knowledge trumps beliefs for group survival, cherry blossom wallpaper, communism and fascism are not synonyms

Remember that report from Social Psychology Quarterly, which probably equated intelligence  and IQ scores a little too much and found  strong religious beliefs correlated with lower intelligence. There was also an evolutionary psychology aspect to that study in that it strongly implied that progress in rational thinking required, at the very least, giving up some of the more stringent dogma associated with the way some practice their religion – this is from the prehistoric days of animism and polytheism. Science is developing new insights into how religious beliefs may have evolved, but often the research brings up more questions than it answers

Myers writes that there are two competing theories explaining how religion evolved. One says that religion itself gave humans some survival-related advantage, so that early religious humans survived while their non-religious competitors did not. The other says that religion is a by-product of some other trait that is useful. Which theory is correct? Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser address this question in a study published this year in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. The authors argue that cooperation is the key.

Whether it be cooperative hunting to the mass cultivation of food, cooperation is required. Cooperation in the sense that groups of people would have to be on approximately the same page. You couldn’t have a hunting party with one or two individuals doing things that would spook that night’s dinner while the others were quiet and patient – coordinating their hunting attempts. Having a common set of beliefs about how things worked – a codification of beliefs – would be to the groups advantage. Yet obviously with a world of houses of worship, formal education and technology common religious beliefs and culture still do not make for perfect cooperation. Most nations suffer from some degree of xenophobia while most cubicle farms suffer from insecurities, runaway egos and formation of cliques. So religion plays or has played a role in group evolution, but it does not explain everything. If it did why so much of human history about new ideas versus old.  Beliefs might have been useful as a bridge between what we understand and what we did not have the intellectual tools to explain.

I’m a little more convinced by Linden’s explanation of religious behavior. He claims it’s a result of the natural tendency of the human cognitive system to fill in gaps. For instance, patients whose brains have been damaged so that their two hemispheres cannot communicate with one another will consistently fabricate elaborate explanations for why one isolated hemisphere acted in a particular way. Similarly, the human visual system works by preserving the illusion that we process an entire scene at once, when in fact we are only able to focus on a tiny portion of our visual field. We simply and subconsciously fill in the rest with our imagination, believing it to be manifest truth.

One of the more common logical fallacies that we encounter is the gap fillers. They are a minority, but there are people who will get to a point in a discussion and admit there is a gap in knowledge. That gap is seized upon by someone – a gap filler – with a strong belief. Ah ha – since you do not know – my beliefs must be right or at least the knowledge you have is on shaky ground. It is true as philosopher Karl Popper once wrote that knowledge is like a book in which new chapters are constantly being written.  Newtonian physics held up very well for a time, but then along came quantum mechanics. What we know does work – we do manage to explore space, manipulate genes and quite a few other things with the knowledge we have – so the foundations are expanding but your disease does not become uncured because of a new discovery that sheds light on the mechanism of the disease. Filling in gaps with superstitions is thus logically wrong, but has outlived its usefulness for group survival – if swinging the hammer wildly you occasionally hit the nail does not mean your method is useful. Science does depend on or become entwined with  intuition, but most frequently that is an informed intuition. The discovery of the structure of the benzene ring was intuitive, but Friedrich August Kekulé was unlikely to have discovered it without a sound knowledge of the basics of chemistry and what was then known about carbon bonding.

spring wallpaper

cherry blossoms wallpaper

For those that like the retro look – which sometimes looks more modern than current design – there are  environmental issues like emissions and electrical usage, Big Chill

Our retro refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers may look vintage, but they come with modern functionality, efficiency and dependability. Add a bit of style and color to your kitchen with the retro appliances that have been featured in publications from The New York Times and This Old House….

Remember the George Santayana admonition “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Well its hard to learn from history if people with an agenda are constantly at work attempting to revise history. Attempting to make communism and fascism into synonyms is one of the worse  and dangerous trends of our times. Orwellian would be a polite way to describe it. Viewpoint: The Nazi-Soviet Pact

For the Jews of all these lands, the pact was the licence for the Holocaust. For the European Left, the idea that the leader of the USSR could sign a pact with Hitler symbolised the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet regime.
“ We are not opposed to war [between Germany and the Western states] if they have a good fight and weaken each other ”
Josef Stalin, speaking in 1939

[   ]…Certainly, by the summer of 1939, Stalin had good reason to be sceptical that France and Britain were serious about a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The Poles’ understandable refusal to allow Soviet troops on to Polish soil was the major stumbling block. This drew the Soviet leader towards Hitler’s offer of security.

But Stalin did not see this as buying time for the war with Germany that finally occurred in 1941.

He made no distinction between the liberal capitalist states and the fascist dictatorships – both were enemies.

Through the pact he thought to play them off against each other by giving Hitler a free hand to invade Poland and go to war against its Western allies without intervention by the Soviet Union.

“We are not opposed to war [between Germany and the Western states] if they have a good fight and weaken each other,” Stalin said in 1939.

[   ]…It was only in 1989, after mass demonstrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the pact, that a Soviet commission finally acknowledged their existence – though the document itself was not published in Russia until 1992.

This information has been available for twenty-one year so there is not much excuse for zealots that range from the right-wing National Review to tea bagger zealots not to know. Unless its convenient to leave it out because it weakens their unhinged tirades at things like health-care reform – which in the state which it was passed was more a package  of consumer protections laws than some huge shift toward socialism or fascism. Stalin’s bid for a new world order

Official Russian history asserts that Stalin believed that Germany, even if it were to emerge from war as a victor, would be so exhausted that it would be unable to wage war with the USSR for at least a decade.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact drew unequivocal criticism from Communists outside the USSR.

Stalin invited the head of the Comintern, the international Communist organisation founded in Moscow, to explain his thinking.

“Hitler does not understand or want this, but he is undermining the capitalist system,” he said. “What we can do is manoeuvre around the two sides, push one of the sides to attack the other.”

In a written note to foreign Communist parties, Stalin asserted: “The salvation of English-French imperialism would be a violation of Communist principles. These principles in no way exclude a temporary agreement with our common enemy, Fascism.”

Stalin came to see that Russia was not safe from fascism, that his dream of world domination after the capitalists and the Nazis weakened each other was just that.

scenes from the great depression