Tag Archive: enlightenment


Principles of Science

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Above is a design for a wood carving I created in order to illustrate the principles involved in the application of scientific method. The knotwork represents the evidence that needs to be unraveled. The tree at the centre of the spiral represents Truth. The three circles at each corner of the tree triangle represent the cognitive processes involved: logic, intuition and bottom-up processing.
The five circles arranged on the spiral represent the five principles of scientific method: Empiricism, Scepticism, Tentativeness, Openness, and Anti-authoritarianism, all feeding the tree of Truthful knowledge.

The level of anti-science rhetoric, and ignorance of what scientific method actually is in the community and the media greatly disturbs me.There really needs to be a concerted effort by the scientific community  to engage with and educate the community about scientific method and why it is the most effective process we have for discerning objective truth.

Below I have transcribed part of a lecture that my first year research methodology lecturer Andrew Tilley gave to us on the subject. This lecturer used to use a lot of humorous cartoons in his lectures. My favourite was of three people in conversation that went thus:

1st person: Men are from Mars.

2nd person: Women are from Venus.

3rd person: Pop psychology is from Uranus.

From Tilley AJ 1999
The Science of Psychology Lecture
Science is a PROCESS of acquiring knowledge and a means of trying to understand reality and reveal the truth.

Science is the OBJECTIVE, SYSTEMATIC process of DISCOVERING, DESCRIBING, ANALYSING and ultimately EXPLAINING phenomena and events and relationships between variables.

Science is based on the assumption that a) everything is essentially ordered and organised rather than random or chaotic; & b) based upon CAUSE AND EFFECT. ie based upon reliable, consistent predictable, or lawful relationships between variables.

Principles of Science
1 Empiricism
2 Scepticism
3 Tentativeness
4 Openness
5 Anti-authoritarian

1 Empiricism. This principle means that evidence about reality must be OBJECTIVE AND OBSERVABLE. What you think is true must be OBJECTIVELY DEMONSTRABLE to the most severe critic. Non-empirical evidence is inadmissible. NOTHING IS TAKEN AS SELF EVIDENT. Scientific knowledge must be based upon empirical observation. Logic, reason , common sense and intuition are all useful and necessary but insufficient to produce or provide knowledge.

2 Scepticism. This principle is all about checking and questioning. Science is sceptical and critical. It insists upon being able to check and question evidence and explanation. How good is the evidence? Is the evidence REPRODUCIBLE? Is the evidence sufficient to support the explanation? Is the explanation sufficient account for the evidence? Is there a simpler, or better or alternate explanation. Science maintains that all NATURAL events and phenomena have NATURAL causes. Science is all that is necessary to explain everything.

3 Tentativeness. Science offers only tentative or approximate explanations that are relative to the existing state of scientific knowledge, which can change. Nothing is written in stone, nothing is sacred. Science always allows new and better theories to replace old theories if they are found wanting in the face of the empirical evidence.

4 Openness. Science is open and public. Scientific research is published to INFORM and to allow and encourage others to question and check the validity and reliability of the research.

5 Anti-authoritarian. Being empirical and sceptical means that science is naturally anti-authoritarian. Science REJECTS AND RECOILS from accepting on faith, without questioning, the statements or pronouncements of any text or authority on the nature of reality. Nothing is accepted unless it is supported by empirical evidence. Acceptance of any position is tentative and open to change or modification if a better explanation for the existing evidence, or if new evidence comes to light.

My note: (In other words Science is not a belief system like religion. It is a system for uncovering facts so that people can form their beliefs about the world out of truths, not myths).

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In each or these diagrams there are represented two conflicting beliefs (circles), and four aspects of cognition that are involved in belief formation and maintenance, emotion, critical reasoning, attention. and conscious thought, There are others but l have omitted them for simplicity. Represented at the bottom of each diagram is a collection of “evidence” that either confirms or disproves belief s A or B. Colour indicates activation of the relevant neuro-networks. No colour (white) means no activation.

Figure 1
This is an illustration of the cognitive style known as top down processing. A pre-existing belief that the individual has gained through a process such as acculturation For example, the mother of the individual has passed the belief on to them and they have accepted it without any reference to evidence for or against the belief. If they have held the belief for any length of time there will be an emotional attachment to the belief that reinforces it as a part of their world view at the same time as inhibiting the formation of beliefs that contradict this belief. In this instance the person is presented with both confirming and disconfirming evidence. The weight of the evidence is against the belief A, however, in this individual there is a lack of critical reasoning skills and so the strength of the pre-existing belief determines which evidence the individual attends to. Thus they employ only selective attention to attend only to evidence that reinforces belief A and so belief A retains dominance in the conscious thought of the individual.

Figure 2
Here we have a second example of top down processing. In this instance all the available evidence disconfirms belief A while confirming belief B. However, the emotional attachment that the individual has to the belief has blown it’s strength out of all proportion. The individual in this case does not even try to attend to evidence for the belief as they are absolutely certain of its veracity. This is the sort of reasoning we observe in fundamentalist religious views. In fact critical reasoning is decried as a threat to the belief and is thus actively discouraged.

Figure 3
This diagram is representative of the cognitive style known as bottom up processing. The individuals beliefs are informed by the evidence for or against them. Evidence is gathered, hypotheses formed to account for the evidence, evaluation conducted to establish the facts, and beliefs are chosen based on the hypotheses that conform to the evidence. This is the mode of thinking adopted by the scientific mind and the scientific community. As can be seen by the pattern of activation in the diagram, all evidence is attended to and all possibilities to account for the evidence, including our hypothetical belief A, are considered.

Figure 4
Of course it is not possible to think without emotion. In fact damage to a person’s emotional centres causes severe impairment to decision making processes. So there is always emotional input into thinking and decision making. However, when a mind is trained in critical reasoning skills, emotions are moderated.

Top down processing is based on preconceived ideas. Another term for this is schema driven cognition. The social version of this being stereotyping. This is a very efficient form of cognition as it takes up few cognitive resources, it aids individuals in making very quick decisions about how to behave. However, this efficiency trades off accuracy, The cognitions of individuals who predominantly think in a schema driven style are often fallacious, in other words it is the cognitive processing style that defines the wilfully ignorant. It is stupid thinking in that it requires minimal cognitive effort. It is the style of thinking that perpetuates beliefs such as: Women are too irrational for the vote, men don’t cry, all Aboriginals are drunks who abuse their kids, all people on the social security are bludgers, atheists worship Satan and are all driven by greed and self-interest, artistic males are gay, people of other races are inferior, environmentalists are dope smoking hippies, anyone who believes in social justice is a communist, drinking recycled water is the same as drinking sewerage, women don’t have the emotional constitution to handle positions of authority, Aboriginals just want handouts. Individuals who adopt this way of thinking, and unfortunately that is the majority of the human population, can have disconfirming evidence thrust into their faces and they still refuse to alter their beliefs and attitudes.

 

The Four Breathes of Danu

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Born to breathe | forth beauty

Into a world | of darkness

The Alfar | bring forth light

Unto the dull | unenlighted.

Wheel within | the wicker,

Turned by four | breathes of Danu,

Ignite the light | and the fire,

Consume the base | and forge the kind.

Her breathe with | beauty breathing,

Compassion, | that shining light

That caresses | the world and cures

Tortured minds | with kindness.

The second | susserates strength.

Cultivation | of will and wit

Over base drives | and emotion.

Virtue is | her second breath.

Soft breath of | stillness peace

brings the mind | calm awareness.

Danu’s third breath, | tranquillity.

keen, kindling and | beneficent.

Echt empiric | and empathic

Ascendant, | logical thoughts

Chase the dark | of ignorance

With the breath | of understanding.

An explanation of the Alternative verse form used in “The Four Breathes of Danu”

The poetic verse form I’ve used in “The Four Breathes of Danu” is based on the skaldic verse forms used in the Old Norse sagas such as “The Poetic Edda”. Rather than rhyme, skaldic poetry is structured around alliteration, syllablic accent and syllable count.

Of course despite originating from Old Norse, English is different to Old Norse in a number of ways. Thankfully though, it is similar enough to use this poetic form. An example of the difference is in the syllabic accent. Old Norse has predictable lexical stress as the accent is usually placed on syllables in the word stem and so the accent usually falls on the first syllable. Whereas, in English the lexical stress is less predictable and so it is regarded as having variable stress.

There are three forms of Old Norse skaldic verse, Fornyrythislag, Ljothahattr, and Malahattr. Each has a slightly different structure that I have described and illustrated below using my notes, notation and examples from “The Poetic Edda” translation by Henry Adams Belows.

Fornyrthislag – Old verse – four-four measure – normally entitled -kvitha (lay)

each line has a ceasural pause – 2 half-lines

each half-line has 2 accented syllables

each half-line has 2 (sometimes 3) unaccented syllables

the 2 half lines are bound together by alliteration

Fornyrthislag

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

Example from Belows:

Vreiþr vas Vingþórr, es vaknaþi

ol síns hamars of saknaþi;

skegg nam hrista, skǫr nam dýja,

réþ Jarþar burr umb at þreifask

Translation from Belows:

Wild was Vingthor when he awoke,

And when his mighty hammer he missed;

He shook his beard, his hair was bristling,

To groping set the son of Jorth.

Ljothahattr – Song measure – four-three measure – normally entitled -mol (ballad)

first and third line of each stanza are as for fornyrthislag

second and forth are shorter with no ceasural pause

– three accented syllables

– two initial- rhymed accented syllables

Ljothahattr

[2′] [2-3] | [2′] [2-3]

[1’R][2′] [3-4]

[2′] [2-3] | [2′] [2-3]

[1’R][2′] [3-4]

Example from Belows:

Ar skal rísa sás annars vill

eþa fjǫrhafa;

liggjandi ulfr sjaldan láer of getr

sofandi maþr sigr.

Translation from Belows:

He must early go forth who fain the blood

Or the goods of another would get;

The wolf that lies idle shall win little meat

Or the sleeping man success.

Malahattr – speech measure

each line of the four-line stanzas is divided into two half-lines by a ceasural pause

each half-line has two accented syllables

each half-line has three sometimes four unaccented syllables

Malahattr

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

Example from Belows:

Horsk vas húsfreyja, hugþi at mannviti,

lag hayrþi orþa, hvat á laun máeltu;

pá vas vant vitri, vildi þeim hjalþa:

skyldu of sáesigla, en sjǫlfkvamskat.

Translation from Belows:

Wise was the woman, she fain would use wisdom,

She saw well what meant all they said in secret;

From her heart it was hid how help she might render,

The sea they should sail, while herself she should go not.

I have adapted the above forms after experimenting a little. In this form each line is separated by a ceasural pause creating two half-lines. Each line has three accented syllables. There may be one or two in either half-line but no more than three in the whole line. The accented syllables in the first line are alliterated. Finally, there may be three or four syllables in total within each half-line. Thus:

Wheel within | the wicker

1A (3) 2A               (3) 3A

Turned by four | breathes of Danu

1 (3)                           2            (4) 3

Ignite the light | and the fire

       1 (4)       2                 (3) 3

Consume the base | and forge the kind

1 (4)                   2                                (4) 3

An explanation of concepts within the poem:

On reading or viewing works of my creation some may inadvertently come to the conclusion that I believe in spiritualistic concepts. This is not so. I did once have firmly held spiritualistic beliefs in my childhood and young adulthood. However, I have made the long and sometimes difficult cognitive journey to the acknowledgement that my old beliefs were childish and fallacious. I am now what I term an “ethical atheist” who acknowledges what I once regarded as “spiritual” in regards to humanity, really pertains to human sentience. In studying psychology I have found that all the mysteries of humanity are found within the human mind and not within a simplistic notion of duality. This having been said, I do utilise spiritualistic concepts in my artwork and literature. This is purely for the purpose of symbolism. For instance, in regards to this poem, I do not actually believe that the Celtic mother goddess, Danu, is a real entity nor that her breath infuses us with the positive aspects of human psychology that the poem describes. For me, the goddess Danu and her children the Tuatha De Danaan symbolise the refined possibility for humanity. Likewise for the Norse Ljosalfar, elves. As this poem indicates in the first stanza, I tend to link the Celtic Children of Dana and Norse Alfar together in my literary ideas. This is not based on any academically identified link between the two mythological peoples. It is purely out of a symbolic link that I have in my own mind. I like to think of these deified peoples as akin to the Shaolin of China. Members of their respective cultures who spend their lives cultivating their minds and their skills, seeking to attain a higher state of being. This brings us to the next five stanzas that define four of the elements that I believe are necessary in becoming a good human being.

I’ve spent many long years contemplating what is truly good, (I use the term in the moral sense), in humanity and what is necessary to attain that good and evolve as a person. I have come to the conclusion that there are four things required for an optimum humanity. These are compassion, virtue, tranquillity and understanding. All of these are a product of human sentience, not spirituality. They originate in the synaptic firing of our brains neurons. The first line of the second stanza refers to the “Wheel within the wicker”. By this I mean our mind within our physical self. The second stanza is stating that each of us has been born with these inherited abilities to evolve psychologically and override our baser instincts that originate from the more primitive parts of our brain and nervous system. To evolve requires effort, breath. We need to actively exercise our minds in these four concepts in order to evolve into truly good human beings. The wheel must turn. As you will have noticed I also use the symbolism of breathe stoking a fire. A fire of pure thoughts and serenity overriding base instincts of self interest, bigotry, greed, lust and so on.

Compassion is the most important characteristic to nurture in oneself if you wish to become a good human being. Compassion is what separates us from sociopaths. The less compassion you have, the more sociopathic you are. Compassion requires the cognitive ability of empathy. Empathy is a skill that can be taught from early childhood through role-play and giving children practice at critical and ethical reasoning skills through classes such as P4C (Philosophy for Children). Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on these skills in most education systems. Compassion is a skill that requires intelligence but it doesn’t require genius. Thus every person is capable of this, the most profound of cognitive skills. Showing you can calculate advanced algebra in your head doesn’t make the world or yourself a better person. Showing that you can empathise and show compassion does.

Virtue is the term I use to cover aspects of self-control and a general regard and respect for the rights of others. It is about actively choosing to think, speak and act in a way that is courteous and abstemious of base drives.

I first discovered meditation when I joined the local Judo school in my youth. Unfortunately, this is another thing that people tend to mistakenly associate with spirituality and religion and thus is not regarded with any seriousness. At least not in the Western world. Fortunately, as part of my martial arts training, it was not burdened with any such associations for me and I discovered how valuable the act of seeking a calm state of mind is. It frees the mind from stress, lessens drives and emotions such as anger, and it clarifies thoughts. Thus tranquillity is an essential element to evolving as person.

Understanding as I refer to it encompasses the concept of “enlightenment” as defined by the western search for empirical understanding of the world that began again during the renaissance after the long hiatus of the dark ages. It also encompasses the eastern concept of “enlightenment” that has more to do with ones existence as a social and ethical entity. I would go into more detail, however, I have already made this a rather lengthy document for the subject. So I will leave it at this for the time being and hope that I have elucidated the poems structure and meaning somewhat, rather than make it more confusing.

Postscript:

If this encourages you to read the Poetic and Prose Edda or other pieces of Norse literature, please don’t read it blindly and become a Norse god sycophant. If you read them while thinking intelligently you will realise that the Norse gods are criminal in nature. They murder, rape, lie, steal, commit incest and other atrocities. There is nothing worth holding in high regard about the Norse gods. It’s rather disturbing that a whole culture once worshipped these base entities. They represent the antithesis of my poem.

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