Thursday, September 13, 2012


NOTE: I'm trying to take my time with my longer posts make them more succinct and polished. When I drop them without publishing, I often never go back and finish, but I'm trying to change. So for now, here are a couple of links.

NYT: Why Men Fail, via MR: Why Women Succeed?
This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically.
What if the workplace (and schools) has been changed to favour women's traits and personlities and men have largely lost their enthusiasm.

Favorite comment by Jude HOWSEXSELLS Hammerle: 
In other words, men play DOMINATE like gorillas, while women play SUBMIT like chimps. Remember that chimps are much smarter than gorillas. --Jude Hammerle

This makes some sense, since men are still over-represented at the highest levels, while women are over represented at the more numerous positions where following orders is more of a requirement.

As a T-Ball coach, I thought I should mention the Washington Post article on Throwing Like a Girl.  Most people throw like girls unless they are taught, or have natural athleticism.  You can read my other thoughts on  GLP's post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'm Free

As I was walking down the train platform this afternoon, I couldn't help noticing the average people on the train are victims of the system and society for which they are working.  Commuters like me spend a great deal of their time working for a system - whether private concern or government - that has no interest in advancing their understanding of truth.  Each spot filled on the train, seating or standing, represents a specialized understanding of specialized information in order to perform a specialized role that enables their department to perform its intended function within the organization.

Beyond this special knowledge and skill, these people are at the mercy of government and other corporations to for information required to make crucial decisions what is best for their well being.

I began riding these trains about 8 years ago when I moved to the suburbs.  At that time, despite being much younger than the average rider, I felt rather average.  I didn't think of myself as over weight, but, I carried between 25-35 extra pounds.  It didn't matter if I was in a workout phase or not, I carried extra weigh, mostly around my waist. 

Fast forward to this afternoon, when I walked down the platform looking at my train-mates, I noticed that probably 2 out of 3 of them are where I was or worse.  I feel like the fortunate misfit because I've lost most of my stomach fat and I can lithely bounce up the steps and glide effortlessly down the platform while my former self would have struggled to keep pace.  I get comments, such as, "You're lucky" from people who don't realize that I've lost so much weight.  I shrug and say that it was easy to lose weight once I understood how.

I can't blame people for thinking that.  There truly are people who are lucky enough to stay skinny despite putting very little thought into how they eat.  I am not one.  Before discovering the manosphere and learning of the paleo/primal diet, I followed the conventional wisdom put forth by the system that I supported with my daily labours.  I ate whole grain cereal with soy milk and a banana for breakfast.  When the hunger came raging back in a couple of hours, I alleved it with whole grain oatmeal or whole wheat bread, fruit and yoghurt.  Lunch was left overs from the home-cooked meal the night before - usually meat with vegetables and rice.  It was what you called a balanced diet, although, I must admit, it was not low in fat.  I didn't worry, because my cholesterol readings were great and so was my blood pressure thanks to genetic predisposition.  But, the gut and all the extra weight remained, while friends stays rail thin eating burgers and fries for lunch almost every day.  Of course, many were more overweight than I was.  These people tried to tell me that the difference was all about how I ate and worked out.

Now that I know better, I feel like Tommy from the rock opera by The Who (I'm Roger Daltry sprinting down the beach while people mindlessly stare out of their cars with sunglasses):

If I told you how to reach the highest high
You'd laugh and say nothing's that simple.
But you've been told many times before
Messiahs pointed to the door
No one had the guts to leave the temple
Like the character Tommy, I feel this urge to spread the news I've discovered.  I stare at the people who share my car with their varying states of overweight and know that I can't reach them.  They could feel as good as I do, but they're victims of the system that asks for them to devote all of their time and considerable brain power to performing their duty.  Nobody is challenged to take time to read blogs or volumous books like Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories to understand how the messages that conventional wisdom are misleading them.  One person actually said when I explained the basics, she felt like I was asking her to change religion.  I acknowledged the similarities and said that the proponents of conventional wisdom are like blind followers and can't see the problem because they are part of it.  Overall, I try to temper my enthusiasm so I don't sound like a preacher.  I just say things like, "Yeah, I don't need that bagel, because I had three eggs and some bacon this morning, as usual." while they stare agog.

I think that Keoni's post called Feedlot USA sums it up the best.  The people are not concerned that their waistlines are growing while the system takes care of their every need and tells them what to think.  It's a shame, but the only way for any person to do what I have done is to seek the truth.  The Internet is an enormous resource filled with information, however, for most, it is not a priority.  They just don't have the desire, energy, time and/or ability to challenge the status quo. There is an inate urge to challenge the BS that they are fed.  Everyone scoffs and rolls their eyes at something when their BS detectors go off.  But the system has people too confused to know what they're scoffing at.  There is so much conflicting information and all of the information is never provided, or is only provided piecemeal and twisted, so people can't put all the pieces together.  It's a nagging uneasiness that slowly eats away at you if you let it, or it gets subdued with junk food and beer until it rolls over and goes to sleep.  But, if you follow truth - that elusive goal, you can control your health, your state of mind and even your destiny.  Truth, if you're brave enough to face it, can set you free.

* edited ending  since I was deprived of sleep at time of publishing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stay The Hell Out of My Crucial Life Decisions - Spanking ed.

The Canadian Medical Association Jounral has come out and said that spanking should be banned. Editor-in-Chief, John Fletcher is calling on the goverment to remove the protection for parents who use reasonable force to discipline their kids (read the G&M article if you want the wording of the law or read the whole thing here).
This is the problem when health experts try to influence the law and politics.  They are so blind to their religion of science that they can't see its flaws.  I am not one to go around calling science a religion.  True science has nothing to do with religion.  But, when you have well-meaning people jump all over shoddy scientific studies to advocate criminalizing normal parental behaviour.

Listen to the study that is being held up as evidence.
Harsh physical punishment such as pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping or hitting was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and several personality disorders. Researchers found 2 percent to 7 percent of mental disorders were attributable to harsh physical punishment
Ok, pushing, grabbing shoving, slapping are not the same as spanking. This earlier G&M article doesn't even mention these details.

It's hard to let these experts realize that it's a whore they are sleeping with.  They have real feelings for her and they obviously aren't the ones paying, so you just have to shout at them:  SCIENCE IS A WHORE!

Dr. Fletcher says he’s not advocating for the criminalization of the occasional poor parenting choice. “If the aim is to improve parenting,” he writes, “then calling the police is the wrong approach.”
Instead, he’s hoping to shift the focus to how ineffective spanking actually is.

 Just what does he think he's doing?  Obviously he is a medical expert, so he is not too knowledgable about the law (neither am I), but when you criminalize a behaviour, you are calling for the troups (police, CPA) to move in.  The point of the law, is not to protect child abusers. It is to protect parents -who are human and make mistakes and have to deal with real day-to-day issues in the best way they can - who might otherwise have their lives destroyed by the system that has a monopoly on legal violence. The whole unintended consequences argument is totally lost.  I'm not saying that spanking is always necessary - it should probably be used perhaps 1-2 times for most children (in the entire time it takes to raise them).  But allowing the government into the homes of parents should only be done as a last resort in cases of serious abuse.  This do-gooder (mostly leftist) notion to let no single act of harm go unpunished is deeply disturbing.  Do they really blindly believe in the holy grail of government so much that they can't see that the loss of freedom and the potential for severe punishment of minor transgressions is far more harmful than a parent spanking their child once too often?
I truly believe that the love between parents and children can overcome the pain from overuse of spanking (not abuse) and we are better off letting the love heal the wounds rather than some over reaching government agency.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Reality of Free Will - To Be Who You Are

I've been reading plenty of books.  Not as much as I'd like, because I am a wage labourer.  To get the most out of what little time I have to read I tend to read academic non-fiction rather than fiction, although I'm trying to catch up on the classics right now.  I found The Three Musketeers on my new smart phone and I've found it rather enjoyable - better than playing some game app, at least.  I've also read 1984 recently and picked up a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I chose over book Eating Animals that was recommended by the staff at Chapters. I skimmed the Jonathan Safran Foer offering and found it too biased in favour of veganism and full of guilt trips to sacrifice my money or time on.  I've found this choice to be rewarding, so far, as I'd rather follow the Mark Twain character as he struggles for survival on the Mississippi River than suffer through passages of a book that provide a slanted view of an complex issue that I've already made up my mind on.  If I want to read nitwits, I'll at least do it online where I can talk back to them; it's less frustrating.

Now, was this choice to consume a classic piece of American literature over a semi-intellectual non-fiction piece really a choice?  Or was I compelled to do it by my utter disdain for vegetarians and my realization that the book was going to argue factory farming, animal cruelty and environmental issues are somehow proof that we would all be better off eating just plants when I know that animal fat is biologically necessary for most human being to be healthy.  I'd rather spend my time reading about how leprochans are the new clean energy source than be guilted into thinking the wrong way about diet.
Still, I returned the book to the place I found it and noticed Huckleberry Finn there on the Recommended Titles display.  It roused an emotional reaction, (the carefree, barefoot boy holding a make-shift fishing rod on the riverbank awoke something primal in me) twinged with guilt for somehow avoiding this work although I hold a degree in literature.  ITh did not have to walk over to the counter and wait in line - my wife was already ringing up the children's books we were purchasing.  There was certainly a compulsion, but I made this choice of free will, knowing that I could probably pick up an e-book version for free.
In his book The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris argues, as do many in academia, that free will is an illusion. 
Our belief in free will arises from our moment-to-moment ignorance of specific prior causes.  The phrase "free will describes what it feels like to be identified with the content of each thought as it arises in consciousness. Trains of thought like, "What should I get my daugher for her birthday? I know, I'll take her to a pet store and have her pick out some tropical fish," convey the apparent reality of choices, freely made.  But from a deeper perspective (speaking both subjectively and objectively), thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions. (p. 105)
We are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information that our brains process in each moment.  While we continually notice changes in our experience - in thought, mood, perception, behavior, etc. - we are utterly unaware of the neural events that produce these changes. In fact, by merely glancing at your face or listening to your tone of voice, others are often more aware of your internal states and motivations than you are. And yet most of us still feel that we are the authors of our own thoughts and actions.

All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion. (p. 103)
 Basically, our brains are pre-wired to feel and think a certain way and it is doing so without our knowledge.  Our thoughts are formed before we are aware of them, so we are not acting upon our own free will, but under the control of our biological processess within the brain.  Basically, our state of mind is not a choice, but determined by our circumstances and our breeding.  As an intelligent person under pressures of the culture of which I am a part, I was compelled to pick up the copy of Mark Twain, cleverly placed there by store staff who knew that someone like me would want to own it sooner or later and that there was a good chance I would decide that now is the time to own it leading to a sale (ka-ching).  I was like compelled to pick up a book called Eating Animals as it is a subject I hold dear (I love*∞ eating animals) and I am always eager to explore the moral and dietary dilemas as the book claimed to do objectively.  Alas, I had time to skim it and concluded that it was not so objective, at least was more concerned with animal welfare than human health (viz. no sale).

So, how can I determine that free will exists even though I cannot help but feel hungry as the noon-hour approaches (although, the paleo diet has helped me control my need for snacking) and this inveriably leads to thoughts of slicing animal parts into bite-size morcels, chewing and swallowing them until satiated?  Note, that I am taking it one step further than Sam Harris, because our stomachs act like a second brain that sometimes take precedence. As Odysseus said when disguised as a beggar, everyone is ruled by their stomach.  Quite simply, the same way that Harris has proven his point - by semantics.

Harris seems to think that true free will would be free of interference from the very factors that make us who we are. He ignores the fact that our biology is our essence and has been trained by various social and environmental factors to create our sense of self.  While it is true, that I cannot help but feel remorse for mistakes that hurt a loved one or want to help others when they are in need, each instant of my life offers a choice of action.  I can hit publish right now despite the fact that this post is incomplete, or I can continue to write this sentence.  While it is true that it would not make sense and it would go against all my instincts which compell me to write a coherent and complete blog post on this important matter, it is entirely within my control.  I could walk away from the computer right now, or just hit save and leave this in my ever-growing list of unpublished posts, but I don't think I will, even though the real world compells me quite strongly right now to leave the office (it's a nice day outside, my children are home and it's well past lunch-time now).

Harris uses the word "inscrutable" in a sentence and then muses that he had no choice but to use that word because it was the one that came to mind.  Even after debating the merits of using the word "opaque" instead.  Am I free to feel that "opaque is a better word, when I just do not feel that it is the better word? Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me. Such as it is, that is correct. But, to say that choosing a less-apt word despite his preferences would be free will is absurd.  Free will is actually the ability to act upon ones preferences.  Say that some editor had forced him to use "opaque" or that some regulator had outlined the acceptable uses of the word "inscrutable" and his sentence did not comply.  Despite his desire to use the word, he would not be able to use it.  He would not be able to act of his own free will.  He has internalized the concept of free will to the point that our own impulses and desires are not our own.  As if the brain is not a part of us.  We own our emotions, even as they own and control us.

I want to eat tenderloin steak or prime-rib from grass-fed beef every day.  I cannot stop wanting this, despite the fact that it would be extra-ordinarily expensive and even if I could afford it, I'd be better off mixing some salmon and other meats in once in awhile (eating plenty of greens as well).  Just because I can't stop my desires, does not mean I will go broke and ignore all other priorities to get my fix of beef.  My children still need clothes and shelter and desire to live in a fairly nice neighbourhood.  I choose which desires take priority.  All these thoughts and desires arise on their own because of my evolutionary instinct for survival and my conscious and sub-concsious assessments of my environment.  The more I am aware of them and their purpose the better I am able to meet those desires and control the desires that cannot be met.  If I can subdue my desires for a period of time (future time orientation), I am more likely to become rich and then meet more of my desires.

Why do I blog when I'd probably be better off honing skills I use at work to earn money?  Well, I'm compelled by my nature.  If you blocked my ability to blog, I'd have no avenue to express my desire to express myself.  That would be denial of free will.  Why did I study Literature when I would have been better off studying something more economically practical?  Well, I thought it would make me happy.  Of course, it was also because I realized that I did not possess the correct state of mind or discipline to study science as I had hoped, although I know I had the brains.  I found that science was not giving me the pleasure I thought it would so I wound up in Literature (too bad for my future self, but here I am).

Harris seems to argue from the point of view that free will must not arise from any base urge or unconscious thought in order to be genuine.  Of course, there is no such thing as a thought or desire that does not arise first from a biological process somewhere deep in a brain.  Unless you believe in God, there is no such thoughts in the universe.  I do not believe in God, however, I believe that the notion of free will that some believe was endowed upon man by God is not that you can do or think anything.  If that were the case, than to truly have free will, you would be able to turn yourself into a chicken and then think like a chicken one day and turn yourself into a lion the next day and think like a lion.  The fact is that lions think like lions and chickens think like lions and they have free will because they can act like lions and chickens until something stronger imposes its will upon them and prevents them from acting as they please - say by cutting their heads off and roasting them.

Lion and chicken thoughts are much less complex than human thoughts, as far as we can tell. Speaking as a human, I can tell you that many, many thoughts strange and wonderful vie within my brain for attention and action.  Somehow, I choose which of those thoughts I act upon.  The biblical meaning of free will was that God showed man the proper way to behave and each individual had a choice whether to act upon his desire to attain primal satisfaction in a way that pleased God or in a way that angered him.  Or, in the face of eternal damnation, would it be wiser still to deny all efforts to attain primal satisfaction and live like a monk, guaranteeing entry to heaven?  It's his choice - free will.

As an atheist, and I am strongly influenced by Sam Harris's thoughts on morality, I see it a little differently. I am aware of my primal desires and speculate on the reasons I feel them.  The more aware I am of them and the more I can reason, the better able I am to act of my own free will.

It is true that if you punch me in the nose, that I will feel angry and desire retribution.  However, I have to weigh the advantages and risks of open combat.  I may decide that you are much stronger and I will be better off swallowing my pride and succumbing to your will.  I may decide that I can take retribution now and win in the fight.  I may also decide that although you are stronger, I am better off fighting and taking another punch or two until I am thoroughly defeated, just to save face and potentially avoid being the target of others who would want to fight me if they witnessed me backing down.  All three of these thoughts, and more, would arise in my head as I debated the best course of action.  Once I was aware of all of the possibilities, I would choose what I thought would most likely lead to my happiness - or the least misery.  I cannot help but feel these feelings, but once I am aware of them, I can determine what I would most like to do.
I bring up this point, only to show what the origins of sub-conscious thought really are: assessments of reality. They arise only from external and internal stimuli. So, a punch in the nose (external stimuli) causes messages to be sent to my brain (internal stimuli) and my brain reacts in various ways causing a cascade of internal stimuli, adrenalin for example, to speed up assessment of external and internal stimuli to choose the required fight or flight response. How bad am I hurt? Who is my attacker(s)? What routes of escape exist? Are there openings for attack?  I am thinking these things because they are appropriate for the reality of the moment.These thoughts are mine, even though I cannot stop thinking them. I assess my own skills and strength versus my assessment of the reality of the situation, possible because of my fight/flight response and act accordingly.

To deny that our sub-conscious thoughts are the result of internal and external stimuli would be to argue that any thought is possible at any time and thoughts arise into the conscious mind randomly and only illicit our attention when they are needed. In the seconds after being punched in the nose, I might have a thought about whether a meatball sub would be a good choice for lunch and have to push it out of the way to deal with the amount of blood being lost and ducking the next incoming punch. If that were the case, I would imagine most fights would end up in a turtling response as the number of thoughts bouncing around in the brain would be debilitating.

So it goes with all thoughts from the emergency response in times of crisis to the slow deliberate assessment of nature that goes on in philosophy. Reality causes stimuli and brains process stimuli consciously and unconsciously. But regardless, the thoughts belong to the thinker and it his perogative to contemplate them.

I believe that Harris's dislike for the concept of God and religion has biased him.  He desires to separate man from religion, so he would like to denounce free will since it is such a basic concept in the hearts of religious believers.  While rhetorically, he is correct - no individual thought can be initiated of one's own free will, he ignores the fact that the human mind is conscious of many competing thoughts - all originating from the same internal part of the body which the individual owns.  Once the human mind is aware of the the many thoughts it holds, it can truly use free will to decide which thoughts to champion and in which actions to partake.

Edit: I thought this section was the main point, skipped over in haste. Added Nov 27, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Our Sports Prove That Humans Are Predators

Perhaps proof is a strong word.  Sports are very powerful evidence in support of the theory that our species has evolved to survive primarily by hunting for food.

Think about the way most of our sports are played.  Baseball, football (football), soccer (football), hockey (ice and field), basketball, tennis and lacrosse to name a few all involve tracking a fast-moving playing object (ball or puck) with the eyes to chase down and catch or strike, much like our ancestors tracked down prey of various sizes.  Some involve various forms of struggle to gain control over the playing object which adds another twist mimicking the competition between hunters.  All this activity simulates the activity of hunting for prey.  Throwing demonstrates from the quintessential human adaptation of hunting with arm-flung projectiles.  Anyone who has ever played sports knows the deep seated drive to chase after any moving ball – it’s pure instinct.

Compare our sports to other members of the animal kingdom.  The only obvious examples of similar, chase-the-ball type of play are our two most common pets – dogs and cats.  Both are obligate carnivores whose primary method of obtaining food is hunting. The instinct we share is obvious if you’ve ever picked up a ball near a loose dog or dangled a string near a cat.  It is hard to think of another animal that plays in a similar fashion, but you can see hunting roots of certain dolphin behavior. See how this dolphin artfully plays with rings of bubbles.  I do not know whether the dolphin was trained to do that, but it appears to be having fun independent of human interference, as does this dolphin playing with a ball.

Contrast these carnivores to the apathetic reactions of these baby elephants to a soccer ball. Witness this playful demonstration of skillful manipulation by a young pachyderm.  Notice how unlike hunting this behavior is. They treat the ball like an animal might treat an inanimate piece of fruit, say a coconut.  Strike or bite it until you are satisfied that it is inedible then ignore.  Witness also, fully grown animals playing an actual game of soccer.  Notice the riders guiding their mounts to the ball and proper position.  The point to be gained from this comparison is that nobody has to train a dog to chase a ball.  Retrieving, of course, is another matter entirely. 

Elephants and other large herbivores have contests of dominance with each other and I have to include this one of hunters freeing two bucks with their antlers entangled).  Parrots can be trained to play with balls and bicycles, but only predatory birds can be trained to track down and tackle flying objects.  I’ve never had a pet rabbit, but I can imagine how a rabbit would react to a ball – with complete indifference.  The same goes for gerbils and other rodents.  Basically, if herbivores developed intelligence and developed an Olympic style contest, unlikely if you read gnolls, you would expect to see sports involving one-on-one team battles, racing games and probably some unexpected sports that we would never think of, but few, if any, sports with surrogate prey like a soccer ball or hockey puck.  Just imagine what sport a herding animal like sheep might develop.  There is almost no pressure on herding animals to develop high-IQ individuals, but what if some DNA experimenter created some intelligent sheep and they started playing sports?  Perhaps they would play team sports whereby the team navigates a course in the tightest formation.  Maybe jumping games would develop.  I just could not see sheep manipulating a prey-like object.  Of course, sheep don’t use tools at all.  Why would they?  They are not hunters.

Sports are driven by instinct.  Humans are imbued with hunting instincts.  Our eyes are positioned in the front of the head to enable 3-dimensional tracking of moving objects, like most predatory animals.  We have an instinct to chase to acquire food.  Watching players chase a soccer ball along the field, you could easily imagine them chasing an animal in a similar manner.  We have abandoned hunting as the main source of food, but our evolved instincts remain as evidenced by the thrill of chasing down a fly ball or a tennis serve.  Think about this the next time that you hear someone spout some nonsense about evolution and vegetarianism.