Wednesday, June 25, 2008

You Are Capable of Atrocity

"There are people who insist that they could never kill anyone, but they invariably add a telling caveat: 'Unless, of course, a person tried to harm someone I love.' So the resource of violence is in everyone; all that changes is our view of the justification....

"We use the word inhuman to describe these murderers, but I know them both, and they are not inhuman--they are precisely human....

"When a bank robber shoots a security guard, we all understand why, but with aberrant killers, people resist the concept of a shared humanness. That's because US and THEM is far more comfortable....

"Judgment results in a label, like calling Robert Bardo a monster and leaving it at that. Such labels allow people to comfortably think it's all figured out. The labels also draw a bold line between that 'wacko' and us, but perception carries you much further.

"Scientists, after all, do not observe a bird that destroys its own eggs and say, 'Well, that never happens; this is just a monster.' Rather, they correctly conclude that if this bird did it, others might, and that there must be some purpose in nature, some cause, some predictability."

--Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, 1997

Thursday, June 19, 2008


"In the fourth part of the Discourse, Descartes returns to the main thrust of his development of a philosophy. He starts with his methodical doubt: I doubt, or negate, everything that cannot be proven in a mathematical way, he says. So what can Descartes prove? Everything is taken to be false. But Descartes, the person, is doing this doubting. So one thing can be deduced as true: Descartes exists. Otherwise, he could not doubt. Thus, from the negation of everything, a proof is derived of the existence of the person doing the doubting. This is the most brilliant deduction in the history of Western thought."

--Amir D. Aczel, Descartes' Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism, and the Quest to Understand the Universe, 2005

Friday, June 06, 2008

Absinthe Drinker

Piják absintu
Viktor Oliva
1861-1928 Czech

"I can imagine you as a She-Hulk, naked and entreating and sitting on the damn table."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Forer Effect

"The Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people.

"Psychologist Bertram R. Forer found that people tend to accept vague and general personality descriptions as uniquely applicable to themselves without realizing that the same description could be applied to just about anyone. Consider the following as if it were given to you as an evaluation of your personality.

"You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

"Forer gave a personality test to his students, ignored their answers, and gave each student the above evaluation. He asked them to evaluate the evaluation from 0 to 5, with '5' meaning the recipient felt the evaluation was an 'excellent' assessment and '4' meaning the assessment was 'good.' The class average evaluation was 4.26. That was in 1948. The test has been repeated hundreds of time with psychology students and the average is still around 4.2 out of 5, or 84% accurate."

--The Skeptic's Dictionary

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

from the Mongolian Red Cross Society

"Let’s help people affected by earthquake in China.

"The 8.0 magnitude earthquake on 12 May devastated eight provinces; Sichuan, (the most severely affected), Gansu, Shaanxi, Chongqing, Yunnan, Shanxi, Guizhou and Hubei. In Sichuan, the total affected area measures 65,000 square kilometres, including Aba, Mianyang, Deyang, Chengdu, Guangyuan, Ya’an municipalities and prefectures. According to the State Council, the most severely damaged areas include 44 counties covering 1,061 townships. Over 10 million people are directly affected in Sichuan.

"The Mongolian Red Cross Society launched internal appeal, taking actions to help for people affected by the earthquake together with warm-hearted people in Mongolia, and the campaign to collect contribution for people in China will be finished on 15 June 2008.

"If you want to contribute for the appeal, you can contact our staff in Mongolian Red Cross Society main office.

"May his future efforts for humanity rise as a flame of hope in the shadowed lives of needy people the world over.

"Best Regards,

"Mr. Sukhragchaa Mijidsuren
International Relations Officer
Mongolian Red Cross Society
Tel/Fax: 976-11-320934
Mobile: 976-99234132