Saturday, October 08, 2011

Babies show sense of fairness, altruism as early as 15 months

Another study demonstrating that babies are far more moral than previously believed, and another piece of evidence that we are not born as blank slates, but are actually wired for fairness and empathy.

The press release from the University of Washington was posted by Science Codex. The full paper is available for free online at PLoS ONE:

Schmidt MFH, Sommerville JA (2011) Fairness Expectations and Altruistic Sharing in 15-Month-Old Human Infants. PLoS ONE 6(10): e23223. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023223
Human cooperation is a key driving force behind the evolutionary success of our hominin lineage. At the proximate level, biologists and social scientists have identified other-regarding preferences – such as fairness based on egalitarian motives, and altruism – as likely candidates for fostering large-scale cooperation. A critical question concerns the ontogenetic origins of these constituents of cooperative behavior, as well as whether they emerge independently or in an interrelated fashion. The answer to this question will shed light on the interdisciplinary debate regarding the significance of such preferences for explaining how humans become such cooperative beings. We investigated 15-month-old infants' sensitivity to fairness, and their altruistic behavior, assessed via infants' reactions to a third-party resource distribution task, and via a sharing task. Our results challenge current models of the development of fairness and altruism in two ways. First, in contrast to past work suggesting that fairness and altruism may not emerge until early to mid-childhood, 15-month-old infants are sensitive to fairness and can engage in altruistic sharing. Second, infants' degree of sensitivity to fairness as a third-party observer was related to whether they shared toys altruistically or selfishly, indicating that moral evaluations and prosocial behavior are heavily interconnected from early in development. Our results present the first evidence that the roots of a basic sense of fairness and altruism can be found in infancy, and that these other-regarding preferences develop in a parallel and interwoven fashion. These findings support arguments for an evolutionary basis – most likely in dialectical manner including both biological and cultural mechanisms – of human egalitarianism given the rapidly developing nature of other-regarding preferences and their role in the evolution of human-specific forms of cooperation. Future work of this kind will help determine to what extent uniquely human sociality and morality depend on other-regarding preferences emerging early in life.
Here is the review summary:
Babies show sense of fairness, altruism as early as 15 months
posted on: october 7, 2011 

A new study presents the first evidence that a basic sense of fairness and altruism appears in infancy. Babies as young as 15 months perceived the difference between equal and unequal distribution of food, and their awareness of equal rations was linked to their willingness to share a toy.

"Our findings show that these norms of fairness and altruism are more rapidly acquired than we thought," said Jessica Sommerville, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology who led the study.

"These results also show a connection between fairness and altruism in infants, such that babies who were more sensitive to the fair distribution of food were also more likely to share their preferred toy," she said.

The study has implications for nurturing human egalitarianism and cooperation. The journal PLoS ONE published the findings online Oct. 7, 2011. Co-author is Marco Schmidt, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Previous studies reveal that 2-year-old children can help others – considered a measure of altruism – and that around age 6 or 7 they display a sense of fairness. Sommerville, an expert in early childhood development, suspected that these qualities could be apparent at even younger ages.

Babies around 15 months old begin to show cooperative behaviors, such as spontaneously helping others. "We suspected that fairness and altruism might also be apparent then, which could indicate the earliest emergence of fairness," Sommerville said.

During the experiment, a 15-month old baby sat on his or her parent's lap and watched two short videos of experimenters acting out a sharing task. In one video an experimenter holding a bowl of crackers distributed the food between two other experimenters. They did the food allocation twice, once with an equal allotment of crackers and the other with one recipient getting more crackers.

The second movie had the same plot, but the experimenters used a pitcher of milk instead of crackers.

Then the experimenters measured as the babies – 47 in all who were tested individually – looked at the food distributions. According to a phenomenon called "violation of expectancy," babies pay more attention when they are surprised. Similarly, the researchers found that babies spent more time looking if one recipient got more food than the other.

"The infants expected an equal and fair distribution of food, and they were surprised to see one person given more crackers or milk than the other," Sommerville said.

To see if the babies' sense of fairness related to their own willingness to share, the researchers did a second task in which a baby could choose between two toys: a simple LEGO block or a more elaborate LEGO doll. Whichever toy the babies chose, the researchers labeled as the infant's preferred toy.

Then an experimenter who the babies had not seen before gestured toward the toys and asked, "Can I have one?" In response, one third of the infants shared their preferred toy and another third shared their non-preferred toy. The other third of infants did not share either toy, which might be because they were nervous around a stranger or were unmotivated to share.

"The results of the sharing experiment show that early in life there are individual differences in altruism," Sommerville said.

Comparing the toy-sharing task and the food-distribution task results, the researchers found that 92 percent of the babies who shared their preferred toy – called "altruistic sharers" – spent more time looking at the unequal distributions of food. In contrast, 86 percent of the babies who shared their less-preferred toy, the "selfish sharers," were more surprised, and paid more attention, when there was a fair division of food.

"The altruistic sharers were really sensitive to the violation of fairness in the food task," Sommerville said. Meanwhile, the selfish sharers showed an almost opposite effect, she said.

Does this mean that fairness and altruism are due to nature, or can these qualities be nurtured? Sommerville's research team is investigating this question now, looking at how parents' values and beliefs alter an infant's development.

"It's likely that infants pick up on these norms in a nonverbal way, by observing how people treat each other," Sommerville said.

Source: University of Washington

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. - Have compassion for yourself

This comes from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and invited lecturer at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard universities.

See Rick'sworkshops and lectures.

Rick Hanson, PhD
Do your own struggles matter to you? 

The Practice 

Have compassion for yourself.


[This practice is excerpted from my new book - Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time.] 

Life is full of wonderful experiences. But it has its hard parts as well, such as physical and mental discomfort, ranging from subtle to agonizing. This is the realm of suf­fering, broadly defined.

When someone you care about suffers, you naturally havecompassion: the wish that a being not suffer, usually with a feeling of sympathetic concern. For example, if your child falls and hurts himself, you want him to be out of pain; if you hear that a friend is in the hospital, or out of work, or going through a divorce, you feel for her and hope that everything will be all right. Compassion is in your nature: it's an important part of the neural and psychologi­cal systems we evolved to nurture children, bond with mates, and hold together "the village it takes to raise a child."

You can also have compassion for yourself-which is not self-pity. You're simply recognizing that "this is tough, this hurts," and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenge as you.

Studies have shown that self-compassion has many benefits, including: 

* Reducing self-criticism

* Lowering stress hormones like cortisol

* Increasing self-soothing, self-encouragement, and other aspects of resilience

* Helping to heal any shortages of caring from others in your childhood

That's a pretty good list!

Self-compassion usually takes only a handful of sec­onds. And then-more centered and heartened-you can get on with doing what you can to make your life better.  


Maybe your back hurts, or you've had a miserable day at work, or someone has barked at you unfairly. Or, honestly, maybe you just feel bad, even depressed. Whatever it is, some self-compassion could help. Now what?

Self-compassion comes naturally for some people (particularly those with a well-nurtured childhood). But it's not that easy for a lot of us, especially those who are self-critical, driven, stoic, or think it's self-indulgent to be caring toward themselves.

So here are some steps for calling up self-compassion, which you could blend together as self-compassion becomes easier for you: 

* Take a moment to acknowledge your difficulties: your challenges and suffering.

* Bring to mind the feeling of being with someone you know cares about you. Perhaps a dear friend, a family member, a spirit, God . . . even a pet. Let yourself feel that you matter to this being, who wants you to feel good and do well in life.

* Bring to mind your difficulties, and imagine that this being who cares about you is feeling and expressing compassion for you. Imagine his or her facial expression, gestures, stance, and atti­tude toward you. Let yourself receive this com­passion, taking in its warmth, concern, and goodwill. Open to feeling more understood and nurtured, more peaceful and settled. The expe­rience of receivingcaring primes circuits in your brain to give it.

* Imagine someone you naturally feel compassion for: perhaps a child, or a family member. Imagine how you would feel toward that person if he or she were dealing with whatever is hard for you. Let feelings of compassion fill your mind and body. Extend them toward that person, perhaps visualized as a kind of light radiating from you (maybe from your heart). Notice what it's like to be compassionate.

* Now, extend the same sense of compassion toward yourself. Perhaps accompany it with words like these, heard softly in the back of your mind: May this pain pass . . . may things improve for me . . . may I feel less upset over time. Have some warmth for yourself, some acknowledg­ment of your own difficulties and pain, some wish for things to get better. Feel that this com­passion is sinking in to you, becoming a part of you, soothing and strengthening you. 

TEDxTrieste 2/4/11 - Albrecht von Müller - The forgotten present

More geeky cool stuff for a Saturday morning, via TEDx.
Albrecht von Müller - The forgotten present

Prof. Dr. A. v. Muller is director of the Parmenides Center for the Study of Thinking. He teaches philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (LMU) and theory of thinking at SISSA (the International School for Advanced Studies,Trieste) where he is also co-director of the international masters program MCA. His two main fields of interest are the phenomenon of thinking and the concept of time. After a PhD on "Time and Logic" at the University of Munich, he worked for many years in the Max Planck Society, taught in parallel at the University of Munich, and was subsequently director of EUCIS (European Center for International Security). He developed the visual reasoning methodology "Eidos" that supports complex thinking and decision making processes and he served as scientific advisor to several governments, supranational institutions and some large corporations. Von Müller is member of two multi-disciplinary research centers at the University of Munich, the Human Science Center and the Munich Center for Neuroscience, partner at the methods and consulting firm Parmenides Innovation, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Max Planck Institutes of Neurobiology and Biochemistry. He is co-editor of the Springer book series "On Thinking".

The New School | The Limits of an Object: Michael Sailstorfer

Nice talk, in a geeky artist kind of way.

Michael Sailstorfer: The Limits of an Object


Public Art Fund Talks at The New School: The Limits of an Object - Michael Sailstorfer

The fall 2011 Public Art Fund Talks series examines the transformative potential of sculpture—its ability to transcend physical form. Inspired by the influence of conceptual art on contemporary sculptural practice, this series explores how the limits of an object can be redefined both literally and metaphorically in the public realm.The series opens with an artist talk by Michael Sailstorfer, who explores the topic in relation to his work. Using a variety of objects and materials—lampposts, helicopters, cars, the forest floor—Sailstorfer creates artworks dealing with states ranging from euphoria to disintegration. Absurdity and comedy play an important a part in his work. In his new large-scale sculpture Tornado, on display in Central Park starting September 20, Sailstorfer transforms the inner tubes of truck tires into dark clouds that swirl above visitors' heads. In Tornado, as in his other works, Sailstorfer uses found materials to create "a transformation machine" that expands the presence of objects beyond what meets the eye. Michael Sailstorfer lives and works in Berlin. He received his MFA from Goldsmiths College, London. His work has been exhibited in Berlin, São Paulo, Paris, and Milan.image credit: Michael Sailstorfer, Raketenbaum, 2008, diptych: diasec on aluminium, museum glass. Courtesy Johann König, Berlin

Public Art Fund Talks at The New School are organized by the Public Art Fund in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Ken Wilber Says a Whole Lot of Nothing about the Latest Gafni "Debacle"

At least he go the debacle part right.

Here is the most ass-backward statement he makes, in a statement that says nothing of any value or substance - and most of us really did not expect him to speak any truth about Gafni, who is his good friend.
many people in the blogosphere have conflated current relationship issues with past issues instead of, as I just suggested, each relationship being explored in its own right and its own time.
This is so wrong it borders on negligence - if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, 99.99% of the time it is a duck. But as usual, Wilber mistakes the situation to be about consensual relationships - and he fails to take into account a 30+ year history of similar manipulative and damaging relationships. It's not about sex or relationships - it's about power and control. And it's not only the women who get hurt, it's also any organization that Gafni works with. 

For Wilber, of all people, not to get that says more about Wilber than it does about this situation.

I know that at least two of the women Gafni has had relationships with, including the one who has remained private about the pain she went through in this particular episode, spoke to Wilber either by phone or email. And yet he still fails to say anything of substance.

But then, we have to consider Wilber's past with Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Marc Gafni, Genpo Roshi, and Don Beck - he has a history of associating himself with men who act out their power in harmful ways.

I am absolutely no faith that Wilber and his crew will do anything of value around integral ethics. If you want to read about integral ethics, check out Roger Walsh's talk from the 2010 Integral Theory Conference.

This is Wilber's "The Emperor is wearing no clothes" moment. Sad, that. 

"The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

RSA - Value Based Social Change - Exploring new frontiers

Interesting presentation from The RSA.

Value Based Social Change - Exploring new frontiers

Value Based Social Change - Exploring new frontiers

6th Oct 2011
Listen to the audio (full recording including audience Q&A) 
Please right-click link and choose "Save Link As..." to download audio file onto your computer.
Please note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Varun Vidyarthi will not be able to attend. Carl Poll, who coordinates the international chapter of Manavodaya UK, will be giving the lecture in his place. 

RSA Thursday

With shrinking budgets, the global social development agenda is going through a process of rethinking and reformulation. 

Working with some of the poorest and most disenfranchised people, the self-help movement in India reveals a new philosophy and practical approaches needed for a changed paradigm. Achieving sustainable social change calls for a new set of values and systems of working. 

Join Carl Poll, UK Coordinator of the International Chapter of Manavodaya Institute of Participatory Development as he explains how shared values are achieved through self-awareness, dialogue and reflection, and systems are adapted according to local needs and culture, empowering communities to effect their own change.

Chair: Steve Broome, director of research, RSA. 

Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference Announcement and Call for Abstracts

The 2012 Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference is back in Tucson - and they have just issued the call for abstracts. Here are the details.

Conference Announcement and Call for Abstracts

April 9-14, 2012
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort Hotel
Tucson, Arizona

Sponsored by:
The Center for Consciousness Studies,
The University of Arizona

Toward a Science of Consciousness (TSC) conferences have been held annually since 1994, alternating between Tucson, Arizona and other locations around the world. The tenth biennial 'Tucson Conference', Toward a Science of Consciousness will take place April 9-14, 2012.

Known for rigorous and leading edge approaches to all aspects of the study of conscious experience, TSC includes neuroscience, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, neurobiology, medicine, quantum physics and cosmology as well as art, mind technology and experiential and contemplative approaches. TSC is the largest interdisciplinary gathering probing fundamental questions related to conscious experience. An estimated 500 scientists, philosophers, psychologists, experientialists, artists and students from over 60 countries are due to take part.

For the first time, Toward a Science of Consciousness will be held at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort Hotel in the Catalina Foothills above Tucson, Arizona (with a special conference rate of 99 dollars/room/night). See:

Plenary/Keynote Session themes will include:
HOT or NOT: Debate on higher-order theories of consciousness
War of the Worldviews: Chopra and Mlodinow on consciousness
Consciousness and Echolocation
Fractal consciousness: Scale-free brain structure and dynamics
Retrocausality and consciousness
Searching for consciousness in coma and anesthesia

Speakers will include:
Daryl Bem
Ned Block
Melanie Boly
Deepak Chopra
Biyu Jade He
Daniel Kish
Victor Lamme
Hakwan Lau
George Mashour
Leonard Mlodinow
David Rosenthal
...and others

As in previous conferences, program sessions will include Plenary and Keynote talks, Concurrent talks, Posters, Art/Science demos and exhibits, Pre-Conference workshops, Side trips and Social events in the Tucson conference tradition. For Information see:

Abstract Submission
TSC 2012 Conference Abstract Submission System is now open. Abstracts considered for Plenary, Concurrent, Poster and Art/Tech Demo sessions.

Schedule of Deadlines -- Tentative
December 10 Abstracts Due
January 5 Decisions
January 15 Early Registration Due
March 1 Final Abstract Edits Due

Call for Pre-Conference Workshop proposals
Toward a Science of Consciousness 2012
April 9-14, 2012

Proposals for pre-conference workshops are invited in all areas related to understanding conscious experience. Workshops provide in depth, detailed treatments of various methodologies, perspectives, reviews and approaches. Workshops may be solo presentations, or include two or more presenters. Attendance fees are $60 for 4 hour workshops and $80 for full day workshops, split evenly between presenter(s) and the conference which provides the room, A-V, promotion/advertisement and refreshments. A minimum number of registrants will be required.

The conference Plenary program opens Tuesday April 10 at 1:45 pm.
The pre-conference workshops will be held in three 4 hour sessions
1) Monday April 9th, 9 am to 1 pm
2) Monday April 9th, 2 pm to 6 pm
3) Tuesday April 10th, 9 am to 1 pm

Workshop presenters (up to 2 per workshop) also receive free registration for the conference. Please submit a 500 word (or less) abstract/summary and presenter information by email directly to

Deadline for Workshop proposals is November 1
Submitters will be notified by November 15

On behalf of the Program Committee - Toward a Science of Consciousness 2012.
David Chalmers, Australian National University, Co-Chair
Stuart Hameroff, University of Arizona, Co-Chair
Uriah Kriegel, University of Arizona
Hakwan Lau, Columbia University
Marilyn Schlitz, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Heather Berlin, Mount Sinai Medical Center
Jonathan Schooler, University of California, Santa Barbara
Melanie Boly, University of Liege
Moran Cerf, UCLA/NYU
Abi Behar-Montefiore, conference manager,

Abi Behar-Montefiore, Manager, Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona -


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The Dalai Lama on Gross Body and Subtle Body

Discussions with Western Buddhists

by the Dalai Lama,
edited by José Ignacio Cabezón


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

According to the lower schools of Buddhist thought, when a being, like Sakyamuni Buddha, attains mahaparinirvana and passes away, he ceases to exist, there is no further continuity of consciousness. Therefore, according to the Vaibhasika school, for example, after this point there is no more being, no more consciousness. Only the name remains. And yet, they believe that this being who has now disappeared can influence the course of those who follow him due to the virtues that he created in the past.

This is not accepted by the higher schools of thought, however, that instead believe that there are two kinds of bodies, those that are pure in nature and those that are impure. The latter is more gross, whereas a body that has been purified is more subtle. Now, for example, when Sakyamuni Buddha gave up his body, there still remained the more subtle one. So, according to these schools of thought, at the stage of Buddhahood, there are two bodies: a mental body and a physical one.

I don't know whether the English word "body" is the most appropriate one. In Sanskrit, the words used to signify these two bodies of the Buddha are dharmakaya and rupakaya. The first is of the nature of mind, whereas the latter is material. So when the Buddha passes away, there is still this more subtle body, which is of the nature of mind, and since the mental continuum is also present, we can say that the personality is still there. Even today, the Buddha remains as a living being. I think this is better, don't you? I don't think it a very pleasing proposition that living sentient beings at some point completely disappear.(p.91)

--from Answers: Discussions with Western Buddhists by the Dalai Lama, edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon, published by Snow Lion Publications

Answers • Now at 5O% off
(Good until October 14th).

Authors@Google: Gabrielle Bernstein - Spirit Junkie

Hmmmm . . . . Removing the blocks within us that keep us from experiencing our always already present happiness is a much better route than seeking happiness externally. But I wonder how many people can do this without a guide, possibly a guru but more likely a counselor or therapist?

In this Authors@Google video Bernstein is talking about her new book, Spirit Junkie, A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles.
Authors@Google: Gabrielle Bernstein - Spirit Junkie

SPIRIT JUNKIE shows readers how to tap into their own spirit in their search for happiness. This is not a book on how to get happiness; rather it's a guide to releasing the blocks to the happiness that already lives inside. Throughout the book Gabrielle guides readers on a journey of new perceptions and shows them a whole new way to view their life. Hang ups will melt away, resentments will release and a childlike faith in joy will be reignited.

Gabrielle Bernstein bio: Everything about me can be found here.

Featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section as the next generation guru, motivational speaker, life coach and author Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Expanding the lexicon for the next generation, Gabrielle is a #1 bestselling author of the book Add More ~ing to Your Life -- A Hip Guide to Happiness. In September 2011 Gabrielle's launches second book entitled Spirit Junkie, A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. (Both books are published by Random House.)

In 2008 she launched her social networking site for young women to find mentors.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Natural Enlightenment a Conversation with Peter Baumann

In this video from the Science and Nonduality Conference, Tami Simon (of Sounds True) interviews Peter Baumann, author of Ego: The Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity.

Natural Enlightenment a Conversation with Peter Baumann

A conversation on "Natural Enlightenment" with Peter Baumann (author of the new book "Ego") and Tami Simon (founder of Sounds True).

Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined"

Steven Pinker's new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, has been getting a lot of attention in the media and blogs of late, much of which has been positive.

Two recent pieces of interest include an interview of Pinker, by neuroscientist and atheist Sam Harris, and a review of the book by political philosopher John Gray (NOT the men are from Mars dufus).

First up, a little bit of Sam Harris speaking with Pinker.

Twilight of Violence

An Interview with Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, the author of several magnificent books about the human mind, and one of the most influential scientists on earth. He is also my friend, an occasional mentor, and an advisor to my nonprofit foundation, Project Reason.

Steve’s new book is The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Reviewing it for the New York Times Book Review, the philosopher Peter Singer called it “a supremely important book.” I have no doubt that it is, and I very much look forward to reading it. In the meantime, Steve was kind enough to help produce a written interview for this blog.


I suspect that when most people hear the thesis of your book—that human violence has steadily declined—they are skeptical: Wasn’t the 20th century the most violent in history?

Probably not. Data from previous centuries are far less complete, but the existing estimates of death tolls, when calculated as a proportion of the world’s population at the time, show at least nine atrocities before the 20th century (that we know of) which may have been worse than World War II. They arose from collapsing empires, horse tribe invasions, the slave trade, and the annihilation of native peoples, with wars of religion close behind. World War I doesn’t even make the top ten.

Also, a century comprises a hundred years, not just fifty, and the second half of the 20th century was host to a Long Peace among great powers and developed nations (the subject of one of the book’s chapters) and more recently, to a New Peace in the rest of the world (the subject of another chapter), with unusually low rates of warfare.

And here is a rather negative review from the British philosopher John Gray, who holds a rather dark and unpleasant view of human beings. According to Wikipedia:
Central to the doctrine of humanism, in Gray’s view, are the inherently Utopian beliefs that humans are not limited by their biological natures and that advances in ethics and politics can accumulate or that they can alter or improve the human condition in the same way that advances in science and technology have altered or improved living standards.[4]
Gray contends, in opposition to this view, that history is not progressive, but cyclical. Human nature, he argues, is an inherent obstacle to cumulative ethical or political progress.[4] Seeming improvements, if there are any, can very easily be reversed: one example he has cited has been the use of torture by the United States against terrorist suspects. [5][6]
Furthermore, he argues that this belief in progress, commonly imagined to be secular and liberal, is in fact derived from an erroneous Christian notion of humans as morally autonomous beings categorically different from other animals. This belief, and the corresponding idea that history makes sense, or is progressing towards something, is in Gray’s view merely a Christian prejudice.[4]
He argues that the idea that humans are self-determining agents does not pass the acid test of experience. Darwinist thinkers who believe humans can take charge of their own destiny to prevent environmental degradation are, in this view, not naturalists, but apostles of humanism.[4]
He identifies the Enlightenment as the point at which the Christian doctrine of salvation was taken over by secular idealism and became a political religion with universal emancipation as its aim.[4]Communismfascism and ‘global democratic capitalism’ have all led to needless suffering, in Gray’s view, as a result of their ideological allegiance to this religion.[7]
Anyway, here is a bit of his review, from Prospect Magazine (UK).
Delusions of peaceJOHN GRAY   21st September 2011  —  Issue 187 
Stephen Pinker argues that we are becoming less violent. Nonsense, says John Gray
This is from a little ways into the article, after he establishes that violence is widespread and may even be worse than in the past.
While Pinker makes a great show of relying on evidence—the 700-odd pages of this bulky treatise are stuffed with impressive-looking graphs and statistics—his argument that violence is on the way out does not, in the end, rest on scientific investigation. He cites numerous reasons for the change, including increasing wealth and the spread of democracy. For him, none is as important as the adoption of a particular view of the world: “The reason so many violent institutions succumbed within so short a span of time was that the arguments that slew them belong to a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. The ideas of thinkers like Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Locke, David Hume, Mary Astell, Kant, Beccaria, Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and John Stuart Mill coalesced into a worldview that we can call Enlightenment humanism.” (The italics are Pinker’s.)

Yet these are highly disparate thinkers, and it is far from clear that any coherent philosophy could have “coalesced” from their often incompatible ideas. The difficulty would be magnified if Pinker included Marx, Bakunin and Lenin, who undeniably belong within the extended family of intellectual movements that comprised the Enlightenment, but are left off the list. Like other latter-day partisans of “Enlightenment values,” Pinker prefers to ignore the fact that many Enlightenment thinkers have been doctrinally anti-liberal, while quite a few have favoured the large-scale use of political violence, from the Jacobins who insisted on the necessity of terror during the French revolution, to Engels who welcomed a world war in which the Slavs—“aborigines in the heart of Europe”—would be wiped out.
Read the whole review.

Cortisone Injection Can Prevent PTSD In 60% Who Experience Traumatic Stress

Wow, this may be a huge breakthrough in preventing PTSD, and it seems so obvious now that someone has done it. Cortisone is released at higher levels in those who have experienced trauma - a process that shrinks the hippocampus and enlarges the amygdala, impacting memory, hyper-vigilance, and anxiety. The treatment protocol introduced a superphysiological dose of cortisone within six hours of the traumatic experience as a way to short-circuit the changes in the brain.

Here is the press release from Medical News Today.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2011, October 6). "Cortisone Injection Can Prevent PTSD In 60% Who Experience Traumatic Stress." Medical News Today. Retrieved from

Cortisone Injection Can Prevent PTSD In 60% Who Experience Traumatic Stress

As soldiers return home from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, America must cope with the toll that war takes on mental health. But the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is becoming increasingly expensive, and promises to escalate as yet another generation of veterans tries to heal its psychological wounds. 

New hope for preventing the development of PTSD has been uncovered by Prof. Joseph Zohar of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center, in collaboration with Prof. Hagit Cohen from Ben-Gurion University - and the key is a single dose of a common medication. 

When a person suffers trauma, the body naturally increases its secretion of cortisone. Taking this natural phenomenon into account, Prof. Zohar set out to discover what a single extra dose of cortisone could do, when administered up to six hours after test subjects experienced a traumatizing event. The results, which will be published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology in October 2011, indicate that the likelihood that the patient will later develop PTSD is reduced by 60 percent. 

Opening the window of opportunity 

In most psychiatric conditions, it is impossible to establish a precise point of time at which the disorder manifested, Prof. Zohar says. But PTSD is unique in that is has an easily established timeline, beginning from the moment a patient experiences trauma. This makes PTSD eligible for treatment in the "golden hours" - a medical term that defines the precious few hours in which treatment can be most beneficial following a trauma, heart attackstroke, or medical event. Receiving treatment in this window of opportunity can be critical. 

In their animal models, Prof. Zohar and his fellow researchers first began treating PTSD in the window of opportunity up to six hours after a traumatic event. Two groups of rats were exposed to the smell of a cat, and one group was treated with cortisone after the event. 

Following promising results with the rats, the researchers initiated a double-blind study in an emergency room, in which trauma victims entering the hospital were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or the cortisone treatment. Follow-up exams took place two weeks, one month, and three months after the event. Those patients who had received a shot of cortisone were more than sixty percent less likely to develop PTSD, they discovered. 

Mimicking Mother Nature 

When searching for a treatment method for PTSD, Prof. Zohar took his cue from Mother Nature. Most people who survive a traumatic experience don't develop PTSD because the cortisone that our body naturally produces protects us from developing the condition. But the right dose of cortisone at the right time could prove a source of secondary prevention for PTSD, he posited, helping along a natural process. 

His approach also may circumvent the harm caused by dosing traumatised patients with other pharmaceuticals. In the emergency room, traumatized patients are often given medications such as Valium or Xanax, aimed at calming them down. In fact, Prof. Zohar says, these pills interfere with our natural and potent recovery process, hindering the secretion of cortisone. "Looking at the long term effect, people who received these medications had a greater chance of developing PTSD than those who did not," he explains. 

Prof. Zohar will expand this small pilot study with a $1.3 million dollar grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. He and his fellow researchers are teaming up with Prof. Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who will help them uncover the biochemical processes and underlying mechanisms of cortisone treatments for traumatized patients. 

People who suffer from PTSD are haunted by their traumatic memories; for them, the past is always present, Prof. Zohar explains. Cortisone, given at the right dose at the right time, may alleviate the power of these traumatic memories by preventing their consolidation. 

Trapped: Mental Illness in American Prisons

An officer holds the hand of an inmate while he cries.

This is a disturbing short clip about the ways in which our prisons are becoming the new mental asylums or sanitariums - inhumane facilities in which we house the mentally ill who have lost all access to medications and therapy due to (largely GOP instigated) budget cuts that have gutted social service agencies.

To view some interviews with the men, go to the site.

Trapped: Mental Illness in American Prisons

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 6, 2011

From Movie Website
The continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons across the nation into the default mental health facilities.

The system designed for security is now trapped with treating mental illness and the mentally ill are often trapped inside the system with nowhere else to go.

Documentary photographer Jenn Ackerman takes us inside the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit of the Kentucky State Reformatory to see how a state is meeting the needs of this growing population.