Saturday, May 02, 2009

Dharma Quote - Rob Preece on Spiritual practice

Dharma Quote of the Week from Snow Lion Publications. This is good - we need a reminder that often the path of growth brings up stuff we'd rather not have to deal with. But that is exactly why we are on the path, to face our stuff and deal with it head on.

Spiritual practice often brings to the surface aspects of ourselves that are extremely painful. We have a deep reservoir of emotional wounds and patterns that may be hard to accept in ourselves, and which we have consequently often ignored or denied. This forms a powerful "Shadow," to use Jung's term. As we begin to develop some aspects of tantric practice, these repressed emotions will be resurrected from the underworld of our psyche. This enables the energy bound up in them to then be addressed and potentially transformed. This can sometimes be an uncomfortable process, and it is important to accept and value ourselves even though we feel dreadful, or are frightened of or disgusted with what we see. When we practice Tantra, the dark aspects of our Shadow will almost certainly be evoked, and it requires great courage, honesty, and humility to face and transform them.

Definite emergence, therefore, is the willingness to wake up and face ourselves as we embark on the tantric path. In this willingness to face unconscious habits we also need compassion towards ourselves as we pass through periods of struggle and discomfort in our practice. Through a genuine love, self-acceptance, and sense of humor about ourselves we can potentially uncover even the darkest inner monsters. Healthy self-value and self-worth gives us a solid basis from which to explore the tantric path.

While traditional teachings speak of insights and realizations experienced on the spiritual path, it is seldom made clear that these often come through pain and turmoil. Tantra aims at transforming our most basic emotional nature, and to hold this process we must cultivate compassion for ourselves. This compassion is the recognition that we are human, that we have our qualities and failings, and that we need to value ourselves with them. Compassion towards others begins when we are able to love ourselves through our pain, and in doing so empathize with the pain of others.

~ From The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra by Rob Preece, published by Snow Lion Publications.

David Pearce - A World Without Suffering?

If you could be free of suffering, forever, would you do it? Take a pill, implant an electrode, whatever it is, would you want to end all of your suffering for all time?

I'm not sure about this. I have learned to embrace my suffering as a tool of growth. Without suffering, would I cease to grow as a person?

All interesting questions to keep in mind as you read this article from David Pearce - A World Without Suffering?

A World Without Suffering?

George Dvorsky

George Dvorsky

Sentient Developments

Posted: May 2, 2009

“If it was possible to become free of negative emotions by a riskless implementation of an electrode—without impairing intelligence and the critical mind—I would be the first patient.” - The Dalai Lama

This article, by guest author David Pearce, is re-posted from George Dvorsky’s Sentient Developments blog. Pearce, a British philosopher, co-founded the World Transhumanist Association (since renamed Humanity+) in 1998, and is the author of The Hedonist Imperative.

In November 2005, at the Society for Neuroscience Congress, the Dalai Lama observed, “If it was possible to become free of negative emotions by a riskless implementation of an electrode—without impairing intelligence and the critical mind—I would be the first patient.”

Note that the Dalai Lama wasn’t announcing his intention to queue-jump. Nor was he proposing that high-functioning bliss should be the privilege of one special group or species. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, but in common with classical utilitarianism, Buddhism is committed to the welfare of all sentient beings. Instead, the Dalai Lama was stressing that we should embrace the control of our reward circuitry that modern science is shortly going to deliver - and not disdain it as somehow un-spiritual.

Smart neurostimulation, long-acting mood-enhancers, genetically re-engineering our hedonic “set-point” (etc.) aren’t therapeutic strategies associated with Buddhist tradition. Yet if we are morally serious about securing the well-being of all sentient life, then we have to exploit advanced technology to the fullest possible extent. Nothing else will work (short of some exotic metaphysics that is hard to reconcile with the scientific world-picture). Non-biological strategies to enrich psychological well-being have been tried on a personal level over thousands of years—and proved inadequate at best.

This is because they don’t subvert the brutally efficient negative feedback mechanisms of the hedonic treadmill—a legacy of millions of years of natural selection. Nor is the well-being of all sentient life feasible in a Darwinian ecosystem where the welfare of some creatures depends on eating or exploiting others. The lion can lie down with the lamb; but only after both have been genetically tweaked. Any solution to the problem of suffering ultimately has to be global.

In the meantime, I think the greatest personal contribution to reducing suffering that an individual can make is both to:

1. Abstain from eating meat
2. Make it clear to his or her entire circle of acquaintance that meat-eating is abhorrent and morally unacceptable

Such plain speaking calls for moral courage that alas sometimes deserts me.

I know many readers of Sentient Developments are Buddhists. Not all of them will agree with the above analysis. Some readers may suspect that I’m just trying to cloak my techno-utopianism in the mantle of venerable Buddhist wisdom. (Heaven forbid!)

In fact the Abolitionist Project is just a blueprint for implementing the aspiration of Gautama Buddha two and a half millennia ago: “May all that have life be delivered from suffering”. I hope other researchers will devise (much) better blueprints; and the project will one day be institutionalized, internationalized, properly funded, transformed into a field of rigorous academic scholarship, and eventually government-led.

I’ve glossed over a lot of potential pitfalls and technical challenges. Here I’ll just say I think they are a price worth paying for a cruelty-free world.

George Dvorsky serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. George is the Director of Operations for Commune Media, an advertising and marketing firm that specializes in marketing science. George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.

Brain, Mind, and Education - Attention and Multiple Intelligences Theory

Interesting post, though I am not sure I like Gardner's theories.

Attention and Multiple Intelligences Theory

I've endeavored over the past few months to exercise my "network literacy" (Will Richardson) and build a personal learning network with other educators using Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows users to post 140 character messages ("tweets"). Twitter users can follow each other and grow a personally-tuned information stream. Notably, each user's stream of tweets also gets an RSS feed, and Twitter also provides RSS feeds for searches - this is very powerful! Howard Rheingold recently posted a tweet seeking feedback on his blog post entitled "Attentional Literacy", a subject important to educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists alike. A debate ensued as to whether "literacy" was the appropriate word to describe attention, which prompted me to do some thinking (which is exactly why a personal learning network is so valuable).

Recently I've been reading about Howard Gardner's theory on Multiple Intelligences (MI). Gardner defines an intelligence as "a biopsychological potential of our species to process certain kinds of information in certain kinds of ways." There are a variety of reasons I find his work captivating:
  • it fits with the modular model of the brain-mind
  • it defines intelligence as a brain-based capacity
  • it provides a model for instruction and assessment
Below are a few links to read through to get a sense of the past, present, and future of MI theory, as well as to see how it is being incorporated into education:
In what I've read so far (only a small sample of Gardner's work, let alone all the related studies and critiques), it appears that the 8 intelligences he's identified so far do not exhibit a hierarchical pattern. Although this is valuable in terms of maintaining equity among the many ways of demonstrating intelligence (vs. the more traditional assessments that focus almost completely on verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical), a lack of such organization would be unusual if there is a strong relationship between the organization of the brain and the intelligences.

I jumped into the debate and suggested that, per Gardner's definition, that attention might be better labeled an "intelligence" than a "literacy". There is a lot of brain research happening to improve our understanding of the nature of attention, but there is no question that it is a biopsychological potential, and that it is related to information processing. Here are but a few examples of current literature on the neuroscience of attention:As I thought more, I wonder if, in fact, attention may not be just an intelligence, but an example of a heirarchichal intelligence. I don't know if "meta" is the appropriate word to use here - is attention "above" and providing top-down influence on other intelligences, or is attention more of a foundation, lower-order intelligence which other intelligences must gain in order to activate? Perhaps as neuroscience research improves our understanding of the brain-based nature of intelligence, a clear picture of the intelligence heirarchy will emerge based on the brain structures involved and their relationship to information input / output patterns. However, whether the location is "above" or "below", it seems clear that attentional intelligence is on a different level than the others already identified.

I'm also now realizing that Will Richardson's "network literacy" could also be thought of as an example of Gardner's "interpersonal intelligence", though with the context shifted to the digital realm. What's also been on my mind as I learn more about MI theory is how it might be similar or different to other cognitive theories I've learned about in the past, particularly p-prims, facets, and cognitive resources. It's clear that educational systems have room for improvement with regard to instruction and assessment of all 8 intelligences. Thinking of attention as an intelligence within the MI theory also helped me to realize that we educators - except Howard! - tend not to provide direct instruction on how to develop and use intelligence. Regardless of whether it is accurate that attention is an intelligence or a literacy, Howard's point is well made that our increasingly multi-tasking and digital students will benefit greatly from direct instruction on how to pay attention.

NYT - A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree

I just watched a show on the History Channel about this fossil discovery - so this article was a welcome addition to what we think we know about the strangest set of human fossils so far discovered.

A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree

Published: April 27, 2009

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Six years after their discovery, the extinct little people nicknamed hobbits who once occupied the Indonesian island of Flores remain mystifying anomalies in human evolution, out of place in time and geography, their ancestry unknown. Recent research has only widened their challenge to conventional thinking about the origins, transformations and migrations of the early human family.

Indeed, the more scientists study the specimens and their implications, the more they are drawn to heretical speculation.

*Were these primitive survivors of even earlier hominid migrations out of Africa, before Homo erectus migrated about 1.8 million years ago? Could some of the earliest African toolmakers, around 2.5 million years ago, have made their way across Asia?

*Did some of these migrants evolve into new species in Asia, which moved back to Africa? Two-way traffic is not unheard of in other mammals.

*Or could the hobbits be an example of reverse evolution? That would seem even more bizarre; there are no known cases in primate evolution of a wholesale reversion to some ancestor in its lineage.

The possibilities get curiouser and curiouser, said William L. Jungers of Stony Brook University, making hobbits “the black swan of paleontology — totally unpredicted and inexplicable.”

Everything about them seems incredible. They were very small, not much more than three feet tall, yet do not resemble any modern pygmies. They walked upright on short legs, but might have had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running. The single skull that has been found is no bigger than a grapefruit, suggesting a brain less than one-third the size of a human’s, yet they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids with larger brains. They appeared to live isolated on an island as recently as 17,000 years ago, well after humans had made it to Australia.

Although the immediate ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus, lived in Asia and the islands for hundreds of thousands of years, the hobbits were not simply scaled-down erectus. In fact, erectus and Homo sapiens appear to be more closely related to each other than either is to the hobbit, scientists have determined.

It is no wonder, then, that the announcement describing the skull and the several skeletons as remains of a previously unknown hominid species, Homo floresiensis, prompted heated debate. Critics contended that these were merely modern human dwarfs afflicted with genetic or pathological disorders.

Scientists who reviewed hobbit research at a symposium here last week said that a consensus had emerged among experts in support of the initial interpretation that H. floresiensis is a distinct hominid species much more primitive than H. sapiens. On display for the first time at the meeting was a cast of the skull and bones of a H. floresiensis, probably an adult female.

Several researchers showed images of hobbit brain casts in comparison with those of deformed human brains. They said this refuted what they called the “sick hobbit hypothesis.” They also reported telling shoulder and wrist differences between humans and the island inhabitants.

Even so, skeptics have not capitulated. They note that most of the participants at the symposium had worked closely with the Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery in 2003 and complain that their objections have been largely ignored by the news media and organizations financing research on the hobbits.

Some prominent paleoanthropologists are reserving judgment, among them Richard Leakey, the noted hominid fossil hunter who is chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University. Like other undecided scientists, he cited the need to find more skeletons at other sites, especially a few more skulls.

Mr. Leakey conceded, however, that the recent research “greatly strengthened the possibility” that the Flores specimens represented a new species.

At the symposium, Michael J. Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who was one of the discoverers, said that further investigations of stone tools had determined that hominids arrived at Flores as early as 880,000 years ago and “it is reasonable to assume that those were ancestors of the hobbits.” But none of their bones have been uncovered, so they remain unidentified, and no modern human remains have been found there earlier than 11,000 years ago.

Excavations are continuing at Liang Bua, a wide-mouth cave in a hillside where the hobbit bones were found in deep sediments, but no more skulls or skeletons have turned up. Dr. Morwood said the search would be extended to other Flores sites and nearby islands.

Peter Brown, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia, said that his examination of the premolars and lower jaws of the specimens made it almost immediately “very, very clear that this was a hominid in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The first premolars in particular, he said, were larger than a human’s and had a crown and roots unlike those of H. sapiens or H. erectus.

Dr. Brown, a co-author of the original discovery report, said that no known disease or abnormality in humans could have “replicated this condition.”

At first, Dr. Brown and colleagues hypothesized that the hobbits were descendants of H. erectus that populated the region and had evolved their small stature because they lived in isolation on an island. Island dwarfing is a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources.

The scientists soon backed off from that hypothesis. For one thing, dwarfing reduces stature, but not brain size. Moreover, researchers said, the hobbit bore little resemblance to an erectus.

In an analysis of the hobbit’s wrist bones, Matthew W. Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution found that certain bones were wedge-shaped, similar to those in apes, and not squared-off, as in humans and Neanderthals. This suggested that its species diverged from the human lineage at least one million to two million years ago.
Read the whole article.

Is God Back? Religion in America (and the World) - Two Views

US News and World Report posted this discussion between Robert Schlesinger and Adrian Wooldridge, co-author of the new book, God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World by Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait. This seems like an interesting book, even though I tend to disagree with their primary premise - as near as I can tell, we are approaching the end of monotheistic religion's reign in the West.

However, the rise of Christianity in Africa, China, and Russia may be a monumental moment in human history - not sure whether it will be good or bad. What happens in this regard will depend on the life conditions that co-arise with religion in these parts of the world.

Following this interview, I have included the recent Pew Report: U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2007).

God Is Back: Religion's Revival and Its Global Impact

Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait discuss their latest book

Posted May 1, 2009

Religion is reasserting itself globally, John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge, the magazine's Washington bureau chief, argue in God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World. The pair have coauthored four books, covering subjects like globalization, U.S. politics, and business. Wooldridge recently spoke to U.S. News about the religious revival's roots and implications. Excerpts:

So God is back. Did God go somewhere?
This book is not a work of theology, clearly. It's a work of contemporary history. But, yes, he went somewhere. In the 19th century, the most influential thinkers predicted that modernity and secularization would go hand in hand. Throughout most of the 20th century, it looked as if that was the case. The one exception is the United States, really, because it continues to be very religious and also very modern. But most thinkers tend to regard the United States as a freak of nature, like a duck-billed platypus, and they think it will go the way of the rest of the world.

So what changes?
You get a radical change in the late 1960s and 1970s whereby religion begins to reappear in the public square, in the people's lives. This is a historical change. [It's] a sense that many of the secular "isms" have reached the point of exhaustion.

Is it a cosmic coincidence, or is there a deeper reason for it?
The basic assumption of secularization theory is that religion and modernity are antagonistic and mutually incompatible. What you're seeing in the 1970s and 1980s is various religious communities disproving this because they've learned how to use the tools of modernity to their advantage. They've learned how to use technology to get their message across. They've learned how to use democracy, the democratic political process. They've learned that modernization is their friend.

And you argue that there is a distinctly American flavor to this revival.
You've had two sorts of versions of modernity competing with each other, both stepping from the Enlightenment, one stepping from the French Revolution, the other from the American Revolution. The European version is: The more modern a country becomes, the less religious it becomes. The American version is: So long as you separate church and state and create a free market of religion and don't have an official church, the two things can coincide. You get competition between various religious groups, and religion can therefore become a friend of democracy, a friend of technology, a friend of all the things you see in the modern world. What you're beginning to see is the American approach to things becomes quite universalized. It is the slow spread of an American model whereby religion is a choice, not just something that's just inherited, and different religious groups compete for souls.

How important is the communications revolution in this revival?
It's incredibly important. For a long period in Latin America, for example, Jimmy Swaggart is one of the most recognizable people. The televangelists are huge around the world. There are two things here. One is that America gets to the future first, and the other is that America exports its own way of doing things. The American churches are the first people to really see modern technology as a huge opportunity.

So why should readers care about this?
Religion is having a big impact on politics and international relations. The only way we can understand modern politics and public life is to understand the role of religion. And the only way we can solve a lot of the most important conflicts that we see around the world is by using religious leaders. If you think about where America's next big foreign-policy problem may be, religion is probably going to be part of it. [For example,] it's quite possible that by 2050 China could be the world's biggest Muslim country and the world's biggest Christian country. Even if you look at home, in America, a lot of the issues that are most divisive in politics are issues which are fundamentally ethical and fundamentally religious: the abortion debate, the gay marriage debate, stem cells. We can't get away from religion. It keeps intruding.

It sounds as if we should have hoped God would stay away.
We're not saying God is good; we're not saying God is bad. We're trying to look at the way religion has become a factor in public life—foreign affairs, politics, all around the world—and chronicle what's happening. We document in great detail in this book the downside of the return of religion, particularly the detrimental impact, really, on foreign policy. But there is an upside and a very significant upside. Religion can exaggerate the bad side of man, and it can exaggerate the good side.

What will readers find surprising?
The rise of Christianity in China may be one of the most fundamental facts about the 21st century. This was an atheist country, an officially atheist country. Now it has about 100 million Christians. And many of the sorts of people who are attracted to Christianity are . . . entrepreneurial, business, successful, educated, professional people, scientists, all of that. They're all flocking to Christianity because they see Christianity as a very modern thing, a very go-ahead thing. Atheism they associate with the old, discredited Maoist regime, where everyone was very poor and hungry. They see Christianity as the next big thing, a way of making themselves successful and the country powerful.

What else is important that we haven't touched on?
If you think there's a competition of souls going on between Islam and Christianity, which indeed there is . . . a lot of people would predict that Islam would win. One of the things we argue in this book is that Christianity is actually in the long term going to do better than Islam. Because Christianity has been tested by the acids of modernity and has come out the other side. Islam has not.

As an alternative to this view, here is the most recent Pew Report on the American religious landscape:

Summary of Key Findings

Major Religious Traditions in the U.S.

An extensive new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details statistics on religion in America and explores the shifts taking place in the U.S. religious landscape. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

Key Findings and Statistics on Religion in America

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

The Landscape Survey confirms that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country; the number of Americans who report that they are members of Protestant denominations now stands at barely 51%. Moreover, the Protestant population is characterized by significant internal diversity and fragmentation, encompassing hundreds of different denominations loosely grouped around three fairly distinct religious traditions - evangelical Protestant churches (26.3% of the overall adult population), mainline Protestant churches (18.1%) and historically black Protestant churches (6.9%).

While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, the statistics show that Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic). Immigrants are also disproportionately represented among several world religions in the U.S., including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Although there are about half as many Catholics in the U.S. as Protestants, the number of Catholics nearly rivals the number of members of evangelical Protestant churches and far exceeds the number of members of both mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. The U.S. also includes a significant number of members of the third major branch of global Christianity - Orthodoxy - whose adherents now account for 0.6% of the U.S. adult population. American Christianity also includes sizeable numbers of Mormons (1.7% of the adult population), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7%) and other Christian groups (0.3%).

Like the other major groups, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (16.1%) also exhibit remarkable internal diversity. Although one-quarter of this group consists of those who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively), the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as "nothing in particular." This group, in turn, is fairly evenly divided between the "secular unaffiliated," that is, those who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and the "religious unaffiliated," that is, those who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population).

Even smaller religions in the U.S. reflect considerable internal diversity. For instance, most Jews (1.7% of the overall adult population) identify with one of three major groups: Reform, Conservative or Orthodox Judaism. Similarly, more than half of Buddhists (0.7% of the overall adult population) belong to one of three major groups within Buddhism: Zen, Theravada or Tibetan Buddhism. Muslims (0.6% of the overall adult population) divide primarily into two major groups: Sunni and Shia.

A Very Competitive Religious Marketplace

A Note on Defining Religious Affiliation

The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the biggest gainer in this religious competition - the unaffiliated group. People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4% of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group. This means that more than half of people who were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group. In short, the Landscape Survey shows that the unaffiliated population has grown despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all "religious" groups.

Another example of the dynamism of the American religious scene is the experience of the Catholic Church. Other surveys - such as the General Social Surveys, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1972 - find that the Catholic share of the U.S. adult population has held fairly steady in recent decades at around 25%. What this apparent stability obscures, however, is the large number of people who have left the Catholic Church. Approximately one-third of the survey respondents who say they were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic. This means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics. These losses, however, have been partly offset by the number of people who have changed their affiliation to Catholicism (2.6% of the adult population) but more importantly by the disproportionately high number of Catholics among immigrants to the U.S. The result is that the overall percentage of the population that identifies as Catholic has remained fairly stable.

In addition to detailing the current religious makeup of the U.S. and describing the dynamic changes in religious affiliation, the findings from the Landscape Survey also provide important clues about the future direction of religious affiliation in the U.S. By detailing the age distribution of different religious groups, for instance, the study's statistics on religion show that more than six-in-ten Americans age 70 and older (62%) are Protestant but that this number is only about four-in-ten (43%) among Americans ages 18-29. Conversely, young adults ages 18-29 are much more likely than those age 70 and older to say that they are not affiliated with any particular religion (25% vs. 8%). If these generational patterns persist, recent declines in the number of Protestants and growth in the size of the unaffiliated population may continue.

Major changes in the makeup of American Catholicism also loom on the horizon. Latinos, who already account for roughly one-in-three adult Catholics overall, may account for an even larger share of U.S. Catholics in the future. For while Latinos represent roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics age 70 and older (12%), they account for nearly half of all Catholics ages 18-29 (45%).

Finally, the Landscape Survey documents how immigration is adding even more diversity to the American religious quilt. For example, Muslims, roughly two-thirds of whom are immigrants, now account for roughly 0.6% of the U.S. adult population; and Hindus, more than eight-in-ten of whom are foreign born, now account for approximately 0.4% of the population.

Other Survey Highlights

Other highlights in the report include

  • Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
  • Among people who are married, nearly four-in-ten (37%) are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation. (This figure includes Protestants who are married to another Protestant from a different denominational family, such as a Baptist who is married to a Methodist.) Hindus and Mormons are the most likely to be married (78% and 71%, respectively) and to be married to someone of the same religion (90% and 83%, respectively).
  • Mormons and Muslims are the groups with the largest families; more than one-in-five Mormon adults and 15% of Muslim adults in the U.S. have three or more children living at home.
  • The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.
  • Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three-in-four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall.
  • Nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall. Hindus and Jews are also much more likely than other groups to report high income levels.
  • People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20% and 59%, respectively.
  • By contrast, members of mainline Protestant churches and Jews are older, on average, than members of other groups. Roughly half of Jews and members of mainline churches are age 50 and older, compared with approximately four-in-ten American adults overall.
  • In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religious tradition. Only 37% of all those who say they were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses still identify themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • Members of Baptist churches account for one-third of all Protestants and close to one-fifth of the total U.S. adult population. Baptists also account for nearly two-thirds of members of historically black Protestant churches.

About the Survey

These are some of the key findings of the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which draws primarily on a new nationwide survey conducted from May 8 to Aug. 13, 2007, among a representative sample of more than 35,000 adults in the U.S., with additional over-samples of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. The study also takes advantage of the 2007 survey of American Muslims ("Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream"), which was conducted by the Forum in partnership with its sister projects, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. In total, these surveys included interviews with more than 36,000 Americans.

Detailed data tables provide extensive demographic information on the 14 largest religious traditions, 12 large Protestant denominational families and 25 individual Protestant denominations in the United States.

The whole, very long and detailed report is available at their page.

iShift - Don Beck on the Essential Shifts (2006 Transcript)

An interview with Don Beck from iShift (Institute of Noetic Sciences) - as always, Don is full of good information and amazing perspective. As I have often said here, among all the integral people out there, Don is the only one who is putting his ideas to work in the real world, on a daily basis, to make a difference in people's lives. Theory is good, but theory in action is so much better. He is a modern Bodhisattva.

Don Beck on the Essential Shifts (transcript)

Don Beck | Essential Shifts Transcripts

You can download this audio program here.

Shift in Action: I want to welcome everyone to the program today. We are very fortunate to have Don Beck with us today. He’s been described as a philosopher-activist for the 21st century. He’s behind the book called Spiral Dynamics, which is probably the single most comprehensive and useful mapping of consciousness onto larger processes, organizations, countries, and collective dynamics. I’m personally very excited by the work that he has done everywhere from the Middle East to South Africa and corporations in the US. So, welcome to the program, Don.

Don Beck: Well, thank you, Steve, very much.

SIA: Great. So what we are doing here is getting the angle of a lot of different folks on the biggest shifts of our time, and since Spiral Dynamics is one of the most comprehensive mappings, maybe you could talk a little bit about how you see the state of the world from the Spiral Dynamics angle.

DB: Well, there are always two points of view about that. What one point of view says is that we are simply setting up the conditions for a major shift, so rather than doom and gloom, Chicken Little thinking, one could say these are simply symptoms of deeper problems, tectonic-like shifts, and we’d best understand that.

The other point of view, of course, is quite negative: that we have more fragmentation today than ever before. Ironically we are more interconnected, but the complexity of our world has outstripped the complexity of our solutions. So we are in that cusp, we’re in that gap—and since I live on the positive side of life, I think that we will ultimately sort it out.

SIA: Great. So maybe you could give a little background on the Spiral Dynamic terminology as we go through the interview. What’s your three-minute pitch on Spiral Dynamics as a map?

DB: It’s really about human nature based on the work of Clare W. Graves, who became interested in how human nature changes, and did a lot of the research and tracking of that process. So rather than simply announce what is next, his interest was the master trend-maker. What is it that creates new systems, be they economic, political, religious, educational? So, it was an attempt to find those deeper codes. And, from our side, looking at eight of those codes that his research identified, and that we likewise over the last 30 years have been able to see. Then, by dealing with those codes (just like dealing in the human genome project with what we call memetics, which is simply a word for value systems), by dealing with the human memome, that is with these deeper world views, and focusing on them rather than surface level behaviors, then one has for the first time, I think, Steve, the insight in order to subdue and reduce some of our very serious problems at the surface level.

So in South Africa we redefined the issue out of race and out of ethnicity into these value systems. Today in the Netherlands in dealing with the Islamic problems we could show the Dutch it’s not about culture in terms of what they thought, but one of these deep codes. And in the Israeli-Palestinian process we overlay our maps on top of that, and one can begin to see why the Oslo accord didn’t work and what might be the basis for a fresh initiative. So basically we identify deep value systems. We show how to create change processes around eight different kinds of change. And so we can add precision to the conversation about change—or, in your case, about shift.

SIA: So what you’re pointing towards is really that there is not just one big paradigm shift under way, but that there are lots of paradigm shifts underway, and people are moving from one dominant operating system to another, in parallel. So there are different parallel tracks operating all over. Right?

DB: That’s right and so there are different futures for different folks, and there are six billion earthlings who are passing through these different layers/levels simultaneously.

And because most of our models, as you know, very well tend to be one-size-fits-all car-washes, we are unable to see this diversity, and we create global systems—be they at the UN or our national groupings or NGOs—constantly moving into these settings with some very fragmented, ad hoc, piecemeal approaches that simply don’t have the leverage to handle the kind of world that we have created for ourselves.

SIA: So maybe if you could go into not all eight levels, but where’s the main action, the three or four value systems that are predominant right now, and really where they are grinding against each other.

DB: Well, right now we are seeing what we call our third level system: egocentric, predatory, express self impulsively, “to hell with others”—moving into the fourth level system: that absolutistic, one right way, ideology, -ism. With 50 million Arab males making that particular shift, this means they’re not moving into the First World system here. They’re moving into some kind of one-size-fits-all ideology, and if that that vacuum isn’t filled by something positive, it could be filled by something that’s toxic in terms of a jihad system. So the future of the Third World tends to be a Second World good authority, as opposed to the very complex codes that we know here in the First World.

SIA: So we get into some trouble when we try to overlay our own next step onto others’ next step.

DB: Oh, you’re very right. And you were one of the first people to really recognize, I recall years ago, what we were trying to say. And to us it’s so clear, and if we can turn our kaleidoscope and look thru this new lens, then many apparently difficult issues like HIV infection, and why Africa has not developed, and why the US and Europe seem to be on different tracks, then we could find with amazing clarity what the deeper conflicts are really about. And, in addition, what kind of technology, what kind of solutions, what kind of scaffolding can be used in order to find the ways to manage (if that’s the proper term) this kind of movement.

SIA: That’s fascinating work. So if you go back to the third level, the "express self," your color code is red. I like the colors because it’s an easy way to remember! So then you go into the blue, which is more the fundamentalism or one-right-way, and then what’s beyond that?

DB: That’s when modern entity hits in, and that’s a shift out of sacred into secular. And there are large segments of Arab thinking, like in Dubai, that are really trying to make that move. From our side, the real conflict isn’t the West versus the Islamic world, as in the Huntington thesis. The real conflict is within the Islamic world, between the ideologists and the pragmatists. And, if you know about European history, we went through that, and it was bloody. So, if we could have seen that on 9/12 and dealt with that particular great divide, I think we’d be much better off today than we are.

SIA: So to some extent there is a necessary process for a whole culture to change its center of gravity?

DB: Yeah. You know if we had a Margaret Mead sapient circle, a global group who could read this and see these dynamics, we could mobilize all of our resources, and then like a laser beam integrate the lines and synergize everything that we have available—home, church, school, law enforcement, NGOs, foundations. We would truly have a global strategy that dealt with these steps in stages, versus those (and you know I love all of them) who talk about wisdom and globalization and world citizenship, but aren’t getting down to the real problem, which is the fact that there are billions of people passing through these different zones simultaneously.

SIA: So it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for the vast majority of folks.

DB: No, it isn’t. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and South Africa was the first test case, and it turned out to work extremely well.

And so what we’re finding is other groupings today who are beginning to say, “Yes, I think maybe we’ve missed something. We’ve been trapped in our flat-landedness, not able to see verticality." And certainly the Dutch today, and the Germans, and the French for sure, are now beginning to recognize that when they opened the door for immigration it wasn’t the skin color or the ethnicity or the food choice that was the problem, but bringing in different value structures that often became like a virus that exploited the host. And consequently there are niches of people today around these artificial boundaries that make it very, very difficult for these complex systems to continue to emerge.

SIA: So, if we continue: we’ve got that third level red, that fourth level blue, fifth level expression at the orange level which is more secular. And then moving into green, right?

DB: Yes, post-modern green. That’s the projection of materialism and elitism and the attempt to impose egalitarianism over the entire species and insisting that people be accountable. And after three decades of that we are finding a lot of people now are beginning to move out of it and are moving into a more integral perspective. And we think after that will be cosmopolitanism. So now we are beginning to write some of the codes of that next system from pre-modern to modern to post-modern to integral and then to cosmopolitan, realizing that there are billions of people moving along that track, and so we have to manage those different stages simultaneously. And there’s no reason in the world why we can’t do that.

SIA: And, as I understand it, that integral perspective is not as wedded to a particular one-size-fits-all. It’s really honoring the different perspectives on their own terms.

DB: That’s when a major shift occurs, in imposing one particular kind of solution onto a flex-flow understanding—that what’s next for large parts of Africa will be some kind of red-to-blue transition. That’s why so many churches, Pentecostal especially, are being very effective, and the Church of England simply doesn’t have a clue. I know this sounds pretty ostentatious, but what we’re trying to say is it’s possible in our global scanning devices (and we work with John Peterson, you know, at the Arlington Institute with some of these approaches in our new Center for Human Emergence) that, if we had that insight, then we could begin to mobilize all the global resources and focus these like laser beams, in education and healthcare. But as long as we attempt to impose solutions out of our more complex systems, and penalize people for not being bright enough to do it—as often World Bank and other organizations have done—then we are creating this mess for ourselves. And so when things get bad enough (and I think we’re getting pretty close to that), that’s when new thinking emerges. So, thank God for our problems, because that’s what wakes us up to the fact that we have a lot of new wine out there but we’re still using a lot of old wine skins.

SIA: Interesting. So to move to the second question we’ve been asking folks: What do you see as the most essential shifts that are required for us to go to the next level? Just think of that broadly. We have this sort of chaotic, messy interaction between lots of different values here. Is there a way that we can ratchet it up to a more harmonious flow between them, either planetarily or even as just more of American or North American culture?

DB: Well, we’ve been working for a long time on a large-scale systems change, and we now have the ten conditions for that to occur. Rather than simply announce that people need to change, then we begin to look at who has the capacity for this more complex thinking. To what extent have they solved previous problems? Do they now have dissonance? There is a point at which insight occurs almost like a check list. And what we’ve observed over the last six months, especially with the growing interest in Spiral Dynamics, is that it is an insight model. It allows people to objectify history and see why in different epochs of time people thought in different kinds of ways. But those same kinds of thinking are alive today, as we've gone back to the future or forward to the past in the same generation. And so to us the major breakout occurs when we can begin to see though this new lens this kind of complexity, and recognize that these are deep human codes, and people have a right to be who they are. So rather than saying everybody has to look up and be more complex and embrace new consciousness and spirituality, we’re also saying that what many reject as earlier systems must have density. So, rather than trying to cut off our past, our point of view is so different from others, we want that healthy purple animistic system, or healthy versions of that red predatory egocentric system, or healthy versions of that blue absolutistic system—not to try to wipe out these steps and stages, because when we do that we really create chaos for ourselves, but begin to show how these systems can express themselves in healthy versions.

SIA: Right. So an example might be that red might find expression in healthy competitive sports or a gang warfare kind of thing.

DB: Oh yes—and the arts, jazz for example. There are all kinds of versions of them. It’s when any of the systems becomes imperialistic and attempts to shut out the others that the spiral suffers, and we create blockages. And large numbers of people’s expectations are raised, but there is a lack the capacity to fulfill them, and this becomes the seedbed for terrorism.

SIA: Say a little more about where you see the center of gravity right now, and what are the shifts in modern western culture at the moment?

DB: We've been tracking, and we do a lot of research. We see two directions. One: we’re in a progressive state after 9/11, and many who are really on the cutting edge are now backing up. Many are learning how to do business or beginning to think in a fifth-level orange kind of way, become private consultants and other things.

Others are trying to launch ahead into what is next, realizing that the sixth-level green system that served them so well and felt so good simply can’t handle the nature of our problems today. We are really beginning to see this, and this is especially true in the Netherlands, where we had over 900 people on March 31 come to our sessions. There are quite exciting things going on there. Whenever we’ve done our global scanning we find that the value system peaks in Scandinavia, and certainly among the Dutch. So I think cutting-edge models can very well come out of that particular milieu. That’s one of the transitional elements, while many others in South America, Venezuela, and Bolivia, and maybe next Mexico are beginning to revive almost a new Marxist mindset. And we just got back from India where we found the same thing happening. All the success in business has simply increased the gap, and there are more Maoist-Marxist movements occurring in India today. So we are not out of the woods yet by any means.

SIA: Will Marxism necessarily be located at a particular level or could there be a green expression, and then there’s the lower expression?

DB: Yes, for sure, but in all cases it tends to be anti-orange. As we are finding out in Venezuela, there are forces that are mobilizing in most of South America around the Cuba type of model. When you have a large number of left-behinds or have-nots and you see suddenly the bright lights of affluence, that’s what raises expectations. And we certainly saw that happening in India: a new policy just announced by the Prime Minister, and we’ve been asked to help on it, is affirmative action for the untouchables—which I thought would never happen in our life time, but it has to. As certain elements gain more affluence, the gaps widen, and when those gaps begin to widen that’s when we begin to see the revolutionary spirit begin to be fostered. And sometimes when that can access weaponry of the more complex value systems, like nuclear-tipped missiles or various kinds of horrible beasties from laboratories, it means that the entire planet today is threatened. And so that’s why it’s critical that those people interested in truly global solutions look very carefully at what they are recommending and then begin to search for the kind of complex models that can deal with the reality that exists. And we certainly can do this, and the sooner the better.

SIA: I was intrigued by what you said about the Scandinavian and particularly the Dutch peaking at a higher level. What is it that happened there that allowed their values to accelerate into this healthier expression?

DB: Well, I’ve been tracking the Dutch for12 years, and I think it’s excellent education; I think it’s world travel; I think it’s having most of their problems in existence met because of the general affluence of the culture. I think a sense of urgency today because of the Islamic threat, as you very well know, and the fact that they live in a polder, sort of like New Orleans—inside a saucer with dikes around them, so global warming becomes a major factor.

I think these are some of the dynamics that are beginning to express themselves in the Netherlands. As I say, my colleague there Peter Merry and I are quite impressed with the rapid movement that we’re seeing. I found the same thing in Denmark, by the way, in Copenhagen, and certainly in Norway. Wherever you have societies that have been affluent and are finding that their models of egalitarianism and collectivism with
very high taxation aren’t meeting their needs. Like in Sweden, where our teams are redesigning the entire educational system, where they realize that they bought off too much on permissiveness in education, and not insisting that children learn discipline and learn skills. All these things are happening in societies impacted by the post-modern world view. Of course, the point here is there is no final stage; there is no ultimate Utopia. Every new solution produces new problems. It’s just today that we have so many people passing through these different zones at the same time, and we simply have yet to create in our education and in our healthcare and geopolitics the models for managing or leadership, for guiding how in the world we can put all these things together.

SIA: Interesting. So how about the United States? Where do you see the United States right now in this tectonic shifting of value systems?

DB: Well, obviously with the so-called blue-red state conflict (and those colors are really reversed from how we use them), we have a GOP party that’s been heavy blue-orange, one-right-way Puritanism with affluent kind of materialism which is its center of gravity, and we’ve had a democratic party that has historically put together the heavy red victimization and shut-out with the more egalitarian liberal to form its political core. We’ve had these two political parties, and I think what we’re seeing, and even Tom Friedman has been writing about it recently, is evidence of maybe a third party starting to form.

SIA: Yeah?

DB: Yeah, I think that could very well happen and happen pretty quickly.

SIA: How do you see the current accelerated global challenges environmentally
as impacting this whole scene?

DB: Oh, I think there are all kinds of wild cards here, and very dangerous wild cards. I think we’ve been fooling around too long and enjoying the success of our parents and grandparents, and living off their hard work and largesse, and we simply haven’t paid the kind of attention that we should have to our habitat. Rather than early on develop full core press solutions, now we’re trying to dribble one solution and then another.
I think it will take a major wake up call in order for us to really get down to what the real issues are about fossil fuel and about peak oil and how in the world a billion Indians and lots of Chinese are going to pass through some of these same affluent zones that the West has already enjoyed. They want their two motor cars and indoor plumbing, and how the planet earth is going to survive that kind of shift I think is one of the most serious questions that we all confront. So there are major breakouts of serious trouble all over the planet, and as long as we simply try to use fire extinguishers jumping from one problem to the next, and can’t build a long term view, then we will find ourselves victimized. That’s why I love that quotation about “it’s time to build the new model as opposed to joust with windmills.” So maybe there’s enough energy around the work, of so many connected to where you’re working, and Shift magazine, who after all the summits and gatherings that they have finally say, “Well, we’ve been talking about these things for a long, long, long time. Why haven’t we found solutions?” So maybe at that point there will be a major shift.

SIA: Actually, I’ve been circulating this idea of having a "next blueprint" conference. So it would be more getting down to brass tacks, like how do we create a next blueprint for our society? We have our founding documents, as magnificent as they are, and the guiding vision was created 230 years ago in a very different world. So how can we create a blueprint for a way of interacting that honors the complexities of the spiral, that encourages people to grow and expand, and such that we’re situating ourselves in the environment in a new way? It’s a very deep and interesting question.

DB: Our own Constitution, in terms of our mapping, is at that fifth-level compromise-driven code, and it has worked extremely well for us. I’m not so concerned about structure as I am with the kind of content and thinking within those structures. I don’t think the UN itself needs to be reformed; it just needs to know what in the world is going on, and how to mobilize its resources. I see a lot of energy around the work of Jean Houston and others that are really recognizing that particular verticality. I just don’t know if our “from-the-left/from-the-right” adversarial model has the complexity in it that we’re going to need. And just exactly what form that new model will take…I think is pretty premature, but I do know that the best way to even approach that is to ask what kind of functions need to be performed, rather than sit around and draw different models and so forth.

But once again I say I’m pretty optimistic that what we’ve done in the past is simply the result of our collective thinking back when we had different kinds of problems. And I’m not willing to throw out any baby with any bathwater at this stage, or begin to add on layers of complexity on top of the earlier systems. That seems to be the best way. And probably the best example of that is Singapore. It has moved in a very wise fashion through a number of these layers and levels without jettisoning any of them. So maybe there are crucibles around—even South Africa can be one—where humans are beginning to form these new alloys. If we had the kind of organization that could scan for these kind of solutions and make them available to the rest of the world, that would be a good thing for sure.

SIA: So, in terms of things that would really help promote and facilitate this shift, it’s sort of a centralized scanning and advisory…not so much a think tank, but a consulting tank.

DB: We have formed what is called the Center for Human Emergence, and we have nodes in the Netherlands, Australia, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, London, Washington—and that’s what its purpose is, to find these models—and then again, with John Peterson, to do the kind of memetic mapping of the planet so we can see these kind of undertows that are shaping surface conflicts. If we had had this technology we could have seen Iraq so clearly, and could have predicted the kind of trouble that we have today—and then, by being able to build the scaffolding, build the solutions. To me this holds the best prospect for beginning to find the insights, because a lot of people are working on how change actually happens. But there is just so much naïveté around that word "change." What kind of change? So maybe, as I say, as our problems deepen and we try our older solutions, they simply don’t produce results. That’s what Clare Graves said—“The window’s open for insight and for more complex thinking to emerge.” And, Steve, we’re just seeing today so much evidence of that right now going on around the world.

SIA: Great. Well we kind of covered the third question which is how do your work and current passions fit with the larger shift but maybe folks want to connect more with your work or workshops, where would be a good place to point them?

DB: Well, it’s self-promotion, I guess, but we have a large number of people working with us—about four thousand people in our constellation today. It’s based on the original work of Clare W. Graves, and now 30 years of field testing in some very difficult places. So we are simply trying to get others to begin to see the huge possibility within this more complex thinking system, and we also learned that it’s not something that one can market. It occurs in the minds of people when a certain crisis point is reached and there’s a search for new thinking and that seems to be happening right now.

SIA: You do have a series of different workshops that people can get steeped in this world view and…

DB: Oh yes, we are at, or the new place is, and this is probably going to be our primary entity because we can bring together the work of so many others who may or may not like Spiral Dynamics, but they are working in the field of emergence. And so we are able to rally all these different voices together because that, in a sense, is what we need to be able to do.

SIA: Beautiful. So glad you’re doing that work. Well, the way we’d like to close is with a few personal recommendations for the people who are tuning in here. What are some of the most important things you think they each can do personally to create positive change and be part of this evolutionary wave.

DB: Well, one thing I’ve been saying recently about the famous Gandhi quotation, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” is that’s certainly a wonderful concept, but we’ve added, “What if the change that we want to see in the world is not good for the world?” So maybe it’s time to do the change that the world needs done, whether at personal micro-levels or working on much larger projects. There are certainly tipping points in the lives of everyone, and who’s to say that one’s butterfly wings that are fluttering that have implications across whole domains will ultimately be more impactful than others? One can never make that judgment. So I think it’s time for good hearts and committed souls and high levels of mutual trust and respect. And what humans can do is just magnificent—and, to me, it’s time for us to do it.

SIA: Well, amen to that! I completely agree. So I think that brings it to a close. Are there any parting words or anything that feels unsaid?

DB: Well, I guess one my favorite sayings, which I guess I’m infamous for is, “No more prizes for forecasting the rain; only prizes for building the ark.”

SIA: That’s terrific. All right Don, I’m so glad you could take time out of your obviously very busy schedule to spend some time with us here today, and really help illuminate the larger patterns that are shifting in the world.

DB: Well, thank you, Steve, very much.

Friday, May 01, 2009


I am now on Skype (well, not at the moment) and you can find me as williamharryman.

Guessed it was time to join the 21st century. Hell, I even finally have a webcam.

Introduction to Attachment Theory

Attachment is one of the hot topics in psychology of late - well, OK, it has been for a while now. Here are three introductory articles that provide a brief overview of the basics of the theory.

Each article here is followed by a brief excerpt - go read the whole post to get the full story.

Attachment and Bowlby - John Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment

Bowlby proposed a theory of attachment based on evolutionary principles that increase infants' survival through specific behavioural and emotional propensities designed to keep infants close to their primary caregivers and out of danger.

Bowlby also suggested that infants and children build 'mental' models of themselves and of their relationships with significant people in their lives and that these mental models are based on their relationship or interactions with their caregiver(s) over time.

* * *

Attachment Theory and Research into Bonding -Adult Attachment and Infant Bonds

Back in 1958, the psychologist Harry Harlow wrote: "So far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission. The little we know about love does not transcend simple observations, and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists."

Since then, there has been an increasing interest in love and close relationships and social psychologists now have access to a wider range of methodologies to help them investigate complex relationships more fully. With this has come a strong realisation of the importance of attachment theory on affectional bonds within close relationships in adulthood.

* * *

Adult Attachment Theory - Adult Romantic Relationships and Attachment

Although Bowlby focused on infant-caregiver attachment, he believed attachment characterized human experience from “the cradle to the grave”. In the mid-1980s researchers began to take the possibility that attachment processes may play out in adulthood more seriously.

Phil Shaver was one of the first researchers to study how attachment status affects the dynamics of couple's relationships.

Antidepressant Medications Increase Hippocampus Volume

Antidepressant medications get a lot of bad press, some of which is fully deserved. In my opinion, they are prescribed WAY too often for WAY too many people. A little sadness is good for the soul and should not be medicated away.

However, for people with real, clinical depression - which correlates with a smaller hippocampus - taking these medications over a period of time can increase hippocampal volume through the process of neurogenesis.

This article looks at that issue in detail.

Regulation of adult neurogenesis
by antidepressant treatment

Duman RS, Nakagawa S, Malberg J.
Division of Molecular Psychiatry,
Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities,
Department of Psychiatry,
Yale University School of Medicine,
Connecticut Mental Health Center,
34 Park Street, 06508, New Haven, CT, USA
Neuropsychopharmacology 2001 Dec;25(6):836-44


Demonstration of neurogenesis in adult brain represents a major advance in our understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying neuronal remodeling and complex behavior. Recent studies from our laboratory and others demonstrate that chronic administration of an antidepressant, including either a 5-HT or norepinephrine selective reuptake inhibitor, up-regulates neurogenesis in adult rodent hippocampus. Up-regulation of neurogenesis could block or reverse the effects of stress on hippocampal neurons, which include down-regulation of neurogenesis, as well as atrophy. The possibility that the cAMP signal transduction cascade contributes to the regulation of neurogenesis by antidepressants is supported by previous studies and by recent work. Although additional studies must be conducted to determine the significance of adult neurogenesis in humans, these findings will stimulate new avenues of research to identify the cellular and molecular basis of stress-related mood disorders as well as the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
Genes and mental illness
BDNF and new brain cells
Basic fibroblast growth factor
Antidepressants and neuroplasticity
Antidepressants and new brain cells
Tianeptine and stressed out tree shrews
Sleep deprivation triggers new brain cells
A new theory of depression and antidepressants
Depression: recent developments and controversies
A neurotrophic model for stress-related mood disorders
Is hippocampal neogenesis critical for therapeutic response?

and further reading

The Sun - The Science Of Happiness

Here is a brief glimpse of an article only available in the print issue of the magazine, The Sun, but even this little bit is entertaining.

The Science Of Happiness

Barbara Fredrickson On Cultivating Positive Emotions

by Angela Winter

Most scientists who study emotions focus on negative states: depression, anxiety, fear. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has spent more than twenty years investigating the relatively uncharted terrain of positive emotions, which she says can make us healthier and happier if we take time to cultivate them.

Fredrickson’s findings are the subject of her new book, Positivity (Crown). Though its title might make it sound like a self-help bestseller, the book doesn’t belong in the pop-psychology section, and Fredrickson is no Pollyanna telling us to put on a smile before leaving the house each morning. Negative emotions, she says, are necessary for us to flourish, and positive emotions are by nature subtle and fleeting; the secret is not to deny their transience but to find ways to increase their quantity. Rather than trying to eliminate negativity, she recommends we balance negative feelings with positive ones. Below a certain ratio of positive to negative, Fredrickson says, people get pulled into downward spirals, their behavior becomes rigid and predictable, and they begin to feel burdened and lifeless.

Fredrickson, who’s forty-four, was born and raised in the Midwest and comes from, in her words, “a long line of stoics” who didn’t discuss or reveal their emotions. When she was growing up, emotional expression — positive and negative — was discouraged. She says, “The implicit message from family members was ‘You should have known how I was feeling by the look on my face.’ Yet the looks on their faces hardly ever changed!” The suppression of emotions at home motivated her escape into the life of the mind, and she focused on her academic studies.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in Minnesota, Fredrickson moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she received her PhD from Stanford University and did her postdoctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley. She began studying positive emotions because there was so little research on them, she says. A good friend in graduate school once joked that Fredrickson studied emotions because she didn’t have any. Fredrickson acknowledges the joke’s kernel of truth: she’s spent much of her adulthood becoming fluent in the emotions that were left unspoken in her childhood. She exemplifies the adage that we teach best what we most need to learn.

Fredrickson has been on the faculty of Duke University and the University of Michigan and is currently the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also serves as director and principal investigator of the university’s Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab. Fredrickson’s research has been featured in the New York Times Magazine and on cnn and pbs. Her theory of how positive emotions have functioned in human evolution was recognized with the 2000 American Psychological Association’s Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology. Since then, she has traveled extensively as an international expert on positive emotions, and in 2008 she received the Society for Experimental Social Psychology’s Career Trajectory Award.

Fredrickson and I arranged to meet for this interview at a restaurant we both enjoy in Carrboro, North Carolina. The owners graciously allowed us to come in before they opened for the day so we could have a quiet spot to talk. Fredrickson arrived dressed smartly in black with a Parisian scarf around her neck, and we settled into a booth to discuss the benefits of increasing positive emotions in our lives. The name of the restaurant, appropriately enough, is GlassHalFull.

Winter: How do you define “positive emotions?”

Fredrickson: If we look at a whole range of positive emotions — from amusement, to awe, to interest, to gratitude, to inspiration — what they all have in common is that they are reactions to your current circumstances. They aren’t a permanent state; they’re feelings that come and go. That’s true of all emotions, but positive emotions tend to be more fleeting.

They are also what I would call “wantable” states. They not only feel good, but we want to feel them. Some people might say it feels good to be angry, and anger can sometimes be useful or productive, but people don’t want to feel angry. Positive emotions have a kind of alluring glitter dust on them. You want to rearrange your day to get more of those sparkling moments.

Even so, people do differ in how much they actively seek out positive emotions. One of my aims in writing my book was to increase readers’ appreciation and respect for positive emotions so they could perhaps reap the benefits of positive emotions more fully.

Winter: You make a distinction between pleasures and positive emotions. How are they different?

Fredrickson: When I began my work, many scientists lumped pleasure and positive emotions together and concluded that both signal us to go forward as opposed to pull back. I agree that positive emotions have that go-forward quality, but I’ve argued for separating the two psychological states. Positive emotions are triggered by our interpretations of our current circumstances, whereas pleasure is what we get when we give the body what it needs right now. If you’re thirsty, water tastes really good; if you’re cold, it feels good to wrap your coat around you. Pleasures tell us what the body needs. Positive emotions tell us not just what the body needs but what we need mentally and emotionally and what our future selves might need. They help us broaden our minds and our outlook and build our resources down the road. I call it the “broaden-and-build” effect.

Winter: What about happiness? Is it a positive emotion?

Fredrickson: Scientists most often measure happiness by asking how strongly a person agrees with statements like “I’m satisfied with my life” or “If I could live my life over, I wouldn’t change a thing.” These kinds of questions are much broader in scope than questions that are used to measure positive emotions, such as “Are you feeling amused, silly, or lighthearted?” Positive emotions are much more narrow-band feelings, not overall judgments about your life. Sometimes we use happy to refer to a specific emotion, but, scientifically speaking, it’s not ok to use a single word, like happy, in multiple ways. I view happiness as the overall outcome of many positive moments.

My goal as a scientist has always been to pull apart the process of how one state leads to another and ultimately guides us to a useful outcome. Over the last decade researchers have found some stunning correlations between expressing more positive emotions and living longer. My role is to ask, How does that happen? How do you go from experiencing these pleasant momentary states to living longer — perhaps even ten years longer?

Other researchers have found that the number of positive emotions a person feels predicts his or her satisfaction with life. What we’ve done is uncover how positive emotions actually cause us to be happier by helping us build our resources for managing day-to-day life. When we have better resources, we emerge from adverse situations feeling more satisfied with the outcome.

My colleagues and I have a paper forthcoming in the journal Emotion called “Happiness Unpacked.” We’re trying to take this word happiness, which is a little bit of a garbage-can term — people put too many things in it — and look under the hood at the dynamics of the process. And what we’ve found is that we should be focusing on how we feel from day to day, not on how we can become happy with life in general. If you focus on day-to-day feelings, you end up building your resources and becoming your best version of yourself. Down the road, you’ll be happier with life. Rather than staring down happiness as our goal and asking ourselves, “How do I get there?” we should be thinking about how to create positive emotions in the moment.

Winter: Aren’t there cultural differences in which emotions we define as “positive?”

Fredrickson: Yes, what have been studied the most are differences between East Asian and Western populations. The typical finding is that Westerners (Americans and Canadians, mostly) feel positive emotions when they do something that sets them apart; they feel pride in their accomplishments. East Asians more often feel positive emotions in situations that connect them to another person. Those are just general trends, however. Within each culture there’s a lot of variance.

I would argue, too, that how much people appreciate positive emotions differs from culture to culture. Latin cultures, for example, celebrate positive emotions more and have more passions built into the culture. In the U.S. I think that our focus on productivity, outcome, and achievement helps blind us to positive emotions.

But positive emotions seem to function the same way in all cultures. For example, we’ve created a study examining how positive emotions help people feel “at one” with another person. We have people think about their best friends and then look at a series of images showing two circles. First the circles overlap a little bit, then a little bit more, and a little bit more. We ask the research participants to select the pair of circles that depict how they feel about their best friend. Then we cause the participants to experience some positive emotions and have them fill out a similar survey, which includes more items so that they can’t remember which circles they chose the first time. When we ask how they feel about their best friends now, people pick circles that overlap more, indicating more of this feeling of oneness. We’ve been able to replicate those results in India and Japan, as well.

Winter: Is that a typical example of the type of research that you do?

Fredrickson: We do lots of different studies. I like to follow the ideas rather than stick to one particular method. In the early days more of our research was physiological: we were looking at blood pressure, heart rate, and so on. In another series of studies we trained people in lovingkindness meditation, which focuses on creating more feelings of warmth and kindness toward others. You’re first asked to think of someone in your life for whom you have warm and tender feelings, whether it’s a child or a spouse or even a pet, and then to try to bring forth those feelings as much as you can and hold them in your heart. As you’re doing that, you let the child or pet or person you were thinking about kind of slip away, but you hold on to the feeling. Then you take that warm, tender feeling and apply it to yourself or to others whom you might not normally feel that way about. And you continue to apply that feeling to ever larger circles of people.

We had a study come out in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in November 2008 called “Open Hearts Build Lives.” We looked at the effects of lovingkindness meditation on people’s resources. We gave the research participants a survey to take stock of their personality traits, health, and social ties at the start of the study, then randomly assigned them either to learn lovingkindness meditation or not. All of them tracked their emotions daily for two months, and then, a few weeks after the meditation workshops had ended, we measured those same traits again.

The complete text of this selection is available in our print edition.

ANGELA WINTER loves gray skies, bare trees, and songs sung in minor keys. She works at The Sun and lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, where she offsets her melancholic tendencies by searching for the sunny side of the street.

Personal. Political. Provocative. Subscribe to The Sun and save 50%.