Friday, November 14, 2014

the 85 richest people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion...,

imf |  Good morning. What a great privilege to be here among such illustrious guests to discuss such an important topic.

Let me thank Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the Inclusive Capitalism Initiative for convening today’s event. I would also like to recognize the great civic leaders here today—His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales; President Clinton, and Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London.
We are all here to discuss “inclusive capitalism”—which must be Lynn’s idea! But what does it mean? As I struggled with the answer to that, I turned to etymology and to history.

Capitalism originates from the Latin “caput”, cattle heads, and refers to possessions. Capital is used in the 12th century and designates the use of funds. The term “capitalism” is only used for the first time in 1854 by an Englishman, the novelist William Thackeray—and he simply meant private ownership of money.

The consecration of capitalism comes during the 19th century. With the industrial revolution came Karl Marx who focused on the appropriation of the means of production—and who predicted that capitalism, in its excesses, carried the seeds of its own destruction, the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few, mostly focused on the accumulation of profits, leading to major conflicts, and cyclical crises.

So is “inclusive capitalism” an oxymoron? Or is it the response to Marx’s dire prediction that will lead to capitalism’s survival and regeneration—to make it truly the engine for shared prosperity?
If so, what would the attributes of inclusive capitalism be? Trust, opportunity, rewards for all within a market economy—allowing everyone’s talents to flourish. Certainly, that is the vision.

Most recently, however, capitalism has been characterized by “excess”—in risk-taking, leverage, opacity, complexity, and compensation. It led to massive destruction of value. It has also been associated with high unemployment, rising social tensions, and growing political disillusion – all of this happening in the wake of the Great Recession.

One of the main casualties has been trust—in leaders, in institutions, in the free-market system itself. The most recent poll conducted by the Edelman Trust Barometer, for example, showed that less than a fifth of those surveyed believed that governments or business leaders would tell the truth on an important issue.

This is a wakeup call. Trust is the lifeblood of the modern business economy. Yet, in a world that is more networked than ever, trust is harder to earn and easier to lose. Or as the Belgians say, “la confiance part à cheval et revient à pied” (“confidence leaves on a horse and comes back on foot”).
So the big question is: how can we restore and sustain trust?

First and foremost, by making sure that growth is more inclusive and that the rules of the game lead to a level playing field—favoring the many, not just the few; prizing broad participation over narrow patronage.

By making capitalism more inclusive, we make capitalism more effective, and possibly more sustainable. But if inclusive capitalism is not an oxymoron, it is not intuitive either, and it is more of a constant quest than a definitive destination.

I will talk about two dimensions of this quest—more inclusion in economic growth, and more integrity in the financial system.

Inclusion in economic growth
Let me begin with economic inclusion. One of the leading economic stories of our time is rising income inequality, and the dark shadow it casts across the global economy.

The facts are familiar. Since 1980, the richest 1 percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data.

In the US, the share of income taken home by the top one percent more than doubled since the 1980s, returning to where it was on the eve of the Great Depression. In the UK, France, and Germany, the share of private capital in national income is now back to levels last seen almost a century ago.

The 85 richest people in the world, who could fit into a single London double-decker, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population– that is 3.5 billion people.

With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda—not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers, and business leaders.

Many would argue, however, that we should ultimately care about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. The problem is that opportunities are not equal. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. The evidence also shows that social mobility is more stunted in less equal societies.

Fundamentally, excessive inequality makes capitalism less inclusive. It hinders people from participating fully and developing their potential.

Disparity also brings division. The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.

A greater concentration of wealth could—if unchecked—even undermine the principles of meritocracy and democracy. It could undermine the principle of equal rights proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Pope Francis recently put this in stark terms when he called increasing inequality “the root of social evil”.

aggressive, chauvinistic intellectuals....,

socialethology |  Unfortunately, clergymen, dedicated moralists, distinguished intellectuals, all fall victims to their own propensity for aggression, hatred and destruction. In other words, they are suffering from a kind of “Dugin syndrome”, when they do not tolerate opposite manifestations and behavior forms, when they don’t agree with “other’s” being around. They react aggressively, especially in situations of discomfort and frustration. And the education, culture, religion, traditions of hospitality, diplomacy – these social shields in front of human violence – didn’t have enough power to suppress the aggressive instinct when circumstances “justified” its unleashing. 

In the face of calls for violence and hatred, under the impulse of instinctive impulses, cultural and religious precepts and all kinds of appeasement rituals were frequently declined. Therefore, overall, the relying on civilization, culture and intelligence is not fully justified in the attempt to reduce the instinct’s manifestations. Heritable behavioral programs can’t be suppressed infinitely, and an intelligent person often does not even notice that his emotional reactions and behavioral motivations are not so much a product of the will, as an instinctual expression or an inner reflex. 

We all have a native tendency, an immanent enthusiasm to compete with each other (at the level of individuals, groups, ethnicities, religions, parties, ideas and ideologies). And maybe we divide into camps not as much from ideological reasons, as from the motivation to have an opportunity for confrontation; tribal rivalries of prehistorically people have taken today the form of ideological debates carried by well dressed men. The instincts are basically the same, only the form and the context of expression differs. Few were able to rise above these struggles and rivalries. They were the exceptions that confirmed the rule.

Unfortunately, clergymen, dedicated moralists, distinguished intellectuals, all fall victims to their own propensity for aggression, hatred and destruction. In other words, they are suffering from a kind of “Dugin syndrome”, when they do not tolerate opposite manifestations and behavior forms, when they don’t agree with “other’s” being around. They react aggressively, especially in situations of discomfort and frustration. And the education, culture, religion, traditions of hospitality, diplomacy – these social shields in front of human violence – didn’t have enough power to suppress the aggressive instinct when circumstances “justified” its unleashing. In the face of calls for violence and hatred, under the impulse of instinctive impulses, cultural and religious precepts and all kinds of appeasement rituals were frequently declined. Therefore, overall, the relying on civilization, culture and intelligence is not fully justified in the attempt to reduce the instinct’s manifestations. Heritable behavioral programs can’t be suppressed infinitely, and an intelligent person often does not even notice that his emotional reactions and behavioral motivations are not so much a product of the will, as an instinctual expression or an inner reflex. We all have a native tendency, an immanent enthusiasm to compete with each other (at the level of individuals, groups, ethnicities, religions, parties, ideas and ideologies). And maybe we divide into camps not as much from ideological reasons, as from the motivation to have an opportunity for confrontation; tribal rivalries of prehistorically people have taken today the form of ideological debates carried by well dressed men. The instincts are basically the same, only the form and the context of expression differs. Few were able to rise above these struggles and rivalries. They were the exceptions that confirmed the rule.
See more:
Copyright © Dorian Furtuna

Thursday, November 13, 2014

speaking of domestic surveillance, terrorism, character-assassination and other late-MLK type isht...,

NYTimes |   When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received this letter, nearly 50 years ago, he quietly informed friends that someone wanted him to kill himself — and he thought he knew who that someone was. Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited. A little more than a decade later, the Senate’s Church Committee on intelligence overreach confirmed King’s suspicion.

Since then, the so-called “suicide letter” has occupied a unique place in the history of American intelligence — the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok. For several decades, however, only significantly redacted copies of the letter were available for public scrutiny. This summer, while researching a biography of Hoover, I was surprised to find a full, uncensored version of the letter tucked away in a reprocessed set of his official and confidential files at the National Archives. The uncovered passages contain explicit allegations about King’s sex life, rendered in the racially charged language of the Jim Crow era. Looking past the viciousness of the accusations, the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance in an age with less reserved mass media.

The F.B.I.'s entanglement with King began not as an inquiry into his sex life but as a “national security” matter, one step removed from King himself. In 1961, the bureau learned that a former Communist Party insider named Stanley Levison had become King’s closest white adviser, serving him as a ghostwriter and fund-raiser. The following year, Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved wiretaps on Levison’s home and office, and the White House advised King to drop his Communist friend. But thanks to their surveillance, the bureau quickly learned that King was still speaking with Levison. Around the same time, King began to criticize bureau practices in the South, accusing Hoover of failing to enforce civil rights law and of indulging the racist practices of Southern policemen.

This combination of events set Hoover and King on a collision course. In the fall of 1963, just after the March on Washington, the F.B.I. extended its surveillance from Levison and other associates to King himself, planting wiretaps in King’s home and offices and bugs in his hotel rooms. Hoover found out very little about any Communist subterfuge, but he did begin to learn about King’s extramarital sex life, already an open secret within the civil rights movement’s leadership.

Hoover and the Feds seem to have been genuinely shocked by King’s behavior. Here was a minister, the leader of a moral movement, acting like “a tom cat with obsessive degenerate sexual urges,” Hoover wrote on one memo. In response, F.B.I. officials began to peddle information about King’s hotel-room activities to friendly members of the press, hoping to discredit the civil rights leader. To their astonishment, the story went nowhere. If anything, as the F.B.I. learned more about his sexual adventures, King only seemed to be gaining in public stature. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act passed Congress, and just a few months later King became the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

pope francis must be depressed or sum'n, steady on that radical late-MLK type isht...,

Time | "Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision" Pope Francis warned heads of states attending the annual G20 meeting in Australia about the effects of “unbridled consumerism” and called on them to take concrete steps to alleviate unemployment.

In a letter addressed to Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is chairing this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit which begins Sunday, the Pontiff called for its participants to consider that “many lives are at stake.”

“It would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

Pope Francis, who has made a habit of addressing the leaders of the G20 meetings, has often raised his concerns with the global economy. Last year, in lengthy report airing the views of the Vatican, he criticized the “idolatry of money” and denounced the unfettered free market as the “new tyranny.”
In the letter published Tuesday, he said that, like attacks on human rights in the Middle East, abuses in the financial system are among the “forms of aggression that are less evident but equally real and serious.”

“Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level,” he wrote.

knowing what the system is helps you know who your allies are...,

HuffPo |  It was, after all, the Catholic bishops who created the "right-to-life" movement in the first place, back when most American weren't even paying attention to the abortion issue, as I detail in my book Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. In the mid-1960s, abortion wasn't a major political issue. It was regulated by the states, most of which banned it except to save a woman's life. But public health officials, doctors and some legislators began pushing to make abortion more widely available because some 1 million illegal procedures were being performed every year. The gynecological wards of many city's hospitals were filled with women suffering from botched procedures -- some 10,000 in New York City alone in 1967 -- and only women who were rich or well-connected could get legal abortions, even in cases of rape or fetal deformity.
But the Catholic bishops, who considered sexual morality their special purview, decided to make preventing any liberalization of abortion law the main cause of their newly formed National Conference of Catholic Bishops. When California considered a bill to liberalize abortion access, the Dioceses of Los Angeles hired the same political consulting firm that got Ronald Reagan elected governor of California to beat back the bill. The bishops' consulting firm created the first grassroots "right-to-life" group to lobby against the bill. 

After that, the NCCB hired a political consultant to create right-to-life groups around the country. The bishops provided the financial and administrative support to get some of the earliest and most influential anti-abortion groups, including those in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, off the ground to obscure their involvement in the campaign against abortion, which they feared would reawaken old fears of the Vatican trying to impose its doctrine on American society. They created and funded the National Right to Life Committee, which would go on to be the most influential anti-abortion organization for 30 years, to coordinate the activities of the local anti-abortion groups.
Most of these early groups were heavily Catholic. But as more Evangelical Christians became interested in the issue, they became concerned that the bishops' control of the NRLC would dilute the effectiveness of the pro-life movement because it would be seen as tool of the Catholic Church. At a heated board meeting just before the Roe v. Wade decision, they wrested control of the organization from the bishops' conference, obscuring the Catholic roots of the organization and the anti-abortion movement.

Having lost their grassroots lobby just when they needed it most, the bishops tried another tack. In 1975, they released the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which said abortion was the number one issue for Catholics, and laid out a plan to organize Catholics politically to support candidates who backed a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. The move politicized the issue in a presidential election cycle in which both Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford thought they needed the Catholic vote to win. Both candidates went to the bishops seeking their blessing as the press watched breathlessly. Not surprisingly, the bishops gave what was widely viewed as their endorsement to Ford because of his support of an anti-abortion amendment.

So by the mid-1970s, the bishops had created the anti-abortion movement out of whole cloth and become the first to politicize the issue in a presidential election (even though they failed to throw the election to their preferred candidate). Four years later, when Republican strategist Paul Weyrich was looking for an issue to unite socially conservative voters into a new Republican electoral coalition to replace the fading New Deal coalition, he decided abortion was the perfect wedge issue, both because it tapped into conservative dissatisfaction with the new, socially liberal culture and because it could potentially separate Catholic voters from the Democratic Party. Weyrich rebranded the bishops' right-to-life movement the "pro-family" movement, teamed up with direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie and televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to form the Moral Majority, and the culture wars were officially born.

destruction of the system of dopamine hegemony is the end: everything else is merely conversation...,

medialens |  If Julian Assange was initially perceived by many as a controversial but respected, even heroic, figure challenging power, the corporate media worked hard to change that perception in the summer of 2012. After Assange requested political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the faux-feminists and corporate leftists of the 'quality' liberal press waged war on his reputation.
This comment from the Guardian's Deborah Orr summed up the press zeitgeist:
'It's hard to believe that, until fairly recently, Julian Assange was hailed not just as a radical thinker, but as a radical achiever, too.'
A sentiment echoed by Christina Patterson of the Independent:
'Quite a feat to move from Messiah to Monty Python, but good old Julian Assange seems to have managed it.'
The Guardian's Suzanne Moore expressed what many implied:
'He really is the most massive turd.'
The attacks did more than just criticise Assange; they presented him as a ridiculous, shameful figure. Readers were to understand that he was now completely and permanently discredited.

We are all, to some extent, herd animals. When we witness an individual being subjected to relentless mockery of this kind from just about everyone across the media 'spectrum', it becomes a real challenge to continue taking that person seriously, let alone to continue supporting them. We know that doing so risks attracting the same abuse.

Below, we will see how many of the same corporate journalists are now directing a comparable campaign of abuse at Russell Brand in response to the publication of his book, 'Revolution'. The impact is perhaps indicated by the mild trepidation one of us experienced in tweeting this very reasonable comment from the book:
'Today humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.' (p.345)

renunciation of dopamine hegemony is the beginning..,

medialens |  Even more astutely – and this is where he leaves most head-trapped leftists behind – Brand understands that progressive change is stifled by the shiny, silvery lures of corporate consumerism that hook into our desires and egos. He understands that focused awareness on the truth of our own personal experience is a key aspect of liberation from these iChains:
'Get money. I got money, I got the stuff on the other side of the glass and it didn't work.' (p.56)
'I have seen what fame and fortune have to offer and I know it's not the answer. That doesn't diminish these arguments, it enhances them.' (p.202)
'We have been told that freedom is the ability to pursue petty, trivial desires when true freedom is freedom from these petty, trivial desires.' (p.66)
In a wonderfully candid passage – unthinkable from most leftists, who write as though they were brains in jars rather than flesh-and-blood sexual beings – Brand describes seeing a paparazzi photo of himself emerging from an exclusive London nightclub at 2 a.m with a beautiful woman on each arm:
'I can still be deceived into thinking, "Wow, I'd like to be him," then I remember that I was him.' (p.314)
Brand tells his millions of admirers and wannabe, girl-guzzling emulators:
'That night with those two immaculate girls... did not feel like it looked.' (p.315)
So how did it feel?
'Kisses are exchanged and lips get derivatively bitten, and I am unsmitten and unforgiven, and when they leave I sit broken and longing on the chaise.' (p.316)
The point, again:
'This looks how it's supposed to look but it doesn't feel how it's supposed to feel.' (p.186)
Exactly reversing the usual role of the 'celebrity' ('how I loathe the word' (p.191)) - Brand sets a demolition charge under one of the great delusions of our time: 'Fame after a while seems ordinary.' (p.189)

Everything, after a while, seems ordinary – external, material pleasures do not deliver on their promises.

So why are we destroying humanity and the planet for a vampiric corporate dream that enriches a tiny elite and brings alienation and dissatisfaction to all? The answer? Thought control:

can it be that it was all so simple?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

e.o. wilson on bishop dawkins...,

independent |  “We just corrected a mistake made originally by Hamilton and then repeated by a number of people, myself included,” he says.

Wilson argues that multilevel selection – both at the level of individuals and groups – has led to the creation of eusociality in ants and humans. In the simplest terms, individuals who co-operate together in groups achieve more and enhance the survival of their group, while selfish individualism does not, even in terms of Hamilton’s inclusive fitness and kin selection.

“Within groups, selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals but in the selection of other traits of individuals that are interactive with other individuals – social traits – then groups of altruists defeat groups of selfish individuals,” Wilson explains. “In a nutshell, individual selection favours what we call sin and group selection favours virtue.”  But for many evolutionary biologists, this is demonstrably untrue, at least in animals. For the past 40 years or more, biology students have been taught that natural selection works on the level of genes. Richard Dawkins was the first to articulate this approach to a mass audience, arguing that individuals and their bodies are mere vehicles or “gene machines” for carrying genes through one generation to the next.

Two years after the 2010 Nature paper, Dawkins wrote a scathing review in Prospect magazine of Wilson’s support for group selection which Dawkins dismissively labelled “a bland, unfocused ecumenicalism”.

Natural selection without kin selection is like Euclid without Pythagoras, wrote Dawkins. “Wilson is, in effect, striding around with a ruler, measuring triangles to see whether Pythagoras got it right,” he said. “For Wilson not to acknowledge that he speaks for himself against the great majority of his professional colleagues is – it pains me to say this of a lifelong hero – an act of wanton arrogance.”
Although Wilson has much to be arrogant about, few who have met him would accuse him of it. But the criticism must have hurt, and Wilson was evidently still feeling stung by it when writing his latest book, in which he rather waspishly describes Dawkins, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society and retired Oxford professor, as an “eloquent science journalist”.

“What else is he? I mean journalism is a high and influential profession. But he’s not a scientist, he’s never done scientific research. My definition of a scientist is that you can complete the following sentence: ‘he or she has shown that…’,” Wilson says.

“I don’t want to go on about this because he and I were friends. There is no debate between us because he’s not in the arena. I’m sorry he’s so upset. He could have distinguished himself by looking at the evidence, that’s what most science journalists do. When a journalist named Dawkins wrote a review in Prospect urging people not to read my book, I thought the last time I heard something like that I think it came from an 18th-century bishop.”

it isn't only that john gray doesn't care for richard dawkins...,

newrepublic |  It is a different matter when those he sees as his intellectual underlingsreligious believers and any who stray from the strictest interpretation of Darwinismrefuse to follow his lead. Recalling his years at boarding school, Dawkins winces at the memory of the bullying suffered by a sensitive boy, “a precociously brilliant scholar” who was reduced to “a state of whimpering, abject horror” when he was stripped of his clothing and forced to take cold baths. Today, Dawkins is baffled by the fact that he didn’t feel sympathy for the boy. “I don’t recall feeling even secret pity for the victim of the bullying,” he writes. Dawkins’s bafflement at his lack of empathy suggests a deficiency in self-knowledge. As anyone who reads his sermons against religion can attest, his attitude towards believers is one of bullying and contempt reminiscent of the attitude of some of the more obtuse colonial missionaries towards those they aimed to convert.

Exactly how Dawkins became the anti-religious missionary with whom we are familiar will probably never be known. From what he writes here, I doubt he knows himself. Still, there are a few clues. He began his pilgrimage to unbelief at the age of nine, when he learned from his mother “that Christianity was one of many religions and they contradicted each other. They couldn’t all be right, so why believe the one in which, by sheer accident of birth, I happened to be brought up?” But he was not yet ready to embrace atheism, and curiously his teenage passion for Elvis Presley reinforced his vestigial Christianity. Listening to Elvis sing “I Believe,” Dawkins was amazed to discover that the rock star was religious. “I worshipped Elvis,” he recalls, “and I was a strong believer in a non-denominational creator god.” Dawkins confesses to being puzzled as to why he should have been so surprised that Elvis was religious: “He came from an uneducated working-class family in the American South. How could he not have been religious?” By the time he was sixteen, Dawkins had “shed my last vestige of theistic credulity.” As one might expect, the catalyst for his final conversion from theism was Darwinism. “I became increasingly aware that Darwinian evolution was a powerfully available alternative to my creator god as an explanation of the beauty and apparent design of life. ... It wasn’t long then before I became strongly and militantly atheistic.”

What is striking is the commonplace quality of Dawkins’s rebellion against religion. In turning away from the milk-and-water Anglicanism in which he had been rearedafter his conversion from theism, he “refused to kneel in chapel,” he writes proudlyhe was doing what tens of thousands of Britain’s young people did at the time. Compulsory religious instruction of the kind that exists in British schools, it has often been observed, creates a fertile environment for atheism. Dawkins’s career illustrates the soundness of this truism. If there is anything remarkable in his adolescent rebellion, it is that he has remained stuck in it. At no point has Dawkins thrown off his Christian inheritance. Instead, emptying the faith he was taught of its transcendental content, he became a neo-Christian evangelist. A more inquiring mind would have noticed at some point that religion comes in a great many varieties, with belief in a creator god figuring in only a few of the world’s faiths and most having no interest in proselytizing. It is only against the background of a certain kind of monotheism that Dawkins’s evangelical atheism makes any sense.

the ecology of religious beliefs

pnas |  Here we show that the spatial prevalence of human societies that believe in moralizing high gods can be predicted with a high level of accuracy (91%) from historical, social, and ecological data. Using high-resolution datasets, we systematically estimate the relative effects of resource abundance, ecological risk, cultural diffusion, shared ancestry, and political complexity on the global distribution of beliefs in moralizing high gods. The methods presented in this paper provide a blueprint for how to leverage the increasing wealth of ecological, linguistic, and historical data to understand the forces that have shaped the behavior of our own species. 

Although ecological forces are known to shape the expression of sociality across a broad range of biological taxa, their role in shaping human behavior is currently disputed. Both comparative and experimental evidence indicate that beliefs in moralizing high gods promote cooperation among humans, a behavioral attribute known to correlate with environmental harshness in nonhuman animals. Here we combine fine-grained bioclimatic data with the latest statistical tools from ecology and the social sciences to evaluate the potential effects of environmental forces, language history, and culture on the global distribution of belief in moralizing high gods (n = 583 societies). After simultaneously accounting for potential nonindependence among societies because of shared ancestry and cultural diffusion, we find that these beliefs are more prevalent among societies that inhabit poorer environments and are more prone to ecological duress. In addition, we find that these beliefs are more likely in politically complex societies that recognize rights to movable property. Overall, our multimodel inference approach predicts the global distribution of beliefs in moralizing high gods with an accuracy of 91%, and estimates the relative importance of different potential mechanisms by which this spatial pattern may have arisen. The emerging picture is neither one of pure cultural transmission nor of simple ecological determinism, but rather a complex mixture of social, cultural, and environmental influences. Our methods and findings provide a blueprint for how the increasing wealth of ecological, linguistic, and historical data can be leveraged to understand the forces that have shaped the behavior of our own species.

pope's deratzingerization on and popping...,

NYTimes |  Change is rattling the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, as the American bishops hold their annual fall meeting here this week. The vast majority of them were appointed by Francis’ two more conservative predecessors, and some say they do not yet understand what kind of change Pope Francis envisions and whether it is anything more than a change in tone.

The change is reflected not only in the bellwether Chicago appointment, but also in Francis’ call for the church to open discussion on sticky matters long considered settled, such as communion for the divorced and remarried, same-sex relationships, couples who live together without being married and even polygamists in Africa.

Some prelates, like Bishop Cupich, are exhilarated at the pontiff’s fresh message and the prospect of change, while others, like Cardinal George, are warier. A few have been downright resistant, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American in Rome who has publicly challenged Francis and was removed on Saturday from his position as head of the Vatican’s highest court.

“The pope is saying some very challenging things for people,” Bishop Cupich said in an interview Tuesday. “He’s not saying, this is the law and you follow it and you get to heaven. He’s saying we have to do something about our world today that’s suffering, people are being excluded, neglected. We have a responsibility, and he’s calling people to task.”

Bishop Cupich is seen as an able administrator with a pastoral approach, who has written and spoken on social justice for the poor and disenfranchised in tones that echo Francis. He said he had no idea how he was selected, saying, “Maybe someday over a nice glass of Chianti I’ll ask him.”

teh'geh coming to grips with the church of rome....,

religiondispatches |  Before the dust had settled from the Catholic bishops’ synod on the family, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that it will be hosting an interfaith colloquium this month on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Organizers tout the interfaith aspect of the conference, which they say will feature representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries. Americans attending will include Rick Warren, evangelical author and pastor; Russell Moore, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Henry Eyring, First Counselor in the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; and Charles Chaput, the ultraconservative Archbishop of Philadelphia. Also participating will be Nicholas Okoh, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, who has called homosexuality a manifestation of the devil and praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s “courage” in signing a harsh anti-gay law last December.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops have publicly slammed Catholic Universities that have decided to offer benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. The Advocate reports that Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha criticized Jesuit-run Creighton University and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend criticized Notre Dame. Rhoades said that “Living in conformity with our Catholic teaching that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman needs religious liberty protection so we are not forced to treat same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

what will bishops and cardinals do without fear and hatred to move the crowd?

HuffPo |  America's Catholic bishops came together Monday to project an image of unity, after a Vatican meeting on the family unleashed an uproar over the direction of the church.

Last month's gathering in Rome on more compassionately ministering to families featured open debate — alarming many traditional Catholics, who argued it would undermine public understanding of church teaching. Pope Francis encouraged a free exchange of ideas at the assembly, or synod, in contrast to previous years, when such events were tightly scripted.

At a meeting Monday in Baltimore, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, signaled there was no conflict between a gentler approach and upholding church orthodoxy. Kurtz cited his home visits to parishioners, where he wouldn't give them "a list of rules to follow firsthand," but would instead "spend time with them trying to appreciate the good that I saw in their hearts," before inviting them to follow Christ.

"Such an approach isn't in opposition to church teachings. It's an affirmation of them," said Kurtz, who attended the Vatican gathering.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who also participated in the Vatican gathering, emphasized that last month's meeting was only the start of a discussion before a larger gathering on the family next year, where bishops will more concretely advise the pope on developing any new church practices. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the divisiveness he read in media accounts did not reflect the collegial discussion inside the event.

"It was a synod of consensus," Dolan said. The pope, he said, has a God-given gift "for attentive listening."

The bishops made the remarks at their fourth national meeting since Francis was elected. While many Catholics have praised Francis' new emphasis on mercy over the culture wars, many theological conservatives have said Francis is failing to carry out his duty as defender of the faith. Some U.S. bishops have resisted turning their focus away from gay marriage, abortion and other contentious social issues to take up Francis' focus on the poor, immigrants and those who feel unwelcome in the church.

supernatural punishment, in-group biases, and material insecurity

tandfonline |  Threat of supernatural punishment can promote prosociality in large-scale societies; however, its impact in smaller societies with less powerful deities is less understood. Also, while perceived material insecurity has been associated with increasing religious belief, the relationships between insecurity, supernatural punishment beliefs, and prosocial behavior are unclear. In this study, we explore how material insecurity moderates the supernatural punishment beliefs that promote different expectations about distant, anonymous strangers among a sample of villagers living in Yasawa, Fiji. We examined this relationship by employing an economic game designed to measure local recipient favoritism vs. egalitarian, rule-following behavior. Using indices of three different “punishing” agents – the Christian God (“Bible God”), the deified ancestors (Kalou-vu), and the police – we find that increased belief in Bible God punishment predicts less local recipient favoritism at low and moderate but not high material insecurity. Punishing Kalou-vu also predicts less favoritism at low and moderate insecurity, but more favoritism at high insecurity. Police punishment poorly predicts favoritism, suggesting that secular authority has less impact on isolated communities. We discuss implications for understanding how different kinds of supernatural and secular agent beliefs impact prosocial behavior.

priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection: are you a believer?

tandfonline |  In evolutionary approaches to religion it is argued that belief in supernatural agents is strongly related to a perceptual bias to over-detect the presence of agents in the environment. We report five experiments that investigate whether processing concepts about supernatural agents facilitates agency detection. Participants were presented with point-light stimuli representing unscrambled or scrambled biological motion, or with pictures of unscrambled or scrambled faces, embedded in a noise mask. Participants were required to indicate for each stimulus whether it represented a human agent or not. Each trial was preceded by a supernatural agent prime, a human agent prime, or an animal prime. Our results showed that primes referring to humans facilitated the detection of agency. More importantly, however, results did not reveal a general effect of supernatural priming on agency detection. In three experiments, a moderating effect of religiosity was observed: supernatural agent primes had a differential effect for religious compared to non-religious participants on agency detection biases and the speed of responding to agent-like stimuli. These findings qualify the relation between supernatural beliefs and agency detection and suggest that when supernatural agent concepts have been acquired through cultural learning, these concepts can modulate agency-detection biases.

reflective elaborations on intuitions - what sort of beliefs are religious beliefs? |  Religious beliefs are, from a cognitive standpoint, a puzzling phenomenon. They are not empirically motivated and often contradict the believers’ own assumption that the world obeys a set of stable rules. They are also  apparently very different from one cultural group to another. Assuming that we have cognitive systems because these provide us with reliable information to navigate our environment, it would seem that being strongly committed to hugely variable, non-empirical beliefs is wasteful if not downright damaging (McKay & Dennett, 2009). While some evolutionary anthropologists and psychologists conjecture that such beliefs may actually have adaptive adavantges (Bulbulia, 2004; Irons, 2001), others see them mostly as by-products of other, adaptive cognitive functions (Boyer, 1994b, 2001). This debate is orthogonal to the question, How do such beliefs occur in human minds? One possibility is that religious representations consist in post-hoc explicit elaborations on common intuitions (Boyer, 1994a, 2001). In this perspective, beliefs about ancestors are parasitic on intuitions about persons, as notions of contagious magic are on intuitions about pathogens, and beliefs about the afterworld are on intuitions about dead people (Boyer, 2001; Pyysiainen, 2001). But, if religious beliefs are derivative, what sorts of “beliefs” are they, and how do they get triggered and sustained in cognitive systems?

Monday, November 10, 2014

pope cleaning house

USA Today | In a move that reflects the loosening posture of the Vatican on major social issues, conservative U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke was removed by Pope Francis from yet another top post.
Burke, who has long been vocal about denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion, was dismissed as head of the Holy See's highest court and given the post of Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial job overseeing charity to seniors.
At 66, Burke is considered young by church hierarchy standards. The dismissal is a set-back to his Vatican career as well as a clear message from Pope Francis to those not hewing to his progressive view of the Catholic Church.

supernatural monitoring and sanctioning in community-based resource management |  Cooperation in human societies is difficult to sustain if mechanisms are not in place to monitor behavior and sanction transgressions. Unfortunately, these mechanisms constitute second-order public goods that are vulnerable to freeriding. Religion has been proposed to solve this problem by shifting these burdens to the realm of thesupernatural. However, very little research has been done to examine the specificcontent of beliefs in supernatural monitoring and sanctions within real worldcooperative contexts. To help fill this void and to better understand the role these institutions may have played in the development of prosociality, we performed a meta-analysis of case studies (N = 48) in which religion played some role in community- based resource management (CBRM). 

Our findings suggest that beliefs in supernatural enforcement are common features of CBRM and that these duties are ascribed toentities ranging from ancestral spirits to gods. The specific sanctions believed to beimposed for violating rules are varied, but most often represent common occurrences that are readily open to interpretation as indications of supernatural efficacy. We propose that the provincial quality of the supernatural entities associated with CBRM may limit the scale at which they can promote prosociality and we discuss the implications this may have for the evolution of high gods.

true fifty years ago, and still true today - h.rap an'em cats were literally too smart to move the crowd...,

bbc |  Many religious leaders in Africa are regarded as superstars. 

Take the pastors of Nigeria's mega-churches, for example. Their meetings pack stadiums across the continent. Their books are bestsellers in a society that is frequently accused of having a poor reading culture. 

And in a country that lays claim to a huge percentage of Africa's most acclaimed moguls, entertainment personalities and intellectuals, the Facebook and Twitter pages with some of the highest number of followers are those of pastors. 

A 2010 survey by the US-based Pew Research Center shows that "the vast majority of people in many of Africa's nations are deeply committed to the practices and major tenets of Christianity and Islam". Some 87% of Nigerians surveyed said religion was very important in their lives - compared with 19% in the UK. 

Heads of State and other top government officials seek audiences with prominent clerics - referred to as "men of god" - sometimes circulating photographs of these encounters possibly as evidence of divine validation. 

Hawkers peddle pirated DVDs of their sermons alongside Hollywood blockbusters and the massively popular Nollywood films. 

Rivalling Achebe
Telecommunications companies offer ringtones in the form of prayers recorded in their voices. At one time or another, some pastors have taken steps to distance themselves from bulk text messages sent out in their names. 

Text message instructions from renowned clerics are usually taken seriously in Nigeria, often going viral. They could be anything from a call to communal prayer at a specific time, or an injunction against retaliatory violence. 

I sometimes joke that if the leaders of Nigeria's five largest churches merely hint that no-one should have anything further to do with Chinua Achebe, the author's fan base and book sales in his home country would instantly, unquestionably plunge and his works would eventually be struck off the national curriculum, regardless of how widely acclaimed he is around the world.

The pastors are sometimes accused of making themselves into gods. 

But the matter may be largely out of their hands. One might as well castigate Michael Jackson or Oprah Winfrey or The Beatles for being worshipped by their fans. 

Some observers view the power and popularity of religious leaders as a problem.