Permalink to SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Alchemy of Human Happiness: Interview with Stephen Hirtenstein

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Alchemy of Human Happiness: Interview with Stephen Hirtenstein

The philosophy and practice of alchemy, in one form or another, has been around for millennia and espoused by many different cultures, the idea centering around the chemical and physical transformation of some common ore to its highest most valuable state, gold. Modern chemistry naturally discounts this view as outdated and simply not true. But what if that is to miss the point? What if the true alchemical process has little to do with base and precious metals and everything to do man's inner state of being - and the state of his soul? One of the most important sections of Ibn Arabi's prolific Futūḥāt, the 167th chapter called 'The Alchemy of Human Happiness', focuses on this very subject. Joining us this week on MindMatters we again have the opportunity to discuss the wisdom of the Sufi master Ibn Arabi...

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Permalink to At what point in its development can a human being feel pain?

At what point in its development can a human being feel pain?

Editor's note: See also Dr. Wells's earlier article, "Why Should a Baby Live?" This is Part Two of a two-part series about abortion. This part focuses on the second question I raised in Part One: At what point in its development can a human being feel pain? I will attempt to answer the question scientifically, as a developmental biologist. By "scientific" I mean based on evidence, not on materialistic story-telling or the current "scientific consensus." I will conclude with a brief personal reflection. The title of my first essay was "Why Should a Baby Live?" It was adapted from a 2012 article by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" That article cites a 1985 book co-authored by Peter Singer titled Should the Baby Live? Ten years before, Singer had published his seminal work, Animal...

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Permalink to Scientists say your mind isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body

Scientists say your mind isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body

You might wonder, at some point today, what's going on in another person's mind. You may compliment someone's great mind, or say they are out of their mind. You may even try to expand or free your own mind. But what is a mind? Defining the concept is a surprisingly slippery task. The mind is the seat of consciousness, the essence of your being. Without a mind, you cannot be considered meaningfully alive. So what exactly, and where precisely, is it? Traditionally, scientists have tried to define the mind as the product of brain activity: The brain is the physical substance, and the mind is the conscious product of those firing neurons, according to the classic argument. But growing evidence shows that the mind goes far beyond the physical workings of your brain. No doubt, the brain plays an incredibly...

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Permalink to Face-to-face connectedness, oxytocin and your vagus nerve

Face-to-face connectedness, oxytocin and your vagus nerve

This Psychology Today blog post is phase three of a nine-part series called "The Vagus Nerve Survival Guide." The nine vagal maneuvers featured in each of these blog posts are designed to help you stimulate your vagus nerve — which can reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and inflammation by activating the "relaxation response" mechanisms of your parasympathetic nervous system. Face-to-face social connectedness fortifies the "tend-and-befriend" parasympathetic response and engages your vagus nerve. This improves vagal tone and counteracts stress responses associated with "fight-or-flight" mechanisms. Social connectedness has also been clinically proven to improve heart rate variability (HRV), which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals and indicates a healthy heart. As I described in the introduction to this series, your vagus nerve is the prime driving force of the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates your "rest-and-digest" or "tend-and-befriend"... ...

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Permalink to Meta-analysis indicates the Mozart effect might be the real thing

Meta-analysis indicates the Mozart effect might be the real thing

The idea that listening to Mozart can help people with epilepsy has been around since the early 1990s. It has been treated with not a little scepticism, but also not ignored: there have been studies (this one, for example) and even studies of studies (this meta-analysis is from as early 1999). The brief has also expanded from just Mozart to other forms of music. In fact, there has been such "a flow of new research in the last few years", according to Gianluca Sesso from Italy's University of Pisa, that it was again "time to stand back and look at the overall picture" - which is what he and colleague Federico Sicca did. In a paper published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology and just presented at a virtual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, they present findings which, they...

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Permalink to Unconscious learning underlies belief in God; stronger beliefs in people who can unconsciously predict complex patterns

Unconscious learning underlies belief in God; stronger beliefs in people who can unconsciously predict complex patterns

Individuals who can unconsciously predict complex patterns, an ability called implicit pattern learning, are likely to hold stronger beliefs that there is a god who creates patterns of events in the universe, according to neuroscientists at Georgetown University. Their research, reported in the journal, Nature Communications, is the first to use implicit pattern learning to investigate religious belief. The study spanned two very different cultural and religious groups, one in the U.S. and one in Afghanistan. The goal was to test whether implicit pattern learning is a basis of belief and, if so, whether that connection holds across different faiths and cultures. The researchers indeed found that implicit pattern learning appears to offer a key to understanding a variety of religions. "Belief in a god or gods who intervene in the world to create order is a core element of...

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Permalink to Factors involved in psy­cho­pathy and schizo­phrenia already present in new­born brain cells

Factors involved in psy­cho­pathy and schizo­phrenia already present in new­born brain cells

Would you prefer to be told that your newborn is likely to grow up into a psychopath? Or that they may develop schizophrenia? What if, after receiving a positive result, it would be possible to prevent this from happening? Prognostic factors for psychopathy and schizophrenia can be observed in human brain cells already in the second trimester of pregnancy. In principle, newborns could be tested and their risk of developing a disorder assessed. Whether such testing would engender too much suffering is another matter. "Regardless of the disease, the easiest and least expensive way of reducing suffering is prevention or alleviation in advance," says Professor Jari Koistinaho, director of the Neuroscience Center. Nevertheless, testing would be associated with risks and difficult questions. ...

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Permalink to The high price of perpetual fear

The high price of perpetual fear

I've gone on for a long time about fear making humans stupid, and even about it being a weapon and a brain poison. But I've also wondered at times whether people would hit fear-fatigue... that point where people have simply had enough fear and walk out from under it. As it turns out, however, I was a bit optimistic on fear fatigue. I've been reading Robert Sapolsky's newest book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best And Worst, and was disappointed to learn what the best new research shows on the long-term application of fear. (Or, in the academic terminology, sustained stress.) My disappointment, however, was soon tempered by two things: I gained information on how fear poisoning works. That human neurology is immensely variable, that there are exceptions to everything, and that if the whole picture were actually...

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Permalink to SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Interview with John Buchanan: Alfred North Whitehead – A Philosophy For Our Time

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Interview with John Buchanan: Alfred North Whitehead – A Philosophy For Our Time

We've made numerous references to Alfred North Whitehead and process philosophy on MindMatters, but who was Whitehead, and what makes his philosophy so interesting, and relevant? Today on the show, we are joined by John Buchanan, co-editor of the recently released volume Rethinking Consciousness, in which he has a paper highlighting the similarities between Jim Carpenter's first sight theory and Whitehead's process philosophy. In our discussion with John we discuss Whitehead, some of the things that made his philosophy so revolutionary, why he isn't more well known today, and why he should be. His philosophy rejects the atheism and materialism of the current 'scientific' worldview, making room for the entire range of human experience. Another advantage is that Whitehead as a mathematician was well versed in the relativity and quantum theories that have come to characterize our contemporary science and...

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Permalink to Children use both brain hemispheres to understand language, unlike adults says new finding

Children use both brain hemispheres to understand language, unlike adults says new finding

Infants and young children have brains with a superpower, of sorts, say Georgetown University Medical Center neuroscientists. Whereas adults process most discrete neural tasks in specific areas in one or the other of their brain's two hemispheres, youngsters use both the right and left hemispheres to do the same task. The finding suggests a possible reason why children appear to recover from neural injury much easier than adults. The study, published Sept. 7, 2020, in PNAS, focuses on one task — language — and finds that to understand language (more specifically, processing spoken sentences), children use both hemispheres. This finding fits with previous and ongoing research led by Georgetown neurology professor Elissa L. Newport, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow Olumide Olulade, MD, PhD, and neurology assistant professor Anna Greenwald, PhD. "This is very good news for young children who experience...

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