Sunday, December 16, 2012

a christian is a man who is able to fulfill the commandments

A man who is able to do all that is demanded of a Christian, both with his mind and his essence, is called a Christian without quotation marks. A man who, in his mind, wishes to do all that is demanded of a Christian, but can do so only with his mind and not with his essence, is called pre-Christian. And a man who can do nothing, even with his mind, is called a non- Christian.”
G.I.Gurdjieff /Views from the Real World / Separation of Oneself from oneself

"If instead of religion in general we take Christianity, then again there exists a “Christianity number one, that is to say, paganism in the guise of Christianity.  Christianity number two is an emotional religion, sometimes very pure but without  force, sometimes full of bloodshed and horror leading to the Inquisition, to religious wars. Christianity number three, instances of which are afforded by various forms of  Protestantism, is based upon dialectic, argument, theories, and so forth. Then there is Christianity number four, of which men number one, number two, and number three have no conception whatever.  "In actual fact Christianity number one, number two, and number three is simply  external imitation. Only man number four strives to be a Christian and only man  number five can actually be a Christian. For to be a Christian means to have the being  of a Christian, that is, to live in accordance with Christ's precepts.  "Man number one, number two, and number three cannot live in accordance with  Christ's precepts because with them everything 'happens.' Today it is one thing and  tomorrow it is quite another thing. Today they are ready to give away their last shirt  and tomorrow to tear a man to pieces because he refuses to give up his shirt to them.  They are swayed by every chance event. They are not masters of themselves and  therefore they cannot decide to be Christians and really be Christians.”
G.I.Gurdjieff/ In search for the Miraculous / Chapter 4 

"First of all it is necessary to understand that a Christian is not a man who calls himself a Christian or whom others call a Christian. A Christian is one who lives in accordance with Christ's precepts. Such as we are we cannot be Christians. In order to be Christians we must be able 'to do.' We cannot do; with us everything 'happens.' Christ says: 'Love your enemies,' but how can we love our enemies when we cannot even love our friends? Sometimes 'it loves' and sometimes 'it does not love.' Such as we are we cannot even really desire to be Christians because, again, sometimes 'it desires' and sometimes 'it does not desire.' And one and the same thing cannot be desired for long, because suddenly, instead of desiring to be a Christian, a man remembers a very good but very expensive carpet that he has seen in a shop. And instead of wishing to be a Christian he begins to think how he can manage to buy this carpet, forgetting all about Christianity. Or if somebody else does not believe what a wonderful Christian he is, he will be ready to eat him alive or to roast him on hot coals. In order to be a good Christian one must be. To be means to be master of oneself. If a man is not his own master he has nothing and can have nothing. And he cannot be a Christian. He is simply a machine, an automaton. A machine cannot be a Christian. Think for yourselves, is it possible for a motorcar or a typewriter or a gramophone to be Christian? They are simply things which are controlled by chance. They are not responsible. They are machines. To be a Christian means to be responsible. Responsibility comes later when a man even partially ceases to be a machine, and begins in fact, and not only in words, to desire to be a Christian."
G.I.Gurdjieff/ In search for the Miraculous / Chapter 6

temple in man

"Generally speaking we know very little about Christianity and the form of Christian worship; we know nothing at all of the history and origin of a number of things. For instance, the church, the temple in which gather the faithful and in which services are carried out according to special rites; where was this taken from? Many people do not think about this at all. Many people think that the outward form of worship, the rites, the singing of canticles, and so on, were invented by the fathers of the church. Others think that this outward form has been taken partly from pagan religions and partly from the Hebrews. But all of it is untrue. The question of the origin of the Christian church, that is, of the Christian temple, is much more interesting than we think. To begin with, the church and worship in the form which they took in the first centuries of Christianity could not have been borrowed from paganism because there was nothing like it either in the Greek or Roman cults or in Judaism. The Jewish synagogue, the Jewish temple, Greek and Roman temples of various gods, were something quite different from the Christian church which made its appearance in the first and second centuries. The Christian church is—a school concerning which people have forgotten that it is a school. Imagine a school where the teachers give lectures and perform explanatory demonstrations without knowing that these are lectures and demonstrations; and where the pupils or simply the people who come to the school take these lectures and demonstrations for ceremonies, or rites, or 'sacraments,' i.e., magic. This would approximate to the Christian church of our times.

"The Christian church, the Christian form of worship, was not invented by the fathers of the church. It was all taken in a ready-made form from Egypt, only not from the Egypt that we know but from one which we do not know. This Egypt was in the same place as the other but it existed much earlier. Only small bits of it survived in historical times, and these bits have been preserved in secret and so well that we do not even know where they have been preserved.

"It will seem strange to many people when I say that this prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity. Special schools existed in this prehistoric Egypt which were called 'schools of repetition.' In these schools a public repetition was given on definite days, and in some schools perhaps even every day, of the entire course in a condensed form of the sciences that could be learned at these schools. Sometimes this repetition lasted a week or a month. Thanks to these repetitions people who had passed through this course did not lose their connection with the school and retained in their memory all they had learned. Sometimes they came from very far away simply in order to listen to the repetition and went away feeling their connection with the school. There were special days of the year when the repetitions were particularly complete, when they were carried out with particular solemnity—and these days themselves possessed a symbolical meaning.

"These 'schools of repetition' were taken as a model for Christian churches—the form of worship in Christian churches almost entirely represents the course of repetition of the science dealing with the universe and man. Individual prayers, hymns, responses, all had their own meaning in this repetition as well as holidays and all religious symbols, though their meaning has been forgotten long ago."
G.I.Gurdjieff/ In search of the Miraculous / Chapter 15

it's hard to be a christian...,

bravenewworld | Interviewer: Thanks for coming on the St. Matthew the Evangelist Show, Jesus. I know you’re a busy man so let’s get right to it. You probably know of the great income disparity in the world today. What would you tell those who call themselves ‘Christians’ to do about it?
Jesus: Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. 19:21

Interviewer: Gee, I don’t hear any televangelist saying that. That’s a pretty hard thing to do, give all your money to the poor. No wonder there aren’t that many true Christians.

Jesus: Many are called but few are chosen. 22: 14 The harvest is rich, but laborers are few. 9:37

Interviewer: But you’re saying the opposite of what our consumer culture is telling us, that we should be as rich as we possibly can.

Jesus: You can’t serve both God and money. 6:24 You must worship God and serve him alone. 4:10
Interviewer: So you’re saying we shouldn’t want to be rich, huh?

Jesus: I tell you truly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. 19:23 It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 7: 14 Many who are first will be last, and the last, first. 19:30

Interviewer: Yikes, it sounds like there are a lot of rich and famous people we won’t be seeing in the hereafter. What would you tell the Occupy Wall St. folks, who are protesting the inequalities of our economic and political system? 

Jesus: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. 5:6

Interviewer: But they’re getting beat up by the police! 

Jesus: Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of righteousness. 5:10 Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body, but not kill the spirit. 10: 28

Interviewer: But they’ll haul them off to court to face a judge. What then?

Jesus: Don’t worry about how to speak or what to say, because it is not you who will be speaking. The Holy Spirit will be speaking through you. 10:19, 20

Interviewer: But you’re facing a court of law.

Jesus: The weightier matters of the Law are justice, mercy and faithfulness. 23: 23

Saturday, December 15, 2012

the mark

Laziness is a very deep powerful thing. Once you really understand why a thing is wrong and still do it, you in a real sense sin—that is, you miss the mark. That is why we call the struggle against intrinsic laziness, mechanicalness, and inattention - Work.

an ill-fitting, poorly-designed, too-tight suit...,

The Personality that we all acquire receives the impressions of life. But it does not transform them because it is a dead machine. If impressions fell on Essence they would be transformed because they would fall directly on real and vital centres.

Personality, which is the term applied to all that we acquire, (and we must acquire Personality), translates impressions from every side of life in a limited and practically stereotyped way according to its quality and associations.

The Personality in this respect is sometimes compared in the work with a secretary who sits in the front room, dealing with everything according to her own unexamined ideas. She has a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias and reference books, etc. round about her and rings up the three centres—that is, the Moving, the Emotional and the Instinctual centres—according to her limited ideas.

The result is that the wrong centres are nearly always being rung up.

This means that incoming impressions are sent to the wrong places and produce the wrong results.

A man's life depends on this secretary(Personality), who mechanically looks up things in her reference books without any understanding of what they really mean and transmits them accordingly without caring what happens, but knowing and feeling that she is doing her duty.

This is our inner situation. What is important to understand in this allegory is that this Personality which we all acquire and must acquire begins to take charge of our lives. And it is no use imagining that this only happens to certain people. It happens to everyone. Whoever we are, we find ourselves, through self-observation, possessed of a certain small number of typical ways of reacting to the manifold impressions of incoming life. These mechanical reactions govern us. Everyone is governed by his own set of reactions to impressions— that is, to life—whether he is revolutionary or conservative, or good or bad in the ordinary sense.

And these dead and mechanical reactions are his life.

Mankind is mechanical in this sense.

A man has formed in him a number of reactions which he takes as himself and his life experiences are the result of them.

If you can relax enough physically, and drop away mentally from all ideas of yourself (which is mental relaxing) you will be able to see what I mean. You will see that, as it were, there are a number of things below you—namely, external to you—that you keep on taking as yourself. In such a passive state you can see them dimly.

At first sight they seem to be above you.

Immediately you tense your muscles or begin to talk you become them.

They become you or you become them, and off you go again.

But you must not try to do this exercise too much at first.

Actually they are like little grasping machines that insist on taking charge of you and demand that you should enter them again. They are set in motion by this "secretary"—that is, by the habitual way this secretary responds to impressions.

And the reactions which follow you take as life. You take your typical and mechanical reactions to impressions as life.

You take your reactions to a person as him or her.

All life—that is, outer life, which is what you usually think "life" is—namely, what you see and hear—is for each person his or her reactions to the impressions coming in from it.

It is a great mistake to think that what is called "life" is a solid fixed thing, the same for everyone. '

No one has the same impressions of life. Life is our impressions of it and these can be transformed.

But as was said, this is a very difficult idea to reach, because of your identification with the machinery of Personality and loss of connection to Essence.

You cannot help thinking and feeling that the machinery of your Personality gives you reality. But because of this, your real and essential inner life remains dim to your subjective experience.

To establish a point in the work, to make it more real than life, you must observe yourself and make your innermost life of thoughts and feelings a fact more powerful than any "fact" given by your Personality.

This is the beginning of transforming.

One cannot transform anything in oneself if one is bound up in that tight ill-fitting suit of Personality.

The work teaches that if you are negative it is your own fault. The Personality teaches that it is this or that person in the outer world, that you see and hear by means of your eyes and ears, who is at fault. This other person, you will say, because he or she does this or talks like that, is to blame for your thoughts and feelings about them. But actually, if you are made negative, what you have to work on, what you have to observe, is this negative emotion projected from your Personality into your inner life—that is, into the inner invisible "place" where you really exist. Your real being is in the inner invisible world of yourself.

when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child

Now suppose in some way you could act only from undeveloped Essence; it would be foolish, even not human. You must not imagine that Essence is wholly beautiful and charming. Essence is lazy. From the standpoint of the astral or planetary world, Essence is often more or less like an animal. There are very few human beings at this level anymore.

So here lies the paradox of Personality and Essence.

To be able to act from Essence requires a development of Essence. For Essence to grow, Personality must become passive. To say that Personality must teach Essence is one way of putting it, but however you put it,  Essence must learn from Personality.

The difficulty is that Essence cannot be compelled to grow.

No external compulsion can make Essence grow. Essence cannot be persuaded directly, by outside force.

You cannot compel a small child to grow. Why? Because each child is a self-developing organism by creation. That is, it can only develop itself.

The esoteric problem—the task of Work—is how to make Essence grow. It does not grow from itself save to a point. Something else is necessary.

This is the central idea of religion and explains why religions exist.

How to make Essence grow is the real work of religious praxis—i.e., how to make what is real in you grow so that there is no duality of acquired Personality and born Essence.

Now if you do not steal, from yourself, from others, no matter what the circumstances, this is Essential. If you do a thing because no one is looking, or you wish a reward or praise, or from fear, it is not from within, but from outside—that is, from external circumstances, from Personality. It is not real.

When stripped of external life what will you be—when Personality is removed? What remains that is real?  I advise you to think about this problem that arises from the fact that you are created as a self-developing organism. You will see how all external compulsion and social systems will never develop you and will, in fact, only further separate you from Essence completely.

All the long process and living of Work is to pass from Personality to Essence, bringing to Essence the gifts that Personality has acquired. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

possible development...,

This third stage is all concerned with a possible further development of Essence. Since this further development is only a possibility, not a necessity, it is unfamiliar to 99.9999 of humanity. 

Many apparently paradoxical or at least strange things are said in the Gospels about man. These sayings seem strange because they all have to do with the unfamiliar possibility of allowing Essence to grow at the expense of Personality. This is the only way in which Essence, which is too weak by itself to grow, can continue to develop. In this sense, Personality, which is formed around Essence, and must be formed around Essence, becomes eventually, if this third stage is entered upon, the very source from which Essence can grow further. Suppose that Personality is in a particular individual very richly developed. He is, then, a rich man, in the sense of the Gospels. He knows about everything, he is an important person, and so on.

What is poor in him?

What is poor in him is his Essence. He is not yet a real man. What he does, he does to acquire merit, or from fear of loss of honour or reputation, and so on, but he does nothing from himself, nothing from the love of doing it, quite apart from praise, authority, position, popularity, or any other gain in the eyes of the world. Suppose that this man feels, in some way, like the Prodigal Son—namely, that he is eating nothing but husks. I mean simply that he may feel in himself very empty in spite of all of his "richness". He has got the finest house, the richest clothing and jewels, he is famous, and he has in some way got the better of everybody else, and yet he feels empty. Such a man is approaching the third possible stage of development.

He has now reached a position in which his Essence—namely, that part of him which is material and real—can grow. It is possible for such a man to replace his immaterial feeling of emptiness with a material feeling of meaning. But in order to bring about in this man this further development, he must begin to sacrifice his Personality and to go in a sense in the opposite direction to that in which he has gone up to that point in time. In other words, a kind of reversal must take place in him which is well-expressed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Unless we understand that this third stage is possible and leads to a man's real development we will never understand what the Gospels are speaking about.

and everything else is merely conversation...,

personal religion...,

A man is born as Essence (Instinctual/Emotional/Moving Centres) and this constitutes his real part, the part from which he can really grow and develop. But this part in him can only grow in a very small way. It has not the strength to grow by itself any further after, say, the age of three or four or five. Let us call this the first stage of a man. That is, the first stage of a man is pure Essence which by itself is capable of a certain amount of growth but reaches a point very soon in which it can grow no further.

Christianity teaches that the Essence in a man can only grow a very short way by itself. People naturally think that growth and development is something continuous or that it should be, but here is this extraordinarily interesting idea within Christian praxis that this is not the case. Man's Essence can only grow by itself unaided to a very small extent, and as such, a man is nothing but a little child. Now in order for it to grow further something must happen. Something must form itself round Essence and this is called Personality(Intellectual Centre) Essence must become surrounded by something that is really foreign to itself, acquired from life, which enters through the senses from family and culture.

A little child must cease to be itself and become something different from itself.  A child's locus of awareness (self-awareness) passes from Essence into Personality. It learns all sorts of things, it imitates all sorts of things, and so on. This formation of the machinery of Personality around Essence is actually necessary for the further development of Essence. The formation of this machinery of Personality can be called the second stage of man. This is the end of psychological development for the overwhelming majority of these humans.

But let us clearly understand this notion, the future development of Essence depends on the formation of Personality around it.

If a very poor Personality, a very weak Personality, is formed round Essence, there is very little to help further growth of Essence. In the second stage, the formation of Personality is taking place, and, as was said, the richer the Personality the better. Most have neither the eyes to see, nor the ears to hear the extraordinary situation we are in—namely, that we cannot grow continuously from Essence because Essence is too weak to grow by itself. Most are not even aware of the distinction between Essence and Personality. Most know nothing whatsoever about the action of, and the specific qualities of, the Instinctual, the Emotional, the Moving, and the Intellectual Centres.

The further growth of Essence depends first of all on the formation of Personality and the richer the Personality the better eventually for the growth of Essence, but, ordinarily speaking, the formation of Personality is quite sufficient for the purposes of cultured human life. A man finds himself in a good position, able to deal with life through the formation of a rich Personality in him. And if he is satisfied, he is, for all life purposes, adequate.

Christianity is about a possible, but not necessary, further stage of human development. In the Christic scheme of possible development - Personality is sublimated into Essence as food for its possible further life and growth.

Everything else is merely conversation...,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

the neuroscience of fair play

amazon | Pfaff, head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, explains his purpose in clear terms: The whole focus in these pages is on the possibility that some rules of behavior are universally embedded in the human brain—that we are 'wired for good behavior.' He claims he's surveyed the world's religions and found some variant of the Golden Rule in every one, leading him to conclude that this trait is likely to be under some sort of genetic control. The simple mechanism for the occurrence of altruistic acts, he says, is the brain's tendency to confuse self and other—similar to the blurring of identities that occurs in a love relationship. This empathy—whose neural mechanism Pfaff explains—can prevent us from harming others as well as leading us to do good. The author goes into great detail, far more than is necessary to drive his point home, about how neurobiology and neurochemistry interact to help shape behavior. His sections on parenting, sexual love and aggression are intriguing, but the technical information will make this appeal primarily to those with a strong interest in the brain and the science of behavior.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

seeing god in the third millenium...,

atlantic | There are many carefully documented accounts in the medical literature of intense, life-altering religious experience in epileptic seizures. Hallucinations of overwhelming intensity, sometimes accompanied by a sense of bliss and a strong feeling of the numinous, can occur especially with the so-called "ecstatic" seizures that may occur in temporal lobe epilepsy. Though such seizures may be brief, they can lead to a fundamental reorientation, a metanoia, in one's life. Fyodor Dostoevsky was prone to such seizures and described many of them, including this:
The air was filled with a big noise and I tried to move. I felt the heaven was going down upon the earth and that it engulfed me. I have really touched God. He came into me myself, yes God exists, I cried, and I don't remember anything else. You all, healthy people ... can't imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second before our fit. ... I don't know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours or months, but believe me, for all the joys that life may bring, I would not exchange this one.
A century later, Kenneth Dewhurst and A. W. Beard published a detailed report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry of a bus conductor who had a sudden feeling of elation while collecting fares. They wrote:
He was suddenly overcome with a feeling of bliss. He felt he was literally in Heaven. He collected the fares correctly, telling his passengers at the same time how pleased he was to be in Heaven. ... He remained in this state of exaltation, hearing divine and angelic voices, for two days. Afterwards he was able to recall these experiences and he continued to believe in their validity. [Three years later] following three seizures on three successive days, he became elated again. He stated that his mind had "cleared." ... During this episode he lost his faith.
He now no longer believed in heaven and hell, in an afterlife, or in the divinity of Christ. This second conversion -- to atheism -- carried the same excitement and revelatory quality as the original religious conversion.

More recently, Orrin Devinsky and his colleagues have been able to make video EEG recordings in patients who are having such seizures, and have observed an exact synchronization of the epiphany with a spike in epileptic activity in the temporal lobes (more commonly the right temporal lobe).

Ecstatic seizures are rare -- they only occur in something like 1 or 2 percent of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. But the last half century has seen an enormous increase in the prevalence of other states sometimes permeated by religious joy and awe, "heavenly" visions and voices, and, not infrequently, religious conversion or metanoia. Among these are out-of-body experiences (OBEs), which are more common now that more patients can be brought back to life from serious cardiac arrests and the like -- and much more elaborate and numinous experiences called near-death experiences (NDEs).

Both OBEs and NDEs, which occur in waking but often profoundly altered states of consciousness, cause hallucinations so vivid and compelling that those who experience them may deny the term hallucination, and insist on their reality. And the fact that there are marked similarities in individual descriptions is taken by some to indicate their objective "reality."

But the fundamental reason that hallucinations -- whatever their cause or modality -- seem so real is that they deploy the very same systems in the brain that actual perceptions do. When one hallucinates voices, the auditory pathways are activated; when one hallucinates a face, the fusiform face area, normally used to perceive and identify faces in the environment, is stimulated.

pandit only virtual now...,

how widespread is sentience in the animal kingdom?

psychologytoday | We all know that nonhuman animals (animals) such as chimpanzees, wolves, dogs, cats, and all other mammals are sentient beings. They have "the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences." The recent Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness also noted that consciousness is more widespread than some people had previously thought and that certainly all mammals are conscious beings. But what do we know about other vertebrates and invertebrates?

An online debate between Indiana University's Colin Allen and myself was recently held, hosted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) as part of their Sentience Mosaic, that focused on the question, How widespread is sentience in the animal kingdom? You can see the full text here. And, what's great about these debates is that you can also post questions after they are held.

do animals dream: of course they do

psychologytoday | From time to time people ask me if nonhuman animals (animals) dream. Just this morning I received an email from Canada's Discovery Channel flagship science and technology show "Daily Planet". I was asked to comment on a video of an English bulldog puppy dreaming and to answer a few questions on dreaming in animals.

I feel confident claiming that all mammals dream but this does not mean that other animals do not dream. We really just don't know if they do or not and we should keep the door open about this very challenging question. Charles Darwin's ideas about evolutionary continuity note that the differences among various species in anatomy, physiology, behavior, and emotions, for example, are differences in degree rather than kind. This basically means that the differences are shades of gray and not stark, black and white, variations. So, following up on Darwin, I like to say, "If we have or do something, 'they' (other animals) have or do it too."

beluga attempting "first contact" with these humans...,

psychologytoday | This story, hot off the press, of a captive beluga whale named Noc mimicking human voices is well-worth reporting (see also where there is a great video of Noc, and here). It's the first demonstration of a whale mimicking human voices.

Here's a great teaser to draw you into this fascinating discovery: “Who told me to get out?” asked a diver, surfacing from a tank in which a whale named NOC lived. The beluga’s caretakers had heard what sounded like garbled phrases emanating from the enclosure before, and it suddenly dawned on them that the whale might be imitating the voices of his human handlers." The abstract of the original research report can be seen here.

Canaries of the sea
Belugas are also called white whales and "canaries of the sea" because of their highly developed vocal repertoire. What Noc does is unexpected and fascinating. To wit, "These sounds are even more surprising because whales typically produce sounds in a completely different way from people, using their nasal tracts and not the voice box or larynx as humans do. To make these humanlike sounds, Noc had to vary the air pressure in his nasal tract while adjusting liplike valves and over-inflating sacs under his blowhole."

these humans are comically inconsistent

physorg | In economics, classical theory holds that we have consistent risk preferences, regardless of the precise decision, from investments to insurance programs and retirement plans. But studies in behavioral economics indicate that people's choices can vary greatly depending on the subject matter and circumstances of each decision.

Now a new paper (PDF) co-authored by an MIT economist brings a large dose of empirical data to the problem, by looking at the way tens of thousands of Americans have handled risk in selecting health insurance and retirement plans. The study, just published in the American Economic Review, finds that at most 30 percent of us make consistent decisions about financial risk across a variety of areas.

This empirical finding belies the notion that people are uniformly consistent in their approach to risk, across types of financial decisions—but it also shows that not everyone continually changes their risk tolerance, either.

"As economists, we often place great value on where people put their money in the real world," says Amy Finkelstein, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, who helped conduct the research. "Most extremes are not true in the reality, and we found our answer was in the middle."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

science knows and understands shockingly little about emotions...,

The faces of former poster-child Big Don leading up to and immediately following yesterday's expulsion - start in lower right corner and go left, then upper right corner and go left - top middle is shit&shoe epiphany moment 
ucla | While human emotions are clearly derived from a psychological foundation shared by social mammals, we likely possess some emotions that are considerably less developed, or wholly absent, in other creatures. Humans are unique in the extent of their reliance on socially transmitted information in coping with physical and social environments.

An important class of emotions consists of those which mediate the acquisition, use, and dissemination of cultural information. Admiration of successful persons involves a desire for proximity and a willingness to provide client services to obtain it, as well as a desire for close observation and imitation.

These patterns lead individuals to adopt ideas and practices of probable local utility. At a larger scale, conformity to cultural values, beliefs, and practices makes behavior predictable and allows for the advent of complex coordination and cooperation; shame and pride motivate an assessment of prevailing norms, an awareness of the presence of observers, and conformity to pervasive expectations when under observation. Conversely, contempt and moral outrage motivate publicizing the actions of nonconformists, excluding them from cooperative endeavors, and inflicting costs upon them. A richer understanding of the evolution of contempt and moral outrage is needed given that punishment plays a key role in maintaining cooperation.

Finally, while considerations of kin selection and reciprocal altruism indicate that many animals should experience emotions in a corporate fashion (i.e., harm to kin or allies is experienced as harm to self, etc.), humans link their identities to group membership at scales not explicable in terms of kin selection or reciprocal altruism, suggesting that the benefits of coordination and cooperation favored the evolution of highly developed human corporate sensibilities.

Monday, December 10, 2012

a new model of empathy?

WaPo | At the very least, the new experiment reported in Science is going to make people think differently about what it means to be a “rat.” Eventually, though, it may tell us interesting things about what it means to be a human being.

In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.

The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.

The researchers came to the unavoidable conclusion that what they were seeing was empathy — and apparently selfless behavior driven by that mental state.

“There is nothing in it for them except for whatever feeling they get from helping another individual,” said Peggy Mason, the neurobiologist who conducted the experiment along with graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and fellow researcher Jean Decety.

“There is a common misconception that sharing and helping is a cultural occurrence. But this is not a cultural event. It is part of our biological inheritance,” she added.

The idea that animals have emotional lives and are capable of detecting emotions in others has been gaining ground for decades. Empathic behavior has been observed in apes and monkeys, and described by many pet owners (especially dog owners). Recently, scientists demonstrated “emotional contagion” in mice, a situation in which one animal’s stress worsens another’s.

But empathy that leads to helping activity — what psychologists term “pro-social behavior” — hasn’t been formally shown in non-primates until now.

If this experiment reported Thursday holds up under scrutiny, it will give neuroscientists a method to study empathy and altruism in a rigorous way.

are animals moral creatures?

yahoo | Does Mr. Whiskers really love you or is he just angling for treats?

Until recently, scientists would have said your cat was snuggling up to you only as a means to get tasty treats. But many animals have a moral compass, and feel emotions such as love, grief, outrage and empathy, a new book argues.

The book, "Can Animals Be Moral?" Oxford University Press, October 2012), suggests social mammals such as rats, dogs and chimpanzees can choose to be good or bad. And because they have morality, we have moral obligations to them, said author Mark Rowlands, a University of Miami philosopher.

"Animals are owed a certain kind of respect that they wouldn't be owed if they couldn't act morally," Rowlands told But while some animals have complex emotions, they don't necessarily have true morality, other researchers argue. [5 Animals With a Moral Compass]
Moral behavior?
Some research suggests animals have a sense of outrage when social codes are violated. Chimpanzees may punish other chimps for violating certain rules of the social order, said Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-author of "Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals" (University Of Chicago Press, 2012).
Male bluebirds that catch their female partners stepping out may beat the female, said Hal Herzog, a psychologist at Western Carolina University who studies how humans think about animals.
And there are many examples of animals demonstrating ostensibly compassionate or empathetic behaviors toward other animals, including humans. In one experiment, hungry rhesus monkeys refused to electrically shock their fellow monkeys, even when it meant getting food for themselves. In another study, a female gorilla named Binti Jua rescued an unconscious 3-year-old (human) boy who had fallen into her enclosure at the Brookline Zoo in Illinois, protecting the child from other gorillas and even calling for human help. And when a car hit and injured a dog on a busy Chilean freeway several years ago, its canine compatriot dodged traffic, risking its life to drag the unconscious dog to safety.

All those examples suggest that animals have some sense of right and wrong, Rowlands said."I think what's at the heart of following morality is the emotions," Rowlands said. "Evidence suggests that animals can act on those sorts of emotions."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

today's music...,

great brubeck fresh air interview from 1999

npr | This interview was originally broadcast in 1999. Brubeck died on Wednesday at age 91.
In 1954, polls in the leading jazz magazines Metronome and Downbeat selected Dave Brubeck's band as the year's best instrumental group. That same year, Brubeck was the second jazz musician ever featured on the cover of Time Magazine (the first being Louie Armstrong).

Brubeck celebrated a milestone in 2009, when his seminal album Time Out, featuring the hits "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," celebrated its 50th anniversary. Brubeck marked the occasion with an outdoor concert at the Newport Jazz Festival. A month later, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that he would be a 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree.

In 1999, Brubeck talked to Terry Gross about his decades in the music industry. He explained that he grew up on a 45,000-acre ranch in California, the son of a music teacher and a cattle rancher.

Though Brubeck and his two older brothers studied piano with their mother, the future jazz pianist initially didn't take lessons for very long. He quit when he was 11 to focus on his first love: rodeo roping. But his mother, who thought he was talented at the piano, wouldn't allow him to rope anything larger than a yearling.
"She didn't want my fingers to become hurt," Brubeck said. "My uncle, who was also a rodeo roper, got his finger caught between the saddle horn and the rope, and it took his finger off. And he used to kid the other cowboys and say, 'I would've been a great pianist like my nephew Dave, had I not lost this finger.'"

Brubeck returned to studying the piano after his first year of college, after his zoology teacher offered him some advice. The teacher noticed that Brubeck's attention span seemed more focused on the music school across the street.

"He said, 'Brubeck, your mind is not here with these frogs in the formaldehyde,'" Brubeck said. " 'Your mind is across the lawn, at the conservatory. Will you please go over there next year?'"

Brubeck agreed and started taking classes at the conservatory. But he had a secret: Despite his lessons as a child, he couldn't read music. Once the dean of the conservatory found out, he threatened to not graduate Brubeck.

"But when some of the younger teachers heard this, they went to the dean and said, 'You're making a big mistake, because he writes the best counterpoint that I've ever heard,'" Brubeck said. "So they convinced the dean to let me graduate. And the dean said, 'You can graduate if you promise never to teach and embarrass the conservatory.' And that's the way I've gotten through life, is having to substitute other things for not being able to read well. But I can write, which is something very few people understand."