Cape Cod Institute
 
Behavior OnLine Forums  
The gathering place for Mental Health and
Applied Behavior Science Professionals.
 
Become a charter member of Behavior OnLine.

Go Back   Behavior OnLine Forums > BOL Forums > Evolutionary Psychology

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #21  
Unread July 2nd, 2006, 04:02 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Tom, As you know, my hypothesis is that behavior choice in animals, including humans, is an emotion driven process that attempts to produce a favorable emotional outcome. In humans, intellect provides another emotional input that's sometimes available for enhanced decison-making. I write this post, not to convince anyone or change their mind about this, but to clarify for myself some of the more important implications.

One of the human behaviors most susceptible to this emotion driven process is the opinions we form and hold about the world. We all love to believe that our own opinions are derived from the most rigorous logical and objective processes - and that those who don't share our opinions are just not very good thinkers.

From the article
Quote:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," Westen is quoted as saying in an Emory University press release. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts." Interestingly, neural circuits engaged in rewarding selective behaviors were activated. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones," Westen said.

The implications of the findings reach far beyond politics. A jury assessing evidence against a defendant, a CEO evaluating information about a company or a scientist weighing data in favor of a theory will undergo the same cognitive process.
I interpret this as falling squarely within the predictions that my hypothesis makes regarding beliefs. I see beliefs as a primary source of the emotions we bring to bear on our conclusions and opinions about others and the world we observe. As we mature, our beliefs grow to form a set of mutually supporting opinions. We seldom expose our beliefs to logical examination - the results could be uncomfortable, negative emotional payback. Instead we expose them to our other beliefs - that we have already selected to support them - ensuring that good warm feeling of believing that we are alway right. The study vividly shows how this works in the brain. It also explains why we like to associate with those who share our beliefs.

By the time we are adults, when we are exposed to new information, our first instinct is to see if it fits in with our existing beliefs. If it does not, we may reject it out of hand. If asked, we will put our mind to work coming up with logical reasons why it could not possibly be true. If it does fit, we do the opposite. It feels so right. We have no trouble rationalizing reasons why it simply must be true.

However, some have worked hard to develop the ability to make rational judgements and think objectively about new information - to guard against emotion in that process. Good scientists strive to develop this ability - although not all scientists are so good at it.

The internet provides a wonderful lab to observe this in action. Almost all discussions about politics or philosophy (and psychology) are vivid illustrations of this. Most comments made in discussion groups like this are rationalizations for or against the beliefs that the commentors already hold in their minds. Some commentors are very intelligent and very skilled at making these rationalizations - disguising them as unbiased objective arguments.

Sometimes however, new information and new ideas are actually explored in online discussion. It's easy to see the difference between the two modes. In one, people question and offer observations - in the other, insults fly. Most often, and most unfortunately, the modes coexist - with some members trying to discuss human nature while others, whose beliefs may be threatened, throw insults at them.

There are differences between personalities in this online process. First, different persons have different areas of belief that they hold sacred. While one person may have no strong beliefs about God, for example, they may have strong partisan political beliefs - or vice versa. They may be quite capable of objective evaulation and comment in one of these areas but not the other.

Another difference that I suspect true is that different persons develop (or are genetically endowed, perhaps) with a greater chemical need to attach their beliefs to strong emotions. Some persons tend to go through life seeking those attachments.

Strong passions were certainly a net benefit for early humans who faced death every day from an uncaring nature and other humans. Those who carried the most passionate clan loyalties and the religious instincts that cemented them in place were most likely rewarded with better mate choices and more offspring - who then were likely to be passionate believers in all that their clan held sacred as well.

I suspect that many of the problems of the modern world are the result of this inherited bias for passion in our beliefs. I am not saying that these are always counter-productive for human-kind. It would be easy to make that generalization but that's not my purpose. Instead, I would propose that there is another side to behavior choice that could be nurtured in society, generally, and in children so that it will be available to them when needed. That is the passionless practice of reason.

It is easy to imagine that the first humans had little ability for this - and that the advance of civilization is pretty well marked by a gradually increasing ability to reason without the passion of irrational beliefs getting in the way. Still, I can see many examples where passion is not only necessary but where good outcomes would not be possible without it. When someone attacks us there is no choice but to passionately defend ourselves. At some point we must stop trying to reason and defend ourself - by whatever means necessary. The Second World War was a good example where we as a nation, at some point stopped anguishing over the alternatives and got about killing large numbers of Germans and Japanese.

But even then, our success was at least partially due to our ability to manage the war more intelligently and rationally - than passionately. The passion was needed - but measured and applied skillfully - which is difficult to do. IMO the most admirable achievements of humanity have been examples of the skillful combination of passion and reason. I think that a successful strategy for life on the personal level - and for societies - is to be capable of both passionate competition and reason - but to develop the wise ability to choose when and where to apply each, and in what proportions. I'm sure I could use a lot of improvement here.

We all deal with this functional duality in our minds every day in terms of competition in society. Passion is good for advertisers, for example. People simply do not buy things unless they are emotionally committed to the purchase. Millions of dollars are spent every day to make us more passionate and more competitive - usually about specific products - but the aggregate effect is a general elevated competitiveness (and social stress) that comes to permeate our lives.

There are areas of life where passion and competition has deadly serious consequences. Religion is capable of generating the most ferocious passions as any world history book will show. The tragedy of 9/11 and the current state of religious war in Iraq provides a vivid example that will affect our lives for many generations to come. It's OK to hold passions regarding one's beliefs. But when those passions become competitive, religion invariably requires the demeaning of others' religions - and eventually, if left unchecked, attacking or killing members of other faiths.

I believe it is not the nature of religion itself, but the nature of the minds in which it dwells - as to whether religious belief can be a force for good or destruction. The passion for belief is inherent in all of us from our evolutionary past. It seems, no matter how strong or weak it may be, that capacity can be amplified culturally or by upbringing - to completely consume some lives.

At the same time, passion for belief I suspect has become less necessary as our species evolved. What was vitally necessary for the survival of small superstitious bands 100,000 years ago, has become an enormous wholesale destroyer of DNA in the modern world. And the most passionate believers - as in WWII - don't always win.

Has cultural evolution so outpaced genetic evolution that we are destined to reduce humanity to a more appropriate smaller number of more primitive bands again - that can better accommodate the passions of our belief systems and use them to advantage?

Possibly the greatest advance in the organization of human civilization was the secular US constitution and Bill of Rights that recognized the inherent right of all to happiness and equal treatment under the law - and the all-important notion of separation of the affairs of church and state.

The duality in society that reveals our liberal and conservative mind-sets is an indicator of this evolution-in-progress - the bitter struggle of passionate beliefs vs. a live-and-let-live approach - that allows people to believe whatever they wish as long as they don't impose their beliefs on others. The conundrum hidden in that struggle is that it's hard to live-and-let-live when someone is trying to put you in prison for smoking pot or having an abortion or trying to have a loving relationship with someone of the same sex.

The passionate religionists will therefore always have their way. They will get their belief wars - because they need them, because the chemicals in their brains demand them. And those who would try to avoid them, will always be the first to suffer the consequences of those chemically induced passions.

Such is the human condition. And I guess we are fortunate to have members here who illustrate the chemical determinism of the human mind, in all its wonderful permutations, so very well - including me.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 2nd, 2006 at 04:22 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Unread July 2nd, 2006, 05:05 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
Tom: You would not eat pie unless you WANTED to eat pie. That's pretty clear to me.
Yep, me too Tom—freewill, choice, and responsibility, moral or otherwise.

But MM’s so-called hypothesis—that we humans are “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it”—would dictate that you didn’t eat the pie b/c you, per se, “WANTED” to eat the pie, but rather b/c you were “driven by emotion” to eat the pie, “driven to seek an emotional payoff” from eating the pie.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Unread July 2nd, 2006, 11:42 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
MM: Religion is capable of generating the most ferocious passions as any world history book will show.
MM is much too modest here—the vacuum of atheism, as the atheistic regimes of the 20th Century clearly demonstrate, along with Nazism’s survival of the fittest paganism, facilitated ferocity far more readily than did any religious/spiritual values in the 20th and previous 19 centuries, since religious/spiritual values generally serve as a mitigating factor against the excesses of state power and human behavior (although Islam admittedly has been a disappointment). Consider some 20th Century numbers: USSR, 1917-87—62 million mass murders; China (PRC) 1949-87—35 million mass murders; Germany, 1933-1945—21 million mass murders, etc., etc.
Quote:
MM: Possibly the greatest advance in the organization of human civilization was the secular US constitution and Bill of Rights that recognized the inherent right of all to happiness and equal treatment under the law - and the all-important notion of separation of the affairs of church and state.
Well, I think that MM misses the art and subtly of the Founding Fathers, all deists and/or theists, certainly no atheists. The Preamble of the Constitution notes that the Constitution was established to, among other things, “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

Blessings of Liberty? What did the deists/theists Founding Fathers have in mind? Any other documents that might give us a clue? Yep! The Declaration, where the Founders noted that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And it was with the Constitution that these Rights, endowed by our Creator, were secured.

There’s a new book that some of the more fanatical atheists here may want to consider reading—American Gospel : God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation , by historian and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. Meacham, as noted in the Amazon Review:
Quote:
. . . examines over 200 years of American history in its quest to prove the idea of religious tolerance, along with the separation of church and state, is "perhaps the most brilliant American success." Meacham's principal focus is on the founding fathers, and his insights into the religious leanings of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Co. present a new way of considering the government they created….

Meacham also argues for the presence of a public religion, as exemplified by the national motto, "In God We Trust," and other religious statements that can be found on currency, in governmental papers and in politicians' speeches.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 01:15 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Fred sed,
Quote:
Consider some 20th Century numbers: USSR, 1917-87—62 million mass murders; China (PRC) 1949-87—35 million mass murders; Germany, 1933-1945—21 million mass murders, etc., etc.
Actually these serve well to illustrate my point - that strong, emotionally held belief systems can completely take over the minds of their followers - demanding unquestioned obedience to a god-like leader and the violent destruction of non-believers. I don't care whether you call it National Socialism, State Communism or the latest Christian Crusades, like Bush's in Iraq - the emotional forces that create these monsters of humanity arise in the same brain centers and can have the same effect, as this study vividly shows. The results are different only by circumstance and the effectiveness of the killing weapons available, not by the nature of the belief system or its followers.

I guess you think that because your God is the symbol of Christianity that the Crusades and Inquisition never occured and that the Southern Christian churches that defended slavery by quoting scripture and sent the Confederate soldiers off to war with their blessings were really the good guys, your god's messengers on earth.

If the Constitution and Bill of Rights were supposed to enshrine the place of your Christian god in our government, as you claim, it's strange that there is no simple, straightforward statement to that effect anywhere to be found. Why is there no simple unambiguous statement that says that we are a Christian nation - to be guided by Christ's teachings. Why are the Ten Commandments nowhere to be found in those documents? That would have been very simple to include. This in a document that was worried over and edited carefully to cover all imagined possibilities for misunderstanding. Instead, we get token mention of some ambiguous "creator" without any apparent Constitutional function.

BTW, if our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were endowed by your creator (which apparently gives him - or you - the right to say how we can enjoy them) - why did humanity have to wait 20,000 years or so for human society to organize itself well enough and wisely enough to actually protect those god-given rights? Why do we need this man-made constitution at all? Wouldn't your all-powerful god have secured those inalienable rights for us - right along with dominion over the beasts and flowers of the field? Maybe he just forgot? Well, even then he forgot to give them to negroes and women, so maybe I shouldn't complain.

In any case, the founders' purpose was not to outlaw religion. It was to keep it in the personal domain - and out of the realm of government. The establishment clause states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", which assured that government could not sponsor or favor any state religion. The deists and theists there certainly accepted that or would have insisted on some specific wording to the contrary.

Other Christian Dominionists like you are doing their best to re-write our nation's history and change the fundemantal nature of the Constitution - to turn us into a theocracy.

I'm not so interested in that as I am in the vivid example your post provides of the irrationality that can be caused by such strong mind infections. I would remind anyone reading this that your belief system is so strong that I'm sure you actually believe these farcical re-interpretations of history - I don't think you are being deceptive. They must provide you with warm feelings of satisfaction for the sense of protection they offer your beliefs. Do you feel the power of god in your heart when you attack us immoral atheists?

The war has always been between strong, emotionally held belief systems that take over people's minds, like yours - and scientific rationality. It is not between Nazis or Communists or atheists - and Dominionist Christians - as you would prefer to characterize it. All those, except atheism which is a non-belief, are actually just different versions of the same sickness. Try another frame, Fred.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 3rd, 2006 at 01:29 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 07:29 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
MM: Instead, we get token mention of some ambiguous "creator" without any apparent Constitutional function.
“Token?” “Ambiguous?” As ambiguous as the fireworks we’ll see and hear tomorrow, July 4th, the day our Declaration of Independence was signed by the Founders? The Declaration unambiguously states that it is “self-evident” that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and that to “secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

And sure enough, the Preamble of the Constitution notes that the Constitution was established to, among other things, “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”


Quote:
MM: BTW, if our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were endowed by your creator (which apparently gives him - or you - the right to say how we can enjoy them) - why did humanity have to wait 20,000 years or so for human society to organize itself well enough and wisely enough to actually protect those god-given rights? Why do we need this man-made constitution at all?
It’s called freewill, choice, in this case of a people rather than just of an individual . . . and let’s face it, it does seem to take time for human enlightenment to evolve . . . or emerge, or be selected, or self-organize, or all the above.

BTW, regarding the abolition of slavery, as noted in Wiki, “Abolitionism had a strong religious base including Quakers, and (among Yankees) people converted by the revivalistic fervor of the Second Great Awakening in the North in the 1830s”; and also I’m not a born and raised “Southerner,” so my ancestors weren’t the ones, as MM seems to be insinuating, albeit a silly insinuation, that “defended slavery by quoting scripture and sent the Confederate soldiers off to war with their blessings.”

Happy 4th of July everyone.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 09:13 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
Yep, me too Tom—freewill, choice, and responsibility, moral or otherwise.
Yes, you must have seen my point and your worry caused you to send us off on this sidetrack again. I'll accept that as a victory.

You already know that when I say 'wanted' I mean that your brain's current state caused you to make that choice. There's nothing free about will if it is dependent on the state of the brain. And the experiments I cited prove that it is dependent on the state of the brain. You even agreed that will is dependent on the brain.

I stand by my simplified characterization of MMs hypothesis.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 10:22 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
TomJ: Yes, you must have seen my point and your worry caused you to send us off on this sidetrack again. I'll accept that as a victory.
Damn, it looks like Tom has proven the T&M repressor module/emotional payoff hypothesis—Tom receives an emotional payoff for an imagined “victory,” and then, apparently, his repression module is repressing any reality/truth that might jeopardize that emotional payoff. Yep Tom, you and MM win—congratulations, and happy July 4th.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 12:10 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Fred, You seem to have avoided a follow-up on the side-track you diverted us to in your efforts to avoid justifying your religious view of downward causation.

Here's a reminder:

If the Constitution and Bill of Rights were supposed to enshrine a place for your Christian god in our government, as you claim, it's strange that there is no simple, straightforward statement to that effect anywhere to be found.

Why is there no simple unambiguous statement that says that we are a Christian nation - to be guided by Christ's teachings. Why are the Ten Commandments nowhere to be found in those documents - nor even a mention of them? Certainly, they would have been very simple to include, if that was in any way the founders' intention. This in a document that was worried over and edited carefully to cover all imagined possibilities for misunderstanding. Instead, we get token mention of some ambiguous "creator" - and then only in the Declaration, a lofty statement of moral justification for separation from England, in no way a document meant to describe the organization or operating principles of a new government.

BTW, if our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were endowed by your creator (which apparently gives him - or you - the right to say how we can enjoy them) - why did humanity have to wait 20,000 years or so for human society to organize itself well enough and wisely enough to actually recognize and attempt to protect those god-given rights?

You say,
Quote:
It’s called freewill, choice, in this case of a people rather than just of an individual . . . and let’s face it, it does seem to take time for human enlightenment to evolve . . . or emerge, or be selected, or self-organize, or all the above.
So, your omnipotent god controls everything that happens in the universe, and everything that ever happened - except when he doesn't, or didn't. I get it. But, I'm confused. Why should human enlightenment take time to evolve or emerge if we were made in God's image, anyway?

Please explain why we need this man-made constitution at all. Wouldn't your all-powerful god have secured those inalienable rights for us - right along with dominion over the beasts and flowers of the field? Inalienable means -
Quote:
inviolable, unassailable, basic, natural; see absolute 1, inherent.
Maybe he just forgot to make those inalienable rights inalienable? Well, even when he made them inalienable for white males in the USA he forgot to give them to negroes and women, so maybe I shouldn't complain.

In any case, the founders' purpose was not to outlaw religion. It was to keep it in the personal domain - and out of the realm of government. The establishment clause states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", which assured that government could not sponsor or favor any state religion. The deists and theists there certainly accepted that or would have insisted on some specific wording to the contrary. You said,
Quote:
And sure enough, the Preamble of the Constitution notes that the Constitution was established to, among other things, “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”
Well, that cinches it I guess. There must have been something I missed in the Federalist Papers where they decided that we'd be a Christian nation by ambiguous innuendo only - so that only a chosen few, like you, would know about it - and could tell us how to live our lives.

Other Christian Dominionists like you are doing their best to re-write our nation's history and change the fundemantal nature of the US Constitution and our government - to turn us into a theocracy. For our entertainment value, let's see a real objective. scientific justification for your Dominionist premise - the kind that only rational unemotional intellects like yours can appreciate.

Please tell us again as clearly as possible, why it is that we are really supposed to be a Christian nation according to the wishes of the founders, but we just don't know it yet.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 3rd, 2006 at 02:11 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 02:23 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
MM: If the Constitution and Bill of Rights were supposed to enshrine a place for your Christian god in our government, as you claim….
Of course I never made such claims. But MM’s false and bizarre accusation here (along with many others here and in various other of her posts) does suggest that her so-called hypothesis—that we’re “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it”—is pretty much how she herself operates and therefore sees everyone else.

So MM has convinced me: MM’s hypothesis apparently is true for MM herself b/c she herself apparently is driven just by emotion to do whatever she does, driven only to seek an emotional payoff for whatever she does, and reality/truth rarely, if ever, enter into her “thought” processes and/or behavior. You win MM. Pleasant dreams, and have a lovely July 4th.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Unread July 3rd, 2006, 03:03 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

C'mon Fred, Is that the best you can do? Sort of an addled version of "Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you?"

You're right about the emotions thing, though. The difference between us is which emotional centers have the most influence over our behavior decisions. And, how much each of us is willing to harness our intellect toward affirming our hardened beliefs - vs. our respective willingness to be open to new knowledge and information that might provide better explanations of human behavior - and discuss those objectively.

Your posts are like a broken record - repeating one view, a religious one - in all its possible permutations - supporting a single vacuous and scientifically unsupportable conclusion, for months on end. Happy 4th to you too - and your downward causation.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 3rd, 2006 at 03:14 PM.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 10:46 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright © 1995-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.