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When Truth, Theory and Evidence Are Misunderstood

It’s often misinterpreted that science explains concepts perfectly. People believe that when something is ‘proven’, it is taken that proof will never be refuted and that it is 100% true. But the below links explains things much more clearly. If people understood this underlying fact about our ‘knowledge’, they might be more open to the new ideas and ways of thinking.

And now for the cheesiest line in knowledge… Remember when we all thought the Earth was flat?

not-just-a-theory

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Character development via negativa

The process of intelligence via negativa is one in which I’m always tickled pink to find new applications.

If you’re not familiar with via negativa, read the following: “A philosophical approach to theology which asserts that no finite concepts or attributes can be adequately used of God, but only negative terms”. That’s Oxford’s. But in reference to the study of knowledge or epistemology, the via negativa process defines thing by what they are not. This process has the benefit of being more sound. The common example is that of the black swan. If I see 1 million white swans in a row, this still cannot make me 100% certain that only white swans exist. It is all positive information. But if I see just one black swan, I can safely assert with 100% confidence that not all swans are white. The via negativa process carries great weight.

And so in application to character development does the process of via negativa carry weight. Instead of defining the characteristics of the person you would most like to emulate, define the characteristics of the person you would most despise. Don’t personalize this by saying, “Oh that’s Jerry down the street for sure. He’s a dick.” Because when you personalize, you start getting into some tricky business, since you can never know how Jerry’s life experiences have effected him mentally and how hard he tries to be a good person. Instead simply create a fictional person to whose motivations, life experiences and underlying thought processes you are 100% privy. 

And then work your hardest to never be that person. The process of defining that thing you most detest does not need to be a morbid one. It’s supposed to uncover or put in new light what you’re working towards. 

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Brain wiring, genetics+nurture and fault

It is nature or nurture? Surely, it’s somewhere in between. Sometimes more nature, sometimes more nurture. But through neuroscience and psychology, we’re getting to a point where brain wiring’s (and therefore actions) are seen to be a direct consequence of either nature or nurture.

And it’s to a point that some are beginning to argue that it’s hard to know how much blame can be put on a perpetrator. Does the fact that a murderer’s genetic disposition coupled with an incredibly traumatic upbringing devoid of the loving relationships that have been shown to result in healthy brain wiring make him not “at fault”? Because of the clarity we are gaining on early childhood brain development and genetics, the argument is becoming easier to make.

We will always need societal incentives to curb people from infringing on other rights. But the argument of who is truly to blame is gettin’ real damn interestin’ 🙂

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Are you psychic or just projecting patterns to white noise?

There are two main camps around the issue of whether humans have an ability that science does not yet understand. The abilities are most commonly described as having energetic connections with everything around us. There are many different takes on what this actually means, but the gist of it is that physics says that any matter exerts waves into the space around it. Some argue that it is those energetic waves that allow things some form of communication. Others propose that, akin to the breakthroughs in quantum entanglement, because all matter was condensed together at the beginning of the big bang, all matter in the universe shares a form of quantum entanglement (kind of badass to think about if you ask me). Other parts of entanglement could arise from matter or energy having been in one life form which then gets consumed and transferred into other different life forms which would then share matter and energy that was once part of a unique form. Whatever the case, hippies abound saying they can feel friends’ auras and know when something is wrong among other things.

The other camp thinks the hippies are nuts (my most sincere of apologies to anyone who takes offence to the term hippie). I typically find people from these camps expounding studies of humans interpreting ‘white noise’ stimuli. In these studies, it is found that humans will project some type of form onto white noise stimuli when in fact no such pattern exists. So they argue that when someone says that they can ‘feel’ friends, etc. is projecting some sort of pattern onto stimuli that in fact has no such pattern or basis to it. They point to other studies that show humans have a great propensity to think they ‘knew’ something was going to happen that already did. We are disproportionately confident of our correctness towards things that have already happened. Behavioral economics has done wonders in this area.

Now, I believe the white noise studies and their outcomes. But I think the truth lays somewhere in the middle. Quantum entanglement is very real. Energy fields are very real. There are very real studies of people being able to detect different crystals in different covered boxes. There are very real studies I’ve covered before on people’s abilities to detect (above the threshold of chance) where a friend standing behind them is looking on their back/head. But I think the truth lays somewhere in the middle of all this hub-bub. I think it’s most likely that yes, we make stuff up in our heads. But a good portion of what’s going on does come from all of these energetic and entanglement pieces. I think it also ranges for different people drastically. It’s very likely that someone who has taken years to try to concentrate on being sensitive to all the energy around them will have a better ability to interpret that energy than someone who thinks it’s all bogus.

Either way, science has a lot of exploration left and that makes me excited 🙂

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Decision points… No, not Dick’s book

Experiences are less important than remembered experiences around the time of decision.

In the middle of yoga class, I die. Sweats pours off me in unbroken streams and I force myself to keep going and going. Some teachers make the class work harder than others. But in the middle of class is NOT when I’m deciding whether I will go again. The point at which someone decides whether they will do yoga again is two or three days later.

This is incredibly important for two reasons. The first is that after two or three days, you don’t remember how hard the class was. You do remember the beneficial results that have occurred in your body since the class. Second, yoga has this fun thing at the end of class where you just lie on your back like a dead dude and do nothing at all for 5 minutes or so. So if you remember the colonoscopy experience research done by Dan Ariely, you’ll know why this is important. If you haven’t, read the next paragraph.

Basically he gave guys getting a colonoscopy a mechanism that allowed them to report how crappy (pun… intended) it felt on a scale of 1-10. Now you’d think that as time passes, the area under the curve (well, more of a spiky line that peaked as the nurse did… well, whatever) would correspond to how negative the person’s experience was. But this is not the case. The people who ended up hating it the most were those that had high pain close to the end of the colonoscopy. Even someone who had similar pain spikes throughout, but had a longer colonoscopy with the ending being very mild actually reported more pleasantly on the experience a few days later. Think of listening to a song, then at the end, there a very high pitched scream that ‘ruins the song’ for you. Well, it didn’t ruin the 3 minutes of beautiful music you heard, it just ruins your memory of it.

It highlights the difference between the remembering self and the experiencing self. And it’s the remembering self that makes the decisions in life; like whether to do another yoga class or whether to get another colonoscopy. This has great implications for business people designing experiences. And even for feeding you kids. They don’t like vegetables? Feed them the veggies at the start of the meal, then the good stuff at the end, maybe even with an awesome dessert too. Muahaha – science gets ya!

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Old World Knowledge

Old world knowledge rocks.
Like when my friend who was born in Russia tells me to use a cap full of vinegar as laundry softener. “It’s disinfectant too, so it kills the bacteria that eats sweat and causes that body odor smell”. Thanks. Or, to put news paper over the spot on your carpet where you’ve spilled wax and then run a hot iron over it. The wax get absorbed into the paper.
Another old world knowledge idea is that if there are many remedies for something, than really, there are none. Because if there was a particular solution that worked amazingly well, no one would use the other solutions and they would have no reason to exist. This was read in an old short story by Chekhov.

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Your brain, sex and feet

BAAA-haha. Sorry but sometimes science is way too fun.
So some people might be familiar with the way your brain is mapped in terms of body parts typically being located in very predictable places on your brain’s physical layout. If so, skip the next paragraph.
The jist of it is that all along your brain, the human body is laid out. If you open someone’s skull and stimulate a particular part of the brain with an electrode, people will feel it in very specific parts of the body. And it’s always the same part of the body.
Now if someone loses, let’s say, a foot, they lose their foot. What they don’t lose is the part of their brain that is responsible for feeling the foot. So the foot part of the brain is up there chillin’ with nothing to do. No stimulation. This results in the phenomenon known as a ‘ghost limb’. The foot is gone, but the piece of brain responsible for the foot doesn’t know what’s going on. And here’s where it gets freaky (and for the foot, literally freaky).
When there is a part of the brain that lies unstimulated, whether due to the limb being removed or the nerve connection being severed, those neurons that were responsible for that part of the body begin an amazing process. The neurons don’t just die and wither away, they re-tool themselves, in a sense, looking for stimulation. And they do so in the most logical way possible, they take a look’see at what’s around them and start giving a hand.
And in the foot’s case, guess what’s right next door…
On the map of the brain (go ahead and google it), neurons for the foot are mapped right beside those of the genitals. So when people get their foot severed, those foot neurons start helping out the genital neurons and ‘become’ genital neurons. And that’s why there are many documented cases of people losing their feet and then reporting, after a while, that their orgasms feel more intense. BAAA-haha.
This may also explain foot fetishes. Thank you science.

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