Category : Psychology

(NYT) Tim Wu–The Tyranny of Convenience

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(The Verge) Starting in May, China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains

Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning “social credit” system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low “scores” have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.

Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with massive amounts of debt, like LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made the Supreme People’s Court blacklist late last year.

The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread “false information about terrorism,” caused “trouble” on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Travel

(WSJ) Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: Learning to Pray When Words Fail–Disorders like aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths

Julie Shulman decided to study linguistics because she wanted to help people with speaking disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. After graduating from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 2000, the Maine native headed to Massachusetts for a master’s degree and job in speech therapy. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline. They returned to Israel in 2009—with promising careers and three young children.

Two weeks after their return, Mr. Shulman, then 37, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Despite the initially grim prognosis, his cognitive function is intact. But his speech is limited to sentences of three or four words, and his reading and writing abilities are limited.

Along with Mr. Shulman, at least two million people in the U.S. live with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. Some 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. The condition, which produces a disconnect between what the brain wants to convey and what is actually expressed, often strikes survivors of strokes or head trauma without affecting their intelligence. The incidence is growing because medical advancements enable people with such maladies to survive at higher rates. Yet cures for the ensuing handicaps remain elusive.

Ms. Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation.


Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Martin Davie–‘Transgender, reality and pastoral care’

The fact that ‘I’ am a unity of body and soul means that it makes no sense to suggest, as we have seen Judith does in the Church of Scotland report, that ‘I was born in the wrong body.’ There is no ‘I’ separable from the body we possess. What ‘I’ means is the person who exists in this particular combination of body and soul. The suggestion that I should have been born in a different body really means that I should have been a different person, but in that case I would not exist, so the suggestion is asking for the impossible.

What is also impossible is for someone to change their body from male to female or vice versa. It is possible through the use of hormones and plastic surgery to change to a certain extent the way our bodies function and their outward appearance, but we cannot change the fundamental character of our bodies as male or female. We can produce what Paul McHugh calls ‘feminized men or masculinized women, ‘ [13] but we cannot make a man into a woman or a woman into a man.

The evidence of Scripture agrees that human beings are bodily creatures that are male and female and are able to reproduce as such, but it supplements the witness of natural reason in this regard in two key ways.

First, it teaches in the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 and also in the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6) that we are not a dimorphic species by accident, but because God in his goodness and wisdom created us as such so that men and women together can rule over and care for the world on God’s behalf and together can produce offspring who can continue this vocation in their turn.[14] Scripture as a whole further teaches that the dimorphic structure of the human species is also the basis for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24) through which human beings are called to bear witness to the marital relationship between God and his people, which has begun in this world, but will be finally consummated in the world to come (see Ephesians 5: 21-33 and Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2-4).

Secondly, it teaches that our bodies are an eternal part of who we are.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well

Sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work have shown that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. As a social scientist, if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out a survey on how stable, dependable, friendly, outgoing, and curious you are. But I would be much better off asking your coworkers to rate you on those same traits: They’re often more than twice as accurate. They can see things that you can’t or won’t—and these studies reveal that whatever you know about yourself that your coworkers don’t is basically irrelevant to your job performance.

Humans’ blind spots are predictable: There are certain types of traits where people can’t see themselves clearly, but others where they can. The psychologist Simine Vazire asked people to rate themselves and four friends on a bunch of traits, ranging from emotional stability and intelligence to creativity and assertiveness. Then, to see if they had predicted their own personalities better than their friends had, they took a bunch of tests that measured these traits.

The good news: You have some unique insight into your emotional stability. In the study, people outperformed their friends at predicting how anxious they’d look and sound when giving a speech about how they felt about their bodies. But they did no better than their friends (or than strangers who had met them just eight minutes earlier) at forecasting how assertive they’d be in a group discussion. And when they tried to predict their performance on an IQ test and a creativity test, they were less accurate than their friends.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology, Theology, Uncategorized

(NR) David French: Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

America has struggled with university censorship before. Litigators have battled campus speech codes for a full generation. Intolerance in the name of tolerance has been a fact of campus life for a long time. But there’s something different about intersectionality. The virus has jumped from patient zero and is spreading like wildfire in blue culture. And it’s spreading in part because it is filling that religion-shaped hole in the human heart.

I’m hardly the first person to make this argument. Andrew Sullivan has noted intersectionality’s religious elements, and John Sexton has been on this beat for a year. Smart people know religious zeal when they see it.

While there’s not yet an Apostle’s Creed of intersectionality, it can roughly be defined as the belief that oppression operates in complicated, “interlocking” ways. So the experience of, say, a white trans woman is different in important ways from the experience of a black lesbian. A white trans woman will experience the privilege of her skin but also oppression due to her gender identity. A black lesbian may experience the privilege of “cis” gender identity but also oppression due to race and sexuality. It’s identity politics on steroids, where virtually every issue in American life can and must be filtered through the prisms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Intersectionality privileges experiential authority, with each distinct identity group able to speak conclusively and decisively only about their own experience. So when an issue impacts trans rights, the trans community takes the lead. The responsibility of the rest of the community is to act, then, as their “allies.” If a racial issue comes to the fore — for example, in the context of protests over police shootings — then African Americans take the lead, and LGBT or women’s groups come alongside in support.

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Posted in Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Nieman Lab) Disinformation spread online is so disorienting that it’s messing with the researchers who study it

This week I got to hear Kate Starbird, assistant professor at the University of Washington and director of its Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation (emCOMP) Laboratory, speak about her research into how online disinformation spreads during crisis events (like shootings and terrorist attacks) and what she’s learned about the networks spreading this information and the tactics that they use.

A few of the intriguing bits from Starbird’s talk:

— She and her team have looked a lot at the language that conspiracy theorists use both in tweets and on sites like This is “question-mark language,” Starbird said. “‘I’m not gonna tell you what to think, I’m just gonna put the evidence out there and you can make up your mind yourself’ — this way of talking persists across different events” from Sandy Hook to the Boston Marathon bombing to the Orlando shooting.

— Starbird spent a lot of the time reading the sites that were spreading these conspiracy theory posts — the sites behind the links being tweeted out. (“I do not recommend this.) Stuff she looked at: Homepages, about pages, ownership, authors, common themes and stories. She developed coding schemes for theme, political view, and so on. Common themes: “aliens, anti-big pharma, chemtrails, anti-corporate media, geo-engineering, George Soros, anti-globalist, anti-GMO, Flat Earth, Illuminati, Koch Brothers, anti-media, 9-11 truth, New World Order Cabal, nutritional supplements, pedophile rings, Rothschilds, anti-vaccine, anti-Zionist.” (On the subject of GMOs, by the way, please read this tweet thread, which is not about conspiracy theories but is really interesting to keep in mind as you read about Starbird’s work.)

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

WSJ-Why ‘Deaths of Despair’ May Be a Warning Sign for America – Moving Upstream

Does a decades-long rise in suicide among white Americans signal an emerging crisis for U.S. capitalism and democracy? Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, and his wife, fellow Princeton Prof. Anne Case, share their provocative theory with WSJ’s Jason Bellini in this episode.

“..that really does suggest that something really bad is going on under the surface.”

Watch it carefully and watch it all (just over 10 1/3 minutes).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Theology

(1st Things) Matthew Rose–The Anti-christian Alt-right: The Perverse Thought Of Right-wing Identity Politics

Almost everything written about the “alternative right” in mainstream outlets is wrong in one respect. The alt-right is not stupid. It is deep. Its ideas are not ridiculous. They are serious. To appreciate this fact, one needs to inquire beyond its presence on social media, where its obnoxious use of insult, obscenity, and racism has earned it a reputation for moral idiocy. The reputation is deserved, but do not be deceived. Behind its online tantrums and personal attacks are arguments of genuine power and expanding appeal. As political scientist George Hawley conceded in a recent study, “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.”

To what is the movement committed? The alt-right purports to defend the identity and interests of white people, who it believes are the compliant victims of a century-long swindle by liberal morality. Its goals are not conventionally conservative. It does not so much question as mock standard conservative positions on free trade, abortion, and foreign policy, regarding them as principles that currently abet white dispossession. Its own principles are not so abstract, and do not pretend to neutrality. Its creed, in the words of Richard Spencer, is “Race is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.” The media take such statements as proof of the alt-right’s commitment to white supremacy. But this is misleading. For the alt-right represents something more nefarious, and frankly more interesting, than white identity politics.

The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.” Johnson edits a website that publishes footnoted essays on topics that range from H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger, where a common feature is its subject’s criticisms of Christian doctrine. “Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writes Gregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Local paper Front Page) Firefighter suicides outnumber line-of-duty deaths. How South Carolina first responders are trying to save their own

Later that morning, Emily Avin called 911 from her home in Aiken to report a suicide.

She then picked up a gun, walked outside and pulled the trigger before anyone could reach her. She was 26.

Scrolling through her daughter’s phone in the following days, Sue Ann Avin found a prophetic cartoon. It depicted an EMS worker illustrated to resemble a ticking time bomb, saying, “Traumatic calls, burn out, compassion fatigue — that stuff never gets to me.” The paramedic wore a badge that said “denial.”

Suicides such as Emily Avin’s were once overlooked by firefighters and paramedics eager to maintain an image of bravery and invincibility. But that’s changing as the profession acknowledges a deadly scourge that claims more lives than the perils firefighters face in the line of duty.

Long a taboo topic in firehouses, suicide was recently labeled by the U.S. Fire Administration as a “critical” issue that’s being “faced more squarely by the fire service.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–May we never forget the Real Power of Personal Interaction

This week, research was published showing that spending as little as ten minutes a day talking to someone with dementia can make a real difference to their quality of life, alleviating their anxiety and sense of isolation in a strange and fearful world.

Increased levels of dementia have been the price we pay for the rise in life expectancy in recent decades. And it’s tough: for the sufferers themselves, their carers, and for members of their family. It can be almost unbearable to find that your parent can’t recognise you, their child. And people can become fatalistic about it, thinking that there’s nothing you can do to make things better. But that’s beginning to change.

Three weeks ago, my wife Elaine and I visited, in his home in Philadelphia, Aaron Beck, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy practised today. 96 years old and physically frail, he was still wonderfully young in mind and spirit. He told us that he’d always believed that his methods could help many people but not those with dementia, but now – though the research is still in its early days – people were beginning to find that it could help them too.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NR) David French–This Is How Religious Liberty Really Dies

There is a persistent belief among church-goers that a person should be able to get all the benefits of Christian community without any of the doctrines that make religion unpalatable to modern moral fashion. That’s in essence the mission statement of Mainline Protestantism. And it simply doesn’t work.

The Christian community and Christian service that people love are ultimately inseparable from the entirety of the Christian faith that spawned them. Carve out the doctrines that conflict with modern morals and you gut the faith. When you gut the faith, you ultimately gut the church. It makes sense then that mainline denominations aren’t thriving. They’re dying. Without the eternal truths of the Christian faith, the church becomes just another social club. Why sacrifice your time and money for the same wisdom you can hear at your leisure on NPR?

Here’s the interesting thing: Some of the casual Christians who’ve fled the unsatisfying Mainline are joining more traditionalist churches and schools without changing their beliefs. They don’t become more theologically orthodox, they just crave the benefits of the more orthodox communities. Once in their new religious home, they exert the same kind of pressure for cultural conformity that helped kill the churches they fled. It’s the religious analog of the well-known phenomenon of blue-state Americans leaving their high-tax, heavily-regulated states for red America and promptly working to make it more like the place they left.

Legal victories preserving our fundamental freedoms are ultimately meaningless if cultural pressures create a dreary intellectual conformity. You can win all the Supreme Court cases you want, but if the faithful don’t maintain the moral courage and strength of conviction to tack into the cultural headwinds, it will all be for naught….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(CT) Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?

We obviously need to do what we can to prevent sexual abuse, but we also need to have a plan in place for how to respond if it does occur. Once your real interests are at stake and your church’s reputation is on the line, it can become far too easy to rationalize bad behavior.

“But what about 1 Corinthians 6:1–6?” some will ask. That’s the passage where Paul reprimands the Corinthian believers for taking their disputes to court. I would submit that this passage—like all biblical passages—should be read with careful attention to the context that surrounds it, chapters 5 and 6, in which Paul is especially severe on sexual sins. They are not among the “trivial cases” being taken to court that he refers to in 6:2; on the contrary, he goes so far as to instruct perpetrators to be handed over “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (5:5). It seems that certain transgressions are beyond the church’s power to address adequately.

That is especially true of sins of abuse. As Owen Strachan wrote in a Christianity Today article on domestic violence, “The civic ruler, Paul says, acts as an ‘avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer’ (Rom. 13:4, ESV). When churches teach otherwise, they not only fail to provide psychological and emotional care, they also fail theologically. Divine vengeance cries out to be exercised against evil.”

Given all this, and given how difficult it is to evaluate our own leaders objectively, it is essential to have sexual abuse allegations investigated by an independent party that does not have a vested interest in the church. If we want the church to be a safe place of healing, we can’t afford to cover up the truth. The first step, though, is finding it.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(C of E) Mental health in English communities a leading concern for clergy, survey finds

Mental health problems in local communities are now one of the biggest social issues Church of England clergy encounter, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,000 senior clergy has found that the proportion reporting that mental health is a ‘major’ or ‘significant’ problem in their local area increased sharply from 40% in 2011 to 60% in 2017.

Mental health is second only to loneliness as a key concern, with more than three quarters, or 76%, of clergy reporting that loneliness was a major or significant problem in their local communities, a rise of 18 percentage points on 2011.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Mary Eberstadt–The Zealous Faith of Secularism: How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma

If the so-called right to choose were truly an exercise of choice—if the rhetoric of the people who defend it matched the reality of what they actually believe—one would expect its defenders to honor choosing against it here or there. But this does not happen: No “pro-choice” group holds up as an example any woman who chooses not to abort.

That this doesn’t happen tells us something noteworthy. For secularist believers, abortion is not in fact a mere “choice,” as their value-free, consumerist rhetoric frames it. No, abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which many enter their new religion in the first place. The popular, Internet-driven rage for “telling one’s own abortion story”—the phenomenon known as #shoutyourabortion—illustrates this point. Each individual story is a secularist pilgrim’s progress into a new faith whose community is united by this bloody rite of passage. Add the suggestively popular term “woke”—today’s gnostic version of “awakened”—and there’s more evidence that secularist progressivism has erected a church.

So the fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. Christianity today, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many enemies. But the adversary now inflicting maximal damage on the Church is not dreamed of in Horatio’s philosophy. It is instead the absolutist defense of the sexual revolution by its faithful.

Christians and other dissidents aren’t being heckled from Hollywood to Capitol Hill for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or defending the commandments against lying and stealing. Bakers aren’t landing in court because of trying to follow what’s said in the Song of Songs. All of the expressions of animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith share a common denominator. They are rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution, according to which that revolution is an unequivocal and fundamental boon.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Sexuality