Cognition & Reality

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Not In Our Genes II

Filed under: Behavioral Genetics,Books,Human Evolution,Propaganda,Race,Science — drtone @ 1:03 pm

I posted recently regarding the 1985 book Not In Our Genes, by R.C. Lewontin, Steven Rose & Leon Kamin. In that previous post, I discussed the reasons, despite its fame, that the book failed to block the increasing popularity of sociobiology. The authors’ criticisms of the latter are trenchant and occasionally funny, but they are couched in neo-Marxist language virtually guaranteed to turn readers off.

In addition, the chapter on the state of the debate, at the time the book was written, regarding the role of women is, thankfully, somewhat dated. Even if they believe it, no one of any substance currently argues that women can’t fill roles in society previously held exclusively by men. Advances in the quarter century since the book was written have favored the inclusion of women in the professional world, which is not to say that true gender equality has been reached, but only to say that it has increased noticeably. Indeed, it could be instructive for young people to read that chapter in order to gain some appreciation of the the character and pace of what was then called “women’s lib.”

That said, Not In Our Genes is a good book, well-written, well-argued and entertaining.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hemp, Freedom & Consciousness

Filed under: Books,Cannabis — drtone @ 5:13 pm
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“If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”

Terence McKenna, 1993, from the epigraph of Cannabis Philosophy for Everyone: What Were We Just Talking About, edited by Dale Jacquette.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Specifics

Filed under: Books,Emotion,Psychotherapy — drtone @ 10:23 am

Specifics trump theory every time. Although I admire the new Robert Masters book, Spiritual Bypassing, his chapter on “boundaries” demonstrates how that discussion without specifics is empty and useless. He talks about being “overboundaried” and “underboundaried,” and about being “overprotected” and “underprotected,” but without specifying by examples or otherwise what these terms mean. Abstractions are rarely helpful, even in the most high-level discourse. As I read, I could feel my own places of confusion, such as how hard it is for me to grasp viscerally the meaning of an “object relations gestalt.” Therefore, I drew the preliminary conclusion that Masters has problems with boundaries. Without specifics, however, I remain uncertain.

I find more and more that what I ask of my clients is that they provide specifics: Not “Joe and I aren’t getting along,” or even “We fought about the way Joe relates to the kids,” but “I didn’t like it when Joe put our son down for playing video games,” or “I nearly lost control of the car on the freeway on the way here when Joe said that I don’t signal for turns.” Stipulating that any such report is a “story,” I can work with stuff like that. In addition, vagueness is a great defense against almost anything. The effort to specify what happened or is happening offers a gateway through which feelings can emerge.

Friday, 15 October 2010

God Of The Ice Crystals

Filed under: Basic Goodness,Books — drtone @ 9:47 am

A client gave me The Hidden Messages in Water, by Masuru Emoto. It’s the book with the pretty photos of ice crystals, by the guy who figured out how to take such photos. As the title indicates, Emoto (great name!) believes that, through the shape of the ice crystals that form in it, water can not only reflect what we see, but also what we feel. For example, if there are two jars of water, one labeled “Love and Gratitude,” and the other “You fool!,” the former will produce beautiful ice crystals, and the latter deformed crystals.

Emoto appeals to science in describing the spiritual dimension of water. He’s done many studies and demonstrations. He also believes that water came to earth, essentially one drop at a time, from outer space, a theory advanced by a respected astrophysicist. His enthusiasm is refreshing, but I can’t see the same things in the many photos included in the book that Emoto can. He exposed vats of water to different kinds of music and to photographs of various places around the world, and claims to be able to differentiate the crystals that result. Mostly, the crystals look pretty, but I don’t see how the crystal “shown” a photo of Machu Picchu “reminds us of the glory of the Incan Empire.” To me, it looks a lot like the crystal from New York City tap water. The double crystals supposedly formed in water exposed to tango music…what can I say?

For Emoto, the “hidden messages” in water are about the importance of love and especially gratitude to individual happiness and world peace. I guess I didn’t need a glass of water to tell me that. Water, furthermore, is the most spiritual of the natural elements; of that there can be no doubt. The book is in places quite funny, if unintentionally, and the photos are great, whatever messages they may convey.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Spirtual Bypassing

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — drtone @ 2:20 pm

I’m reading Spitritual Bypassing, by Robert Masters. Ostensibly, it’s a criticism of the New Age trend of hiding behind spiritual practice and spirituality, rather than facing up to the pain in our lives. Masters writes well and simply, and the book has so far held my interest. There are difficulties with his argument, but Masters makes a larger point about the relationship between psychotherapy and spiritual practice that deserves serious study.

To the extent that Masters pursues the main line, he runs into the problem that he can’t be too specific about whom and what he is criticizing. Nobody really knows how much I’m meditating simply to numb my fears. Although it can be annoying to hear people claim that everything is perfect because it’s all the Oneness, or whatever, to address that in detail would involve nothing more than bitching about flaky people. Masters avoids that trap at the expense, sometimes, of spelling out his concerns.

That said, when he does get specific about throwing aside the masks that spirituality offers, Masters offers an outline of a “spiritual” form of psychotherapy that is both illuminating and useful. His message, which he has delivered elsewhere, about going into one’s pain, rather than trying to ascend out of it, is at the heart of effective psychotherapy because it’s at the heart of true personal development.

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