The newest science series on PBS will showcase a familiar face, IEET Fellow Dr. David Eagleman, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine. For two years, Eagleman has been writing and filming the international six-hour series titled “The Brain with David Eagleman.”
You know the shocking story: in January 2015, two masked Islamist gunmen launched a paramilitary attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine. The gunmen murdered twelve people: two police officers and ten of the magazine’s staff, including the much-loved editor and cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier (known as “Charb”).
In the immediate aftermath, many people expressed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo’s staff and their loved ones, and with the citizens of Paris. There were vigils and rallies in cities across the world. Twitter hashtags proliferated, the most viral being #JeSuisCharlie: “I am Charlie.”
Hank Pellissier asked me to write about my views on “Radical Egalitarianism”, due to some recent experiences he has had with politics. While it’s a convenient term, it’s one often used with derision and scorn, with those who see the world this way being dismissed as hopelessly “utopian.”
However, it’s a world view more and more people are starting to share.
A recent New York Times article chronicled 23-year-old Kim Suozzi’s decision to cryonically preserve her brain. Kim, who died recently of cancer, raised the money for her cryonic preservation by soliciting donations with this post at the subreddit “atheism” at the online site reddit—yes atheists can be generous people. Here is the video that accompanied the post:
Catholic Pro-life organization wants you to just put up with suffering—and actually says so!
The American Life League [ALL] mobilizes devout Catholics against medical options that, to their way of thinking, violate God’s will. If you should drive past a Planned Parenthood and see elderly women fingering rosary beads next to pictures of the Virgin Mary, or young men holding Bibles and praying, American Life League probably had a hand in their presence there. Ironically, ALL also spreads misinformation about birth control, for example via a Pill Kills campaign—which means they feed the line-up of Catholic women waiting for abortion services.
Gareth John is an IEET reader and supporter who lives in Mid Wales; he’s an ex-Buddhist priest with a MA in Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol, and a PhD focusing on non-monastic traditions of Tibetan tantric Buddhism. He has Bipolar disorder. In this Q & A, he generously shares his experience. This is Part 2 of two parts.
Gareth John is an IEET reader and supporter who lives in Mid Wales; he’s an ex-Buddhist priest with a MA in Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol, and a PhD focusing on non-monastic traditions of Tibetan tantric Buddhism. He has Bipolar disorder. In this Q & A, he generously shares his experience.
Hank Pellissier: Can you explain in your own words what Bipolar disorder is, for our readers?
Gareth John: Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
Throughout history, small bands of radicals have attempted to transcend the ordinary limitations of human nature and current society. Were they brave explorers voyaging into alien realms of the soul and intellect, or fools? In either case, they apparently failed. Or did they? Perhaps we can learn from the past histories of perfectionist movements like Oneida and the Process, both of them precursors of contemporary Transhumanism, and from virtual worlds like A Tale in the Desert that today are building imaginary societies based on cooperation and innovative forms of communication. The current crisis facing psychiatry and social psychology erodes the respect we might have felt for conventional attempts to transcend the human condition, giving renewed plausibility to utopian experiments. If we are doomed to fail, we might as well do so in an interesting way!
As technology continues to increasingly develop it exposes human intention while eliminating our privacy. The result of this accelerating trend is that the confidentiality that we currently maintain as persons will continue to erode. As such, we should begin to prepare ourselves for the biggest reveal of all: The day when technology exposes the thoughts of our mind.
In the United Kingdom, ongoing social and political controversy over voluntary euthanasia, or (physician) assisted suicide, has reached a new stage. Labour MP Rob Marris has put forward a private member’s bill, and it will be debated in the House of Commons this month. Thus, the UK now becomes a focus of attention for those of us with an interest in the issue of assisted suicide.
I remember seeing the children falling through the air, their limbs akimbo, grasping for land or any anchor that would save them from the fall. I remember the feelings of terror, panic, pity and helplessness as I watched, unable to intervene. And then I awoke – alone, scared and slowly came to the realization that it was simply a dream, though still I feared closing my eyes again too soon lest I return. That dream took place more than 30 years ago. Much of the detail has faded – how did they come to fall? Were they pushed or did they jump like lemmings? – still I remember the images, can recall the emotions. It was just a dream; it wasn’t real. But I recall the experience of the dream. The personal semiotics that the dream contained were real, telling me something about my own psyche, my own sense of self and so making it an experience with meaning.
Off-license users of modafinil—a drug developed to treat various sleep disorders—have known for some time that it doubles as a surprisingly effective cognitive enhancer, and with very few side effects. A new systematic review shows it’s true, raising some important ethical questions about the use of smart drugs.
Modafinil, which is sold under such brand names as Alertec, Provigil, and Modavigil, is a wakefulness-promoting drug used to treat conditions such narcolepsy, the effects of shift work, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. But it’s also used off-license by people—especially students—hoping to exploit its nootropic qualities.
Biohacking and transhumanist advances (including nootropics, extended longevity, cybernetic implants, better behavioral and genetic self-understanding) will materially advance our quality of life and productivity in the coming decade, but we need to be thoughtful about the potential social and ethical pitfalls as we transform. Google Trends shows a marked uptick in searches for “nootropics” and related biohacking fields, so now is the time to have the conversation about the direction we’re headed.
“For the modern mad men and wolves of Wall Street, gone are the days of widespread day drinking and functional cocaine use. Instead, in this age of efficiency above all else, corporate climbers sometimes seek a simple brain boost, something to help them to get the job done without manic jitters or a nasty crash.
For that, they are turning to nootropics,” writes Jack Smith IV on the cover story for an April 2015 edition of the New York Observer.
If you are one of the millions who have been suffering from glaucoma, then smoking marijuana can help you get the best eyesight and relieve pressure from they eyes. Intraocular pressure can increase in certain individuals, especially those who have diabetes. Glaucoma is serious disease that can cause blindness.
A vomit bucket sat on the old wooden floor in front of me, a roll of toilet tissue to my right, and when the shaman sung that low sinister note of the first icaro I puked until I naively thought that I could puke no more only to immediately puke again in some kind of volcanic eruption.
In return I was greeted by the indistinguishable sounds of whatever surrounded our jungle hut that dark night deep in the Amazon jungle. I thought that I was in a dream—except that this was no dream that I’ve ever had nor will ever want to have again.
Nootropics, more colloquially known as “smart drugs,” are in the zeitgeist. Hollywood productions like Limitless and Lucy to a CNN profile of a tech millionaire - Dave Asprey - spending $300,000 to hack his own body with research chemicals have certainly raised the profile of nootropics in the mainstream.
The argument from abandonment and suffering is a specific version of the problem of evil. Erik Wielenberg defends the argument in his recent paper ‘The parent-child analogy and the limits of skeptical theism’. That paper makes two distinctive contributions to the literature, one being the defence of the argument from abandonment and suffering, the other being a meta-argument about standards for success in the debate between skeptical theists and proponents of the problem of evil.
A year ago, I was traveling across the world. I had just moved out of my house, taken a leave of absence from my part-time job, and left without a lot of money or a good sense of whether I would be employed when I got back.
I slept on hard floors, in hostels, on couches, and in rooms that were built on rooftops. I went without warm showers for a long time. I hiked up into the mountains of Nepal, witnessed the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution firsthand, and tried to figure out what to do when a street fight broke out around me in Moscow.
Have you ever been in an online community where you trying to discuss information that you are deeply invested in and then someone, seemingly out of nowhere, begins to deliberately sow discord among the group? The intentional introduction of inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic posts with the deliberate intent of disrupting regular on-topic group discussion –commonly known as Internet trolling – has become a favorite pastime of many Christians in the world today. Unfortunately, many folks haven’t yet learned that one cannot serve both God and Internet trolling.
Discoveries in neuroscience, and the science of behaviour more generally, pose a challenge to the existence of free will. But this all depends on what is meant by ‘free will’. The term means different things to different people. Philosophers focus on two conditions that seem to be necessary for free will: (i) the alternativism condition, according to which having free will requires the ability to do otherwise; and (ii) the sourcehood condition, according to which having free will requires that you (your ‘self’) be the source of your actions. A scientific and deterministic worldview is often said to threaten the first condition. Does it also threaten the second?
Terry Hyland is Emeritus Professor at University of Bolton, UK and Lecturer in Philosophy at Free University of Ireland, teaching courses in mindfulness. He has written over 150 articles, 19 book chapters and 6 books. His book Mindfulness and Learning was published by Springer in 2011. I interviewed him via email.
Meaning is important. People want to live meaningful lives. They want to make a ‘difference’. They want for it all to ‘matter’. Some people think that this is only possible if God exists. They say that if God does not exist, then we are doomed to live finite lives on a finite planet in a finite universe. Everything will eventually collapse, crumble and die. It will all be for naught. But if God does exist, there is hope. He will save us; He can guarantee our eternal lives in the most perfect state of being; He can imbue the universe with purpose and value.
Consider the following passage from Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement. It concerns one of the novel’s characters (Briony) as she philosophically reflects on the mystery of human action:
She raised one hand and flexed its fingers and wondered, as she had sometimes done before, how this thing, this machine for gripping, this fleshy spider on the end of her arm, came to be hers, entirely at her command. Or did it have some little life of its own? She bent her finger and straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge.
In his 1932 “My Credo” Albert Einstein wrote “I do not believe in free will.” In the best-seller Free Will, Sam Harris declares the notion “incoherent.” Neuro-philosopher Garrett Merriam opines in an IEET interview “the notion of ‘free will’.. [is a] useless concept… I have high hopes that neuroscience will…eliminate [it]…”
After several decades of relative obscurity Transhumanism as a philosophical and technological movement has finally begun to break out of its strange intellectual ghetto and make small inroads into the wider public consciousness. This is partly because some high profile people have either adopted it as their worldview or alternatively warned against its potential dangers. Indeed, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama named it “The world’s most dangerous idea” in a 2004 article in the US magazine Foreign Policy, and Transhumanism’s most outspoken publicist, Ray Kurzweil, was recently made director of engineering at Google, presumably to hasten Transhumanism’s goals.
I have been interested in the above topic since taking a wonderful graduate seminar in the subject about 30 years ago from Richard J. Blackwell at St. Louis University. Recently a friend introduced me to a paper on the topic, “Bridging the Is-Ought Divide: Life is. Life ought to act to remain so,” by Edward Gibney who argues (roughly) that the naturalistic fallacy has no force. Gibney is not a professional philosopher, but I found myself receptive to his argument nonetheless.
Setting aside differences of metaphysic, how closely do the core values of utilitarians/abolitionists and Buddhists coincide? If suffering and its abolition are central to life on Earth, can differences between the two traditions be resolved to questions of means, not ends?
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