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Showing posts from February, 2017

Can I Give Up Atheism for Lent for Lent?

I'll start off by saying this: yes, the title of this entry is a little confusing. But what is even more confusing is this program initiated by radical theologian Peter Rollins called Atheism for Lent. No, it's not about trying to overcome doubts that one might have in relation to God, which to me sounds pretty good, but it's about basking in the doubts of acclaimed atheist writers! Take a look at the blurb below.

Lent is a time that is traditionally reserved for a type of psychological purging that leads up to the Crucifixion. In light of this, Atheism for Lent seeks to use some of the most potent critiques of Christianity as a type of purifying fire that might help us appreciate and understand Christ’s cry of dereliction on the Cross in a new way. Just as Christ experienced the loss of God on the Cross, so Atheism for Lent invites participants into that desert space traditionally called the dark night of the soul.

What initially strikes me as strange is that "Christ e…

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Geography has been lost to a technological torrent. Survey the lay of the land. Empires, ghettos, mansions, houses, apartments, boutiques, discounts ... what does it all mean in the face of proper questions? Is there a silence apart from the cacophony? Has the world wide web become a world wide marketplace? The downtown, tenth floor office residing capitalist is no longer the only one raking in the dough. Cultural capital, social capital, and money all have their presence in the digital hemisphere, though I think such an un-nature promotes bungling to a certain extent. All of these presences are social; you need a buyer and a seller. Unfortunately, the seller is granted a more comfortable accommodation while the potential buyers must surf the net with caution, much like a surfer trying to avoid getting trapped in the coral reef! The potential buyers are assumed to be interested in buying. I suppose that's not much different than walking into a shop and having employees badger you …

Questioning the "Science Says" Attitude

A few snippets from Meredith Wadman's article, "One in three scientists confesses to having sinned", published in 2005 by the notorious scientific journal "Nature":

More than a third of US scientists, in a survey of thousands, have admitted to misbehaving in the past three years. The social scientists who carried out the study of research misconduct warn that because attention is focused on high-profile, serious cases, a broader threat from more minor deeds is being missed.

Of 3,247 early- and mid-career researchers who responded, less than 1.5% admitted to falsification or plagiarism, the most serious types of misconduct listed. But 15.5% said they had changed the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source; 12.5% admitted overlooking others' use of flawed data; and 7.6% said they had circumvented minor aspects of requirements regarding the use of human subjects.

Overall, about a third admitted to at least one of th…

'Aesthetics' as a Contemporary Word

Though Hegel never used these terms, he is recognized as the creator of the following triad: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. It is quite convenient, then, that there are, what I would consider, three contemporary meanings for 'aesthetics': 1) as a philosophy; 2) as a practice; 3) as a preference. The game at hand, it appears to me, is to delineate which meaning fits within each of Hegel's categories. But first, let me properly describe what I am referring to with each of these three meanings. First, aesthetics as a philosophy refers to not only the study of beauty but how 'beauty' might be defined, if at all. Second, aesthetics as a practice refers to the attempt to make things beautiful - e.g. Roberta, an aesthetician, dyes a client's hair blonde because that's what the client deems beautiful. Third, aesthetics as a preference refers to a certain characteristic or set of characteristics that a person maintains - e.g. "Black nail polish is my aesthe…

The Social Construction of the Chemical Imbalance Theory: Part III

An important document that these different stages of science led to was the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), that is, the most current edition of this document. Its descriptions for depression and anxiety reveal that this document reinforces the idea that these illnesses are problems which pertain to the brain. Citing Hasler and Northoff and Ravindran et al., it is stated that many brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, amygdala, and hippocampus have been involved in persistent depressive disorder. Citing Jorge et al. 2004 and Levin et al. 2005, it is also mentioned that depression is associated with traumatic brain injury. Still yet, it has been suggested, though there is no certainty on the matter, that depression might be episodic (that is, recurring), in certain persons with static brain injuries and other CNS diseases (American Psychiatric Association).

Within the description for anxiety, there is much…

The Social Construction of the Chemical Imbalance Theory: Part II

Also of significance in the 1950s was reserpine, which is an alkaloid contained in the root of Rauwolfia serpentina. Prior to being introduced in the United States, this herbal medicine was used in India as a treatment for both psychosis and hypertension. This drug was found to have neuroleptic effects, meaning it operates as a depressant (France et al. 412). What is fascinating about this is that nearly 70 years ago, herbal medicine was intersecting with the pharmaceutical industry. Through animal studies, it was first found that serotonin was present in the CNS and affected behavior. Reserpine was found to decrease serotonin levels, and so, a hypothesis was developed that low serotonin levels caused depression (France et al. 412).

Notice here though that this study was performed on animals and not humans. As Michael B. Bracken, an epidemiologist at Yale University, mentions in an article from 2009, this has been a controversial subject for a long time. For instance, the Persian polym…

The Social Construction of the Chemical Imbalance Theory: Part I

The chemical imbalance theory was introduced in the mid-20th century. Various scientific findings brought this about, including: the potential of chlorpromazine to treat psychosis; monoamines acting as neurotransmitters in the CNS; and an understanding of how monoamines operate in the brain, such as their synthesis, storage, release, and activation. These discoveries also brought about the emergence of the discipline of psychopharmacology and the practice of treating mental disorders by means of prescribed medication (France et al. 411).

The first antidepressant drugs of the modern era, iproniazid and imipramine, were introduced in the 1950s. Originally, such drugs were used to treat tuberculosis, but when it was discovered that some tubercular patients had elevated moods upon using this medication, iproniazid and imipramine were tested on psychiatric patients both in and outside the United States. It remained a popular treatment for depression for many years until concerning potential…

Some Brief Thoughts on Social Constructionism

I wrote a research paper between November and December last year entitled Fringes and Folkways: Why Pharmaceutical Antidepressants are More Successful Than Herbal Medications. There's a section in that paper where I explain how the chemical imbalance theory, something that is on the pharmaceutical side of the spectrum, is a social construction. All I am claiming here is that this idea/common understanding that a chemical imbalance is a cause of depression or anxiety was something that came about through social processes. What I am not addressing in this section of the paper: a) the soundness of the chemical imbalance theory or b) the efficacy of pharmaceuticals. Scientific realists and their ilk complain that social constructionists contend that there is no such thing as objective reality, but I simply think that's an unfair assessment. All that social constructionists are really saying is that shared understandings of things are formed through social interaction - and clearly…

World Wide Web Vanity

I have come upon a prime opportunity to discuss, what I would consider to be, some plebeian tendencies. As per usual, I am focusing on ideas and not persons who have said ideas. I say this to avoid any possible perception of antagonism that may result from what I write. It's a blessing and a curse that I can't seem to think well of so many different things. My prose might cut sharp, but beyond that, I wish to do no harm.

Object 1. Instagram - Why don't we talk about pictures of vinyl? No, not hardwood flooring - I mean records. Look, I'm glad that you enjoy music - hey, I do too - but do you really have to brag about what's probably becoming another hipster artifact? Make no mistake, I do listen to records and I enjoy the record-listening experience. But it's this "limited edition, signed, 1/500, first pressing" nonsense that's annoying. And putting your record on a special stand as if it's some idol is terribly bourgeois. Secondly, pictures of…

For a Second

ALEC: I noticed while we were passing Le Coq Sportif that you were looking through the glass in a very distinguished way. What would cause your eyes to do that?

MARCEL: I must admit, monsieur, that my attention was captured by one of the mannequins in the display case. I can't put my finger on it, but there was something about the way it was looking out the window. While all the others were mere pronouncements of money, this one looked poor in the face.

ALEC: Ah, yes. The third one, on the left?

MARCEL: I thought there were only two?

ALEC: I am the third.

MARCEL: How do you mean?

ALEC: Don't speak for me.

MARCEL: I felt like the mannequin was an accurate depiction of me. Being is in the moment, non-calculated, often unrecognized. As long as I stared at the glass, it was there. As soon as we had passed and began strolling beside that brick wall, the image of myself had disappeared. But the absurd fact was that I was the one walking! I didn't care about the actual, the person walki…

Dashboard Confessional - A Plain Morning

Nickelback is My New Favourite Band

What a strange time I find myself in. Who have I been listening to on and off all day? You guessed it: Nickelback. I should note that I have liked some Nickelback songs for quite a few years. "Far Away," "Photograph," "Savin' Me," and others are all enjoyable tracks. The problem is that Nickelback has been one of those bands that many people love to hate - that is, up until now. Only a few days ago did they release their new single "Feed the Machine." It has received surprisingly positive reviews so far, even from a site like Metal Injection, where Greg Kennelty said that it "...has some surprisingly good riffs." All I can do is laugh about this and blast their tunes. Hopefully one day I'll come to my senses and lay waste to this vain distraction (insert crying/laughing emoji here).

Edit: Shortly after publishing this, I remembered that five years ago I published a post (on an older blog) saying that Nickelback was my new favour…

Over a Cup of Java

His cup of java has no appeal to him. He'd knock it right off the table if it could contain itself. In a sense, his power becomes subordinate to its weakness. The dissatisfaction alone does not appease; he needs to actualize that dissatisfaction ... but I already know that he won't. He takes another sip to see if anything has changed and can feel his teeth turning slightly yellow, like a forgotten piece of white paper that's now a little easier on the eyes. I'm pretty sure the hint of vanilla keeps him coming back. It doesn't make up for the taste he dislikes, but it's somehow enough to make him think that it does - even if he doesn't really think that. Why would anything just stay in a cup like that? I feel some pity at even probing the question. Its meaning is so obvious that it doesn't even know it for itself. Perhaps that's the best way to live? And here I am, staring through a store window adorned in memorandums, watching a stranger enjoy a mer…