We are our brains, and our brains are us.

by admin on March 17, 2015

Who are we? If it were not for the functioning of our brain, would we have the identities we claim now? If it were not for the normal functioning of our brain, how much of the normal self would be? And if our brains ceased all functioning, would we cease to be?

Debates rage about consciousness. Is consciousness, the state of awareness of external stuff within ourselves, the functioning of our brain or something mystical/ outside ourselves? Is it consciousness a mystical force that gives awareness to our thoughts and self; or does our biological brain give rise to consciousness? What happens when damage occurs to the brain i.e. stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, tumours, an object insert – like in the case of Phineas Gage or Gabrielle Giffords? Or chemical imbalance, depression or anxiety? Does medication alter brain activity?

Debates rage also about free will. Are we free to choose our thoughts, hence our behaviour/ actions and the consequences of these? Do we author are thoughts? Who is the self that authors those? Did you take full responsibility for what you thought, felt and did? As though you could have chosen otherwise – but you didn’t? OR is free will an illusion? In other words, you have the illusion that you are free to choose. And, that science and neuroscience is now proving that stimuli occurs before the arousal of thoughts? So, does this abdicate you from responsibility? What would the consequence of this mean? Can you change an old self with bad habits? What made those changes? Does knowledge, learning, people, luck, circumstances all play a role in the illusion of free will?

Are you more than your brain? If so, what? How about our emotions? When do these arise: before thought or after thought? Can we perceive, understand, manage and use them effectively? Can we train our brains? Can we form new pathways?

The brain is fascinating. We are our brains, and our brains are us.

Please share your thoughts below…

{ 0 comments }

In group morality and blind spots

by admin on July 29, 2014

All people are taught to morals since their childhood. We are taught a sense of what is right and good from what is wrong and bad. These could come from our traditions, religion, family values, social rules or norms or whatever standards or codes of conduct are held as important. Some may later value individualism (their own sense of right/ wrong or rules) and deter from traditionally, accepted ideas. Some may be amoral – indifferent to, or disbelieving in a set of right and wrong.

This whole experience influences our sense of conscience and rules- perhaps the little voice inside our head which prompts/ guides/ whispers/ nudges us when considering choices and decisions. Our ability to reason well can put us at odds with any group’s acceptable rules may be. We may readjust our views, and codes of conduct.

Groups and morality

Something happens to us when in groups. Our personal morals and standards could be influenced or compromised by the standards of most or all in that group. Sometimes we may do things in a group that we may otherwise never do alone. We then start to view things as “us” and “them”. This is the subject of “in-group” and “out-group” morality. Just when we think we are moral, decent and fair humans – we are challenged when someone does not fit our sense of corrections.

Nationalism and patriotism are said to be examples of in-group/ out-group morality. Consider when watching your favourite sports team compete against another team: we are often quick to react to injustices committed on our team, but may vindicate a wrong committed to the opponent because perhaps they did something wrong to our team. “Serves them right” is what we may say.

The Execution of Joseph Wood

Recently, an execution in the State of Arizona went horribly wrong. Joseph Wood was a convicted murderer on death row. His execution took two hours to die after he was injected with an “experimental chemical cocktail that was supposed to kill him quickly and painlessly”. Joseph Wood had killed his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, 29, and her father, Gene Dietz, 55, on the 7th of August 1989. In his sentencing, there were no sufficient mitigating circumstances for leniency – hence the death penalty. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Oscar: Guilty, Not Guilty and Free Will

by admin on March 3, 2014

On the 14th of February 2013, in the early hours of the morning, Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend allegedly mistaking her for an intruder. The prosecution will argue that it is premeditated and unlawful; the defence will argue it was a terrible mistake and he is innocent – although he admits to killing her with four shots through the toilet door.

Today has been the first day of what is now trending as #OscarTrial. The frenzy is unprecedented and the media wants their share of what is regarded as the trial of the century. Now, there shall be better sites, broadcasts, tweets, blogs and channels on this story.

I wish to share my personal opinion on the case as it pertains to the ethos of my blog: Free and Human, Exploring choices through personal conscience and individual accountability.

  1. In a few weeks or months, I’m not exactly sure how long – we shall have a court of law which will find him guilty or not guilty. I believe that bookies in the UK are giving very short/ shorter odds on “Not Guilty” than “Guilty”.
  2. Everyone holds an opinion on the matter today. Some bias. Despite, whatever roles we assume and objectivity we should show.
  3. I believe that we should “Follow the evidence wherever it may lead”. In this case, it is circumstantial evidence that will paint a picture of guilty or not guilty. Weighting on perception, evidence and credibility.
  4. The plain fact remains that Reeva remains the victim in this case. She was shot four times through the door, or three that penetrated – and cannot tell us the story of what happened that night.
  5. Oscar, however knows the truth.
  6. Oscar’s response to shoot four times is very telling and decisive, even in the face of fear or danger. Whoever was behind that door was going to be hurt or killed because of it. It could have been an intruder. It happened to be Reeva.
  7. His alleged misuse and use of illegal guns not registered to him, and in public places – paints him to have liked this weapon, habit or sport. And, that he was careless or at least pushing the edge. Perhaps this behaviour was somehow to culminate in an unfortunate tregedy. The seeds of using a gun (whether for hobby or protection) was planted in his mind earlier. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Homophobia in Africa

by admin on February 25, 2014

BhVP44WCEAABgEs.jpg largeI am appalled by homophobia in Africa. Actually, I am appalled by the bigotry, prejudice, arrogance, ignorance and hypcrisy of many African brothers and sisters, who themselves cried victims through racism. Yet now, dehumanising others and taking away their human rights on the basis of their sexuality seems justifiable.

  • A total of 76 countries in the world have made it a crime to gay.
  • A total of 10 countries in the world have actually passed the death penalty if convicted of being gay.
  • A total of some 38 African states have made homosexuality illegal.
  • Uganda, Nigeria, Gambia have passed anti gay laws with some giving up to 40 years life imprisonment as sentences; and some, the death penalty.
  • 11 countries currently allow same-sex couples to marry including the United States (some states), the Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina.

Africa however remains a bedrock continent of homophobia. Why is that? (I shall generalise when I say “Africans”. Indeed there are many who are otherwise to the accusations I shall suggest)

  1. Africans have allowed colonial masters and religious bigotry to brainwash and enslave their minds. Africans love to say, “the white man brought homosexuality to our continent”. The truth is that homo sapiens have been on the planet some 200 000 years, and homosexuality has surely been around. Just that it may not have been documented or made a big deal about. Ironically, the west and European masters who now cry for equality, are the ones who introduced such mindsets and laws in Africa during colonialism.
  2. US Evangelism remains a key influence. It is a pity that once you hand your brain over to books written in the middle eastern deserts, and to self proclaimed religious authority figures, as well as a fictitious supernatural bully in the sky – it is not so difficult to see how superstition under the strain of poverty and need, makes fertile soil for hatred, bigotry and prejudice.
  3. US physicist Steven Weinberg said, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
  4. Ignorance, though possibly bliss, is limiting; admitting ignorance however is liberating.
  5. Africans remain self deceived. Blind to their own wrongs, to their own people. Willing to please myth stories, immoral expectations and previous oppressors who shared lies in the form of religion for wealth and land, therby compromising their own cultures and traditions. All of this is unhelpful to modern man.
  6. It does not seem to matter if you share science and facts to believing, already convinced mindsets. It just polarises them more.

Indeed, some of the points above are not perculiar to only Africa. The same could be said of middle eastern and eastern countries.

Calling for a change of behaviour does not address root causes. Correcting attitudes still does not get to the core. Behaviours and attititudes have their foundations in beliefs and perceived truths. These act as paradigms, which can help you make sense of your world. Unfortunately, one’s paradigm remains their belief window and potential cause of all suffering. Like Gallileo, who declared that it is the earth which goes around the sun, and not the other way round – and who was put under house arrest for the next ten years of so of his life; so we too, like Gallileo, need to make our voices heard. Being homosexual has many complexities, and to declare it is a mere choice is short sighted and makes a mockery, well actually – let me change that thought to “makes no dent or difference” to  modern science, learning and evidence about the brain (neuroscience), biology, psychology and simple human decency, kindness and tolerance.

{ 0 comments }

The paradox of smart and ignorant

by admin on February 6, 2014

Being smart or ignorant can have its pros and cons.

The more you learn, the more you connect the dots, the more you investigate, be curious, question the status quo, see through assumptions, popularist beliefs and herd mentality – the more it makes you cautious, sceptical, think twice, and slower to act upon things.

The less you learn, the less you care to connect the dots, the less you investigate, be apathetic, pursue social systems, cling to accepted, popularist beliefs and what most others believe and do – the more it makes you keen, convicted, not think, and faster to act upon things.

This is the paradox of why, I think, smart people are not the highest earners, risk takers and go getters – whilst, being somewhat naive, not knowing any better, not bothering to question, get permission, concern about red tape and rules – gets you ahead.

Knowledge is not power, knowledge acted upon is power.

Ignorance has limitations, but ignorance does not realise this.

The trick then is to be smart, and do it anyway.

{ 0 comments }