Archive for December, 2012
Our Selected Paradigm-Shifting Stories of 2012

There have been so many incredible realizations, insights and discoveries in 2012 and this article is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it includes some of the most paradigm-shifting stories to come into our field of awareness here at Peace and Loveism and today we share them with you. We could only imagine what amazing things lay in store for us in 2013 and beyond.

New study suggests humans are not naturally violent

A new study published in Nature Journal suggests that humans are naturally good. This study adds to the mounting evidence against the popular misconception that corruption is a trait of human nature. In ten experiments using economic games, scientists observed that faster decisions result in more cooperation and generosity, while slower, calculated decisions show a decrease in cooperation and generosity. The conclusion is that the automatic reaction is to be friendly, generous and cooperative, and only upon further consideration do humans become greedy or violent.

The first time this issue was brought up in the mainstream scientific community was in 1986 when scientists from around the world got together to discuss the psychological and biological evidence proving that human nature is no excuse for violent behavior. The findings that were released came to be known as “The Seville Statement”.

This statement made 5 propositions, which are:

1. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.”
2. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.”
3. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior.”
4. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”
5. “It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by ‘instinct’ or any single motivation.”

Listening to complainers is bad for your brain

Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session. “The brain works more like a muscle than we thought,” Blake says. “So if you’re pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you’re more likely to behave that way as well.”

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity–including viewing such material on TV–actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” he says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

Scientific evidence proves why healers see the ‘aura’ of people

Researchers in Spain have found that many of the individuals claiming to see the aura of people –traditionally called “healers” or “quacks”– actually present the neuropsychological phenomenon known as “synesthesia” (specifically, “emotional synesthesia”). This might be a scientific explanation of their alleged “virtue”. In synesthetes, the brain regions responsible for the processing of each type of sensory stimuli are intensely interconnected. This way, synesthetes can see or taste a sound, feel a taste, or associate people with a particular color.

The University of Granada researchers remark that “not all healers are synesthetes, but there is a higher prevalence of this phenomenon among them. The same occurs among painters and artists, for example”. To carry out this study, the researchers interviewed some synesthetes as the healer from Granada “Esteban Sánchez Casas”, known as “El Santón de Baza”.

Cloud height decreasing on Earth and NASA scientists are unsure why

Earth’s clouds got a little lower — about 1% on average — during the first decade of this century, finds a new NASA-funded university study based on NASA satellite data. The results have potential implications for future global climate. Data from NASA’s MISR instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft show that global average cloud height declined by about 1 percent over the decade from 2000 to 2010, or around 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 meters). Lead researcher Roger Davies said that while the record is too short to be definitive, it provides a hint that something quite important might be going on. Longer-term monitoring will be required to determine the significance of the observation for global temperatures.

A consistent reduction in cloud height would allow Earth to cool to space more efficiently, reducing the surface temperature of the planet and potentially slowing the effects of global warming. This may represent a “negative feedback” mechanism – a change caused by global warming that works to counteract it. “We don’t know exactly what causes the cloud heights to lower,” says Davies. “But it must be due to a change in the circulation patterns that give rise to cloud formation at high altitude.” NASA’s Terra spacecraft is scheduled to continue gathering data through the remainder of this decade. Scientists will continue to monitor the MISR data closely to see if this trend continues.

Animals have conscious awareness, just like us

An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus.

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states,” they write, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.” Consequently, say the signatories, the scientific evidence is increasingly indicating that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.

Water discovered on Mercury

New observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft provide compelling support for the long-held hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters. Three independent lines of evidence support this conclusion: the first measurements of excess hydrogen at Mercury’s north pole with MESSENGER’s Neutron Spectrometer, the first measurements of the reflectance of Mercury’s polar deposits at near-infrared wavelengths with the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), and the first detailed models of the surface and near-surface temperatures of Mercury’s north polar regions that utilize the actual topography of Mercury’s surface measured by the MLA.

Given its proximity to the Sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice. But the tilt of Mercury’s rotational axis is almost zero — less than one degree — so there are pockets at the planet’s poles that never see sunlight. Scientists suggested decades ago that there might be water ice and other frozen volatiles trapped at Mercury’s poles.

Dark matter scaffolding of universe detected for the first time

“Scientists have, for the first time, directly detected part of the invisible dark matter skeleton of the universe, where more than half of all matter is believed to reside.” The discovery, led by a University of Michigan physics researcher, confirms a key prediction in the prevailing theory of how the universe’s current web-like structure evolved.

The map of the known universe shows that most galaxies are organized into clusters, but some galaxies are situated along filaments that connect the clusters. Cosmologists have theorized that dark matter undergirds those filaments, which serve as highways of sorts, guiding galaxies toward the gravitational pull of the massive clusters. Dark matter’s contribution had been predicted with computer simulations, and its shape had been roughed out based on the distribution of the galaxies. But no one had directly detected it until now. “We found the dark matter filaments. For the first time, we can see them,” said Jörg Dietrich, a physics research fellow in the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Quantum object teleported 100 kilometers by Chinese scientists

Though quantum teleportation has existed for well over 10 years, it has never actually happened at a distance that would be of any use to people in the real world. But for the first time, Chinese researchers were able to teleport a quantum object nearly 100 kilometers, ramping up the real world applications for the idea.

According to Technology Review, the quantum teleportation does not involve dematerializing and then re-materializing physical matter, but rather using a photon to transmit the quantum state of one object to another, thus allowing the recipient to become a clone of the sender (think of it kind of like your consciousness inhabiting someone else’s body).

Using a 1.3 watt laser, the scientists developed a guide mechanism that allows a photon to make it from point A to point B without getting lost. Satellite based quantum communications—which could be useful for quantum cryptography—are an application which scientists are particularly excited about.

Scientists create ‘time cloak’ that masks an entire event

Scientists have made an entire event impossible to see. They have invented a time masker. What scientists at Cornell University did was on very small scale, both in terms of events and time. It happened so quickly that it’s not even a blink of an eye. Their time cloak lasts an incredibly tiny fraction of a fraction of a second. They hid an event for 40 trillionths of a second, according to a study appearing in the journal Nature.

We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes. Usually it’s a continuous flow of light. In the new research, however, scientists were able to interrupt that flow for just an instant. Other newly created invisibility cloaks fashioned by scientists move the light beams away in the traditional three dimensions. The Cornell team alters not where the light flows but how fast it moves, changing in the dimension of time, not space.

Human ancestors used fire one million years ago, archaeologist find

An international team led by the University of Toronto and Hebrew University has identified the earliest known evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Microscopic traces of wood ash, alongside animal bones and stone tools, were found in a layer dated to one million years ago at the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa.

“The analysis pushes the timing for the human use of fire back by 300,000 years, suggesting that human ancestors as early as Homo erectus may have begun using fire as part of their way of life,” said U of T anthropologist Michael Chazan, co-director of the project and director of U of T’s Archaeology Centre.

Neanderthals were artists and used plants for healing purposes

The world’s oldest works of art have been found in a cave on Spain’s Costa del Sol, scientists believe. Six paintings of seals are at least 42,000 years old and are the only known artistic images created by Neanderthal man, experts claim. Professor Jose Luis Sanchidrian, from the University of Cordoba, described the discovery as ‘an academic bombshell’, as all previous art work has been attributed to Homo sapiens.

An international team of researchers, led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities. Until recently Neanderthals, who disappeared between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago, were thought to be predominantly meat-eaters. However, evidence of dietary breadth is growing as more sophisticated analyses are undertaken. Researchers indentified material trapped in dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón. Their results provide another twist to the story — the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.

The Red Deer People – Human fossils hint at new species

The remains of what may be a previously unknown human species have been identified in southern China. The bones, which represent at least five individuals, have been dated to between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago. But scientists are calling them simply the Red Deer Cave people, after one of the sites where they were unearthed. The team has told the PLoS One journal that far more detailed analysis of the fossils is required before they can be ascribed to a new human lineage. “We’re trying to be very careful at this stage about definitely classifying them,” said study co-leader Darren Curnoe from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Dealing With Paradoxes

A paradox is an apparent contradiction. We encounter these all the time in life and don’t think too much about them.

I am in bed and the dog needs to go outside to take care of some business. I groan to my wife that I do not want to get out of bed. Then I proceed to get out of bed to let the dog out. On the surface my actions may seem contradictory to my previous statement. This kind of thing is well within our realm of experience so we really don’t struggle with it. But if we were to think on it a bit to intellectually resolve the apparent contradiction, we may recognize that we are not simple beings. We are complex. I have competing desires within me. Yes, I am one person with one brain, one soul, yet I have competing desires. That night my desire to stay in my warm bed was not as strong as my desire to avoid having to deal with a mess on the carpet in the morning. We believe that God is omnipresent. At the same time we believe in hell which is described in one instance as being away from the presence of the Lord. But if he is present everywhere, then how can we be apart from his presence? We also believe that when two or more are gathered in his name, he is present. But if he is present everywhere, then isn’t that verse meaningless since he is also present if there is one person, three or more, and even if they gather not in his name? We believe that God is all knowing, yet in Genesis 3:9 we read that “the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” That seems to be in contradiction to our conviction that God knows all things. If he knows all things, then why does he ask where Adam is? We believe that God is holy. We also believe that God is love. I can imagine some troublemaker trying to make an issue out of this. “Is he part holy and part love?” “If he is love, then he cannot be holy since love is a different thing than holiness.”

All of these are mere apparent contradictions (all contradictions are apparent, these are merely apparent). James Anderson has done a great service to Christianity in his book Paradox and Christian Theology. In that book he helpfully distinguishes three types of contradictions:
  • set of propositions is explicitly contradictory =if and only if one of its members is the denial of another of its members. (e.g. Jones is a bachelor, Jones is not a bachelor).
  • set of propositions is formally contradictory =if and only if an explicit contradiction is deducible by laws of logic from members of the set (e.g. If Jones is a bachelor then Jones is unhappy, Jones is a bachelor, Jones is happy).
  • set of propositions is implicitly contradictory =if and only if there’s a necessary truth which when added to the set yields a set that is formally contradictory (e.g., All men are mortal, Socrates is not mortal. There is nor contradiction here, nor is one logically deducable unless we add another true premise to the proposition set. Add: Socrates is a man. With that added statement the set can become a formal contradiction.)

I don’t really like the name “implicit contradiction” because it implies that the proposition set is indeed contradictory. But as they stand, implicit contradictions are simply apparent contradiction. They may not be a contradiction at all. If we say:

  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is not mortal.

And then add:

  • Socrates is an alien. Or: Socrates is an angel.

Then we do not have a contradiction at all. Many of the examples I gave at the beginning of this post simply need to be explored a bit more. Questions need to be asked to help clarify. More true propositions must be added in order to resolve the paradox. As they stand, there is no logical problem with the statements.

Edwin Abbott wrote a book in 1884 called Flatland. It is a great read and I have found it very helpful in illustrating various abstract concepts before. Flatland is a world of only two dimensions. Lines, circles, and polygons inhabit this world. Lineland is inhabited by points. Spaceland is inhabited by things like spheres. In the book Abbott explores the conceptual difficulties that each member of his own world has in conceiving of the dimension above it. Consider the standard Conic sections:

Depending on how this three-dimensional shape enters Flatland, it will appear as different shapes. From a triangle to a point to a circle, ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola – all of these 2D shapes are from one single 3D shape. But try explaining what a cone is to someone who lives in Flatland. The best we can do is give true revelations about it. The Cone is a single shape. We see the Cone as a Circle or a Line, or a Parabola, or an Ellipse. A circle is not an ellipse. They are distinct. There is a sense in which we can conceive of the cone being composed of an infinite numbers of circles of progressively smaller diameters stacked up on top of one another.
As all of this is explained to a Flatlander, no doubt there will be some level of paradox involved. He simply does not have the existential knowledge to resolve it. I remember in calculus using Pascal’s triangle to predict what a 4D cube would look like. We could more or less describe it, but it was impossible to envision. The best we can do sometimes is receive the revelation we have, and if it is from a reputable source, we have warrant to believe it even though it may be a paradox to us. James Anderson leans heavily on Alvin Plantinga’s work for warranted Christian belief. He employs it to great advantage in constructing his Paradox in Christian Theology. I think he makes a great case for why there is warrant to believe in paradoxical revelation.
The doctrine of the Trinity may be a good example. We understand that there is only one God. We understand that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are each ascribed deity. We know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate entities. They all have personal characteristics. What more can we say? When we try to explore how that all looks we run into paradox. Like the Flatlanders we have a hard time trying to conceive or visualize what it all looks like. As it stands there is no logical contradiction. Other propositions need to be added in order to make that case. But why should we add propositions that have no biblical warrant? Especially if the only reason that we add them is to create a contradiction. Critics of Christianity do this a lot. But the question is not whether we can add a proposition that can make it a contradiction. We can do that with any paradox. But what additional proposition do we have biblical warrant for adding to the mix?
As it stands there is no logical contradiction. Something must be added to it. But after these many years, it does not seem that there is anything we can add. So we live with the paradox, believing that our Revealer is trustworthy.
Finding Joy & Happiness

girl with horse

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Unbelievers & Expectation

Leslie Montgomery in her book Engaging the Enemy says that “We ought never expect unbelievers to act like believers” (198). That got me thinking about the truthfulness of such a statement. I have heard it a lot. And depending on the context I will either agree or disagree with it. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with statements like that. I’m guessing I’m not the only one, so I thought it may be helpful to explore it with greater precision. Here is a flowchart of how I have analyzed the issue.

Defining our terms:

  • Regard (something) as likely to happen
  • Regard (someone) as likely to do or be something
  • to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of:
  • to decide that (something) is requisite or necessary; require:
  • Look for (something) from someone as rightfully due or requisite in the circumstances
  • Require (someone) to fulfill an obligation
  • to look for with reason or justification:

Above are two sets of definitions for the term “expect.” One set refers to what is likely to happen, the other refers to what ought to be. If I tell my kids, “I expect you to clean their roo,” it this reasonable or not? Well is it likely? No. But is it something they should do? Yes. So the first decision we must make in answer this question is “what do you mean by expect?” If you mean that it is likely that unbelievers will act like believers then I would answer no, it is not likely (I am taking for granted that genuine believers will show the fruit of the Spirit dwelling within them and many who profess belief but show no change are not really Christians. Agree or disagree, that is my operating assumption).  However, if you mean by “expect” that acting in a Christian manner is what unbelievers ought to do, then that brings us to another question to consider.

In What Sense?

Assuming that “unbelievers” “ought” to “act like Christians” it remains for us to consider in what sense they should act like Christians. On the one hand God has commanded all people everywhere to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ and therefore become Christians. Therefore, in an ultimate sense, God has placed an obligation on everyone to become and then act like a Christian, so yes, unbelievers ought to act Christian.

On the other hand, suppose we are talking anout unbelievers AS unbelievers. Ought unbelievers, as unbelievers, to act as Christians? Well, you guessed it, that brings us to yet another question we need to decide on. Should unbelievers, as unbelievers, act Christian in the fullest sense of all that it means to be Christian? In this case the answer is no. For believers, among other things are to be baptized and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. But these are things which are forbidden to people as long as they are still Christ-rejecters. But perhaps we may restrict what we mean by “Christian” to the bare moral component of Christianity. In that case then the answer is “yes” once again. God expects unbelievers (that is he thinks they ought) to act morally. Largely, societies embrace this moral code. Even unbelievers, as unbelievers, ought to refrain from murder and theft.

It is, I believe the very first category and this last category most people have in mind when they say or hear the question, “Should we expect unbelievers to act like believers?” I do not anticipate that they will, but I believe that they should. Now I say that societies largely embrace this moral code because no society perfectly handels it. In some societies theft is considered normal in spite of the fact that they ought not steal. Some societies celebrate death even though they ought not murder. Some societies consider homosexuality normal even though they ought not to practice such things. Some cultures don’t think twice about beating a homosexual even though they ought to value all life. Some cultures celebrate greed even though they ought to value generosity and despise greed. Some cultures thrive on oppressing the poor even though they should embrace the Christian ethic to care for the poor.

Should we expect unbelievers to act like Christians? Well, it depends on what you mean.

There’s a Massive *Shift* Coming Very Soon

You may have noticed that we’ve slowed down with new content on Peace and Loveism but we assure you, there’s a very good reason for that. We are shifting.

Here’s a sneak peak at what we’ve been working on for the past few months. Coming later this month so stay tuned!