A mutilation of young lives: How the radical transgender bandwagon is wrecking girls’ bodies and destroying their mental health

Irreversible Damage

© Blackstone Publishing, 2020
Abigail Shrier “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters”

A new book, Irreversible Damage, reveals how teenage girls are being duped into believing they want to be male, and are pushed into taking puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and undergoing double mastectomies.

Whether it is a statement or a question, the title of this book conveys the necessary urgency of this desperately sad story. Amid the trans debate, seemingly a battle between grown adults, vulnerable children are prey to a malevolent ideology that survivors call a cult.

In a superb piece of investigative journalism, Abigail Shrier focusses on teenage girls – most with no history of gender dysphoria – who become captivated by the belief that they are transgender. Behind the glittery exterior portrayed in the media, she encounters damaged children – many alienated from their families – in poor mental health and facing the prospect of infertility and medication for life.

Shrier, a writer with the Wall Street Journal, pulls no punches when describing phalloplasty, the construction of an artificial penis. The complications can be horrific. She reports the experience of one nineteen-year-old, “whose phalloplasty resulted in gangrene and loss of the appendage.” On the cusp of adulthood, that young person has been left without normal genitalia, for either sex, and tethered to a catheter.

I am a transgender person, but I transitioned as an adult when I could understand the implications on my body and my relationship with society. Besides, by then I’d had my own children. Yet children too young to even give consent for a tattoo are being corralled into making truly life-changing decisions.

Whether you agree or disagree with her, this is a book that needs to be read. Shrier’s informed analysis flows from dozens of interviews, including medical experts and parents. From Dr Kenneth Zucker, who oversaw the writing of the medical definition of “gender dysphoria,” to ordinary families whose children seem to them to have been swept along by this cult, Shrier talks directly to those with first-hand experience.

The facts are clear: there is a contagion spreading among teenage girls who suddenly believe themselves to be boys. While there is documented history of young feminine boys expressing a desire to be girls, never before have girls dominated the work of paediatric gender clinics. The statistics are staggering. In the UK, for example, referrals of teenage girls rose by 4400% in the last decade.

Shrier interviewed Lisa Littman, an American doctor who conducted an observational study and found that nearly 70 percent of the teenagers belonged to a peer group in which at least one friend had also come out as transgender. In some groups, most of the friends had done so. Transgender identification was encouraged and intensified by friends and social media and, astonishingly, appeared to precede the experience of gender dysphoria itself.

Shrier explores possible reasons why these daughters, often from liberal progressive households, want to be sons. First, social media where children are influenced by strangers while their parents are kept in the dark. Second, the educational system where adults who ought to know better have been enthralled, or threatened, by transgender activists. Ignoring both science and basic safeguarding, they have bought into the notion that we all have an immutable gender identity which may or may not match our sex.

With overwhelming folly, children are being transitioned in their schools with new names and pronouns. If their parents might be unsupportive, then they are not told, in case their children might feel “unsafe.” But this is something all parents need to know: this phenomenon is catching, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

But nothing could have happened without the cooperation of policy makers, and not only within the education system. Therapists – the very people who should be helping children to challenge their thinking – have been blindly affirming whatever their young patients have picked up from the internet.

Anyone who has stood against this has faced censure and condemnation. But as Jungian analyst Lisa Marchiano explained, “This idea that a kid’s going to come in and tell us that they’re trans and that within a session or two or three or four, that we’re going to say, ‘Yep, you’re trans. Let me write you the letter.’ That’s not therapy.”

Even the medical profession itself has been found wanting. Eminent sexologist Dr Ray Blanchard told Shrier that “I can’t think of any branch of medicine outside of cosmetic surgery where the patient makes the diagnosis and prescribes the treatment.” While the zealots who actually believe that children can change their sex are perhaps in a minority, those professionals who remain silent in education, therapy and medicine are complicit in this unfolding scandal.

Shrier credits the sterling work of parental groups such as 4thWaveNow and Transgender Trend who have stood firm against the ideology. They have been condemned as bigots and transphobes for protecting children from themselves, the first duty of parents since the dawn of time.

The book is well-referenced and easy to read, making it suitable for a wide readership. The most obvious audience are parents concerned for the wellbeing of their daughters. But teachers, therapists and doctors, some of whom remain silent out of ignorance or fear, also need to hear these stories. Finally, the wider public would find Shrier’s analysis accessible, clear and educational. Those only vaguely aware of transgender ideology may be tempted to think that it cannot be true: young girls taking powerful cancer drugs to halt puberty, or induce an artificial menopause if started. But it is happening across the world, and Shrier catalogues it.

The time has come for society to take responsibility. Much has happened covertly, and the startled onlooker may need time to catch up, but Shrier’s book fills in the background, identifies the problems, explains the impact, and proposes clear and workable ways forward. This is a must-read for those with children, anyone who works with children and everyone who cares about them.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner, based in the UK. She tweets @DebbieHayton

New theory of why we dream

Bruno Dreams

© Image courtesy of Fox
Bruno dreams of an infinity beyond the classical universe.

Why do we dream? Psychologists and neuroscientists have been debating the function of dreams for centuries, but there is still no accepted answer.

Now, David M. Eagleman​​ and Don A. Vaughn​ have proposed a new theory. Their preprint article, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is called The Defensive Activation theory: Dreaming as a mechanism to prevent takeover of the visual cortex.

To my mind, it’s a highly original and creative theory, but I’m not convinced by it.

Here’s Eagleman​​ and Vaughn​’s theory in nutshell: The role of dreams is to ensure that the brain’s visual cortex is stimulated during sleep. Otherwise, if the visual system were deprived of input all night long, the visual cortex’s function might degrade.

We know that the visual cortex, in the brain’s occipital lobe, can start to respond to non-visual signals if it is deprived of visual input. In blind people, for instance, the occipital lobe strongly responds to touch. This rewiring or repurposing of under-utilized brain areas is a form of neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is generally considered a good thing. But Eagleman​​ and Vaughn point out that for the visual system, neuroplasticity could actually pose a threat, because vision — unlike our other senses — isn’t active all the time.

If we are in a dark place, or it’s night, we get little or no visual input. So — in theory — our visual cortex would be vulnerable to ‘takeover’ by other senses, every single night. Dreams, on this view, are our brain’s way of defending the integrity of our visual system by keeping it active.

As I said, I love the ingenuity of this theory, but I don’t really buy it. We know that dreams are associated with stimulation of the occipital cortex during a sleep stage called REM sleep. So it’s true that dreams stimulate the visual system. But I’m not convinced that this is the main purpose of dreams.

For one thing, Eagleman​​ and Vaughn’s theory only makes sense if neuroplastic repurposing of the cortex happens very quickly. For the visual cortex to need defending, harmful neuroplasticity would need to occur in the space of a few hours. The authors do discuss evidence that rapid neuroplasticity can occur, but they don’t show any evidence that these rapid changes are strong enough to be harmful.

In fact, Eagleman​​ and Vaughn don’t really discuss any direct evidence for the dreams-as-defense.

They show a correlation between amount of REM sleep and the pace of development among primate species. Primates whose babies learn to walk faster and reach maturity faster, tend to have less REM. (Humans, the slowest maturing primates, have the most REM.)

REM Sleep

© Discover Magazine
Primate development and REM sleep, from Eagleman and Vaughn (2020)

The idea is that faster development means slower neuroplasticity, and slower neuroplasticity means less need to protect the visual cortex from encroachment. This is very much circumstantial. The authors do cite some other indirect evidence, but admit that: “The present hypothesis could be tested more thoroughly with direct measures of cortical plasticity.”

I think this hypothesis could be tested quite easily. You’d take a group of human volunteers and give them an fMRI scan, at baseline, to establish the extent of their visual cortex and how visually selective it is (i.e. how well it responds only to visual input, not touch or other senses.)

Then, for 24 hours, half of the volunteers would wear a blindfold to produce visual deprivation. Half would have REM sleep disrupted that night (selective REM disruption is possible). At the 24 hour point, they get a second fMRI scan.

Eagleman​​ and Vaughn’s theory would predict that the vision-deprived people would have less visually selective visual cortex, and, crucially, that REM disruption would enhance this effect. The authors suggest a similar experiment.

Reading printed books to children more beneficial to child’s development than e-books – study

Reading books with children

Picking what book to read isn’t the only choice families now make at story time – they must also decide between the print or electronic version.

But traditional print books may have an edge over e-books when it comes to quality time shared between parents and their children, a new study suggests.

The research, led by University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and involving 37 parent-toddler pairs, found that parents and children verbalized and interacted less with e-books than with print books. The findings appear in journal Pediatrics, which is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Shared reading promotes children’s language development, literacy and bonding with parents. We wanted to learn how electronics might change this experience,” says lead author Tiffany Munzer, M.D., a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Mott.

“We found that when parents and children read print books, they talked more frequently and the quality of their interactions were better.”

The parent-toddler pairs in the study used three book formats: print books, basic electronic books on a tablet and enhanced e-books featuring additions like sound effects and animation. With e-books, not only did the pairs interact less but parents tended to talk less about the story and more about the technology itself. Sometimes this included instructions about the device, such as telling children not to push buttons or change the volume.

Munzer notes that many of the interactions shared between parents and young children while reading may appear subtle but actually go a long way in promoting healthy child development.

For example, parents may point to a picture of an animal in the middle of a story and ask their child “what does a duck say?”

Or, parents may relate part of a story to something the child has experienced with comments like “Remember when we went to the beach?” Reading time also lends itself to open-ended questions, such as asking children what they thought of the book or characters.

Munzer says these practices, involving comments and questions that go beyond content, are believed to promote child expressive language, engagement, and literacy.

“Parents strengthen their children’s ability to acquire knowledge by relating new content to their children’s lived experiences,” Munzer says. “Research tells us that parent-led conversations is especially important for toddlers because they learn and retain new information better from in-person interactions than from digital media.”

However, such practices occurred less frequently with electronic books, with parents asking fewer simple questions and commenting less about the storyline compared with print books.

The study suggests that electronic book enhancements were likely interfering with parents’ ability to engage in parent-guided conversation during reading.

Munzer adds that nonverbal interactions, including warmth, closeness and enthusiasm during reading time also create positive associations with reading that will likely stick with children as they get older.

Authors recommend that future studies examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction. Parents who do choose to read electronic books with toddlers should also consider engaging as they would with the print version and minimize focus on elements of the technology itself.

“Reading together is not only a cherished family ritual in many homes but one of the most important developmental activities parents can engage in with their children,” says senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., developmental behavioral pediatrician at Mott.

“Our findings suggest that print books elicit a higher quality parent-toddler reading experience compared with e-books. Pediatricians may wish to continue encouraging parents to read print books with their kids, especially for toddlers and young children who still need support from their parents to learn from any form of media.”

Young children with pet dogs seen having fewer social interaction problems than other kids

Child playing with puppy

© fizkes – stock.adobe.com

There’s no doubt that dogs can bring a whole lot of joy to a household. Our canine companions are loyal, caring, and offer unconditional love to every member of the family. Now, an interesting new study finds that a pet dog may also offer improved social and emotional well-being for children.

In a nutshell, the study concludes that young children living with at least one dog at home display far stronger emotional and social development than kids with no pups at home.

The research, conducted at the University of Western Australia in collaboration with the Telethon Kids Institute, includes 1,646 households (42%, or 686, of which own a dog) with at least one child between the ages of two and five. Each family was given a questionnaire to fill out.

Best friends with benefits

To start, a number of additional factors were considered for each child, including age, gender, sleep routine, parents’ education, and usual daily screen time. Using this data, researchers say that kids with a pet dog were 23% less likely to have problems with their emotions or social interactions with others than children with no dog at home.

Kids from a dog-owning household were also 30% less likely to act in an anti-social manner and 40% less likely to have trouble hanging out with other kids. Children with dogs are also 34% more likely to be considerate toward others (sharing, politeness).

“While we expected that dog ownership would provide some benefits for young children’s wellbeing, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviors and emotions,” says corresponding author & associate professor Hayley Christian in a release.

Spending time with their dog appears to strengthen these benefits for children. Kids who reported going for a family dog walk at least once per week were determined to be 36% less likely to have below average emotional or social development in comparison to kids who rarely went for walks with their dog. Moreover, kids who said they play with their pet dog at least three times per week were 74% more likely to be considerate toward others.

“Our findings indicate that dog ownership may benefit children’s development and well-being and we speculate that this could be attributed to the attachment between children and their dogs. Stronger attachments between children and their pets may be reflected in the amount of time spent playing and walking together and this may promote social and emotional development,” professor Christian adds.

This study was observational, so for now at least, the study’s authors say they are unable to give an explanation for these findings. They believe future research should focus on if similar effects are seen among different types of pets.

The study is published in Pediatric Research.

Blindsight: A strange neurological condition that could help explain consciousness

Plant Consciousness

© YouTube/Unsplash

Imagine being completely blind but still being able to see. Does that sound impossible? Well, it happens. A few years ago, a man (let’s call him Barry) suffered two strokes in quick succession. As a result, Barry was completely blind, and he walked with a stick.

One day, some psychologists placed Barry in a corridor full of obstacles like boxes and chairs. They took away his walking stick and told him to walk down the corridor. The result of this simple experiment would prove dramatic for our understanding of consciousness. Barry was able to navigate around the obstacles without tripping over a single one.

Barry has blindsight, an extremely rare condition that is as paradoxical as it sounds. People with blindsight consistently deny awareness of items in front of them, but they are capable of amazing feats, which demonstrate that, in some sense, they must be able to see them.

In another case, a man with blindsight (let’s call him Rick) was put in front of a screen and told to guess (from several options) what object was on the screen. Rick insisted that he didn’t know what was there and that he was just guessing, yet he was guessing with over 90% accuracy.

Into the brain

Blindsight results from damage to an area of the brain called the primary visual cortex. This is one of the areas, as you might have guessed, responsible for vision. Damage to primary visual cortex can result in blindness – sometimes total, sometimes partial.

So how does blindsight work? The eyes receive light and convert it into information that is then passed into the brain. This information then travels through a series of pathways through the brain to eventually end up at the primary visual cortex. For people with blindsight, this area is damaged and cannot properly process the information, so the information never makes it to conscious awareness. But the information is still processed by other areas of the visual system that are intact, enabling people with blindsight to carry out the kind of tasks that we see in the case of Barry and Rick.


© Akemaster/Shutterstock
Some blind people appear to be able to ‘see’.

Blindsight serves as a particularly striking example of a general phenomenon, which is just how much goes on in the brain below the surface of consciousness. This applies just as much to people without blindsight as people with it. Studies have shown that naked pictures of attractive people can draw our attention, even when we are completely unaware of them. Other studies have demonstrated that we can correctly judge the colour of an object without any conscious awareness of it.

Blindsight debunked?

Blindsight has generated a lot of controversy. Some philosophers and psychologists have argued that people with blindsight might be conscious of what is in front of them after all, albeit in a vague and hard-to-describe way.

This suggestion presents a difficulty, because ascertaining whether someone is conscious of a particular thing is a complicated and highly delicate task. There is no “test” for consciousness. You can’t put a probe or a monitor next to someone’s head to test whether they are conscious of something – it’s a totally private experience.

We can, of course, ask them. But interpreting what people say about their own experiences can be a thorny task. Their reports sometimes seem to indicate that they have no consciousness at all of the objects in front of them (Rick once insisted that he did not believe that there really were any objects there). Other individuals with blindsight report feeling “visual pin-pricks” or “dark shadows” indicating the tantalising possibility that they did have some conscious awareness left over.

The boundaries of consciousness

So, what does blindsight tell us about consciousness? Exactly how you answer this question will heavily depend on which interpretation you accept. Do you think that those who have blindsight are in some sense conscious of what is out there or not?


© Geyer S, Weiss M, Reimann K, Lohmann G and Turner R/wikipedia, CC BY-SA
The visual cortex.

If they’re not, then blindsight provides an exciting tool that we can use to work out exactly what consciousness is for. By looking at what the brain can do without consciousness, we can try to work out which tasks ultimately require consciousness. From that, we may be able to work out what the evolutionary function of consciousness is, which is something that we are still relatively in the dark about.

On the other hand, if we could prove that people with blindsight are conscious of what is in front of them, this raises no less interesting and exciting questions about the limits of consciousness. What is their consciousness actually like? How does it differ from more familiar kinds of consciousness? And precisely where in the brain does consciousness begin and end? If they are conscious, despite damage to their visual cortex, what does that tell us about the role of this brain area in generating consciousness?

In my research, I am interested in the way that blindsight reveals the fuzzy boundaries at the edges of vision and consciousness. In cases like blindsight, it becomes increasingly unclear whether our normal concepts such as “perception”, “consciousness” and “seeing” are up to the task of adequately describing and explaining what is really going on. My goal is to develop more nuanced views of perception and consciousness that can help us understand their distinctly fuzzy edges.

To ultimately understand these cases, we will need to employ careful philosophical reflection on the concepts we use and the assumptions we make, just as much as we will need a thorough scientific investigation of the mechanics of the mind.

Henry Taylor Birmingham Fellow in Philosophy, University of Birmingham

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: The Ideal And Value of Beauty


From time to time we are struck with something we may deem “beautiful”. We see a work of art, a landscape, or a face that speaks to an almost ephemeral ideal which demands our attention, acknowledgement and contemplation. But why does this occur? What is it that we, as individuals, are perceiving as beautiful? And what exactly is beauty anyway? In exploring this largely taken for granted dimension to human experience we ask: What place should it hold in our lives, and what value do we hold for it – and it for us?

This week on MindMatters we explore and expand on some common conceptions of things beautiful – from the mundane to the sublime. And we see how noticing and arranging things to be beautiful can be an invocation of our greatest ideals and values. In a time and place where we are surrounded by ugliness, the gifts and astonishment that may be found in beauty may be one more key in connecting to the highest part of the Universe, and to ourselves.

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Harrison Koehli (Profile)

Harrison Koehli co-hosts SOTT Radio Network’s MindMatters, and is an editor for Red Pill Press. He has been interviewed on several North American radio shows about his writings on the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists (commies too).


Elan Martin (Profile)

Born and raised in New York City, Elan has been an editor for SOTT.net since 2014 and is a co-host for MindMatters. He enjoys seeing and sharing what’s true about our profoundly and rapidly changing world.


Corey Schink (Profile)

Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and SOTT Radio co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.

‘Sweet tooth’ cells identified in brain


© Potthoff Illustration

New research has identified the specific brain cells that control how much sugar you eat and how much you crave sweet tasting food.

Most people enjoy a sweet treat every now and then. But an unchecked “sweet tooth” can lead to overconsumption of sugary foods and chronic health issues like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Understanding the biological mechanisms that control sugar intake and preference for sweet taste could have important implications for managing and preventing these health problems.

The new study, led by Matthew Potthoff, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience and pharmacology in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and Matthew Gillum, PhD, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, focuses on actions of a hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). This hormone is known to play a role in energy balance, body weight control, and insulin sensitivity.

“This is the first study that’s really identified where this hormone is acting in the brain and that has provided some very cool insights to how it’s regulating sugar intake,” says Potthoff, who also is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the UI and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute.

Potthoff and his colleagues previously discovered that FGF21 is made in the liver in response to increased levels of sugar, and acts in the brain to suppress sugar intake and the preference for sweet taste.

Building on that finding, the team has now shown, for the first time, which brain cells respond to FGF21’s signals and how that interaction helps regulate sugar intake and sweet taste preference. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, also reveals how the hormone mediates its effects.

Although it was known that FGF21 acted in the brain, identifying the exact cellular targets was complicated by the fact that the hormone’s receptor is expressed at very low levels and is therefore difficult to “see.” Using various techniques, the researchers were able to precisely identify which cells express the receptor for FGF21. By investigating these cells, the study shows that FGF21 targets glutamatergic neurons in the brain to lower sugar intake and sweet taste preference. The researchers also showed that FGF21’s action on specific neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus reduce sugar intake by enhancing the neurons’ sensitivity to glucose.

Several drugs based on a modified form of FGF21 are already being tested as treatments for obesity and diabetes. The new findings could potentially lead to new drugs that more precisely target the different behaviors controlled by FGF21, which might help to control how much sugar a person eats.

In addition to Potthoff and Gillum, the team included UI researchers Sharon Jensen-Cody and Kyle Flippo, who were co-first authors of the study, Kristin Claflin, Yavuz Yavuz, Sarah Sapouckey, Grant Walters, Yuriy Usachev, and Deniz Atasoy.

The study was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Veterans Affairs Merit Review Program.

SOTT FOCUS: Stoicism, Materialism and the Search for Divinity


Confined indoors due to the coronavirus and the lockdowns, I had a lot of time to think, to read and to watch videos on YouTube. I’d like to take you on a little journey, to show you what I found and what I learned, and how I think that all this connects to what is happening in the world today.

Covid-19 has sent people into a frenzy. Despite the low mortality, a lot of people fear for their lives. There is a big disconnect between the actual numbers of deaths and the fear of death that this crisis has elicited in people. There seem to be a number of reasons for that.

First and most obvious is the relentless pounding of the populace with images of apocalyptic scenarios. Switch on the television, and you will be flooded 24 hours per day with stories of doom, gloom and death. Quite illuminating in this regard is the bellicose language – the current health crisis is compared to and described as a war. Terms like “a battle between life and death”, “battling the virus” and “front-line workers” are testament to that.

But if you look at the numbers – even recognizing that they are entirely manipulated and fabricated – they talk another language. The latest numbers suggest that between 5 and 20% of the population has had contact with the virus. At least half of those get infected but don’t develop any symptoms at all. Of those infected, most only experience mild symptoms, analogous to what a majority of people experience during any flu season. Only a small minority fall gravely ill, and still many fewer die.

Of those who die, the vast majority are elderly and suffer from multiple comorbidities (concurrent illnesses) that put them at risk of dying with or without any viral infection. The risk for the average person to die from Covid-19 is around 0.001%, which translates approximately to the risk of dying during a car trip of between 9 and 450 miles distance. No one thinks twice before jumping into a car and driving to work.

So, in the end this is an expression of an inability to think, to take what is known, to extrapolate this into the future and to apply it to our own life, in a logical and reasoned manner. And it is also testament to the fact that a lot of people are happy to just follow the lead of authorities, of ‘experts’, without asking themselves whether what is advertised is in their own interest, or in the interest of those ‘experts’ or authorities.

But I think that this is not the only reason people are in a frenzy. In times like these the specter of death rears its head – something that normally can be safely tucked away in a quiet corner of our mind. Death – even while we experience it on TV every single day as ‘entertainment’ – is for others, living somewhere on our planet, distant from us. Our own mortality is relegated to the future, so far away it might as well not happen. To speak about death is virtually a taboo. But this crisis has brought death back on our own doorstep. Suddenly it stares into our own face.

But then, why does the thought of dying generate such fear and panic in people? To me it seems that one of the answers is our materialistic view of life and the universe.


While formerly we believed in a benevolent God, who at the end of our life would take us back to Heaven – sometimes with the proviso that we had to live according to some rules and be good, lest we end up in Hell – this God and his Heaven have disappeared. We come out of nothing, and back to nothing we return. There is no God, there is no afterlife – there is not much sense in being on this planet. We are ruled by deterministic laws of nature, and free will is just an illusion. So if I only have one single shot at life, and once I die, I and my memory and my accumulated experiences are gone for eternity, then I will cling to life as much as I can.

And if there is no God and no afterlife, what good is it to be good? Why should I be virtuous and just and equanimous? Why not just do whatever I please for as long as I can? Because if there is no God, there cannot be punishment either, so I can be as evil, as selfish and unjust as I want. There are no consequences. If there is nothing higher, if there is no meaning in the universe, then there is no reason to even conceive of the idea that there is anything wrong with evil, selfishness, and injustice.

This reminds me of the choice Solzhenitsyn describes in his work The Gulag Archipelago, where he tells us that any prisoner that entered the Gulag system had two choices: To either survive by any and all means necessary, which meant to leave any moral or ethical measures behind. Or to keep his humanity and integrity intact, in which case he would be dead within twelve months. And if you believe that you only have one life, and that there is no higher authority than you, there is no point in keeping your humanity and integrity, because – who in the end is the arbiter? It’s you, so whatever you choose, it is right. It simply doesn’t matter.

This may be liberating to some degree, I think, if you compare it to the life of pre-Enlightenment man. They were told to be good, all day and every day, otherwise they would eternally burn in hell for their sins. And to be good in every situation is difficult if not impossible, as we all know very well ourselves. Temptations abound, and often we make decisions under pressure or in an impulsive way.

But this ‘liberation’ comes at a heavy price. There is no sense, no purpose in the universe anymore. I am just a small speck of dust in the cosmos, blown hither and thither by random forces. I struggle, I die – and then I’m gone, forever.

However, if you believe in a Divine presence, in something that transcends your own little life, in an immortal soul and in a continued existence after you shed your mortal remains, suddenly things look very different. If there is a God and an afterlife, it makes perfect sense that you might be judged by your actions and behavior after your earthly existence (the concept of karma comes to mind). And God might be the judge before whom you might have to answer for your deeds.

Having lost the belief in a Divine presence, is there another way to find moral strength and hope in a life that is punctuated by pain, tragedy and suffering, and that leads to certain death at the end?


Stoicism is one way I think that can help. I recently watched this excellent lecture by Michel Sugrue, where he explains the Stoic philosophy through one of its exponents, the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

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After the death of Socrates, Hellenistic philosophy split into different schools of thought, including Epicureanism, Skepticism and Stoicism.

Epicureanism’s core principle declared that pleasure is its sole intrinsic goal. However, it was not hedonism in the sense we understand this today, because it stated that the absence of fear and pain constitutes the highest pleasure, and it advocates a simple life. Epicureans in general shunned politics, because it could lead to frustration and ambitions, which were contrary to their stated goals.

Skepticism posits that knowledge or rational belief is impossible, leading its adherents to question and doubt everything.

The most well-known and persistent spin-off of the Socratic school of philosophy was Stoicism. Its core proposition is that rejection of pleasure should be the standard for human happiness and felicity.

The wise man lives according to nature, he is not afraid of pain, not afraid of death, nor poverty, he is not afraid of any of the vicissitudes of the human condition. He fears only that he should let himself down and be thus less than a complete human being.

The only concern to a wise man is the things that are completely under his own control. You can’t control the movement of the sun or the planets, the weather, other people or society around you.

There is only one thing that you are at least potentially in control of, and that is you: your will, your intentions, your self.

Thus, the truly wise man is one who is in control of his own soul, who takes utter and complete responsibility for his actions, and who is indifferent of anything else, not because he doesn’t care about other people or the felicity of the entire human race, but because this is not under his control.

He doesn’t worry about what tomorrow will bring, since tomorrow is not under his control either. The Stoic philosopher is the man who has liberated himself from fear. He is not afraid of death, he is not afraid of pain, he is not afraid of other people’s dismissal of him as a fool.

The only thing he cares about is to meet his moral obligations. He doesn’t even need life itself: virtue is enough. And virtue in Stoic terms is the organised soul who pursues rationally the ends which are good for all human beings.

The two most notable proponents were Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Ironically, they were socially as distant as possible, the former being the Roman emperor and the latter being a slave.

We remember Lord Acton’s dictum: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Marcus Aurelius was the exception to the rule. As emperor he had absolute power over anyone and anything.

If a man under such circumstances behaves well, it shows something about his soul underneath, because no external constraint is making him do what he is doing.

Marcus Aurelius controlled the entire Roman world for 19 years. He could have had all the money in the world, he could have had sex with whomever he wanted whenever he wanted. If he wanted to get drunk, he could have brought in wine by the boatload, for 19 years straight.

He stands over the centuries as a reproach to our own self-indulgence, that we are unable to deal with the circumstances of life. If you can deal with the temptations at that level, you can deal with anything.

Any virtue that is accessible to any one human is, in principle, accessible to all of us. We all have a rational nature which allows us to control our feelings, our behavior and our connection to other people.

If for some reason a Stoic philosopher gets sick, well, sickness is part of human life, he accepts it as it is, deals with it in the best possible way and then he moves on.

Marcus Aurelius wrote his book, Meditations, to himself – it wasn’t meant for publication. He wanted it to be burnt after his death, but someone disregarded his wish and preserved it for posterity.

Why did Marcus Aurelius do that – write a book to himself – given that to write is a means of communication with someone else? Because he was the loneliest man in the world. As emperor he had no friends, no one to talk to, because he had no equals. Everyone he talked to wanted something from him. He was the emperor of the world, he owned everything. He has absolute power over anyone’s life. And yet all he wanted was to live the life of a philosopher, but he had the misfortune of being born into succession as emperor.

The weariness got to him after a while. The whole book is the musings of a melancholic soul, but also of a man who just didn’t give up. He constantly reminds himself: although the people he has to deal with are all corrupt, evil and depraved, it’s his job to teach them and morally improve them, and if he cannot do that, at least he can put up with them. It is up to him to do good, be just, model virtue.

Marcus Aurelius is the only ruler in the Western tradition who remotely embodies Plato’s ideal of the philosopher king. What did he write in his book? Moral maxims, just a few of them, which he repeats over and over again.

“Soon you will have forgotten all things, and all things will soon have forgotten you.”

So, don’t get too worked up about things, because soon you’ll be dead. And soon all the other people who know you will be dead, too. What, then, is the point in being mean to people?

Mediations largely consists of short 2-3 line epigrams essentially saying: Don’t loose your temper with people, you know how they are! And: It’s not your fault that they are stupid, you tried to teach them. If they killed Socrates, what do you think they are going to do with you?

He is prepared to rule the Roman empire for the same reason as Plato’s philosopher king: If I don’t do it, someone worse will do it. The gods put me into this position, so I cannot abdicate my responsibility.

Roman Stoicism’s main two maxims are: 1) Stop complaining, because there are only two things in life – things you can control, and things you cannot. 2) And regarding the things you can control, who do you think is going to do it for you, if not yourself? So stop complaining about that too.

“Humans are social animals, either teach them, or if that is not possible, at least put up with them!”

“Are you weary of enduring the bad men in the world? The gods aren’t and they made them. Are you really weary of enduring the bad men in the world, especially given that you are one of them?”

Marcus Aurelius’s view of death: Everyone dies, so you too are going to die. So what’s the point in complaining about it? You can try to stay healthy and avoid death, but when you are going to die, you are going to die. Don’t give in to your irrational fear. Control your movements, your emotions, that part of life that is you.

So the take-home message of Stoicism is: Do not fear anything, because you either can’t do anything about it, or if you can and you don’t do anything about it, you have only yourself to blame.

Given this take-home message, Stoic philosophy is often regarded as harsh and somewhat cold and unfeeling, and that is true. To live according to Stoic philosophy requires you to be able to look at life and yourself in a detached and rational manner. And it requires a fair amount of personal discipline.

And while the Greek Stoics had a highly developed theology, practical Roman Stoicism is more agnostic about the question of God, so if you are looking for relief through a transcendent god figure, you’re in the wrong bar.

Marcus Aurelius’s view on God is that there is no proof for or against the existence of God. So he looks at both possibilities to find a way that accommodates both.

If there is no God and we are only atoms and void, then what you do doesn’t have any influence on what happens to you. If there are gods, they must be good, wise and moral. Would they then do anything bad to you, if you lived a moral life? What would you have to fear them? Either way, don’t worry!

While this type of Stoic philosophy (and its modern variants) gives us good tools to live a good and virtuous life, it doesn’t give us answers to the most basic questions humans ask: Why are we here? What is the point of our existence? This used to be the domain of the Church, whose answer was quite straight-forward and easy: You are here because God willed it to be so, and the point of existence is to glorify Him.

The Stoic philosophy presents an antidote to the nihilistic materialism of today. But it has been – as in the video above – characterised as cold, harsh and unfeeling. And it sets the bar very high. I still think that the Stoic approach is better than the nihilistic approach, because you are more likely to lead a better life. And if you live a better life, on average you will be more content, satisfied and successful.

But maybe there is another way to combat the fear without necessarily having to be a superhero like Marcus Aurelius?

Whitehead’s Radically Postmodern Theism

I recently read a book by David Ray Griffin, a retired American professor of philosophy of religion and theology and a political writer. The title is Whitehead’s Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy. Another article can be found here.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) was an English mathematician and philosopher. In the first part of his life he wrote mostly on mathematical topics. His most famous work is Principia Mathematica, which he co-wrote with his former student Bertrand Russell, and is one of the twentieth century’s most important works on mathematical logic. Later, at the beginning of the 1910s, he progressively turned his attention to the philosophy of science and then to metaphysics.

He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of Western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects (hence his philosophy came to be called process philosophy), and those processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another.

Today Whitehead’s philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy. Whitehead’s process philosophy argues that “there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.” This has recently led his philosophy to be used in the discussion of ecology: Whitehead’s God is a deep ecologist, but one whose deep ecology includes animals and human liberation.

It must be noted that Whitehead’s process theism does not privilege claims to special insights or revealed truth. If process theism is not based on revelation, neither it is based on the appeal to science alone. It is no more characteristic of process thought to give a ‘scientific’ argument for the existence of God than to give a reductionist account of religious belief by means of a theory in sociology or psychology. As far as Whitehead is concerned, the working assumptions of the sciences are no more or less open to question and clarification than the working assumptions of religion.

In other words, process theism is not based on religious doctrine or theology, nor is it based on scientific theory. It is a product of metaphysics, or what Whitehead calls ‘speculative philosophy’:

“Speculative philosophy is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted”.

Or to formulate it differently: What Whitehead tries to achieve is a system of thought – based on certain assumptions Griffin calls ‘hard-core commonsense notions’ (ideas that are inevitably presupposed in our existence, even if this presupposition is verbally questioned) – that is able to account for all the facts and experiences we have in our life, including consciousness, meaning, aesthetics, morality, scientific knowledge, truth, etc. He maintains that neither religion nor science alone, is capable of that, but that in a sense ‘merging’ the two – opposed, but not necessarily contradictory and mutually exclusive – views about life, the universe and all, may give us a better tool to understand humanity and our place in the Universe.

The bridge between theology and science is done through the theory of ‘actual entities’ and counters the idea that everything that is material is without any mind-like qualities (which Whitehead refers to as ‘vacuous actuality’). All actual entities are ‘dipolar’, so all of them have a physical aspect, but none are entirely lacking in psychic qualities, although in most cases these qualities are negligible, as would be the case with subatomic particles, atoms and molecules. So in process thought, physical does not mean having no feeling, emotion or experience, even if that experience might be very low-grade as in electrons or protons (hence, one pillar of his theory is thus called ‘panexperientialism’).

When coming to the question of God, Whitehead does not offer scientific proofs: “There is merely the confrontation of the theoretical system with a certain rendering of the facts”. After having established a satisfactory alternative to scientific materialism, he asked himself whether his philosophy required a reference to God. It seems that Whitehead was surprised to find that it did, because at the beginning of his philosophical studies he was agnostic.

Especially in regards to the question of morals and ethics he came to the conclusion that – having discarded the prevailing notion in the philosophies of the last 200 years, that moral and ethical precepts can be derived from nature alone – God is conceptually necessary for the overall cohesiveness of his theory.

Whitehead’s argument for God is summarised by Ford in the following way: “Actual entities either belong to God or to the World. Given the World, God must exist. Given God, the World must exist. Since one or the other must exist, both must”.

Through this short and much simplified review of Whiteheads process theism I think that we have come a step closer on our search for a divine existence in the Universe – while there is no scientific proof for God, to posit a Divine existence enables us to explain many of the experiences in our life, for which all other world views – especially scientific materialism – don’t provide us with a coherent explanation.

The next step in our journey now is to ask if there really aren’t any rational arguments for a divine creator that can be put forward starting from a purely scientific basis. I think there are arguments for this, and I shall give two here. The first is Intelligent Design (as opposed to Neo-Darwinism) and the second is based on reviewing the evidence of so called ‘Near Death Experiences’ (NDE).

Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinism

I grew up believing that Neo-Darwinism is a scientific theory that has pretty much been shown to be correct, and that no truly scientific person could reasonably assail its underlying basic assumptions. I had heard of Intelligent Design (ID), but thought of this school of ‘thought’ as merely a variant of Creationism, the (religious) belief that the world as we know it, with all its features and creatures, had been designed and built by God in seven days, as is stated in the Scriptures. And that was, of course, nonsense, as science has shown our planet to be billions of years old.

At some point I started to read a few books and articles about Intelligent Design, and I have come to the conclusion that Neo-Darwinism is fatally flawed, and that ID is much more coherent and without the internal contradictions of Neo-Darwinism, which its high-priests have conveniently shoved under the rug.

I won’t give the whole argumentation of why I believe this to be the case. I will however point you to those books and articles that have convinced me of my present position, and I will give you by way of example two arguments (among many others) to illustrate my point.

Two books that make the point very elegantly and eloquently are Stephen C Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt and Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box. And for interesting articles see here and here.

One example that I would like to touch upon is ‘Irreducible Complexity’ (IC). Many of the myriads of biochemical and functional processes in our body are said to be ‘irreducibly complex’ (like the bacterial flagellum, the ciliae, and the blood-clotting cascade to just mention a few).

As described in one of the above mentioned articles, we can look at ‘Irreducible Complexity’ in the following way:

“If you have a system of 20 parts that are all needed for the system to work (remove any one part and the system becomes useless), the system cannot evolve step-by-step in Darwinian fashion, because you’d have 19 intermediate states that aren’t useful for anything and thus natural selection wouldn’t select them. This is one of the biggest problems for Darwinism. Dawkins claims ‘victory’ because he shows something evolved two parts that did something together. Two parts is the worst example of ‘complexity’ possible (literally).”

Another example is the ‘Cambrian explosion’ of life forms. Again cited from the above article:

“For two billion years, only single-celled organisms existed, without producing anything complex. This makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make any sense (from the Darwinian perspective) is that, suddenly, in some 20 million years, most major animal phyla appeared in all their complexity. The Darwinian prediction is that things evolve slowly at a fairly constant rate. The Cambrian explosion stands in complete opposition to this theory. Of course Darwinists, who begin with a pre-formed belief – that evolution is true – and then try to twist the facts to fit the conclusion, and produce all kinds of really lame excuses for this that we won’t even get into here.”

This is not to say that Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms are not operative in our world, they certainly are, but probably only at the family and genus level in the hierarchy of life. They certainly cannot account for how life started in the first place, how the phyla came to existence in the Cambrian explosion, and even less so how things like consciousness or altruism could have evolved in the human race.

The question of who or what the Intelligent Designer is has not been answered so far, but speculations abound. Of course most of the proponents of Intelligent Design say “God did it!” And this might be a straightforward solution to the riddle, but I don’t think it is the only one possible.

Maybe the Universe and life have always been present in one way or another; maybe we were created by beings, who were created by other beings, who in turn were created by yet other beings … ad infinitum.

So even if we don’t have an answer to the question of the nature of the Designer, the fact alone that there has to be a designer to account for all the facts means that our universe is not purely deterministic, and that some Creative Force is operative in our world, in whatever form this may be.

Near Death Experiences (NDE)

Another avenue I have researched is Near Death Experiences or NDEs.

My first encounter with NDE was a few years ago. A colleague with whom I was working asked me if he could tell me about his own NDE and the psychological effects it had had on him. His story – unlike the majority of those encountered in the research – was not a pleasant one, but mostly because he didn’t want to return after having witnessed the bliss of the afterlife. When I met him, he was still struggling with the implications and had just started to come out of a two-year-long and very dark depressive phase. This naturally spiked my interest as a medical practitioner, because up until then I had not given much thought to those episodes, thinking that it was merely the result of a brain starved of oxygen producing hallucinations. I began to read the literature that was available about this topic. At that time there weren’t that many books and soon I lost steam and directed my interest to other topics.

A few months ago I read another book on NDE. Meanwhile there is a multitude of books on this topic. Here I’d like to reference only two – Evidence of the Afterlife and God and the Afterlife, both co-authored by Jeffrey Long, MD and Paul Perry. Dr. Jeffrey Long is a radiation oncologist from Louisiana, who investigates NDEs and hosts www.nderf.org, a website, where he has collected over 4000 cases of NDE and has analysed these cases with a scientific methodology.

He found that a substantial portion of people having a cardiac arrest or having been declared ‘clinically dead’ reported a NDE afterwards (current estimates are around 10%). The reason that this fact is not very widely known, especially within the medical community, is the reluctance of the patients to talk about their experience – for fear of being ridiculed or seen as crazy (which in many cases is not unfounded, given the absence of knowledge about NDE in the general population, as well as within the medical community).

NDEs seem to have common elements that are reported in similar fashion across different cultures, different pre-existing religious beliefs and different ages of the experiencers.

Dr. Long cites as evidence of the afterlife the following points:

  1. It is medically inexplicable to have a highly organised and lucid experience while unconscious or clinically dead.
  2. NDErs may see and hear in the out-of-body (OBS) state, and what they perceive is nearly always real. In many cases this could be independently corroborated.
  3. NDEs occur during general anaesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place.
  4. NDEs take place among those who are blind, and these NDEs often include visual experiences (even in those who had been blind from birth and have never seen before).
  5. A life review during the NDEs accurately reflects real events in the NDE’s life, even if those events have been forgotten. They clearly are different experiences from dreams or drug-induced altered states of consciousness.
  6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased at the time of the NDE, and most are deceased relatives. In certain cases this relative was unknown to the subject at the time, but he or she recognised the relative later from photographs.
  7. The striking similarity of content in NDEs among very young children and that of adults strongly suggests that the content of NDEs is not due to pre-existing beliefs.
  8. The remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world is evidence that NDEs are real events.
  9. Subjects experiencing an NDE are transformed in many ways by their experience, often for life.

In the second book quoted above the author explores specifically the question of God. He found that over 40% of experiencers were aware of the existence of God or a supreme being during their NDE. And that included a significant portion of NDErs that before their experience were either agnostics or atheists. Looking at the belief of NDErs before as compared to after their experience, 39% believed that “God definitely exists” before their experience, compared to 72.6% of NDErs after their NDE, which is an 86% increase in those who definitely believed that God existed after their NDE.

There is an oft-quoted scientific principle that what is real is consistently observable. And the consistency of Dr. Long’s findings far outweighs any inconsistency. In addition to that there is also an overwhelming majority of NDErs who reported their experiences as real. This contrasts with dreams and hallucinations after which there is no doubt in the mind of the subject as to the reality – or lack thereof – of his or her experience.

Of course, skeptics argue that these are not real experiences, more like the figments of an oxygen-starved brain, just as I did before studying this topic in more detail. What is interesting is that over the years there have been over 20 different ‘explanations’ as to what NDEs ‘really’ are. If any of these theories would present a strong unassailable case, there wouldn’t be so many of them. And in general the skeptics don’t address the consistency of the accounts, or provide hard evidence to disprove their validity. Skeptics need to give strong evidence AGAINST, if they want to counter the strong evidence FOR NDEs.


I grew up in a secular Christian family, where religion was ‘exercised’ but without any deep belief or conviction; it was a social thing at best. After university I grew more and more disenchanted with religion, especially with their exponents who were flawed, and sometimes downright vicious, who were “talking the talk, but not walking the walk”. I left the Church and became a hard-core atheist. Well, maybe not entirely, because I always had doubts about my view of God, the Universe and all.

The journey I have described in these pages has led me to believe that there indeed is a Supreme Being, a God or whatever name you would like to attribute to the Cosmic Creative Force that suffuses, builds and maintains our universe. This has been a difficult and at times painful process. The slaughter of sacred cows is never an easy or painless process.

On the other side, however, it has taken some existential angst from me. If there is a God, and thus a soul, and consequently an afterlife, there is nothing to fear really.

And that brings me back to the Stoic philosophy, whose central tenet is “Do not fear what you have no control over, because it just doesn’t make any sense”, but with a twist – I know now that the Universe is not a cold, hard and random place, but one suffused with purpose, love, creativity and life. I still have my reservations – my intellect seems to embrace the idea of a Creative Force or a God more easily than my emotions, so all of this is still a work in progress.

One day, it will be my time to depart this world – in the grand scheme of things, whether that is tomorrow, in two weeks or in 20 years is not so important. Like the Stoics say, what is important is to lead a good and virtuous life.

And I know now, that when this day comes, there will be new and amazing worlds to explore.

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Father Joseph Azize Interview: Gurdjieff’s Legacy and the ‘New Work’


Few scholars and writers in the world today have the experience and in-depth knowledge that Father Joseph Azize has of G.I. Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way work. In this new interview with the author of Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation and Exercises, we explore a range of issues : Have students and organizations based on Gurdjieff’s work watered down and distorted what the great teacher wrote and instructed? At what point do ideas – in an attempt to make them more “accessible” – lose their power and potency altogether? And by contrast, what does it look like when integrity is maintained?

This week on MindMatters we discuss these issues as well as some more of the specially designed exercises Gurdjieff prescribed for his pupils that we began to explore with Fr. Azize in our first interview. Looking specifically at the mystic’s “Second Assisting” and “Web” exercises we examine what they were intended to do for the practitioner – as well as what the larger implications and possible benefits that such work had, and has, for humanity as a whole. Join us as Joseph Azize gives a number of very nuanced and informed explications of Gurdjieff’s ideas, and what value they hold for those seeking to climb the staircase of one’s own being.

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Running Time: 01:52:54

Download: MP3 — 103 MB

Links to Father Azize’s writings:


Harrison Koehli (Profile)

Harrison Koehli co-hosts SOTT Radio Network’s MindMatters, and is an editor for Red Pill Press. He has been interviewed on several North American radio shows about his writings on the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists (commies too).


Elan Martin (Profile)

Born and raised in New York City, Elan has been an editor for SOTT.net since 2014 and is a co-host for MindMatters. He enjoys seeing and sharing what’s true about our profoundly and rapidly changing world.


Corey Schink (Profile)

Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and SOTT Radio co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.

The need to belong, not facts, is what draws people to Black Lives Matter

black lives matter blm march

People often think of peer pressure as something teenagers experience. In fact, peer pressure is just as prevalent among adults. It’s the reason ideas spread like wildfire. People jump on board with what everyone else is doing or thinking for one simple reason: They want to belong.

Have you ever wondered how Adolf Hitler managed to convince so many people to commit evil acts? Or how cult leaders such as Charles Manson or David Koresh could get so many people to do what they told them to do and to believe what they told them to believe? The need to belong is just that fierce and strong, particularly for vulnerable folks who feel lonely or misunderstood.

It’s happening right now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s not about the fact that black lives matter, with which no sane person would disagree. A simple search of their own website will tell you its goals: to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” and to “foster a queer‐affirming network.”

But doing research or thinking critically about any idea or movement is threatening to what so many people want. These folks aren’t interested in the truth. They don’t want the facts. What they want is to belong.

The leaders of all movements know this. They manipulate human nature to their advantage by preying on people’s emotions, using terminology that sounds benign so that not taking part makes a person appear cold and callous. Who on Earth wants to argue openly with the phrase “black lives matter”? It’s a brilliant tactic.

Pointing out the truth of movements such as Black Lives Matter requires serious study by those who aren’t motivated by a desperate need to belong. Take, for example, my guest this week on my podcast: Heather Mac Donald. She laid out the reasons why there’s no evidence of systemic racism in policing. She explains that black males represent 6% of the nation’s population yet comprise roughly 42% of police killings. A police officer is 18 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by an officer.

To be sure, these are inconvenient facts. But they are facts nonetheless, the same ones Maj. Travis Yates, a commander with the Tulsa, Oklahoma, police department, shared in an opinion article. In that letter, Yates explained that there’s more demand for law enforcement “from a smaller population in one side of town versus another” and that “it is intellectually dishonest to discuss disproportional policing without speaking about disproportional victimization.” He went on to explain that “the issues that are causing the disparity in police contacts” rests with fatherlessness in the black community. It is rampant, and as a result, black men are literally killing each other.

That’s the real story, but no one wants to talk about it. So, instead, we pretend. We pretend that white police officers, as a rule, hate black people — and that police are killing black people en masse simply because they’re black.

It’s an egregious lie, but it feels good to believe it. It gives people something to fight for. It doesn’t matter if what the leaders are saying is true or fair or right — or even harmful, which it is. Police officers are leaving their posts in droves as a result of this madness. We’re all vulnerable now.

The George Floyd incident was just that: an incident. There are other similar incidents, but they are far from the norm. Nevertheless, a domino effect has erupted, whereupon leaders on both sides of the political aisle have caved to the mob. For some, that’s because their jobs were threatened, and they had little choice in the matter. For others, they caved because they lack the courage to tell the truth and fight back — even if they know the truth. They’d rather belong.

The need to belong is our Achilles heel, and it just may do us in.

Suzanne Venker (@SuzanneVenker) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She’s the author of five books and a relationship coach, as well as host of The Suzanne Venker Show. Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.