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...

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‘Sweet tooth’ cells identified in brain

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...

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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...

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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...

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

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...

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BEST OF THE WEB: Narcissists, psychopaths, and manipulators are more likely to engage in ‘virtuous victim signaling’ – study

New study links virtue signaling to "Dark Triad" traits. Being accused of "virtue signaling" might sound nice to the uninitiated, but spend much time on social media and you know that it's actually an accusation of insincerity. Virtue signalers are, essentially, phonies and showoffs — folks who adopt opinions and postures solely to garner praise and sympathy or whose good deeds are tainted by their need for everyone to see just how good they are. Combined with a culture that says only victimhood confers a right to comment on certain issues, it's a big factor in online pile-ons and one that certainly contributes to social media platforms being such a bummer sometimes. So: Here's some fun new research looking at "the consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology....

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How does aging shape our narrative identity?

It's not just our flesh and bones that change as we get older. In 2010, Dan McAdams wrote a biography about George W. Bush analyzing the former American president using the tools of personality psychology. It was, in his own words, a flop. "I probably had three readers," McAdams laughs. But an editor from The Atlantic happened to read it, and asked McAdams to write a similar piece analyzing Donald Trump. It was a hit, attracting 3.5 million readers. "So something good came out of it," McAdams tells me. He used the case in class. And, he explains, he has always been interested in politics anyways. "I'm kind of a political junkie going back into the '60s. That's my autobiographical reasoning." Autobiographical reasoning gets far more sophisticated as you age. By autobiographical reasoning, McAdams means finding and attaching meaning using...

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Discovering the link between gender identity and peer contagion

The following is excerpted, with permission, from Abigail Shrier's newly published book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery Publishing (June 30, 2020) 276 pages. In 2016, Lisa Littman, ob-gyn turned public health researcher, and mother of two, was scrolling through social media when she noticed a statistical peculiarity: Several adolescents, most of them girls, from her small town in Rhode Island had come out as transgender — all from within the same friend group. "With the first two announcements, I thought, 'Wow, that's great,'" Dr. Littman said, a light New Jersey accent tweaking her vowels. Then came announcements three, four, five, and six. Dr. Littman knew almost nothing about gender dysphoria — her research interests had been confined to reproductive health: abortion stigma and contraception. But she knew enough to recognize that the numbers were much higher...

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How addressing so-called ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘unwitting racism’ could be the first step to brainwashing

The idea that all white people are unconsciously racist and need training to correct this has gained momentum. But doesn't this colonisation of thought processes take us into dangerous territory? These days we are told that, unless you can prove otherwise, you are presumed to be a racist. This is why Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer announced that he was going to introduce unconscious bias training for all the officials in his party. And just to demonstrate that he meant business, Starmer declared, "I'm going to lead from the top on this and do that training first." No doubt Harry and Meghan - otherwise known as the Prince and Princess of Sussex - would approve of Starmer's actions. Not long ago, the royal couple gave a little sermon about the need to uncover your unconscious bias to a carefully...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Interview with James Carpenter: First Sight, Psi, and Consciousness

What is the nature of psi? How does it relate to consciousness? Today on MindMatters we interview Dr. Jim Carpenter about his "first sight" theory, the subject of his revolutionary book by the same name. Carpenter's theory not only accounts for all the experimental data relating to psi; it also integrates current psychological research and a wider understanding of consciousness as a whole. Psi is not an anomaly or a special ability - it is fundamental to mind itself. Dr. Jim Carpenter is both a clinical psychologist and a research parapsychologist. He is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, ABPP, and a Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology He formerly taught at the University of North Caroline in the departments of psychology and psychiatry. He has been active in the governance of several professional organizations, and carries on an...

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