Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ravens Reconcile after Aggressive Conflicts with Valuable Partners

It's well-established that primates and a handful of mammal species will reconcile when a mutually beneficial relationship has been ruptured. This kind of behavior had never been observed in birds - until now. In a study of adolescent ravens (not pair-bonded), these researchers found that not only will they repair the relationship, but they will be less likely to act aggressively toward each other in the future.

While these researchers speculate that this might be a behavior that exists in others birds, as well, I would not be so willing to jump toward that conclusion. Ravens (and crows, as well as some species of parrots) are NOT at all like other birds. Both cognitively and interpersonally, they are unique - as far as we know right now - among bird species.

Ravens Reconcile after Aggressive Conflicts with Valuable Partners

Orlaith N. Fraser1*, Thomas Bugnyar1,2

1 Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, 2 Konrad Lorenz Forschungstelle, Grünau, Austria


Reconciliation, a post-conflict affiliative interaction between former opponents, is an important mechanism for reducing the costs of aggressive conflict in primates and some other mammals as it may repair the opponents' relationship and reduce post-conflict distress. Opponents who share a valuable relationship are expected to be more likely to reconcile as for such partners the benefits of relationship repair should outweigh the risk of renewed aggression. In birds, however, post-conflict behavior has thus far been marked by an apparent absence of reconciliation, suggested to result either from differing avian and mammalian strategies or because birds may not share valuable relationships with partners with whom they engage in aggressive conflict. Here, we demonstrate the occurrence of reconciliation in a group of captive subadult ravens (Corvus corax) and show that it is more likely to occur after conflicts between partners who share a valuable relationship. Furthermore, former opponents were less likely to engage in renewed aggression following reconciliation, suggesting that reconciliation repairs damage caused to their relationship by the preceding conflict. Our findings suggest not only that primate-like valuable relationships exist outside the pair bond in birds, but that such partners may employ the same mechanisms in birds as in primates to ensure that the benefits afforded by their relationships are maintained even when conflicts of interest escalate into aggression. These results provide further support for a convergent evolution of social strategies in avian and mammalian species.

Citation: Fraser, ON, Bugnyar, T. (2011). Ravens Reconcile after Aggressive Conflicts with Valuable Partners. PLoS ONE 6(3): e18118. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018118

The whole article is available online at the link above, and as a PDF download.

Horizontal and Vertical - The Evolution of Evolution (Do Biophotons Play a Role?)

The main article presented here appeared at the blog of the Integral Research Group - it's originally from Archeology Daily (they got it from New Scientist), a riff on on the evolution of evolutionary theory - many of the ideas here can (I think) be translated to the AQAL model and its version of biopsychosocial and spiritual evolution.

[OK, a quick search shows that I posted this too, back in January of 2010 when it first appeared in New Scientist. But today I am adding a little spin to it, so read on.]

However, the idea of horizontal gene transfer as a primary motor of evolution is a sophisticated version of an idea I've held since the days I used hallucinogens - that DNA is the driver of evolution, not natural selection or random mutations. My intuition back then was that DNA communicates both intra-organism and inter-organism, and does so purposefully.

One possible explanation for this process is biophotons.
(Wikipedia: "synonymous with ultraweak photon emission, low-level biological chemiluminescence, ultraweak bioluminescence, dark luminescence and other similar terms, is a photon of light emitted from a biological system and detected by biological probes as part of the general weak electromagnetic radiation of living biological cells")
The research is not adequate yet, at least not here (the Germans have been working this angle for years, most notably Fritz-Albert Popp - more useful approaches have been developed by others) - here is some more info from the Wikipedia article:

Russian, German, and other biophotonics experts, often adopting the term "biophotons" from Popp, have theorized, like Gurwitsch, that they may be involved in various cell functions, such as mitosis, or even that they may be produced and detected by the DNA in the cell nucleus. In 1974 Dr. V.P.Kaznacheyev announced that his research team in Novosibirsk had detected intercellular communication by means of these rays.[9]. Until 1980s, Kaznacheyev and his team carried out about 12 000 experiments. Details of experiments are described in his book (in Russian)[10].

Proponents additionally claim that studies have shown that injured cells will emit a higher biophoton rate than normal cells and that organisms with illnesses will likewise emit a brighter light, which has been interpreted as implying a sort of distress signal. These ideas tend to support Gurwitsch's original idea that biophotons may be important for the development of larger structures such as organs and organisms.

However such conclusions are debatable. Injured cells are under higher amounts of oxidative stress, which ultimately is the source of the light, and whether this constitutes a "distress signal" or simply a background chemical process is yet to be demonstrated.[11] The difficulty of teasing out the effects of any supposed biophotons amid the other numerous chemical interactions between cells makes it difficult to devise a testable hypothesis. Most organisms are bathed in relatively high-intensity light that ought to swamp any signaling effect, although biophoton signaling might manifest through temporal patterns of distinct wavelengths or could mainly be used in deep tissues hidden from daylight (such as the human brain, which contains photoreceptor proteins). There remains little evidence in the scientific literature to support the existence of such a signaling mechanism. Recent review article [12] discusses various published theories on this kind of signaling and identifies around 30 experimental scientific articles in English in past 30 years which prove electromagnetic cellular interactions.

Contrary to this entry, there are quite a few articles on biophotonic communication showing up in a Google Scholar search, including this article from the Journal of Scientific Exploration (Vol. 15, No. 2, 2001).

Bio-photons and Bio-communication
Department of Molecular Cell Biology,
Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; and
International Institute of Biophysics, Neuss, Germany

Abstract—The topic of bio-informational aspects of photon emission has a history of more than eighty years. It is an example of a research topic that is inadequately studied within mainstream biology. This article reviews the research activities during the three main phases of this line of this research. The first period is characterized by Gurwitsch-type experimentation on mitogenetic radiation. Radiation was detected by changes in biological organisms that function as radiation detectors. The second phase is characterized by the development and application of sensitive photomultiplier tubes for the detection of radiation from organisms and cells. These studies were extended with the question about the chemical and enzymatic origin of radiation. In this phase hardly any attention was paid to the question of radiation with a bio-informational character. In the third period research is again focussed on the informational aspects of photon emission. This bio-photon research is hardly recognized in mainstream science so far, but in the opinion of the author it deserves careful consideration. For this reason this article presents an overview of the literature which might be helpful for giving careful consideration to the bio-informational character of bio-photons.
OK, that's my tangental variation on this article - probably much more information (and a radical detour), but it feels related to me. I suspect that these two processes are intimately related in ways of which we are not yet aware.
Horizontal and Vertical: The Evolution of Evolution

By Mark Buchanan

Just suppose that Darwin's ideas were only a part of the story of evolution. Suppose that a process he never wrote about, and never even imagined, has been controlling the evolution of life throughout most of the Earth's history.

It may sound preposterous, but this is exactly what microbiologist Carl Woese and physicist Nigel Goldenfeld, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believe. Darwin's explanation of evolution, they argue, even in its sophisticated modern form, applies only to a recent phase of life on Earth.

At the root of this idea is overwhelming recent evidence for horizontal gene transfer - in which organisms acquire genetic material "horizontally" from other organisms around them, rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors. The donor organisms may not even be the same species. This mechanism is already known to play a huge role in the evolution of microbial genomes, but its consequences have hardly been explored. According to Woese and Goldenfeld, they are profound, and horizontal gene transfer alters the evolutionary process itself. Since micro-organisms represented most of life on Earth for most of the time that life has existed - billions of years, in fact - the most ancient and prevalent form of evolution probably wasn't Darwinian at all, Woese and Goldenfeld say.

Strong claims, but others are taking them seriously. "Their arguments make sense and their conclusion is very important," says biologist Jan Sapp of York University in Toronto, Canada. "The process of evolution just isn't what most evolutionary biologists think it is."

Vertical hegemony

How could modern biology have gone so badly off track? According to Woese, it is a simple tale of scientific complacency. Evolutionary biology took its modern form in the early 20th century with the establishment of the genetic basis of inheritance: Mendel's genetics combined with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Biologists refer to this as the "modern synthesis", and it has been the basis for all subsequent developments in molecular biology and genetics. Woese believes that along the way biologists were seduced by their own success into thinking they had found the final truth about all evolution. "Biology built up a facade of mathematics around the juxtaposition of Mendelian genetics with Darwinism," he says. "And as a result it neglected to study the most important problem in science - the nature of the evolutionary process."

In particular, he argues, nothing in the modern synthesis explains the most fundamental steps in early life: how evolution could have produced the genetic code and the basic genetic machinery used by all organisms, especially the enzymes and structures involved in translating genetic information into proteins. Most biologists, following Francis Crick, simply supposed that these were uninformative "accidents of history". That was a big mistake, says Woese, who has made his academic reputation proving the point.

In 1977, Woese stunned biologists when his analysis of the genetic machinery involved in gene expression revealed an entirely new limb of the tree of life. Biologists knew of two major domains: eukaryotes - organisms with cell nuclei, such as animals and plants - and bacteria, which lack cell nuclei. Woese documented a third major domain, the Archaea. These are microbes too, but as distinct from bacteria genetically as both Archaea and bacteria are from eukaryotes. "This was a enormous discovery," says biologist Norman Pace of the University of Colorado in Boulder. Woese himself sees it as a first step in getting evolutionary biology back on track. Coming to terms with horizontal gene transfer is the next big step.

In the past few years, a host of genome studies have demonstrated that DNA flows readily between the chromosomes of microbes and the external world. Typically around 10 per cent of the genes in many bacterial genomes seem to have been acquired from other organisms in this way, though the proportion can be several times that (New Scientist, 24 January 2009, p 34). So an individual microbe may have access to the genes found in the entire microbial population around it, including those of other microbe species. "It's natural to wonder if the very concept of an organism in isolation is still valid at this level," says Goldenfeld.

Lateral thinking

This is all very different from evolution as described by Darwin. Evolution will always be about change as a result of some organisms being more successful at surviving than others. In the Darwinian model, evolutionary change occurs because individuals with genes associated with successful traits are more likely to pass these on to the next generation. In horizontal gene transfer, by contrast, change is not a function of the individual or of changes from generation to generation, but of all the microbes able to share genetic material. Evolution takes place within a complex, dynamic system of many interacting parts, say Woese and Goldenfeld, and understanding it demands a detailed exploration of the self-organising potential of such a system. On the basis of their studies, they argue that horizontal gene transfer had to be a dominant factor in the original form of evolution.

Evidence for this lies in the genetic code, say Woese and Goldenfeld. Though it was discovered in the 1960s, no one had been able to explain how evolution could have made it so exquisitely tuned to resisting errors. Mutations happen in DNA coding all the time, and yet the proteins it produces often remain unaffected by these glitches. Darwinian evolution simply cannot explain how such a code could arise. But horizontal gene transfer can, say Woese and Goldenfeld.

The essence of the genetic code is that sequences of three consecutive bases, known as codons, correspond to specific amino acids (see diagram). Proteins are made of chains of amino acids, so when a gene is transcribed into a protein these codons are what determines which amino acid gets added to the chain. The codon AAU represents the amino acid asparagine, for example, and UGU represents cysteine. There are 64 codons in total and 20 amino acids, which means that the code has some redundancy, with multiple codons specifying the same amino acid.

This code is universal, shared by all organisms, and biologists have long known that it has remarkable properties. In the early 1960s, for example, Woese himself pointed out that one reason for the code's deep tolerance for errors was that similar codons specify either the same amino acid or two with similar chemical properties. Hence, a mutation of a single base, while changing a codon, will tend to have little effect on the properties of the protein being produced.

In 1991, geneticists David Haig and Lawrence Hurst at the University of Oxford went further, showing that the code's level of error tolerance is truly remarkable. They studied the error tolerance of an enormous number of hypothetical genetic codes, all built from the same base pairs but with codons associated randomly with amino acids. They found that the actual code is around one in a million in terms of how good it is at error mitigation. "The actual genetic code," says Goldenfeld, "stands out like a sore thumb as being the best possible." That would seem to demand some evolutionary explanation. Yet, until now, no one has found one. The reason, say Woese and Goldenfeld, is that everyone has been thinking in terms of the wrong kind of evolution.

Working with Kalin Vetsigian, also at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Woese and Goldenfeld set up a virtual world in which they could rerun history multiple times and test the evolution of the genetic code under different conditions (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 103, p 10696). Starting with a random initial population of codes being used by different organisms - all using the same DNA bases but with different associations of codons and amino acids - they first explored how the code might evolve in ordinary Darwinian evolution. While the ability of the code to withstand errors improves with time, they found that the results were inconsistent with the pattern we actually see in two ways. First, the code never became shared among all organisms - a number of distinct codes remained in use no matter how long the team ran their simulations. Second, in none of their runs did any of the codes evolve to reach the optimal structure of the actual code. "With vertical, Darwinian evolution," says Goldenfeld, "we found that the code evolution gets stuck and does not find the true optimum."

Horizontal is optimal

The results were very different when they allowed horizontal gene transfer between different organisms. Now, with advantageous genetic innovations able to flow horizontally across the entire system the code readily discovered the overall optimal structure and came to be universal among all organisms. "In some sense," says Woese, "the genetic code is a fossil or perhaps an echo of the origin of life, just as the cosmic microwave background is a sort of echo of the big bang. And its form points to a process very different from today's Darwinian evolution." For the researchers the conclusion is inescapable: the genetic code must have arisen in an earlier evolutionary phase dominated by horizontal gene transfer.

Goldenfeld admits that pinning down the details of that early process remains a difficult task. However the simulations suggest that horizontal gene transfer allowed life in general to acquire a unified genetic machinery, thereby making the sharing of innovations easier. Hence, the researchers now suspect that early evolution may have proceeded through a series of stages before the Darwinian form emerged, with the first stage leading to the emergence of a universal genetic code. "It would have acted as an innovation-sharing protocol," says Goldenfeld, "greatly enhancing the ability of organisms to share genetic innovations that were beneficial." Following this, a second stage of evolution would have involved rampant horizontal gene transfer, made possible by the shared genetic machinery, and leading to a rapid, exponential rise in the complexity of organisms. This, in turn, would eventually have given way to a third stage of evolution in which genetic transfer became mostly vertical, perhaps because the complexity of organisms reached a threshold requiring a more circumscribed flow of genes to preserve correct function. Woese can't put a date on when the transition to Darwinian evolution happened, but he suspects it occurred at different times in each of the three main branches of the tree of life, with bacteria likely to have changed first.

Today, at least in multicellular organisms, Darwinian evolution is dominant but we may still be in for some surprises. "Most of life - the microbial world - is still strongly taking advantage of horizontal gene transfer, but we also know, from studies in the past year, that multicellular organisms do this too," says Goldenfeld. As more genomes are sequenced, ever more incongruous sequences of DNA are turning up. Comparisons of the genomes of various species including a frog, lizard, mouse and bushbaby, for example, indicate that one particular chunk of DNA found in each must have been acquired independently by horizontal gene transfer (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p 17023). "The importance of this for evolution has yet to be seriously considered."

No doubt there will be resistance in some quarters, yet many biologists recognise that there must be a change in thinking if evolution is finally to be understood in a deep way. "The microbial world holds the greatest biomass on Earth," says Sapp, "but for most evolutionists it's a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. They tend to focus on visible plants and animals."

If a paradigm shift is pending, Pace says it will be in good hands. "I think Woese has done more for biology writ large than any biologist in history, including Darwin," he says. "There's a lot more to learn, and he's been interpreting the emerging story brilliantly."

SOURCE: Archaeology Daily

Brain Science Podcast - Embodied Cognition with Lawrence Shapiro (BSP 73)

The Brain Science Podcast is no longer monthly, but it's worth the wait for each new episode. This one is on embodied cognition, one of my favorite topics.

Lawrence Shapiro is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, USA. His research currently focuses on the issues and debates around embodied cognition. He is editor (with Brie Gertler) of Arguing About the Mind (2007), and author of the appropriately named Embodied Cognition (2010). You can download most of his papers at his website.

I've included Dr. Campbell's announcements following the podcast, which include info on upcoming episodes and a public appearance.

Embodied Cognition with Lawrence Shapiro (BSP 73)

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Lawrence Shapiro

In his new book Embodied Cognition, Dr. Lawrence Shapiro provides a balanced introduction to embodied cognition's attempts to challenge standard cognitive science. His interview in Episode 73 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of a few of his book's key ideas. It also continues our ongoing exploration of the role of embodiment.

listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 73

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 25: Embodied Artificial Intelligence with Dr. Rolf Pfeifer
  • BSP 36: Introduction to Embodied Cognition with Dr. Art Glenberg
  • BSP 58: "Extended Mind" with philosopher Alva Noë
  • BSP 66: Computational cognitive science with Dr. Randy Gallistel

Some Scientists mentioned in this episode:


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Send feed back to Dr. Campbell at gincampbell at mac dot com or leave voice mail at 205-202-0663.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Open Culture - Leonard Cohen Reads “The Future” (Not Safe for Work)

Awesome - Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite people. This is an interview from 1993 - a little blast from the past.

Leonard Cohen Reads “The Future” (Not Safe for Work)

If you’ve been feeling the End Times’ icy breath a little close on your shoulders these past few weeks, we recommend a healthy dose of Leonard Cohen. You can start with this 20-minute interview from 1993, conducted by Barbara Gowdy of the Canadian literary series, Imprint. And click “play” with caution — it starts with Cohen reading the very NSFW poem “The Future,” from his eponymous 1992 album.

The second you hear that famous blue baritone say “Give me absolute control over every living soul,” you know the apocalypse can certainly wait till the poem’s over. Or maybe it can’t, but at least you’ll have spent your last few moments listening to Leonard Cohen.

(You can find other interviews from the Imprint series in this archive, including Tom Wolfe, Khaled Hosseini, Ursula LeGuin, Russell Banks, and more.)

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Variety, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

Sarah Harding - Transforming the Maya Concept

by Sarah Harding,
a Tsadra Foundation Series book


Dharma Quote of the Week

We are duped by maya. The whole display of our senses has tricked us into believing it and thus seduces us into the world of suffering. And the illusionist is that old trickster, one's own mind. But when this illusory nature is recognized to be just that, one is released from the bondage of the magic show, at which time it becomes a wonderful spectacle, even a display of the unimpeded creativity and freedom of mind. Then maya itself is both the medium for this realization and the expression of it.

This conscious and intentional method of relating to all phenomena as illusion is thus cast in a totally positive light on the spiritual path, a complete turn-around from the original negative valuation of it as deceit. Now illusion is seen as illumination and opportunity. The nature of our relationship with it is the salient point, rather than its own nature, which certainly does not exist anyway, in any way.

Aryadeva says:

Since everything is an illusory display,
it is possible to attain enlightenment.

The transformation of the maya concept from something to escape to something to engage may be loosely correlated with the shift of emphasis on understanding emptiness that emerged in the mahayana teachings. A further development may be seen in the vajrayana teachings with the esoteric instruction known as Illusory Body (sgyu lus). This occurs as one of the Six Dharmas of Niguma and in other configurations of completion stage practices in many lineages. (p.40)

--from Niguma, Lady of Illusion by Sarah Harding, a Tsadra Foundation Series book, published by Snow Lion Publications

Niguma, Lady of Illusion • Now at 5O% off
(Good until April 1st).

Join author Sarah Harding at the Boulder Book Store...

Wednesday, April 6th, at 7:30pm

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George Lakoff - Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision

George Lakoff will be remembered for his work in linguistics and metaphor - a perspective much different than Noam Chomsky's in that Lakoff posits an embodied consciousness that is reflected in our use of metaphor (neural theory of language).

On the other hand, like Chomsky, Lakoff has important things to say about politics as well. He is an avowed liberal - and he once worked for the Democratic party. However, his observations - which are on offer here - essentially showed the Dems to be poor proponents of their own ideas.

The conservatives understand far better than the liberal that people do make rational decisions about morality and politics - they make emotional decisions that are largely pre-conscious for which they then construct a rational narrative (see Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions for a good explanation of this process) - see item #4 in the list below.

Through the Rockridge Institute, Lakoff has released a free paper (originally a brief book), Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision. It's a Google Docs PDF, so it's easy to download and share - and please share it with everyone who might appreciate it.

Over at Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality, Edward Berge posted a excerpt of Lakoff's "12 traps to avoid" - very useful to get those not willing to read 98 pages interested in doing so. First Ed's endorsement:
Here is George Lakoff's free e-book Thinking Points. It is an invaluable guide in learning what each of us need to combat the regressive conservative backslide we're seeing in the US and enact a progressive polity. You'll learn why the conservatives have been successful, what they do well, and how to beat them at their own game. You'll also see how progressives unconsciously buy into their frame and lose the battle before it's even begun. I cannot recommend this book more highly in giving one the tools to make real change not only in one's own view but in motivating others toward voting in their own best interests as well as the best interests of our society.

Here is the brief excerpt that Ed shared:


1. The Issue Trap. We hear it said all the time: Progressives won’t unite behind any set of ideas. We all have different ideas and care about different issues. The truth is that progressives do agree at the level of values and that there is a real basis for progressive unity. Progressive values cut across issues. So do principles and forms of argument. Conservatives argue conservatism, no matter what the issue. Progressives should argue progressivism. We need to get out of issue silos that isolate arguments and keep us from the values and principles that define an overall progressive vision.

2. The Poll Trap. Many progressives slavishly follow polls. The job of leaders is to lead, not follow. Besides, contrary to popular belief, polls in themselves do not present accurate empirical evidence. Polls are only as accurate as the framing of their questions, which is often inadequate. Real leaders don’t use polls to find out what positions to take; they lead people to new positions.

3. The Laundry List Trap. Progressives tend to believe that people vote on the basis of lists of programs and policies. In fact, people vote based on values, connection, authenticity, trust, and identity.

4. The Rationalism Trap. There is a commonplace—and false—theory that reason is completely conscious, literal (applies directly to the objective world), logical, universal, and unemotional. Cognitive science has shown that every one of these assumptions is false. These assumptions lead progressives into other traps: assuming that hard facts will persuade voters, that voters are “rational” and vote in their self-interest and on the issues, and that negating a frame is an effective way to argue against it.

5. The No-Framing-Necessary Trap. Progressives often argue that “truth doesn’t need to be framed” and that the “facts speak for themselves.” People use frames—deep-seated mental structures about how the world works—to understand facts. Frames are in our brains and define our common sense. It is impossible to think or communicate without activating frames, and so which frame is activated is of crucial importance. Truths need to be framed appropriately to be seen as truths. Facts need a context.

6. The Policies-Are-Values Trap. Progressives regularly mistake policies with values, which are ethical ideas like empathy, responsibility, fairness, freedom, justice, and so on. Policies are not themselves values, though they are, or should be, based on values. Thus, Social Security and universal health insurance are not values; they are policies meant to reflect and codify the values of human dignity, the common good, fairness, and equality.

7. The Centrist Trap. There is a common belief that there is an ideological “center”—a large group of voters either with a consistent ideology of their own or lined up left to right on the issues or forming a “mainstream,” all with the same positions on issues. In fact, the so-called center is actually made up of biconceptuals, people who are conservative in some aspects of life and progressive in others. Voters who self-identify as “conservative” often have significant progressive values in important areas of life. We should address these “partial progressive” biconceptuals through their progressive identities, which are often systematic and extensive.

A common mistaken ideology has convinced many progressives that they must “move to the right” to get more votes. In reality, this is counterproductive. By moving to the right, progressives actually help activate the right’s values and give up on their own. In the process, they also alienate their base.

8. The “Misunderestimating” Trap. Too many progressives think that people who vote conservative are just stupid, especially those who vote against their economic self-interest. Progressives believe that we only have to tell them the real economic facts, and they will change the way they vote. The reality is that those who vote conservative have their reasons, and we had better understand them. Conservative populism is cultural—not economic—in nature. Conservative populists see themselves as oppressed by elitist liberals who look down their noses at them, when they are just ordinary, moral, right-thinking folks. They see liberals as trying to impose an immoral “political correctness” on them, and they are angry about it.

Progressives also paint conservative leaders as incompetent and not very smart, based on a misunderstanding of the conservative agenda. This results from looking at conservative goals through progressive values. Looking at conservative goals through conservative values yields insight and shows just how effective conservatives really are.

9. The Reactive Trap. For the most part, we have been letting conservatives frame the debate. Conservatives are taking the initiative on policy making and getting their ideas out to the public. When progressives react, we echo the conservative frames and values, so our message is not heard or, even worse, reinforces their ideas. Progressives need a collection of proactive policies and communication techniques to get our own values out on our own terms. “War rooms” and “truth squads” must change frames, not reinforce conservative frames. But even then, they are not nearly enough. Progressive leaders, outside of any party, must come together in an ongoing, long-term, organized national campaign that honestly conveys progressive values to the public—day after day, week after week, year after year, no matter what the specific issues of the day are.

10. The Spin Trap. Some progressives believe that winning elections or getting public support is a matter of clever spin and catchy slogans—what we call “surface framing.” Surface framing is meaningless without deep framing—our deepest moral convictions and political principles. Framing, used honestly at both the deep and surface levels, is needed to make the truth visible and our values clear.

Spin, on the other hand, is the dishonest use of surface linguistic frames to hide the truth. And progressive values and principles—the deep frames—must be in place before slogans can have an effect; slogans alone accomplish nothing. Conservative slogans work because they have been communicating their deep frames for decades.

11. The Policyspeak Trap. Progressives consistently use legislative jargon and bureaucratic solutions, like “Medicare prescription drug benefits,” to speak to the public about their positions. Instead, progressives should speak in terms of the common concerns of voters—for instance, how a policy will let you send your daughter to college, or how it will let you launch your own business.

12. The Blame Game Trap. It is convenient to blame our problems on the media and on conservative lies. Yes, conservative leaders have regularly lied and used Orwellian language to distort the truth, and yes, the media have been lax, repeating the conservatives’ frames. But we have little control over that. We can control only how we communicate. Simply correcting a lie with the truth is not enough. We must reframe from our moral perspective so that the truth can be understood. This reframing is needed to get our deep frames into public discourse. If enough people around the country honestly, effectively, and regularly express a progressive vision, the media will be much more likely to adopt our frames.

Read it - download it - share it. Progressives and liberals have been losing the conversation control battle for 30 or more years now. This is the handbook and how to change that trend. If people hear progressives ideals in a way that connects with them, they will vote for them and they will elect candidates who hold those values.

Dan Dennett - Applying the Intentional Stance to Non-Humans (Primate Cognition)

I found this recent video (Feb. 4, 2011) of Daniel Dennett at Enemyindustry the site of Dr David Roden, Associate Lecturer in philosophy for the Open University and member of its Mind, Meaning and Rationality Research Group.

Dennett was presenting at the UCLA symposium "How like us are they? Human and Non-human Primate Cognition." The audio on this video is lame - but it's clear enough to hear the talk. The video was posted by Dario Ringach at Vimeo - there are several other videos from that symposium posted there as well.

DanDennett from Dario Ringach on Vimeo.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeling Threatened - Afraid of the Truth

The Daily Om from a March 14, 2011.
Feeling Threatened
Afraid of the Truth

We avoid the truth because it scares us, or makes us angry, or makes us feel like we don’t know what to do.

Most of us have had the experience of being in possession of a piece of truth that we were afraid to share because we knew it would not be well received. There are also instances in which we ourselves have been unable to handle some truth confronting us. This might be a small truth, such as not wanting to see that our car needs repairs because we don’t want to pay for them, or a large truth, such as not fully accepting that someone close to us is pushing us away. Usually the truth is evident, and we can see it if we choose, but we have elaborate ways of hiding the truth form ourselves, no matter how apparent it is.

For the most part, we avoid the truth because it scares us, or makes us angry, or makes us feel like we don’t know what to do. We often create our lives based on a particular understanding, and if that understanding turns out to be fully or even partially incorrect, we may feel that our whole sense of reality is being threatened. It takes a strong person to face the truth in circumstances like these, and many of us run for cover instead. Nevertheless, we can only avoid the truth for so long before it begins to make itself known in ever more forceful ways.

Ultimately, there is no way to avoid the truth, no matter how painful it is, so the sooner we let down our defenses, the better. When we know the truth and accept that we may have to adjust our lives to accommodate, we are in alignment with reality. At the same time, we can be patient with people around us who have a hard time seeing the truth, because we know how painful it can be. Whatever the truth is, we make a sincere effort not to close our eyes to it, but instead to be grateful that we have access to it.

Frank Visser Interviews Jeff Meyerhoff about "Bald Ambition"

Interesting interview with Jeff Meyerhoff about "Bald Ambition" - his book on Ken Wilber. Visser published much of the book at Integral World and then last year a print edition of the book was published (the publisher sent me a copy - which I found thought-provoking).

Ken Wilber's "Divine Comedy"

An Interview with Jeff Meyerhoff about the book release of Bald Ambition

Frank Visser

Jeff Meyerhoff, Bald Ambition Buy at Amazon

Jeff Meyerhoff submitted his book manuscript Bald Ambition: A Critique of Ken Wilber's Theory of Everything back in 2003 to Integral World. Chapters of the book got serialized between 2003 and 2005. Last year, in 2010, a hard cover version of the book was published by Inside the Curtain Press, owned by Scott Parker. I wrote a foreword to the book, because I have always supported the initiative to further the field of Wilber studies, even if from a highly critical point of view. To re-introduce this book to the Integral World audience and the wider world, I have asked Jeff a couple of questions about the book, to which he provided some candid answers, in which he looks back with mixed feelings on the years he spent studying Wilber.

Jeff Meyerhoff

Why now an offline book, self-published?

Scott Parker, who's written for integral world [Winning the Integral Game?], proposed the idea and offered to edit and publish it. It never occurred to me. I liked the idea of a "real" book. Also, Scott said that a book is hard to read online and I realized he was right. So Scott Parker edited it and has published it through his press called Inside the Curtain. Of course he's taking a sizable chunk of the gargantuan profits that are accruing.

What is your academic background, what is your expertise to write about Wilber?

I got a BA in Economics from Tufts U but had no interest in learning. My desire to pursue intellectual matters started after graduation with reading Noam Chomsky's books on politics. I had felt confused by how the world worked, but after reading Chomsky I realized you could really understand what was going on.

So I expanded from Chomsky to other areas but found you can't get the same degree of certainty in other areas - especially philosophy - that you can in politics. Then I discovered Richard Rorty whose philosophy is a debunking of philosophy and I've been reading him and other philosophers ever since. His Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature is my debunking Bible. I went to graduate school at Brandeis U in Sociology but chose the wrong field, not realizing I really preferred philosophy.

While at Brandeis I discovered the Gurdjieff work and then Buddhist mindfulness. After withdrawing from Brandeis ABD (all but dissertation) because academia was too intellectual, I pursued Buddhist practice and then psychotherapy (as a patient), which I still do. After graduate school I just kept reading in philosophy, psychology, spirituality and politics. So I'm partially self-taught and partially academically trained. Philosophy is my primary interest, especially questions about knowledge.

What triggered you to write Bald Ambition back in 2003?

I saw Ken Wilber's Collected Works published in the old Wordsworth Bookstore in Harvard Square, Cambridge and exasperatedly thought "This guy is getting his collected works published before he's died?!"

Then, on another occasion, I saw Sex, Ecology, Spirituality on display and started reading the first page where Wilber talks about how postmodernists, or whatever he calls them there, don't think there is any purpose or meaning to the cosmos and think people who want to ask about purpose and meaning are immature. I just thought "I believe the people he opposes and he's so wrong!" So I started reading more and had the same reaction then that I currently have ten years later: initial fear that he's right; a vague sense that something's wrong with what he's saying; and then the cultivation of that vague sense into a full-fledged understanding of how he's getting it wrong.


Can you summarize your conclusion about Wilber?

The vast, diverse, integrated, evolutionary-developmental system Ken Wilber creates is attractive and inspiring, but is not supported by the evidence.

The vast, diverse, integrated, evolutionary-developmental system he creates is attractive and inspiring for some, but it is not supported by the evidence he adduces nor the argumentation he uses. Certainly we all adopt worldviews to our liking, but if you contend that your worldview has the backing of the collective knowledge of academia and mysticism then it had better stand up to scrutiny. If it doesn't, which is what I show about Wilber's system, you've got a major problem.

What is it's most original part, the psychological chapter?

Yes, Chapter Nine [A Different Path], where I defend a psychology of belief. And the Psychological Analysis of Wilber's Beliefs using what information I could find about his psyche.

Also, while it isn't an original method, actually tracking down Wilber's sources and examining the academic literature he's referring to. Not enough of that was being done. And, while I don't think my work inspired it, the second generation of integralists, like Sean Esbjorn-Hargens, are emphasizing the need to make integral studies academically respectable. My book is saying: "Wilber is saying that academic results justify his system, can it stand up to academic scrutiny?"

Read the whole interview.

Upaya Dharma Podcasts: Laurie Leitch - Staying Awake

Another good dharma teaching from the good folks at Upaya Zen Center - this time we are gifted with Laurie Leitch, from the Trauma Resiliency Institute, helping us to wake up to our lives, to get out of the cultural trance state.

Laurie Leitch: Staying Awake

Recorded: Wednesday Mar 16, 2011

Laurie Leitch, from the Trauma Resiliency Institute (TRI), explores the topic “Waking up to Our Lives.” Through a series of guided reflections, Leitch explores the nature of cultural trance, fear, comfort zones and attunement. Quoting poet Mary Oliver, “What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Waking Up the Workplace - Tony Schwartz, Live Today

Tony Schwartz is live today on Waking Up the Workplace - It starts at 7pm CET on Thursday 24th March, which is 6pm GMT, 2pm Eastern time and 11pm Pacific time. (Note, this is an hour earlier than first advertised).

A couple of Schwartz's recent books are The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance (2010) and The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (2003).
Tony Schwartz is founder and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance. Tony’s new book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance, will be published in May by the Free Press. His last book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy Not Time, co-authored with Jim Loehr, was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and has been translated into 28 languages.

Tony began his career as a journalist, and worked as a reporter at the New York Times and a staff writer at Newsweek and New York. He has also written for Esquire, Fast Company, Vanity Fair and the Harvard Business Review. Tony coauthored the #1 bestselling The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump and also wrote What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. A frequent keynote speaker, Tony has also coached more than two dozen CEOs and senior leaders.

The Energy Project’s clients include Sony, Google, Ernst & Young, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Cleveland Clinic, Shell, IBM, Fidelity, Ford, Gap and Blue Shield of California.

Jeroen Maes posted a few quotes to highlight why they chose Schwartz for this series:
  • "Rather than trying to get more out of their people, organizations seeking competitive advantage are best served by systematically seeking to meet the four core energy needs of their employees in order to free, fuel, and inspire them to bring the best of themselves to work every day."
  • "How do I create the circumstances where I am released to work in service of my larger dream and serve the world with my gifts?"
  • "It’s not the number of hours employees work that determines the value they produce, but rather the quantity, quality and focus of energy they bring to the hours they work."
Here is the blog post to announce today's session, along with a question to get things started. I'm really not familiar with his work, so I have very little idea what he is about. I'll be curious toi listen to the show (unfortunately, after the fact).

After such an inspiring start to the series last week, I’m excited to tell you about our second speaker – Tony Schwartz.

For those of you who don’t know Tony, he is the founder and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance!

He’s written and co-authored a whole bunch of books, including the seminal ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ and the #1 bestseller ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Donald Trump.

To give you an idea of why we chose Tony to be one of the speakers on the series, I want to share with you a quote from ‘The Power of Full Engagement’:

“The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.”

And by energy, Tony means physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy.

Basically, Tony is an energy expert! He knows what it takes to be able to consistently perform exceptionally. Which I’m sure you’ll agree, is totally necessary if you want to truly work in service of the world, and really give your greatest gifts!

So come and join the conversation with Tony!

It starts at 7pm CET on Thursday 24th March, which is 6pm GMT, 2pm Eastern time and 11pm Pacific time. (Note, this is an hour earlier than first advertised)

To get the conversation rolling already, why would you like to have more energy available to you? What would it enable you to do?