30 March 2012

Are babies more conscious than adults? (from the Boston Globe, 26 Apr 2009)

"[S]cientists and doctors have traditionally assumed that babies are much less conscious than adults, [which] is why, until the 1970s, many infants underwent surgery without anesthesia."

That is what is stated in a 2009 Boston Globe article entitled Inside the baby mind, which raises questions about the nature of the infant mind and curiously asks: What is it like to be a baby?

In short, according to the article, the infant mind is "unfocused, random and extremely good at what it does." The article goes on to mention recent scientific research that has changed traditional ways of conceptualizing the infant mind. This research has revealed that "the baby brain in abuzz with activity [and is] capable of learning astonishing amounts of information in a relatively short time." The research also suggests that "babies can take in a much wider spectrum of sensation," effectively making them "more aware of the world" than adults.

RenĂ© Descartes, too, saw the infant mind as something like a sensory jumble—which is mentioned in both the Globe article and a New York Times article on the same subject (14 May 2009) entitled Babies May Be More Conscious Than Adults

Check out the links above to read the articles. If you'd like to read more about concepts, human concept acquisition, infant cognition, etc., click here for info about Susan Carey's book The Origin of Concepts, and here for info about Alison Gopnik's book The Philosophical Baby, which is referred to in the Globe article.

In QuickThought no. 2, there is related commentary on Carey and the argument for concept acquisition that her book presents. You will also find a link to the Neurophilosophy blog in the sidebar on the right (and here, too).

The Naked Option

Nigerian women in the Niger Delta region are organizing and fighting back against a corrupt, profit-minded government and the tyrannical oil corporations that have been plundering the area for decades. Deep-seated injustices, as well as the unequal social perceptions and expectations these women face in contrast to men of the Niger Delta, are also being validly attacked by women in the region.

The Naked Option: a Last Resort (written and directed by Candace Schermerhorn, produced by Schermerhorn and Sam Olukoya) is a 2011 documentary that follows these women as they take a stand and, as noted on SnagFilms, "use the threat of stripping naked in public, a serious cultural taboo, in their deadly struggle to hold the oil companies accountable to the communities in which they operate."

I recommend this documentary without question. It is certainly worth anybody's time—mostly because it addresses critical issues that, for far too many, have been ignored or forgotten. 

"Our weapon is our nakedness."

Check out the link above to view the film. For more information about the film and the project behind it, click here and here.

More from the Reason Rally in Washington (24 Mar 2012)

In a recent post, I mentioned the Reason Rally that took place in Washington, DC, on 24 March. While I wasn't able to attend the rally (I had already returned to school from spring break), I absolutely wish that I could have been there. Why? Aside from being a large and successful rally committed to reason and sound questioning, there were, from what I've read and heard, several interesting and engaging speeches made at the rally. 

Two of those speeches, made respectively by Greta Christina and Richard Dawkins (both of whom I admire and share a similar worldview with), have been posted below. Just note that, since I didn't attend the rally, these videos are obviously not mine. 

Clip from Greta Christina's speech:

Clip from Richard Dawkins' speech:

More information about the Reason Rally can be found in a recent post called Religious faith vs. logic. I should also mention that the video posted there shows a conversation involving a good friend of mine (the guy with glasses in the purple V-neck)—another reason I wish I could have been there. 

QuickThought no. 2

The Kantian synthesis, as it is often called in philosophy, is Immanuel Kant's unification of reason (epistemological Rationalism) and experience (epistemological Empiricism) in terms of how the creation and development of knowledge is possible. Similarly, in her book The Origin of Concepts, Harvard professor of psychology Susan Carey argues that concept acquisition relies on (1) innate cognitive input analyzers that have resulted from the evolution of the human species, thus outputting unlearned concepts, and (2) perceptual and sensory information used to form concepts via experience.

In this QuickThought I want to highlight the important distinction between 'knowledge' (or 'concept', to Carey) and 'belief'. It is a distinction that Carey makes in her book, and it is one that has been carefully noted by others, including Richard Dawkins and Kant himself:

"I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief." (Immanuel Kant)

Think about that.

Racism and the 'Hunger Games' (from Jezebel, 26 Mar 2012)

The Hunger Games, a 2008 novel by Susanne Collins, has garnered quite a bit of attention lately. But with the release of the Hunger Games movie on 23 March (which, with $152.5 million, currently holds the record for the third highest-grossing opening weekend box office movie in North America), a different sort of attention—or perhaps more fittingly, an alarming observation—has come into play. I am speaking, of course, about the racism and startling racist comments of certain Hunger Games fans who were "shocked" and "confused" by the fact that some the novel's characters are portrayed by black actors in the movie—even though Collins, the author, specifies in the novel that these characters have dark skin.

Three days after the movie's release, Jezebel posted a fantastic article entitled Racist Hunger Games Fans are very Disappointed in which the obvious racism of some Hunger Games fans is excellently addressed. The article includes several web screenshots of actual posts and comments made on the Internet by such narrow-minded fans.

Why are you atheists so angry? Greta Christina justifies atheist anger

In this lecture, Greta Christina asserts that atheist anger and hostility towards organized religion (and, really, towards religion in general) is both necessary and justified. It's sort of a lengthy video, but well worth the effort, especially in the name of reason.

29 March 2012

QuickThought no. 1

The capitalist system and corporate media—something to think about.

ABC is owned by Disney. NBC is owned by General Electric. How do you choose to inform yourself? Please, just think about that.

Religious faith vs. logic

Richard Dawkins—a scientist, writer, noted atheist and former Oxford University Professor for the Public Understanding of Science—argues that faith is in many ways a virus, and I think his argument is justified. Faith, particularly religious faith, is in truth no different than a deliberate arrest of one's faculties of reason. In some cases, it may even result in the blatant denial of real facts.

Here's a video taken at the Reason Rally in Washington, DC (24 March 2012). For more information about the Reason Rally, which included speeches by Dawkins and Greta Christina, click here and here.

You will also find links to Dawkins' and Christina's websites in the sidebar on the right.

AIDS and Imperialism: Karma and Colonial Crimes (from The Nation, 28 Feb 2012)

Several weeks ago, Robert Dreyfuss, who writes about "America's misadventures in foreign policy and defense" for The Nation, penned an outstanding article entitled AIDS and Imperialism: Karma and Colonial Crimes. I call it outstanding for a number of reasons—namely that the article critically assesses the substantial role that Western colonialism's "mass slaughter, slavery and vicious exploitation in central Africa" has played in the development of the international AIDS crisis. Read it. Awesome stuff—really.