eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Wednesday, August 31

Positive Atheism

I haven't seriously thought about religion vs. atheism in a long time. Early on after I decided I wasn't a Christian, I continued to act as if what I had been taught or figured out about morality up until then (minus the actual belief in the Christian God) was true. Eventually, I investigated other ideas about morality and philosophy and am still learning about them.

I haven't really felt a need to defend my lack of belief. When I gave up my belief, it was because I came to understand that I never had a good reason for believing in the first place. Family members told me it was true, and I didn't really think to question it too much at first. Once I did, I realized I would have never accepted their claims had I been an adult with some experience with the world. Since then, I've considered it up to believers to "prove" their theory that a god exists (or that it's the best theory to believe).

I've investigated some of the common arguments on either side, but after a while of not coming across new ones, I settled into focusing on understanding other philosophical theories.

Recently a friend pointed out Positive Atheism. I assumed it was an attempt to show how atheism can have positive moral ideas "just like religion", but I saved it because I thought it might be fun to review what I think about beliefs and I wondered if the author would have something new to say.

In the preface...
Whereas the script of 1938 took the traditional negative view of atheism and was a polemic in disproving the basis of faith in the existence of god, Positive Atheism lays down the precise atheistic attitude towards several aspects of life.

I'm not sure there's really a singular "atheistic" attitude towards anything, so I'm curious to see what he has to say.

Holt - Learning all the Time, Dangerous Minds

MC said...
-----cut----
The bottom line is, that if they are motivated, children will learn on their own. I would highly, highly recommend the book "Learning All The Time" by John Holt. It is an incredible account of an educator who observed how children learn how to read, write, etc., without being taught. The book was required reading when I was a Freshman in the Faculty of Education, and it still inspires me to this day.
---cut-----
Check John Holt out. You will laugh and cry, and you will fall in love with Holt and his students. When you're done, then I suggest you read Louanne Johnson's: "My Posse Don't Do Homework". Which in 1995, was re-titled "Dangerous Minds", and adapted into a Hollywood motion picture. Here again, is a true-to-life account of a teacher who changed the lives of a classroom of inner-city delinquents.

I guess this has little to do with the subject at hand, except that you will be inspired. Within the pages of these two books is proof that the world can be made a better place, if you care enough.

12:41 AM


I'm kicking myself a little now because I sold off most of my John Holt collection when I was expecting to move. Now I am expecting to stay, but most of my huge book collection is gone.

All I could find was a beat up old copy of "How Children Fail" from 1964 that I probably bought at Half-Price Books long ago. It seemed important to keep at least one Holt book.

I bought and read or skimmed quite a lot of books early on when I was first homeschooling. I don't think I read the Holt books very closely because they didn't seem to have in the way of ideas that I hadn't already read online.

I'm curious to go back and read them and see what it is you've found inspiring. His work has been a large contributor to the homeschooling movement.

I've heard of the other book, too, although I don't think I've owned it. I think I should start posting a bit about the books I've enjoyed over the years. Unfortunately, I have a terrible memory for details about them. I just remember liking or not liking them and that I learned "something" from each of them.

Just to offer something, I'll list a few that I liked. (I'm not necessarily in agreement with everything they say and disagree with imposing structure in the way some of them do, but they helped me to understand more about learning):

Marva Collins' Way and Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers by Marva Collins
Reading Reflex and How to Increase Your Child's Verbal Intelligence: The Groundbreaking Language Wise Method by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education (Paperback) by Grace Llewellyn

Tuesday, August 30

Children Narrate by Nature

Children Narrate by Nature.––Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child's mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. 'Let him narrate'; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease. This amazing gift with which normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education. Bobbie will come home with a heroic narrative of a fight he has seen between 'Duke' and a dog in the street. It is wonderful! He has seen everything, and he tells everything with splendid vigour in the true epic vein; but so ingrained is our contempt for children that we see nothing in this but Bobbie's foolish childish way! Whereas here, if we have eyes to see and grace to build, is the ground-plan of his education.
(excerpt from Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series)

Monday, August 29

Learning, Fear, Motivation

A response to a comment I made about deadlines and even "topics" making it more difficult for me to write:

That being said, Burroway explained in her book that the reason why we suffer from writer's block, is due to fear. We fear that we cannot meet a deadline; we fear that our writing will be rejected by a publisher; we fear that our readers will not appreciate our work; we fear that our ideas aren't good enough, or believeable, ad infinitum.

Fear can hinder creativity of any kind whether it's writing, music, or solving one's everyday problems.

When I first started this blog, I mentioned an English educator by the name of Charlotte Mason. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, she developed some very interesting ideas about education and implemented them in her school and helped parents organize and learn to take on the education of their own children.

One of the concepts I learned from researching her and her methods was narration. It was one of the most helpful ideas I've come across in her writing (and there were a lot of good ones).

Narration involved reading aloud, having the child read from good quality literature, or making careful observations during an outing and then telling it back in their own words. The narration could be spoken aloud, written out on paper, or sometimes drawn, painted, or even sculpted. It was recommended that teachers/parents keep criticism to a minimum and even refrain from comment. Fellow students could ask questions and make corrections to factual errors.

I was very skeptical of this idea for a homeschool setting (and somewhat for a classroom setting). I thought that a lot of learning was from making mistakes and having them corrected. It might "work" in a classroom setting where there were multiple students to take turns narration, asking questions and making corrections - but how could it work one on one while keeping commentary to a minimum? It did work for her and the children of parents who used her methods at home (so far as I know). Samples of their work can be read in some of her published writings. Her students' writing was exceptional. I realize that some of it might have to do with a different culture and era, but apparently her work caught the eye of other educators of her time.

Her theory was that if students were exposed to good language, they'd improve on their own over time. Educating was something that expanded each student's knowledge individually - not a checklist of knowledge where "gaps" were filled in.

My experiences definitely seemed to corrobarate this. In the course of experimenting and trying to work out what it meant for my children to be educated and whether "narration" as described here could be valuable at educating, I worked out a few ideas of my own about it:
(1) Fear of criticism can be an enormous block to attention, memory, and creativity. (2) Good motivation (inspired by interest) can enhance attention, memory and creativity exponentially.

A child who struggles to read a 4 sentence story (not of his choosing) will work long and hard to get through "The Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" and then proceed to write his own versions of them. A child (or adult) who is fearful that his work will be criticized may freeze and be completely unable to come up with anything to say or write.

Sunday, August 28

Comment - Does it really matter? What should one's priorities be?

I have been meaning to reply to a thoughtful comment on Does it really matter? since it was posted. I've been hesitating because the comment addressed what I said but not what I was really trying to understand. I want to address the excellent comments and also clarify what I was trying to figure out (but got distracted from it by writing about whether it would affect public policy anyway). It's a lot to cover in one post, therefore I'll break it into two parts. (1) What I was trying to understand. (2) Why care about politics?

Although I wrote mostly about how difficult it would be for my views to make much difference, I don't feel particularly "bothered" that my views aren't likely to sway a large number of people. I'm not sure I'd like that responsibility. I'd want them to think for themselves and only adopt my ideas if they're really good.

I was more frustrated and confused about how to get at truth in general - especially in regard to politics. Truth is incredibly hard to find, and I don't think I'm especially adept at finding it.

I can't resist quoting here my favorite part of the comment:

Intelligence should be measured by the number of sides a person can view a problem.

I might have called it wisdom, but I do think seeing different sides is important.

I will never give up on understanding things better for myself. But what things? What things should be the priority? How much effort should I really be putting into it?

I think there is a certain need for specialization. Some people are knowledgeable, motivated, and/or skilled at doctoring, hair-cutting, lawn mowing, and some are that way about politics. A typical person should have some knowledge about these areas but maybe not to the extent that a "professional" would have. Knowing a little can sometimes be "dangerous". I could read an article about how taking more of some vitamin is good for me but then miss the body of knowledge about how taking too much of it can be toxic. It's not true, then, than "more" is always "better". Maybe "enough" is better. But how do you know you've got enough?

Another question:
Why should I, in particular, should focus on politics vs. a lot of other important things - like developing really good relationships with my children and people in my community, or improving myself individually?

I could spend all my waking hours helping the people just on my block and there would still be more to be do. I could spend all my hours focusing on my children and there would still be more to do. I could spend all my hours on self-improvement (and, believe me, there would always be more to do).

So, I'm wondering, how many hours per day/week/month? Or is this all the wrong way of looking at things?

Friday, August 26

The benefit of Ignorance and Knowledge

There is a very good article by David Deutsch presenting arguments for remaining ignorant of a subject until a person is really ready for it. I don't remember the specifics of the article beyond a single example. It was the idea that if you know how to read and you look at a word, like "cat", you can't help "reading" the word.

I think it shows how people tend to link ideas together with observations in a way that makes it literally impossible to make an observation without thinking of the particular idea.

I don't remember what he said the "problem" was with this was. I can make some guesses about it. If you're looking at it one way, you might miss a better way or a different way to look at it. For example, if you tried to read "cathy" and read 'cat' and 'hy', you'd have read it wrong.

Knowledge can be a barrier to further knowledge.

Even very young children, though, can learn to be more flexible about their observations, to delay drawing conclusions about how to read a particular set of letters, and to try different perspectives. If he listened while he said "cat" "hy", he might even notice that it sounds a bit like "cathy" and figure it out.

A child who is unaware that some sets of letters could represent different sounds and doesn't listen carefully might get stuck in learning how to read. The problem lies in those areas where one isn't aware that one has formed a "fixed" idea about an observation or in lacking the knowledge that there's more than one way to look at something.

The mere concept of different observational perspectives is a powerful bit of knowledge.

Wednesday, August 24

Education - Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs

There are so many issues within this article that I'll have to break my critique into separate posts to keep them short enough for those of short attention span (like myself).

The very first thing I'd like to point out is within the title. The author meant that "schools" are being run by amateurs. These schools just happen to be in people's homes, as if that weren't entirely relevant.

I would suggest that it is homes that are being run and they happen to include some "school" or "education". I think this may be at the very heart of the disagreement between homeschoolers and anti-homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are talking about whether they can run their own homes which happens to include educating their children. Other people are talking about whether "amateurs" can "school" their children.

Of course, they can and do run their "schools at home" quite well. Lots of amateurs teach what looks like "school" every day - right down to the desk, chalkboard, and bells to signal the ends and beginnings of classes. They do it individually within families and they get together in communities and form co-operative schools. Their kids often do quite well academically and socially.

What's more interesting to me, though, is that often, the kids of home-educators who don't do "school" also do well.

That's because school isn't the same as educating.

Sunday, August 21

Writing - The Age of Essays


To understand what a real essay is, we have to reach back into history again, though this time not so far. To Michel de Montaigne, who in 1580 published a book of what he called "essais." He was doing something quite different from what lawyers do, and the difference is embodied in the name. Essayer is the French verb meaning "to try" and an essai is an attempt. An essay is something you write to try to figure something out.

Figure out what? You don't know yet. And so you can't begin with a thesis, because you don't have one, and may never have one. An essay doesn't begin with a statement, but with a question. In a real essay, you don't take a position and defend it. You notice a door that's ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what's inside.


I have all sorts of ideas for essays, but I can't seem to do anything with them. I think the problem is that someone suggested I attempt some more "polished" posts. I tried to write one but it broke my train of thought I tried to write several more, but found myself stuck again.

I quickly realized that, as of yet, I simply can't write with the end in mind because I don't know what the end is yet. What happens is I quickly realize I don't agree with anything I think and write nothing. However, I suppose I could pull out an old piece, dust it off, and see if I can improve it. I've never been able to pick up a previous bit of writing and continue very well. It's usually boring and my mind has changed too much to even know how to start.

I'd like to write some better pieces. I don't quite know how to do it yet while still enjoying it. Maybe it's a matter of asking myself the right questions. Perhaps the fellow's questions in this essay would be of particular use:

When I give a draft of an essay to friends, there are two things I want to know: which parts bore them, and which seem unconvincing. The boring bits can usually be fixed by cutting. But I don't try to fix the unconvincing bits by arguing more cleverly. I need to talk the matter over.

Well, if I'm trying to write for a very large audience, I won't be able to talk it over with them individually, but since I don't have many readers, I could do that. I'm also curious to find out my own answers to that. Which parts are boring? Which parts are unconvincing?

There's some good stuff further down in the essay on essays. It's about surprise. It reminds me a bit of an explanation I once heard about humor - that it's a combination of the commonly understood/agreed upon with an element of surprise.

Thursday, August 18

Does it really matter?

Why would anyone care what I or most people think of the situation in Isreal or, for that matter, politics in general? Why should I care?

I might have ideas about what would be best to have happen. They're not very well informed and even if I got pretty well informed, it still wouldn't likely be as good as the information that the President or intelligence people have.

I could work ideas along the lines of "If the facts are this, then that should happen". Even if they were good and true ideas, what are the chances that anyone in a position to make choices based on them would even ever hear them? If I never speak of them to anyone, then there's still a chance because someone else might have a similar idea. How much is the chance increased if I tell someone and they tell a few people who never really pass the idea along? None. What if 1000 people knew of my idea (and never passed it along)? That would be a 1000 in 6 billion chance. Maybe it'd actually be a much better chance than that since I have some reasonable chance of meeting the President or at least a local representative. At the least, I could write to them. This still wouldn't mean the idea would be accepted by the person in a position to make such a choice or that he'd have enough popular support to feel comfortable affecting law in that way.

I suppose it comes down to hope and the effect of a choice multiplied over many people. If lots of people thought about and discussed policy and philosophy and tried to be well informed about it, it would greatly increase the chances of good ideas being created and acted on. I sense this isn't actually logically correct, but I have work to do now...

News - Over 100 Feared Drowned Off Colombia

Elian. The headline reminded me of the little boy and his fate.

At the time, I thought the boy should have a right to freedom here and that it should be extended to his father. If his father didn't have the sense (or ability because of possible penalties for his family because of his decision), then the boy should stay here anyway.

It doesn't seem so clear cut to me now. A society isn't really free if it forces its members, including children, to stay. I think him being re-acquainted with his father and being helped to make an informed choice would have been good. It would have been better if it had been worked out that he could come back to the US to visit and stay, if he wants, as an adult.

Wednesday, August 17

What is Palestine?

In trying to understand more about the conflict there, I've been trying to find an answer to this question. I've seen varying conflicting answers. It's a name give to a particular area in the middle-east when it isn't otherwise a country, an ancient country, part of Syria, and a name given to a British mandate.

Tuesday, August 16

Info - Do Prions Exist?

I don't have the time or interest to go through the whole article right now. It seems that, if they exist, Prions — short for proteinaceous infectious particle — are infectious self-reproducing protein structures. One thing that I found interesting about the bits I skimmed is that the whole model of looking at things from each side seem different. The fellow arguing against the existence of prions seems to be starting with observations and talking about them. The fellow arguing for the existence of prions talks about the prion hypothesis and the evidence for it and the lack of evidence that would disprove it. I'll be curious to read it later and see if it's really the case.

News - Mad Cow

Prions. I remember reading that Mad Cow disease is supposed to be caused not by bacteria or virus but by prions. The newness and scariness of it when I first read about it reminds me of AIDS. At least with AIDS, it was thought to be viral (or at least relating to a generally weak immune system). I am curious to see what has been learned about them since I last read about the subject. For now, though, I want to remember about my own only slightly relevant experiences.

When I was a little girl, my family had a mad (slightly crazy/odd, not sick) cow. She was sold to us by a rancher because she had a problem with her hoof. If I remember right, instead of having the normal opening at the top so the hoof was in two parts, the two parts overlapped. Supposedly, this made her a poor choice to use for breeding purposes, so they let us have her for $100.

She was very young and we had a small pasture that neighbored some of their land, so the rancher allowed us to keep her and her mother for a while until she was fully weaned. The pasture stayed shorter and nicer if there was a big animal out there eating the grass and the rancher got her fed and cared for at no charge, so it was mutually beneficial.

Mama Cow was unfriendly, very protective, and very big. Sometimes they were let into our yard. I was always terrified about that because I'd have to walk through the yard to the gate to catch the school bus. Usually, she'd be in some other part of the yard, but occasionally she'd be between me and the gate near when it was time to go. I'd be worried about it, but somehow it always worked out that she'd wander away when the bus actually came.

There were some funny (and scary) incidents with Mama Cow and my dad. I was relieved when she was finally returned to the rancher. Then I just had to deal with our crazy calf. She was about my height - similar to our little Shetland pony except I think she was even heavier. She was also still quite young and playful.

My father named her Hammy. I know, it sounds like a good name for a pig. It came about because he said she was going to be made into "hamburger" and didn't want us to get too attached. It seemed a good way to remind us of that fact. Having gone through this with some rabbits when I was younger, I did my best not to get too attached and I think I could have been fine with eating her meat. I suspected he himself would be the one who would have the most difficulty with it. It never got to that as far as I know. More on that at the end.

Hammy would shy away from tall people, but she would terrorize my younger siblings by chasing after them. I exaggerate a bit. Mostly, my siblings seemed to think it was hilarious and made a game of running from one "big person" to the next with her chasing them and stopping short when she got too close to a "big person". Most of the time, I thought it was funny. I couldn't help thinking sometimes that one slip on the part of my siblings, and she'd be trampling them. They fact that she was being playful wouldn't prevent them from being seriously injured.

Size-wise, I think she wasn't sure what to make of me. She'd either back off or chase me depending on how I acted. If I ran, she'd chase me. If I stood my ground, she'd leave me alone. Sometimes she'd start out to chase me and stop if I stayed still. It was hard to stand still in the face of a huge animal running toward me, but I wasn't sure running was better. It seemed wiser to not get her used to chasing me.

Hammy had gender and species identity issues. At least, she seemed to act as if she was male and our (gelded) male pony was female. Funny, the things you see growing up around animals... She'd also eat just about anything. We'd throw scraps out in an area for the dogs and cats to finish them off, and she'd eat all kinds of things that I didn't know cows would eat (including beef). It was interesting seeing how much of her behavior was affected by her environment and lack of cow (bovine?) companions.

She eventually managed to get out through a hole in the fence. She was found among the cattle belonging to the rancher who originally sold her to us. My dad worked out a deal with the ranch owner to care for her along with his cattle in exchange for us allowing him to sell off her offspring to cover her costs. She turned out to be a good breeder after all.

It occured to me then that the ending could be a story made up by my dad to explain why she disappeared. Maybe he did actually have her slaughtered and just didn't want to upset us. I wonder if ended up eating our mad cow after all.

News - Byrd: School Isn't Too Cool for Constitution

I remember learning about quite a bit about the constitution throughout school. I was interested in the subject, and I remember being quizzed over the amendments - which ones covered what. It's hard to remember the details now - including what some of the amendments address. I doubt one day a year is going to have much impact in that sense. Still, even if I don't remember details, I do remember that there's no constitutional amendment against flag burning and that free speech is supposed to be protected.

A few years ago, I took a class on the constitution from Michael Badnarik. It was very interesting, informative and a bit weird. I'll try to dig up the class materials sometime and discuss it more. One thing I really liked about it was the nice pocket-sized copy of the constitution. I carried it around in my purse for a long time as spare reading material.

I think the reason I don't remember much is that I don't spend all my time thinking about it. Maybe if started looking for ways in which one law or the other is being respected (or broken), I'd remember. It seems like it'd be an exercise in frustration...

Monday, August 15

Me

I've been reluctant to put a picture up. I didn't want my appearance to affect how people viewed my writing. I don't really care so much about that now. I think ultimately it won't matter much, and I was thinking about McFro's idea that pictures draw people in. It seems reasonable to offer things for people to look at as well as think about. I think it adds a personal touch, so here it is. Hope it doesn't scare anyone off ;)

Comment Spam

Unfortunately, I seem to be picking up some spam. It seems I can't delete them from IE, and I'm away from my computer where I can use Firefox. I'm tempted to shut down comments temporarily until I figure out a way to deal with it, but then I wouldn't be able to get helpful comments about how to eliminate it. Any suggestions?

News - AIDS Cure Possible, Study Suggests

I'm amazed. I was pretty curious about AIDS when it first started making it in the news. I remember reading at first about how it wasn't even clear what "caused" it. Some argued that HIV was more common in people than AIDS and might not be the actual cause. I remember reading about a promising combination of a drug with high doses of vitamins, and about a patient who was happy about having allergies while in Austin. An allergic reaction was a sign that his immune system was functioning somewhat again. I haven't kept up with it much in more recent years. It's amazing that a disease that seemed so frightening, elusive, and incurable is possibly on the brink of being cured. I like this kind of news.

News - Half of All Americans Mentally Ill

Are Half of All Americans Mentally Ill?

A new study by Harvard University and the National Institute of Mental Health (search) claims that 46 percent of all Americans will, at some point in their lives, develop a mental disorder.

This doesn't surprise me given how difficult it is to define. If it's like I suggested, an impairment to healthy functioning (not caused solely by external factors), then I would expect it to be similar to physical illnesses. In fact, 46 percent seems low. I don't imagine that only 46 percent of all Americans every become physically ill in their lifetime. This doesn't mean all of the "illnesses" necessarily need treatment.

But this new statistic has experts arguing over exactly what constitutes a true mental illness.

Good. It seems important to figure this out.

News - Japan

Japan PM Apologizes for World War II
I remember reading Hiroshima in high school and thinking there had to have been some better way to end the war. Since then, however, I've come to understand that the constraints of the situation didn't allow much room for alternatives. A land war would have resulted in even more deaths. I've wondered whether the second bomb was actually necessary. I guess we could have surrendered. I don't think I'd like to have lived in such a culture. I guess I'd be used to it. I've heard lots about how horrible America is for having dropped the bombs but not much from those same people about Japan's attack on America. The headline certainly surprised me.

I'm not sure what to think about the idea of reparations. I would think a majority of the people who were involved in WWII are dead. Is it really an obligation of their offspring and unrelated people to make up for their wrongs?

News - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Widely Diagnosed

I don't know what to say about it. It's interesting. It doesn't seem like it's a disorder to be afraid for a while after something traumatic happens although it could be if it doesn't go away after a time. Even if it's not to the point of being a "disorder", it could be very disruptive to a person's life and there could ways to minimize that.

News - Gaza

Gaza Settlers Confront Soldiers
I was puzzling over what to think of the predicament of the settlers. It's probably a mistake on the part of Isreal to withdraw. It could seem like an act of good will that could lead to eased tensions and improved relations. I'm doubtful, though, seeingt the reaction from some Palistinians:

In Gaza City, the Islamic terrorist group Hamas (search) hung banners proclaiming the pullout is a result of attacks by militants on Israelis. "The blood of martyrs has led to liberation," one banner said.

Terrorists could see this as evidence of the effectiveness of their methods and feel encouraged to continue until they've eliminated all Isrealis from the area.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the Gaza pullout is a "historical moment," but that Israel must also hand over the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the future.
Indeed.

Dozens of observant Jewish men, wearing white prayer shawls, held morning prayers at the gate, appealing for divine intervention to block the withdrawal. Dozens of youths wearing orange, the color of defiance, sat on the streets. "Who dares to do battle with God," read one protester's T-shirt.
I found this disturbing as well. It's hardly the environment I'd want to live in.

Saturday, August 13

Personality Test

Apparently, I have some problems with my personality.

I've read that psychologists and psychiatrists get interested in the field because of their own problems. Judging by my scores, maybe that explains my interest in the field too. I hope not.

I think some of the questions were a bit misleading. I believe, for example, that I can sometimes notice someone is standing behind me without being consciously aware of seeing, touching, smelling, or hearing them. I don't think there's some "supernatural" explanation for that. It could be that I did sense them in one of those ways but the perception was very subtle (maybe they really did make some very slight noise and I just wasn't consciously aware of hearing it). I've read about sleep patterns being affected by light shined on the back of people's knees. I don't know if that's really true, but it could be that there are more ways we "sense" things than we know about just yet. It's NOT a magical belief because I fully expect that any of those things would ultimately be explainable in scientific terms.

I wasn't sure precisely what the question meant, but I answered as if I believed in extrasensory perception because I was thinking about possible as-yet unexplained ways of sensing, so there's a claim that I have magical thinking. In reality, that's pretty off-base. There were several other questions which could have been answered one way or the other depending on what was really meant by the question.

Disorder Rating
Paranoid: Low
Schizoid: Moderate
Schizotypal: Very High
Antisocial: Low
Borderline: Moderate
Histrionic: High
Narcissistic: High
Avoidant: High
Dependent: High
Obsessive-Compulsive: High

URL for more info: http://www.4degreez.com/disorder/index.html

Friday, August 12

Fundamental Questions

I used to find myself obsessively interested in topics. I'd spend weeks, months, and even years on some topic. Lately, it seems harder to find anything to hold my interest for long. The last bit about mental illness was really more about trying to get myself to have some sort of coherent view. I think looking at it from a mental illness point of view was getting so abstract and difficult for me to follow that I was starting to find it more of a chore than enlightening.

Still, I think I've moved along a little in having a more informed opinion. I think religious/philosophical beliefs and mental illness can become so similar in appearance that it's hard to tell the difference. I can see why it could be dangerous to consider a wrong system of beliefs a "mental illness". I don't think my opinion has changed that generally people should be forced to be "treated" or to change their belief systems.

I've been feeling pretty negatively toward religion and "belief systems", but I think it could be bias based on my particular personal experiences and perspective. I think there is merit in considering "religion" to be a problem. I think a lot of good has been done through it, too, however. It's easy to see the big mistakes. It's harder to see all the things we count on working a particular way. I'm not sure we'd be better if humans hadn't imagined up religion.

So here I am looking again at religion and beliefs. It's hard to understand even one system really well, much less all of them. I once saw a website that was dedicated to informing and helping people choose their system of belief. It seemed like a good idea, but I don't know how you'd really evaluate them. They're all so complex when you think of their effect mulitplied over all of humanity.

I was looking at my favorite site for information about Judaism and found another version of
The Seven Laws of Noah. They're the same laws, but little differences in the wording could make significant differences in their meaning. One could spend a lifetime trying to understand them and their implications. One could spend a lifetime really getting to know all kinds of things.

When I was 8 or so, I had the idea that the most fundamental idea person could have was to "Be good". I thought, though, that before a person could be good, they'd need to know what good was. To know what good was, they'd have to know what was true. So, really, the two most important things that I wanted to know were:
What's True?
What's good? (or What should I do about it?)

I think the problem is that those questions are pretty broad. It seems like they need some refining.

What truths are a priority to know about?
What actions are a priority?

One could act on one's current ideas about it, but what if just one more idea could make your answer a million times better? How much information should you explore before doing?

Of course, you could follow the Nike motto:
Just do it! (At least, I think it's Nike).
Do what?

I'm not getting anywhere with this today.

Wednesday, August 10

There was never a gate

I had some fun trying to untangle this
poem.

The 7 Laws of Noah

As part of trying to understand the difference between fanatical religious beliefs and mental illness, I've been reading a bit about religious beliefs - particularly Jewish. I've always been curious about learning more about the religion because I've heard some things about it that sounded very different from Christianity. It seemed more "intellectual" and I liked that there was no evangelizing.

In this reply to a question about conversion, the rabbi mentions that part of the reason people are not encouraged to convert is because it's not necessary to get to heaven. ...any human being who faithfully observes the "7 Laws of Noah" earns a proper place in heaven

A quick search on the 7 laws led me to How To Keep the 7 Laws of Noah

According to this leaflet, "The Rebbe has called on all the people of the world to abide by these seven laws and all their ramifications." The Laws are:

Do not worship idols.
Do not blaspheme.
Do not murder.
Do not steal.
Do not commit immoral sexual acts.
Do not be cruel to animals.
Maintain justice.


They seem either a bit vague or aren't what I would consider the most important moral ideas to promote. I'd like to develop what I think of them in more detail as a sort of thought puzzle for myself. For now, I'll start on the first one.

Do not worship idols. I wouldn't think it wise to worship anything. An idol could probably do you less harm, though, than a misplaced belief in a supernatural deity. I suppose it could mean to not worship the deity the idols are meant to represent. If I could add that a bible, book, god, or even a system of beliefs is an "idol", I'd think it was good advice. I don't think that's what was intended by whoever wrote this down and ascribed it to a god, but, sometimes, I think a mediocre idea with a slight change can turn out to be a good idea.

Monday, August 8

Peter Jennings

I haven't been a fan of the major news channels for a very long time. He was one of the first newspeople that I remember watching as a child. At the time, I thought he was nice and sincere seeming. Of course, I thought most everyone was then. I don't know much about him. He doesn't LOOK so nice, but I was surprised/saddened to read that he's just died.

Friday, August 5

Lost comments

It seems that Haloscan has lost some of my comments. I didn't have many left on it, so I decided to go ahead and copy them over to Blogger and remove the Haloscan code from the page. It does seem like it would be easier to just have one comment system and blogger's seems to be easier for me to use.

Mental Illness and Impairments to Healthy Functioning

I'm trying to work out a response to this post but am getting very stuck. Here's the post and my efforts at a response so far:


Re: Reply to Kolya
Becky wrote:

I think mental disorders do share some important characteristics with "medical illnesses" in that they're an "impairment to normal functioning". Personally, I think "healthy" would be a better term - as in "impairment to healthy functioning" (being different from "normal" might not actually be an impairment to health).


Can you not think of other conditions that also 'share some important characteristics with "medical illnesses" in that they're an impairment to healthy functioning', but which it would be morally wrong and practically harmful to think of as illnesses?

If so, what is the significant difference between those things and 'mental illnesses'?

by David Deutsch on Sat, 07/30/2005 - 12:13


Good question.

I'm having trouble thinking of a specific example such as you suggest.

I can see where my description falls short, but I've gone around several different ways of describing it and see no way of looking at it that doesn't become a confusing jumble.

Thinking of poor Joe. It seems "obvious" that he's got a mental impairment and needs help. This is partly based on my thinking there are no demons (or Jesus or anything "supernatural") and yet I don't propose curing all religious people of an "illness" (that doesn't sound like a bad idea on the surface, but I expect there are some huge complications and moral problems with that).

Along this vein, what if the girls of Salem had all been treated? The story goes that some girls started acting very strangely and lacking any explanation for a physical cause, their neighbors and relatives went on to conclude that it was satan at work. The descriptions of their behavior sound rather scary and make me wonder whether there wasn't some exposure to toxic chemicals. Why did all their neighbors and friends assume it was the work of witchcraft vs. some as-yet-undiscovered ailment? Would they have refrained from burning people at the stake? It seems like there's a fair chance they would have agreed with Joe about some of his delusions! It seems that in the case of the girls, they likely needed medical treatment. In the case of the neighbors, they needed better ideas. Better ideas could have eliminated a lot of needless deaths and helped the girls, so would better medical knowledge and even the expectation that physical ailments might explain their behavior (even if the specific cause never get discovered).

OTOH, what if Joe's exact problem is distinguishing his own fantasy from his own concept of reality? He generally doesn't think he's Jesus or that demons make themselves visible, but is in such a state that what are normally imaginings get confused with reality.

The only difference that I can see between Joe and the people of Salem a long time ago might be that Joe eventually thinks that he'd been wrong. Perhaps some of the people of Salem came to think so too later..

Would it have been harmful to think of all the people in Salem as being mentally ill vs. murderers? Possibly. Maybe treating them as responsible and culpable would deter others from drawing hasty conclusions about things based on flimsy evidence.

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring

Bumped his head and went to bed and couldn't get up in the morning.

My mom used to sing that to me when I was a kid. My grandpa would too, so I would always imagine this sort of bald guy like him snoring away in bed... I didn't put much thought into the part about him not getting up.

Many children's songs and rhymes are pretty twisted. Often they start out innocent enough but then they end with something awful. The cradle falls from a tree (with the baby in it!), the old woman in the shoe spanks all her children (as if her having too many kids was THEIR fault), Humpty Dumpty has a great fall, so does London Bridge, you know what happen to Jack & Jill... Oh, and that sweet sounding "Ring around the Rosy" is apparently something that came from the Bubonic Plague - "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" *shudder* And people worry about the influence of TV! (Don't even get me started on fairytales). Not that I have a problem with children choosing to read or have their parents read such things to them. If you've got a 2 year old who is just getting the hang of talking and no as-yet-established preferences, however, it seems sensible to pick ones with more light-hearted themes - or at least less violent/traumatic.

I think nursery rhymes are probably worse than violent adult movies and games because the violence/harm is spoken about in an almost whimsical way alongside something funny or sweet - as if they were the same kind of thing.

Then again, I think sometimes humor about these things can be a way of helping children feel more powerful. If they can laugh a little about something scary, then they realize that even when things get scary, there are ways to deal with it and one can overcome one's fears to an extent.

I remember my father(step) having bizarre reactions to shows. He seemed to find some of the most violent movies hilarious. This is because there's usually some joking and plays on words. They didn't use to have such devices. At least, they weren't as frequent. I remember reading and seeing The Shining when I was 8 (I read it before I saw it just because I happened to get ahold of the book before the movie was aired on cable - my parents did NOT try to torture me by making me read the book first - more on the problem with that idea later). The first half of the book was long and a bit boring. Lots of little background details and notes and very little dramatic action. If I hadn't been very determined to make it my first novel length read, I wouldn't have made it trhough.

I was rewarded for my determination. The detailing in the first half really enriched one's experience of reading the fast paced 2nd half. The tone of the book overall was quite serious and frightening and moving. I was pretty disappointed in the movie, comparatively, although I still found it quite frightening. I don't think the movie was badly made, I think it's just hard to get certain ideas across in a movie. Jack Nicholson did a nice job of adding little bits of humor without taking away from the seriousness of the story too much. Even with that, I think I would have been too frightened to laugh much if it hadn't been for my dad. Hearing him laugh helped me remember it was "just a movie". For the record, the book and movie were my choice to watch. I wanted to be scared and get through it anyway.

Tuesday, August 2

Dying can be denied food

This just seems nuts. I don't know what else to say.

Another thought on entrenchment

I think sometimes there can be reasons for hanging onto an idea that one isn't fully aware of. Those reasons may actually be good and true, and it's worth finding that out. (In other words, you might be right for reasons you can't explain very well).

First posted as a comment on Livejournal.

Idea Vaccines and a Source of Ignorance - Fear

Originally, I posted this as a comment on Livejournal, but I'd like to be able to reference it more easily, so here it is:

Idea Vaccines

I have been thinking about this idea for a long time. What sort of ideas could be protective? I know of some people who call ideas that one can't seem to be open to giving up - in spite of good reasons/evidence it should be given up - "entrenched".

Sometimes "entrenched" is also used to mean an idea established early on or in a subtle way such that one isn't even aware of it. It intereferes with the growth of knowledge because one doesn't even have enough awareness of it to examine it.

I haven't come up with specific ideas that could be put into a phrase or something, but I have wondered if developing an attitude of skepticism could be good. The drawback I see with that is that sometimes a good idea might seem very counterintuitive and bad until you hear the whole thing and try it out. I think skeptics sometimes miss out on good things by dismissing ideas too easily.

Another problem is that questioning one's ideas can have frightening implications. The implications might include "I'm bad" for acting on bad ideas, or giving up the comfort of thinking one will exist forever (in giving up a belief in god/soul), or that being "good" will be painful and boring and miserable. Of course, I think some of it is just a generalized fear of the unknown.

Well, I think I've rambled plenty and haven't read enough of this site to know whether I'm repeating or arguing with other ideas here, so maybe it's a good place to stop.