to employ lethal force for the sake of what was right: 

Moses, Joshua, the judges, Samuel, David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus’s closest disciples: James, John, and Peter, Paul, etc. The Levites and people like Phinehas were even especially set apart for divine service through radical acts of violent ‘zeal’.

Far from being the most empathetic persons that were looked to for moral guidance and leadership, it was the least naturally empathetic who were established by God at the head of his people.

Kevin Dutton has commented on the way that the traits that are most associated with ‘psychopaths’ are perhaps especially pronounced among many leading saints: ruthlessness, charm, focus, mental toughness, fearlessness, mindfulness, and action.

It is the nerve to resist the powerful pull of feelings upon our moral judgment and will that best equips us to be self-disciplined and to lead others.


Alastair Roberts really knows his stuff when it comes to the Bible, and has thought long and deeply about what he knows. So, please, let's not hear any more uninformed stuff about Christianity being intrinsically pacifist, nice, submissive!


Sleep in Heaven?


Lying in the bath, and dozing, I suddenly realized that I had always operated under the subliminal assumption that there was no sleep in Heaven - and that this was one reason why I found it hard to be wholly positive about the idea of eternal life: it seems so unrelentingly exhausting to be continually on-the-go.


But then I realized, simultaneously realized, that this assumption was probably wrong, and that probably our resurrected bodies continue to operate cyclically, such that eternity would be divided into days (i.e. sleep, wake cycles).


I infer this from the assumption that Jesus Himself slept, even after resurrection. Admittedly I see no positive Biblical evidence of this fact! - but I presume that if He had never slept this would have been so striking as to warrant mention...

Also, I do not see why the perfection of a Man should mean that he never sleeps - as if sleep were a flaw in human life, rather than an intrinsic part of human life.


My new working hypothesis is therefore that sleep would be perfected, not abolished, in the Heaven-dwelling resurrected Man.

At any rate, for me, the assurance of regular perfect sleep would covert eternity from a terrifying prospect into a positively appealing affair...


What happens to Short-term/ Working memory during Dreaming sleep?


I will argue here that Dreaming (REM) sleep entails that Short Term Memory (STM) remains active, while Executive Function is disconnected from Long Term Memory (LTM).

Executive Function refers to our explicit awareness of choice in what we 'think about' (and plan to do) - Executive Function can control Long Term Memory (LTM) such that it can initiate the activation of LTMs into STM.

In other words, Executive Function can direct thought by causing retrieval of Long Term Memories, and can activate them in Short Term Memory - and it is this choice and retrieval process which is suppressed in Dreaming sleep.

The result of suppressing Executive Function is that we do not control our dreams; instead our dreams happen, our awareness 'observes' what happens, and we try to make sense of it all.   


Short-term memory (STM), also - in a rather expanded concept - called Working memory (WM), is considered to be the process - lasting some seconds - by which material is held in awareness; perhaps in the form of symbolic 3-D patterns of activated neurons, which can actively be combined, sequenced and manipulated. This is reckoned to happen in the (probably lateral) pre-frontal cerebral cortex.

By contrast, Long term memory (LTM) is conceptualized as a structural change in brain circuitry - perhaps encoded in the form of sequences or patterns of facilitated pathways, or differential synaptic strengths.


J Allan Hobson (in The Dream Drugstore, 2002) suggests that the lateral pre-frontal cortex, hence STM/ WM, is suppressed or switched-off in Dreaming (REM) sleep - and he relates this to suppression of the aminergic neurotransmitter systems.

But I think this is only partly correct, since the phenomena of dreams are much better explicable if we suppose that STM remains fully active in dreaming sleep, but there is a disconnection between STM and LTM.

In the waking state, STM is capable of mobilizing and activating Long-term memories (to translate patterns of synaptic strengths into patterns of neural activation), in order to 'make sense' of Short-term memories using accumulated knowledge and experience.

But, I suggest that the STM remains fully active in Dreaming sleep, and 'doing its best' to make sense of the material being 'thrown at it' by activations of LTM that it no longer controls - thus, in dreaming sleep the STM is disconnected from LTM and does not have the ability to mobilize or control LTM.


If so, this contributes to convergent evidence concerning the specific function of Dreaming (REM) sleep in terms of 'testing' the short-term coherence and inter-consistency of variously-activated long-term memories, by stringing them together in various permutations in narratives.

If Dreaming sleep is a testing process, then it would make sense that the test would be of the nature of a cross-check between memories - rather than following the memories in the same order and with the same specific meanings as they had when they were stored.

This would imply that for the testing process to work, the order and manner of activation of Long Term Memories should not be under the control of Executive Function - because EF would tend to elicit memories in the temporal sequence and semantic (meaning) categories they were originally stored.


The principle upon which these LTMs are elicted in Dreaming sleep is not precisely known.

Clearly there must be a principle or principles, since nature is never random. Something of these principles is understood insofar as a 'dream logic' is recognized, based upon associations, or similarity of elicited emotions (what one is 'reminded-of').

So dreams are made from these disparate LTMs, which are activated simultaneously and in sequence according to the poorly understood principles of dream logic - and Short Term Memory 'inspects' these memories, and tries to synthesize them into meaningful wholes within the constraints of the (several to tens of seconds) timespan and finite processing power of STM.


In other words, Dreaming sleep constitutes a check of the coherence and inter-consistency between LTMs from different periods of time, and with different subject matter and meaning; on the assumption that 'reality' must be mutually coherent, therefore any two memories on any subject from any point in personal history, should be compatible...

And if they are discovered to be not compatible, then these memories need to be 'edited' to make them compatible.

And that checking and editing is what is happening during Dreaming sleep, as partially sampled during dreams.


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dark Enlightenment: a perfectly descriptive phrase for a Sarumanian project


Some secular Right bloggers have taken to using the paradoxical or oxymoronic phrase 'Dark Enlightenment' to describe their political position - and to my eyes this self-consciously 'cool' term provides an accurate impression of their stance.

It's the kind of phrase Saruman would have used to explain his special perspective, his 'new' stance or third-way - as he might represent it - positioned in-between Sauron and Elrond, between evil and Good, and taking the best of both into a new synthesis...

Yet of course, in reality, at bottom, Saruman's vision would amount to the same as Sauron in all vital respects - except having Saruman as the new boss ('same as the old boss'); just as Sauron turned-out to become essentially the same as Morgoth.

Any things which deny the lordship of Eru Illuvatar, The One and Father of all - and set up any-thing else in His place - will sooner or later, and probably sooner, amount to the same thing (Morgoth/ Sauron/ Saruman) - whatever the initial intentions.


What seems static is actually cyclical


(Metaphysics alert! Please ignore if not interested in such matters.)

Since I began to reject my former plain-man's-Platonism;

and my rapid adoption of what might be termed a Mormon Metaphysics

(i.e. derived from Mormon Theology - which is, roughy speaking, Christianity seen through the lens of Old Testament modes of thinking, theology understood as God's relationships with Man through history, and with the Bible as a whole understood as-close-to-face-value as possible, especially in terms of the nature of God);

instead of Classical Theology

(CT being Christianity seen through the lens - and categories - of Greek philosophy - i.e. mainstream Christianity since about the death or disappearance of the Apostles)

- I am finding it hard to imagine or acknowledge the reality of stasis.


Stasis now seems to me to be the same thing as non-existence or extinction.

If everything is always moving, then what seems to be stasis is perhaps actually cyclical - it appears unchanging because it is going around in circles:

Either circles too small to be perceived, circular movement too slow for the movement to be noticed, or movement in circles so rapid as to blur into apparent stasis.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Reaction times in a 'perfectly matched' Victorian versus modern population sample: A litmus test of honesty and competence


Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis & Raegan Murphy have followed up their long-term analysis of reaction times as evidence of a rapid and significant decline in average intelligence since Victorian times

by publishing a rapid and robust refutation of the criticism that this result could be explained-away by differential sampling.  

They present a modern population sample from 1989 which is (as-near-as-dammit in this imperfect world) perfectly--matched with Francis Galton's sample from the late 19th century.

The 1989 sample had an average reaction time of 245 milliseconds compared with Galtons 1889 average reaction time of much slower average reaction time of 194 ms - confirming Woodley at al's identification of a decline of general intelligence of approximately one standard deviation, or 15 IQ points.


This unusual compression of the time-scale of scientific debate presents a litmus test of the honesty and competence among the commentators who rejected the original paper on micro-methodological grounds of having serious concerns about sampling issues; grounds which I argued were inappropriate, incompetent and - in their effect - anti-scientific:

Thus we are now in a position to observe whether such critics understand and acknowledge that they have in fact been refuted; or else whether they reveal the existence of some hidden agenda by maintaining their rubbishing and rejection of the Woodley et al paper by ignoring this refutation, or shifting the grounds for criticism. 


ORIGINAL PAPER: A high-quality replication of Galton’s study one century later: Wilkinson & Allison (1989)

Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis & Raegan Murphy

In Woodley, te Nijenhuis, and Murphy (2013, in press) we argue that intelligence has declined substantially since Victorian times, based on a meta-analysis of simple reaction time. An exchange of ideas started at several blogs. We hereby reply to the blogposts of Scott Alexander and HBD Chick, reacting to an earlier post made by us.

A paper has come to our attention that provides strong evidence against the supposed representativeness problem across cohorts (e.g. Alexander, 2013). The study in question is that of Wilkinson and Allison (1989) using a sample of 5,324 visitors to the London Science Museum, which is situated at the exact site of Galton’s 19th century Anthropometric Laboratory in South Kensington.  All visitors undertook psychophysical testing on a simple reaction time-measuring apparatus, just as the people in Galton’s study did. Of these mixed-sex participants 1,189 were aged between 20 and 29, and are thus highly similar to the age range employed in our own study. Their simple RT mean was substantially slower than the weighted 1889 RT mean (245 ms vs. 194.06 ms), and furthermore the mean of this sample falls very close to the meta-regression-estimated mean across studies for the late 1980s (approximately 250 ms, see: Figure 1 in Woodley, te Nijenhuis & Murphy, 2013). The remarkable features of this study are the ways in which it replicates virtually every significant demographic aspect of Galton’s study.

There is the issue of a participation fee. Galton is known to have requested a participation fee of 3 pennies (approximately £5 in modern UK currency). The London Science Museum required the payment of an admissions fee right up until December 2001. Furthermore it still requires the payment of fees of £6 to £10 for access to some special exhibitions (London Science Museum, 2013a). The Wilkinson and Allison (1989) study was in fact conducted as part of a special exhibition entitled Medicines for Man, which was hosted by the Museum from the early 1980s (Medicines for Man Organizing Committee, 1980). Therefore participation fees were employed in the case of both studies.

There is strong evidence for the demographic convergence between the two studies. Johnson et al. (1985) indicate that whilst Galton’s sample included persons from all occupational and socioeconomic groups in Victorian London, it was nonetheless skewed towards students and professionals, and both groups could fairly be described as solidly White and middle class. In the last decades of the 20th century, museum attendance in the UK exhibited precisely the same skew in terms of sociodemography. Eckstein and Feist (1992) for example noted that most UK museum visitors are drawn from White and upper-middle-class populations. Furthermore Hooper-Greenhill (1994) observed that the largest minority ethnic groups in the UK (i.e. Asians and Afro-Caribbeans) are underrepresented amongst museum visitors. In acknowledging this issue, a House of Commons report in 2002 stated that free admission to museums would unlikely ‘… be effective in attracting significant numbers of new visitors from the widest range of socio-economic and ethic groups’ (House of Commons report, 2002, p. 23).

The presence of this self-selection amongst visitors strongly harmonizes the studies of Galton and Wilkinson and Allison. Add to this the fact that participation fees were employed in both cases, the fact that the geographical locations were exactly the same and finally the fact that the age demographic of interest (i.e. twenty-somethings) were intensively sampled in both cases (i.e. 3,410 in the case of Silverman’s subset of Galton’s sample and 1,189 in the case of Wilkinson and Allison). The net of this is that the studies become even more strongly convergent in terms of comparing like with like. Thus the argument of more heterogeneous samples visiting museums in the 1980s compared to more restricted samples visiting museums in the 1880s is critically weakened. The principal objections that can be leveled against this are as follows.

Firstly there is the issue of tourism. Most tourists to the UK are from the US and Europe (Tourism 3B), meaning that they are likely to be both ethnically and socioeconomically matched to the majority of the participants in this study (i.e. UK citizens). In fact, international arrivals in the United Kingdom in 1990 show that of the 439 million inbound tourists, 60% were European in origin and 21% emanated from the Americas. Hence, 81% of the tourist population came from groups which are highly ethnically similar to the British. Only 12% came from Asia and the Pacific with a meager 3% coming from the Middle East and 2% from Africa (Tourism 3B). In sum, it is unlikely that tourists being tested in the 1989 study were substantially ethnically different from the typical UK museum visitor. Based on current statistics from the Science Museum, the preponderance of visitors hail from the UK (69%) and the preponderance of those are from Greater London (44%; London Science Museum, 2013b). Historically, especially prior to the 1990s this figure would have been much higher, owing to far lower levels of tourism to the UK (in 1990 international tourism levels were less than half the current levels,  >940 million per year, BBC, 2013). This means that in all likelihood well over 70% of the participants in Wilkinson and Allison’s study would have been British, and the overwhelming majority of these would have been White, upper middle-class and from London. The overwhelming majority of the international visitors would have been ethnically and broadly socioeconomically matched to the British visitors.

Secondly is the issue of instrumentation. Galton utilized a pendulum chronoscope with a temporal resolution of around a centi-second (i.e. 1/100th of a second, or 0.01 seconds). The electronic apparatus employed by Wilkinson and Allison in all likelihood had a higher resolution (post-1908 chronoscopy at least had the potential to be accurate to a single milli-second; Haupt, 2001), however a centi-second level only resolution in Galton’s apparatus cannot account for the substantial discrepancies between these two studies.
Thirdly, Galton’s sample was single person-single trial, whereas Wilkinson and Allison’s study employed two practice trials followed by 10 trials per person for the purposes of averaging. This protocol would almost certainly have enhanced the reliability of Wilkinson and Allison’s data relative to Galton’s (Jensen, 1980); however in both cases we are dealing with aggregates. Strong biases (i.e. jumping the gun vs. slow to start) have the potential to cancel each other out when employing these sorts of very large datasets, as these sources of error are distributed in a Gaussian fashion. This means that aggregate-level mean-wise comparisons are appropriate for comparisons between data exhibiting different coefficients of reliability coupled with very large Ns.

On this basis Wilkinson and Allison’s (1989) study must be considered an excellent replication of Galton’s study. Its mean reaction time for the relevant age cohort is almost precisely where our meta-regression predicts it should be. This is clearly strong supporting evidence for the robustness of the increase in simple RT latency produced to date and so puts even more nails in the coffin of those who argue that the trend can be accounted for by lack of representativeness across cohorts.

Alexander, S. S. (2013). The wisdom of the ancients. Slate Star Codex. URL: [retrieved on 24/05/13]
BBC. (2013). GCSE Bitesize. Geography tourism trends.
Eskstein, J. & Feist, A. (1992). Cultural Trends, 1991. London, Policy Studies Institute.
Haupt, E. J. (2001). Laboratories for experimental psychology: Gottingen’s ascendancy over Leipzig in the 1890s. In: Rieber, R. W., & Robinson, D. K. (Eds.), Wilhelm Wundt in History. The Making of a Scientific Psychology. (pp. 205-250). New York: Kluwer Academic.
Hooper-Greenhill, E. (1994). Museums and their Visitors. London, Routledge.  
House of Commons, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (2002). National Museums and Galleries: Funding and free admission. House of Commons, United Kingdom.
Jensen, A. R. (1980). Bias in Mental Testing. New York: Free Press.
Johnson, R. C., McClearn, G., Yuen, S., Nagosha, C. T., Abern, F. M., & Cole, R. E. (1985). Galton's data a century later. American Psychologist, 40, 875–892.
Medicines for Man Organizing Committee. (1980). Medicines for Man: A Booklet Based on an Exhibition at the Science Museum about Medicines - how They are Discovered and how They Work, how They are Made and Tested, how They are Prescribed and Dispensed, and how Laws Control Their Use. London, Science Museum.
No author (no date). Tourism 3 SB. Oxford University Press
London Science Museum. (2013a). [retrieved on 27/05/2013]
London Science Museum. (2013b). [retrieved on 27/05/2013]
Wilkinson, R. T., & Allison, S. (1989). Age and simple reaction time: Decade differences for 5,324 subjects. Journal of Gerontology, 44, 29–35.
Woodley, M. A., te Nijenhuis, J., & Murphy, R. (2013). Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. Intelligence. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.006


The spineless state of the nation


(Although, to call England 'spineless' is to slander invertebrates.)


Yes, England is spineless - such that we interpret submission as stoicism and insensibility to danger as courage.

But the root of all this is our Godlessness.


It is hard for those of other nations (excepting perhaps France) to understand how pervasively Godless is England - one consequence of which is that we lack good reasons for doing anything.

The ruling elite are, of course, the most Godless - hence most Leftist - of all; and they have over many decades created a society in which the only alternative to submission and insensibility is hatred and self-assertion.


In this Godless society, motivations are fatally weakened - there is only on the one hand the self-loathing suicide of the Left, and on the other hand nothing left-over after the destruction of Christianity that will motivate people except hatred and self-assertion - and neither of these can be the basis for the good society.


In sum: The English people have no good reason to resist forces that destroy good - but are left with only bad reasons to resist the forces that destroy good; and this for the obvious reason that the English have no concept of the good life which goes beyond their own peace, prosperity, pleasure, comfort and diversion. 


There is no way out of this paralysis of the will and despair of the soul except by a recovery of religion - and that is indeed exactly what is happening.

Only a religion can save us from the impossible and evil choice between submission and insensibility or hatred and self-assertion

The only question now to be settled is: which religion?


Monday, 27 May 2013

Dreams are grown-from memories


Although dreams (and presumably the Dreaming phase of sleep, of which dreams are only a sample accessible to awareness and persisting in memory) - are in a sense made-from-memories - but more accurately they are grown from memories.

If dreams were just combined from memories, some memories being intact and accurate while others are incomplete and distorted to to entropic degradation - then this does not account for the experience of dreams as narratives that are both unpredictable and open-ended.

So, it is best to thing of dreams as not merely permutations of combinations of memories (including damaged memories) but as a creative process in which memories are used as the basis for novelty.

In a sense dreams are extrapolated memories; but the extrapolation is not so much like the predetermined rigor of the growing crystal seed; but more organic - more of a speeded-up evolutionary process.

So dreams are evolved memories - evolved according to a transformative process in which one thing serves as the basis for what comes next, in a linked yet open-ended sequence of transformation-built-upon-transformation.

Yet an evolution and transformation that is not chaotic - always with some kind of logic behind it.

We do not know and cannot predict where a dream is going - not least because a dream has no necessary end but can keep-going indefinitely - but we feel that the dream has each moment a direction - a direction which is consequence of the processes which make the dream. 

Always according to rules - the presumed rules of dream logic which are only faintly intuited in advance, whose operations seem obvious in retrospect - yet which defy summary...


The importance of non-writers to a writers group... The Inklings example



Sunday, 26 May 2013

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" - with respect to the claim of intelligence decline since Victorian times


The phrase and practice of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is one of those superficially-plausible statements which are untrue, and indeed damagingly false.


Of course, this does not mean we should believe anything anybody might say no matter how absurd - but in practice the whole thing hinges on the meaning of 'extraordinary'.

In practice:

1. The definition of an extraordinary claim is 'something I don't already believe'...


2. The definition of extraordinary evidence is that no amount of evidence will ever be enough to convince me of that.


People find all sorts of things extraordinary which are not.

Modern atheist intellectuals, for example, find the idea of God or gods to be extraordinary, and all kinds of other things such as souls, angels and demons, the Virgin Birth and the resurrection of Christ - plus all sorts of things like telepathy and prophetic dreams - despite that these are not extraordinary to the vast majority of people alive, and to almost nobody in the sweep of human history.

Claims of the reality of things may or may not be factually correct - in general, or specifically - but these are not extraordinary claims - and the 'evidence' for them is of exactly the same nature as for anything else.


In science, a major area which asks for extraordinary evidence is claims of group differences in hereditary personality and intelligence. Around about 1965, it was rather suddenly decided that the claim of heritable group differences was extraordinary, and extraordinary evidence was demanded - and fifty years of research later exactly the same demand is still being made.

Each piece of evidence in support of the supposedly-extraordinary claim of heritable group differences is put under a microscope to check for flaws - and of course flaws can be found - especially when these people don't ever turn the same microscope onto their own beliefs.

So, those who reject heritable group differences believe what they believe, and which (because they believe it) they do not regard as extraordinary - and accept any further evidence in support of this belief with just a cursory glance; but anything they don't want to believe is checked, inch by inch, under a microscope and - guess what? - is found to have flaws! Therefore they feel justified in rejecting it.


This pretends to be 'rigorous' ('Look at me - I'm a real scientist! I'm using a microscope!') but it is of course, that is phony science, politicized science.

Indeed, the practice of accepting supporting evidence at a glance while putting opposing evidence under a microscope is not just bad science - it is not science at all.


Yet even outside of politics this technique of differential rigour is an easy trap to fall-into - indeed there are very few who are exempt.

This is something to be guarded against.


When I was editor of Medical Hypotheses it was the last major non-peer reviewed journal in science - and its special value was that it had the potential to overcome the intrinsic bias of 'peers' to defend the existing paradigm by demanding 'extraordinary' evidence for any new work which disagreed with the prevailing paradigm.

But what if the evidence for the prevailing paradigm is weak?

In modern professional science there are many dominant but evidentially (and logically) weak research paradigms - but these are defended as tenaciously - or even more tenaciously, than coherent and strongly supported paradigms.


For example, in psychiatry there is a decades-established prevailing explanation of 'depression' in terms of neurotransmitter abnormalities and of treatment by 'antidepressants' which correct these presumed abnormalities.

This paradigm does not make any sense and there is no evidence to support it - yet 'everyone' believes it - and any alternative perspectives are (therefore?) treated as requiring 'extraordinary' levels of evidence, such as clear and unambiguous support from multiple multi-million-dollar, mega-randomized controlled trials. Hence the prevailing nonsense is impregnable.


Declaration of interest: all this stuff is happening, now, to me and Michael A Woodley et al with respect to the use of longitudinal reaction time data to estimate long term trends in general intelligence. 

The problems are that the result contradicts current notions of:

1. Direction 

2. Size

3. Rapidity

of change in intelligence. Therefore the result challenges the current paradigm in several respects.


To put it another way, Woodley and myself are regarded as making an extraordinary claim - and this is used to justify putting this particular study under an extra-powerful methodological microscope (and if that doesn't suffice - an electron microscope) to search for, and inevitably find, microscopic cracks (gaps) and flaws (distortions) in the evidence.


But consider the counter-factuals.

Suppose that the data had shown a reduction in reaction time since the Victorian era (implying increasing intelligence) - which would be consistent with the Flynn effect - what would people have done?

In other words, what if the study - and I mean exactly the same study in terms of exactly the same evidence and methodology - had found exactly what people expected it to find?

Well, of course this would not have been an 'extraordinary' claim, so people would have accepted the study as a matter of course and without further discussion.


But suppose (again counter-factually) that the study (exactly the same data set and methodology) had instead found a small increase in reaction time? Implying a small reduction in average intelligence?

Well, that too would have been accepted without much discussion - since it would not signify much either way.

Nobody would have put the study under an electron microscope. 


But in real life the data showed a big increase in reaction times implying a big reduction of intelligence since Victorian times.

This is indeed a paradigm-shifting claim; and it is 'therefore' regarded as an extraordinary claim - and therefore this is used to justify (as described above) extraordinary examination of the claim - on the basis of the slogan in the title.

But is this an extraordinary claim?


If it really was extraordinary to claim that intelligence had declined by about one standard deviation since Victorian times, it would be easy to present many evidences and examples which very obviously refuted that claim.

Yet none have been presented.

Obviously, the best way to reject a claim is to refute it with clear and unambiguous contrary evidence - and if you are reduced to quibbling over methodology, then the claim is revealed as being not extraordinary - and therefore not requiring extraordinary levels of micro-critique.


So, although people feel that the claim of a rapid and significant decline in intelligence is so extraordinary as to invite extreme skepticism; in practice - or so it seems - it is not easy to refute this claim without stepping outside of real science and becoming the kind of phony, fake, pseudo-scientist who polices the field of heritable IQ group differences.

And this is what we find.


Under pretence of rigour, there is not just bad science, but non-science - anti-science.


So, if micro-analysis of potentially paradigm changing claims is revealed as anti-science, then what should be done?

Well, paradigm-changing claims should be evaluated in the same way and to the same standards of research competence and honesty as paradigm-supporting claims.

When a piece of research reaches the normal standards of competence and honesty, yet has extraordinary implications, then it is distorting and inappropriate and in fact anti-science to dwell upon the micro-details of this research.


The correct thing to do is to recognize that in real science multiple evidences converge upon the truth.

That is exactly why science is important - because true scientific claims have multiple consequences - or, to put it another way, the implications of important true theories ramify through reality, and therefore their consequences can be observed in many places.

So when the claim of reduced intelligence is based upon longitudinal change in reaction times, then the matter is not to be settled 'methodologically' by ever more, ever more voluminous and complex and precise measurements of reaction times - but instead by seeking convergent evidence from different fields - by tracing out the implications of the claim through reality until these implications go into places where they can be observed and checked.

Therefore, what is needed is to discover what would-be the implications of a significant and rapid decline in average intelligence, and then make observations to see whether these implications really have happened.


If the claim of an approximately one standard deviation decline in intelligence since Victorian times really is false; then, because this is a very significant claim, it should be easy to discover some strong evidence which contradicts the claim.

But such a claim need not, and certainly should not be required to, meet 'extraordinary' standards of evidence!


In conclusion:

If a claim is both 'extraordinary' and also wrong, it must be trivially easy to refute.

But if a claim which seems 'extraordinary' cannot in practice easily be refuted; then it is not really an extraordinary claim, and should not be treated as such. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Should men OR women dominate the church? (Since neutrality and equality are impossible it must be one or the other)


"Should men, or should women, dominate the church?" is the properly-formed question on this topic - the question which sets into proper perspective the mass of comments and reflections and policies which have clustered around the topic of sex roles in churches.

(Note that for Christians this is essentially a question of the church as an organization, and not the religion itself - it is a mostly question of good order in the institution. At a spiritual level this discussion melts away; or, at least, transforms qualitatively.)

This is only an active question in some religions, of which Christianity is one - because there have been a wide range of balances between men and women in domination of the Christian church, and in different areas of church activity.


I had been reading a Mormon blog in which a woman complained that - in terms of the LDS church - she, and her daughter - felt (ahem) hurt by the maleness of the priesthood; given that the priesthood was of such vital importance: for her nothing could make-up for this fact of inequality, of non-sameness.

Musing on this, I realized that the premise of this debate was mistaken and dangerous; because when the question is properly framed there are only two valid perspectives.

Either 1. the Mormon church should remain dominated by men, or 2. it should instead become dominated by women.

And this is a question to which empirical evidence can be brought - because there are examples on both sides. There are Christian denominations and specific churches that are dominated by men; and there are those which are dominated by women.

In between there are many Christian churches in which the balance is towards either men or women and where the situation is clearly moving in one direction or the other.


So there are men-dominated churches in Mormonism, as mentioned, and Eastern Orthodoxy, and some Conservative evangelicals.

And there are women-dominated churches in all liberal Protestant denominations. (Woman dominated means not that there are no men, but that male leader must primarily be compliant to the agenda of being ever-more women-dominated.)


I see the Roman Catholic church as being a mixed state and moving towards woman-domination since Vatican II. Despite counter-currents I do not believe that this this movement has stopped. So, the male priesthood has become increasingly feminized and compliant (conducted according to principles derived from women) for several decades; a situation which happened earlier and more completely in the Romanized Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism


From the above, I think there are sufficient example to infer the necessary medium- to long-term consequences of men versus women domination of churches in terms of the size, vitality and growth of the institutions

So, the discussions on sex roles in denominations should not occur in a vacuum of abstraction and at a theoretical level. The consequences of changing a church from male to female domination are indeed known hence predictable.

For instance, we know that the nature of an institution is fundamentally shaped and changed by a shift from male to female domination.

And we know that there are no long-term-viable examples of mixed male/ female domination - there are only transitional states as a church moves in one direction or the other.


The long-term-viable examples (I mean church institutions which survive and are strong for several generations) seem to be either male-dominated or female-dominated institutions, tending very much towards single sex institutions, or rather sub-institutions within churches (like church schools, nunneries, nursing sisters, the Mormon Relief Society).

Things are actually very simple - once transitional situations are understood! Either an church is organized around the principle of domination by men or by women.

In practice this domination will always allow for exceptions, to varying degrees; but since equality and impartiality are impossible - we have here an apparently immovable principle in human affairs: either/or.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

The secular Right's recurrent choice between being good-and-ineffectual, or evil-and-strong


The world view of the secular Right is as fundamentally despair-inducing as any secular world view - and offers the disadvantage of being on the Right and therefore likely to make the adherent subject to multi-level discrimination from micro-social interactions up to spectacular international heresy-hunts.

So why do people do it?


One good reason is honesty: the admirable (but existentially quixotic - because existentially pointless, from a secular perspective) personal desire to tell the truth about some things which are subject to systematic and mandatory lying.

So, why are the secular Right honest? Given that the secular Right world view is utilitarian and they personally are likely to suffer for their honesty?


It is an interesting and important question. From my own experience, and the many years when I was on the secular Right and took hits for it, I can say that I was honest because I couldn't help it.

In a sense, I would have been happier to be on the Left, and indeed had periods when I ostensibly was on the Left - made considerable efforts to become a real Lefty-intellectual or man-of-the-people; but I just couldn't make it stick for more than short periods - and would return to the Eeyore-like gloom of the secular Right - and, like Eeyore, to take pleasure from pungently-expressed satire, sarcasm, and pessimism.


The goal of all this?

Nothing much more profound than love of decency, comfort, good order, minimization of suffering, beauty, kindness... stuff like that. Not terribly different from what the Left says it wants, but what it never can get because it lies about everything.

Yet, the secular Right can't get it either because these things do not motivate sufficiently strongly. They just don't.

When the chips are down, the comfort seeker will minimize discomfort; the decency-valuer will try to restore the least worst likelihood as soon as possible -  intransigent resistance or restoration is beyond him.


No, the 'decent' secular Right is in a state of chronic motivation-deficit.

The secular Right therefore only makes things happen when it embraces negative emotions, when it embraces evil.



At a national level, patriotism is good, but is a relatively weak motivation - whereas classic Nationalism (late 19th-early 20th century style) is bad, but can (for a few decades) be a very powerful motivation.

Patriotism based on love of country or culture is good but relatively feeble; Nationalism based on hatred of a specific group is evil but (for a while) may be extremely powerful.


At a personal level, the desire for decency and good manners are good but weak motivations - whereas the desire personally to seek worldly power, pleasure, prestige in a wholly selfish manner untrammeled by traditional constraints such as decency, good manners, kindness etc... well that is both evil and also may in some instances be very effective (at least, for a while).


So the secular Right as a political movement and at the individual level always has this choice between being good (albeit a limited good) but weakly motivated and largely ineffectual - or else, in seeking increased motivation, to move towards enhanced power and effectiveness, to become evil: to embrace selfishness and hatred, and to call them good.

(That is to say to propagate moral inversion - just as we see on the politically correct Left.)


And, since the secular Right is indeed secular, it intrinsically lacks the necessary powerful motivational resources to reject evil when tempted by evil.

The strongest and most effective on the secular Right will (like Nietzsche and many since) celebrate evil by boasting of strength, To say:

Yes I am evil, but look! - I am strong! Be like me: feel the power of motivation: embrace hatred - it works!

Meanwhile, the good people on the secular Right stand-by shaking their heads and wringing their hands...


So it is not that the secular Right are necessarily bad people - of course they are not! Many are good (in a limited fashion - but better than most).

But, if or when their evil co-conspirators unleash the forces of hatred - when quiet and wholesome love of X is inverted into hatred of Y - then what motivating and encouraging alternative can the decent secular Right offer from their meaningless, purposeless and alienated universe?

What use is Eeyore against a pack of cackling hyenas?


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Was Charles Williams the key Inkling? An hypothesis outlined...


Trance, dream, prophecy and revelation


It puzzles me that altered states of consciousness should be necessary for prophecies and revelations - I mean for real prophecies and revelations.

Because, this fact of happening during 'altered states' is nowadays taken to confirm that prophecy and revelation are bogus, a pathological product of a malfunctioning brain - and that is indeed pretty much how I used to see things before I was a Christian, e.g.


But that wasn't how people saw things through most of human history.

Past societies knew perfectly well that abnormally functioning brains could and did produce hallucinations, delusions and the like - but they also believed that altered states of consciousness were associated with genuine prophecy and divine communications.


But why the association between prophecy, revelation and altered states?

Most plausibly, it is as if altered states are necessary to overcome some bias or resistance in us - some resistance to divine communications - that is, to communications which come neither from the external environment nor from inside our own brains and bodies but otherwise.

The bias is that attending to environmental and personal stimuli is 'biological' - and seems to overwhelm other possible activities; the resistance is - in a nutshell - sin: that we do not want to perceive divine communications, we resist divine communications, and therefore these must come when our resistance is down.


It is important to consider this question in terms of the absolute reality of human agency, of free will - and that God is not able (or perhaps will not allow Himself) to overcome human agency, but rather that free will is a fact of the situation - free will must be 'worked around' because it cannot/ will-not be overcome.

So even though God can force a communication to be seen or heard, He cannot force it to be understood correctly.

And even when God is able to communicate his will on a matter, He cannot force the prophet to agree to that will - the prophet might (because he is free) hear the word of God, understand it, yet and oppose God's will.


Therefore, the mode of divine communication needs to take into account that the prophet is a free agent, and mode must therefore be persuasive of choice; because free will, if properly understood, is the kind of thing which simply cannot be coerced.


(Indeed, some persuasive techniques - ancient and modern - exploit this fact, in that they may successfully persuade free will and result in the desired choice by asserting that free will has no choice! That free will does not exist, or can be/ has been, coerced - 'therefore' the agent 'might as well agree' to what is being asserted. This is, indeed, a routine of the modern era - telling people they are blank slates formed by the environment and/or helpless robots controlled by their genes, and 'therefore' they 'ought' to choose to do whatever propaganda tells them!)


Among genuine divine communications, it is notable that there are some prophets who see God (in some form) and receive direct communications while wide awake, in clear consciousness;  some who receive messages brought by angelic visitations; many example of receiving a message in a dream; and also there are visions during prayer of possible trance states.

Probably, an interesting approximate typology could be devised which examined the nature and circumstances of these modes in the context of the strength and weaknesses and roles of the specific prophets concerned, and the needs of God - maybe even a hierarchy of prophets, ranked in terms of their openness to God's communications... but I don't know enough even to begin this.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Two kinds of nodding-off: absence or micro-dream - head erect, head hanging or resting


From personal experience, backed-up by a bit of scientific theory, I think there are two ways in which a person might 'nod-off' and take a very short nap:

1. A momentary absence of awareness, as the mind briefly dips-into the shallower type of Deep sleep.

2. A fragmentary micro-dream, as the mind briefly dips into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.


The 'absence' is what happens when somebody goes to sleep with their head held erect so that the neck muscles are tensed.

Probably, if the person was wired-up to an electroencephalogram, there would be some kind of regular slow wave activity such as occurs in the non-REM or Deep sleep and in petit mal epilepsy (also called absences).


In Deep sleep the voluntary muscles (such as those holding up the head) become relaxed but not completely floppy - they retain muscle tone. So, when somebody who is sitting upright nods-off, their head slowly begins to slump until the person is roused from sleep when the head jerks upright again: giving the notorious 'nodding dog' appearance.

Therefore, unless someone is suffering from narcolepsy, neck muscle tension seems to block a descent from a state of being Awake directly into Dreaming sleep.

(The same applies to other bodily muscles of posture - their tension blocks descent into REM sleep; but it is rare for someone who is standing to nod-off.)


However, if the neck muscles are relaxed, perhaps because the head is hanging forward, or if the head is resting on the hand, or a headrest - then a person can descend from being Awake and directly into Dreaming sleep.

This is possible because Dreaming (or REM) sleep is characterized by flaccid muscle paralysis - a near complete loss of muscle tone; and apparently a posture which maintains muscle tone makes is less likely to move directly into REM sleep, while a position which allows postural muscles to relax enables the mind to dream, instantly. 


Subjectively, a brief Deep sleep nap is experienced as an absence - a cessation of awareness and memory; which may mean that sleep is not experienced at all (at least not consciously) - so, with the upright head/ nodding dog type of drowsiness, the person may not know that they have been asleep.

While by contrast a Dreaming sleep nap is experienced as Awareness being interrupted by snatches of dream. The person usually knows they have been asleep, because they recall (albeit perhaps only for a few seconds) the alien, bizarre, non-sequential quality of a dream.

But this is just a fraction of a second, because unless the body is supported, then the onset of flaccid paralysis will rapidly wake the sleeper as his head, body or limbs begin to slump, unresisting.


Is drowsy prayer acceptable - even good?


I hope so!

But one of the pieces of advice CS Lewis gives is not to pray last thing at night, but to schedule daily prayer for when you are most alert.

I can perceive the necessity for this when I read Lewis's correspondence and the sheer number of people and things he would systemically cover in his daily prayers, and for long periods of time. Clearly, he would not be able to get through this list - especially not kneeling with head bowed and eyes shut - if he was drowsy. He would simply fall asleep.

But I would suggest that prayer while drowsy - in and of itself - is not a bad thing, perhaps a good thing.


I keep returning to consider the vast literature of mysticism being associated with altered states of consciousness, of visions and revelations given in trances and as dreams.

And the ascetic practices of monks and hermits include not just fasting and extremes of temperature, but 'vigils' of continuous prayer while sleep deprived - which suggests a semi-deliberate attempt to induce altered states of consciousness.

Now, while this kind of endeavour is spiritually hazardous if it is, or becomes, focused on the getting of 'religious experience' for reasons of pride, power or entertainment - a hazard which is recognized by the phenomenon of spiritual fathers to supervise ascetic monks - there does seem to be some kind of benign protection accorded to the sleeping state, which renders the sleeper resistant to these hazards.


And of course, drowsy prayer, or prayer in a state of altered consciousness, may be the only possible kind of prayer for some people who - for whatever reason - sleep deprivation or disturbance, medication, illness, drugs or withdrawal of drugs - seldom or never have 'a clear head'; and must go through life with greater or lesser degrees of 'clouded consciousness'.

If such people are to pray, then it will necessarily be in some kind of semi-alert state.


Prayer in a drowsy condition will be shorter and simpler and of narrower coverage - but I would suppose that will not trouble God, since He seems to value the prayers of children most of all.

And, given the state of busy distraction in which so many adults live nowadays, it may only be in that drowsy twilight between sleeping and waking that our minds are stilled sufficiently to listen and hear - as well as to speak: to perceive, albeit transiently, that prayerful communication is a two-way street.


Monday, 20 May 2013

The (biological) function/s of sleep


Sleep does not have A function, rather its functions can be regarded from several perspectives: for example (not exclusively) there are biological, medical, psychological and spiritual functions.

And form each of these perspectives there is a positive and negative function: the positive function describes what sleep does, and the negative function what bad things happen when this function is not performed (which may not be obviously-related to the positive function).

And within these functions there will probably be different functions for Deep (Non-REM) and Dreaming (REM) types of Sleep.


Biological function of Deep Sleep and Dreaming Sleep

The mind (which includes the Awake state, and the two types of Deep and Dreaming sleep) is a complex system, and can be analysed as such.

1. Deep Sleep (NREM)

Deep sleep is a cyclical process (as reflected in the regular slow wave patterns of EEG), and is restorative and reparative in its function.

(In waking life cyclical processes are typically associated with the development of habits and skills - with improvement in specific types of functionality : for example the repeating 'drills' used in learning a foreign language, and the repetitious 'practice' used in learning a musical instrument or sporting technique. It is noticable how new skills that are practiced using repetitious drills often become learned only after a sufficient period of restorative sleep.)

More exactly, the cycles of Deep sleep serve to associate and integrate the complex processes of sleeping and waking - because sleep and waking are both complex entities which include variations in the degree and coordination of processes such as awareness, muscle tone, will, memory. 
Inadequate Deep sleep therefore leads to the dissociation of sleep processes (and dis-integration of Waking phase life), which may be seen as symptoms of intrusive sleep into waking, with poor concentration, thought disorder - interrupted streams of thought for example with hallucinations - and to delirium (clouded consciousness, disorientation) and psychotic symptoms as well as changes in mood such as depression or elation (mania).

These problems are essentially problems of harmonization, coordination, synchronisation, integration and correct-association of dissociable mental processes: deep sleep activates, suppresses and links-between these processes appropriately; and lacking adequate Deep sleep, the proper associations break down.


In a (restricted) computing analogy, the cyclical aspects of Deep sleep are somewhat like the multiple 'Restarts' necessary when patching and repairing the software problems of a dysfunctional computer.


In one word, Deep sleep is about healing.

And this further implies that Waking life generates pathologies which require healing.


2. Dreaming Sleep (REM)

To continue the computing analogy, Dreaming sleep is a way of testing the integrity of the complex system of the mind.

In a word - dreaming sleep is a simulation.

In Dreaming sleep, the various internal processes of the brain are allowed to run, freely and in an open-ended fashion, to simulate may situations and combinations of situations, to test the coherence and integration between the sub-systems.


So if deep sleep is about healing and associating, then Dreaming sleep is about testing the effectiveness and integrity of this healing.

An analogy from computing might be that Dreaming sleep is similar to the period of testing following an attempted repair of a glitch or bug, or following a software patch or update.

In terms of medicine, if Deep sleep is about healing, perhaps an operation to repair a broken leg - then Dreaming sleep is somewhat like the period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation which tests the integrity of that repair and various stresses.


If Dreaming sleep is about testing, then this may provide a hint of why dreams can be diagnostic - mostly dreams tell us, when dreams tell us anything, that something is wrong.

But it can be hard to understand exactly what is wrong, what that 'something' actually is, since dreams are in general forgotten, and the process of testing does not depend upon conscious awareness or memory of dream content).

Therefore, the problems detected during dreaming sleep are mostly subsequently dealt with during following periods of Deep sleep - either in a phase of deep sleep immediately following dreaming sleep, or else the next or following night of sleep.


Lack of Dreaming sleep means lack of testing, poor quality control of mental repairs, and the consequences are not as devastating as lack of deep sleep.

Loss of Dreaming sleep (for example when REM sleep is suppressed by a drug) (and what follows is somewhat speculative...) seems to produce subtle symptoms are shallowness and hardening of personality and coarsening of character, desensitization or inappropriate responsivity to the environment, and a non-psychotic level of dis-integration with phenomena such as mood swings, anxiety, impaired concentration, impaired creativity.

After some days, Dreaming sleep (REM patterned EEGs) break through to 'interrupt' both Deep sleep and the awake state - as if the brain had moved form its daily cycle of long phases of compartmentalized phases of Awake, Deep and Dreaming sleep - or Damage/ Repair/ Testing functions - into short, less-compartmentalized micro-cycles which mix together these Awake, Deep and Dreaming phases and functions to produce a more-continuous and less-efficient mixed state of variable amplitude and balance between damage, repair and testing.

In other words, suppression of Dreaming (REM) sleep pushes towards shallow, unsatisfying, unrestorative sleep characterized by multiple awakening and continuous dreaming; and drowsy, inattentive wakefulness prone to narcoleptic phenomena (with sudden onsets of Dreaming sleep).


Waking Life

So, what is the function of Waking life?

Well, at this level of analysis, the biological function of Waking life is proximately to interact with the environment - to perceive the salient features of the environment and behave appropriately; and at a distal level the purpose of this interaction is survival and reproduction.

However, this Waking life interaction is conceptualized (using the systems theory approach) as being disintegrative and disruptive. Thus interaction with the environment breaks up the harmonious interaction of mental processes, and creates bugs and glitches that accumulate and impair function unless or until these problems are repaired by Deep sleep.


Free will and sleep (and psychosis, dementia, damage)


Does we have agency, free will, during sleep - during dreaming?

If agency is real, then the answer must be yes - because if we say no then the implication is that humans only have free will under what may be exceptional circumstances of health, alertness and at certain ages.

If we were to say that free will is absent during dreams, then we would have to say that it was absent during delirious states and during psychosis (schizophrenia, mania, psychotic depression); and also during dementia, and epilepsy, and some forms of brain damage...

And then we would have to recognize that similar conditions apply to children, and many of the elderly, and to people with mental handicap - and indeed to almost any human being for much of each day.

So we end-up with a concept of free will being regarded as something that is an exceptional state enjoyed only by exceptional people - and that at other times human choice is unfree but merely a product of circumstances and contingencies.

And this view is incompatible with Christianity.


(The above is to equate free will with strict and legalistic ideas of mental competence; rather akin to the legal concepts of fitness-to-plead and responsibility. But this is not the human condition - and these legal concepts are operationally deployed in a crude fashion based on an assumption of competence within certain age boundaries.)


So, our understanding should be that free will is something indestructible that stands behind all contingencies.

Free will is eternal and always and necessarily operative, regardless of the choices and possibilities of action - such that the brain damaged person in a coma who is 'shut-in' without movement or sensation is nonetheless assumed to have free will for as long as they are alive - they are not just 'able' to make choices among their mental contents, but necessarily will make choices among their mental contents: free will cannot be switched -off.


Since salvation depends on these choices, and since such choices may be disconnected from perceptible action, we can understand how it is intrinsically impossible for us to judge others in relation to salvation - because we can only perceive another person's actions, and indirectly infer their freely willed choices from these actions.


Yet of course the soul which chooses must be (is) in some way connected with the mind and body which enacts (or fails to enact) choices - therefore we can ask: what is the nature of this connection? - how may we conceptualize the connection between the soul which has free will, and the mind and body which are subject to circumstance?

I think one answer is the concept of empathy - the soul has empathy for the mind and body, a sympathetic resonance with the happiness and sufferings of mind and body, such that the soul feels what they feel.

Again the analogy of the parent can do the necessary work: a good Father or Mother will feel the pleasures and pains of their children, by empathy.

Somewhat likewise, the soul is connected to the mind and body by a necessary and unavoidable empathic identification - while it retains agency under any circumstance.


Yet the soul's agency, while eternal, is affected by mind and body - because empathy is necessary the soul is changed by its own choices - there are consequences to the soul from its previous choices.

Thus free will is always; but that which freely chooses is changed by its choices.

Therefore (without outside intervention) the soul will corrupt itself even after a single initial wrong choice - since the consequence of even a single wrong choice will necessarily damage and corrupt the soul to a significant degree, and make that soul significantly less good and more likely to make another bad choice.

The process is cumulative and the result may be a soul practically incapable of making a good choice even while wholly retaining agency and free will.


We may perhaps directly perceive this process in ourselves, but only indirectly - by inference - in others.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

The structure of life: waking and (two types of) sleeping


Life is a unity - it is not just waking life. And it is divided into three mains parts.

It is divided in order that basic functions may be performed more efficiently -  since specialization allows for increased efficiency; however, the parts are complex and subdivided, and there may be dissociations - the three parts may become mixed or partial.


The three main functional parts of life are Awake, Deep Sleep and Dreaming Sleep.

(Deep Sleep is also called slow wave sleep and non-REM sleep; Dreaming Sleep is also called Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep.)

Information processed by the brain is two main types: instinctual or 'built-in' and environmental or experiential - i.e. added during living consequent upon interaction between the organism and its environment.



When awake, a person interacts with the environment - that is, they are in sensori-motor contact with the environment: getting information via the senses and acting via movement.

Brain activity is open-ended and linear - non-repeating, progressive. Brain waves show disorganized, unpatterned activation

There is awareness of time, and there is typically memory - a record of awake experience is available to introspection for some time afterwards.


Deep Sleep

The person is mostly cut-off from the environment: information comes from within, there are no purposive actions.

Brain activity seems to be cyclical, recurrent patterns revealed as various types of slow waves on electroencephalogram.

There is no awareness of time (because processing is cyclical, not linear), and no explicit memory of what has happened in Deep Sleep.


Dreaming Sleep.

The person is mostly cut-off from the environment: information comes from within, there are no purposive actions.

Brain activity is open-ended and linear - non-repeating, progressive. Brain waves show disorganized, unpatterned activation.

There is awareness of time (because processing is linear), and typically no explicit memory of what has happened in dreaming sleep (however, there may sometimes be a partial memory of some of what happens in Dreaming Sleep, and these are dreams).


We know, introspectively, that Dreaming Sleep is different from Deep Sleep because in Dreaming Sleep we are aware of time, and we may remember a progressively unfolding and non-repeating narrative - i.e. a dream.


In sum:

Waking is a linear interaction with the environment unfolding over time - this interaction is the focus of awareness, and there may be explicit memories of this acquired information;

Deep Sleep is a cyclical, and therefore timeless, non-linear state focused on recurrent processing of internally generated information (instinctual and from memories);

Dreaming Sleep is a linear state of interaction with internal information unfolding over time - explicit memory of this linear process is possible but not necessary, because internal information comes-from memory (and instinct) and has therefore already been memorized (or was built-in): therefore we do not need to remember dreams.


So, leaving-out instinct, this simplifies to:

Waking = Linear interaction with environment = Experience being laid down in memory

Deep Sleep = Cyclical interaction with memory

Dreaming sleep = Linear interaction with memory


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Who is against psychoactive drugs?


Essentially nobody.

Almost everybody uses drugs active on the brain, and altering of emotions, arousal, energy and other brain functions.

Some people take all kinds of drugs, including those known to be harmful - the drug users/ abusers who take opiates, stimulants, downers, psychedelics and so on.

Many people take prescribed psychiatric drugs, more and more people - especially over the whole course of their lives. 

Those who are skeptical or hostile towards prescribed psychiatric drugs almost always use non-prescribed drugs such a caffeine, alcohol or nicotine.

Those hostile to any or all of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine will almost always take prescribed psychiatric drugs when advised to.

And some take other herbal or herbally-derived psychoactive drugs such as Ginseng, St John's Wort etc 

Who is left after subtracting all these groups? Very few - I don't think I have ever met such a person.

Essentially everybody uses psychoactive drugs. For the overwhelming majority, it is not a question of whether to use such drugs, but a choice of which drugs, at what dose and frequency.

Everybody need to know about psychopharmacology.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Two ways of being a Tolkien fan



What would it take for the Left to accept hereditary IQ group differences?


Quite simple.

Stop being the Left. 

Nothing short of that will work. 


And how do you stop people being Left - what possible inducement could be offered?

Only one: religion.

(Proper, orthodox, traditional religion.)


It all boils down to a choice between religions.


If that doesn't happen, if that doesn't work: nothing will.

And it is a waste of time - worse, it is a a deluded distraction of effort and likely counter-productive - to suppose otherwise. 


This post follows on from


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Understanding Leftist IQ heresy hunts


With yet another IQ-related heresy hunt in the news, I am linking to a couple of earlier posts which arose from my own experience of a mini-IQ-related heresy hunt almost exactly 5 years ago as a result of this:

which I later reflected upon here:


What the experience caused me to realize was that the Left CANNOT be honest about group differences in hereditary IQ, because almost the whole Leftist project since the mid-1960s has been based on lies; and especially the lie of the equality of all groups in terms of ability and attributes - since, with this lie in place, all inequalities of outcome can be blamed on prejudice and evil repression.

This is the lie which justifies almost everything about the Left and what the Left does.

So the Left can not give up the IQ lie without losing everything.


(I mean 'everything' in worldly terms. Things look different from a Christian perspective.)


I've explained this a bit more in the Thought Prison book -

and also here:


Roman domestication of humans?


I was interested by the recent post and discussion at Henry Harpending's blog

which cited this paper by Peter Frost

which extended Greg Clark's Big Idea to Roman times - I mean the idea that natural selection operating in 'recent' and recorded history shaped human personality and intelligence in ways which changed history.


Greg Clark's book A Farewell to Alms: a brief economic history of the world had a massive impact on me - for example it propelled me into IQ research and discredited mainstream economics in my eyes.

And I think it likely that Frost is correct to suggest that the Roman Civilization did have some kind of pacifying effect on its inhabitants - all all civilizations probably do.

But I think Frost is demonstrably wrong to state (from the Abstract): "By creating a pacified and submissive population, the empire also became conducive to the spread of Christianity—a religion of peace and submission."


This is wrong because Rome was not the capital of Rome at the time of the fall of Rome - the capital of Rome was Constantinople and the Empire was divided into East and West - both of which were Christian but only one half, the Western half, of which fell - the Eastern Empire surviving and indeed thriving for many hundreds more years ('Byzantium').

Rome the City fell in the four hundreds AD, but Rome the Empire certainly did not - and the City of Rome was in the less important half of the Empire. 

(This point is well covered in the comments on West Hunter.)

So, according to this matched cohort study (!), Christianity cannot have been a major cause of the fall of Rome


Another difference between the English medieval example of domesticated humans given by Clark, and the putative Roman example, is that English domestication led to world conquest and the Industrial revolution, while the Western Roman Empire example of domestication led to barbarian invasion and economic collapse.

Assuming that domestication of humans comes first, then its consequences follow - a new kind of human is first evolved (in terms of changed average personality and intelligence), then the consequences of that evolution follow.

Since the consequences were so different, the first hypothesis would be that the new kind of human was probably different in the case of Rome and Medieval England - different in intelligence and/ or personality.

The selective pressure towards domestication was, indeed, very different - as different as Ancient Rome and Medieval England.


Having said that, which is critical of details of Frost's idea - I must emphasize that I liked the paper and believe that his broad argument is very likely to be correct: some kind of natural selection surely went on during the Western Roman Empire, and it very likely had historical consequences.

But I do not think that Christianity had the role ascribed by Frost, and I would emphasize the differences from - rather than the similarity to - the process of domestication of Homo sapiens in medieval England.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Some more stuff about the decline in intelligence since the 1800s


Is at:


Are dragons really real?


Are dragons real? - I was asked.

I had to think a bit.

The answer was not as straightforward as just No; because for many hundreds of years dragons were as real as anything else that one had not actually seen for oneself.


If we use high quality historical resources, such as the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, we find:

A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter. Siga died on the eighth day before the calends of March.

Nowadays we believe (I think) everything written here was real, except for the dragons.

Because we know (we think we know) that dragons cannot exist, therefore the reference to dragons must be mistaken, or metaphorical - or something...


History is no guide to what is real, not least because history changes - open-endedly.

History is partial, misinterpreted, distorted, subject to addition, subtraction and radical re-emphasis.

Nor is the evidence of our eyes a reliable guide to reality; because we know for sure that sometimes we dream (maybe we are dreaming now?) and have visions (is this a vision or is this real?) and may be suffering hallucinations, and our beliefs may be deluded.

What is real is perhaps that which is even now actually in some place where (in principle) it could be checked and known.


For dragons to be real, they must exist now; and I must actually have experienced them - but not with my fallible senses, nor recorded in my fallible memory - rather with revelation (divine communication) to my eternal soul or spirit - that 'me' which is independent of circumstances and cannot be deceived and can know that it is not being deceived.

All of which is setting the bar pretty high for reality; yet we still could not convince a skeptical other...


So dragons are not real, and neither is a lot of other stuff from history which we think we know is real; OR dragons were as real as the Vikings but we happen to have no archaeological evidence of them; or MAYBE they were and are real, and remain accessible, but I just don't know about it...


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Who was the holiest man who ever lived?


(Specifically man - not woman: that seems too obvious. And man only, excluding Jesus.)

Is there a traditional consensus answer to this question among those in a position to know? If so, I haven't heard it.

There would seem to be three fairly clear candidates: St John the Baptist, who Jesus described as the holiest man to have lived up to that point; St John the Apostle (and - I assume - author of the Gospel, Epistles and Revelation), and St Paul.

Of these, I do not know, but I would guess that perhaps St John the Apostle was the holiest man who ever lived, the man who achieved the highest degree of theosis: most fully, deeply and constantly communed with God.


Monday, 13 May 2013

The Holy Trinity explained! - by Orson Scott Card



Here's a theological argument between a traditional Christian (TC) and a biblical Christian (LDS):

TC: The Trinity consists of three parallel lines, which touch each other. 

LDS: If they touch each other, they're not parallel. 

TC: Nevertheless, they are parallel, and they touch. They touch at every point. 

LDS: If they touch at every point, they're the same line. Not three.

TC: They touch at every point, yet there are three.

LDS: That doesn't make any sense. Lines can't be different yet the same, parallel yet intersecting. The words stop having any meaning when you say such things.

TC: That's because you have a finite, mortal mind, which cannot comprehend the nature of geometry.

LDS: That's just crazy. The Trinity is three lines, completely distinct, perfectly parallel, so they go infinitely in the same direction. That's simple, it's clear, and it's true. In fact, we've seen the lines.

TC: That's blasphemy! You can never see the lines! They're only imaginary!

LDS: Your lines are imaginary. The lines we've seen are real.

TC: Then you are not Geometers!

And that's where the discussion always ends.


I side with the LDS-ite in this debate - because, even if I might disagree with this sufficiency and precision of this formulation of the Trinity, I can at least understand what it is I am disagreeing-with! To agree or disagree with the TC definition of the nature of the Trinity is to assent to, or dissent from, the content of a sealed black box which might contain anything or nothing, or both everything and nothing...