Weekly choice: on Doubts, Neurons, Space and…To-do Lists (?)

 

How Atheism, Skepticism, and Humanism Changed My Life – and how it can Change Yours

skeptic“I was once taught to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I was once taught to believe that God is the one true god. I was once taught to believe that all things are possible only through him. I was once taught that non-Christians weren’t good people. I was once taught that only Christianity could answer the questions that I had. I once believed in aliens, ghosts, and cryptids without hesitation. I once believed I was better than others. At one time I believed these things to be true. But eventually, I woke up. It wasn’t until I was much older I began questioning my beliefs and understanding the world much better, in ways that were much more fascinating than anything suggested to me from the pulpit, television, or literature. The beauty of living organisms, the complexity of our universe, and the incredible abilities of the human brain; all of which often taken credit for by those who believe they’ve been given a religious mandate to do so. Soon, it became incredibly hard for me to rely on faith.

If we want to live a knowledgeable and clear life, we must humble ourselves in way that may not sound easy now. I’ve done so by applying these simple principles:

  • I cannot be afraid to doubt unsubstantiated claims.
  • I cannot be afraid to ask questions about everything.
  • I need to be apprehensive before believing what other people say to be fact-based.
  • I need to treat others kindly in a respectable and adult way.
  • I need to live our lives day by day as if it is our last, because it’s highly probable this is the only life I get.
  • I need to recognize when I’ve been wrong and make an honest effort to correct those mistakes.

I ask you to do the same.

http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2014/3/18/how-atheism-skepticism-and-humanism-changed-my-life-and-how-it-can-change-yours

.

The World Concert Hall: Listen To The Best Live Classical Music Concerts for Free

“Just over a century after the first radio performance of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Il Pagliacci,” and Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” were broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910, the World Concert Hall has made it its mission to bring free live classical concerts to the world. The website contains a collection of links to free radio performances each week, allowing listeners to tune into live concerts performed across the globe. You can browse performances according to the site’s schedule, or choose from a selection of classical radio stations in a large number of countries. As you might expect, the U.S has the largest selection by far, with 80 stations. But for more curious music lovers, World Concert Hall also offers a taste of what other fans are listening to in other countries, like China, Japan, and Israel.”

http://www.openculture.com/2014/03/the-world-concert-hall-listen-to-the-best-live-classical-music-concerts-for-free.html

.

TED’s Best Of The Week! The neuroscience of restorative justice!

Daniel Reisel searches for the psychological and physical roots of human morality. Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury… could we help the brain re-grow morality?

words-amygdala-small

“How can we apply this knowledge? I’d like to leave you with three lessons that I learned. The first thing that I learned was that we need to change our mindset. Since Wormwood Scrubs was built 130 years ago, society has advanced in virtually every aspect, in the way we run our schools, our hospitals. Yet the moment we speak about prisons, it’s as though we’re back in Dickensian times, if not medieval times. For too long, I believe, we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded of the false notion that human nature cannot change, and as a society, it’s costing us dearly. We know that the brain is capable of extraordinary change, and the best way to achieve that, even in adults, is to change and modulate our environment.

The second thing I have learned is that we need to create an alliance of people who believe that science is integral to bringing about social change. It’s easy enough for a neuroscientist to place a high-security inmate in an MRI scanner. Well actually, that turns out not to be so easy, but ultimately what we want to show is whether we’re able to reduce the reoffending rates. In order to answer complex questions like that, we need people of different backgrounds — lab-based scientists and clinicians, social workers and policy makers, philanthropists and human rights activists — to work together.

Finally, I believe we need to change our own amygdalae, because this issue goes to the heart not just of who Joe is, but who we are. We need to change our view of Joe as someone wholly irredeemable, because if we see Joe as wholly irredeemable, how is he going to see himself as any different? In another decade, Joe will be released from Wormwood Scrubs. Will he be among the 70 percent of inmates who end up reoffending and returning to the prison system? Wouldn’t it be better if, while serving his sentence, Joe was able to train his amygdala, which would stimulate the growth of new brain cells and connections, so that he will be able to face the world once he gets released? Surely, that would be in the interest of all of us.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_reisel_the_neuroscience_of_restorative_justice

.

Ask Ariely!

Dear Dan,

Why do people love to write to-do lists?

—Joe

ArleyI suspect there are rational and irrational reasons for the very large amount of list-making activity we see around us. On the rational side, lists help us with faulty memory and allow us to share tasks with other people simply and efficiently. On the irrational side, making lists and checking items off these lists give us the false sense that we are actually making progress. The term for this by the way is “structured procrastination.” It’s an attempt to capture the momentary feeling that we are progressing—whereas in fact when we look back at the end of the day on what we achieved, we realize that we did not get much done. I also suspect that all the apps that help us make lists and then make it fun for us to check things off are reducing our collective productivity, by replacing real work and focus with structured productivity.

http://danariely.com/page/3/

.

Series of the week! Looking for Answers in the Stars: Cosmos & Wonders Of The Solar System!

cosmos-wideFrom all the series that began recently on the small screen, I have to admit that the most interesting one is by far Cosmos. Here’s what Jeffrey Marlow has to say about it: “After 34 years, Cosmos is back. The wildly successful space-themed documentary series was written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter; many credit the show as the most influential science TV program ever. So when reports of a reboot emerged a few years ago, the Twitterverse and blogosphere pored over every detail. There was the fact that it would air in prime time on a major network. There was Sagan’s legacy to contend with. And there was the new host – leading science evangelist and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who embodies the expansive wonder and hidden intricacies of space like no one else.”

Watch full episodes of Cosmos:

http://www.cosmosontv.com/

As for Wonders of the Solar System, professor Brian Cox visits the most extreme locations on Earth to explain how the laws of physics carved natural wonders across the solar system.

Learn more about the Wonders of The Solar System:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/wonders-of-the-solar-system/



Advertisements

Weekly choice, by peers

What is Morality?

We speak about morality in many occasions. This time I want to present a link to a more scientific article. In «How does morality work in the brain? A functional and structural perspective of moral behavior»

moral

“Neural underpinnings of morality are not yet well understood. Researchers in moral neuroscience have tried to find specific structures and processes that shed light on how morality works. Here, we review the main brain areas that have been associated with morality at both structural and functional levels and speculate about how it can be studied. Orbital and ventromedial prefrontal cortices are implicated in emotionally-driven moral decisions, while dorsolateral prefrontal cortex appears to moderate its response.”

http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnint.2013.00065/full#

.

Leadership crisis

While today’s column could focus solely on the government shutdown or various components thereof, a lack of leadership isn’t just a problem in the United States; it’s a global problem. It’s also much more than an indictment on global politics; it’s a systemic problem that pervades every level of society. I don’t think there’s much debate the world is ensnarled in a crisis of leadership. The question becomes what do we do about it?”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2013/10/10/a-crisis-of-leadership-whats-next/

.

Motivation

Through his personal experience, Scott Smith goes through 4 concepts that tent to put an end to our motivations. His revision of those problematic discouraging points might help us recognize it in ourselves and contribute to another small progress of eliminating and overcoming them.

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/overcome-4-massive-motivation-killers/

.

TED’s best for the week:

“What is jealousy? What drives it, and why do we secretly love it? No study has ever been able to capture its “loneliness, longevity, grim thrill” — that is, except for fiction, according to Parul Sehgal, an editor for “The New York Times Book Review”. In an eloquent meditation she scours pages from literature to show how jealousy is not so different from a quest for knowledge.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/parul_sehgal_an_ode_to_envy.html

jealousy.

Book of the week!

Benito Cereno – Herman Melville

The question of interculturality is a constant theme in many books. Whenever there is an encounter between characters from different origin, the reader witness a way of unveiling the notion of the otherness in our fellow human kin. However, there are very little books that present this interaction in such an overwhelming way. Melville’s Benito Cereno is certainly one of them. While Herman Melville is known for his literary canon Moby Dick, the novella Benito Cereno is an incredible story that not only teaches us about the painful truth of the slave trade but also shows us a reality of three cultures. This encounter between the African, the European and the American is a mastery of a constant change of roles of the Hegelian Master & Slave. As we see in the selected quotes below:

Famous Quotes from the book:

  • “In fact, like most men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano took to Negroes, not philanthropically, but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs.”
  • “All this, with what preceded, and what followed, occurred with such involutions of rapidity, that past, present, and future seems one.”
  • Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.”
    “Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because they are not human.”
    […]
    “You are saved, Don Benito,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; “you are saved; what has cast such a shadow upon you?”
    “The Negro.”
  • “Benito Cereno, borne on the bier, did, indeed, follow his leader!”

Benito Cereno, Melville (pdf / audio book).

.

Person of the week!

Antoni_Gaudi_1878For whoever visited the great city of Barcelona in Spain must have visited one or more of the sites designed and constructed by Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926). The world known architect designed some of the most fascinating buildings and parks in the world. Gaudí, a prominent Catalan cultural figure studies, worked and lived in Barcelona. With his work he developed a particular architectural language of the highest esteem. The same esteem this great man had for nature, his great inspiration, as he once said: “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.”

In Homage to Catalonia, (1938) George Orwell wrote on the Sagrada Familia: “For the first time since I had been in Barcelona I went to have a look at the cathedral–a modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world. It has four crenellated spires exactly the shape of hock bottles. Unlike most of the churches in Barcelona it was not damaged during the revolution–it was spared because of its ‘artistic value’, people said. I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance, though they did hang a red and black banner between its spires.”

La Sagrada Familiahttp://www.gaudisagradafamilia.com/. For a Short clip on its magnificence, Click here. Moreover, Gaudí was so responsible for its work that he made instructions for the continuance of the construction postmortem.  The magnum opus that began in 1883 is destined to end on 2026. Here is how it will look:

Park Güellhttp://www.gaudidesigner.com/uk/parc-guell-visite-parc.html

Casa Batlló  – http://www.casabatllo.es/