Friday, 31 May 2013

Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’ - God willing ^^ (See what I did there?)

Religious fundamentalism and cruelty to children may one day be treated in the same way as mental illness, a neuroscientist has speculated.

Kathleen Taylor, a research scientist at Oxford University’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, says strong negative beliefs could be eradicated using techniques already in the works.

Dr Taylor was speaking at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales when she was asked what she forsaw as positive developments in neuroscience in the coming years, The Times reports.

She replied: “One man’s positive can be another man’s negative. One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated.

“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.

“In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage.

“I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults. I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children.

“These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorised as mental illness.”

In a previous blog for the Huffington Post, Dr Taylor wrote of the “astonishing” advances in neuroscience and how it offers hope for some of the most feared diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

But she concedes motives beyond those which are purely clinical run into problematic territory.

Writing in September, a month before the release of her book The Brain Supremacy, she says: “The ethics developed by doctors, over centuries, to deal with human suffering, are different from those developed by scientists trying to understand how the world works.

“They're still more different from the ethics of businesses keen to cash in on the new technologies… techniques created to heal can also be employed for other purposes, and the ability to get data from living brains is a holy grail for many interested parties other than neuroscientists and doctors.”

She adds: “Human systems are always changed by their interactions with others, and in hard-to-calculate ways. What a volunteer says and does in a research lab may be altered not only by the lab environment or the phrasing of a question, but by who the experimenters are and how they behave. The human person thus needs to be considered. Technologies which directly scan or manipulate brains cannot be neutral tools, as open to commercial exploitation as any new gadget.”

Links between extreme faiths and mental health have been made before, with former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr Dinesh Bhugra, highlighting recent religious conversions being more associated with a developing psychotic mental illness.

In a paper entitled ‘Self-concept: Psychosis and attraction of new religious movements’, he points to data from studies which shows that patients with first onset psychosis are likely to change their religion.

The introduction to Dr Taylor’s book adds further caution: “We need to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain.

“They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads.

“Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are.”


Sunday, 26 May 2013

A show like no other - Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
If you can't see and hear the humor in this show, congratulations then, you're an idiot.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Hey, girls, look at my machinery...

Alright, men. In the words of the great lord Flashheart, Let's doooo it!

The book's free to download and you won't be disappointed. Heck, if I'm not willing to back it up, who will? And even if we were to make the absurd presumption that you wouldn't find it engaging enough, I'm still working on the draft for the sequel, A Heretical Divide. And I'm gonna keep writing after that's done as well.

Yes, in the beginning I had wild dreams about it. Thought I'd be discovered over night and make a fortune. Go fly around the western countries, and then come back to Romania to buy The Iron Gates 1 and 2 (our hydroelectric dams). But something happened... After I quit smoking cigarettes, I also stopped smoking air. ^^
What matter are my sons and daughters. I am their father, and I also their slave. Here's the kind of music that fits my world Of Hate And Laughter - it fit's like a charm.
X-Ray Dog!!!

Regardless of what the future has in store for me, I'm not going to stop writing. If fate takes away my arm, I'll use my other one. If fate takes away both of them, I'll try to write using my toes - though, recording my voice on a tape is easier. But that means I'll have to find some bloke charitable enough to type in the sound as letters on the computer on my behalf. Maybe I'll get lucky, and fate will be kind to me. Whatever her mind, I plan to leave on this earth more than the shadow of my dust.

Remember, children (young and old) - the government deficit equals the net savings of the private sector in a given year. Taxes don't finance public expenditure. It's the other way around. Remember that EVERY human being is full of shit. And remember that God hates nothing more than those who worship him out of fear, ignorance, and superstition; instead of worshiping him out of love. We who are about to die salute you!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Confessions of an Erratic Marxist

When I chose my PhD thesis, I intentionally concentrated on a method within which Marx was not simply wrong, he was irrelevant. When I landed my first economics lectureship in Britain, the implicit contract between my university and me was that the sort of economics I would teach our students would be as far removed from Marxism as is humanly possible. When I moved to Australia in 1988, unbeknownst to me, I was recruited by the right wing of the Sydney University Economics Department in order to keep out of the Faculty another candidate whose former supervisor was thought of (quite rightly!) as a dangerous Marxist. Later I moved to Greece where I (foolishly) became, quiet officially, an advisor of George Papandreou -- the man whose government was to mediate Greece's passage to Hell a few years later. While I resigned that position in 2006, having gotten whiff of the impending disaster, I carried on teaching, at the University of Athens, quaint (and admittedly vulgar bourgeois) subjects like Game Theory and Microeconomics to a large number of Greek students, who remained touchingly oblivious to the catastrophe about to befall them. Back in 2002, well before the Global Crisis erupted, Joseph Halevi and I tried to sound a warning -- but we failed to make an impact. Even though in 2006 I did my best to warn Greek society, and anyone who would listen, of the impending disaster, I shamefully remained part of Athens' and Europe's 'polite society', not once taking to the streets. When the Global Crisis erupted in 2008, and soon engulfed the Eurozone, I began writing articles and making frantic appearances in established and less mainstream media alike, promoting a fundamentally bourgeois agenda for saving capitalism from itself! When the going got really tough, at a personal level, in Greece, I migrated to the USA and took up an appointment at the University of Texas. To this day, I am struggling to impress the powers-that-be that they must urgently adopt specific bold policy recommendations in order to prevent an inevitable crisis from crushing capitalism. In summary, not one of my academic publications can be thought of as explicitly Marxist, while my energies are channeled into preventing capitalism's collapse. Nonetheless, all along, from my student days in Britain to this very day, the only way I could make sense of the world we live in is through the methodological 'eyes' of Karl Marx. In itself, this 'fact' renders me a theoretical Marxist. Moreover, I feel Marxism in my bones every time I am engaged in any form of intellectual pursuit: from discussing the Arab Spring to debating the intricacies of Art with my artist partner. Furthermore, a democratic, libertarian, socialist future is the only future that I would be willing to fight for. A most peculiar Marxist no doubt, but a Marxist nevertheless.

Yanis Varoufakis
Political economist and a professor at the University of Texas, Austin. After training in mathematics and statistics, Varoufakis received his economics doctorate in 1987 at the University of Essex. Before that he has allready began teaching economics and econometrics at the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. From 1989 until 2000 he taught as Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Sydney. In 2000 he moved to his native Greece where he was Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens. He is an active participant in the current debates on the global and European crisis and the author of The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy (2011).

Wednesday, 15 May 2013