March 16, 2008

MetaLinking – 2008-03-16

Metalinking offers readers an opportunity to follow-up on some of the most recent ‘strands’ of research that our group has encountered. In the interest of evolving more rigorous integral theories and applications we conduct original research, internet scans and literature reviews in four main strategic research domains: Bodymind Dynamics, Communication, Culture & Discourse, Environment, Health & Sustainability and Polity, Justice & Organization. All comments and feedback welcome.


Am I Normal? - "A more organic take on human nature is emerging. It sees behavior as a product of distinct personality traits that we all have to a greater or lesser degree. In this new view, we're all just a little bit crazy..."

Cooperation, Punishment And Revenge – “Research from The University of Nottingham has shed new light on the way in which people co-operate for the common good - and what happens when they don't. In a new international study of 16 countries, published in the prestigious journal Science, economists studied the extent to which some people will sacrifice personal gain to benefit the wider public, while 'freeloaders' try to take advantage of their generosity. Marked national differences arose when freeloaders were punished for putting their own interests ahead of the common good. And whether they accepted their punishment or retaliated in kind depended on what kind of society they lived in, the researchers found.”

Resisting temptation is energy intensive – “Cognitive Daily has just published a great write-up and demonstration of a study that illustrates how self-control is an energy intensive process that puts a big drain on the body's glucose levels. The article tackles a recent study led by psychologist Matthew Gailliot that found that exercising self-control in either conversations or in lab tasks reduces blood glucose levels.”

Consciousness is Nothing but a Word – “In 1991, Daniel Dennett published his tome, Consciousness Explained.1 Yet, ten years later he penned an article titled “Are We Explaining Consciousness Yet?”2 If he had to ask the question, the answer seems obvious. English-speaking philosophers and psychologists have been trying to understand consciousness at least since John Locke introduced the word into the English language in the 17th century. But despite the best efforts of those who’ve thrown their hats into the ring, we haven’t made much progress. Obviously, a different approach is needed.” Is this flatland reductionism or simply critical thinking? You decide.

How Effective and Integral are Your Current Spiritual Practices? – “How much of your current spiritual practice incorporates the 18 most validated methods for building a spiritually congruent life and an authentic and empowered spiritual lifestyle? We invite you to review the 18 central practices used by history's greatest spiritual leaders, mystics and saints and compare your current spiritual practices to theirs. You might just find out that you are doing a lot better than you ever dreamed...”

Eastern And Western Cultures Perceive Emotions Very Differently – “A team of researchers from Canada and Japan have uncovered some remarkable results on how eastern and western cultures assess situations very differently… "East Asians seem to have a more holistic pattern of attention, perceiving people in terms of the relationships to others," says Masuda. "People raised in the North American tradition often find it easy to isolate a person from its surroundings, while East Asians are accustom to read the air "kuuki wo yomu" of the situation through their cultural practices, and as a result, they think that even surrounding people's facial expressions are an informative source to understand the particular person's emotion."”

Genes and Happiness, or Free Will Revisited – “As I begin writing this post I can’t help but be reminded of the one I wrote a few weeks ago about the troubles one runs into when trying to reconcile present-day understandings of neuroscience and genetics with the traditional concept of free will. A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research recently conducted a study to investigate how much our subjective sense of happiness is dependent upon our genetic makeup (and thus personality style). Is our ability to be happy solely up to us ("us" being defined as hypothetical beings with complete free will), or is it constrained by the type of person we are, which is determined to a large extent by our genes?”


Economists Decode Rational Behaviors of Black Women – “There are a lot of African-American single moms around and some commentators are inclined to blame this fact on 'Black Culture'—whatever that phrase might mean," writes economist Tim Harford in his new book, The Logic of Life. Harford goes on: "But 'Black culture' doesn't explain why the single moms are disproportionately in the states where lots of young black men are in prison." Not sure we can endorse or agree with this type of “science” but nonetheless…

Scientist Turns Microscope on Herself – “One of the most fascinating talks at the TED conference so far was given by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, who gave a riveting account of a stroke she experienced in 1996. (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.) Taylor's knowledge of the brain made her the perfect witness to her body's gradual shutdown. Over the course of four hours she watched her body deteriorate in stages, all the while processing its breakdown as if she were a curious explorer taking field notes. The first to go was her perception of herself as separate from the objects around her.”

Not by Reason Alone - "Can you argue people out of a belief in God? And can science scratch that same itch? "If this book works as intended," avows Richard Dawkins in the preface to his best-selling book The God Delusion, "religious readers who open it will be atheists by the time they put it down." Show people data, and enough of it, and in a process as inevitable as Darwinism itself, people will drop their babyish dependency on magical thinking and return to their natural state, which is atheism (or at least a sober agnosticism). This is Dawkins's basic premise, shared by many of today's vocal neo-atheists..."

VIDEO: Nietzsche on Hardship - Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness – “Nietzsche on Hardship - British philosopher Alain De Botton explores Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) dictum that any worthwhile achievements in life come from the experience of overcoming hardship. For him, any existence that is too comfortable is worthless, as are the twin refugees of drink or religion.”

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense – “Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up… Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism. The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution, but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage. To help with answering them, the following list rebuts some of the most common "scientific" arguments raised against evolution. It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom.”


British Columbia "the clear leader in North American climate policy" – “B.C.'s provincial government has instituted a carbon tax. It's pretty significant: Taylor said the new carbon tax will begin July 1, starting at a rate that will have drivers paying about an extra 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline at the pumps. The tax -- which will apply to virtually all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home heating fuel -- will then increase each year after that until 2012, reaching a final price of about 7.2 cents per litre at the pumps. After that, Taylor said, it will rest with the government of the day to decide if the tax rate should change any further.

VIDEO: James Howard Kunstler: The tragedy of suburbia – “In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. Reengineering our cities will involve more radical change than we are prepared for, Kunstler believes, but our hand will be forced by earth crises stemming from our national lifestyle. "Life in the mid-21st century," Kunstler says, "is going to be about living locally.”

Welcome to the Post-Carbon World
– “Why do some planets survive their carbon crises and others don’t? It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Buildings, electricity production, transportation, and food & forestry contribute the bulk of the greenhouse gases. But climate-friendly options are ready. Author Guy Dauncey takes us out of this world as we begin to imagine some down-to-earth solutions.”

5 Factors Of Social Ills In Energy, Mining And Logging Communities Revealed By Study
- “The troubling link between boom towns and high rates of substance abuse is usually attributed to workers having too much money and too little to do. But a recent study of one Canadian community suggests underlying pressures including loneliness, a lack of healthy social connections and a need to "keep up with the Joneses". Two University of Alberta researchers, working with the Canadian Forest Service to conduct the study, found that substance abuse in the town of Hinton runs far deeper than the current economic boom. Because many resource-based communities have similar social and economic structures, the study's findings may provide insights into the social challenges of mining, logging, and oil and gas-based communities across North America.”


Dalai Lama calls Tibetan crackdown 'cultural genocide' – “The Dalai Lama on Sunday called for an international probe of China's treatment of Tibet, which he said is causing "cultural genocide" of his people. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet spoke at a news conference Sunday in Dharmsala, India, two days after violent clashes between pro-autonomy demonstrators and Chinese security forces in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. A spokesman for the self-declared Tibetan exile government said it has confirmed at least 80 deaths in Friday's violence and that protests were continuing outside the capital on Sunday, further undermining China's hopes of a smooth run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

New Pakistan Government May Mean Trouble for U.S.
– “Pakistani opposition leaders agreed to form a coalition government on Sunday. According to Islamabad-based reporter Graham Usher, this could spell bad news for President Pervez Musharraf and also complicate things for the U.S.”

Colonization of the Americas - “There is a fairly new paper on the colonization of the New World. It is the latest in a series of attempts to synthesize biogeography, climate change related paleoenvironmental reconstruction, genetics, and archaeology…The authors draw these conclusions: These results support a model for the peopling of the New World in which Amerind ancestors diverged from the Asian gene pool prior to 40,000 years ago and experienced a gradual population expansion as they moved into Beringia. After a long period of little change in population size in greater Beringia, Amerinds rapidly expanded into the Americas ≈15,000 years ago either through an interior ice-free corridor or along the coast. This rapid colonization of the New World was achieved by a founder group with an effective population size of 1,000-5,400 individuals. Our model presents a detailed scenario for the timing and scale of the initial migration to the Americas, substantially refines the estimate of New World founders, and provides a unified theory for testing with future datasets and analytic methods.”

New Instruments of Surveillance and Social Control: Wireless Technologies which Target the Neuronal Functioning of the Brain
– “Increasingly there are indications that the uses of wireless technologies have been developed to target an individual’s biological body, with specific focus upon the neuronal functioning of the brain. In this paper I examine how some of these uses have had detrimental effects, and what this implies for both present and upcoming developments for particular wireless/sensor technologies. I consider whether this is not shifting dangerously towards a psycho–civilised society, where greater emphasis is placed upon social control and pre–emptive strategies.”

VIDEO: Social Networks and the Development of Society - "NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS, a physician and sociologist, is a Professor at Harvard University with joint appointments in the Departments of Health Care Policy, Sociology, and Medicine. For the last ten years, he has been studying social networks."

Shifting Baselines, Climate Change and War – “Last summer, one million square miles of Arctic Ocean melted. The Arctic icecap is half the size that it was 50 years ago. The Northwest Passage is now a reality, and territory and resource claims are starting to show up at the United Nations. While the UN has rejected all Arctic claims, things are heating up in the north in more ways than one. Russian icebreakers, submarines, and bombers are lingering around. Canadian icebreakers have joined them. Ironically (and uncharacteristically), the US is on the sidelines of this new, emerging arms race for Arctic resources and shipping shortcuts. Guess how many US icebreakers are included in our $440 million annual defense budget? Uno.”

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