“Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.”

  • Letter to Patricia Warrick (May 17, 1978), published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977-1979 (1993)


My name is Benjamin David Steele.  I’m in my 30s and I work for the local city government (in a rather insignificant role).  I live in Iowa City which is the home of the University of Iowa (i.e., the Hawkeyes).  It’s also the home of the oldest writers workshop in the world.  So, even though this city is surrounded by fields of corn and soy, many famous writers have lived here.  Iowa City was even named as the third literary city in the world, not that means much of anything I suppose.  The real money in this town comes from the University hospital which I’ve heard is one of the best, but fortunately I haven’t so far had much use for it.

I’ve lived in a number of places around the US and went to highschool in South Carolina, but I like this town more than any other.  I grew up here when younger and moved back after highschool.  It very much feels like home to me and my life here is going well.  I’ve got a good job, a nice apartment, two lovely kitties to keep me company.  I also have friends and family living in the area which is especially nice.

I spend most of my time reading and writing.  I work as a parking ramp cashier which means, when not dealing with people, I get a lot of reading done.  At home, I spend a fair amount of time researching things online and writing in this here blog.


Personal and philosophical writings focused on human nature and experience from psychology to pop culture, from religion to politics.  I usually take everything too seriously, but occasionally I get in silly moods and my weird sense of humor shows.

I used to journal constantly for about a decade, but blogging has taken the place of that more private format.  My journals these days are mostly just where I keep notes for potential blog posts.  Even so, my blogging is far different than my former journalling.  I take my blog more seriously and my writing here is slightly more formal.  The biggest difference, however, is the possibility of discussion.  I became obsessed with the internet through discussion forums and my blogging grew out of that.

I must admit that it sometimes feels kind of lonely here in my blog because I greatly enjoy a good discussion.  Too few people take the time to comment and even fewer return to comment a second time.  *hint, hint*  I welcome almost anyone to comment on my posts here.  I even will graciously accept criticisms as long as they’re presented with a minimal amount of politeness.  I generally would rather not argue.

I used to have a blog on gaia.com which is a nice place.  It attracts a lot of alternative types: new agers, political activists, environmentalists, integral theorists, etc.  I originally started blogging there because of the large community of integral types hanging out there, but after a while the place felt too confining.  I prefer this blog which is unattached to any particular group.

By the way, my blog title ‘Marmalade’ was the name of my childhood cat and yes my icon is a picture of him.  I have very fond memories of Marmalade and so I use him as my online identity.


Some of my favorite topics: film noir and neo-noir, integral theory, comparative mythology, astrotheology, symbolism, religion and spirituality in general, Gnosticism and early Christianity in particular, mysticism of any tradition, and most aspects of psychology (I’m a major fan of anything Jungian such as archetypes and MBTI, but I have a particularly wide-ranging curiosity about all of the theories and research on personality); I’m attracted to anything to do with what it means to be human and any system of ideas that has been a part of the historical development of humanity; I have a very serious interest in all aspects of the human phenomena of storytelling from fiction writing (especially genre fiction and flash fiction which I sometimes enjoy writing myself) and narratology to folklore and paranormal claims; I have a minimal interest in such things as history, politics, and science to the extent they relate to the experience of being human.  My interests are fairly wide which span from New Age woo (I was raised in New Thought Christianity, the Unity church to be specific) to Horror fiction (mostly of the weird and metaphysical variety).  In more of the New Age woo category, I’m interested in alternative medicine (connected to my having gone to massage school) which includes energy healing and the power of the mind (in particular it’s connection to science), and related to this I’m very curious about such things as chakras and other similar spiritual ideas like Qabala.  I’ve been quite fascinated with the meaning of the heart across many cultures with a particular interest in the Hindu notion of the secret heart.  These favorite topics are grounded in my own personal search for meaning and so incorporates my own personal experiences from meditation to psychedelics.

Some favorite topics that haven’t come up much or at all in my blog (for whatever reason): nature and local history.  I’ve always loved nature since a child as I was always getting scratched up and muddy and always saving some injured creature.  In my 20s, I developed an interest in nature identification guides and wilderness survival guides.  I was attracted to the idea of living in nature which was influenced by the writings of Thoreau and Tom Brown, but this romantic notion first began with the earlier influences of Grizzly Adams, Gentle Ben, Hatchet, and My Side of the Mountain.  My interest in nature and local history are intimately connected as both have to do with the place one lives in and one’s sense of being in a particular place.  It amazes me to consider all that came before me.  The town I live in (Iowa City) has a fairly interesting history that has been fairly well recorded.  I’ll have to write about these topics in my blog sometime.

Some nonfiction writers that interest me and/or have influenced me: Carl Jung, Marie Louise von Franz, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Robert Moss, Arnold Mindell, Lewis Hyde, Marina Warner, Anthony Stevens, Ken Wilber, Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock), Robert M. Price, Tom Harpur, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Richard Tarnas, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallee, John Keel, George P. Hansen, Patrick Harpur, Victoria Nelson, Eric G. Wilson, John C. Lilly, Robert Anton Wilson, Terrence McKenna, Paul Shepard, Derrick Jensen, Henry David Thoreau, Jiddu Krishnamurti (and U.G. Krishnamurti to a lesser degree).

Some fiction writers I’ve enjoyed: Franz Kafka, Bruno Schultz, Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Hesse, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Nikos Kazantzakis, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin, Angela Carter, Barry Yourgrau, Thomas Ligotti, Thomas Wiloch, Quentin S. Crisp, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Bach, and Douglas Adams.  To put them in a different category, my favorite graphic novelists: Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore.

In particular, a few books had a powerful impact on my tender young psyche during highschool (and the year following when I was making difficult decisions): Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah, A Course In Miracles, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.  I won’t argue about the merit of these books and most of them I haven’t read again since then, but I can’t doubt their impact.  All of these books deal with the desire for independence and for relationships, and a few of them aren’t exactly happy books (for example, Jude the Obscure has to be most laboriously depressing book I’ve ever read and yet I devoured it at the time).  On the other hand, some of these books are extremely idealistic.  I read other books during this period (such as Douglass Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but for whatever reason those other books don’t stand out as clearly in my mind.

As another powerful impact, I should add that from a young age I read many non-fiction and fiction books about the paranormal.  After first learning to read, the first books I remember reading were about ghosts.  I had a ghost experience as a child, but I’m not sure if my interest in ghosts came before or after this experience.  Anyways, my interest in the paranormal started very early.  I wish I could remember the specific books I read at the time, but alas memory fails me.

Since I’m making lists, I’ll add some other categories.

Some favorite movies: The Fountain, What Dreams May Come, A Scanner Darkly, The Mothman Prophecies, Naked Lunch, Dark City, MirrorMask, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, X-Men, The Lord of the Rings, 12 Monkeys, The Truman Show, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Thin Red Line, Dogma, Bruce Almighty, Dancer in the Dark, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Moulin Rouge, Grease, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Other Strange Tales, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Blade Runner, Kung Fu Hustle, The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, Donnie Darko, The Sixth Sense, A.I., The Adam’s Family, Sin City, Shawshank Redemption, A River Runs Through It, The Fifth Element, Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Office Space, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats, Gladiator, Jacob’s Ladder, Vanilla Sky, Waking Life, The Science of Sleep, Spirited Away, Angels in America, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead, Dead Poets Society, Earthsea, Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall, Dances with Wolves, Brother Sun Sister Moon, Across the Universe, Airplane!, Altered States, Beautiful Boxer, Being John Malkovich, Coraline, Cemetery Man, Dune, Children of Dune, Dark Kingdom, Elf, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Stranger Than Fiction, Gabriel, Ghost in the Shell, The Golden Compass, Hellboy, Hook, I Am the Cheese, I Robot, In the Realms of the Unreal, Leaving Las Vegas, Little Shop of Horrors, Love Liza, Minority Report, The Mists of Avalon, Monster, My Own Private Idaho, The Nines, Ordinary People, Pan’s Labrynth, Sling Blade, Renaissance, Southland Tales, Stand By Me, Xanadu, Youth Without Youth, Big Fish, Billy Elliot, A Boy and His Dog, The Education of Little Tree, Bridge to Terabithia, Interview with the Vampire, Lathe of Heaven, Peggy Sue Got Married, Punch-Drunk Love, Repo Man. Songcatcher, Wristcutters: A Love Story, City of Lost Children, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Little Prince.

Some tv shows I like: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Seinfeld, The 4400, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Next Generation, Eerie Indiana, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Angel, Carnivale, Dead Like Me, The Dresden Files, The Simpsons, Futurama, Jericho, Jeremiah, Kyle XY, Lost, My So-Called Life, Pushing Daisies, Six Feet Under, Supernatural, Surface, The Tick, True Blood, The X-Files, Eureka, Fullmetal Alchemist, Malcolm in the Middle, The Prisoner, Psych, Red Dwarf, Smallville, Stargate, Taken, Wonderfalls, American Gothic, Medium, Journeyman, The Pretender, Legend of the Seeker, The Office, My Name is Earl, John Doe, Lie To Me, Chuck, King of the Hill, Cover Me, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Life, Dilbert, Dollhouse, South Park, Raines, Kings,  Moonlight, Pushing Daisies, The Sarah Silverman Program, Serial Experiments Lain.

Some music I listen to: This is just a placeholder right now, but I’ll get back to it eventually.

106 thoughts on “About

  1. Odd question I know, but did you just recently injure your right knee and half way up your thigh on the front side?

    Take it easy. I enjoy your commentaries.

    • Nope. I haven’t had any injuries of late. The only thing a bit out of order is my spine, but no more than usual. I sure hope I don’t hurt my knee because a knee is a nice thing to keep in working order.

      Ya know, I’ve been meaning to do something with this ‘About’ page. Thanks for reminding me.

      • Good to hear it. Sometimes I feel these twinges. Sometimes they’re people’s pain and other times just a way to get me to talk to people. Guess I’ll see where it goes.

        • Nothing wrong with following and speaking one’s hunches. It does no harm, and it can even be helpful sometimes. It’s all good.

  2. I just have to talk. Big-up to you, keeping the society of the inquisitive fire burning so long. You been into this a long time and I admire that.
    I am just 20 and considering your dedication, I may safely say you ahead man. I just wish I continued my childhood passion till now without that hiatus but well that’s how it is, no use wailing over spilt milk.
    I wonder though if you are not a loner. It just is mostly what happens to guys in the society

    • Hello

      What hiatus did you have? Have you been having too much fun? Socializing too much? Or just keeping busy with school and/or work?

      If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll share my secret.

      Be born to a father who is very intellectual and to a mother who passed on her trait of obsessive thinking. Try to inherit an introverted and depressive personality from one or both sides of the family.

      Become severely depressed and begin thinking too much around highschool. Foster a sense of being different and detached from other people. Then, hit rockbottom sometime after highschool and drop out of college. Spend the next decade or so compulsively looking for the meaning of life. Live in constant despair and doubt. Feel your life slipping away and endlessly dwell on your fear of failure.

      Spend all of your time and money in your studies in a pathetically desparate hope for some kind of answer, any kind of answer. Rant at God and then realize God isn’t there or doesn’t care. Give up a thousand times, but realize your idealism always somehow manages to keep you from entirely sinking into nihilism.

      Hit rockbottom again in your late 20s. Fall in love and have your heart tragically broken. Meditate deeply for a time and get completely lost in yourself. Come to a deep sense of truth that leaves you more bewildered than you were before.

      Last but not least, have as little social life as possible. But maintain at least one friendship with another person who shares both depression and intellectual curiosity.

      It’s pretty simple. 🙂

        • Then come to the realization that it is all being. All of life, all experiences, all emotions.

          To come to the centrality of beingness is to learn to accept. Fear, despair and other such things aren’t inherently negative. We judge them negative. Those who seek to deny them are trapped in those very same emotions. Just being means being who you are and being in what you experience. In denying fear, you unconsciously fear fear. In denying despair, you unconsciously despair of despair.

          The only other choice is just to be, take it as it comes, and go with the flow.

          I started learning this truth maybe around my 20s, although I suppose it began to take root in my younger years when I was raised in the New Thought/New Age traditions of Science of Mind and Unity Church. The insight, however, is still maturing and developing. Hopefully, I’ll finally get it fully and completely by the tme I’m 100.

          • I find it interesting how your parents practiced New Thought/New Age traditions of Science of Mind and Unity and are now so conservative. I’m not religious, but in the past for reasons for wanting to belong to a community, I visited these churches because they are typically open minded and all inclusive. It just goes to show how aging brings out the fear in us if we let.

          • It’s because of my parents that my view of conservatism and liberalism is a bit more complex and nuanced than the mainstream conventional understanding.

            My parents have, like many people do, become more conservative with age. However, at the same time, my dad at least has become more questioning of his assumptions about what he thought he knew about conservatism, partly because of my constantly questioning and bringing up alternative views.

            Still, my parents have never been radical right-wingers.

            My mom is more of an old school conservative who is focused more on issues of public good through the lense of social conservative moral order. For example, she has worked in and supports public schools. My dad claims that my mom used to even support abortion, but she denies it now.

            My dad is a bit more mixed non-standard conservative. One of his conservative friends in South Carolina would half-jokingly call him a “secret liberal”, but conservative and liberal in the Deep South means something entirely different than it does for the average American. I sometimes think my dad isn’t much of a conservative or not a consistent one.

            In different life circumstances, I could easily imagine my dad being a liberal. The same goes for me in the opposite way. My dad has a strong streak of liberalism as I have with conservatism. Events and experiences bring out, exaggerate or suppress various aspects of our personalities and potentials in our psychologies. I know that, if I had remained in the Deep South and had remained isolated from alternative views, I would likely have become more conservative. Many of the things I disagree with my dad now are things I didn’t know enough at the time to disagree about.

            The odd mix of my dad comes from his parents.

            His father, my grandfather, was born in New England. He became a Methodist minister simply because it was the only way for him to avoid a career he didn’t want to go in, but he always liked people and so ministry fit him. Despite becoming a minister in a small Indiana town, his beliefs never fit into mainstream Christianity and he read widely in books about world religions and alternative spirituality, including positive thinking and prosperity gospel type stuff.

            His mother, my grandmother, was born in the Deep Deep South. She was raised Baptist, but became Methodist when they married. After divorce, she almost randomly moved to the Bay Area where my dad visited her when he was still a young adult in school. She eventually began dabbling in New Thought/New Age, but my dad says she never showed any such inclination prior to moving out there. It was through my grandmother that my parents themselves entered their liberal spirituality/religious phase, and hence raised me to be a good liberal.

            It is odd that it took my Southern/Midwestern family to experience the West Coast before learning of New Thought Christianity. I was raised mostly in Unity Church. There are plenty of Unity Churches in the Midwest and the South, as there should be. The Unity Church has its central location in Missouri which is a state including influences from both the Midwest and the South.

            The two founders of the church, a married couple, were both Midwesterners. The husband from the Upper Midwest, Minnesota, and the wife from Eastern Midwest, Ohio (where I was born). He spent much of his life, like a typical radical Northerner, studying Transcendalism, spiritualism, Eastern religions, and metaphysics. She was raised a Methodist and later rejected its puritanical theology. After each moved around some, they oddly met for the first time in Texas and eventually settled down in Missouri where she had previously spent some time. And so that is how New Thought began in Missouri, a state like Kansas that was once known for much more radical thinking in the past.

            It’s more strange that entire radically liberal and progressive states can become conservatively right-wing than it is that my parents went through a liberal phase before becoming conservatives.

            Interestingly, it had been early Methodist circuit riders, along with Baptist preachers, from the North who helped turn the South into the religious place it is today (the South used to be one of the least religious places in the colonies and in the early US). That is the birth of Southern Evangelicalism. This is how the puritanical tradition of the Puritans in Yankeedom became the puritanical tradition of the Southern Evangelicals in Appalachia and Deep South and later Southern California.

            My grandmother was in good company in going to the West Coast. Many Southerners and Southern Midwesterners migrated to California. The Okies are the most famous, but the migration happened in the decades before and after the Dust Bowl. My mom’s Uncle and family (of Southern Indiana) went to Southern California. Before my grandmother went, her uncle and aunt (from Texas) had preceded her to Southern California.

            It was quite likely Southern Midwesterners from Missouri (and related states) that originally brought New Thought (and spiritualism) to California, along with bring Southern Evangelicalism.

            The US is a mixed up place with plenty of mixed up people.

          • By the way, I didn’t mean to discount your comment about fear. The wide variety of research I’ve looked at, not to mention personal observation, does seem to strongly support the correlation between conservatism and fear (along with disgust in general).

            Many conservatives would take offense at this or even deny it, but they basically admit to it being true. They will, for example, accuse liberals of being naive and optimistic/idealistic which is to say not having enough fear.

            There is something to acknowledging the value of fear. There are real things to be afraid of in the world. Fear is simply an instinctual response felt as an emotion. We need to take it for what it is, instead of projecting it outward as a paranoid fantasy.

            The trick is to not be ruled by fear. That is where liberalism comes in. Going beyond fear’s boundary. Maybe it is naive, but there is also a courageousness in exploration of the unknown. Besides, curiosity has its own rewards, beyond mere results. To seek to know the world is simply a human impulse. Curiosity is as much a part of us as is fear.

            The dangers of fear, however, do appear greater than the risks of curiosity. It’s easy to get people to fear. Even without trying, most people become more fearful as they age. Even liberals will respond to fear when confronted with fear-mongering and hence become more conservative in what they support. Curiosity is much trickier to encourage, support and maintain.

  3. Yea, I have a blog; monarc7. Maybe u were lucky to have parents to give you this.

    My story: Love of knowledge led me from conception to teach myself how to survive a traumatic birth day, 12th July 1989.

    Thinking back to childhood is a Gideonite trial for me cos the wall of late childhood is a ballerblocker. Though some holes are punctured from the inside by the sheer ardor of what lies beyond it coupled with my present desire for them, those happy moments. So a few peeks is mostly what I get. Its mostly an experiment to find myself at my happiest and find who I am. If it works, fair.

    What is that wall? Papa left the family and the psych was too much. I always was an ugly duckling but this renderred me bestial, maybe morlock-like. Searched for consolation, something to hold and what I got was hip hop; dunked myself and acquired gills to live in that new environment. I loved the thought-provoking types and with my desire for more it was perfect bonding.

    I always found a home in God’s kingdom so I prayed a lot. My pops pushed me to learn but I thought different. Books ain’t Athena’s only tool, every medium was and still my mind. I argued a lot, they said I was a know-it-all and disrespectful so trying to fit in was the cause of my hiatus, I tried so hard to be like them but I uncannily stayed out and I believed when it was said that I am bad.

    In Ghana, we say Senior secondary school not high school. There, depression, as everyone just loved to hate cos of my complex, contrary nature. Only two understanding boys were my saviors. They kept me company all the time and being dreamers alike we got on well. We called ourselves the barbarians and thinkin back, I see it was apt as we never fit in not that we were destructive.

    This is starting to look like an almanac so let me just say I found myself in my most depressed state around say 17 and here I am. Tryin to be what others wanted was my problem. Meanwhile I harboured my dreams and wanted to be a rich man so I could save the world. With enlightenment though, I found that saving the world would mean bringing it to its ideal state and finding that is daunting so that dream was just a fantasy because finding the ideal is top priority and playing this game we got going here is worthless and hypocritical.

    • So, what is traumatic about the birth day 12th July 1989? That does make you still fairly young.

      I was completely lost at that age. It was one of the darkest times of my life and I barely got out alive. I had no idea where life would lead me. I was studying and searching for answers, but I was far from hopeful of finding an answer. I had no idea that more than a decade later I’d still be looking. If I knew then what I know now, I don’t know if I’d follow the same path.

      I say good luck with your life. Some people claim it’s the only one we get. Do what you can. Do what you feel you must do. Life is tough. You muddle your way through. Then one day you die. You can’t know where any of it will lead and you’ll never see any of it coming.

  4. I get that a lot. I say I’m 20 and people are amazed. They say I’m older than my age, I think its as a result of -like you- a recreation of contemplation. Everything stimulates thought. I can’t remember when my mind was ever idle. Einstein too made sure of that; ‘I am merely inquisitive’.

    Well medical personnel told my mom we wouldn’t make it. The doc too was shocked to find me still alive after caesarean. Why? I don’t know and the doc is dead now so…

    I say if it weren’t for this pursuit of wisdom, my discovery of vanity woulda been my insanity with suicide the finality. I dream of something more. Jesus is an object of my admiration but I just can’t get to holding the present God. I doubt men have what is the correct account and that men haven’t distorted it. Still I keep on this sojourn to that Solomon’s temple from where I hear wisdom calling.

    I know its a long road but honestly I never liked anything less than challenging to my mind. It is going to be hard but my desire is all that matters

    • I’d be interested to hear about your views on Christianity or on Jesus.

      I’m more an agnostic than anything, but still very spiritual. I write about Christianity quite a bit. I must admit I’m highly critical of mainstream Christianity which probably is because I was raised in alternative Christianity. I do sense some kind of truth in Christianity, but I’m more drawn to a Gnostic vision.

      Have you studied Gnosticism and early Christianity much?

  5. I’m pretty blank on that. I’m behind in the movement so I scour everywhere almost concurrently to upgrade myself. I will come around to it.

    Actually, based on what I’m seeing now, Christianity has had too much syncretism. I find Christianity to be all or nothing. People mix n match and try to use the Christian principles to justify their own very
    disparate cultures.

    Courtesy of documentaries, I know a lot of fusion has occurred through time. I have to get down on this and find some more info.

    • We might disagree about Christianity.

      From my studies, a few things have become clear to me. Christianity was extremely syncretistic right from the start mainly because the Hellenistic culture and the Roman Empire were syncretistic. The reason for this syncretism is because early Christians were a diverse group.

      The Roman Empire was filled with people from the entire known world and from a diversity of religions. There were even Buddhists and and Hindu in Rome. There may even have been a Buddhist monastery near where Jesus preached. Modern Christianity resembles early Christianity in one single fact and that is cultural diversity.

      Gnostics were the first commentators on the New Testament scriptures and they were among the most influential members of the early Catholic church, and eventually started churches of their own that competed with Catholicism. The most widespread Christian tradition was Manichaeism which was extremely syncretistic. Augustine, for example, spent about 10 yrs as a Manichaean before converting to Christianity and much of his theology is flavored with Manichaean thought.. Many Christians also came from various Greco-Roman religions and introduced Hellenistic ideas into Christianity. In particular Stoicism was influential and Romans couldn’t even tell the Stoics and Christians apart.

      Some were originally Jews or still considered themselves Jews. The Alexandrian Jews were trained in Hellenistic thought and were the biggest influence on early Christians. Many of the Church Fathers were classically educated. Early Christians were converted from many other religions.

      Emperor Constantine used his power to limit the inherent diversity of the first few centuries of Christian tradition. However, he also further syncretised Roman state religion into Christianity thus forming Roman Catholicism. Even after converting to Christianity, Constantine kept sun worship as the state religion and continued worshipping the sun himself.

      He apparently didn’t see much difference between the two. He may not have been entirely wrong considering that the Roman Empire and Christianity began practically at the same time and developed together. Also, it was common practice for early Christians to pray facing East, the direction of the rising sun.

      To me, there is no all or nothing Christianity. Original Christianity was destroyed long ago (mostly by other Christians). We can only guess how the first Christains practiced. What is absolutely clear is that Christianity of today has little resemblance to Christianity of the first century.

      Just my opinion based on my studies.

  6. Actually, we don’t disagree. The syncretism has been and become even more profound with time. I learned about some modification that was done when the missionaries came to Africa.

    I, though born catholic -wouldn’t say still am- was always skeptical of the denomination and the religion in general. Mainly, this is due to many cartoons I watched in my youth concerning the medieval days, the enlightenment with esp the inquisition.

    I saw the Christians doing a lot contrary to the teachings of their leader and attempting to justify them with the teachings again but bent in their favor.

    All or nothing has to do with following the original without addition or subtraction. Like Buddhism, Taoism, a lot of this has occurred and the teachers in the end are lost as their words suffer so much warp. Different opinions plus arrogance, ‘I know it all’ make for this.

    I read your post showing ideas and their sources, the interconnections and I must say some I haven’t even heard of. But the christian development is a pretty curious one. Knowing that syncretism has been and still is, I did not imagine the initial scale at all, it was large.

    Anyway, these religions are similar in their syncretic development. It is across the board which is evident in the multiple branches in each.

    • I think understand your position.

      I’m very interested in early Christianity and the scholarship about what was original to Christianity. The problem with the all or nothing attitude is that it might leave you wiith nothing, but maybe nothing is better than accepting a watered down version. There is no way to be absolutely clear about what was original (the hypothetical ‘all’).

      But if you read my post about interconnections of ideas, then you know my general viewpoint. I see a tradition of Gnostic/Christian ideas running through Western history. I do sense there is something true to Christianity, but I feel reservations about it in that beyond basic religious platitudes I don’t precisely know what that truth is. I study it enough that Christian ideals and ideas are apart of my sense of identity.

      In case you’re interested, I just wrote a new blog post about Christianity:


  7. The all or nothing is such that you eliminate the intermediaries ie. the preachers and their likely syncretism. You take the potent product and you find the truth yourself. It’s ok though to be under their wing for sometime but it means you have to be a skeptic so you don’t take it as certainty. Truth be told, that ‘all’ is utterly hypothetical or fantastic cos finding it is almost impossible.

    This position resonates with Eastern philosophy’s ‘find your own truth’. My problem with Christians is they claim to be following Christ but they rather follow middlemen. But wait, that will be an unfair indictment so I will group them based on ignorance of likely impurity and potential for truth-seeking; the permutations bring out the group characteristics.

    The most irritating group is the knowing and no potential because they are most likely the bigots.

    What do you think?

  8. Ah, yes, those darn intermediaries. Christianity would be a much more interesting religion if most Christians studied the Bible and Biblical scholarship for themselves.

    What do I think?

    I trust my own sense of truth. If you can’t trust your own sense of truth, then how else can you determine whether any particular belief or scripture is true? You can’t, but that never stopped anyone.

    In terms of Christianity, I’m drawn to Gnosticism. I’m attracted to Valentinian Gnosticism and Marcion’s New Testament (the first New Testament in fact) interests me greatly. I like the Gnostics because they were truth-seekers. I can’t say I agree with all of their beliefs, but as a truth-seeker myself I support their vision of religion as based on truth rather than submission to dogmatic human authority.

    So, in general, I’m of a mystic persuasion. I’ve had spiritual experiences that felt real to me. I don’t know what to make of these experiences, but they’re at least a starting point.

    Besides studying Gnostic scriptures and the scholarship about them, there are four things that influenced my sense of Christianity. I was raised in New Thought Christianity (Unity church). I read A Course In Miracles in highschool. I’ve read quite a bit of Jung’s writings on Gnosticism. Last but not least, Philip K. Dick gave me the best understanding of Gnosticism I’ve ever come across.

  9. To me, your upbringing was pretty beneficial. Those authors you often refer to eg. Ligotti, PKD were serious about the search for truth too.

    Eastern philosophy has always been my interest maybe cos I found Siddartha at an early age. Finding his material is just the problem now. I am currently into the Tao te Ching while studying various other works mostly non-spiritual like Homer, Sappho. I’m doing some western too eg. Russell, Thoreau.

    Concurrent acquisition of knowledge has its drawbacks like the slow pace on each but on the whole, I think I’m ok with the progress. Maybe I’m obsessed but its cool.

    Walden is cool and everything but I struggle with the sociocultural aspects esp when they are used as metaphors. The work too is extremely poetic so care is warranted.

    Right now I have to get Buddha’s work but I learned that too has watered down versions so I’m pretty careful.

    • I assume you’re referring to Hesse’s Siddhartha, correct? I came across Siddhartha in highschool and it was the first Hesse book I read. I loved it. I read some other Hesse, but that one sticks with me the most. Around that same time, I also read Thoreau’s Walden. The combination of those two books can have quite the impact on a young mind.

      I hadn’t read Walden in a long time. I don’t remember having any trouble with any sociocultural aspects. I should read it again sometime. Quite possibly my most favorite quote comes from Walden:

      “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

      Now, there is idealism for you. I’ve had the last half of that quote memorized for more than a decade.

      I’ve read at least some of the Tao te Ching, but it’s been a while. Both Jung and PKD were into Taoism. I just finished PKD’s The Man in the High Castle which has a fair amount of Asian philosophy in it. It was rather interesting as he was connecting Eastern ideas with Gnostic/Christian ideas.

      Concurrent acquisition? I highly recommend it. It may not be quick, but the results are highly satisfying. I like reading fiction and non-fiction concurrently. This method works particularly well for writers such as PKD, Ligotti, and Burroughs who have written both fiction and non-fiction.

      And obsession? You are a man after my own tastes. Obsession makes the world go round… or at least makes my world go round.

      Buddhism… I have some interest in it. I’ve never studied Buddhism to any great degree. Just read some books here and there. Mostly my interest in Buddhism was because I had a friend interested in it and also I used to have a regular meditation practice.

      I always think of Buddhism in terms of two things. It reminds me of Siddhartha. I’m more like him in wanting to find my own path. The second thing it reminds me of is Ken Wilber’s integral theory. My friend who was really into Buddhism was also really into Ken Wilber’s writings.

      As for watered down religion, one of my favorite tools for panning for gold is comparative mythology and it’s kissing cousin depth psychology. Writers like Jung and Joseph Campbell help me to grasp the more fundamental aspects of religion. Astrotheology and mythicism are also a fun avenues of study.

      It’s all good.

  10. Sorry for the wait, I went on a little expedition to find a few things out.

    Got to know of that Siddhartha book from your blog and I got it but it’s in waiting for now. I got acquainted with sort of a summary of his story -which I hear is not pure- in my youth. I got more when I refound myself and I have been building since and this one too, I think, will be quite helpful.

    I went on wikipedia for an overview of the integral theory and it is interesting. Walden; thing is some practices are foreign and I have to pause and think to connect dots. He uses certain metaphors which are supposed to convey a certain meaning but it gets lost on someone foreign to it; climate-related, culture, things peculiar to say temperate climes. But it’s good, it widens the mind by furnishing extra knowledge outside of the primary aim.

    Anyway, I just got Huckleberry Finn. It’s not in your list but you read it?

    • No worries about the wait. I just figured the conversation was over, but I guess I was wrong.

      What kind of summary of Sidddhartha did you acquaint yourself with when younger? Was it a written summary or did someone describe the story to you?

      There actually have been two movies based on the book. There was one made in India, but because of India’s conservative mindset they lessened the rebellious side of Siddhartha’s character. The other version is Zachariah. It was made in the US and is a loose adapatation. It’s made into a Western gunslinger movie. I enjoyed it more than the other adaptation.

      By the way, if you’re interested in the ideas in Hesse’s work, then you should study Carl Jung’s work. During a difficult period of his life, Hesse became involved with psychoanalysis and developed a personal relationship with Jung. This led to his writing certain books such as Demian.

      I guess I understand the difficulty you had with Walden. It’s interesting how you don’t realize how much implicit knowledge you’re raised with. Everything in Walden was already a part of my cultural upbringing as Walden is one of the most influential texts on American culture. Even some of the phrasings from Walden have become common parlance in the US.

      It’s likely I read Huckleberry Finn sometime when younger, but I’m not certain. It’s a story that is also a part of my cultural upbringing and so I’m very familiar with it. Mark Twain was a midwesterner as I am. He was a very interesting thinker. I’d recommend you check out his unfinished work The Mysterious Stranger. It was made into a film which I haven’t seen, but there is a scene from the story that is in a very weird claymation adaptation titled The Adventures of Mark Twain.

  11. From folks, history books, toons but never a story with appreciable integrity; gaps all over the place and critical statements belittling the info. You right man if one opens the eyes there really is a lot of understated stuff around. Reading about Mark Twain, I find he will have liked Thoreau’s company. They were both free spirits. A day or two ago, I found myself bashing society for how it limits human potential. Crucial was that I found very good examples countersigning my point. All the great men I know of were either recluses or major rebels. Of course it will if society is founded on the past and these guys are mainly innovators. Also society is inherently discriminatory and it should not have as much power as it does. I realise my thoughts have had an anarchist tinge to it since my youth and I am getting to believing in astrology but it has its shortfalls and being a grand skeptic I just can’t say I am pro-astro. Also I see that those a belief in or just fascination with transcendence is important if we want to quell that depression rogue.

    • It’s easy to feel critical about society. I get in critical moods all of the time. Life is tough, and the most worthy people often aren’t rewarded. It seems to be just the way the world is and it doesn’t seem that it’s going to change anytime soon. Oh well…

      I have some interest in astrology. I’m skeptical of it, but I suspect there is some truth to it. I wrote about the scientific research in my old blog.


      Whether or not it’s objectively true, it definitely is a complex symbolic system with a depth of meaning. As many humans helped create it over a long period of time, it expresses something true in the human mind

      A couple of years ago, I came across Gerry Goddard’s writings. He combines astrology with other theories and it’s very interesting. If you go to his site, you can find articles and a book he finished before he died.


  12. Right now I am hunting Jung work like a T-rex, no relent man. Luck though isn’t on my side cos all I get is overviews. That’s one of my traits, meticulous, I want the original not some paraphrasal. I concede that the overviews are good works but I am never satisfied till I have an impression of the original.

    I’ve been drawn to his work more cos he was into the transcendent differing from Freud as I have learned. Getting it, as I said, is like it belongs in a Homeric tale.

    Dan Brown released recently, any interest?

    • Why you having no luck finding Jung’s work? Are you looking in used bookstores? I’m somewhat surprised because Jung’s books are always being reprinted. My friend’s grandfather was a professor who studied Jung and he has the whole collection of Jung’s writings. That would be nice.

      I admire your desire to find Jung’s original work to study for yourself. But I wouldn’t dismiss the books that paraphrase and analyze Jung’s ideas. Jung was a very complex thinker and he references so widely. Having some background on Jung’s life and studies is immensely helpful.

      Jung sure did wrote a lot. You could spend your whole life just studying Jung’s writing. Did you hear about the new release of Jung’s journal? It was written during the time Jung was having some major mental issues and which led to a shift in his thinking. I’ll have to get a copy of it one of these days. There is a New York Times article about it which I mentioned in a recent post.


      Do you prefer the religious side of Jung more than his psychological ideas? You can’t exactly separate them of course, but I was just wondering what is your focus. A good book that Jung wrote about religion is Answer to Job. Jung considered it his most personal work that was published and he got a lot of criticism for it. That book seems to be as close as Jung got to theology.

      Dan Brown? Have you read him?

      I have a mild curiosity about such things. Conspiracies, politics, secret societies, religion, symbols… what is there not to like. I haven’t read his books, but I’ve seen the movies. However, I’ve read about these subjects in other books which Dan Brown probably used for research. An even more fun and intellectually interesting writer about conspiracies and secret societies is Robert Anton Wilson.

  13. Dear benjamindavidsteele:

    My name is Leora Trub and I am a student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). I am conducting a study of the reasons that people blog and what benefits it brings, which at this point are still largely unexplored in research studies. I am therefore reaching out to you as a blogger who can help deepen our understanding of this phenomenon. I believe that your voice is an important one to be heard and hope you will enjoy participating in the study. I have developed an online questionnaire that asks about specific aspects of blogging as well as asking about feelings about yourself and others in your life. The survey is a mix of numerical scales and opportunities to reflect in an open-ended format about the role of blogging in your life, and how it has changed over time.

    You are eligible to participate if you are at least 21 years of age and have been maintaining an English-language personal blog for at least six months that you update or visit at least twice a week (on average). Your participation involves completing a confidential online questionnaire. The data will be downloaded onto a secure server to which only I have access. No identifying information, such as your names or address, will be collected. If you desire, you may choose not to share your blog name, in which case I will not access your blog for any reason after this point. If you do share your blog name, it will NOT be connected to your responses in the survey. Additionally, you will be given the opportunity to be identified by a code name in research reports and to have your blog description changed slightly so it cannot be identified.

    The survey takes approximately 45 minutes to complete and participation is completely voluntary. Three participants who complete the survey will be randomly selected by a lottery to receive a $75 cash prize.

    There are no foreseeable risks to participation in the study. Although some of the questions are personal in nature, participation in the study provides an opportunity to think about the role that your blog plays in your life.

    If you have any questions about this research, you can contact me at (732) 407-7928 or ltrub@gc.cuny.edu, or my advisors Dr. Arietta Slade at (212) 650-5658 or arietta.slade@gmail.com and Dr. Tracey Revenson at (212) 817-8709 or trevenson@gc.cuny.edu.

    The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Graduate School of the City University of New York and meets of their guidelines as well as all state and federal guidelines for research with human participants. If you have any concerns about the project at any time, you can contact Ms. Kay Powell, Institutional Review Board at the Graduate School of the City University of New York (212) 817-7525 or kpowell@gc.cuny.edu.

    In order to participate in this study, I need to send you an invitation through survey monkey. If you are interested, please send an email to ltrub@gc.cuny.edu from the email address to which you would like the invitation sent. I hope that you will decide to participate and also that you will share it with others if you decide you would like to. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


    Leora Trub, M.A.
    Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology
    Graduate School of the City University of New York
    365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309

  14. “Become severely depressed and begin thinking too much around highschool. Foster a sense of being different and detached from other people. Then, hit rockbottom sometime after highschool and drop out of college. Spend the next decade or so compulsively looking for the meaning of life. Live in constant despair and doubt. Feel your life slipping away and endlessly dwell on your fear of failure.

    Spend all of your time and money in your studies in a pathetically desparate hope for some kind of answer, any kind of answer. Rant at God and then realize God isn’t there or doesn’t care. Give up a thousand times, but realize your idealism always somehow manages to keep you from entirely sinking into nihilism”

    I haven’t yet read through the rest of the commentary to know if this I’m about to say is in there but man, we seem to be living the same life. Thanks to my mom, however, I didn’t drop outta college. I am also doing a research, when you were young, did you ever dream or wish that you one of God’s angels or that you’d see God?

    My boy is getting famous, getting questionnaires n shit, damn! Haha, don’t mind me. That’s why you’re my Steely friend

    “Come to a deep sense of truth that leaves you more bewildered than you were before.

    Last but not least, have as little social life as possible. But maintain at least one friendship with another person who shares both depression and intellectual curiosity”

    Surprisingly, I’ve done all of that since this very day you said it without thinking it. Man, I’ve unwittingly played into your trap. Argh, you’re a wizard, get away from me, argh :-). I have found someone similar to that friend you mentioned, you 😀

    “Sorry for the wait, I went on a little expedition to find a few things out”

    That was when I left home with my heart on a pike thrusted into the ground in my room with a message pinned to it saying a lot of things but crucially “maybe I’ll be back, maybe I won’t” in a letter named ‘Farewell’. And that is when I found my own truth and I got lost in myself for the very first time. That is when ‘I AM’ presented Himself to me vividly and unquestionably. Funnily, I was sitting in front of the town (Keta) god on the beach in the lotus position. And out of the supreme Black, he came. My favorite colors always were black and white – the reason I got even more endeared to Mike Jackson – but now it’s even more profound, it’s part of me. That was the beginning of the Revolution

    • “when you were young, did you ever dream or wish that you one of God’s angels or that you’d see God?”

      I’m not sure. There are a few things that might be relevant to your inquiry.

      First, I thought a fair amount about and questioned ‘God’. But did I ever experience God? I don’t know.

      Second, I did have supernatural experiences. The one incident I clearly remember is having seen something that looked like a shadow moving across my bedroom wall and then after hiding under my sheets feeling something sit on my bed. The next day I found out my grandmother had died the night before.

      Third, I guess it depends what you mean by ‘younger’. When I was your age, I was indeed younger than I am now. In my late teens, I began to have a growing sense of the divine or something akin to it. In my 20s, I had some more full-blown experiences that I at times refer to as ‘God’.

      Does that answer your question?

      “Man, I’ve unwittingly played into your trap. Argh, you’re a wizard, get away from me, argh . I have found someone similar to that friend you mentioned, you”

      I think we’ve both unwittingly played into someone’s trap, but I refuse to take the blame. I’m innocent, I tell ya. The demiurge did it, the evil bastard!

      Ah, a friend and his name is ‘you’. Do I know him? 🙂

      “That is when ‘I AM’ presented Himself to me vividly and unquestionably.”

      You’ve never spoken about that to me… or, at least, not in any great detail. I would ask you to share more about the experience/vision itself, but I realize such things aren’t prone to be easily put into words.

  15. “Does that answer your question?”

    Naa, but in some way, they do. I meant when you were about pre-teen. I, for instance, used to fantasize about being assumed into heaven and becoming part of the heavenly army, along the side of Michael. Or just being a vessel of God. I’ll be totally honest with you, it wasn’t for any especial love of God but rather because it was an interesting life to live. Full of wonderful things. Then, I really had a wish to see God. First, God was the most wonderful, most extraordinary, only great things were possible in his company. Second, which I think came along the way, was this mind that I wanted to go back where I came from, that God was where I was to be.

    “You’ve never spoken about that to me”

    The context hasn’t presented itself. Aside that, I didn’t know to trust you with this kind of stuff. The only part amenable to objective relation is the ‘I Am’ image and the background on my blog. The background is more representative of the process that led to the full ‘I Am’ from the beautiful Blackness. You’re right, words or even images don’t get it well

    • “I meant when you were about pre-teen. I, for instance, used to fantasize about being assumed into heaven and becoming part of the heavenly army, along the side of Michael. Or just being a vessel of God.”

      Okay, I’ll answer your question in terms of my pre-teen years.

      I don’t know what (if any) religious tradition you were raised in, but I’d guess it was much different than what I was raised in. My childhood churches were Unity and Science of Mind, both very liberal new agey religions. I was raised in a worldview that was ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’. Most religious concepts such as an anthropomorphic God (or the whole issue of good/evil, original sin/blood sacrifice, heaven/hell) don’t fundamentally make sense to me because they are alien to how I was raised.

      So, in my pre-teen years, I had a strong sense of the spiritual. I would imagine many things that were of a supernatural/metaphysical bent, but I lacked a religious fantasy life because there were no religious concepts deeply embedded in my psyche. I was raised with more concepts such as ‘possibility-mindedness’, ‘abundance thinking’ and ‘power of mind’… and so that was the framework of my imagination. Spirituality was in the here and now of my experience rather than in a religious vision of heaven.

      However, I suppose I thought of ideas along the lines of being a vessel of God. It’s just in New Thought Christianity it’s assumed we all are vessels of God. I was raised as a heretic.

      By the way, this might help you understand some of the weirdness of American conservatism. My parents are very socially and fiscally conservative on most issues, and yet my parents raised me in the most liberal form of Christianity that exists in the US.

      Liberalism and conservatism have a weird history together in American culture. Many conservatives (including fundamentalists) have been influenced by the New Thought tradition which has its origins back around the Populist Era of the late 19th cent.

      The New Thought worldview fits in nicely with the whole Protestant work ethic, the Calvinist theology of divine reward, the fiscal ‘conservatism’ of classical liberalism, and the radical individualism of right-libertarianism. They seem like strange bedfellows, but it makes sense in terms of US history. So, my parents actually aren’t unusual in being drawn to radically liberal Christianity even as they are attracted to the far right.

    • I had another thought about religious imagination.

      There are certain religious traditions in America that lack religious imagination, lack the respect/wonder toward myth and lack the worship/idolization toward symbols. New Thought is one and then there are the even older Anabaptist traditions such as Amish, Quakers and Shakers. Anabaptists are quite distinct from the Calvinist Baptists who do have quite the religious imagination.

      Combined with American Pragmatism, this Anabaptist tradition might’ve been an influence on New Thought. New Thought is essentially a modernized theologically bare bones version of Valentinian Gnosticism. Religious imagination never meant much to me until I started to explore other religions (especially those like Hinduism which are mythically colorful) and started studying the origins of Christianity. When I discovered Gnosticism, I had found the religious imagination that was the theological foundation of my own New Thought upbringing.

      Jung, PKD and (W.S.) Burroughs helped me to bring Gnosticism into the modern context. Jung’s archetypes gave me a framework to understand and PKD more than anyone gave me a living vision. I finally could make sense of my own experiences which were a bit disconnected from the American mainstream of Protestantism and Fundamentalism.

      So, I grew up without the religious imaginings that you had. But maybe there were some advantages to the blank slate that life offered me. My religious imagination can be wide-ranging for the reason it has no grounding in childhood religious indoctrination/enculturation.

      The basic lesson my religious upbringing taught me was to trust my own experience, that no one’s ideas or beliefs can trump my experience. Part of me struggled a lot with this growing up. How does one in the confusion of growing up understand their own experience? Many times I wouldn’t have minded someone telling me something with certainty instead of leaving it to me find for myself. It might be easier to not be given such an open-ended lesson, but it does open up the vista of imagination.

      I’d be curious to know how this compares to how you were raised.

  16. “I don’t know what (if any) religious tradition you were raised in”

    It’s fairly recently that my family could speak of a religious tradition. As for myself, I grew on myth ie diverse religions, mythology, fantasy. Initially, we were presby, we thought they were a sham (due to practices in the church – a hypocrisy n exploitation and long hours in there) so we left for the Catholic, all decided by mom. If anything, it was the particular catholic church and not the Catholicism in general that pleased us to stay. There was a particular priest there that really made me enthused, though he left later. Plus, I never paid attention in Sunday School, I was always only interested in the bible stories, the figures and perhaps, some ideas, I possibly challenged the rest. I preferred to philosophize myself. And that was very young, not more than 7y, I was already choosing my own education.

    “Most religious concepts such as an anthropomorphic God (or the whole issue of good/evil, original sin/blood sacrifice, heaven/hell) don ’t fundamentally make sense to me because they are alien to how I was raised”

    I practically made my own morality based on Jesus and what I could get of Buddha, both of which were similar to me. As well, I philosophized myself on morality. Morality is a very tough subject especially in the face of the devastating Ti (that’s a general point). I never allowed enculturation or education on terms other than mine. That explains my distance from my culture and others as well except perhaps Bushido.

    I always believed in the Taoist God for some reason. When God was said to me, the only conception was one of the indescribable Tao though in my mind, it was a pretty vivid Black. Actually, the first time, I imagined this vivid Black was when I asked at about 8y, ‘so after heaven, what next?’ plus a question Russell also asked, I forget the question. I don’t know where I got that conception of the fathomless Tao from but I always had it.

    Besides, I was always more interested in the mythological way of seeing gods, ‘god of this’, ‘god of that’ and those also influenced my mind. I was only scared of heresy and hell that I remained loyal to any thoughts about their being heretic thoughts. The Catholic ‘angels n demons’ that were categorized served to replace them for me. From Zeus to Raphael and Molech, I was interested in these things. Based on that, I always had an idea about archetypes. Fear, mostly, made me unsure of them plus an inferiority complex to some appreciable extent. Let’s not forget the imagery and mythology of Africa which is so diverse.

    Plus, I had visions of my own early like a hideous monster that haunted me at my bed side. And, countless shadows which I still see. Indoctrination wouldn’t describe me at all, as I said before, I mostly grew myself. Plus, these images mostly were the uncanny type though the idea expressed would usually crystallise in my mind. They were really weird and half of the time, indistinct

    • You had a religious upbringing that was fairly diverse.

      I didn’t mean to imply that you were indoctrinated. I more meant the process of enculturation… which means the culture we’re surrounded by and which we internalize.

      I realize that you are very independent-minded and your religious imagination is a very personal experience. We share those things… in different ways and with different early influences.

      Here is what I was trying to get at.

      In the US, Catholicism strongly defines the religious imagination. If you look at the horror/fantasy movies made about religion or religious themes, they usually involve Catholic churches and priests. But I’ve never been to a Catholic service in my life. My only experience of Catholicism was attending Boy Scouts in the basement of a Catholic church.

      The churches I was raised in rarely taught Bible stories. I actually can’t remember any Bible stories told to me as a child, not in any Sunday school nor by my parents. The churches I grew up with tended to be more focused on improving one’s life and one’s relationship to God. New Thought Christianity is also known as Practical Christianity. It’s almost entirely devoid of complex theology, mythology, and symbolism.

      On top of this, I just wasn’t surrounded by much that would inspire my religious imagination. I didn’t have in my house growing up many books on religion, myths, and folklore. And American society is different than African society in that there isn’t the same diverse imagery and mythology. I wasn’t even aware of Native American religion/mythology to any great degree until I was older.

      I suppose what inspired my childhood imagination was reading fiction and watching tv. My discovery of the SF genre was very important at one point in my life. At an even younger point in my life (when I first learned to read), I did come across ghost stories and that was my introduction to religious imagination, but it wasn’t in the context of religion.

      I was trying to remember what my point was. I had to look back to see what began this discussion of religious imagination. You were asking me about experiences of God and such as a child. It’s an interesting question.

      How much is personality and how much upbringing? If I had grown up with lots of mythological imagery and storytelling, would it have influenced the experiences I had as a child? Or even would it given me a context to understand and remember those experiences? I recollect being very spiritual and yet my sense is that my religious imagination was lacking at that time.

      Here, let me think of this in another way. If a child was never taught anything about religion or mythology, how would their imagination manifest and how would they understand their experiences? If you weren’t brought up with the concept of and stories about God and god-men, would you even be able to discern the divine with no language to describe it and no cultural context in which to understand it?

      To be honest, I can’t say what experiences I had as a child. I had experiences or at least I remember having had experiences that fit my religious upbringing, but I either didn’t have or can’t recall having had experiences that didn’t fit my religious upbringing. Most of my childhood is vague at this point, mostly forgotten with only a few events remaining as shadows in my mind.

    • “both of which were similar to me”

      Should read “both of whom were similar, to me” in the fourth paragraph.

      “the face of the devastating Ti (that’s a general point)”

      ‘general point’ in the sense of Ti as a function-attitude.

      Besides, music and art influenced my imagination (or religious imagination, if you want to call it that)

      By the way, some of my sentences are like flags or stepping stones with which I access the actual thing I wish to say so try to pardon some incomprehesible sentences. I’m mostly very deep in the ocean of thoughts when such things happen and the idea is even much deeper. My mantra when I was younger was “I know it but I don’t know how to express it”. When you made those metaphors of Ni and Ti (which I think all the introverted functions can have applied to them in terms of reference to their depth and inaccessibility but possibly less so for Si; Fi and Ni being the more remote) where Ni was a hole in the bed of a river causing a whirlpool that produced eddies at the shore and Ti being the rock just below the surface causing ripples causing ripples, they really hit home. And, they correspond to Jung’s description perfectly. What really affected me was your description of Ni but I think my ideational processes and expression have become clearer nowadays? (rhetorical question) Still, however, some are very remote. maltreating conventional signs ruthlessly, me. One thing very fascinating about myself to myself is I can have a very quick understanding but would be incapable of intelligible expression even to myself, sometimes, I just know I know it. These our conversations are very helpful, my memory really benefits.

      • “Besides, music and art influenced my imagination (or religious imagination, if you want to call it that)”

        That might one point of confusion. I was intentionally separating the issue of religious imagination from the issue of imagination in general. As a kid, I had plenty of imagination. It’s just it didn’t have a religious/mythical/symbolical framework. My childhood imagination, for good or ill, was more formed by pop culture.

        “When you made those metaphors… where Ni was a hole in the bed of a river causing a whirlpool that produced eddies at the shore and Ti being the rock just below the surface causing ripples causing ripples, they really hit home. And, they correspond to Jung’s description perfectly.”

        I can take credit for the description and the imagery which I think is original to me, as far as I can recall. But the understanding comes from my having had some very long and deep discussions with several INFJs over a period of about a year. Ni fascinates me more than any other function-attitude. I remember how INFPs tended to see Ni as being mysterious and even mystical, but for INFJs it felt more mundane as it was just their experience.

        “One thing very fascinating about myself to myself is I can have a very quick understanding but would be incapable of intelligible expression even to myself, sometimes, I just know I know it.”

        That would seem to demonstrate a distinct characteristic of Ni. I can sometimes feel that way about understanding without being able to express it, but I suspect not the extent you feel it.

        Expression probably involves the Perceiving functions (especially Intuition in terms of verbal expression) more than the Judging functions. When the Perceiving function is introverted (as with Ni) expressing to another person (especially of another type) becomes more difficult. As my Intuition is extraverted, verbal expression isn’t as challenging. In fact, I use my expression as a favored method of understanding. I express different ideas and interpretations, throwing it all against the wall in order to see what sticks.

        “These our conversations are very helpful, my memory really benefits.”

        I too find them helpful and enjoyable. It’s interesting that I don’t write more posts about Jungian typology. I do have a fair amount of posts about the topic, but not as many as some other topics. The reason for this is that typological distinctions are easier to suss out in interacting with another person who is also interested, informed, and introspective. Maybe it’s my Ne that wants more immediate feedback.

  17. “The churches I was raised in rarely taught Bible stories. I actually can ’t remember any Bible stories told to me as a child, not in any Sunday school nor by my parents. The churches I grew up with tended to be more focused on improving one’s life and one’s relationship to God. New Thought Christianity is also known as Practical Christianity. It ’s almost entirely devoid of complex theology, mythology, and symbolism”

    I wouldn’t have remained loyal to such a church especially when I saw images myself and on TV in cartoons, movies, books. Man, I would take what I liked and would leave and no amount of deprecation of the other side of matters (mythology) would completely stop me. I might feel inferior and heretical about it but my compulsion is to investigate them.

    An independent mind runs through my family from as much is known my great-grandfather. He was stubborn is what he was. His name was Avuchu which means ‘male dog’ in Ewe but a fearful name in the Ewe context. And, he was counted the wisest man in his village which he fled. He was actually to be a royal but he ran. My mom knows the story better but she’s asleep right now

    I perfectly understand your questions about context cos for me even when I had context, I still doubted and had my own ideas. I to some extent explained my experiences using a singular tradition. But, the traditions were so many, including my own, it was chaos all over. I depended on my reactions to these things and still do. It’s nice to have a personal mythology of sorts. If anything, I got more religious in my teens but it didn’t last. It very much is going to be difficult to interpret them, I understand, my man

    • “I wouldn’t have remained loyal to such a church especially when I saw images myself and on TV in cartoons, movies, books. Man, I would take what I liked and would leave and no amount of deprecation of the other side of matters (mythology) would completely stop me. I might feel inferior and heretical about it but my compulsion is to investigate them.”

      Well, loyalty wasn’t the issue as I wasn’t raised with the idea of being loyal to one’s religion. The Unity Church falls on the opposite end of the spectrum, Rather than what can you do for your church, it’s more about what your church can do for you.

      Also, it was simply the church I went to my entire life up to the point of my moving out on my own. For the most part, I didn’t know of any other church or any other religious mentality. It was simply what I knew and I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

      In Unity, there is no fear of deprecation. It’s impossible to be a heretic in Unity. How can you rebel against that which is open to and accepting of rebellion? If you don’t like it, you leave. No one would probably care. No one will tell you you’re damned. If I wanted to explore a different path, people in Unity (my parents included) would have been the first to encourage me and wish me luck.

      That is the beauty of it and why it’s such a pleasant spiritual trap. When you are given complete freedom to explore, you can actually feel less compulsion to explore. In terms of religious imagination, I had no inkling that I was even lacking anything. No one was overtly denying it from my experience. It simply wasn’t there, simply outside of my social context at that time.

      However, it was Unity (and my parents who raised me in Unity) that taught me to and encouraged me to explore. I might not have explored so widely and discovered what I was lacking if I hadn’t been raised in that worldview of intellectual curiosity and spiritual seeking.

      Even now, I value spiritual seeking over religious imagination. For me, spiritual seeking led to religious imagination. But, from what I can tell, for many people being raised in a tradition of religious imagination doesn’t necessarily (and usually doesn’t) lead to spiritual seeking. I’m a seeker, whether spiritual or intellectual or anything else for that matter. Seek and ye shall not find, that is my motto. I’ll never stop being a seeker because seeking has no end.

  18. “Most religious concepts such as an anthropomorphic God (or the whole issue of good/evil,…) don’t fundamentally make sense to me”

    Then you did very well or it shows how ethics is inherent. I say this in relation to what you said about ‘Evil’ expressing something indescribable. You did very well or it points to your bringing forth of what was in, in developing an ethical side to yourself. I was wandering pondering today and I met a girl urinating in the open, I averted my eyes. I realised that this was due to some voice inside telling me to turn away and I recognised this voice as very familiar and recalled it from my own past. I realised that though I may rationalise it and say “oh, it’s a natural thing”, I still can’t bring myself to do it. At that time, the inherence of ethics became starkly clear. To you, it might not be a voice but it is undeniably a formidable energy that influences the individual. By the way, have you noticed that this thing we do, discussing topics on the blog is similar to what the intellectuals used to do in letters? These are our letters, will a Steele the Monarc one day quote our exchange as you did with PKD to Warrick? 🙂

    I was wandering pondering for a long time today and all it appeared to me was “spots and jumps” of thought (appropriated from Bertrand Russell) but I just came back home (at the time of writing this was about 17:10 hrs) and realised that they were all linked in fact. It’s something I’ve observed of myself, it’s like I can facilitate a certain part of my mind and then the thoughts linked to it start to flow out, consciously or not, till some appreciable checkpoint is reached which is only intuitively known to be appreciable. It can seem as if that thought has been elected to be conscious for that duration until the checkpoint is reached then another one jumps in or I go looking for something to think about, maybe a book, life observation or self-analysis. Same thing happened today, though I was just thinking in ‘spots and jumps’ not particularly flowing from one thought to the next consciously, it seemed the thoughts that followed were conceptually linked to that first thought about Ethics including recalling this you said about ‘Evil’.

    I also pondered on the concept that an advancement one end of a spectrum necessitates and generates an advancement on the opposite end of the spectrum. This I arranged into the maxim:

    Inordinate pleasure leads to inordinate pain,

    It was a lot of thought that led to that maxim which is like a natural law of sorts and I think it will get posted up one day but it’s going to be a mighty long one, even longer than that my mega-post ‘Will to Power’.

    Then, I remembered Mr. Hegdes declaration of perpetual rebellion; it seems it’s the natural way of things to find opposition in everything. Which when we go deeper, it is we ourselves who are always opposing but that’s just an addendum for this point. So, Mr. Hedges is just being natural. It’s like a natural law of some sort, I said this already (I wrote this already and some damned stupid error of wordpress caused me to lose what I wrote, so it’s more like retracing my steps and making some critical statements I made in the erased one, goddamn wordpress black death-infected goblins). By the way, when I experienced this ‘I Am’, there was also this thought of the clash of the opposites alongside, and this thought was that it was what had just happened within me. A lot of things ran through my mind at that time, some I couldn’t even get a hold of man. It was an immense experience and during that time, I got a glimpse of what was happening at home especially to my mom, she always was the one most closely bonded to me. I hadn’t seen Avatar (The Last Airbender) at the time but when I saw the final stage of leaving the one person he loved the most, it was all too familiar, I don’t know where they got the concept from but I knew that concept. According to wikipedia, the director used Eastern philosophy esp Hindi in depth which I was aware of but I didn’t think such an experience would be documented or was it the director’s own experience. Do you like ‘The Last Airbender’? I see a lot of shared interests in movies and TV shows in your ‘About’.

    So let’s say I’m INFJ, why are you always coming into close contact with INFJs, are we sure we aren’t looking at fate of some sort? You, being depressed, might need some of the INFJ pep. As for me, I’m no good for that, honestly (and especially with you), unless the person is getting neurotic or out-of-reach, perhaps, suicidal, cos I’m similar to you in respect of depression with my doubt always waylaying me in addition, I’ve even written a ‘Manifesto of Melancholy’ recently on my blog. My motto “Expect anything; Doubt everything”. Both you and I will have to be of the melancholic temperament, always thinking, the same thinking that kills us, the same thinking that we love so much.

    Jung said: ‘the psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves’. The part I’m focusing more on is the first part but I just put it all in here so that if you haven’t seen this before, you see it now cos it has a lot of substance. It’s linked to Jung saying that ‘Self and world are commensurable factors’

    Jung on the introverted rational type: “He himself sets the subjective factor at too low a value, and his feelings of inferiority are his chastisement for this sin”.

    • “By the way, have you noticed that this thing we do, discussing topics on the blog is similar to what the intellectuals used to do in letters?”

      Yes. Our little (or not so little) discussions are essentially a form of correspondence. The difference is that the process is more instantaneous rather than waiting weeks for a reply. I do enjoy having long discussions in the comments section.

      ‘Evil’ is a helpful example of my evolving attitude. Unity church didn’t even use the word. Growing up, I never even thought about evil or what it meant. As I got older, I began to understand how others theologically interpreted it, but it still just seemed like a silly and childish concept.

      My understanding has changed some since that time. I still see the theological concept as just another one of the tools in religions toolbox of fear-mongering. But I’ve come to realize that certain people have used the word to imply something more profound.

      My depression brought me to a worldview that conflicted with my new-thought/positive-thinking upbringing.. Two things, besides my own depression, made the dark-side of God more real to me: Jung’s book about Job and the movie/novel The Last Temptation of Christ. So, for me, religious imagination has always been found in the dark shadows and the lonely hidden places outside of the bright lights of religiosity and dogma. I’m not sure how many people would share this sense of religious imagination. I don’t doubt some people learn to find it within the environment of a specific church or tradition.

      “I also pondered on the concept that an advancement one end of a spectrum necessitates and generates an advancement on the opposite end of the spectrum.”

      The relationship of opposites or perceived opposites is always fun to think about. I’m sure your referring to Jung’s enantiodrama as you quote Jung discussing it further down in your comment. Here is a Jung quote I like that is about this notion:

      “The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil.”

      “Do you like ‘The Last Airbender’?”

      I know I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember it clear enough to give you a good answer. I think I enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll watch it again if I get the time and I’ll get back to you about it.

      “So let’s say I’m INFJ, why are you always coming into close contact with INFJs, are we sure we aren’t looking at fate of some sort? You, being depressed, might need some of the INFJ pep.”

      It’s not pep. I don’t really think of INFJs as peppy. Maybe INFJs aren’t as melodramatically downbeat as a disgruntled INFP, but they aren’t exactly the opposite either. INFJs seem a bit more balanced and grounded, centered and focused. Compared to INFPs, INFJs are fairly practical. My sense is that INFJs have more of a sustained momentum to their lives… whereas INFPs suffer from a mental form of premature ejaculation followed by emotional flaccidity.

      “He himself sets the subjective factor at too low a value, and his feelings of inferiority are his chastisement for this sin”

      Interesting. It’s clear how that applies to dominant Ti types, but it’s less clear to me about how it applies to dominant Fi types. I know INFPs often have feelings of inferiority. On the other hand, INFPs are often obsessed by the subjective. Maybe there is something about the INFP’s experience of the subjective that is distorted, too self-enclosed or somehow prone to dysfunction. It also makes me wonder how differently the subjective might be experienced by those with dominant intuition or sensing.

    • “Then, I remembered Mr. Hegdes declaration of perpetual rebellion; it seems it’s the natural way of things to find opposition in everything. Which when we go deeper, it is we ourselves who are always opposing but that’s just an addendum for this point. So, Mr. Hedges is just being natural.”

      By the way, Hedges is a Christian, although a very liberal/socialist alternative Christian who seems to follow Jesus’ example more than following religious rules. His view of losing is winning is in the context of Jesus’ teachings. The whole idea of being poor in flesh while rich in spirit. This style of thinking goes back to Greek thought, the Christians supposedly having inherited it (along with natural law) from the Stoics.

      Here is another quote by Hedges from the same book (The World As It Is, p. 83):

      How do we resist? How, if this descent is inevitable, as I believe it is, do we fight back? Why should we resist at all? Why not give in to cynicism and despair? Why not carve out as comfortable a niche as possible within the embrace of the corporate state and spend our lives attempting to satiate our private needs? The power elite, including most of those who graduate from our top universities and our liberal and intellectual classes, have sold out for personal comfort. Why not us?

      The French moral philosopher Albert Camus argued that we are separated from one another. Our lives are meaningless. We cannot influence fate. We will all die and our individual beings will be obliterated. And yet Camus wrote that “one of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

      “A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object,” Camus warned. “But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

      The rebel, for Camus, stands with the oppressed—the unemployed workers thrust into impoverishment and misery by the corporate state, the Palestinians in Gaza, the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the disappeared held in our global black sites, the poor in our inner cities and depressed rural communities, immigrants, and those locked away in our prison system. To stand with them does not mean to collaborate with parties, such as the Democrats, who can mouth the words of justice while carrying out acts of oppression. It means open and direct defiance.

      The power structure and its liberal apologists dismiss the rebel as impractical and see the rebel’s outsider stance as counterproductive. They condemn the rebel for expressing anger at injustice. The elites and their apologists call for calm and patience. They use the hypocritical language of spirituality, compromise, generosity, and compassion to argue that the only alternative is to accept and work with the systems of power. The rebel, however, is beholden to a moral commitment that makes it impossible to stand with the power elite. The rebel refuses to be bought off with foundation grants, invitations to the White House, television appearances, book contracts, academic appointments or empty rhetoric. The rebel is not concerned with self-promotion or public opinion. The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. The rebel is aware that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion defines itself.

      • Yeah, I noticed it while reading Greek thought recently, well not so recent.

        There’s something I don’t quite understand, the word ‘creative’. Maybe, it’s cos the things I do are natural to me but when I see something that others are so marveled by and is objectively determined as ‘innovative’, I’m skeptical of the use of ‘innovation’ to describe the thing cos I ask “what’s so special about this that others can’t do”. For me, it’s mostly my thoughts and I still ask the question. I don’t get it. What they call innovative is normal to me. Heck, if I had more extraverted energy, I might be implementing some of my plans ‘innovatively’ rather than sitting by the TV watching others enact my plans and saying “that guy stole my mind” or “that coulda been me”

        “The power elite, including most of those who graduate from our top universities and our liberal and intellectual classes, have sold out for personal comfort. Why not us?”

        Well, that’s me, that intellectual part is for me, the damn cowards. To the dungeons with all of them, we’ll torture their books while they watch!!

        “A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object,” Camus warned. “But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

        For the archives. Igor, bring your head, let me place this one there. Remember, don’t let it fall, this one is French, you know how vengeful they are

        • “There’s something I don’t quite understand, the word ‘creative’.”

          I could answer that a couple of ways.

          First, ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ can be looked upon as ideas that are subjective and relative. I’m sure they mean many things to many people. Even if one doesn’t perceive oneself as creative, others might perceive one that way. A person may be comparatively more creative than some other person while simultaneously being less creative than another. Or one might consider oneself to be creative, yet society might not appreciate and acknowledge one’s self-perceived creativity. Also, in different cultures, ‘creative’ will be defined and perceived differently. In this sense, it becomes an issue of who gets to decide who is and who isn’t creative.

          Second, such terms can be used in a more objective and narrow sense. In terms of science, ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ would be defined very precisely with typical characteristics. Psychological research has studied and measured innovative thinking. As I’m sure you understand, there are certain styles and modes of thinking that lead to original/idiosyncratic results. And there are certain traits and functions that predispose someone to that way of thinking. It’s just a fact of life that not all people have equal capacity for all abilities. To you, what gets called ‘creative’ or ‘innovative’ may seem normal, but it probably doesn’t seem normal to many people.

          I would guess that most people most of the time think the same type of thoughts in the same type of way from day to day, never changing their routine, never shifting their perspective, never coloring outside the lines, never thinking outside the box. They do what they do because they’ve always done it that way, and they’ve always done it that way because that was how they were taught to do it or how they first figured out how to do it. Why change? Why do anything new? It takes courage and inspiration, not only energy and motivation, to challenge the status quo by refusing to conform.

          “Well, that’s me, that intellectual part is for me, the damn cowards. To the dungeons with all of them, we’ll torture their books while they watch!!”

          Hedges can be very judgmental. Part of me wants to criticize his criticisms because he seems to want to put most of the responsibility on one small segment of society. That seems unfair. However, he criticizes in this way because he genuinely cares and he is criticizing those he identifies with. His criticism is partly self-criticism… which does seem to be a trait many liberals have. Most liberals have no problem blaming conservatives for the problems of the world (and vice versa). But what distinguishes liberals is that they tend to include themselves in their own criticisms.

          Even psychological research confirms this. It probably has something to do with the liberal sense of empathy. Liberals usually end up empathizing and sometimes even sympathizing with those they disagree with. To a liberal, the ‘other’ is more often seen as an extension of their own sense of self. Liberals feel conflicted in that they fundamentally want to include everyone even though sadly not everyone wants to include them.

          Hedges is critical because of his idealism. He genuinely believes in the potential good that comes from the role liberals can and should play in society. A free and fair society is usually destroyed from without only after it has been weakened from within. The liberal class is the moderating force in a free and fair society. The far right, by nature, doesn’t ultimately care about a free and fair society. In fact, the far right are opposed to a free and fair society. It would be silly to expect anyone other than those on the left to defend a free and fair society. So, if a free and fair society is destroyed, the ultimate blame falls upon the liberal class.

          “For the archives. Igor, bring your head, let me place this one there. Remember, don’t let it fall, this one is French, you know how vengeful they are”

          Exactly whose head is it that you want? Camus’ head? I’d be careful with Camus’ head, if I were you. Camus fought the Nazis, and even as a bodiless head I bet he could take you on.

    • I really dig people who dig my blog. Groovy man! 🙂

      BTW feel free to comment anytime you so desire.

  19. Hey Marmalade, have you read “Must We Defend Nazis?” My boyfriend couldn’t put it down until he was finished reading it. It’s about hate speech, pornography and the first amendment. I can’t really read anything outside assigned of homework assignments right now, so I daren’t pick it up.

    • No, I haven’t read that book.

      It doesn’t look like a typical book I’d read. Besides fiction, my favorite books usually involve history, religion, philosophy or social science. Issues of free speech are definitely important, but I’ve never felt drawn to read a book about it for some reason.

      I’m assuming your boyfriend liked it since he couldn’t put it down. Did you talk with him about it? Do you know if he agreed with the authors or not?

      BTW I liked that you called me Marmalade. That is a common username I had when I first joined some online forums. I still think of my online presence as ‘Marmalade’. My internet avatar is my childhood kitty. But few people online know me as Marmalade these days.

  20. I think you would find it worth reading. The authors explain how traditional First Amendment attitudes further racism by using archaic formulas to excuse all forms of free speech no matter how harmful. It reminds me of how silence is often rightly interpreted as consent.

    • I probably wouldn’t be in as receptive of a mood at this moment.

      I was just involved in a discusion with some people who have been involved with Wikipedia. They perceive Wikipedia or at least a major part of it as having been taken over by a particular group that they think has an ideological agenda. Wikipedia is supposed to operate according to a process of decentralized democratic cooperation and consensus. If the standard rules and norms fail, there is an arbitration that is initiated by a supposed neutral party of one’s peers (i.e., other volunteers). But the people I was talking to feel like they are being shut out and aren’t getting a fair hearing.

      Wikipedia is a private organization, an international one at that. It is run by volunteers. There is no other recourse within Wikipedia besides the process that is set up, no recourse besides maybe backdoor channels if you happen to no someone with greater influence.

      Because of their frustration, some of them are looking to more fdrastic measures to make their voices heard. They could simply start a competing wiki as some conservatives did with Conservapedia, but for some reason that option wasn’t being given much consideration in the discussion. Instead, one person stated they’d be in favor of having Wikipedia regulated by the government. This would mean a government agency, rather than Wikipedia volunteers, would have the final say over disagreements about editing Wikipedia articles.

      What got me worried wasn’t just the suggestion of such a powerul regulatory agency that would control international online media sources, including the potential for mass censorship. That in itself is quite a bit to be concerned about. Even moreso, my guard went up because of who made this suggestion about regulation and who agreed with it, the former a self-identified fascist and the latter an extremely liberal-minded liberal. Such a pair agreeing on such a thing very well may be one of the signs of the End Times. Anyway, it certainly caught the attenion of my inner anarchist who immediately began running for the hills.

      I’m not against government on principle, not even even big government. It all depends on what kind of government. I wouldn’t be so wary about these kind of proposals if we had a functioning democracy without a lot of power and inluence by special interest groups, but that isn’t the world we live in. With regulatory capture by big money, I’m not sure how regulation can function well. That said, some regulation is necessary, even when imperfect. Still, the unintended consequences seem potentially immense.

      So, my receptivity to limits on free speech isn’t at its greatest. I do believe freedom goes along with responsibility, but my faith in effective government has been at a low point in recent years. Regulation in a functioning democracy, however, sounds great to me. When democracy is functioning, get back to me.

    • I hope you didn’t perceive me as being dismissively critical. That recent interaction with a fascist put a bad taste in my mouth. But it had nothing to do with you or your book recommendation.

      I genuinely love book recomendations. There is always a limit to how many books I can read in my limited spare time. I already own more books than I’ll probaby read for the rest of my life. Even so, I always like when peope recommend books.

      As for the issue of that book, I’m a big fan of social democracy. What has become increasingly evident to me is that social democracies don’t happen by accident or emerge from some utopian state of nature. They have to be systematically created and carefully maintained which would include social norms enforced by laws and regulations, amongst many other things (culture of trust, focus on public good, civic-mindedness, etc).

      I’m not being flippant when I say we don’t have a functioning democracy. I’m very serious about that. The problem I see is nothing is beneficial in all situations. Limiting free speech could be very useful in a society that had a strong social democracy wth tons of well-established rights and freedoms for balance, but that doesn’t sound like a description of the United States. With the War on Terror, there has been the greatest erosion of civil liberties since McCarthyism.

      Context is everything. It is hard to think about such things in the abstract for we don’t live in an abstract reality. The particulars are in the social and historical context.

      I honestly don’t know what I precisely think about lots of things. There are too many unknowns. I tend toward the precautionary principle because I have deep wariness of unintended consequences, even with things hat sound good accordding to my own values. Social order is a difficult thing to do well and easy to mess up. I’m not sure how we should go about such things. We seem to be messing up so many things in this country and in the world. It feels like one wong step and civilization could quickly start heading downward.

      I’m not sure where free speech fits into all of this. Maybe my gut reaction is that we have so many massive problems we are facing that worrying about free speech seems miniscule in comparison. If our society collapses, it probably won’t be because of free speech. Then again, maybe I just don’t appreciate the number and magnitude of problems/challenges related to free speech.

      Maybe I should just read the book. I will definitely keep it in mind. Hopefully, the local public library has a copy I can peruse.

    • In thinking about free speech, it reminds me about somewhat of an inverted corrolary. As with such things as hate speech or slander, there can be problems with what people say. On the opposite end, there can be problems with hat peolple don’t say.

      The type of thing I have in mind comes from my recent reading about race, but it applies more broadly to any specific group distinction: gender, reigion, etc. Many court cases have set a precedent. Judges have been reluctant to accept any evidence of discrimination without a clear intent. Basically, it is legal to discriminate in complete blatant fashion just as long as you don’t admit that is what you’re doing. Cops have a free pass to only pull over and arrest blacks as long as they don’t use a racial sur in the process. Walmart is allowed to systematically pay women less for the exact same jobs just as long as no official memo or email is found stating this agenda

      Courts have made it nearly impossible to prove prejudice. The reason courts have done this is because racial bias has been found within the entire legal system. Judges are essentially afraid of too much justice. The problem of racial bias is so massive that no one knows what to do about it and so nothing is done at all. The whole scheme is built on no one talking about it.

      If we could only have a law that required honest speech, the whole truth and nothing but the tuth. Opposite of state censorship, we need a law that stops people from self-censoring their own speech and admit to their real intentions. We need a truth and reconciliation commission.

      But all of that goes against the grain of American culture. The right to lie, deceive and abuse others for one’s own self-interest is as American as apple pie. We call that freedom.

  21. No, not at all. It’s hard for me to carve out time for anything other than school sometimes, so please don’t think I’m ignoring you. I started to respond earlier but then had to go. But we are cut from the same cloth, I think. One specific difference is I learn more by discussion, whereas you through reading. I’m getting better at it, though.

    That said, I understand your position entirely, especially when you speak of social democracy. The author’s of the book discuss this concern also.

    Keep’em coming, I enjoy your work.


    • It is fine that it took you a bit to respond.

      I was just worried that I offended you or something. I’ve occasionally said something to someone and they never commented again. It is easy to miscommunicate online or to have people take your words the wrong way..

      I’ll try my best to keep’em coming. If you notice me stop posting on my blog, it probably means something happened to me. Hopefully, I have a few more decades of quality thinking and writing left in me.

  22. Hi Ben,

    I recently demolished an HBDer/race realist by the name of “pzed” in the comments section here:


    I think you might be interested in lots of the data and studies I posted. They’re admittedly not organized in the most readable format, but I think you’ll still find them worth your time. Maybe in the future I’ll compile it all on a single website. Some of the information might be new to you.

    • Thanks for the link, Glenn. I’ll check it out this week. It might take me a few days to really get into it. I went over to the link and saw all the comments. I’ll write something later here once I look through it all more thoroughly.

    • I just spent some time looking through the comments. There is a ton of data there. It will make a great resource for future ‘debates’ I have about such issues. Thanks for linking to it.

      I’ve never gone very far into the model minority argument, but it is an important part to emphasize. I’ve seen that argument used a lot. It is good to have the data to counter it.

      • You might be interested to know that there’s a good deal of circumstantial evidence from the UK that the Black-White gap has either narrowed or closed completely:


        (Take a look at the scores not only for the Black groups, but also for the mixed Black-White groups. If the genetic hypothesis were true, you’d expect mixed Black-Whites to score below Whites, even taking assortative mating into account.)

        Also see the discussion here, which discusses even more UK data:


        Wave 5 scores for the Millennium Cohort Study show no gap between Whites and Black Caribbeans or Black Africans on the Verbal Sims test.

        • At the first link, the following was interesting:

          “(7) Another curiosity is that British Blacks do better on Quantitative than on Verbal. In the US it the other way round.”

          That complicates the hereditarian hypothesis. I’m not sure even what to make of that. I don’t know how environmental factors influence these kinds of test results. I’m sure there are many environmental differences between British and American blacks.

          Also, interesting was the point after that one:

          “(8) As is typically the case, boys do slightly better on Quantitative and girls do slightly better on Verbal; and girls have lower S.D.’s (i.e. have fewer morons and geniuses).”

          For American blacks, there are a significant percentage of black women who have higher IQs than black men:


          This is important in two ways.

          First, American blacks of both genders have the same basic genetics, as far as intelligence goes. If anything, women are known to test lower on certain areas such as mathematics. Of course, the stereotype threat has found that stereotypes of women and of blacks drives down test results for those who feel implicated and threatened by such stereotypes. Black women have to deal with two stereotypes, race and gender.

          Genetic influence can’t explain why black women test so much better than black men. As I quote in that post:

          “Others who have done studies of high-IQ blacks have found several times as many females as males above the 120 IQ level. Since black males and black females have the same genetic inheritance, this substantial disparity must have some other roots, especially since it is not found in studies of high-IQ individuals in the general society, such as the famous Terman studies of high-IQ children, which followed these children on into adulthood and later life. If IQ differences of this magnitude can occur with no genetic difference at all, then it is more than mere speculation to say that some unusual environmental effects must be at work among blacks.”

          Second, on the other hand, this can be explained by another factor. It isn’t just general prejudice. Black men are the ultimate scapegoat of American society. They are targeted in every way imaginable. They don’t have to deal with female-oriented gender stereotypes and prejudice, but there is a different kind of gender stereotype and prejudice they face. Maleness magnifies the perceived goodness of white men while maleness magnifies the perceived badness of black males. Being male is no privilege if you are also black, quite the contrary.

    • I’ve been continuing my ‘debate’ with John Engelman. Besides interacting with him on his Amazon reviews, I’ve challenged his racism/racialism in some other reviews he commented on.

      Here is my present ongoing ‘debate’ with him:


      In the comments section at that link, I used some of the info you shared in your responses to pzed.

      Engelman hasn’t responded yet, but he never offers anything worthy. I just like throwing out data at him more for the sake of other people looking for good data. I have no illusions about racists/racialists changing their beliefs because of new data.

  23. A common defense for hereditarians has to do with immigrants.


    “Needless to say, the above is not what a moderate to strong genetic hypothesis (e.g., Lynn’s 50/50 global genetic/environmental hypothesis) would predict. In response to the above, defenders of hereditarian differences inevitably reply with the epicycle that immigrants are supper-duper selected. When I point to the performance of groups which are clearly not very selected such as Surinamese in Holland or Somalians in the UK, it’s more epicycles. It might be the case that there are some genetic differences, but based on the migrant data the magnitude of the difference between representative samples is likely small.”

    Arguing with a hereditarian is like playing Whack-A-Mole. When you disprove one explanation, they throw out another one. They never see it as their responsibility to scientifically prove anything. They love correlations and causation be damned! Most of them don’t even care about the quality of the data or alternative explanations. They expect you to do all the work to disprove what they have yet to prove, even though they are the one’s making the claims. If you try to debate them, you just end up on a wild goose chase.

    I’ve pointed out to HBDers like Jayman about black populations in some Northern states have higher average IQs than white populations in some Southern states.


    His response was the typical kind of rationalization. All the smartest blacks must have moved to the North. There is no proof that smart blacks disproportionately moved North. There isn’t even a good rational hypothesis for why lower IQ blacks wouldn’t also move to look for jobs. It didn’t take much intelligence to get on a train heading North.

    As I recall, Jayman is of Jamaican ancestry. Jamaicans have higher IQs than many other African-descend populations. I assume the attraction of HBD to a minority like Jayman is the same as for the many Asians in the HBD crowd. HBD gives them a justification for feeling superior to all the other minorities. They are special, model minorities and token whites.

    Jamaicans are highly mixed genetically with quite bit of European ancestry in the mix, but so are American blacks who have more European genetics than most blacks in the world. A large number of American blacks are more European than African and a signficant number apparently have no identifiable African genetics whatsoever. The genetic explanation gets trotted out in every way imaginable, and yet it never is consistent. We are just supposed to believe the various differences are in the genetics somewhere, an all-purpose explanation for almost anything.

    The Chuck guy from Open Psych makes a good point about Jamaicans.


    “I’m narrowly focusing on the Negroid (Black) – European Caucasoid (White) gaps. If there aren’t such, I don’t expect to find European/North African Caucasoid ones. Jamaicans, in fact, did come to the U.K. in the ’50s and ’60s by boat. And they had lower average measured IQs to start. But now, by the third-fourth generation the large difference among the youth has greatly narrowed to vanished. This can’t be explained simply in terms of genetic assimilation and selective immigration.”

    Obviously, there are some major environmental differences among Jamaicans. Blacks in Jamaica didn’t begin with on average high IQs. Nor did the Jamaican immigrants to UK.

    Chuck then posed a question to menghu1001:


    “Let’s start here: Do you agree that the UK gap, as of 2010, is surprisingly small i.e., between 0 and 0.5 SD for < 15 years old Whites and Blacks? We have converging evidence for this:

    "normative and birth cohort IQ data
    achievement test data"

    To which menghu1001 responded with the following:

    "You already know my answer. I have nothing more to add. It's the strong fact. There is surely lower IQ gap in the UK, and it's not fluke. For the reason, I'm more inclined that the environmental hypothesis is more likely true than HH. But, as you know also, I don't have a good argument, one that theoretically makes sense and is empirically supported. Your argument, if my memory is correct, was that UK blacks may have different attitudes, and the burden of the history of black slavery in the USA is irrelevant to the UK, etc. These are more or less the arguments I favor as well. But these arguments are so speculative, and extremely if not impossible to test, that I don't know what to make of them. From what we know in the USA, black attitudes are unlikely to cause this strong gap in the USA. Obviously, some people can say that what is true in the US is not necessarily applicable to the UK, because they believe the environments are different, etc. A lot of talk. But they still have to prove it. Even the period of desegregation in the US has not caused a secular decline in US gaps, or perhaps only for children. If such strong environmental shift has barely an effect on adult gap, why would I think that the UK is so particularly different than the US ?"

    Even when a person like this admits to the strong case of environmental influence, they keep backing away from taking it fully seriously and resist the implications. He acts like we don't already have massive research data on environmental influences. His claim that "these arguments are so speculative" simply demonstrates his lack of knowledge, which is not the same thing as lack of data that provides strong evidence.

    These debates never get to the most interesting issues, where the rubber meets the road. It all becomes speculations and counter-speculations about correlations. We don't need to speculate about the effects of environment, from class issues to race issues. We already know racism, for example, has massive impact on every variety of social problem and demographic results. I never see HBDers and their likes even acknowledging the existence of the decades of scientific research and other data sets showing racism in every aspect of society.

    Before anyone can say anything interesting or meaningful, they have to first deal with basic environmental issues. That is the only way to prove or disprove a hypothesis, by controlling for environmental factors. That is how science works, but these people aren't interested in actual science for the most part. A few HBDers like hbd chick are more intellectually curious and honest, but even then she isn't a scientist who tests any of the hypotheses she promotes. At least, she admits she isn't doing science.

    Not only do they not bother with all the environmental evidence, they don't even carefully look at the problems of correlations in the data they do look at. Most racists/racialists/race-realists cherrypick what supports their beliefs and ignore all else. It is like arguing with a religious apologist.

    The data you are pointing to undermines the entire HBD edifice.


    "The Black-White Gaps are trivial to small (in effect size) and don’t increase with age. The data here disconfirms Lynn’s hypothesis. Defenders of this embattled hypothesis need to account for the absence of more than trivial to small gaps […] In that regards, at very least you have to grant that the near absence of an achievement gap in the UK is as much evidence against a UK IQ gap as the presence of an achievement gap in the US is evidence for a US IQ gap. Hereditarians have routinely argued that the US achievement gap is evidence of an IQ gaps (for example, Rushton and Jensen 2010, section 4), so my evidence should be in good standing."

    As others have noted, the majority of responses from HBDers are yet more rationalizations or else, from the biggest HBD proponents, silence or dismissal.


    "Yeah, the tests seem to discriminate just fine. This is really troubling data for the racial-hereditarian position and has caused me to update away from it to a degree. It’s obviously not a slam dunk that completely does away with the debate but it’s really troubling data. Even more troubling is the “meh, whatever” reaction from the top hereditarians. Reasonable objections have been raised by the commentators here but no-one has really succeeded in explaining this away."

    You can throw at HBDers a huge pile of data like the above. You'll get the same response. I've presented all kinds of data and rarely get any intelligent arguments in return. Even hbd chick doesn't seem to take up the challenge of all the contrary evidence, although I know she follows my blogs… or at least visits on occasion; she definitely follows me on twitter and occasionally responds to me there. I'd love to know what she thinks of all the data I (and others) present about environmental influences, specifically in terms of race and racism.

    The silence of HBDers about the data on racism is deafening.

    • In the case of the UK data, we’re not dealing with an anomalous study, but rather with converging evidence which shows a closing of the gap. What really sold me on the UK data was the absence of ethnic gaps in mental retardation and Special Education Needs.

      Richard Lynn said: “Mental retardation is also partly the tail end of the normal distribution of intelligence and the incidence of this would be expected to be greater among the ethnic minorities because these have lower mean IQ and hence a greater proportion at the low end of the distribution.”

      But this is contradicted by:


      “The general US finding that Black American students are up to two-and-a-half times more likely than White students to be identified among those with Mental Retardation (Donovan & Cross, 2002; Oswald et al, 1999, Skiba et al, 2004) was not replicated for Black Caribbean or Black African students in the present study. Neither group was over-represented for Moderate Learning Difficulties at the level selected for this study to indicate educational significance (1.5:1), nor were Mixed White and Black Caribbean, Mixed White and Black African or Black Other groups. Indeed, the adjusted odds ratios showed under-representation for both Black African and Black Other groups; Mixed White and Black Caribbean students were just above this cut-off for under-representation.

      The present data also suggest important differences with respect to Moderate Learning Difficulties within the Black groups in England, with higher odds ratios for Black Caribbean than for Black African students. For the unadjusted odds ratios, although neither reaches the cut-off
      set for this study, Black Caribbean students were over-represented (1.32:1) whereas Black African students were under-represented (0.84:1). This differential relationship was repeated in the adjusted odds ratios (0.85:1 for Black Caribbean compared with 0.47:1 for Black African). Inspection of the data for Mixed White and Black Caribbean compared with Mixed White and African students reveals a similar pattern of odds for Moderate Learning Difficulties for these two mixed heritage groups.

      Black Caribbean, Mixed White and Black Caribbean and Black Other students in the English sample were over-represented around 2:1 relative to White British students for Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties, comparable to US findings for Black American students and Emotional Disturbance which range from 1.6:1 (Donovan & Cross, 2002, Oswald et al. 1999) to 2.6:1 (Skiba et al, 2004). However, of these three groups only Black Caribbean students remained over-represented when poverty, gender and age were taken into account
      (1.50:1). Black African and Mixed White and African students in the present study were not over-represented in unadjusted ratios and Black African students were actually underrepresented in the adjusted ratios (0.60:1). A similar pattern is presented by UK national statistics that indicate that Black Caribbean, Mixed White and Black Caribbean and Black Other students in England are more likely to be permanently excluded from school than White British students (odds ratios of 2.6, 2.3 and 2.2:1 respectively) but that the odds ratios for Mixed White
      and African (1.6:1) and Black African (0.8:1) students are substantially lower (Parsons et al, 2005).

      This study also highlights different profiles for students of Asian heritage. Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Other Asian students all had lower odds ratios than White students for Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties and for Specific Learning Difficulties. For
      Moderate Learning Difficulties there was greater variation between Asian groups, with Indian and Other Asian groups under-represented relative to White British, Bangladeshi students not significantly different from White British, and Pakistani pupils approaching the threshold for
      over-representation (1.46:1). After adjusting for poverty, gender and age, all four ethnic groups were under-represented relative to White British on all three types of SEN, with the single exception of Pakistani pupils for Moderate Learning Difficulties where there was no difference in identification rates compared to White British.

      The importance of socioeconomic disadvantage for disproportionality has been reinforced by this study. Students eligible for a free school meal were over twice as likely to be identified with SEN, and the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) showed that students scoring one SD above the mean were 1.6 times more likely to have SEN than students scoring one SD below the mean. Skiba et al. (2005) have commented that “poverty was found to be a weak and inconsistent predictor of disproportionality” (p. 35), as their district
      level poverty measure did not correlate with district level variation in African American disproportionality for moderate mental retardation or emotional disturbance. The individual student data available here show clearly that poverty does explain some element of disproportionality; hence the adjusted ORs for Black Caribbean students for Moderate Learning Difficulties and Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties are reduced relative to the unadjusted ORs. It is possible that even more of the disproportionality might have been
      explained had further socio-economic indicators, such as mother’s education level, been available.”

      • To my mind, it is all extremely compelling data. I’m glad to see this kind of info getting discussed.

        Race realists and HBDers tell everyone they want to be taken seriously, but they tend to isolate themselves in media and blogosphere echo chambers. The debate needs to be broadened into a truly public debate and the experts in these fields need to take the responsibility to get involved. Ignoring the racist and race realists is no longer a viable option, if it ever was.

        Whatever the data shows, we should do our best to understand it even while we seek even better data. We need to get past all the speculating and opinionating. This debate needs to be based on science rather than being dismissive of science. The very categories of ‘race’ need to be challenged within the relevant fields. Even many scientists have been too lazy in their assumptions and biases.

        • Ben,

          In the future, I recommend that you not link directly to that Occidental Ascent website. While I find the UK data compelling enough to be used in debates on the topic, I don’t think it’s a good idea to give hits and publicity to that website. It’s a long story, etc.

          • I have no plans on further linking to that blog. I know what kind of blog it is. I’ve commented on my share of race realist blogs.

            Anyway, I take the position that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Race realism can only flourish in the dark.

            So, even though I have no plans on linking there, I don’t make it a policy to say I won’t link to a particular source. If I wanted to respond to something I came across at that blog, I’d link to it without a second thought.

            I wouldn’t worry about giving them hits and publicity. The greatest danger race realists face is that the broader public will actually take them seriously and scrutinize their rhetoric. Their project was doomed from the start. Race realism falls apart with the slightest analysis.

            Generally speaking, though, I don’t waste my time visiting race realist blogs. I have better things to do.

          • I think deep down he knows race realism is bullshit but continues to go along with it until the IQ allele search is complete. He probably is already familiar with lots of the holes in the hereditarian arguments but deliberately suppresses them in most instances, except when genuinely perturbed by the data. In that OpenPsych thread, he admitted that there are “plausible societal” explanations for the gaps in the America, yet elsewhere his confirmation bias towards hereditarianism is obvious.

  24. There is some value in interacting with such people.

    Many of them might not be as strong in their beliefs as they act. Certainly, there are some doubts being harbored. Doubts often make people even more dogmatic in their defense of cherished beliefs. But eventually doubts often do get the better of people. Once a doubt takes hold, it isn’t easily dislodged.

    It is possible that he knows on some level race realism is bullshit. I occasionally see HBDers backpedaling on the race realism issue. They’ll start arguing that race isn’t all that important to HBD. In the end, their attachment is to some mix of cultural determinism and genetic determinism. One way or another, they want to believe in an essentialist nature to particular genetic populations: races, ethnicities, nationalities, or whatever.

    It is a worldview that precedes the evidence used in its defense. The moment race realism no longer seems useful to defend their essentialist reality tunnel, they will get rid of it and look for a new ideological rationalization. It is like dealing with a religious apologist. They just have this gut-level sense that what they believe is true.

    For the fun of it, I did comment on one of Chuck’s blog posts:


    He is a somewhat reasonable guy, relatively speaking. Not as impressive as hbd chick. I’d categorize him at the lower intellectual level with someone like JayMan.

    I don’t full myself that the discussion with him will go anywhere. He has an ideology that he must defend. He will cherrypick and dismiss data as it is convenient. My only hope is to maybe provoke his doubts a bit and cause him to actually think about his beliefs, if only for a brief moment.

    • I decided to start a new thread with the above comment.

      I got tired of dealing with ‘Chuck’. His real name apparently is John Fuerst. He linked to a comment he left somewhere else:


      Someone made it clear that the two were the same person:


      The last comment left was a response to ‘Chuck’. It sums up my own position fairly well:


      I quickly realized that dealing with ‘Chuck’ was going to be pointless and frustrating. I could tell from the kind of comments he leaves and from the typical role he plays in discussions with others.

      It never goes anywhere because hereditarians like him will never respond to the actual criticisms of race realism. They will talk around the issues, obsess over details while ignoring the context, complain about being censored by the mainstream, and constantly shift their arguments. The simple straightforward issues will get dismissed, if they get acknowledged at all.

      It is the exact same tactics one gets from religious apologists. I cut my debating teeth in biblical studies and so I know the apologetic tactics of undermining intellectually honest discussion.

      The thing about apologists, whether apologists for biblical literalism or race realism, is that they often are great in making superficially compelling arguments, if one isn’t too familiar with all the data. It is hard to win a debate against someone who refuses to be intellectually honest. There really isn’t any point in even trying.

      Bringing up new evidence can and at times will change the mind of an intellectually humble person, but it will never change the mind of a true believer. The one thing true believers excel at is persistence. There is nothing like dogmatism to give one tenacity and perseverance. Many of these guys, and they usually are male, is that they will dedicate their entire lives to their belief system. They are willing to spend all of their time arguing for biblical literalism, race realism, etc.

      Few non-dogmatic people are as willing to spend the time in dealing with them by refuting every single one of their endless arguments. It requires more effort and time to analyze a bad argument and offer high quality data than it requires to make a bad argument and offer low quality data. I have great respect for the academics who take the time to deal with these types in order to dispel the ignorance and bigotry.

      • I think the internet would benefit greatly from a anti-Race Realist FAQ that 1) dealt with all the typical arguments employed by those types and 2) presented all of the data in an impartial light. It could be maintained by multiple people and receive feedback from scholars in the field as well. (I’ve exchanged emails with prominent academics like James Flynn and Jelte Wicherts before, so they’re not inaccessible.) This would spare people the effort of refuting the same arguments over and over again and prevent lots of the fence-sitters from falling under the sway of HBDers.

        What you say about the True Believers is completely accurate. I’m not worried about converting them. I’m concerned that they might beguile well-intentioned and agnostic people with their specious arguments. Don’t believe it can’t happen. E.g., look up the controversy surrounding William Saletan when he cited J. Philippe Rushton as a legitimate source.

        I also constantly see people cite Richard Lynn as a trustworthy source despite such egregious incidents of fraud as this:


        • That is a good idea. There are many critics of race realism who write books, articles, blogs, etc. The number of critics seems to be growing in numbers, both as individuals speaking out and as a movement. But I’m not sure if anyone has sought to organize the people involved or the data that has been accumulating. The closest we have are some anthologies of essays.

          I like the idea of an anti-Race Realist FAQ. It would be helpful. But I’d also like to see more dialogue. I don’t see all HBDers as merely the enemy. In all honesty, I have great respect for hbd chick. It is a real shame that she has become part of that crowd for I think the echo chamber effect limits her ability to see other perspectives. She has a great mind and she is a genuinely well-intentioned person. She has discussed the problems of Lynn’s data in her blog. She is intellectually honest like that.

          That is why I felt reluctant to say I wouldn’t link to a particular blog. I don’t want to shut down real dialogue when it might be possible, although that doesn’t seem likely with Chuck. I’d like to encourage people like hbd chick to move away from race realism. HBD theory was originated by a guy who was against race realism. So, HBD theory in itself is not the problem.

          That is maybe another reason a FAQ would be so useful. One of the things that needs to be better differentiated is that acknowledging human biodiversity doesn’t necessitate promoting race realism. Everyone is fine with human biodiversity as a basic reality of the human condition, but it needs to be made clear what that means in terms of the best data that science has to offer. It is on the basis of human diversity that the strongest arguments can be made against race realism.

      • Ben,

        Chuck just left an interesting comment over at his blog:

        “As for a hereditarian hypothesis, I’m not expecting large differences; I’ll be presently surprised is even modest ones are found. I’ve found a lot of anomalies, especially when it comes to migrant scores.”


        Unfortunately, he doesn’t go into any detail. You were cordial enough with him during your exchange that he may be willing to share more information if you inquire. Maybe it’s worth a shot to see if he divulges more data that undermine hereditarianism?

        Over at the OpenPsych forum, he also wrote:

        “Right now I am reviewing genomic ancestry x education studies. There are dozens of them and they don’t always show the predicted correlations, at least when it comes to Amerindian ancestry.”


        So that would seem like a strike against a genetic Hispanic-White gap. However, once again he doesn’t name specific studies. Perhaps you could pry that info from him?

        • I’m about to head off to work right now. I’ll look at what he has written when I get a chance. Maybe I’ll try to interact with him some more. I do think it is of value to have these discussions with those we disagree with, no matter how challenging it is. Let me get back to you about this.

          • I can’t shake the feeling that he has a wealth of data undermining hereditarianism at his disposal. It’d be great if you could pry some more info from him.

        • At the first link, I noticed Chuck make this comment:

          “African, of course, form a distinct continental race.”

          I’m not sure what kind of cognitive disconnect ails him. That is a scientifically meaningless statement. He has yet to even offer a useful scientific definition of race that would fit the folk taxonomy of race. He obviously is defending that folk taxonomy by speaking of Africans as a continental race, but he offers no scientific logic for how one gets from the scientific data to the non-scientific category. He can’t explain it, of course.

          It is hard to take him seriously, as someone other than a pseudo-intellectual crank, but he isn’t stupid. The problem is how does one interact with someone whose intellectual ability is rather selective in its application. He makes other comments that can show a more intellectual carefulness. His lapses into the mindset of an ideologue don’t instill in me a desire to deal with him. Getting a full and honest appraisal of the data out of him would be like pulling teeth.

          He apparently can’t see the disconnect in his own mind. That lack of self-awareness ends up undermining everything he writes about. I get the sense that he is on the verge of some new insight that will shatter his ideological worldview, but he isn’t quite ready to give up on his cherished beliefs. They are too intertwined with his thinking. He has become emotionally invested in an ideology that on an intellectual level he sometimes admits is weak at best.

          I wish there was someone who would be better suited for getting at the info he has. I wonder why he doesn’t just show it, instead of holding it back. He dops these hints in various places without offering anything further. It is strange, since that data he talks about indirectly would appear to cut to the very heart of everything he claims to be true. Why mention it at all if he finds it too challenging to share?

          I sense he is a divided person. He isn’t sure how to go forward. He has to make a choice, to continue on the ideological path of race realism or take a new direction by following the data that doesn’t fit the race realist assumptions. He shows little indication of a willingness to make the second choice.

    • I was sitting at work the other day. In between taking care of customers, I pondered race realism. It was really bugging me. I kept trying to understand just what was the argument being made. What supposedly is meant by races being real?

      When one looks at the data without any preconceptions, one would never come to the conclusion of races. A race realist argument can be made by cherrypicking the data, but even then the data doesn’t fit all that well. If you pound hard enough, you can smash a round peg into a square hole; but that doesn’t prove the round peg is actually square.

      As I pointed out to Chuck, the genetic diversity just doesn’t fit into race realism. Too much has to be left out and ignored. There is no way to see a single race in the immense diversity, both genetic and phenotypic, found in the continental African populations and global “black” populations. It just isn’t possible. Not all Africans even look the same.

      But if race realism isn’t making an argument based on genetics, then what makes a race real?

      Some race realists will then argue that races are real, even if they don’t fit folk taxonomies. Yet at the same time they imply that, even so, racial categories somehow justify and apply to the mainstream discussion on races. There is this weird double-think that is often found in race realism. The theory of race realism shifts depending on what part of their belief system the race realist is seeking to defend.

      It never becomes absolutely clear even what the basic argument is that is being made. This is what feels like intellectual dishonesty. It makes it impossible to debate because the race realist always shifts the burden of proof back on the critic of race realism. But the critic can’t ever pin the race realist down in making a straightforward claim.

      The best one ever gets from race realists are broad definitions of race that are so vague as to possibly mean a variety of things. When asked for specifics, they are never given. Genetic diversity exists on a continuous spectrum across populations and genetic clusters exist within geographic populations, but no justification is given why folk taxonomies are anything other than arbitrary.

      It is so frustrating. I just want a simple and honest explanation of what race realists are even claiming. All I can figure is that it is real only in the sense that one just knows it when one sees it and one sees it because one believes in it, like looking at a picture and just knowing it is porn without ever offering any clear definition of porn.

      • About genetic diversity, you’re right, but I wouldn’t underestimate the heterogeneity of Native Americans. Take Mexico alone, for example:


        “Imagine if people from Kansas and California were as genetically distinct from each other as someone from Germany is from someone from Japan. That’s the kind of remarkable genetic variation that scientists have now found within Mexico, thanks to the first fine-scale study of human genetic variation in that country. This local diversity could help researchers trace the history of the country’s different indigenous populations and help them develop better diagnostic tools and medical treatments for people of Mexican descent living all over the world.

        The team has done a “tremendous job” of creating a “blueprint of all the genetic diversity in Mexico,” says Bogdan Pasaniuc, a population geneticist at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research.

        Mexico contains 65 different indigenous ethnic groups, 20 of which are represented in the study, says Andrés Moreno-Estrada, a population geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and the study’s lead author. Working with Carlos Bustamante, another Stanford population geneticist, the team sampled the genomes of indigenous populations all over Mexico, from the northern desert of Sonora to the jungles of Chiapas in the south. Over centuries of living so far apart—and often in isolation because of mountain ranges, vast deserts, or other geographic barriers—these populations developed genetic differences from one another, Bustamante explains. Many of these variants are what he calls “globally rare but locally common.” That is, a genetic variant that’s widespread in one ethnic group, like the Maya, may hardly ever show up in people of different ancestry, like people of European descent. If you study the genomes of only the Europeans, you’d never catch the Maya variant. And that’s a big problem for people with Maya ancestry if that variant increases their risk of disease or changes the way they react to different kinds of medication. “All politics is local, right? What we’re starting to find is that lots of genetics is local, too,” Bustamante says.

        When the team analyzed the genomes of 511 indigenous individuals from all over Mexico, they found a striking amount of genetic diversity. The most divergent indigenous groups in Mexico are as different from each other as Europeans are from East Asians, they report online today in Science. This diversity maps onto the geography of Mexico itself. The farther away ethnic groups live from each other, the more different their genomes turn out to be.

        But most people in Mexico or of Mexican descent these days are not indigenous but rather mestizo, meaning they have a mixture of indigenous, European, and African ancestry. Do their genomes also vary by what region of Mexico they come from, or has all that local variation been smoothed out by centuries of different groups meeting, mixing, and having babies?

        To answer that question, the team collaborated with Mexico’s National Institute of Genomic Medicine, which has been collecting genetic data from mestizos for many years. Somewhat surprisingly, they found that mestizos in a given part of Mexico tended to have the same “rare” genetic variants as their indigenous neighbors. The mestizo genomes “track so well with the indigenous groups that we could use the genetic diversity in mestizos to make inferences about [their native] ancestors,” Pasaniuc says. Strong genetic markers of Maya ancestry, for example, show up in the genomes of modern people living in the Yucatán Peninsula and the northern part of Mexico’s Gulf Coast in the modern state of Veracruz, which likely reflects a pre-Columbian Maya trade or migration route. “It gives us a historical understanding of what these populations have been up to,” says Christopher Gignoux, a postdoc in Bustamante’s group at Stanford.”

      • “All I can figure is that it is real only in the sense that one just knows it when one sees it and one sees it because one believes in it, like looking at a picture and just knowing it is porn without ever offering any clear definition of porn.”

        Another aspect to keep in mind is that the vast majority of HBDers are politically right-wing/conservative. I know there are a few that claim to be liberal like Jayman, but I’m suspicious when I hear this. They’re usually belied by their associations, policy recommendations, and fundamentalist mentality. I encountered another HBDer who goes by the handle “BonesandBehavior” who claimed to be a liberal, and then proceeded to praise the racial laws of Nazi Germany. No kidding.

        Conservatives have always emphasized the value of prejudice, faith, gut feelings, and other irrational forces over critical reason and the empirical sciences. The HBDers as you describe them are within that tradition, although they like to claim the veneer of science for their agenda. It’s obvious that they’re mostly interested in science only insofar as it advances their political agenda. Their prejudice and irrationality becomes evident once you pry deeper and start to threaten their beliefs.

        They have plenty of antecedents in that regard. Scientific racism has always seemed to have one foot in science, one foot in mysticism: Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Georges Vacher de Lapouge, Madison Grant, Hans F.K. Guenther, Julius Evola, Alfred Rosenberg, et al.

        Even their memes are not original. I’m sure you’ve frequently come across HBDers who compare themselves to Galileo and other scientists who changed the world and were resisted by the authorities. But Confederate apologists for slavery were comparing themselves to Galileo back in the 19th century! There is nothing new under the sun.

        Here’s an excerpt from Alexander Stephens’s Corner Stone speech:

        “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

        Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

        As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.”

        • “Another aspect to keep in mind is that the vast majority of HBDers are politically right-wing/conservative. I know there are a few that claim to be liberal like Jayman, but I’m suspicious when I hear this. They’re usually belied by their associations, policy recommendations, and fundamentalist mentality.”

          Even some HBDers complain about how HBD blogs attract nearly every variety of right-wing extremist. That is why I find it surprising that someone like hbd chick doesn’t distance herself from it. She is better than someone like JayMan. I’ve told her that before. But I think she has become too emotionally invested. JayMan is her friend and she can’t see him objectively.

          I don’t know what JayMan’s politics really are, but it is definitely some variety of reactionary. It is not unusual for reactionaries to hold some liberal views. We live in a liberal society and so speaking liberal views is standard across the spectrum.

          “It’s obvious that they’re mostly interested in science only insofar as it advances their political agenda.”

          I think many of them are politically naive. They aren’t aware of the history of ideas. It isn’t what they know. Someone like hbd chick is narrowly focused on her field of study. She lacks the larger context to make sense of race realism. It is easy to be suckered into a worldview when you aren’t able to see it for what it is. Sadly, the American public isn’t all that well informed about such things.

          We live in a world where race realism is the norm. The mainstream doesn’t talk about race realism much. They don’t have to as it is taken as a given in our society. Race is the framework for our social order. News reporters and politicians regularly speak of race as if they were objective categories, not social constructs. No one in the mainstream even thinks to question or qualify what they mean when they use racial labels.

          “Even their memes are not original. I’m sure you’ve frequently come across HBDers who compare themselves to Galileo and other scientists who changed the world and were resisted by the authorities. But Confederate apologists for slavery were comparing themselves to Galileo back in the 19th century! There is nothing new under the sun.”

          Nothing is original. But our society suffers historical amnesia.

  25. I left Chuck a reply:


    You keep dropping hints like this:

    “As for a hereditarian hypothesis, I’m not expecting large differences; I’ll be presently surprised is even modest ones are found. I’ve found a lot of anomalies, especially when it comes to migrant scores.”

    And this:


    “Right now I am reviewing genomic ancestry x education studies. There are dozens of them and they don’t always show the predicted correlations, at least when it comes to Amerindian ancestry.”

    What exactly are you referring to? Have you written about any of this in greater detail? Would you mind sharing the data or links to the data?

    I get the sense that you might be sitting on a wealth of data. The comments I quoted are enticing, but by themselves simply leave me with a lingering sense of curiosity.

    I’m always interested in the anomalies, that which doesn’t fit the predictions. In my own searching for useful data, I’ve found many things that complicate particular theories. This implies there might be something entirely else going on here, that we don’t yet fully understand which factors are involved and how they interact. Obviously, we haven’t figured out how to control for all or even most of the confounding factors, and that is a major problem for anyone making claims of causation.

    I’m for following the data to see where it leads. But following the data won’t be easy.

  26. Some more data you may find interesting:

    “Nationally, 58.1% of black pupils achieved 5 or more GCSEs at C or better including English and maths last year. That represented the biggest increase of any ethnic group from 2012 (up 3.5 percentage points) and from 2010 (up 8.8 percentage points). The national average is 60.6%.

    It means the gap between black pupils’ and all pupils’ GCSE results has more than halved in just 4 years and is now just 2.5 percentage points – more than two-and-a-half times what it was in 2010 (5.8 percentage points).

    And among the poorest black pupils, the gap has also closed markedly – 43.1% of black boys eligible for free school meals achieved 5 or more GCSEs at C or better including English and maths last year – up 2.8 percentage points on the previous year, and the gap between the poorest black pupils and all pupils has narrowed by 4.4 percentage points since 2009.

    The figures also show that black pupils are also increasingly taking and achieving the set of key academic subjects most valued by universities and employers – the EBacc:
    in 2011, just 16% of black pupils took the EBacc and just 9.9% achieved it – gaps between their performance and all pupils’ of 5.6 percentage points and 5.4 percentage points
    but last year, 33.7% took it and 19.6% achieved it – that means the gaps are now just 1.7 percentage points and 3.1 percentage points respectively
    The progress black pupils make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs is also well above the national average with:
    76.2% of black pupils making the expected level of progress in English in 2013 compared to 70.4% for all pupils
    74.2% of pupils making the expected level of progress in maths compared to 70.7% of all pupils
    The performance of black pupils in primary school tests (taken by 11-year-olds) has also significantly improved in recent years:
    73% of black pupils achieved the expected level in the key measure (the3Rs) last year, against 75% of all pupils. That means the gap between black pupils and their peers in the main primary school indicator is now just 2 percentage points, compared to 5 percentage points in 2010 (when the key measure was achievement in English and maths)
    the progress in the 3Rs made by black pupils between ages 7 and 11 was especially impressive – the 2 percentage point improvement from 2012 to 2013 is the biggest of children of any background
    and since 2010 the gap between the proportion of black pupils reaching the expected level in maths at age 11 compared to all pupils has fallen from 8 percentage points to 3 percentage points (there are no statistics directly comparing improvements in English between 2010 and 2013 because of the way English performance is now calculated)”



    “Yesterday I was playing around with GCSE data and found an interesting trend. Over the past five years black pupils have almost caught up with white pupils in the main 5 A*-C measure including English and Maths.

    My first thought was that this must be a function of the “London effect” as over 60% of black pupils live in the capital. But actually black improvement has been faster in other regions. (Health warning on this chart – some regions have very low numbers of black pupils, especially the North East where just 139 took GCSEs in 2013).

    My next thought was that it might be a result of immigration. Unfortunately we don’t know how many recent immigrants are included in the figures but we can look at differences between black Caribbean and black African as a proxy, as the latter are more likely to be recent immigrants.

    It turns out that the percentage of black African pupils as a proportion of all black pupils has increased over the past 5 years from 54% to 59% and black Caribbean has decreased from 33% to 29%. This explains some of the faster rate of improvement for black pupils overall as black Africans do about 8 percentage points better than black Caribbeans.

    But the rate of improvement has actually been faster for black Caribbeans (13.9 percentage points over the past five years compared to 12.8 for black Africans). So there’s something else going on as well…

    I then noticed that black boys have improved faster than black girls over the past five years (14.4 percentage points to 12.8). This is the opposite of what’s happening with white British boys and girls (7.8 to 11.2). It seems like this gender difference is another part of the jigsaw.”


    “According to the traditional “investment” theory, intelligence can be classified into two main categories: fluid and crystallized. Differences in fluid intelligence are thought to reflect novel, on-the-spot reasoning, whereas differences in crystallized intelligence are thought to reflect previously acquired knowledge and skills. According to this theory, crystallized intelligence develops through the investment of fluid intelligence in a particular body of knowledge.

    As far as genetics is concerned, this story has a very clear prediction: In the general population– in which people differ in their educational experiences– the heritability of crystallized intelligence is expected to be lower than the heritability of fluid intelligence. This traditional theory assumes that fluid intelligence is heavily influenced by genes and relatively fixed, whereas crystallized intelligence is more heavily dependent on acquired skills and learning opportunities.

    But is this story really true?

    In a new study, Kees-Jan Kan and colleagues analyzed the results of 23 independent twin studies conducted with representative samples, yielding a total sample of 7,852 people. They investigated how heritability coefficients vary across specific cognitive abilities. Importantly, they assessed the “Cultural load” of various cognitive abilities by taking the average percentage of test items that were adjusted when the test was adapted for use in 13 different countries.

    They discovered two main findings. First, in samples of both adults and children, they found that the greater the cultural load, the greater the test was associated with IQ.

    This finding is actually quite striking, and suggests that the extent to which a test of cognitive ability correlates with IQ is the extent to which it reflects societal demands, not cognitive demands.

    Second, in adults, the researchers found that the higher the heritability of the cognitive test, the more the test depended on culture. The effects were medium-to-large, and statistically significant

    As you can see above, highly culturally loaded tests such as Vocabulary, Spelling, and Information had relatively high heritability coefficients, and were also highly related to IQ. As the researchers note, this finding “demands explanation”, since it’s inconsistent with the traditional investment story. What’s going on?

    Why did the most culturally-loaded tests have the highest heritability coefficients?

    One possibility is that Western society is a homogenous learning environment– school systems are all the same. Everyone has the same educational experiences. The only thing that varies is cognitive ability. Right. Not likely.

    The next possibility is that the traditional investment theory is correct, and crystallized intelligence (e.g., vocabulary, general knowledge) is more cognitively demanding than solving the most complex abstract reasoning tests. For this to be true, tests such as vocabulary would have to depend more on IQ than fluid intelligence. Seems unlikely. It’s not clear why tests such as vocabulary would have a higher cognitive demand than tests that are less culturally-loaded, but more cognitively complex (e.g., tests of abstract reasoning). Also, this theory doesn’t provide an explanation for why the heritability of IQ increases linearly from childhood to young adulthood.

    Instead, the best explanation may require abandoning some long held assumptions in the field. The researchers argue that their findings are best understood in terms of genotype-environment covariance, in which cognitive abilities and knowledge dynamically feed off each other. Those with a proclivity to engage in cognitive complexity will tend to seek out intellectually demanding environments. As they develop higher levels of cognitive ability, they will also tend to achieve relatively higher levels of knowledge. More knowledge will make it more likely that they will eventually end up in more cognitively demanding environments, which will facilitate the development of an even wider range of knowledge and skills. According to Kees-Jan Kan and colleagues, societal demands influence the development and interaction of multiple cognitive abilities and knowledge, thus causing positive correlations among each other, and giving rise to the general intelligence factor.

    To be clear: these findings do not mean that differences in intelligence are entirely determined by culture. Numerous researchers have found that the structure of cognitive abilities is strongly influenced by genes (although we haven’t the foggiest idea which genes are reliably important). What these findings do suggest is that there is a much greater role of culture, education, and experience in the development of intelligence than mainstream theories of intelligence have assumed. Behavioral genetics researchers– who parse out genetic and environmental sources of variation– have often operated on the assumption that genotype and environment are independent and do not covary. These findings suggests they very much do.”


    “The results are the strongest support to date for the view of Cunningham and Stanovich (1998) that reading improves verbal intelligence. However, unlike those authors, we did not find associations of reading exposure (measured by the ART) with later intelligence; the only associations in our models were with reading ability. It may be the case that earlier measures of reading exposure—our ART measures were restricted to ages 10 and 12—would have shown significant paths to later intelligence, but alternatively, reading ability may be more important for intellectual development than reading exposure. If the association between reading and verbal ability found here were causal, one potential mechanism may lie in the facilitatory effects of orthography learning on vocabulary, found in studies by Rosenthal and Ehri (2008) and Ricketts, Bishop, and Nation (2009). In these experiments, children who learned new words and nonwords in conjunction with orthography, as opposed to only hearing the nonword spoken aloud, had better recall for the meanings of the words on a later test, indicating an orthographic “scaffolding” effect on vocabulary acquisition.

    However, the links between reading and intelligence found in the present study extended beyond verbal intelligence; reading skill was also associated with subsequent increases in nonverbal ability. Mechanisms for this finding are less clear. Speculatively, these mechanisms could be similar to those that may cause education to increase intelligence (e.g., Becker, Lüdtke, Trautwein, Köller, & Baumert, 2012; Brinch & Galloway, 2012): Better reading ability may improve knowledge of specific facts, but it may also allow abstract thinking skills to be gained via the process of taking on the perspectives of fictional or historical characters, or imagining other worlds, times, and scenarios.

    Our study also indicated associations of earlier intelligence with later reading, which may at first glance appear consistent with models in which prior semantic knowledge aids reading development (e.g., Seidenberg, 2012). However, these associations were, first, minimal—in the first model, only one path from intelligence differences to reading differences was significant—and second, unexpectedly driven only by nonverbal intelligence, and not via verbal measures that assess semantic knowledge directly, through tasks such as vocabulary tests. The mechanism for this association, then, may be one in which abstract abilities involving the extraction of information from rule-based systems aid the development of reading expertise rather than one in which better semantic representations facilitate reading performance.

    Given our monozygotic-difference design, the associations found are purely related to the nonshared environment, and may plausibly—though at this point hypothetically—be thought of as targets for intervention. Significant paths were found emanating from reading differences as early as age 7, which may underscore the importance of early reading intervention (Ehri, 2012; Torgesen, 2004), especially for children at risk for reading disorders. Recent randomized controlled trials have shown that such children’s reading difficulties can be to some extent alleviated (e.g., Clarke, Snowling, Truelove, & Hulme, 2010; Hatcher et al., 2006); our findings raise the possibility that such interventions may, over and above their effects on reading, also improve more general cognitive abilities. It should be noted that our study does not gainsay the substantial genetic effects on both reading and intelligence, or their genetic correlation (e.g., Harlaar et al., 2005). It does, however, provide some of the strongest evidence to date for potential nonshared environmental impacts of reading on intelligence, and thus support for the plausibility of effective intervention to raise both variables.

    The present study provided compelling evidence that improvements in reading ability, themselves caused purely by the nonshared environment, may result in improvements in both verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability, and may thus be a factor increasing cognitive diversity within families (Plomin, 2011). These associations are present at least as early as age 7, and are not—to the extent we were able to test this possibility—driven by differences in reading exposure. Since reading is a potentially remediable ability, these findings have implications for reading instruction: Early remediation of reading problems might not only aid in the growth of literacy, but may also improve more general cognitive abilities that are of critical importance across the life span.”


    • All of this combined offers quite the wallop to the hereditarian position. It’s nice to see more data come out that helps clarify these issues. The debate has been hindered by the lack of enough quality data. Too many assumptions have gone unchallenged for far too long.

      For the most part, I haven’t seen race realists deal with this kind of data or even acknowledge it. There position is going to become increasingly weak and defensive as the data keeps on piling up.

  27. I finally have read your “About” page and see that, as we have discussed in your responses to my blog articles, that our reading and philosophical/psychological interests have a great deal of consonance/coincidence; Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Henry Thoreau, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Hesse, Nikos Kazantzakis (especially!), Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams. Here is my library, which doesn’t have in it the many books and authors I have read in earlier years: https://www.librarything.com/catalog/rpavellas. I will, over time, respond to your blog articles directly, but slowly. Currently, I’m suffering jetlag and a URI I picked up along the way, I’m happy to learn from a person who is the age of my oldest grandchildren (twins).

    • Yep. Plenty of crossover in our reading interests. Many books you’ve read I have also. I enjoyed Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! when I read it in high school. But there are plenty of books in your list that I’m not familiar with. You may have read more history than I have, as my interest in this area has been more narrowly focused.

      Have you read any books on linguistic relativity? That is a fascinating topic. I posted about it on the Julian Jaynes FB page, as you might’ve noticed. I always think of linguistic relativity in relation to philology which more directly influenced Jaynes.

      • LInguistic relativity is a new phrase for me, philology is a realm in which my dead friend Fred was steeped, so he was my informer on such. These realms require too much memory storage for my brain which is cluttered with much other stuff, including composers and music (including bringing up concert music into my forebrain, or wherever it is perceived), current stories and novels which I am in the constant throes of writing and re-writing somewhere in my brain, poetic meanderings, memories, many of which have transformed into written memoirs, and much other stuff. I am not a scholar, as you seem to be; I don’t have the temperament. Another way of looking at it is that I am a “Lumper,” not a “Splitter.” This notion is borrowed from scientific taxonomy. Thanks for responding.

        • I’m naturally a lumper. But I was raised by splitters. My conservative parents are more analytical and pragmatic than I. Both were in teaching professions, my mother as a speech pathologist in public schools and my dad a professor in a state college.

          I was not born with a talent for splitting. My mind is sprawling chaos, related to my learning disability. It took a lot of experimentation and practice to develop the skill of splitting. And at this point I’ve probably overcompensated in that direction. The appearance of my being a splitter is superficial. It is the end result, not the process.

          My father still helps me clean up my writing from time to time. Having worked in business management for most of his life, he is an organizational man. He knows how to do technical and professional writing to express with great orderliness and clarity. I’ve learned much from him.

          By the way, lumpers and splitters reminds me of other things. There is Isaiah Berlin’s the hedgehog and the fox. Also, there is Claude Levi Strauss’ the bricoleur and the engineer.

          • That sounds similar to me. I go in cycles. I have an impulse to learn about and understand the world. My curiosity is nearly insatiable. But I overwhelm myself with info. And my analytical capacities aren’t always up for the task. I regularly tire myself out. This used to mean going into a period of depressive dormancy by vegging out with mindless entertainment for days or longer. I’m maybe slightly more balanced now.

          • Hah! Yes, I’m familiar with mindless vegging out. My wife does it too; her job requiring lots of data collection and organizing, but she is of the same general (MBTI) type as I.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s