Dull Scientists and the Reliable ‘Dumb’

Why are modern scientists so dull?
Medical Hypotheses. Volume 72, Issue 3, Pages 237-243
Bruce G. Charlton

“Question: why are so many leading modern scientists so dull and lacking in scientific ambition? Answer: because the science selection process ruthlessly weeds-out interesting and imaginative people. At each level in education, training and career progression there is a tendency to exclude smart and creative people by preferring Conscientious and Agreeable people. The progressive lengthening of scientific training and the reduced independence of career scientists have tended to deter vocational ‘revolutionary’ scientists in favour of industrious and socially adept individuals better suited to incremental ‘normal’ science. High general intelligence (IQ) is required for revolutionary science. But educational attainment depends on a combination of intelligence and the personality trait of Conscientiousness; and these attributes do not correlate closely. Therefore elite scientific institutions seeking potential revolutionary scientists need to use IQ tests as well as examination results to pick-out high IQ ‘under-achievers’. As well as high IQ, revolutionary science requires high creativity. Creativity is probably associated with moderately high levels of Eysenck’s personality trait of ‘Psychoticism’. Psychoticism combines qualities such as selfishness, independence from group norms, impulsivity and sensation-seeking; with a style of cognition that involves fluent, associative and rapid production of many ideas. But modern science selects for high Conscientiousness and high Agreeableness; therefore it enforces low Psychoticism and low creativity. Yet my counter-proposal to select elite revolutionary scientists on the basis of high IQ and moderately high Psychoticism may sound like a recipe for disaster, since resembles a formula for choosing gifted charlatans and confidence tricksters. A further vital ingredient is therefore necessary: devotion to the transcendental value of Truth. Elite revolutionary science should therefore be a place that welcomes brilliant, impulsive, inspired, antisocial oddballs – so long as they are also dedicated truth-seekers.”

This reminds me of George P. Hansen’s analysis of the Trickster archetype in terms of science.

In his book The Trickster and the Paranormal, Hansen discussed Trickster mythology, magicians, paranormal researchers, hoaxers, and debunkers. More interestingly, he went into some detail about Ernest Hartmann’s boundary types (which correlates to such things as IQ and personality traits) and Max Weber‘s concepts of rationalization, disenchantment, and bureaucratization. Relevant to the above quote, Hansen discussed the hierarchical nature of scientific institutions: how they maintain order, what personality types they reward with positions of authority, etc.

 * * * *

Reliable but dumb, or smart but slapdash?
Medical Hypotheses. 2009; Volume 73: 465-467
Bruce G Charlton

“The psychological attributes of intelligence and personality are usually seen as being quite distinct in nature: higher intelligence being regarded a ‘gift’ (bestowed mostly by heredity); while personality or ‘character’ is morally evaluated by others, on the assumption that it is mostly a consequence of choice? So a teacher is more likely to praise a child for their highly Conscientious personality (high ‘C’) – an ability to take the long view, work hard with self-discipline and persevere in the face of difficulty – than for possessing high IQ. Even in science, where high intelligence is greatly valued, it is seen as being more virtuous to be a reliable and steady worker. Yet it is probable that both IQ and personality traits (such as high-C) are about-equally inherited ‘gifts’ (heritability of both likely to be in excess of 0.5). Rankings of both IQ and C are generally stable throughout life (although absolute levels of both will typically increase throughout the lifespan, with IQ peaking in late-teens and C probably peaking in middle age). Furthermore, high IQ is not just an ability to be used only as required; higher IQ also carries various behavioural predispositions – as reflected in the positive correlation with the personality trait of Openness to Experience; and characteristically ‘left-wing’ or ‘enlightened’ socio-political values among high IQ individuals. However, IQ is ‘effortless’ while high-C emerges mainly in tough situations where exceptional effort is required. So we probably tend to regard personality in moral terms because this fits with a social system that provides incentives for virtuous behaviour (including Conscientiousness). In conclusion, high IQ should probably more often be regarded in morally evaluative terms because it is associated with behavioural predispositions; while C should probably be interpreted with more emphasis on its being a gift or natural ability. In particular, people with high levels of C are very lucky in modern societies, since they are usually well-rewarded for this aptitude. This includes science, where it seems that C has been selected-for more rigorously than IQ. Indeed, those ‘gifted’ with high Conscientiousness are in some ways even luckier than the very intelligent – because there are more jobs for reliable and hard-working people (even if they are relatively ‘dumb’) than for smart people with undependable personalities.”

This gets at the ideological divide. Conservatives tend to value high-C but not high IQ. Herman Cain, a typical far right conservative, gave voice to this view when he sought to explain away his lack of knowledge on important issues: “We need a leader, not a reader.”

It seems that American society in general has always valued high-C over high IQ. The American ideal has always been the “Self-made Man”, the doer rather than the thinker, the inventer rather than the philosopher. So the theory goes: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. For people who argue American culture is fundamentally conservative, this would seem to be what they are pointing at. The businessman as the leader, as the moral paragon. This is what the American vision of capitalism is all about, the ideal of meritocracy, proving oneself worthy by action and deed, success as outward accomplishment and upward mobility (in particular, up the corporate ladder).

To connect this back to the first article, I would make clear that the personality type rewarded with positions of authority and power within the corporations also is the same personality type rewarded with positions of authority and power within scientific institutions. What corporations and scientific institutions have in common is that both are hierarchical and, in Weberian terms, both are bureaucratic.

Wonder vs the Wonder-Killers: two related thought experiments

I was thinking about two issues tonight. Both of them were thought experiments.

 – – –

The first issue is about sociopaths.

I guess I was thinking about it because I just posted a blog where I mentioned Max Weber’s Iron Cage (Self & Other in the Movies: Redemption or Destruction?). Weber was theorizing about how bureaucracy and hierarchy increases. In that post, I mentioned I learned of Weber’s ideas from George P. Hansen’s book The Trickster and the Paranormal. Hansen points out research that shows a certain type of person (Hartmann’s thick boundary type) tends to be promoted in hierarchical organizations (which would include most major organizations: government institutions, universities, corporations, etc). I was thinking about this in terms of other research that shows that sociopaths are disproportionately found in positions of power. So, I assume that extreme thick boundary types and sociopaths are essentially the same general categories. A thick boundary type would have a stronger sense of individuality and a stronger sense of disconnection from others. Basically, thick boundary types have less empathy and hence less sympathy, less compassion and concern for others. Taken to the extreme, this would manifest as sociopathic behavior.

The thought experiment was: What would happen if sociopaths were removed and excluded from positions of  power and authority? What would happen if sociopaths were separated from normal society? As it is at present, we reward sociopaths and give them immense wealth and power. All of civilization seems built on this worshipping of sociopathy. I’m willing to bet that psychopathic genetics are found most often in those of royal descent and those of old money. My theory is that it’s not just wealth and power that gets passed on from generation to generation. The genetic predispositions that lead to concentration of wealth and power also gets passed on. The question is: Are these the people we really want to be ruling us?

There has been plenty of research done on psychopathy and sociopathy. We know how to test for certain genetics. We know how to test for empathy and moral development. I think it’s only fair that all citizens in positions of power and authority should be forced to have these tests administered. If they test positive for psychopathy and sociopathy, they would be required to seek rehabilitation through medication and therapy. They would be monitored for improvement. Those who couldn’t be rehabilitated would be put into psychiatric institutions or halfway houses. If we learned how to clearly identify psychopathic genetics, those who tested positive would be forcibly sterilized.

Just imagine that. A world where only people with strong empathy and compassion were allowed to be in positions of leadership and management. This would change everything. Our entire society, at present, is designed to benefit sociopaths. If they were excluded from all important positions, all of society would restructure itself. I don’t know if it would be a better world, but it probably wouldn’t be worse than a world ruled by sociopaths. Still, I have reservations. It’s possible that sociopathic behavior (at least in its milder forms) has some benefits for society. It’s possible that modern civilization wouldn’t function (certainly not as we know it) if sociopathy was entirely eliminated.

 – – –

The second issue is about our experience of reality.

I just started Philip K. Dick’s novel Eye in the Sky. There was no particular reason I chose this book to read. I just semi-randomly grabbed a PKD book I hadn’t read. I haven’t been in a great mood for fiction in recent months, but I think my mind might be shifting back in the direction of fiction and PKD is my favorite fiction writer. I’ve read about equal amounts of PKD’s fiction and non-fiction. It was only when I started reading PKD’s non-fiction that I came to understand PKD’s fiction. PKD, of course, obsessively speculated about reality.

Eye in the Sky is a typical PKD story. A group of people become isolated in a separate reality that functions according to religious principles: magic, prayer, grace, merit and whatever else. PKD puts this all into the context of the modern world. Basically, this is a version of PKD’s idea that the Empire Never Ended. In one of PKD’s visions, he saw the Roman world during Jesus life overlaid on the modern world of California. It’s like the Kabbalah theology which interprets Biblical stories as on-going events in the world. So, the flood never ended and those who oblivious to this spiritual reality are drowning. The Roman Empire and the Nixon administration are just two manifestations of the same Black Iron Prison that we are trapped within.

In the blog I linked to above, I connected PKD’s Black Iron Prison to Max Weber’s Iron Cage. Weber theorizes that bureaucracy functions specifically by undermining the traditional religious authority. The old religious world operated according to kinship (between individuals and communities, between mortals and gods, between humans and nature). Such a society would favor thin boundary types or at least would give such people prominent positions of authority and respect (priests, shamans, healers, etc).

Thinking along these lines, I took the first thought experiment a step further. Our idealizing and rewarding sociopathic behavior has created modern bureaucratic civilization. Maybe this alters our very experience of reality. In terms of Robert Anton Wilson’s reality tunnels, maybe we get trapped in a specific worldview. It could be the world isn’t as we think it is or rather that the world becomes as we think it is. The Iron Cage not only destroys the ancient societies of superstition but also destroys the very experience of the supernatural. Research shows that thin boundary types claim to have more supernatural experiences. Research also shows that most people in general have supernatural experiences. The Iron Cage not only disconnects us from a larger context of the supernatural. It disconnects our personal experience from society and often disconnects the individual from their own experience. Maybe there is some truth to the supernatural worldview, but we simply can’t see it because we are trapped in a reality tunnel, trapped in the Iron Cage, in the Black Iron Prison.

This subject is discussed in immense detail in Hansen’s book (The Trickster and the Paranormal). Hansen explains why science has such difficulty grappling with the fundamental issues of our experience of reality. I should point out that neither Hansen nor PKD perceives science as the enemy. However, science is just one viewpoint and when we hold too tightly to one model of reality we become blind to other perspectives, other experiences. The challenge I see is that those prone to sociopathic behavior (and those prone to the thick boundary experience of the world) have personal interest in defending the Iron Cage bureaucracy that benefits them. Bureaucracy is a self-perpetuating system in that those who are promoted to the top are very motivated in defending the system and very talented in manipulating those below them. There is no doubt that sociopaths are very good at maintaining their power.

The question arises again: Is a different world, a different society possible?
And another question follows: How would our very experience of reality change if society changed?

 – – –

May the power of wonder always be greater than the power of the wonder-killers.

Authors Connected?

I’ve been repeatedly mentioning several authors in my recent blogs. While I’m at it, I want to bring in two other authors that I haven’t mentioned in a while. The two other authors are George P. Hansen and Patrick Harpur. I wrote about them when I was thinking about the paranormal and they influenced my ideas in my blog about the Enactivism Symposium. I was thinking about these two specifically in reference to Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson.

The connection might not be obvious even for some strange person who spent their time closely reading my blog. Hansen and Harpur write about the relationship between “reality” and the paranormal. Nelson and Wilson write about the relationship between culture and religion. The connection between them revolves around the mythological and the archetypal.

There is a reason I wanted to bring in Hansen and Harpur. They both speak to what the spiritual means in terms of our actual experience and our attempt to objectively know reality. I admire the insight of Nelson and Wilson, but speaking in terms of culture can put a distance to the ideas. Wilson does resonate with my personal experience fairly well. The main limitation to his writing is that he is so focused on certain traditions… even if they’re traditions that I’m attracted to.

Harpur, maybe more than any of them, has helped me to understand what exists beyond our physical senses and rational knowledge. The concept of the imaginal is centrally important to me.  It gives a point of reference to understand where both atheists and theists can go wrong in their beliefs. The imaginal also gives a point in between story and reality, the source of mythology.

Harpur refers to Hillman’s polytheistic psyche, and Hillman would be opposed to Campbell’s Monomyth. I, however, don’t feel certain of any conflict. There is an autonomy of archetypes that can’t be unified in a simple manner, but neither are archetypes exactly like Platonic ideals. Still, archetypes are all related. I’d even argue that archetypes are primarily relational before anything else. Its this relational dimension that grounds archetypes in stories. Also, for whatever its worth, it brings to my mind the Buddhist notion of dependent co-arising.

* * *

I’m starting to confuse myself. That is fine. I’m sure it all makes sense somehow.

I think that my mind as of late is a bit split between two lines of thought.

First off, part of me wants to make some sense out of what I at times perceive as a hellish world. Horror isn’t really a genre. Its an experience that you’ve had and understand… or else not.

Secondly, I’m just fascinated by stories and myths. This relates to suffering but isn’t limited to it. We use stories to make sense of suffering it is true. Stories wouldn’t make any motivating force without suffering even if only on the level of basic conflict. If there is no antagonist, there is no story. However, I don’t think this is what attracts me to stories. Stories can make me forget suffering, make the world seem to have some kind of purpose or order… and sometimes a really good story (such as The Fountain) can offer a deeper insight.

These two aspects conflict. Stories represent enjoyment and meaning. Suffering, when experienced deeply enough, undermines any sense of order or insight that a story might offer. However, is this problematic. We’re all drawn to stories about characters (real or fictional) like Jesus, but in our suffering we feel drawn beyond the story itself.

I don’t know. Does that make sense?

* * *

There is another blog of mine that has very similar subject matter. Its about a specific archetypes that are related: Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior… also, the Divine Child and Shadow. These archetypes are especially central to the Monomyth.

Myth, Religion, and Social DevelopmentMyth, Religion, and Social Development

More About the Paranormal

More About the Paranormal

Posted on Jul 31st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
A response of mine from a thread I started based on my New Age blog series: 

HI Andrew,

no matter what otherworldly things i have experienced i can safely say they they were upper left quadrant happenings. in saying this i mean that these experiences of mine happened in my interior space. no angels physically manifested in any way in these 3 dimensions. no one walked thru my walls, no one defied the laws of physics etc. now whether it’s 3 kids in portugal having visions, or someone being abducted in downtown manhatten, i contend now that all these experiences are interior and have no right quadrant existence.

Have you been following the discussion going on in one of Julian’s blogs (here)?  The relationship of internal and external has been brought up.  I mentioned paranormal research there and the difficulties of the field.  Specificially, I discussed Hansen’s view and linked to some detailed reviews of his books.

but nowhere have i come across objective, verifiable, repeatable accounts of any type in any of these phenomenal cases.

Hansen speaks to these issues.  Objectivity, verifiability, and repeatability aren’t easily applied to the paranormal, but researchers have attempted to do so.  Some are satisfied with the evidence and some aren’t.  I talked about the research angle in Julian’s blog comments, but you’re experience was outside of a research situation.  How are lived experiences proven?  Well, very little of even our “normal” subjective experience is provable.  As for the paranormal, it all depends on what kind of evidence you consider acceptable.

People have seen lights and when they investigated discovered crop circles.  Crop circles are just more complex forms of fairly circles that have been observed for centuries in corollation with fairy lights.  My brother visited with friends a place where orbs (ie fairy lights) were known to be common.  They saw the orbs and the orbs approached the car and hovered around it.  Even scientists have observed orbs, but no one agrees on what explains them.

Pilots have seen ufos and they were observed simultaneously on radar.  There are a fair number of radar cases.  Why is there not more evidence?  For one, I’ve heard that pilots are discouraged from reporting ufos.  Also, some evidence gets destroyed because people fear ridicule.  Vallee started out as an astronomer but later became a ufo researcher because he personally observed astronomers he worked with destroying video evidence (here is an interview with him where he speaks about this).

Rupert Sheldrake was describing a dialogue he had with Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Sheldrake: “This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

(Sheldrake describes how he tried to bring up his own rearch about telepathy, but Dawkins refused to discuss it.)

but a ufo landing on the white house lawn and broadcast to the world would probably cure me of my skepticism. i feel the same way about religion. please all you theists, part the red sea today and have the decency to bring cnn along for verification

Well, that is some pretty extreme skepticism.  If being “shown billions of light beings singing the most amazing song onto god” doesn’t convince you, then I doubt anything could.  Plus, I’d consider your statements to be based on a less-than-useful view of the paranormal.  You seem to be responding to a literalist interpretation of paranormal which isn’t the view I hold (nor that which Harpur holds).  It would take some explanation to describe what I mean by literalist, but here is an interesting discussion about Harpur from the Lightmind forum:

Jim wrote:
Kela has mentioned Patrick Harpur here a couple of times in the past, and Susan and Heru mentioned him just recently. Harpur, like Carl Jung, Richard Tarnas, James Hillman, Arnold Mindell, et al, understands the psyche. Many people don’t. 

Here is Harpur from his book Daimonic Reality:

    St. Paul mentions an ecstatic experience in which he was “caught up even to the third heaven”, but, as he says, “whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth.” And this is the dilemma confronting many otherworld journeyers. 

    It is, I think, too easy to dismiss the conviction of many of them that they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft. This, after all, is what it felt like; and it is a conviction shared by all members of traditional cultures – although, as we shall see, with an important difference in viewpoint. Thus, although I do not share the conviction, I want to stress that it is ancient and respectable and, I think, nearer to the truth of the matter than not to believe in any kind of otherworld journey at all. However, using the model of daimonic reality … it is possible to make otherworld journeys intelligible, without recourse to a belief in an actual, physical experience.

Here is Ken Wilber from One Taste:

    When people have a memory or an experience of being “abducted,” I don’t doubt the experience seems absolutely real to them (most would pass a lie detector test). And it is real, as an experience, as phenomenology, but not as ontology, not as an objective reality. So there’s the phenomenology (or the experience itself), and there is how you interpret the experience. And for that interpretation – as will all interpretation – you need to draw on the total web of available evidence, which is exactly what the believers in these experiences are not doing. 

    Do any UFO experiences represent higher realities? It’s theoretically possible that some of these experiences are stemming from the psychic or subtle levels of consciousness, and that, precisely because these people do not grow and evolve into these levels, they experience them as an ‘other.’ Instead of their own higher and deeper luminous nature, they project it outwardly as an alien form. Even if that is the case, these people are still in the grips of a dissociative pathology. … The giveaway, as usual, is the narcissism.

    What do people really want when they think of UFOs? What are they yearning for at the thought of something extraterrestrial? Why, they want something bigger than themselves. They want to know that, in the entire, wild, extraordinary Kosmos, there is something other than their meager egos.

What Harpur honors, Wilber tends to pathologize.

It seems to me that the rational, Freudian-flavored pathologizing approach that Wilber takes here doesn’t honor the way the psyche or soul actually works, plays, unfolds, grows, flows, meanders, soars, swims, lives, breathes, and develops.

When Wilber asks what people really want when they think of UFOs, he is talking about what the “meager ego” wants, but he neglects to note that the experiences in question (i.e., UFO abduction experiences) don’t stem from the ego but from the deeper psyche (there is no other place they can stem from, unless they are just willful fantasies, e.g., as if someone were to fantasize about winning the lottery, and reports of UFO abduction experiences indicate that they are not mere fantasies). So it’s not a matter of what the “meager ego” wants but of what the deeper psyche wants.

Speaking about the appearance of symbols of wholeness in the psyche, such as UFOs and mandalas, Jung says, “they do not invariably indicate a subliminal readiness on the part of the patient to realize that wholeness more consciously, at a later stage; often they mean no more than a temporary compensation of chaotic confusion.”

This is not something that someone who elevates pre” to “trans” would say.

Trungpa says:

    …anything that happens in our state of mind, including emotions, is manure. Whatever comes up is a workable situation… 

    …we begin to realize that all kinds of chaotic situations that might occur in life are opportune situations. They are workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion at all. Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.

This is why it simply isn’t skillful or useful to pathologize intrapsychic phenomena, such as UFO abduction experiences or those who have and interpret them. Such experiences are “workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion,” or as “dissociative pathology” and “narcissism.” “Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.” Which is what Harpur, Jung, Hillman, Mindell, Tarnas, et al do. The issue here isn’t what is right or wrong or “politically correct” or incorrect. The issue is, what is most useful? What is most likely to benefit the individual who has and interprets the experience? If someone has a UFO abduction experience and they interpret it to mean that “they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft,” as Harpur puts it, that’s the manure we have to work with. Calling it shit isn’t going to help anyone, is it? Saying that such people are in the grips of a dissociative pathology and are narcissistic isn’t going to help anyone, is it? There is psychic energy and psychic potential to work with here. Dismissing it by pathologizing it is like throwing manure away instead of working it into the garden and then tending and nurturing the garden and waiting to see what grows. Suzuki Roshi speaks of a similar process in terms of “mind weeds.” He says, “We must have the actual experience of how our weeds change into nourishment.” Or of how our lead changes into gold.

Jung and Trungpa compare the process of intrapsychic transmutation to alchemy. Trungpa says this is “like the alchemical practice of changing lead into gold.”

Mindell says:

    And what is this gold? The alchemist’s beginning goals will be like yours or mine: freedom from trouble, hope for nirvana, enlightenment, love, immortality or spontaneity. But what you actually receive may be something you were not even aware of missing, something so precious and vital that you might even forget your original goals.
Jim wrote:
Exactly, that’s my point: It’s not wrong to psychopathologize, but it’s kind of like calling something shit. When we call something shit, we naturally think in terms of flushing it away, whereas when we call the same thing manure, we acknowledge that we are dealing with something that, used skillfully, can fertilize and enrich the soil of the soul. To try to flush away aspects of the psyche that we don’t like doesn’t work, and as Harpur and Jung agree, when the daimonic is repressed, it often returns in the form of the demonic.

but surely if supernaturalism exists, it’s on unemployment insurance at this time unless these angelic beings are just being really subtle and sneaky for some reason!

You really should read Hansen’s book if you’re genuinely interested in this.  He writes about how the Trickster archetype plays out with paranormal experience.


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Some Thoughts on Parapsychology

Some Thoughts on Parapsychology

Posted on Jul 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
This is a response to Julian in his blog The Transformative Power of Development: A Three-Part Distinction.

if the ganzfield experiment is the leading edge we are still very far from any kind of satisfying evidence for psi, right?

As I see it, parapsychology research in general brings up more questions than answers.  Still, the questions it brings up are quite intriguing.  I must admit that I don’t feel confident in my understanding of any of this.  I’ve never been involved in any kind of scientific research, I’ve never studied scientific methodology, and I’m entirely clueless about statistical analysis.  Basically, I really don’t know what to make of much of it, but I am curious. 

I’m sure that much of the criticisms are valid, but I appreciate the context that Hansen provides in his book.  Hansen thinks that the paranormal by its very nature can’t be scientifically proven and will always be marginal, and he is critical of scientists such as Dean Radin.  He isn’t saying that research can’t or shouldn’t be done, but rather it will never be accepted by mainstream sceintists.  The budget for paranormal research and the numbers of profesionals involved is miniscule, and its amazing that any research at all is done.  Paranormal research could only make any headway (whether in proving or disproving) if it actually had some funding which Hansen says will never happen. 

So, Hansen’s criticism simultaneously points out the limits of the paranormal and the limits of mainstream science.  To answer your question, yes, the limited evidence of paranormal research is disatsfying.  But the limits of science in general are disatisfying to someone who wishes to find conclusive meaning about life.

There are reasons why paranormal research is still important.  Relative to other scientific fields, very little research has been done on the paranormal, and very little of it done on a largescale.  So, its not fair to judge a field that is still in its infancy.  Even though there isn’t any scientific consensus about the paranormal, much has been learned from the research.  Parapsychology reearchers have refined their methodologies over time.  Its hard to control for something which has many unknown factors.  They have to be more careful about their controls (partly because of potential deceipt and self-deception) than is necessary for most scientists.  So, the refinements of methodology are helpful for all researchers in all fields.  There is a history of inadequate methodology in parapsychology research, but to its credit these inadequacies are continuously being resolved.  Its a slow process, though, since there is very little funding or institutionalized support.  In some ways, research has shown more about what the paranormal isn’t than what it is.

One of the subjects I find the most interesting (in Hansen’s book) is the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK).  Scientists in this field study other scientists.  Two interesting aspects are the problems with the replication of scientific experiments and experimenter effect (the corollary to the placebo effect which complicates the situation further).  The research into the experimenter effect was pioneered by Rosenthal (who so happened to have some interest in parapsychology) who demonstrated that the bias of a researcher alters the results.  He also studied teachers and how their expectations influence the success or failure of students.  Interestingly, he also helped to develop the use of meta-analysis… maybe because of the problems he discovered with individual experiments.  Experimenter effect can be controlled by double-blinds, and yet according to this paper double-blinds aren’t as commonly used as one would hope.  Parapsychologists take double-blinds more seriously because of the increased complexity of experimenter effects.  The problem with studying the paranormal is that it by definition challenges the very basis of the scientific paradigm, and that is why Hansen is so pessimistic about the future of parapsychology research.

 BTW Hansen is especially critical of skpetics especially on the debunking end of the scale.  In his book, he focuses on the enmeshed relationship between parapsychologists and skeptics, and brings up some important insights.  His analysis of Martin Gardner is very detailed.  At his site he has several online articles about skeptics:  

CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview
Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 86, No. 1, January 1992, pp. 19-63.

The Elusive Agenda: Dissuading as Debunking in Ray Hyman’s The Elusive Quarry
Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 85, No. 2, April 1991, pp. 193-203.

Review of Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction by Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins
. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 66, No. 3, September 2002, Pp. 321-324.

Review of The Encyclopedia of the Paranomal edited by Gordon Stein.
  Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 90, Nos. 3-4,  July-October, 2000,  pp. 181-189.
In case you’re interested, here is Hansen’s Website, and some Book Reviews: here, here, here (starting on p. 60), and here.

now even if we do decide to go along with the possibility that as radin says ” people sometimes get small amounts of specific information from a distance without the use of the ordinary senses. Psi effects do occur in the ganzfeld” – then the question becomes what do we think that means?

Good question.  The meaning is where the rubber hits the road for us simply trying to make sense of it all.  Whether its true or not, why should we care?  And if true, what is its practical value?  I don’t know what sense we can make of it.  The possibility of it being true brings doubt to our normal sense of reality and the standard procedures of science.  It very well might mean an entire paradigm shift within our society.  But what do we think it means?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I think it means the world is a strange place.  🙂

what do you think this “evidence” would mean viz the above blogpost were it verifiable beyond doubt?    

Basically, I don’t think that most of what you said is directly related to whether or not the paranormal exists, but you seem to think its directly related.  Even if the evidence was irrefutable, it wouldn’t change the basic facts of growth and development, suffering and death.  Also, there is no reason to assume that parnormal research would support idealistic metaphysics. 

Its true that the paranormal can be interpreted in terms of the pre-rational, but it also can be interpreted in terms of the trans-ratioal.  The trans-rational isn’t a clear category.  In some ways, its beyond both rationality and pre-rationality.  Its beyond in terms of development, but its also beyond in that it can temporarily suspend these previous modes.  Yet, in other ways, it might be thought of as that which bridges the gap between the pre-rational and the rational as it transcends and includes both.  However we look at it, I think it brings to question some fundamental divisions that rationality helped to create… such as internal and external.  These divisions are still real to some degree, but the trans-rational complexifies the relationship between them.

I’m still figuring out how this all fits together.  Hansen doesn’t speak about integral theory, and integral theory doesn’t speak much about parapsychology research.  I’m trying to connect ideas here, but I don’t know how successful my attempt is.  I genuinely have no clear conclusions at this point.  I’m hoping that further discussion of enactivism will help me to integrate my thoughts.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 2 hours later

Nicole said

you make some really excellent points…

roaming around on the net I found this priceless Q and A: http://www.iprfinc.com/

Question of the Month

Q:    I’ve heard of “wormholes” and interdimensional portals in cemeteries that spirits can travel through to get from one cemetery to another. Is this true?

A:        Unfortunately, there is no true way as of yet to scientifically prove or disprove this theory. Theoretically folding time and space is possible, which is the subject we are up against here. It does seem plausible, but highly unlikely, however. The reason that I say that it is highly unlikely is because certain scientists have stated that there are infinite numbers of dimensions. If interdimensional travel were to take place, a certain segment of these dimensions that would connect one place to the other would have to be under ideal conditions to be able to fall into a synchronistic rhythm for any length of time. Theoretically, if this event were to actually happen, even if the dimensions were only one degree “in phase” (synchronized) with each of the others, it would make a minute allowance for particulate electromagnetic matter, such as ghosts, to move through the “gate.” This, coupled with the thought that a ghost maintains their persona, memories, etc. would then almost completely rule out the thought of interdimensional travel by a ghost. I say this because if a ghost is indeed a person – minus their physically manifested body – then they would have to have understood and performed interdimensional travel while they were alive in order for them to have the ability to do so after they have died. 

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Nicole, let us not share that with Julian.  He’d really go bonkers over ghosts travelling through wormholes.  😉

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 13 hours later

Nicole said

You won’t be surprised to know I had Julian in mind posting that! 🙂

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 18 hours later

1Vector3 said

This is a no-no, but I have some comments/opinions/viewpoints before completing my reading of the entire blog – and I did not read Julian’s blog, either….. Will remedy these boooo-booooos as soooooon as I can.

My usual disclaimer: The sentences below are not presented as truth or facts, just my best opinions at this time. I seek not to correct or to disagree, but to stimulate clarity and discussion.

The scientific method itself deals with certain ontological objects (Beings, existents) in a certain reality. Paranormal stuff is from a different reality. Like Flatlander [remember the old metaphor of 2-d Beings/world] science can never “prove” the existence of a third dimension, it’s just an epistemologically nonesensical endeavor, when seen from that metaphor.

Not only is the reality different, but the epistemology is different. (Newtonian) science requires a certain subject-object relationship, and that relationship is not the one operating in paranormal phenomena. Thus, no possibility of meaningful interface, let alone “proof.”

[ I ignore here the complexity that the paranormal level of consciousness or epistemological functioning can include the normal in itself, but not vice-versa. ]

What the research CAN do is pile up enough anomalies (as per Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and BTW I regard no one as educated if they have not read it) that mainstream science can no longer sweep these anomalies under the rug, and must acknowledge its own limits of explanation (actually, of scope of application.)

I forget what Ken Wilber says about this matter, but I think he disagrees with me, but not for any reasons you might guess. Somewhere in Integral Spirituality where he talks about the “Two-Truths Doctrine” and rejects it but I can’t recall why.

Also another point, mainstream science itself, the kind of research you refer to, is still Newtonian in paradigm. Now, how scientific is THAT? A bit behind the times, I would say. Thus, not at all the most comprehensively up-to-date scientific paradigm for assessing anything, especially the paranormal.

As I understand it, when viewed from the quantum-physical paradigm, the paranormal is simply normal, expressions of what is normal on the quantum level, which itself causes enough anomalies on the macro level that it eventually had to be dealt with and accepted.

In No Boundary Ken Wilber does a totally fabulous job of summarizing the implications of quantum physics, including its relationship to and implications for ordinary science, and repeating all that here would take up too much space, but it’s on pages 35-41 of the paperback. The book itself is a paradigm shifter I recommend to anyone who wants to expand their awareness. It’s not even woo-woo, it’s just common sense !!!

I am not qualified to judge, but I have heard that many if not most of the purported “New Age” reports of the implications of quantum physics for our daily lives, for our ordinary thinking, range from inferior to inaccurate, but KW’s report of the implications seems less sloppy, and less axe-to-grind, to my uneducated mind.

OK, thank you for indulging me, and I will go read up. I like being on Notifications of your blogs, oh magnificent orange-and-white Cat-Being from Another Dimension. You are definitely PARA (beyond) normal !!!! LOL !!!!

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Hey OM,

Sorry I didn’t respond right away.  I’ve been busy trying to respond to lots of discussions on Gaia.

Don’t worry about having not read the blog entirely.  Your comments fit in just fine.

Guess what?  I’ve never read Kuhn.  Ha!  🙂  I’m uneducated.  Yay! 

I like the idea of piling up the anomalies.  That is my basic viewpoint.  Parapsychology hasn’t “proven” anything, but it has provided some anomalies.  Eventually, if enough anomalies pile up, it will create a critical mass forcing a paradigm shift.  As I see it, parapsychology research is still in its infancy despite it being more than a century old.

About the Newtonian paradigm of mainstream science, I think that is very true.  The Newtonian paradigm has practical usefulness for research in most fields.  Since there isn’t much connection between most fields and post-Newtonian paradigms, my guess is that most research scientists don’t consider theoretical complexities of quantum physics.  Even paranormal research have mostly ignored theoretical issues and I doubt that many paranormal researchers are educated in quantum physics.  All of science has a whole lot of catching up to do.

I suspect that if convincing evidence of the paranormal is ever found, it will probably be in the field of physics.  Basically, mainstream scientists will only be convinced by evidence by mainstream science, and yet parapsychology isn’t considered mainstream and so its evidence isn’t acceptable.

I was thinking about Dawkins telling Radin that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.  Radin pointed out that it depends on what one considers extraordinary, but there is a further problem with Dawkin’s statement.  Parapsychology gets very little funding and so is unable to do the largescale research that is necessary to produce “extraordinary” evidence, but its mainstream scientists such as Dawkins who argue that parapsychology doesn’t deserve funding because it doesn’t produce “extraordinary” evidence.  So, Dawkins’ statement is disingenuous because he really doesn’t want parapsychology to produce extraordinary evidence. 

It reminds me of CSICOP, the skeptical organization by various mainstream scientists (incuding Dawkins).  The problem with CSICOP is that it isn’t headed by scientists and the scientists who support it have no professional experience with parapsychology research.  CSICOP has no peer-reviewed journal and doesn’t support research even in disproving the paranormal.  Hansen says that CSICOP did do some research early on, but it ended up proving what they were trying to disprove and so they never did research again.  Worse still, they use their influence (via mainstream scientists) to keep parapsychologists from getting funding.

I am curious about the possible connection between parapsychology and quantum physics.  Lynne McTaggart speaks about the connection in her books, but as she isn’t a scientist I don’t know how biased her presentation might be. 

I’ve heard that there is nothing paranormal because its a false label.  If the paranormal exists, then its normal.  I agree with that as far as that goes… I really don’t care what one calls it.  Anyways, normality is kind of a relative concept.  I’m sure quantum physics seemed a bit paranormal to Newtonian scientists.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

LOL! It’s all so terribly funny isn’t it?

your point about quantum physics is very important. i too think the key will be there, so when everyone else has “caught up” we will see a lot more…

New Age: Part 5

New Age: Part 5

Posted on Jul 26th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

I’m reading a very interesting book right now: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  Its not directly about the New Age, but covers similar territory and mentions the New Age in a couple of places.  The author explains the socio-cultural dynamics of the paranormal within non-mainstream groups, scientific research, debunker organizations, and our society in general.  He uses concepts such as communitas, liminal, anti-structure, reflexivity, and totemism.  Here are some quotes that are relevant:
p. 171
In our culture, psychic phenomena are hospitably received in Spiritualism, the New Age movement, and modern-day witchcraft.  The three movements share common elements, and in a variety of fashions, they are at odds with the establishment.  None of them have institutionalized in the manner of government, industry, academe, or mainline religion.  few of the groups within these movements have buildings or permanent paid staffs, and if they do manage to instituiionalize, it is usually only briefly.  None of the movements acknowledge any central authority; control is local.  The movements are marginal and anti-structural in many ways, but it is within them that one can find discussion of, training in, and use of psychic abilities.
p. 174
Marilyn Ferguson, one of the most articulate persons expressing the ideas of the New Age, noted that there is no central authority defining the movement.  In her book The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980), she emphasized its informal, fluid networks, decentralization of power, and lack of structured hierarchies.  New Age concerns typically include feminism, the environment, and alternative healing, and women play major roles.  In addition, it is open to astrology and other forms of divination.  All of this is a bit subersive to the establishment.  Overall, its properties define it as anti-structural.
pp. 176-177
All three of these movements have loose boundaries.  It is often difficult to tell if someone is part of them or not.  Many who attend Spiritualist services are also members of established religions; New Age followers are drawn from all faiths.  Witchcraft and neo-pagan groups are perhaps more distinct, but ambiguity reigns there as well with vast differences among them.  Within covens, beliefs and rituals can change with the whim of the high priestess or priest.  There is no higher ecclesiastical authority or common text that solidifies dogma or mandates what, how, or when rituals must be performed.
These three movements have striking similarities.  In all alltered (i.e., estructured) states of consciousness play a major role.  Women are prominent, as are the issues of feminism, the environment and healing.  None recognize a central authority for their movement, and they engage in virtually no instituion bulding.  All of the movements are considered subversive by the establishment; they court direct involvement with paranormal and supernatural phenomena, and all display elements of the trickster constellation.
The most vocal opposition to these movements come from two sources: establishment scientists (exemplified by CSICOP) and conservative and fundamentalist religious groups.  Both of these antagonists are typified by large, male-dominated, status conscious, hierarchical institutions—the antithesis of the targets of their scorn.  Both have produced massive amounts of literature denouncing the New Age proponents and modern pagans and similar attacks were directed at the Spiritualists of the nineteenth century.  While some of the political and social goals advocated by the”deviants” have been partially incoporated into science and mainstream churches (e.g., feminism, ecology, alternative healing), the establishments’ most vehement attacks remain directed at paranormal and supernatural practices.

Hansen has a section about psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann who wrote the book Boundaries in the Mind:

pp. 48-49
Thick-boundary people strike one as solid, well organized, well defended, and even rigid and armored.  Thin-boundary types tend to be open, unguarded, and undefended in several psychological senses.  Women tend to have thinner boundaries than men, and children thinner than adults.  People with thin boundaries tend to have higher hypnotic ability, greater dream recall, and are more lkely to have lucid dreams.  People with thick boundaries stay with one thought until its completion; whereas those with thin boundaries show greater fluidity, and their thoughts branch from one to another.  People with very thin boundaries report more symptoms of illness; however, compared with thick-boundary types, they are able to exert more control over the autonomic nervous system and can produe greater changes in skin temperature when thinking of hot or cold situations.  Thin-boundary persons are more prone to synesthesia, blending of the senses (e.g., seeing colors when certain sounds are heard).  Differences are found in occupations as well.  Middle managers in large corporations tend to have thick boundaries, and artists, writers and musicians tend to have thinner ones.  People with thick boundaries tend to be in stable , long-term marriages; whereas thin types are more likely to be, or have been, divorced or separated.
The author goes on to say that thin-boundary types tend to report more unusual experiences including psychic experiences.  He then lists the correlations between thin-boundary types and the traits of the Trickster archetype (as described in Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman).

Obviously, many New Agers are thin-boundary types.  The beliefs of the New Ager make no sense to the more skeptically-minded because skeptics are probably most often thick-boundary types.  Skeptics don’t realize that its not just an issue of belief vs rationality but an issue of experience.  Both the skeptic and the new ager trust their experience, but they simply have different kinds of experience.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

6 days later

Marmalade said

pp. 203-204
The cultural tenor of the 1980s was decidedly different than that of the 1970s, and parapsychology felt it.  In society, business success become more highly valued among the middle class baby-boomers.  Less idealism was evident, and corporate and individual greed were frequent topics of pundits.  The baby-boomers were sometimes referred to as the “Me Generation.”  The number of volunteer workers at parapsychology laborotories dwindled rapidly.

The 1980s saw a move away from the popular interest in the paranormal in the larger society, and that was accompanied by a decided change within the New Age and psychic subcultures.  Those who had previously been interested in psychic matters shifted their atention to more “spiritual” concerns that might be characterized as “a search for meaning.”  This was subtly foreshadowed when California-based Psychic magazine changed its name to New Realities in 1977.  Channeling came in to vogue, but unlike spiritualism, there was little emphasis on verifiable information or physical phenomena.  Channelers spouted “philosophy,” made dire predictions of earth changes, and gave general advice, but that was about all.  The number of books published on paranormal topics dropped precipitously betwen 1980 and 1982.  With the general shift away from psychism and toward the search for meaning, the books of Joseph Campbell became popular.  There were new magazines, printed on high quality paper, catering to that general trend.

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
This is an extension to my previous blog post about Fictional Worlds and Fictional Drugs and a partial response to Balder’s blog The Wilber-Combs Lattice and the Pre/Trans Fallacy.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned Paul Shepard.  His theories are ones that I come back to every now and again even though its been quite a number of years since I’ve read one of his books.  It conflicts with the more optimistic vision of most Integralists.  However, I see potential truth in both of them.  Shepard sees that a misdevelopment occurred in humanity’s early development.  Wilber doesn’t see this early misdevelopment, but rather places the blame of misdevelopment on later stages such as his theory of Mean Green Meme.

I’ve heard of one theory that could bring the two together.  It was brought up in a discussion on Wilber’s site.  The person was speculating that maybe Spiral Dynamics should be seen as descriptive instead of prescriptive.  It is an accurate model describing how social development has occurred so far (in Western societies and non-Western societies influenced by Western culture).  But this doesn’t mean that development couldn’t have happened differently nor does it mean that Spiral Dynamics represents the best possible outcome of development.  These are the types of thoughts that came to me when I first studied Wilber.  It seems an obvious possibility, but it rarely comes up in discussion and I haven’t yet seen it in a book about Integralism.

This seems to bungle up the workings of Wilber’s aesthetically elegant model.  If we can’t be sure that the development model we have is optimal, then it undercuts other theories such as the pre/trans fallacy.  How can we be sure that we have it right?  From one perspective, the model is prescriptive, but maybe from another perspective it could be proscriptive.  So, is their a larger context in which to place this all?  Is their a perspective of perspectives that transcends and includes both idealism and pessimism? 

I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.  I reference back to Jung’s archetypes and personality types because it seems to give something closer to a morally neutral perspective and less hierarchical.  I especially find personality types insightful because it clearly shows how often differences are just differences.  This fits in with my criticism of Wilber’s model and those attracted to it being more Apollonian (MBTI NT?).

All of this interesting enough, but my mind has been focused on another set of ideas.  I’ve just started the book The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen (here is the author’s blog and here is an article by the author about skepticism).  This book brings some important questions to rationality.  I can’t summarize this authors views at the moment, but let me pull out some quotes and ideas to give a sense of where he is coming from.

Okay… many philosophers have considered the mind to be binary and this goes back to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander.  From this tradition, we get Aristotelian logic with its binary opposition (a or not a) and its “the law of the excluded middle”.  And one end of the binary opposition is usually privileged.  We enter a different perspective with the liminal (introduced by Van Gennep and further elucidated by Victor Turner). “When a structure is subverted or deconstructed, there is a reversal of the positions of privilege or a blurring or collapse of the line dividing the pair.” (p. 62)  This liminal between is the space that post-modernists see as empty, but which earlier anthropologists saw as being where the paranormal and supernatural can be properly placed. 

“Deconstruction calls attention to ambiguity and uncertainty, and at its core, it is about the problem of representationin all forms.” (p. 76)  

“Like magic, the problem of meaning is banished from the consciusness of science.  Deconstructionism raises the issue overtly.  It points out that meaning is neither neutral nor transparent.  It asserts that language precedes science and thus has primacy over it.” (p. 377) 

“The Issue of power again leads back to Max Weber.  Weber’s discussion of authority was about power and domination.  He identified three types of authorrity: charismatic, traditional, and bureaucratic.  Pure charisma, the most fundamental, involves supernatural power.  The other types are rationalized forms of it.  One need only recall Weber’s insight that the process of rationaliziaion calls for the elimination of magic form the world (in actuality, elimination of the conscious awareness  of magic by cultural elites).  With the process of disenchantment virtually complete in the academy, deconstructionists (and everyone else) display an almost complete amnesia as to the primitive foundations of their school of thought.  Neary all have forgotten the taboo areas, the liminal regions, those betwixt and between categories, the anomalous, the supernatural.” (pp 377-378)

In this, we can see the questioning of dualistic models.  This is where the questioning can also be turned to Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy.  I don’t fully understand the implications as of yet, but it opens up some space for further discussion about experiences that may not be dualistic nor either pre or trans.  If all it does is bring up more unanswered questions, then that is fine by me.  I’m looking more for a model of questions than a model of answers.

What I’m trying to figure out is how can we step outside of Wilber’s models to see them objectively.  To the extent that we commit ourselves to a model, we can’t see it clearly.  This is a problem because we can’t understand a model either if we look at it entirely detached.  Does the liminal provide a space where we don’t get stuck too far in either direction?

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Prerational and Transrational Spirituality: The Difference Is?

That old discussion on the Integral Pod hit upon something that is on my mind.  I think that its easy for the rational to be confused with the transrational when someone is trying to differentiate their experience from the prerational.  This reminds me of the analysis of the theory of the Mean Green Meme.  Here is what I said in the Integral Ideology thread in the God Pod:

“Jim linked to an article about the Mean Green Meme.  In that article, Todorovic looked to the statistics to see if it supported this hypoethesis.  According to this view, the criticisms of Green Meme are more likely to come from Blue and Orange than from Second Tier Yellow.  She explains that the supposed Second Tier criticism is actually First Tier criticism masking as Yellow which she calls Yellow False Positive.”

Many people are attracted to Integralism because its a very rational model.  It does give room for the non-rational, but still its primarily rational.  I don’t know if a transrational model is possible.  So, if we become too identified with the model, we by necessity become stuck in the rational.  Where does this leave the transrational?  Can the the term ‘transrational’ within a rational model be anything more than a placeholder for the unknown, a finger pointing at the moon?

The nonrational is another category I’m interested in.  There may be some states that are neither specifically prerational nor transrational.  How does Integralism deal with this possibility?  So far in my research, I’d say it doesn’t to any great extent.  I’ve done some web searches about Integralism and Wilber using terms such as ‘paranormal’, ‘supernatural’, and ‘liminal’… but not much came up in the results.

My sense is that Wilberian Integralism hasn’t yet fully come to terms with the nonrational.  Even the category of the transrational feels somehow inadequate.  I think part of the problem is the medium.  Rational language and linear modelling are inherently limited.  I suppose poetry and art more capable of expressing the transrational and nonrational than any Integral theory ever will be able to do.  This is why I’ve been thinking about how can the imaginative and playful be emphasized more within Integral theory.  And in general I’ve been wondering how the rational and nonrational can be experienced without conflict, without either trying to supplant the other.

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 19 hours later

Balder said

Hi, Marmalade,
An interesting post!  Thanks for your reflections here – they resonate with a number of my own interests and concerns.
Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?  I don’t expect I’m the only person to have thought of this or discussed it, but this is something I explored on the Integral Multiplex (and possibly also the I-I pod) a number of months ago.  My suggestion was that typical descriptions of Orange, for example, often appear to presuppose elements that might be better regarded as historical accidents rather than developmental necessities, and that there may be a wide number of “ways forward” as Amber societies mature – that, while there are social and cultural constraints that might work to encourage development in a particular direction, there still may be a wide degree of freedom in how a post-Amber society takes form (wider than conventional descriptions of Orange appear to allow for).  I was using these two particular levels just as an example; the suggestion would apply across the board.  Though conceivably, the lower levels are likely harder to shift, just because they have greater historical force behind them.
I agree with you that possibilities such as this do have the potential to “bungle up” the pre/trans fallacy – or, rather, the application of the pre/trans fallacy.  But I do think that it would still be a valid tool.  Because even if a particular trajectory isn’t the only available one, it would still be possible to distinguish – and also to potentially confuse – earlier and later stages of that trajectory.
You wrote:  I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.
This is an interesting idea and I’d like to hear more about what you mean here.  I relate it to another “vision” with which I’m involved – the Time-Space-Knowledge vision, which I have practiced for a number of years and which I’ve also explored in relation to Integral Theory.  Where it differs primarily from Integral is that is more a visionary mode of inquiry and “engagement” with experience than a “map” of the world.  With Integral Methodological Pluralism, we get more into the territory of active exploration and engagement (and begin moving away from strictly “mapping” the world or various worldviews).  This is why I became interested in exploring Integral in relation to TSK, because TSK already has this open-ended, inquiry-centered orientation.  Starting with basic “elements” of reality (time, space, and knowledge), without taking any of them for granted or at face value, it opens various ways to explore the nature and dynamics of our world, ultimately with an interest in the potential of transformative vision.  It is a “way” that invites intimate engagement with reality through radical questioning and inquiry, and so in that sense serves (for me) more as a theory for everything rather than a static representation of everything.
Concerning your discussion of George P. Hansen’s perspectives on models and rationality, I am also interested in these questions.  If you’re interested, I have a paper online which looks at some of them from the points of view of Integral and TSK.  Here is a link to the relevant section of the paper:
TSK and Instrumental Knowledge.
Best wishes,

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 19 hours later

Nicole said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions. I guess it’s because he is so darned persuasive! Or something.

I’d really like to hear your take on TSK, Ben, as I have been meaning to dig into it, but this week will not be my chance…

Ben, does this discussion here help? http://multiplex.integralinstitute.org/Public/cs/forums/50052/ShowThread.aspx

or what about this application here? http://www.quantumintegralcenter.com/articles.cfm?mode=display&article=4

this looks like a good article: http://www.integralworld.net/chamberlain3.html

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 22 hours later

Balder said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions.

Gee, thanks, Nicole!

Seriously, I assume you mean side with Ben against any number of others, since I’ve only had a couple conversations with him so far…

And for the record, I appreciate his perspective as well.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

Balder, so far we seem to agree on some things.  Its hard for me to say what I agree or disagree with at the moment.  I’m presently in exploratory mode and it will take me a while to get my bearings… if ever.  😉  There is so much out there about Integralism that I can feel lost and confused sometimes.

“Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?”

It might’ve been.  I can’t remember when it was that I noticed those ideas.  Would you mind linking to your comments from there?

I’ll be getting back to this blog soon… maybe this evening.  For right now, I’ve been reading through and formulate a response to Julian’s blog post about Christianity. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

I can’t speak for Nicole, but my guess is that her agreement is partly with my view of personality types.  It seems to me that certain types have more of a preference for certain kinds of thinking such as NTs preference for rationality.  From this, I conclude that some differences are just differences.  Nicole and I have been discussing typology quite a bit lately and she seems to find it helpful.

BTW there is a particular theorist within the typology field who interests me the most.  Her name is Lenore Thomson.  She wrote the book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual, and there is a wiki about her work.  Her view of typology touches upon my own thoughts about a TFA.  Basically, a TFA to me is a perspective of perspectives.  Some relevant pages from the wiki:

Rhetorical Stances

Beyond Personality

Philosophical Exegesis

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Here is the first thread I started at Open Source Integral.

TFA and Perspective of Perspectives

Discussion didn’t really get going in the thread and I never came to any conclusions.  I was just throwing around ideas and possibilities.  And that is still what I’m doing.  I gave up on the idea of a TFA, but I’m glad its come up again in this discussion.  It seems some kind of TFA should be possible.  I probably should first figure out what purpose a TFA should serve.

Balder, I looked at your paper.  I’m curious about it, but it will take me a while to process it.  Its a nice addition to Wilber’s models.  Time and space also come up in explanations of typological function-attitudes, but typology is less abstract in how it speaks about them.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

Yes, Ben, your ideas on typology but so many more, actually. Funny since in many ways we are so different, but I had a long chat with Centria (Kathy) last night on the phone, and of course you were one of the people who came up, since we both think you’re so interesting and intelligent. I was saying that to me you have felt like a soul brother, and she said she saw that energy in some of our blog discussions, like the Rilke ones…

And yes, Bruce, I can see you appreciate Ben as well. Good! I appreciate you too, very much, I hope you know. For example what you offered in balance in that very immoderate Mod Pod discussion lol.

Ben, I will wait to hear more about your thoughts on TSK, it does seem very intriguing for you.

Perspective of perspectives eh? :):) Yes, that’s my Ben… 

Balder : Kosmonaut

1 day later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for introducing me to Lenore Thompson.  Her work seems very promising and interesting to me.  The typological system I’ve studied the most is the Enneagram.  A thought that has occurred to me from time to time is that Integral needs to better integrate typology.  It does explicitly include it – AQAL (or AQALALASAT) stands for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types – but I have noticed that, in typical discussions in Integral circles, the only types that get much mention are masculine / feminine.  I have also found that frequently, when people are “assessing” or categorizing each other, they will go very quickly to labels which describe level or altitude, apparently not considering that there may be different typological expressions of the same level.  In my case, I have looked at this through the Enneagram, talking about how certain features of a 9 or a 3, for instance, might give the impression of a level, but that actually it’s just more of an overall mode of interaction that can be expressed at any number of levels.

If you haven’t already, and if you’re interested, I think you should write something on Lenore’s work to introduce it to the Integral community.

Personally, I have doubts that a type model is sufficient in itself, and would not expect it to work well as a theory for anything.  I don’t think everything can be reduced to or explained in terms of horizontal types.  But I do think that it is a very valuable lens you can adopt – one of several different perspectives on perspectives that AQAL incorporates.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

I find it difficult to speak about any particular thing using only one model.  It often leads to making exaggerated claims.  We need multiple models in order to fine-tune our ability to discern differences and to discern their potential meanings.

I was feeling challenged to speak clearly in one of Julian’s blogs.  Rational can mean so many things to so many people even within the Integral community.  There is this idea that if someone is being rational they must either be orange or second tier, but nobody at green could be rational.   

Why do some people seem to think that second tier is just a more complex version of orange with green being a temporary irrational blip in development?  And why do so many equate rationality with a materialistic worldview?  Why do people who idealize rationality feel such a strong need to deny anything spooky?  How would someone act if they were well-developed in orange and yet had come to be centered in green?  Or, considering someone who is a more intellectual type (ie NT), how would they think rationally if they were strongly green? 

I’ve noticed too that the only type that gets much Integral discussion is gender.  Here is something I said about it in another thread at OSI:

There is the matter of whether a type is used consciously or not and this relates to development, and there is a specific order that each type will likely develop each function. This is highly theoretical and I don’t know what research has been done on it. Another theory presents how each function itself develops which is equivalent to saying that each function represents a separate line of development. There is some correlation of MBTI with models of psychological development.

For instance, how the Judging functions(Thinking and Feeling) have much similarity with Gilligan’s work on gender differences and the hierarchy of development that either gender will tend to follow. Typology brings a slightly different slant to this. Statistics have shown that their is a slight preference of males for Thnking and females for Feeling. Also, Thinking males tend to have stronger Thinking preferences than Thinking females, and Feeling females tend to have stronger preference for Feeling than Feeling males.

However, this gender preference is only around 60-70%, and that leaves a good portion that doesn’t fit the social expectations. David Deidda recognizes that gender patterns are only general. He says that his advice for men doesn’t apply to less masculine men and does apply to more masculine women. As a Feeling guy, I don’t entirely resonate with his advice.


Here is something Wilber said about gender in

“Based mostly on work by Carol Gilligan and Deborah Tannen, the idea is that the typical male orientation tends to be more agentic, autonomous, abstract, and independent, based on rights and justice; whereas the female orientation tends to be more permeable, relational, and feelingful, based on care and responsibility.”

That makes me wonder.  A tendency towards the abstract is considered more masculine and I’ve heard people make this observation before.  But the MBTI research has shown no correlation between abstract cognition and gender.  My theory on this is that there are different types of abstraction.  An NF appears less abstract because their way of abstracting is less structured as they aren’t Thinking types.  So, the definition of abstract used in gender studies is probably NT biased… maybe because most scientific researchers are NTs (?).

Anyways, you’re probably right that a type model couldn’t be a TFA.  But it could be a decent model of a Theory Of Theorizing (TOT).  Typology gets at the intricacies of our cognitive and perceptual biases.  For instance, personality research has shown that certain types and traits are most prevalent in certain professional fields.  That is partly the basis of my suspicion that Integralism has a personality bias.  Different types of personalities will tend to be attracted to different types of theories, and some types of personalities won’t like abstract theorizing whatsoever.  And none of it necessarily has anything to do with what developmental stage they’re at.

I’ll start a thread about Lenore Thomson soon, but not today.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Balder, I noticed you started a thread about AQAL and TSK at the II Multiplex.
And another thread of yours about TSK.
I noticed you’ve blogged about TSK.
And so has Davidu.
Ronpurser has some videos about TSK on youtube.

Also, is this the thread you were referring to earlier about Spiral Dynamics?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Ben, when you put it like this, it does seem very odd! supposedly so advanced and not really dealing with personality types, and generalising in such limited ways about men and women…

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for collecting all of those links together.  Yes, I’ve talked about TSK (by itself and in relation to Integral) on a number of forums online.  I also have a TSK pod here on Gaia.  I am also friends with both Davidu and Ron Purser.  A small world!

And yes, that thread on Spiral Dynamics is exactly the one I was thinking of.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said


Integral has such a focus on development that types can get short shrift.  I think Wilber was trying to remedy that with his further developments of the quadrant model, but I’m still uncertain what I think of the quadrants.  The quadrants are useful, and the same probably goes for other similar models.  In some ways, quadrants seems more of a convenient way to categorize things than necessarily an accurate representation of fundamental structures.

It might be helpful to compare certain aspects of integralism and typology.  Wilber uses internal and external as categories, but in some ways it feels like a crude division.  OTOH Introversion and Extraversion are attempts to explain how the human brain actually processes information.  And yet there seems a basic conception that both systems are getting at.  Introversion/Extraversion is likely the most accepted and understood traits in all of personality research.  It touches upon something fundamental to human experience.  I get the sense that Wilber is trying to get at this same human experience but coming at it from a standpoint that emphasizes objectivity (ie categorization).

I don’t know if that makes sense.  Its just something that has been on my mind for a long time.

For whatever reason, I have a bit more interest in types than in developmental lines and stages.  Types can speak more to our immediate experience… whereas development speaks more to potential future experience.  As long as someone is moderately intelligent and aware, they can grasp the fundamentals of a system such as MBTI.  But a system such as Spiral Dynamics is only meaningful to someone who is already fairly developed.  I think Spiral Dynamics requires more abstract thinking to understand it than does MBTI.  MBTI has its complex abstract theorizing, but it has been honed for the purposes of therapeutic insight and so has been designed in a very user-friendly fashion. 

So…  MBTI is a system that can be understood by all of the types it describes.  Spiral Dynamics can’t be understood by all of the vmemes that it describes.  That isn’t a weakness of Spiral Dynamics, just a challenge of any developmental model.  MBTI is also a developmental model, but in its most basic form the developmental aspects aren’t directly emphasized.

I’d love to see someone attempt to create an integral theory of types similar to how Wilber has created an integral theory of development.


Your welcome.  I like collecting links.  Its a hobby of mine.  🙂

BTW I don’t think it was your Spiral Dynamics thread where I saw these criticisms/questions being brought up.  If I remember correctly, it was an older thread.  Anyways, I was happy to read your comments about this.  I haven’t yet read through the whole thread, but I plan on doing so.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Yes, yes, Ben, I agree totally.

While I was looking for more useful links I found this about Haridas_Chaudhuri

Are you and Bruce familiar with him?

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Yes, I’m familiar with him.  His integralism is rooted more in Aurobindo’s model, which was initially one of Wilber’s big influences as well.  Wilber ended up going in other directions, though recently he has returned to Aurobindo, using a number of Aurobindo’s stages of consciousness as the highest levels of his model of development. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Nope, never heard of him.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I just commented on Julian’s blog The Transformative Power of Development: A Three-Part Distinction:

Balder, I appreciated what you said here:
“If rationality begins with 3p, and transratonality begins at 5p (or expanded 4p), then it just isn’t correct to call a temporary state experience at a rational level (3p) transrational.  Because transrational is a structural designation, not a state designation.”

I’m starting to understand the importance of separating states and stages.  So, if transrational is a structural designation, then does that mean the pre/trans fallacy doesn’t apply to stage designations?  If transrational isn’t the correct label for a temporary stte, then what is?

Even though I didn’t mention it in my comment, I was thinking about the category of the nonrational.  I was considering that it might be appropriate to speak of rational and nonrational in terms of states.  But if states are differentiated from stages, then pre/trans doesn’t apply.  This makes sense to me. 

My understanding of the nonrational is that it isn’t specifically developmental in Wilber’s sense, but it does relate to the process of development as the liminal is inherent to initiation rituals.  States aren’t static even if they aren’t dynamic in terms of linear development.  Maybe states follow more of a cyclical pattern.  This could help to show the connection between the theories of Grof and Wilber.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

interesting! but i am being called away … back later or tomorrow

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Leaving?  You just got here!  Called away… sounds mysterious.

Oh well… I hope the rest of your day goes well.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

ah, just family. i urgently was required to watch a Nicholas Cage movie, light and funny. not much punishment there lol. and then to bed.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I see.  Just spending some quality time with family and Nicholas Cage.
What movie was it?
I’m watching some Outer Limits episodes right now.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

cool! It was um… hang on… LOL! I remember the second part of the title – Book of Secrets – anyway you will find the whole title somewhere else – i know i mentioned it earlier to you. you see the depredations of old age, Ben. 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

You have depredations?
Sounds horrible.
Is that a medical condition?
You probably should see a doctor about that.
I hope they find a cure for it before I get old.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said


Psychology of Politics, Development of Society

I’ve been thinking out some complex issues and data.  In particular, my mind has been stuck on the issue of liberal and conservative. 

This relates to personality types and traits, but furthermore it relates to genetics.  Scientists have discovered specific genes that correlate with specific tendencies of political attitudes.  That isn’t exactly surprising as trait research has already determined many psychological differences are passed on from parent to child.  But this is particularly paradigm-shifting on the level of politics.

I plan to write more about this, but I just wanted to outline my thinking for the moment.  There are multiple facets that interrelate in ways I’m trying to determine.

There does seem to be an evolutionary angle that would be very important.  Different genetics enhanced species survival as humans developed ever more complex societies.  One theory I came across proposed that liberal genetics are a more recent evolutionary adaptation.  As humans spread out from Africa, specific traits became more desirable: curiosity, openness to new experience, adaptability, empathy, diplomacy, ability to imagine new possibilities and consider multiple perspectives, etc.  These are all traits that research has proven are correlated with each other, and they together seem to create the framework for the liberal attitude.  Still, the older genetics remained useful because any given society would still need the majority of its population to be fairly conservative in order to create social stability and cohesion.

This development happened when humans were still hunter-gatherers, and so at that time the genetic differences wouldn’t have been as magnified.  With the rise of settled agrarian cultures, an entirely new way of social organization became possible.  This was a traumatic time in the devlopment of the human species.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Paul Shepard, but as I recall he saw this era as being pivotal where something irreversibly switched in the human brain.  This was the beginning of civilization.

I was just tonight reading again some of Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe.  I consider him to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  I’d forgotten much of the specific ideas in this book, but one particular thing stood out.  He goes into great detail about how civilization rests on the back of slavery.  Every civilization was built with slave labor (including the early democracies).  Even the modern industrialized nations with their supposed democracies and free markets are dependent on slave labor and sweatshops in the third world countries.  Many of the earliest immigrants to the Americas were indentured servants and slaves.  Civilization as we know it would collapse if there wasn’t some class of people enslaved or in oppressed servitude. 

(I also wonder how this fits in with prostitution as the oldest profession and temple prostitutes who lived in servitude.  In early civilization, prostitution represented the civilizing of primitive desire as the temple prostitutes served the highest ideal of their societies and the temples they worked in were at the center of those cultures.  The example that comes to mind is “The Epic of Gilgamesh” where the wild man is civilized by a prostitute.)

Jensen’s explanation of all of this is just brilliant.  Combined with Shepard’s work, this explains a lot about how we became this way.  The earliest records of humans are about the laws upholding civilization and these laws speak about slavery (e.g., Code of Hammurabi).  The Old Testament in various stories and the 10 commandments promotes slavery.  The Christian Gospels even promote slavery.  The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all were dependent on slavery.  Until modern times, few people even thought too much about slavery being a bad thing.

However, some people back then began to question such issues.  During the Axial Age, the origins of modern Enlightenment ideals began to take root.  Those early ideals were in complete conflict with the very structure of civilization and that conflict persists to this very day.  So, where did this conflict come from?

Earlier in social development, humans perceived the world animistically.  According to Julian Jaynes, the very understanding of the individual as clearly separate from the world didn’t even fully exist throughout much of early civilization.  It was a slow shift while individuality formed.  As division of labor in society became more important, so division of labor within the human mind became more important.  The world and the gods stopped being experienced as immediately alive realities.  The world became objectified and so did humans.  Individuality and objectivity go hand in hand, and this is what allows for the objectivication of humans in the form of slavery.

This growing sense of individuality came to a crisis point during the Axial Age.  The brutality of slavery had become very apparent, and people began hoping for something more.  People were less satisfied to simply be in servitude whether to other people or to the gods.  The divine had become distant within hierarchical society, and in response the desire for divine closeness became extremely strong.  Humans started to perceive the divine as being among humans which is reminiscent of the animistic past, but this divine closeness was now built on a relationship of individuals as equals.  The first communes formed which was out of which Christianity took root.  However, Christianity and all of the Axial Age religions were brought back in line with hierarchical slave society, and the brief glimmer of the Axial Age prophets was almost entirely forgotten for the next thousand years.

However, it was never entirely forgotten.  The Axial Age ideals were the liberalism of their day.  I wonder if that liberal urge that kept popping up relates back to the genetics that first formed when humans left Africa?

It seems like there has always been this push and pull within human society that is shown in the the earliest historical records.  Since civilization began, this concept of progress formed.  Civilization is dependent on endless progress and this seems to relate to its dependence on slavery.  In order to maintain a slave population, the early civilizations (as well as later civilizations) were forced to be constantly at war by attempting to conquer other people.  Enslave or become a slave.  Endless progress, endless growth, endless conquering, endless usurpation… which continues to modern civilization as well (even if endless wars now have a larger global context). 

This is where I’m feeling a bit murky.  Civilization is simultaneously built on this ruthless progress, but civilization wouldn’t have been possible without those early liberal traits of diplomacy and whatnot.  This seems to be a part of that internal conflict that is the very fabric of civilization.  As society became more hierarchical and more divisioned, the liberal traits of curiosity and experimentation were focused towards technological innovation.  Even fairly early in Greek society, a well-educated leisure class had already taken hold (with Socrates being the ultimate representative).  The liberal instinct in some ways became even more important as empathy and diplomacy would’ve been absolutely vital during this time of cultural clash.

There was a shift that happened after the Axial Age.  The liberal instinct had a temporary burgeoning in society, but the liberal instinct was looked upon with ever greater suspicion as Empire building became the central impulse.  The Roman Empire as it was inherited by Christianity was quite oppressive, and it didn’t take long for the heresiologists to oppress the liberal impulse within Christianity itself.  This is where many see the proper beginning of Western civilization.

Ever since that time, the conflict between the liberal and conservative impulses has led to much violence.  But, with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance, the liberal impulse began to have greater influence than it had in a long time.  Also, progress began to happen more quickly.  The liberal impulse is the gas pedal of civilization, but this is balanced with the brake of the conservative impulse.  The fight between the two hasn’t been pretty.

The main issue isn’t specific beliefs or values.  Liberalism and conservatism are relative tendencies.  What was liberal during the Axial Age has become the norm for modern Western civilization.  Generally speaking, even modern monotheists have forsaken their own texts in denying slavery.  The conservative impulse wants to hold on to what has become the norm which is perceived as being traditional.  It’s not important, however, that the perceived traditional values actually correspond to the actual historical tradition.  For example, family values have been centrally important for all of Christian history, but what Christians today consider as family values isn’t what the early Christians considered family values (and Jesus himself didn’t value family at all).  So, liberal and conservative are dependent on the historical context which is always changing with the endless progress that we call civilization.

This has served us moderately well up to this point.  Even so, we find ourselves at a new crisis point and so some people conjecture that we’re experiencing a new Axial Age.  It does seem that the level of cultural mixing in modern society hasn’t been seen in Western civilization since the earlier Axial Age.  The religious sensibility forming now is to Christianity as Christianity was to Judaism, and I think this would explain why fundamentalists have essentially created a new religion that has little to do with early Christianity (which fits into the ideas of Karen Armstrong).

Much of what I’ve talked about can be explained using the model of Spiral Dynamics which would add a lot of much-needed detail.  The history following the Axial Age I somewhat explained in my post Just Some Related Ideas and Writers which basically follows a Jungian view of Western development.  But there is a further aspect that is more central to my thinking at the moment.  Along with Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe, I’ve also been re-reading Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini.  The two books make for good companions as they both analyze Western society from different perspectives. 

Giannini’s book is helpful because he is coming from the Jungian tradition, and more importantly he combines his roles as Jungian analyst and MBTI practitioner.  He carefully considers Jung’s view on personality as it fits in with Western sociohistorical development.  He sees a split in our society between tendencies towards the personality types of ESTJ and INFP with the former dominating the Western psyche since sometime shortly after the inception of Christianity.  Essentially, ESTJ and INFP are just a more complex way of saying conservative and liberal.

However, this more complex language is helpful because it’s grounded in decades of psychological research.  Also, it brings me back to where I began this post.

(I want to note one other book: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  The author discusses two issues relevant to this post.  He discusses Max Weber’s theory about how rationalization and bureaucratization increases as society becomes more complex and hierarchical.  He also discusses Ernest Harmann’s boundary types.  He mentions research that shows thick boundary types with their conservative attitudes tend to promoted to upper management in hierarchical organizations.  Any major organization is hierarchical and so our society in general is ruled by thick boundary types which is just another way of stating the theory Giannini puts forth.  These highly promoted people tend to have thicker boundaries than even the average person and so the people at top perceive and behave differently than the lower classes.  A seeming implication of this is that even Washington Democrats will be more conservative than the average liberal.) 

The reason I’m so interested in all of this is two-fold. 

The most obvious reason is that the conflict between liberals and conservatives is the most intense that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  And it’s a rather personal issue as I’m liberal and my parents are conservative. 

Secondly, I suffer from obsessive curiosity syndrome.  I feel compelled to try to understand the society I was born into.  There seems to be a narrative to our culture and I suspect that it’s our collective unawareness of this narrative that keeps us stuck in it.  We play these roles we are given and we come to identify with them.  Some of this is genetics and so can’t be changed, but genetics are just predispositions.  I want to believe that the liberal and conservative impulses don’t have to be eternally at odds.  Maybe I’m just a dreamy-eyed liberal with my head in the clouds.

 – – –

Let me give this some more contemporary context.

I’ve been doing some web research on personality types/traits, political attitudes, and career predispositions.  Here are some of the ideas I’m tossing about at present:

The problem with liberal and conservative as labels is that they’re highly relative.

The vast majority of scientists and journalists identify as liberal (or at least they do in the US), but it just means that these groups of people identify as more liberal than how they perceive the general population of their particular society.  In the most general usage, conservative means what is traditional or conventional and liberal means what is not limited to the traditional or conventional.  As such, liberal journalists are only moderately liberal.  They’re liberal because they aren’t perfectly aligned with the average person (or rather they don’t perceive themselves as such), but they’re clearly moderate in their being closer to the mainstream than they are to radicals on the fringe.

However, different societies will vary greatly in their political spectrum.  It’s probably true, though, that scientists and journalists in any society will be comparatively more liberal because those professions seem to demand a liberal mindset (at least liberal in terms of personality traits).

The further issue is how close is the correlation between liberal as political self-identification and liberal as personality trait.  Research on personality traits show that they can’t be categorized as either/or, black/white.  Some people are on the extreme ends, but most people are near the middle.

There is no one way to define these terms.  Liberal and conservative can apply to many issues, and so a person can be simultaneously liberal on some issues and conservative on others.  And any given issue can only be labelled as liberal or conservative relative to the context of the societal norms and the historical era.  Many political positions that seem conservative in a modern industrialized society would be deemed liberal (even radically liberal) in pre-modern and non-industrialized societies.  Liberal and conservative are labels that are inseparable from confounding factors of individual and collective development.

With development, other issues such as intelligent and morality have to be considered as both of those relate to intelligence.  There is a correlation between liberalism and IQ (i.e., traditional methods of testing intelligence), and so that probably explains much of the reason for scientists and journalists identifying as liberals.  As a personality trait, liberalism signifies openness towards new experiences and curiosity towards new information.  Higher education is largely defined by new experiences and new information.

Nonetheless, plenty of people with more conservative personalities go to college as most of the population is fairly conservative personality wise (or rather according to MBTI statistics the conservative SJ temperament represents the largest portion of the population; the question then is how well does the SJ temperament represent the normal definition of political conservatism).  These college educated conservative types tend to be drawn to careers in law, politics, and business.  Most interestingly is the fact that policymakers tend to identify as conservative.  But, even in liberal fields, the top administrators in hierarchical organizations (which includes every major private and public organization) will be more conservative than what is the norm even for the general population.  Scientists may be liberal, but the administration of scientific labs and the corporate funding for science likely is controlled by conservatives.  Journalists may be liberal, but the editors, owners and CEOs of media companies are generally more conservative. 

(The so-called liberal media bias is false.  It may have once been true when newsrooms were independent and reporters were more free to do their own thing.  But in recent decades (because of pressures to increase profits) reporters have been increasingly told what to do by upper management (this is based on a lot of research I’ve done and isn’t an just an ideological claim).  However, this isn’t to say that media is precisely conservative biased in any simple sense.  Let us just say there is conflict of biases where the conservative bias at the moment has gained the upperhand.)

Social liberals are going to be more interested in intellectual inquiry and social conservatives will be more interested in ideological norms.  Because of this, most social scientists and those interested in social science will be moral liberals (research supports this conclusion).  As for moral conservatives, they’re either less interested in or else actively mistrust social science research and theory.  For example, the evidence that certain psychological traits and types (personality, moral inclinations, political ideology, behavior, etc.) are largely inheritable undermines the idea that everyone is completely responsible for themselves as individuals (which is a major aspect of moral conservatism).  The tendency to see human nature as complex is more attractive to the social liberal, and so the liberal attitude is more open to the possibility of nature being equal to or greater than nurture (which could explain why they have a more open view of family values).  The reason why evolution vs creationism seems so central to the culture wars may be because it reflects on the large-scale the same issues of nature vs nurture (I’m a bit unclear on this point).

I’ve come across the theory that conservatives tend to look at media and art in terms of how it serves or undermines their ideology (i.e., the perceived ‘norm’).  This would be supported by the Christian cultural critic who I heard speak a few years ago.  She discussed the need of morally conservative Christians to use film and pop culture to promote their views.  Immediately after this talk, I went over and looked at a William Blake exhibit which presented his vision of the relationship between religion and art.  

There couldn’t have been a better contrast between the conservative and liberal views.  Blake’s art was inspiring because it didn’t represent ideology in any simple way (i.e., no overt political messages, no promotion of group norms).  Instead, Blake’s art pointed towards truths that transcended mere politics.  I sensed that Blake wasn’t limiting himself to his own preferred bias.  

Is the conservative view of art as ideology comparable to the conservative view of news as ideology?  I’ve noticed that many conservatives don’t see a difference of the bias of Fox News from the bias in more liberal news, but to many liberals this is an insult.  I’ve noticed that quite a few liberals seem to idealize intellectual objectivity as a moral value, and they’re not content with the cynical view of extreme conservatives.  The social conservative tends to see humanity as fallen and traditionally this fallen nature included the failure of human reason.  Social conservatives are more mistrusting of reason which explains why they mistrust science (be it Darwinian evolution or climate change).

By the way, this also relates to the tendency of most comedians to be liberal.  Humor is very much related to curiosity and openness to experience.

Anyways, it’s all very interesting.  Journalists, Scientists, and comedians all are dominated by self-identified liberals and Democrats.  I remember offhand that only 6% of scientists (including in the hard sciences) identify as Republican.  That does seem to be saying either something about human nature (psychology, genetics, etc) or something about modern culture… or, as I suspect, a bit of both.

 – – –

I’m, of course, speaking of liberal and conservative in their most extreme manifestations (i.e., exaggerated stereotypes).  It’s important to keep in mind that as personality traits the population distribution is found mostly in the middle rather than on the polar opposite ends.

Also, liberal and conservative don’t always equate with Democrat and Republican.  For example, earlier last century Republicans were the liberal party especially in the South.  So, when I speak of liberal I’m talking about an attitude based on personality traits and not party affiliations which represent shifting labels of shifting demographics.  I was looking at data from the Pew Research Center.  Their definition of liberal corresponds with Democrat only slightly more than it corresponds with independent.  I’m willing to bet, though, that if Democrats dominated for a couple of decades the number of liberals identifying with independent would increase just as how recently many have left the Republican party.

As for psychological attitudes, I do wonder if the way society is structured is causing these genetic traits to become increasingly magnified.  I was thinking that this possibility could be a contributing factor to the present intense political conflict.

Here is a theory I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years.

I’ve looked at mappings of demographic data.  Liberals are concentrated in urban areas in and around cities.  Conservatives are spread out in rural areas.  However, a confounding factor is that ever since the Industrial Age began people have been slowly migrating to cities.  This is how liberals became concentrated in cities in the first place, but the population in general has now become concentrated in cities.  For this reason, cities are more ideologically diverse and so liberals have been forced to adapt to diversity which happens to be one of their talents anyhow. 

The other result is that rural areas have become less diverse and more extremely conservative.  This makes me wonder if conservative politics has become more radicalized partly because of this concentration.  Even the moderate conservatives would tend to move to the cities leaving behind the most extreme conservatives (those who are so resistant to change that they’d rather remain even in poverty-stricken areas).

Ignoring the possible genetic component, our political system by itself would magnify the concentration of extreme conservatives in the rural areas.  American democracy is representative.  In an attempt at fairness, sparsely populated rural areas get more representation per capita.  What this means is that extreme conservatives get more representation per capita.  The result of this is that public debate gets pushed to the right.

This is important as sometimes presidents get elected even though the majority of the population voted against them.  How does a president lead a country when he doesn’t represent a majority of the population?

Also, the media focuses on the extremes.  The rural areas represent the far right-wing.  The Republican politicians tend to be moderate conservatives, but the more radical conservatives of rural areas hold great sway.

 – – –

I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s very interesting.  It seems our entire political system is rather messed up.  I’m hoping by placing US politics in a larger context that I’ll be able to see beyond the polarizing tendency of public debate as it gets shown in the media.

Anyways, it goes without saying that all of this is largely speculation and hence tentative.  I am basing my speculations on actual data, but it is very complex.  Trying to disentangle the threads is difficult if not impossible.  The challenge of making sense of it is only slighly lessened by the fact that some great minds before me have written some insightful books.

Debunkers vs True Skeptics

When sceptics fight back by Arran Frood (BBC)

Conspiracy theorists have used the internet to co-ordinate increasingly slick attacks on the accepted versions of events, but now a group of scientists and sceptics has decided it’s time to organise and fight back.

There are three issues.

First, just because someone’s view is outside of the mainstream it doesn’t mean that therefore it’s false.  There are many alternative views even within science, and many accepted theories were dismissed when initially presented.  Besides, not all scientific theories have been absolutely proven, and many things that were once thought to be true are later disproven.

As for the government, politicians and other officials are known to lie all of the time.  The military can keep largescale activities secret for years and even decades.  You have to be absolutely naive to believe everything the government tells you.

The ability to question and doubt conventional opinion is a part of critical thinking skills.  Instead of telling people what to think, teach them how to think.

Second, it’s true that there is a loony fringe of alternative thinkers.  On the other hand, there is a loony fringe of debunkers.  As far as skeptics go, Randi isn’t the most respectable.  Many people have been highly skeptical of Randi’s million dollar challenge.  True skepticism cuts both ways.  Skepticism as ideology is dangerous to freedom of thought.

If you want to understand the complexity of skepticism and alternative views in science, then you’d have to do some reading.  I’d suggest two books: George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal, and Chris Carter’s Parapsychology and the Skeptics.  Or if you’d rather read something shorter, there are many articles to be found online such as those on Hansen’s website.

Third, I think it’s unhelpful to try to force the world into polarized categories.  Reality isn’t either/or.  Any group that takes an ideology to an extreme will feel alone and isolated.  This is as true for sceptical extremists as it is for religious extremists.  Generally speaking, extremism isn’t an admirable trait when it comes to critical thinking skills.  Polls show that the numbers of people identifying as atheist or agnostic are growing.  When asked what religion people identify with, there is an increasing number of people who choose ‘none’.  At the same time, the majority of people have had some kind of spiritual or paranormal experience (or some experience they don’t think can be fully explained by conventional scientific theories).

In conclusion, skepticism is helpful and a worthy attitude.  But it needs to be kept in balance with other factors.  Obviously, skepticism without open-minded curiosity is rather bland and I would add blind as well.  The ability to imagine new possibilities and to temporarily suspend disbelief are extremely important.  Anyways, if you’re going to be a skeptic, then go all the way.  A skeptic who doesn’t turn their skeptical gaze back upon themselves is a narrowminded fool.  Always question your self first (Mathew 7:5 – “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”).

I’m not worried about this simplistic polarized thinking.  It’s no different than the theist vs atheist debate.  The agnostic sits on the sidelines and laughs at both of them.  As for the defenders of science, I could care less about those who feel haughty in their self-righteousness.  The Forteans, Zetetics, and Pyrrhonian skeptics will keep the pseudo-skepticism in check.

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I’ve written about this subject a number of times.  The following are two posts from my Gaia.com blog.

More About the Paranormal

Hansen speaks to these issues.  Objectivity, verifiability, and repeatability aren’t easily applied to the paranormal, but researchers have attempted to do so.  Some are satisfied with the evidence and some aren’t.  […]  How are lived experiences proven?  Well, very little of even our “normal” subjective experience is provable.  As for the paranormal, it all depends on what kind of evidence you consider acceptable. 

People have seen lights and when they investigated discovered crop circles.  Crop circles are just more complex forms of fairly circles that have been observed for centuries in corollation with fairy lights.  My brother visited with friends a place where orbs (ie fairy lights) were known to be common.  They saw the orbs and the orbs approached the car and hovered around it.  Even scientists have observed orbs, but no one agrees on what explains them. 

Pilots have seen ufos and they were observed simultaneously on radar.  There are a fair number of radar cases.  Why is there not more evidence?  For one, I’ve heard that pilots are discouraged from reporting ufos.  Also, some evidence gets destroyed because people fear ridicule.  Vallee started out as an astronomer but later became a ufo researcher because he personally observed astronomers he worked with destroying video evidence (here is an interview with him where he speaks about this).

Rupert Sheldrake was describing a dialogue he had with Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Sheldrake: “This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

(Sheldrake describes how he tried to bring up his own rearch about telepathy, but Dawkins refused to discuss it.)

And something I wrote in a comment to that post:

I like the idea of piling up the anomalies.  That is my basic viewpoint.  Parapsychology hasn’t “proven” anything, but it has provided some anomalies.  Eventually, if enough anomalies pile up, it will create a critical mass forcing a paradigm shift.  As I see it, parapsychology research is still in its infancy despite it being more than a century old.

About the Newtonian paradigm of mainstream science, I think that is very true.  The Newtonian paradigm has practical usefulness for research in most fields.  Since there isn’t much connection between most fields and post-Newtonian paradigms, my guess is that most research scientists don’t consider theoretical complexities of quantum physics.  Even paranormal research have mostly ignored theoretical issues and I doubt that many paranormal researchers are educated in quantum physics.  All of science has a whole lot of catching up to do.

I suspect that if convincing evidence of the paranormal is ever found, it will probably be in the field of physics.  Basically, mainstream scientists will only be convinced by evidence by mainstream science, and yet parapsychology isn’t considered mainstream and so its evidence isn’t acceptable.

I was thinking about Dawkins telling Radin that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.  Radin pointed out that it depends on what one considers extraordinary, but there is a further problem with Dawkin’s statement.  Parapsychology gets very little funding and so is unable to do the largescale research that is necessary to produce “extraordinary” evidence, but its mainstream scientists such as Dawkins who argue that parapsychology doesn’t deserve funding because it doesn’t produce “extraordinary” evidence.  So, Dawkins’ statement is disingenuous because he really doesn’t want parapsychology to produce extraordinary evidence. 

It reminds me of CSICOP, the skeptical organization by various mainstream scientists (incuding Dawkins).  The problem with CSICOP is that it isn’t headed by scientists and the scientists who support it have no professional experience with parapsychology research.  CSICOP has no peer-reviewed journal and doesn’t support research even in disproving the paranormal.  Hansen says that CSICOP did do some research early on, but it ended up proving what they were trying to disprove and so they never did research again.  Worse still, they use their influence (via mainstream scientists) to keep parapsychologists from getting funding.

I am curious about the possible connection between parapsychology and quantum physics.  Lynne McTaggart speaks about the connection in her books, but as she isn’t a scientist I don’t know how biased her presentation might be. 

I’ve heard that there is nothing paranormal because its a false label.  If the paranormal exists, then its normal.  I agree with that as far as that goes… I really don’t care what one calls it.  Anyways, normality is kind of a relative concept.  I’m sure quantum physics seemed a bit paranormal to Newtonian scientists.


Enactivism questions the traditional assumptions of science and so blurs the boundaries somewhat.  Varela was influenced by phenomenology, and Hansen says that ethnomethodology was similarly influenced.  Ethnomethodology (along with sociology of scientific knowledge and studies of experiment expectancy effects) puts the scientific endeavor into a very different context.

p. 280: “Ethnomethodologists took as their subject matter the interactions of everyday social life and how people make sense of them. That sounds innocuous enough, but ethnomethodologists probed foundations.  They recognized that for orderly common activity, people must share a large body of assumptions, meanings, and expectations, though these are not consciously recognized.  In order to make them explicit (i.e., bring them to conscious awareness), breaching experiments were invented, and those involved violating, in some way, typical patterns of behavior.” … “These breaching experiments have commonalities with anti-structure and the trickster; they all violate boundaries that frame experience.”

p. 281: “Ethnomethodologists pointed out that one is part of that which one observes, i.e., one participates in processes of observation.  The issue of participation has some intriguing connections.  At least since Levy-Bruhl’s How Natives Think (1910) it has been associated with the non-rational.”

p.282: “Mehan and Wood say that their theoretical perspective “within ethnomethodology commits me to the study of concrete scenes and to the recognition that I am always a part of those scenes.  Social science is committed to avoiding both of those involvements.”  They are correct, but few social scientists wish to acknowledge the consequences.  The abstraction and distancing found in all science endow a certain status and privilege from which to judge and comment on others.  In order to maintain that position, scientists must not get too “dirty,” too closely associated with their objects of study.  Ethnomethodologists understand they necessarily participate in the phenomena they observe.  Mehan and Wood comment that “Ethnomethodology can be seen as an activity of destratification.”  This destratification is a leveling of status, and that is also associated with limimal conditions (a.k.a., anti-structure).  Thus social leveling via participation and reflexivity has been recognized by theorists from entirely separate disciplines, demonstrating its validity.”

The last part about the leveling of status directly relates to the Trickster archetype, and status relates to hierarchy.  Scientists often are seen as final arbiters in many matters, and traditionally science saw itself opposed to nature, above the object it studied.

Also check out this other blog post of mine as an example of a topic that exists at the edge of mainstream science:

Astrological Evidence?

For more information, see these Wikpidea articles about various issues involving science, knowledge, biases, and critical thinking skills:

Arsen Darnay’s Borderzone Blog

I just discovered a new blog.  It’s titled Borderzone and is written by Arsen Darnay.  From his ‘About’ page:

“Borderzone may be of interest to those whose inner sense suggests a reality open at both ends—in the heights and in the depths: angels above and agents below the enzymes, as it were. The posts are exploratory and philosophical; they point to horizons not typically reached by ships or planes.”

I wrote some responses to his posts that I’ll share below.

Henry Corbin

I only know of Henry Corbin’s ideas indirectly through the book Imagination is Reality by Roberts Avens. Have you read it? I’ve also come across these ideas in my reading of paranormal and ufo literature. Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality is a good analysis of all of this.

I didn’t know that Corbin wrote about Swedenborg. I’ve never read Swedenborg either, but I’ve read that his ideas influenced New Thought Christianity which I was raised in.

I found it interesting your mention of Paracelsus. I hadn’t heard of his view that visionary experience came from the heart. I like that idea.

The Random Element in Borderline Phenomena

Well, I’m personally a fan of “useless” knowledge. To the degree that knowledge is useful it will be biased towards some specific agenda. Useful knowledge isn’t problematic per se, but if the agenda becomes too overt it can be a major limitation for further scientific research and discovery. Anyways, the Taoists warned against the dangers of usefulness and I think it’s good advice.

As for the issue of science and the paranormal, there are two authors that I’d recommend. Both have worked in the field of science and so have knowledge of it from the inside.

George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal covers a lot of territory. Hansen worked as a parapsychology researcher and so is very familiar with the flaws and limitations of the field (and of science in general).

Jacque Vallee has done lots of scientific work with astronomy and computers, but he has become one of the biggest names in ufo research. He became involved in the latter field because he personally witnessed an astronomer destroy data of a ufo. He is specifically known for proposing the similarity between ufo experiences and religious experiences.

Have you heard of either of them? If so, what do you think of their ideas?

The Song of the Pearl – Part II

This is something that interests me immensely. I’ve been reading Gnostic texts recently. The Song of the Pearl is one of my favorites partly for the dream-like imagery.

I think it’s important your noting Cindarella and Snow White. I mentioned Jacques Vallee in another post of yours. He wrote about the similarity between ufo experiences and fairy/folk-tales. One element is the experience of unconsciousness, forgetting and lost time. Reports of interactions with other paranormal beings (such as fairies) also involve this element. So, there is a continuity between religious experiences in the past and ufo experiences now. It’s just a matter of cultural interpretation.

I’m not sure exactly how all of that fits into the Gnostic viewpoint, but it seems significant. I’m sure Gnostics would’ve taken seriously the actual paranormal experiences people had. Some people just see their weird myths as complex theologizing, but I think that misses the original intent of gnosis itself.

Your last point makes me wonder about one possible connection. The idea of children who end up as queens and kings reminds me of another element of ufo experiences. The “aliens” (or whatever they are) often tell people that they are an elect or special somehow, that they will be saved or will help save the world. These paranormal beings are always proclaiming grand messages and singling out people to receive them.

What is the purpose? Heck if I know. The messages usually don’t have any practical value and the predictions often don’t come true.

For instance, paranormal beings (and the prophets or alien abductees who listen to them) have been predicting the end of the world for quite a while now. Whether its the early Christians waiting for the Second Coming or ufo believers waiting on a hill, it’s all the same.

Maybe the problem is that such people took the message literally instead of allegorically/spiritually as the Gnostics preferred.