The ideological opposition to biological truth

The ideological opposition to biological truth

Facts? We Don’t Need No Stinking Facts.

One distressing characteristic of the Left, at least as far as science is concerned, is to let our ideology trump scientific data; that is, some of us ignore biological data when it’s inimical to our political preferences. This plays out in several ways: the insistence that race doesn’t exist (and before you accuse me of saying that races do exist, read about what I’ve written here before: the issue is complex), that there are no evolutionarily-based innate (e.g., genetically based) behavioral or psychological differences between ethnic groups, and that there are no such differences, either, between males and females within humans.

These claims are based not on biological data, but on ideological fears of the Left: if we admit of such differences, it could foster racism and sexism.  Thus. any group differences we do observe, whether they reside in psychology, physiology, or morphology, are to be explained on first principle as resulting from culture rather than genes. (I do of course recognize that culture can interact with genes to produce behaviors.) This ideological blinkering leads to the conclusion that when we see a difference in performance between groups and genders, the obvious explanation is culture and oppression, and the remedy is equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities. Yet in areas like most sports, where everyone agrees that males are on average larger and stronger than females, it’s clear that the behavioral differences (i.e., performance) result from biological differences that are surely based on evolution (see below). In sports like track and field or judo, nobody would think of making males compete with females.

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Feminism Flounders

Dedicated to my muze: @EsthervanFenema

It’s a common misunderstanding that men and women are equal, a myth perpetuated by generations of idealists fed by the declaration of human rights. Lofty as that declaration is, it holds quite a few misconceptions. Next to the misconception that humanity is one big family of entities who strive all for the common good and thereby gain common rights, there is also the misconception about the equality of the male and female of the species.

Biologically, mentally and spiritually they are not equal, they are completely different. They have different bodies, brains, minds, capacities etc. These are biologically predefined. Ages of evolution caused the two genders to be good at some tasks, worse at others but not at the same. Whole neural networks are setup at birth to make that so, environmental feedback only serves to train them.

Along comes feminism. At first for good reason. Women didn’t have the same rights as men, and where treated as second rate humans. Which was a wholly one sided view perpetuated by religious doctrine and completely false. So that got corrected, women got the same rights as men.
Strangely enough nobody thought to attach also the duties which came with privileges leaving the balance somewhat in favor of women. Worse still, to make up for the millennia of female maltreatment even positive discrimination was introduced.

Which left women with a strong feeling of entitlement but overall without the capacity to take part in the acquired rights. Which created a new wave of feminism, the feminism of complaint. Every time women didn’t make the grade this was due to those awful men not giving them their just dues. Fervently the followers of the doctrine of female entitlement battled against the perceived injustice creating a whole new world where us versus them took over.

Men should come down a notch or two so women could more easily take their entitled places. Over the years this resulted in a society where the born with capacities were disconnected from daily life, men had to behave more like women and women started to behave more like men.

The direct result of this are generations of men and women who lost their footing due to the forced roles they had to assume and for which both were not exactly fit. Now none was feeling well in their roles as unisex beings.

Man/women kind should return to what they are good at, instead of desperately trying to deny that nature has reserved different roles for both. Denying your true self can only lead to insecurity, anxiety and various mental issues.

Stop floundering feminists. Start taking yourself seriously as a woman. Accept both genders are unequal, but not thereby more or less worth. Stop bitching about what the world does to you and take control of your own life. Stop trying to level the playing field by forcing men and women into some lowest common denominator, but go and prove yourself by just doing your thing.

Common ground for many psychiatric disorders

A while ago the UCL institute of Cognitive Neuroscience ran an ‘ask a neuroscientist’ section via twitter. So i duly posted a question that was on my mind for a long time.
“what are the fetal white matter correlates of schizophrenia and autism?” Actually i wanted to ask “what are the fetal white matter correlates between many psychiatric disorders” but i guessed that that question was to broad so it’d be ignored for sure. To my surprise it did get an answer, which made me happy, but it also didn’t answer the question which had the opposite effect. It’s the first question (un)answered in this vid:

Why i asked this is because to me (after reading untold papers for decades) it’s crystal clear that a large part of psychiatric disorders stem from a different layout of the basic structure that later directs the composition of the brain. At the stage that white matter starts to get formed it lays down the endresult, as a in a building the foundation determines the final internal structure of the building.

When white matter strands start their work and the whole complex growth of neural pathways commences, it’s that layout which shapes the structure by giving less or more prevalence to certain information transmissions thereby regulating the forming of pathways. In doing so the white matter also influences the forming of grey matter due to the regulation of signal since more grey matter will form at places where signals are abundant and vice versa.

This complex feedback system then causes a brain to form.

So when the basic white matter has some slightly differing structure logically the endproduct will be reflecting those differences. When learning that the famous Rain Man instead of being an autist was actually suffering from agenesis of the corpus callosum things fell into place.

Since the fetal white matter directly influences the structure of the CC and that in turn influences how the hemispheres develop it’s a short jump to thinking that many a psychiatric disorder is in fact a variation on a theme: white matter influenced brain formation.

Looking at Schizophrenia and Aspergers one thing is clear, they are very much alike in certain aspects. Alike enough that in the DSM IV Schizophrenia had to be excluded in order to diagnose Aspergers. Looking further down the list actually quite a few disorders could be said to have those aspects in common, the problems with social functioning. ASPD for example comes to mind.

Since this part of mammals is such an integral part of their being, any lasting variation in it must have evolutionary origin. With a malfunctioning social brain a mammal isn’t likely to reproduce. Since the malfunctions seem to increase rather than diminish there should be a environmental feedback which keeps it going.

Going way out on limb here, how about what we (well, they not me) see as psychiatric disorders are actually evolutionary paths to get rid of the archaic primary control of the limbic system? This system is completely out of it’s depth in a complex society, which we now know exists for 10s of 1000’s of years, long enough to have started an evolutionary reaction since that system is contraproductive. It lays at the root of 99% of conflicts,wars,misery known to man.

It is just not feasible that the feedback of the rationale doesn’t get to influence in the long run behavior, which in turn over time influences genetic variations.

The Monkey on the Ape’s Back

Technically this should be called: The Ape on the Monkey’s back but for sake of the imagery the title is more apt. When thinking of an ape we tend to think of a big beast and in case of a monkey a tiny one, whilst ofcourse the ape is the primate. Still it has a better ring to it.

We tend to think of ourselves as free autonomous conscious entities. We are human, and that makes us stand out. To my mind this is an oversimplistic view of reality.

As mammals evolved into primates the brain evolved too. But the principle of evolution being that existing systems are being extended, that caused additional brains to spring from the original basic brain, the brainstem, to take up the extra load.

All vertebrates have a brainstem like structure. It is the minimum needed to keep the body going. Nutrition, oxygenation, temperature, movement etc. are regulated by the brainstem.

With the evolution of the mammals a second outcrop started to develop. The limbic system.

The connection between the limbic system and the brainstem is a mostly one way system in the sense that both brains can interact with the body but not with each other. The two brains are fused together at the bottom of the brainstem into the spinal cord. This gives the limbic system corporal control,in conjunction with the more automated brainstem.

It is a much more advanced brain which handles various higher order processes, such as survival tactics. Survival depends on properly recognizing danger, food, procreation opportunities.

This takes advanced planning, decision making, fast responses to stimuli. This brain interacts with its environment, it must be aware of itself and its relation to its environment to do the job properly.

In other words it is conscious at a certain level.

As mammals further developed into social beings, a new outcrop started to form. The neocortex.

This third brain again has mostly one-way connections with the other two brains. It also fuses into the spinal cord giving it further control over corporal functions. The neocortex houses the most advanced processes,it refines all functions of the limbic system and adds the high order intellectual capacity, such grammatical language, self awareness.

In view of the very limited vertical connections between the neocortex and the underlying limbic system, and taken the fact that the limbic system has priority in determining danger/food/procreation in its environment one can see that the neocortex always by necessity reacts after the fact.

The limbic system perceives danger, it prepares the body for the fight/flight response and the neocortex takes this up afterwards due to a complicated interpretative analyses of facial expression (the limbic system has control over that), body stance, muscle tension, heart rate, respiration,hormone levels and lastly visual and auditory clues.

In most cases where immediate action is deemed necessary by the limbic system it performs the required action, leaving the neocortex to figure out why the body landed a blow in someones face.

This gives rise to the thesis that ‘our’ consciousness is just along for the ride. Although ‘we’ can plan and act accordingly, when it comes to real-time environmental interaction its our other consciousness which calls the shots.

This has far reaching consequences for the premise of ‘free will’. Who has the free will, which consciousness we hold accountable. Or do we just hold the one accountable which can make itself heard even though in reality that consciousness actually hasn’t a clue why his body did what it did and has to concoct an explanation itself.

It also places emotions. Emotions are not ‘our’ emotions but the expression of the state of the other consciousness which for lack of further interaction the neocortex also has to determine via interpretative analysis.

Which leaves ofcourse the facility to plan and (re)act based on cognitive functions. One still can decide to do X or Y. Still this decision making process is being manipulated.

To my mind this whole system is best explained with this analogue:

Imagine that  our awareness is the flow across the Collector and Emitter of a Transistor. The Base in this analogue is the limbic system, tiny fluctuations can have a big effect on our storyteller.

This works well also to explain the difference between low and highly emotional people.

A transistor has a specific gain, that is how much the Base current influences the Collector/Emitter flow. With the same Base current you can have a big influence or small influence depending on that gain.

As such we are totally at the mercy of our limbic system, but in some it shows more then others.

Food for thought.

Update april 28 2014:

Free will and paranormal beliefs
Ken Mogi*
Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Tokyo, Japan

Free will is one of the fundamental aspects of human cognition. In the context of cognitive neuroscience, various experiments on time perception, sensorimotor coordination, and agency suggest the possibility that it is a robust illusion (a feeling independent of actual causal relationship with actions) constructed by neural mechanisms. Humans are known to suffer from various cognitive biases and failures, and the sense of free will might be one of them. Here I report a positive correlation between the belief in free will and paranormal beliefs (UFO, reincarnation, astrology, and psi). Web questionnaires involving 2076 subjects (978 males, 1087 females, and 11 other genders) were conducted, which revealed significant positive correlations between belief in free will (theory and practice) and paranormal beliefs. There was no significant correlation between belief in free will and knowledge in paranormal phenomena. Paranormal belief scores for females were significantly higher than those for males, with corresponding significant (albeit weaker) difference in belief in free will. These results are consistent with the view that free will is an illusion which shares common cognitive elements with paranormal beliefs.

Full article

Update Nov 5 2013:

The cerebellum and cognitive function: 25 years of insight from anatomy and neuroimaging.

Twenty-five years ago the first human functional neuroimaging studies of cognition discovered a surprising response in the cerebellum that could not be attributed to motor demands. This controversial observation challenged the well-entrenched view that the cerebellum solely contributes to the planning and execution of movement. Recurring neuroimaging findings combined with key insights from anatomy and case studies of neurological patients motivated a reconsideration of the traditional model of cerebellar organization and function. The majority of the human cerebellum maps to cerebral association networks in an orderly manner that includes a mirroring of the prominent cerebral asymmetries for language and attention. These findings inspire exploration of the cerebellum’s contributions to a diverse array of functional domains and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Even the cerebellum influences our behavior beyond conscious control

Update May 8 2013:

The predictive brain and the “free will” illusion

Leaving aside this philosophical issue whether a “free will” exists or not, the authors propose a theoretical framework to explain our “experience of a free will.” This framework is based on the predic- tive brain concept which is not entirely new. Historically, two different models of perception have been developed, one clas- sical view which goes back to the philo- sophical writings of Plato, St. Augustine, Descartes and assumes that the brain pas- sively absorbs sensory input, processes this information, and reacts with a motor and autonomic response to these passively obtained sensory stimuli (Freeman, 2003). In contrast, a second model of percep- tion, which goes back to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, stresses that the brain actively looks for the information it pre- dicts to be present in the environment, based on an intention or goal (Freeman,
2003). The sensed information is used to adjust the initial prediction (=prior belief ) to the reality of the environment, resulting in a new adapted belief about the world (posterior belief ), by a mech- anism known as Bayesian updating. The brain hereby tries to reduce environmen- tal uncertainty, based on the free-energy principle (Friston, 2010). The free-energy principle states that the brain must min- imize its informational (=Shannonian) free-energy, i.e., must reduce by the pro- cess of perception its uncertainty (its prediction errors) about its environment (Friston, 2010). It does so by using thermodynamic (=Gibbs) free-energy, in other words glucose and oxygen, creating transient structure in neural networks, thereby producing an emergent percept or action plan (De Ridder et al., 2012)

Whatevernext? Predictivebrains,situated agents,and the future of cognitive science

Update May 6 2013:

A unified framework for the organization of the primate auditory cortex.

In non-human primates a scheme for the organization of the auditory cortex is frequently used to localize auditory processes. The scheme allows a common basis for comparison of functional organization across non-human primate species. However, although a body of functional and structural data in non-human primates supports an accepted scheme of nearly a dozen neighboring functional areas, can this scheme be directly applied to humans? Attempts to expand the scheme of auditory cortical fields in humans have been severely hampered by a recent controversy about the organization of tonotopic maps in humans, centered on two different models with radically different organization. We point out observations that reconcile the previous models and suggest a distinct model in which the human cortical organization is much more like that of other primates. This unified framework allows a more robust and detailed comparison of auditory cortex organization across primate species including humans.

Human hearing same as other primates

Update April 27 2013:

Potent Social Learning and Conformity Shape a Wild Primate’s Foraging Decisions

Conformity to local behavioral norms reflects the pervading role of culture in human life. Laboratory experiments have begun to suggest a role for conformity in animal social learning, but evidence from the wild remains circumstantial. Here, we show experimentally that wild vervet monkeys will abandon personal foraging preferences in favor of group norms new to them. Groups first learned to avoid the bitter-tasting alternative of two foods. Presentations of these options untreated months later revealed that all new infants naïve to the foods adopted maternal preferences. Males who migrated between groups where the alternative food was eaten switched to the new local norm. Such powerful effects of social learning represent a more potent force than hitherto recognized in shaping group differences among wild animals.

Cultural learning in other primates

Update march 21 2013:

Unconscious neural activity has been repeatedly shown to precede and potentially even influence subsequent free decisions. However, to date, such findings have been mostly restricted to simple motor choices, and despite considerable debate, there is no evidence that the outcome of more complex free decisions can be predicted from prior brain signals. Here, we show that the outcome of a free decision to either add or subtract numbers can already be decoded from neural activity in medial prefrontal and parietal cortex 4 s before the participant reports they are consciously making their choice. These choice-predictive signals co-occurred with the so-called default mode brain activity pattern that was still dominant at the time when the choice-predictive signals occurred. Our results suggest that unconscious preparation of free choices is not restricted to motor preparation. Instead, decisions at multiple scales of abstraction evolve from the dynamics of preceding brain activity.

Predicting free choices for abstract intentions.
Predicting free choices for abstract intentions.(full text,pdf)

Update february 19 2013:

There Is No Free Won’t

. For 13 participants, we measured the mean amplitude of the ERP activity at electrode Cz in three subsequent 50 ms time windows prior to the onset of the signal that either instructed to respond or inhibit, or gave participants a free choice. In two of these 50 ms time windows (-150 to -100, and -100 to -50 ms relative to action onset), the amplitude of prestimulus ERP differed between trials where participants “freely” chose whether to inhibit or to respond rapidly. Larger prestimulus ERP amplitudes were associated with trials in which participants decided to act rapidly as compared to trials in which they decided to delay their responses. Last-moment decisions to inhibit or delay may depend on unconscious preparatory neural activity.

Antecedent Brain Activity Predicts Decisions to Inhibit.

Update january 8 2013:

Discussions of the neural underpinnings of social cognition frequently emphasize the distinctiveness of human social cognition. Here, however, we review the discovery of similar correlations between neural networks and social networks in humans and other primates. We suggest that component parts of these neural networks in dorsal frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and superior temporal sulcus (STS) are linked to basic social cognitive processes common to several primate species including monitoring the actions of others, assigning importance to others, and orienting behavior toward or away from others. Changes in activity in other brain regions occur in tandem with changes in social status and may be related to the different types of behaviors associated with variation in social status.

Are there specialized circuits for social cognition and are they unique to humans

The brain believes, do you?

The brain believes, do you?

Untold thinkers have written insights with varying clarity concerning the role and functionality of religion in people.
In my humble opinion all parties get stuck in ever repeating card houses of logic defending their particular conviction thereby completely ignoring the core of the matter. What is religion to more or less objective standards?

The following biological facts, simplified a lot, shed some light on the issue.

There was once a mammal. It needed a lot of little bits of operating systems in order to let all components of its body function properly. Over time they became so numerous that it needed a system to coordinate the other bits . That system became so complex that it was capable to reprogram itself in order to be able to assimilate the ever increasing flow of information. It called itself: conscience.
Objectively impossible to determine if it exists, since conscience itself determines what are the criteria defining conscience.

That conscience, in an attempt to preprogram future acts of the body, starts tell a tale to itself.
A continuous flowchart enabling it by correlating previous events and by means of extrapolation to arrive at a predefined future action.

The conscience calls that tale: reality. Again objectively impossible to determine if it exists, the conscience stipulates what is reality. The one conscience determines the tale in which a supernatural being must exist a reality, the other determines it to be unreal.

In this one can distinguish two different main categories of belief:

First. The true devout believer.
Given the biological fact that belief has a physical origin in a brain structure located somewhere in temple area one can make a good case that belief in its origin/intensity is directly related to a more or less developed structure of the brain.
Accepting this, asking for respect for a religion and it’s rituals is the same as to ask respect because someone can talk, run, eat, defecate.

Discussions involving religions, and their place in society is meaningless, the believer is forced by its brain to believe. One could compare it with homosexuality . This also finds its origin in the structure of the brain and is therefore futile to try to impose the feeling on a heterosexual, or persuade another to become likewise.

The only difference would be, as the brain structure controlling belief has no preference over one supernatural being for another, that a believer can be made to accept another religion. Whereas a homosexual has not that many options.

Second: The social believer.

The characteristics of this believer are one of educational, peer formed belief. This form of belief is just a concept created by indoctrination and as such is not really ‘felt’ to be true.
This explains why people can become apogees or atheists. An option lacking in the previous category of believers.

Unfortunately there are lots of people with a less developed notion regarding the origin and nature of conscience whom take themselves very seriously. So immensely serious that it is for them unacceptable that their existence has no meaning. And then they will look for something which will give their existence the grandeur they imagine it to have .

Old books such as the bible, koran, torah come in very handy, because just like the writings of Michel the Nostredame they can be interpreted in any which way to suit whatever you want to believe.

The simple solution that we simply are procreating little primates that exist because we exist is too humiliating to them.

We logically have an anthropocentric world view. We assume ourselves to be superior because we believe we are superior. A type of extreme ‘dubito, ergo cogito ergo sum’. Other animals doubt also, take decisions, deceive, tease, play, have feelings of love, hate, joy etc.

Their philosophy of life we do not understand just as little as they understand ours.
But by their standards they sure can feel superior over humans with good reason.