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All posts for the month May, 2012

BHA has a current campaign “against” Rudolf Steiner schools and Anthroposophy, same as it campaigns against religious faith schools. I’ve noted Steiner and Anthroposophy many times before, but I’ve not come across Steiner as an active education movement until recently, but …

Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called Anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy, or spiritual science, is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children’s connection to the spirit world.

Steiner schools will always argue that they do not teach Anthroposophy, and in a narrow sense this is true as it is not a term that pupils will ever come across. However, the beliefs of Anthroposophy form the core of the teacher training courses and are the pedagogical motivation for everything that is taught in Steiner schools.

Sure, Steiner and Anthroposophy are mystical – they’ve been in my whacky list for some time. You wouldn’t want to teach Anthroposophy to any immature mind, but anyone teaching (in any school) would do well to understand Anthroposophy rather than simply dismiss it.

[...] SWSF schools do not teach children to read and write before the age of 6/7, or use computers before 13, [...] because anthroposophists believe that to do so damages this connection by quashing this naivety and playfulness. In reality, all it does is damage children’s education.’

Everything ? All ?

Clearly trying to couch mysticism as “science” is mad, bad and dangerous, and it’s another symptom of scientism, that even non-scientific things somehow need to be made scientific (or branded scientific) to have value knowledge-wise. Conversely the scientistic zealots believing science is the one true knowledge, not only rightly dismiss pseudoscience, but wrongly dismiss any knowledge that is not scientific, full stop.

Education is not a science. Education is not all about science. Some education benefits from wise pedagogy. It is not possible to learn scientifically (empirically) in one lifetime all that is useful that humans have come to know – that’s a reductionist fallacy and a waste of valuable learning time. And yes, discouraging reading (computer aided or otherwise) is equally mad, bad and dangerous, but stating the obvious misses the real point, that quantity of unqualified input is no substitute for quality – there is such a thing as too much information communication – quality control has its value.

What is important is balance – a balance between trust and authority on the one side and empirical discovery on the other. The balance may be difficult and problematic, but either extreme is lunacy.

The problem with the BHA is that we know what it’s against, but not what it’s for. If scientism is all they believe humanism is then they’re a waste of time. Was Philip Pullman just an anomaly?

All science and no mysticism makes Jack a dull boy.

So how convoluted is this game. #Breivik, as tweeted by @TrygveSorvaag

#Breivik sent a very clear message directly to judges.
Saying he will not appeal if he is declared ‘of sound mind’.

Personally as you know, I believe for future good of rationality, he should be declared insane (*), even if the psychiatrists fail to identify a treatable disorder – in fact especially if that is the case. His only therapy may be to grow up and become wiser in captivity – but captivity it must be. But is he playing double-double-double-bluff in terms of his own desired outcome?

[(*) Post Note - mustn't fall into the same "simplistication" trap as all the journo's. When I say insane I mean to say mentally ill, suffering from a mental disorder or two. My own thrust is that his hyper-rationality, and ability to selectively suppress human empathy, suggests autism / Asperger's, as some witnesses have also since suggested. There are of course other delusional / paranoid / narcissistic disorders. Sanity is not a single black and white issue. And just to be clear, my focus on the autistic tendency of "hyper-rationalism" is nothing to do with whether he is given / offered / accepts treatment - so long as he's incarcerated - but with wider recognition of the wider lack of sanity.

My logic on his sentence would be this :  He has recognisable mental disorders. He shares these disorders with many of us whose behaviour does not incite or commit acts of criminal violence. He is criminally responsible for 77 murders and a lot more, justified and rationalised by him by his lack of (totally) sound mind. He is guilty and not of sound mind. Where's the problem?]

Karakoram has been one of my must visit places since before I’d ever heard of  bucket lists. Heard Karakorum mentioned several times in today’s BBC R4 In Our Time as Marco Polo interacted with the Grand Khan of the Mongol Empire. In fact the Mongol Empire is itself a fascinating piece of history.

Political instabilities notwithstanding, I first saw Karakoram as a road trip holiday through Gilgit after visiting Baluchistan, Pakistan in the aftermath of the Russian / Afghan war and becoming fascinated with the peoples of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact if you take northern Iraq as the early cradle of human civilisation, then all points north of Karakoram into the central Asian republics – Tajik, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Turkmen – are its crossroads.

So what does the Karakoram Highway, in Northern Pakistan, named after the Karakoram Mountains have to do with Karakorum / Qara Qorum still further north between Urumqi and Ulan Baatar in modern Mongolia ? Maybe nothing apart from a common root in naming the “black place”.

Common sense for government to develop relationship with press / media, even without formal agreements. Said Alastair Campbell this week at the Levenson enquiry.

Good excuse to link again to this 8 year old “Wheel of Retribution” re Campbell’s relationship with the BBC back in the days of the Hutton Report. [Via "I believe in the BBC" campaign link - still working in the side-bar after all this time.]

Wisdom has been a topic of Psybertron since the beginning. Several different initiatives trying to move the focus from narrow definitions of knowledge (of so-called objective facts, etc) to wider understanding of how the world really works, and what is …. for the best, for the world and humanity within it. Cosmic man. Of course the whole Pirsig / Quality thread is in the response to the question – so what is “good”, what is of value. And there are plenty of “story-telling” avenues from Al MacIntyre’s “narrative” of a given culture’s “bibles” through to modern social business emphasis in say “Anecdote” (linking recently to Seth Godin example here). More explicitly, Nick Maxwell’s “Knowledge to Wisdom” and Chicago University’s “Arete Initiative” in science and academe.

The less wise often get hung up on “defining” wisdom. Being based on “experience” is clearly part of it, but that just shifts the definitional problem to what counts as experience, and what counts empirically as “evidence”. Clearly also the process of decision-making is a part of it – though if you suggest “how” people communicate with each other is part of some logical /rational objective on-line debate, you are very quickly accused of being a tone-troll or worse.

More life lived = more experience, so one dimension is age. But it’s not just the authority of age – in a nutshell, if someone with more experience says “that’s not right”, it should count for something independent of any immediate logical rationale. But it’s more than that. The life lived is always lived within the context of some constituency, some institutions, whether that’s a “career” or simply the day-job on which the resources for satisficing life’s needs, or providing life’s freedoms, depend. Even as an “elder” within an organization your life has a dependency on maintaining the workings of that institution – your narrative has to cohere with that of the constituency around you – to use the jargon. There can become a point however (before or after “retirement” from the institutional “game”) where life’s valued resources (*) no longer depend on the institution. Independent Elders.

And by way of contrast – see the value of a mix of old and young heads – in a football team. Old heads are “worth their weight in gold” (*).

[ (*) Valued .... see, and what is good. Resources ... whatever is valued ... freedom, platform, reputation as well as tangible "rewards" and needs - see good old Maslow.]

@Quoriana Does it matter whether #Breivik is insane or just plain evil. This piece questions why the focus on this question.

I sympathise with the question. And having lived and worked in Norway for several years, I sympathise with the Norwegian mentality too. I know why this is an interesting question for my rationality agenda, but I agree it’s a moot point in terms of actual behaviour and practical outcomes in the case. (I don’t know anything about “World Mathaba” so I’m commenting here rather than register to comment there.)

Insane or evil, a guilty verdict declares his behaviour unacceptable to society, and whatever the technicalities of the sentence (I would hope) either ensures his separation from society for life. In that sense any future similar behaviour, for either reason, is marked as unacceptable.

The reason it matters is to do with justification and causes – rationalisation – of similar behaviours, and freedoms to hold and express those causes, not just act out behaviours based on those causes. Like it or not, and the Bin Laden case cited is a good example, most terrorist behaviour arises from some cause perceived as legitimate by more than the perpetrator. The terrorist action and the active promotion of such action is criminal even if the original perceived injustice has a valid historical basis. The difference between Gandhi and Bin Laden – passive protest vs active terrorism. Even active criminal terrorists associated with valid causes (but with sane outcomes) become socially re-habilitated – Neslon Mandela, Gerry Adams, Martin McGinnis, Che Guevara.

Breivik is insane for clear reasons. His rationalization of conspiracy theories concerning European Islamification as some grievance against himself and “his people”; his rationalization of his own views and actions as some “Templar” organized conspiracy as a fight against it; his continued inhuman rationalization of his actions justified by the above conspiracies, not just to “psyche himself up” to engage in the initial atrocity (common say amongst suicide terrorists), but to continue it consciously through the entire event and through his defence thereafter. Total rational insanity. To be that rational is inhuman, humanly insane. Anyone using freedom of expression to support similar arguments in future should also be declared insane, before such acts are committed. That’s why it matters.

Wonderful to read these two stories in the same day.

He’s staying. He’s going.

Lawrenson:
“I can’t believe for the life of me that they would say,
Thank you, but no thank you”

Kenny should indeed have a figurehead / upstairs role at Anfield, but his time as the manager of a team of players was well and truly up.

[Post Note : It's only fair to point out as others have, that Kenny only came back to manage the team because he was asked to in time of dire need.]

Iain McGilchrist talking with Bryan Appleyard at the Wellcome Foundation brain exhibition. Thanks to David Morey for the link on Facebook.

Timely in view of my reading of Haidt’s Righteous Mind.

Interesting, the idea that the right brain understands why it needs the left, but the left doesn’t understand why it needs the right – echoes Haidt’s political left and right distinction, that republican / conservative right has a greater balance of moral understanding than the liberal / social left. Spooky.