Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reminder: Winning the the Battle of the Abused Brain Program this Weekend in NYC

Dear friend and colleague, Sue Cox, is bringing her groundbreaking program about emotional healing to NYC this weekend.

Her focus is on helping victims of childhood sexual and psychological abuse. But it's not just the injured parties which her research and seminar support.

The program is for families, social workers, those in the medical and legal profession, corrections, education and a host of healing fields that work with those traumatized by childhood emotional and sexual violence.

Sue and her team of therapists hail from the United Kingdom, and their message of hope, rebuilding lives and creating powerful change is something we should all support.

I'll see you all there!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brief Post: Notes on a Wonderful Morning

[Editor’s Note: I rarely bring my adult daughters into the world of paleolibrarian. Neither do I bring what I like call the “universe’s ultimate plan for me” into the site either. I feel strongly that one’s personal life should remain personal. Today is an exception to that rule of privacy and done with the permission of a higher authority, namely that of FS]

Today, Francesca and I had the rare opportunity to walk Chloe to her nursery school. This is one of the few true positives of having your car held hostage overnight in the shop for repairs.

On the way to school and while we were pushing her stroller, Chloe looked up, pointed up and said the word "moon."

It is a clear day and sure enough a sliver of the moon was see-able against the blue sky.  It was obvious that Chloe knew what this celestial body represented and could name it.

Chloe is a little less than 18-months-old but she already recognized that we are not alone it our solar system or universe.

Of course she doesn't know exactly what the moon is - neither its properties or its history -nor does she know (yet) that our little Earth sits in a spiral arm within a cluster of stars, planets and other objects in a galaxy amongst billions of other galaxies.

But "moon" is a good start.

A start on the road to where rational thought meets the wonder of a mind open to all things. Things known, investigated and concluded and to so much more unknown and yet to be understood.

We are all made of the stuff of stars. And Chloe is the universe's ability to, pardon me for stealing from Carl Sagan, "to know itself."

Wonderfully we are all that way too if we’re allowed to be curious and unimpeded by various dogma. An awesome responsibility, yet one founded on our honest human need to know and explore.

If Chloe and her generation are anything, then she and her ilk are the best example of the positive future we all must be invested in if we’re to move our species forward.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflections on Roads that Diverge

There’s so much to write about, so much to focus on, so much to share and await the next conversation.

We could discuss the Pope’s recent visit to the United States and his alleged moral authority. We could ask, “Why all the media frenzy to lionize ‘the Lamb of Jesus’” who in reality is an anti-secular humanist and anti-women homophobe. A man who at his core, no matter how liberal he appears, still declares that only through baptism and prayer can humanity find salvation and then only through his specific theology and god.

Now we find out that while in Washington, DC, the Pope had a secret meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky elected civil servant who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs.
They Met in Secret in D.C.

We could continue to discuss the culture wars. The legal battles of late that the secular world seems to be winning. How allowing all people to marry is now an equal right. Such decisions by the Supreme Court may be an affront to select religious factions but equal rights are indeed protected freedoms based on secular constitutional inclusion.

Perhaps we should double-back and look at the somewhat shrinking Republican field of candidates who, based on their faith traditions, refuse to accept evolution as a scientific fact and who also deny human involvement in climate change. After all, in more congenial times, it was the Nixon administration that created the EPA and signed the Clean Air Act, and it was Ronald Reagan who protected 273 million acres of land through his signing of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. When did the conservative agenda become the anti-Earth agenda?

But I’d like to focus on an essential and serious topic that relates to individual worldview and perception. There’s been plenty written about the “Democratic Brain” and the “Republican Brain.” If you’re aware of pop-psychology, then you’re probably equally familiar with the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” concepts and series of books with the same name.

An important question concerning the formation of religious belief has been frequently asked and now scientifically studied, that is: is religious spirituality systemized via nature or nurture? This remains a central issue regarding a biological and thus an evolutionary basis for god belief. The answers to which have implications for believers and non-believers alike. Is it that old story, “our genes made us do it?” and if that’s the case, and as many suspect, then free will is non-existent.

In the book The God Gene, the author looked at how spirituality may have a genetic basis and even claimed that atheism is itself an anomaly. Religious behavior, the author states, is stamped into our DNA and enforced by community and cultural mores and values. Thus, the combined forces of breeding and sociology work in tandem to maintain god belief in succeeding generations.

There are holes in this idea to be sure since there are 1.2 billion people (and growing) on the planet that do not share spirituality or god belief with any group. You really need an awful lot of data to conclude that 1.2 billion of 7.3 billion is an “anomaly.” But could the rise of the Nones indeed be part of a greater trend like that cool Peppered Moth example which occurred during England’s industrialization? You know the story, it showed in real time how rapid changes in the environment could select and de-select traits which could favor some breeding populations over others in the same or similar groups? If so, what has changed in the global environment to allow for such growth in nonbelief and what does that say about the future of our species and our humanity?

From a morphologic and biochemical view, research has found that there are indeed chemical changes in the believing and non-believing brain. In other studies, it appears that different regions of the believing and non-believing brain even communicate differently when exposed to spiritual situations. While one can self-stimulate a religious experience (like schizophrenics do, or those who place themselves in a trance-like state), most of the stimulation that leads to god belief comes from the external - like reading the bible, attending prayer groups, going to houses of worship, and so on.

So perhaps Ben Carson’s ability to be a superb medical doctor and pediatric neurosurgeon while also believing that evolution is a lie created by Satan, or Dr. Francis Collins’ ability to be a devout Christian and be the Director of the NIH and also lead the Human Genome Project, is not just simple self-aware cognitive dissonance. But perhaps this bifurcation is based on the troika of genetic inheritance, brain chemistry and immersed sociological belief in supernatural forces. 

Of course, the hole in this theory remains in the fact that there are people of equal brilliance, like more than seventy percent of all scientists and most Noble laureates in science that, even with the same genetic, morphological and social variables in place, consciously choose to be non-believers. Or, the fact that many people have had strong personal and community connections to god belief, but later in life have become atheists.

When we enter the area of humanist philosophy, we find that spirituality can be defined as not needing deity belief at all. After four-thousand-years of intellectual objection and skepticism towards religion, modern atheists who practice meditation (and those who don’t practice), do have spiritual feelings, they’re just not related to a particular god or theology. They are perhaps more emotionally moved by the wind and the stars and the idea that the gods’ humans have created are too small and petty. While at the same time they feel fully connected to the natural world, other humans and the universe.

These many ideas end in one suggested outcome. A global understanding if you will. Both religious belief and lack of religious belief are both equal human contrivances, and they are essentially based on brain chemistry, personal history and group solidarity. This equality when consciously expressed offers believers and non-believers access and denial of access to social options (communities, breeding) and to traditions, beliefs and social networks.

However, belief in god by itself is not equal to non-belief or atheism. Once an individual accepts god belief they enter a world, based on their own creation, which is founded on magic and delusion. This delusion then offers the subject and their same-believing community self-imposed legal and social rights to subjugate others for their lack of belief in the same deity.  This usually leads to violence, prejudice, unequal treatment and in extreme cases ethnocide or genocide. All because one’s brain chemistry, enforced by the accepted beliefs and actions of fellow members of the same community, allow for such violence against select groups which include women, children, and ethic and religious minorities as well as the secular.

The light then shines on the non-believing brain quite differently. Here, based on rejection of deity belief, the individual and community sets standards that are more open to ideas, individuals, and communities. Not in a utopian fashion but based on a historical tradition of reason and an openness of acceptance of others while at the same time encompassing the Golden Rule, to do no (or less) harm then our religious brethren have committed over time. Evidence, reason, acceptance of science and a love for the enjoyment of living that rejects the idea we are born sinners leads to a less stressed and in turn a happier life.

Finally and perhaps just in time, as we make ourselves in our own image we are growing as a movement for all the right and peaceful reasons that our social contract demands of us. Thus impacting our morphology and brain chemistry in the process to further build on secular success, which benefits successive generations and keeps the genetic/social momentum for non-belief prospering.