Friday, August 13, 2021

Book Report on Scientology

 Joanna Marcellus 


Scientology is a religious system based on seeking self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment through ranked courses of study and training. It was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950. Hubbard was a writer who published over thousands of pieces during his time. When he began writing science fiction he transported his imaginary stories into his theology. His career began taking off when he first wrote his book titled Dianetics. In his novel, he talks about his set of ideas and practices regarding the relationship between mind and body. One of the book’s theories was that if you can revisit past traumas and understand them, they will not be able to have an influence on you in the present and future. Dianetics was on the New York Times bestseller list and because of this success, Hubbard felt this was his psychological breakthrough. He felt like a hero or god-like figure and began to convince himself of many things like having a psychological cure for mankind. He soon added more science and structure to his theories and turned Dianetics into a movement he called “Scientology”.

After Hubbard’s career took off with Dianetics, he seeked a religion that he could profit from without government intervention. The targeted audience for the Scientology movement were people who were on spiritual adventures. Hubbard claimed the goal was to live in a civilization without sanity, criminality, and war. Although Hubbard was one to question his own sanity, it did not stop him from manipulating the minds of others and making them believe he could help them obtain a level of self and spiritual freedom. The Church of Scientology called this, “The Bridge to Total Freedom”.  This metaphor is used by the Church of Scientology to describe believers’ advancement. Believers move up the levels through auditing and the E-meter. The theory of auditing is that it locates and discharges mental “masses” that are blocking the free flow of energy and the E-meter is presumed to measure changes in those masses. 

My favorite part of the book had to be when Hubbard died and David Miscaviage took over. It was interesting to see how Miscaviage was just like Hubbard and how he kept the financial power going. David Miscaviage began using famous people to get more attention and focus on the Church of Scientology. One of the people he used and began associating with was Tom Cruise. Tom was interested and believed in Scientology but his relations with a woman drew him away from the church. This made Miscaviage mad and he hired investigators to investigate his girlfriend Nicole. They tapped her home and her phone. The investigators did everything according to Miscaviage’s plan to get him back. They built his ego and began to slowly make him an ambassador figure to Scientology.

In conclusion, the Church of Scientology is a dangerous cult that engages in suppression and harassment of others and its members.With all the manipulation and abuse that went on within Hubbard’s success, it does not come easy to say that Hubbard was a genius who created an entire religion that avoided paying taxes through his own rules of working around any conflict of interest that would arise. His book and notes ceased anyone from stopping what he had started even after his death. Although the church no longer has a public face to its name, the financial value and success of Scientology is still soaring. What I liked about this book is that it did not have a negative direct attack on the religion, and the author gave clear details on the good and the bad that members of the religion experienced. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Report: Factfulness


 Factfulness 

 

The book "Factfulness" is an interesting book that talks about how people have wrong concepts about the world. As he writes in the book he will give us ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world and why things are better than we think. The author, Hans Rowling, explain how we all have 10 instinct that distorts our vision of the world. With these instincts, we tend to exaggerate and view the world as more dramatic, more violent, and poorer. 

The 10 distinct are:

 

  1. The gap instinct: this instinct is basically that we divided everything into two instincts.
  2. The negative instinct: this instinct describes how we tend to notice more the bad than the good on every occasion. 
  3. The straight line instinct: explains that people often assume that a line will just continue straight ignoring that it’s not always the case. 
  4. The fear instinct: this instinct is basically paying attention to things that frighten us.
  5. The size instinct: this instinct means that we have the tendency to get things out of proportion.
  6. The generalization instinct: this instinct is about our tendency to mistakenly group things or people together, thinking that they can be similar when in reality they are completely different.
  7. The destiny instinct: This instinct is the idea that things are as they are and that we can not control the destiny of people, countries, religion and etc.
  8. The single perspective: This instinct is about the tendency people have on a single perspective of understanding the world.
  9. The blame instinct: This instinct is about finding a reason why something went bad or something bad happened.
  10. The urgency instinct: this instinct is about our tendency to take action when we perceived danger.

 

In conclusion, this book gives you a completely different way to see the world because it opens your eyes to see the reality in which we live. I’ve found myself getting a lot of the questions on the book wrong. As Rowling says in the book, we have been consumed by the old news the media portrait and I'm guilty myself. After reading this book, I will be more aware of what I'm hearing or reading, I'll have more critical thinking about bad news. I ended up this book satisfy of knowing that the world is not as bad as I thought it was. 

 


Book Report on the Demon Haunted World

The book “ The Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan is an interesting investigation into how science and pseudoscience is impacting the world we live in today. It was written in the mid nineties so some of the real world information feels a bit outdated. However, a lot of the concepts Sagan writes about still ring true today. The book is an interesting combination of background information on popular pseudoscience topics, such as explaining how UFO therapists work and teaching us how to use critical thinking to determine what is fact or fiction. He addresses how our grief and emotion can lead us to want to believe in pseudoscience. He explains the importance of science and how we can evolve and grow our understanding of it.  Overall, he does a great job at teaching readers to be curious while making decisions that are grounded in reality. 

My favorite chapter was Chapter 4 Aliens. My whole life I have been fascinated by the idea of Aliens. I enjoyed the chapter because he was able to explain the reason for so many people believing that they have been abducted or seen a flying saucer. One reason in particular felt applicable to me when he said “When we notice something strange in the sky, some of us become excitable and uncritical, bad witnesses.” This line resonated with me, because growing up I was so engrossed and scared by Aliens that I would stare at the sky for hours at night hoping I would be able to catch something. Sure enough, any star or plane that looked unusual I automatically labeled as a UFO. As I’ve gotten older I have realized that I knew better and that not everything is a fly saucer. Many people essentially hype themselves up enough to the point where they genuinely believe they saw a UFO.

Very similar to Chapter four, we also covered the Alien Abduction phenomenon in class. Many people who were abducted share similar characteristics, which is why so many people believe the same thing. As Aliens and other pseudoscience topics become more popular, people can easily hear about other’s experiences and adopt them as their own. As Sagan mentions, our memories are fallible. Our memories and emotions are easily manipulated by our experiences, traumas and other influences. An example of this could be that those who believed they were abducted are led to uncovering memories by those giving hypno therapy.

Overall, it has been very interesting to read a book about pseudoscience during a pandemic. Obviously there is so much information out there about this disease and the vaccine. Currently there are two schools of thinking, get the vaccine or not. I wonder if a book like this would push people to believe in the vaccine, and debunk anti vaccine myths or do the opposite. It could be possible that those who are anti vaccine would be convinced even more not to get the vaccine, as Carl Sagan encourages learning about science and facts which they believe they do. I think the lesson here is to educate yourself as much as possible and continue to make decisions that are correct for you. The more knowledge you have the better. 



Here are some links to learn more about Alien Abductions!


https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/05/americans-alien-abduction-science


https://www.livescience.com/lucid-dreaming-ufo-alien-abductions.html

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Blog Post on Projective Testing

    One of the topics we went over in class that I enjoyed learning about was projective testing. I find it very interesting that you are able to determine psychological traits based on somebody's drawing, or their interpretation of inkblots. Even if the results aren't accurate, or are only somewhat accurate, it is crazy to think about the possibilities of what projective testing could be, or how it could be used, if enough time and money are put into it. I think projective testing has potential if done in the correct environment and as a supplement. What I mean by this is that instead of relying on projective testing to identify things like mental illness, it could be used in addition to treatment for already diagnosed mental illness to monitor a patient's progress. Obviously, if projective testing were to really be used in this way, it would need to go through the scientific process to determine how it can properly be applied, as well as have a set of standards much like everything else in therapy. It seems like in our society, if something is proven to not work as well as intended, such as the ink-blot test and the draw-a-person test, it must be thrown away. I think there is more potential for something like the ink-blot test as a way to monitor mental health progress, like maybe how a bipolar person reacts to the same inkblot when in a depressive phase compared to a manic phase, or how someone reacts to an inkblot when seriously depressed compared to recovering, as opposed to a way to diagnose mental health issues in the first place. I am curious to know what insights it could provide if used in a longer-term environment, as well as if projective testing has any future in the mental health field.

Blog Post on the Paranormal

    I am not the most superstitious person, and I don't actively believe in things that are considered paranormal, but I am not closed-minded or a skeptic. I have always been intrigued by the paranormal due to the mystery surrounding things like aliens and ghosts. There isn't much evidence out there to suggest that aliens are real and abduct people, or that ghosts are real and can haunt you, yet there are countless stories claiming both. Regarding the paranormal, the Jersey Devil was a great topic to cover in class, in fact, growing up in Galloway and being near Leeds Point I heard about the Jersey Devil at a young age. I'd say I knew what the Jersey Devil was before I knew what biology was. My brother and my dad even said they saw something in the woods one night, standing on two legs with light reflecting off of yellow eyes. They didn't instantly assume it was the Jersey Devil, but what animals around Galloway walk on two legs and have yellow eyes? "It must be the Jersey Devil, or something." The "or something" is important, because that is the paranormal - the beyond normal, the "it can't be normal so it must be something unexplainable". Space isn't our normal, so anything we see in the sky that doesn't appear as being normal (helicopter, plane, or shooting star) is likely going to be called aliens. Our eyes are usually very reliable, so when we see something that is unexplainable, something not normal, it will likely be called a ghost or spirit. As I mentioned, I am not one to actively go looking for paranormal things to prove they exist, but there are times when I find things online that make me wonder. I have seen plenty of authentic videos that science wouldn't be able to explain. Does that mean they are aliens or ghosts? Not necessarily, however, I do think that there are things out there we have yet to discover and things we still need to learn so we can explain some of the phenomena we experience. The US military has a surprising amount of UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects) on camera, although they are admittedly hard to find and not all of them have been released to the public. I will post a popular one below. It might not be aliens, but it is something paranormal, something science has not explained.

  


Book Report on Viral BS, by Dr. Seema Yasmin


Dr. Seema Yasmin, pictured above

    In Viral BS, Dr. Seema Yasmin explains how conspiracy theories and pseudoscience come to be so easily accepted in the world and how they can affect us. She explains that we like to hear the sensational, dramatic, and scary 'news' much more than the boring old truth. This, combined with how humans react more to stories than facts, leads to people clearly remembering conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, while the actual science is forgotten or ignored. With her focus on being on medicine, she discusses how 'boring' illnesses like the flu are often ignored, while 'novel' illnesses like ebola capture our attention and scare us. As we know, the flu is much more of an issue in America than ebola, yet people were much more scared of ebola than they would ever be of the flu. Humans aren't very good at calculating risk, and a lot of the time our emotions will overtake our logical reasoning. This leads to unnecessary panic and the spread of misinformation, which in the field of medicine can be very harmful. She notes how stories and (mis)information can spread faster than any disease, and determined that in order to help solve this issue she would need to fight fire with fire, or rather stories with stories. She then begins to tell the stories of dozens of (in)famous health myths, both how they came to be and how true they are. These range from how Instagram fitness teas are myths and potentially dangerous scams, to how a morning sickness pill prescribed to pregnant women really did cause thousands of babies to be born with birth defects. She does a very good job analyzing and breaking down these many myths, allowing you to see where misinformation can originate and how the truth can sometimes be stretched quite far.

While there are many interesting myths to learn about, one of my favorite aspects of this book is not a specific myth but instead a specific theme. This theme is how history greatly affects belief, and some of the myths she discusses correlate directly to this. She explains how nobody wants to talk about the dark, horrible things that have been done in the past. This breeds conspiracy theories and pseudoscience more than anything else, and due to these ideas being 'based' on history they have more foundation than most other pseudoscience. For example, there are two myths in the book that address this theme. The first one is regarding the maker of aspirin, Bayer, and the possibility that they did human testing in Nazi concentration camps. The second is regarding the United States government and military, and the possibility that they injected people with syphilis and gonorrhea. Both of these myths have to do with horrible events in history, and both have directly affected the beliefs of people who are connected to them in some way. For the first myth, there is evidence to suggest that aspirin was created by a Jewish scientist in a German company (now known as Bayer), however, because this was when Hitler was in control of Germany, the credit for the first synthesis of aspirin was given to a lab technician instead. There are also reports from concentration camp survivors that Bayer scientists were giving them unknown pills and injections. We won't know what really happened, because nobody wants to go back and reexamine dark times in history. We tend to prefer forgetting the bad instead of examining it to find the truth. The second myth, however, is undoubtedly true. The US military and the US National Institute of Health were involved in studies where people were injected with these diseases. There were three experiments done: one on consenting American prisoners, one on nonconsenting Guatemalans, and one on nonconsenting black American citizens. Some of the people in these studies didn't even know they had a disease, instead, they were told that they were being treated for "bad blood". Others knew they had a disease and thought they were being treated for it when they were instead just monitored so the effects of the disease could be recorded. Many died because of the disease given to them by the US government's scientists. With both of these horrible situations, people's beliefs are affected. People who survived the holocaust aren't going to trust Bayer or their products, knowing they may have been experimenting on prisoners. People who grow up where the US government conducted unethical human testing aren't going to trust scientists and doctors the way people who live elsewhere would. These beliefs are much stronger than your typical political conspiracy theory because they are based on events that occurred, instead of just pure speculation. After reading that the US government infected people with diseases and let them die, it isn't very surprising that people in Liberia thought ebola was caused by the United States, as mentioned by the author.

Overall, it seems like Dr. Seema Yasmin has the right idea of fighting stories with stories. This concept can and should be applied to all myths, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories. Instead of insulting people who have flawed beliefs, it would be much more beneficial if you tell them the story of the truth. As the author mentioned, a story is much more memorable than a fact, so use the facts with the story instead of just listing facts and telling them that they are wrong. While nobody will ever agree on everything, at least with this method everyone can learn from each other instead of just disagreeing and debating. As a last note, the author describes a process she calls the "Bullshit Detection Kit" to prevent the spread of scientific lies. Below is a video regarding Carl Sagan's "Fine Art of Baloney Detection", off of which her system is based.



blog post 3 Jersey Devil

 The lecture entitled “Jersey Devil” discussed the Jersey Devil and other myths about creatures and monsters such the “Bigfoot” and “Chupacabra's.”  There have been many stories about the Jersey Devil over many years and how it has body parts of many different animals but was birthed from a human woman who wished for her thirteenth child to be the devil.  I have lived in Southern New Jersey all my life and have grown up hearing many stories and even people saying that they have seen it.  I think part of me does believe that it could exist because I have been hearing about it for so long.  In the lecture the one film shared a story that two kids heard something coming from their cellar like scratches and a lot of noises.  Their dad went down there and saw a mess, Christmas decorations broken and everywhere and he was shook up because the only way anything could down there was through the cellar coal shoot so it would have to be able to fly to get out, I truly think this man believed the Jersey Devil had been in his childhood home.  Whether this was just a bird or not we cannot tell but if I slow down and use my scientific brain I would tend to believe that it was some type of typical animal in his basement.  The same holds true for the other legends in the PowerPoint, more than likely people are seeing animals that science knows about and in their fear creating some type of legend that or they are seeing a fake.  Again I think people want to believe these stories because they are fun and entertaing and because they want to believe in something else besides their human life on earth.    




Blog Post 10% of our Brains

 This Lecture titled “10% of Our Brains & Out of Body Experiences' discussed the myth of how people only use up to 10% of their brain power and what is possible if we were able to use more, it also discussed mystics, psychics and healers.  Many people believe that if people were able to tap into their brains latent abilities there is no telling what people could do and what powers and abilities we would be capable of.  In the movie Lucy we can see all the abilities that she has, as she is able to tap into more of her brain's power as the movie progresses and how she becomes less human throughout the process.  In the videos we see many supposed psychics and such and then we see how easily they can be disproven.  


     I believe that one of the reasons people fall for what these charlatans are doing is because they feel the need to believe in something else, some higher power.  People over the ages believe in God or gods to have some control over their lives.  I think this may be especially true for people who have lost a loved one or who are ill or elderly.  We also want to believe that we are capable of more if we only could access that part of our brain.  Unfortunately this is how people are taken advantage of by these fake psychics and such.  Even the woman who was reading the dog couldn’t actually tell anything about the dog and just made excuses, such as the dog feels young that is why he said the wrong age to her and you could tell by just interacting with the dog that he is calm and loving.  








Blog Post 1 Priming

   Lecture one was on ways of thinking.  The one I found most interesting was Priming. I found it pretty interesting how what we are thinking about or reading about can affect how we interpret or do something or how someone stating a few words can control the way people think.  Priming works when just our conscious and subconscious are exposed to an idea and with that we think about an associated idea without ever really knowing it.  It also works when we are given a direction to follow and affects how we think or interpret questions.


Some examples in the text were how when given a group of letters with one missing you will guess different words depending on what you are thinking about or if you are reading about older people our brains are stimulated to walk slower. The text also suggested that if you are told to walk slowly you can answer questions about older people or aging more easily. They also said that a smiling person laughs more easily at a joke and a frowning person is more easily upset by a disturbing picture.


I think priming is crazy because these small influences can change a person in such a big way.  Just one thought and one word can change your whole perspective and how you act.  People are not even aware of these changes, either things like judgement and attitude all change without the person ever knowing all because of a thought, a word, or some other small influence.  I definitely can see how this can happen though, sometimes when I watch a show about Southern States or other cultures I can see how I may move or act or think differently afterwards.



Demon Haunted world Book Report

 “The Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan discusses the importance of not believing all the pseudoscience nonsense that we see on t.v. and learning about true science and the real reasons for certain anomalies.  The book begins with a memorable limo ride of Dr. Sagan where he ruins the beliefs of the driver by explaining the science behind the falsehoods he is fascinated by.  I found the beginning of chapter 2 to be quite ominous in that he discussed his fears for this country and the world.  The lack of science programs, fewer and fewer manufacturing companies in the country and how the media is working to dumb down society.  Later chapters went into depth to discuss specific pseudoscience myths and how they can be disproven.


The chapter I found most interesting was Chapter 4 entitled Aliens.  This chapter delves into people's fascination with Alien abductions.  Carl Sagan discusses how if all these stories were true people would be getting abducted all the time and you would definitely notice your neighbor being abducted.  He also discussed the fascination that aliens supposedly have with sexual reproduction and how they are always trying to reproduce with humans in these stories. To disprove these stories Sagan went on about how if these Aliens are so much more advanced than us, why would they want to reproduce and abduct humans as well as use instruments that are so similar to ours.  This chapter was also very interesting to me because of how so many people today are saying that they have seen ufo's or aliens even the U.S. Navy has spotted unidentified objects that were all over the news in recent months.  People are still questioning if there is life beyond Earth to this day and can be easily led to believe in Aliens, UFOs and abductions as can be witnessed in the video below, even though there is a reasonable explanation for the man's sudden disappearance.  


https://youtu.be/a31gXfVO4AU 


The book “The Demon Haunted World” relates to many of the topics we covered in class, it is all about using science to disprove many of the different myths that the world still believes in.  In the alien chapter Dr. Sagan goes into depth about the subject we covered briefly in class.  He also discusses false memories a lot.  How through therapy and hypnosis many people come to believe that they have experienced all of these unusual anomalies that can be disproven with science or with just some common sense.  Dr. Sagan is a true man of science and feels it is just as fascinating as believing in the supernatural, witches or extraterrestrials.  


This book was vey difficult to read in that there were many scientific terms and it was sometimes hard to follow.  The many examples of the different witch trials in chapter 7 for example were confusing, but in the end we learned that the accusations of witch were a way for people to explain what they couldn’t understand and a way for the government and church of the time to control people. “The Demon Haunted World” was worth reading in that it will help people to understand how these beliefs of the supernatural can’t really exist and how we should rely on our own brains when dealing with crisis or world issues instead of believing that our problems are the result of the paranormal.  





Book Report

     Factfulness by Hans Rosling was published in 2018 and one was one the more interesting reads I have had in a long time.  The book talks about how different groups of people view the world, and how they are completely wrong.  It divides the world population into four major groups (1 being more modern western civilization-like and 4 being more remote tribal-like living), and systematically breaks down ten different natural instincts that the people of the world have that cause them to view the world in a distorted way.  The objective in writing this book was to really open peoples' eyes to what is going on around them and around the world.  Things are often not as they seem, and life is very different for different people coming from different places, as outlined in just about every single chapter of the book.  There are a lot of graphs and studies in the book, as well, to help visualize the points that Rosling is making, and they do a great job aiding in explanations.  Rosling wraps the book up by telling his readers to go out and use the tips he gives and try and see the world in a different view, and see if they see and live life any differently.

    My favorite part of the book was the chapter about fear.  Titled "The Fear Instinct", it gave me a very new perspective on how fear can affect people's everyday lives.  The most interesting part of the chapter to me was when Rosling discussed how the same fear can affect people living in groups one through four very differently.  The big example he uses is the fear of snakes.  People living in group one (the group with the most advanced medicine and medical care) may have the fear or snakes, but it does not really affect their lives in any critical way.  People in group four (the group that lives in remote areas, often in tribes or villages), however, have a justified fear.  A snake bite from the wrong species would likely be fatal.  This may cripple their ability to participate in everyday life.  This was a very interesting perspective brought to me and is something that I had honestly never considered before.  The example of fear of terrorism was also given, and it was shown that group four was the least at risk of a terroristic attacks, and group one through three had fairly high risk of terroristic attacks with three bring the highest.  One would think that the least protected people (group four) would have the greatest fear of terrorists and the people with the best protection (group one) would have the least fear, but the book highlights otherwise.  People in group one are generally terrified of terrorist attacks.  

    The concept of the fear instinct is something that can also, perhaps, be tied into a class subject.  When it comes to certain mythical creatures, such as Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and the chupacabra, fear may be a huge part of whether or not people believe in such animals or not.  To me, it would seem that group one may believe in these mythical creatures more, as much of group one is within cities and suburbs and does not get out into the wilderness enough to really say whether or not they think the creatures are real.  This group is more likely than any other to hear a story about an alleged creature sighting and immediately believe it ceased off of fear of the unknown.  Group four, however, is a group that would spend much more time out in the wilderness and outside in general, and a lot of the people that fall within group four would be able to safely tell you that if these creatures were real, one of them would have eventually seen it.  There would be a lot less fear controlling their decisions than someone in group one that lives in a city. Fear can very easily control the minds of many.

    I think that there is a lot of information from the book that could be applied to the current virus situation in the world.  In particular, my favorite chapter about fear is one that many people could learn from.  The fear of this virus has taken control over many people's lives, and has caused many lasting affects, such as social anxiety, depression, and loss of drive to succeed.  I decided to look at the virus from a different perspective after reading the book, and decided that we are actually very lucky.  We are very lucky because of the modern medicines and medical practices that we have compared to smaller and more impoverished countries.  This virus must not be allowed to completely control people's lives due to the fear it may cause, and chapter four of Factfulness outlines exactly why this is the case and how we as a people can change to keep this from occurring.  Live with smaller amounts of fear and enjoy life as much as you can, while you still can.


Youtube clip about fear and how it can affect decisions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRP-HLyyJkU

Blog Post on Pseudoscience

    Learning about the psychology behind pseudoscience is very interesting and thought-provoking, however, we are viewing it from a post-modern point of view. With many advances in science and mathematics, we as a species feel we have a pretty good understanding of everything, and we are confident that we are correct. This makes it easier to label things that don't align with our current understanding as wrong. Now instead of viewing pseudoscience from this view, try to put yourself in the shoes of the first doctors, scientists, and engineers. They did not have this framework of science and mathematics; they were essentially shooting in the dark. The act of identifying patterns and using them to draw conclusions, regardless of what the current beliefs are, is what allowed them to advance society. Imagine if Galileo Galilei, instead of creating the telescope, decided to just agree with the belief system at the time - that Earth is the center of our solar system. The point is that a lot of scientific advancement came from theories that did not follow our scientific method, and were therefore pseudoscience according to modern standards. This concept is really intriguing to me because it shows how far we have come as a species, but it also shows how we tend to "forget our roots" in a sense. Today, if you make a claim that goes directly against what we believe, you will instantly be labeled a conspiracy theorist or uneducated, even though it took many, many absurd (at the time) claims to achieve the beliefs and understanding we now have. 

    While I am not saying that every claim or thought is legitimate and should be tested, it is important to remember that some revolutionary ideas seemed preposterous at the time they were proposed. Fortunately, the scientific method actually has pseudoscience built into it. It's actually one of the first steps: hypothesizing. The big difference between real science and fake is that pseudoscience just gave up after creating the hypothesis, or at least messed up somewhere along the way. It is good to realize this because you can see how pseudoscience isn't necessarily always evil or harmful. It only becomes harmful once it has been scientifically disproven, yet is still thought of as legitimate.



Book Report

Factfulness was published in 2018 and was written by Hans Rosling. The book discusses peoples view on the world and how it is incorrect. People tend to view the world to be worse than it actually is. It includes 10 instincts that change and affect our view on the world, it has statistics, examples and graphs to get its point across. Rosling spent time going around the world surveying people on their views on different topics such as poverty, health, environment, etc. The people that were surveyed thought worse of the world than what is happening. It was found the people do not see the world as it is due to the fact that our views on different trends are much more exaggerated than what is happening in reality. The goal of the book is to shift peoples perceptive on what is truly happening in the world, so they can change how they think and act. Something I really enjoyed about the book was the author put some of the questions he had in his survey in the book. This is so that the reader could make a guess about what they think is going on in the world and determine if they were correct or incorrect about what is actually happening.

The chapter that stood out to me the most was Chapter 2: The Negativity Instinct. The chapter focuses on the tendency for people to notice the bad more than the good. People do believe that the world is getting worse. This is concerning because people do not understand what is truly going on around them. The percentages for people thinking the world is getting worse in every single country is all above 50 percent, some are even around 80 percent. An example in the book was the amount of people in poverty today compared to the past 20 years. Less than 10 percent of people answered this question correctly by saying the amount of people in poverty today has halved in the past 20 years. 20 years ago 29 percent of people were in poverty, now it is around 9 percent. Another example in the chapter involves life expectancy. The survey question was what is life expectancy of people today. In the different places surveyed the highest percentage to get the question correct was only 43 percent. The correct answer is 70 years old. In the past 40 years people live an another 10 years on average which is incredible. There has been many countries that have increased in wealth and health immensely in the past century. Some of these countries are Sweden, Egypt, Zambia etc. Then the chapter had another 32 graphs to show some other improvements. A few examples of these are child cancer survival, immunization, protected nature and many more. A large part of the negativity impact is what news stations and newspapers were put out to the public. It is much more likely that a tragedy for disaster would make front page news rather than something positive. Another thing people have incorrect perspective on is the amount of crime. The majority of people asked if they believe crime has gone increased or decreased in the past year answered increased, but it has actually decreased. This can be mainly due to what the news shows people. Another reason people think the world is getting worse is because there are still a lot of big problems that need to be solved, so those are what people are thinking about. The author wants people to understand that the world is not perfect but to still acknowledge all of the great improvements made in the past couple years. Lastly, the author goes over how to work on not looking at the world so negatively. He suggests understanding that there can be both bad and good things going on in the world, and people should not ignore either one. Another way to be less negative is to expect bad news. If you are expecting it, it is less likely to take you by surprise. Also, don't look at history with "rose tinted glasses" learn about history and don't make the same mistakes. 

This chapter can be related to class because it discusses how part of the reason why people believe the world is worse than it used to be is because people don't remember their youth completely accurately. Older people tend to "romanticize" their youth and think things that were better than they were. This is similar to the false memories we learned about in class. False memories tend to occur because people make up a past that makes sense to them and meets current expectation. People that lived in China or India experienced poverty not too long ago but now that they have supplies and a place to live it has been forgotten about. For example, a journalist did a study in India where he showed people pictures of the same place they lived in the 1970s and many people did not believe him due to the fact of how dirty and less fortunate the people and the area looked. They did not remember it being like that because in their minds it was not as bad when they lived through it, it was worse when they looked back at it. False memories allow people to make a version of what happened compared to what they want to believe. 

When reading this chapter it made me think a lot about the world today due to Covid-19. I think this entire book would have been written differently if it was just published two years later in 2020. I have no idea what statistics would be different then in the book but, I know some would definitely change a lot. I know during Covid there is a lot of negativity going on in the world, but after reading this book and especially Chapter 2 I tried to think of some positives that occurred during the quarantine and still occurring now. I thought about it during quarantine the dog shelters were the most empty they've been in years. My family actually adopted a rescue dog during Covid. Another positive thing that has occurred because of quarantine is the Great Barrier Reef has increased up to 39 percent due to people staying home which is great for the environment. I also think people have learned to appreciate life more because of Covid-19. So many people lost their lives and I think it made people realize that they never know when their day could come so it became crucial to enjoy life while you can. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk&t=52s

Flim-Flam Book Report

 

The book “Flim-Flam!” by James Randi is written to expose misinformation and explain certain “paranormal events.” James Randi is a magician that decided to dedicate his later life to the pursuit of uncovering the paranormal. After years of searching, he has found no evidence for any paranormal claims. James Randi investigates many things from pictures of faeries, biorhythms, “psychic surgeons” who do surgeries using only hands, televangelist end of the world claims, telepaths, and N-Ray radiation. He was even able to recreate a “psychic surgery” in front of a live audience using chicken blood and meat. In the book, James Randi uses many tactics such as photograph analysis, recreation by normal means, and appeals to statistics to investigate paranormal claims. I thoroughly enjoyed the faerie photographs plus the medical humbugs, but the “psychic surgeries” section in chapter 9 was my favorite part.

Flim-Flam PowerPoint

Book report on "Factfulness by Hans Rosling"

    The book Factfulness was a very interesting read. Since coming to Stockton University I've known lots of colleagues who've read the book and I was always suggested to read the book. Everyone always said it was an eye opening read and changed perspectives on a lot of things.  So, I used this course as an opportunity to finally see what my colleagues were talking about... I wasn't disappointed. 

    The book "factfulness" demonstrates how the rise of new media has altered our vision as people. There's ten human instincts that Hans Rosling describes and breaks them down into 10 chapters. These are the instincts that misshape our perspective on the world. This book pretty much gives it to us straight up and "exposes" how the world really is without sugarcoating. FACT-ful-ness... It's about the facts. Rosling demonstrates how to battle these instincts we have as humans to form more fact based thoughts rather than have our minds washed by "fake news" or things that aren't what they seem. One big takeaway that I feel is a big theme of the book, that Hans Rosling has left with us as readers is to not be fooled into thinking the world is in worse shape than it is. This quote was on the back of the book and was a quote of our former president Barack Obama. I want to share it because I feel it is a powerful statement and helps describe the book's goal. "Factfulness.... is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off the facts rather than inherent biases." 

Chapter #8 was called, "the Single perspective instinct." The single perspective is our instinct to only solely focus on one view/or perspective when it comes to the world. That's being a closed minded thinker. I think this lesson was very valuable because to me, it emphasized how negative that kind of thinking can be. An example of that can be, solely relying on media to shape our opinions on things. It's good for our minds to venture and look at all aspects of the world. Open minded thinking > I think this instinct relates to our course in terms of the thinking aspect. I feel like these people who allow their perspective to be controlled and closed minded, aren't much of CRITICAL SLOW thinkers. This was my favorite chapter of the book as it really resonated with me and made me think deeply about how perspectives are shaped in the world today and how its better to be open minded. This book was well put together and a real eye opener.


Blog Post 3: Chupacabras and Big Foot

 The thought of mysterious creatures like the Chupacabra and Bigfoot are extremely interesting to me. The Chupacabra originated in 1975 in Puerto Rico. It is a very interesting creature due to what it does to its victims, it drains their blood and scoops out chunks of their flesh. People know little about what they look like but residents have claimed to hear flapping and screeches. Police have blamed these attacks on things such as other deranged humans, snakes, and vampire bats. I personally don't think any of those three things would completely suck another animals blood, so I definitely think there is some mysterious creature out there that we do not know much about. The Chupacabra was also named the goatsucker due to it sucking all the blood out of animals. Scientists also found that these Chupacabra smell like sulfur which is very interesting and unique. They have been connected to Xolo dogs by some veterinarians. Another mysterious creature is Bigfoot. People think they have been seeing Bigfoot since the 1800s. The first North American record of Bigfoot was 1811. Bigfoot did not get the name Bigfoot until 1958. In 1967 a video of Bigfoot was released but people believe it was just a actor walking funny in a costume. I also believe this clip it just a person in a costume due to the fact that it is during the dog and the creature is completely relaxed walking around, I find it strange. It has also be thought that Bigfoot and UFO might be related. This is be crazy because those are two things be are also so curious about. Hopefully more information about these creatures are found, because I would love to learn more about them. 

Here is the video of Bigfoot walking

Bigfoot caught on tape (Patterson footage stabilized)


Book Report

 The Demon-Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carol Sagan 

    
    Carl Sagan took his responsibility to convey the scientific world's ancient riddles to the general public very seriously. In The Demon-Haunted World, he is perplexed by the then-popular pseudo-science that the general population was taking so seriously.The phenomenon of extraterrestrial abduction is his main target for debunking here. This event was so common in the decades leading up to the book's publication in 1996 that an 18% of the American public reported "waking up immobilized" and feeling like there was an alien presence in the room, according to a 1992 Roper poll. If one were to generalize the results of this poll, as Sagan suggests, It's possible that 2% of Americans have been kidnapped and subjected to various forms of interrogation and sexual experimentation. "You would think some of the neighbors would have noticed," Sagan chuckles, ruefully amused by the lack of doubt regarding these claims. 

    One of my favorite chapter was “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” a chapter in Sagan's book that presents a toolset for debunking faulty arguments, is particularly beneficial. Similarly, the chapter on "Antiscience" provides readers with a historical perspective of what happens when scientific reasoning is superseded by pseudoscience in cultures. Numerous chapters cover a wide range of topics throughout the book. 

    I can relate things Sagan talked about like his uncofertablness with accepting things at face value, always making sure to question things and not believe something unless its been tested rigorously. This makes me think about some topics from class, such as The Illusion of Validity. 

    Demon Haunted World was chosen because it is well-suited to teaching PhD students how to think critically as they begin their research and dissertation periods. While some of the arguments in the 1996 book are out of date, and some of the points Sagan makes are redundant, there is undoubtedly something to be gained from reading it. Even if it's just to remind us that we've all been there.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Spirituality, I Cant Sleep, Demon Haunted World, Candle In The Dark, Little Do You Know, Positive Attitude, Science, Knowledge And Wisdom, Medical Facts




    

Blog Post 2: Graphology

I found the use of graphology to determine specific personality traits very interesting. I think the ability to look at such a small every day thing in such detail to determine personality traits is incredible. Everyone has different handwriting so there are so many different characteristics to determine. Some of the main categories of characteristics are word and letter spacing, writing slant, pressure on the page, and letter size. Some examples are that people who write with wide letter spacing usually are isolated or lonely, while crowded words indicate being desperate for companionship. Also people that have big handwriting tend to be confident and big thinkers while people with small handwriting are normally shy and studious. Using handwriting to detmeurine personality traits begin in the 17th century which is crazy to think about how long we have been using handwriting as a tool. The most popular way to determine personality is strokes. Strokes can be even, uneven, angular, or rounded. Other traits can be determine with letter characteristics such as unequal height, cramped, connected, etc. Decisions in the workforce can be made with the use of graphology. Certain graphology might be believed to be better than others and that can be used to determine if a person receives a job or not. It is used in many countries and the usage is growing. There was a study done in 1992 that determined that graphology is the least effective way to make a decision about someone in the work force. Chooses a person based off of graphology could actually really hurt a company financially. With this information I think companies should not use graphology to determine someone for a job. When I think about my handwriting I do think a lot of the personality traits associated with it are accurate. For example, I have big handwriting which makes sense because I am a pretty loud outgoing person.

What your handwriting and signature says about you, according to a  graphologist | The Independent

Blog Post 1: UFO Abduction and Past Life Hypnotic Regression

I found the UFO abduction and projective testing lecture very interesting. It is crazy to me that a person can change their memories and remember things in the past differently. People can change their memory to make it make more sense to them, and make it consistent with current expectations. It was also found that hypnosis does not recalling accurate memories, but it can actually make a person more confident in their false memory that they have. I think past life hypnotic regression is extremely fascinating. This is when people contrast past life fantasies. Their fantasies are normally very detailed and vivid. This can be seen for some people that believe they have been abducted by aliens. One of the example video in the slides discussed how a man believed he had been abducted many times since he was a kid. When he describes these experiences he goes in to vivid detail. What does not make sense to me is that his describes his first abduction at 5 years old with so much detail which is strange because I can't describe anything from when I was 5 years old.  He then uses hypnosis to unlock the parts of his memory he has forgotten, as discussed earlier hypnosis can just make a person more confident in a false memory. A phycologist in the video states that people that make stories like these usually do not feel as if they fit in and want to be socially accepted, believing they are an abductee allows them to fit in to a group of people and helps them find their identity. When movies and tv shows with alien concepts became popular the amount of abductions reported increase greatly. People that believed in alien abduction usually report having them during sleep. They also tend to esoteric beliefs and more instances of sleep paralysis. I find the ability for people to completely change their memory so fascinating and I hope to learn more about it in the future. 

Hypnosis and Past Life Regression - Real or Imagined?

Book Report Post: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow, written by Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning author, that critically analyzes and assesses the ways human beings confront everyday cognitive challenges through cognitive functioning. By nature, it is proven, throughout the text, how prone humanity is to come up with answers, solutions, and ways around making certain decisions based off of faster methods of thinking. Kahneman provides a lot of knowledgeable perspective on human psychology and psychological behaviorisms coinciding with perspectives of qualified experts, researchers, including the utilizations of statistical data, research findings, and visual aids/prompts. Thinking, Fast and Slow, section-by-section and chapter-by-chapter, goes more and more in-depth into the ways human beings view, communicate, and react to one another. Daniel Kahneman reasoned that most erroneous and false beliefs can be attributed to thoughts driven by emotional reactions or psychological conditioning, and not from logical, factual evidence. The book is split into five sections: The Two Systems, Heuristics and Biases, Overconfidence, Choices, and the Two Selves.

First, the discussion of the Two Systems involves the discussion of the split between the two systems of thinking, system 1 and system 2. System 1, according to Kahneman, consists of the inherent judgements and decision-making principles made through half-aware and illusory thinking. System 2 takes much more consideration to utilize, because thinking through system 2 requires more cognitive functioning and critical thinking. When the two of these systems come together, there is more of tendency to default to system 1 due to the relief that it provides to the mind. The next part of the text is on Heuristics and Biases. An extension on the discussion of the Two Systems, Daniel Kahneman describes the many ways we delude ourselves, through our thinking, into beliefs that are otherwise proven to be fictitious, erroneous, or even hypocritical. Due to the tendency to think faster, people are generally going to fall into the tendency to formulate thoughts based off of inherent biases, personal beliefs, morals, or even “gut feelings,” that are not exactly rooted in evidence. Part III on overconfidence assesses the ways in which thinking is centered on an individual’s sense of knowing, no matter if they are right or wrong in their personal logic. Overconfidence is often empowered through personal intuition, and even more so in the intuition of experts. Thoughts influenced by overconfidence are often not based off of statistical evidence or research data, so there is a lot of room for falling into illusions and deluding oneself into hoping for outcomes that may potentially work out in our favor. In part IV on Choices, Kahneman brings to the forefront the numerous ways we may be influenced to go about the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis, and the core focus on this section is centered on “Humans and Econs.” Humans, are in fact, represented as the consumer, entrepreneur, laborer, and/or employer or an everyday, average person going about their daily life. And an Econ is a person who functions perfectly as an individual who makes perfectly calculated decisions through specified preferential applications. When it comes to human decision-making and choices made through potential economic gain, Kahneman observed that there is a much higher concern with loss than there is with gain; this is described through the concepts of “risk aversion” and “loss aversion.” Through natural human instinct, it is much better for us to hold onto what we have, and not gain anything instead of chancing the risk to lose anything. Finally, in part V on the Two Selves, Kahneman notices an unusual phenomenon of a psychological split in the self, forming the two selves. The two selves are split between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self” and these two aspects contribute to our understanding of the world, each other, and ourselves as we go about our daily lives. Kahneman asserts that when one aspect of self is considered, the other needs to be, too. The two selves coincide with one another, and one cannot be present or acknowledged without the other.

I found quite a few examples of interest within this book, but something that really caught my interest was the fifth chapter in the book. Chapter 5 in Thinking, Fast and Slow covers the topic of cognitive ease. Cognitive ease, according to Kahneman, is a way we can think fast without straining ourselves too hard. An instance of cognitive ease mentioned in the book by Kahneman is the “rhyme-and-reason effect” which he goes on to explain that there is a more general belief that statements, passages, or phrases involving rhymes were more logical than factual statements that do not involve rhymes, even if they do not make any sense. This is especially fascinating to me because, it is further proof that, as human beings, we tend to default onto what is easier for us to do, think, or say instead of trusting ourselves to think just a little more. It is not because we lack intelligence, but is no doubt due to not wanting to put too much work into thinking about something that we are not going to spend the entire day thinking about. The human mind goes through thousands of thoughts a day, so there has to be a way to sift through thoughts faster, hence the cognitive ease defaults.

When relating Thinking, Fast and Slow to in-class topics, I think of the section on Ways of Thinking, particularly the sub-section on Appealing to False Authority. In part III of Thinking, Fast and Slow, the overconfidence is expert opinions and knowledge is discussed, and when there is a high opinion of someone who claims to be an expert, then it is not always going to be reinforced by factual evidence, proof of credentials, or back by research and statistics. Appeals to False Authority often does not require this evidence because there is defaulting to overly trusting someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about, even if they do not have the evidence to support their claims. For example, someone who claims to know about healthy dieting and healthy lifestyles would be encouraging those who follow their advice to adapt to a vegan lifestyle, even though they have no idea what an individual needs nutritionally to meet their daily needs. Their understanding of healthy living can be assumed by looking at their appearance and slim physique, so there is not necessarily a concern as to whether they are qualified to know what they are talking about or not.

After reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, I am certainly going to be more considerate about how I think going about my life. I tend to approach tasks that I find overwhelming with a negative mindset, which leads to giving myself a much harder time to get through the task. When I take into consideration all of the times I could have put my mind at ease, and initially confronted tasks with a more positive mindset, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache, stress, and strain from choosing to procrastinate and allowing the stress to build as tasks piled up, becoming more mountainous. I know I have a lot of work cut out for me to shift my perspectives to being more encouraging of myself, but Thinking, Fast and Slow put a lot into perspective for me. This book is definitely going to help provide someone with the insight into how we tend to put effort into our brain function, and ways to confront our tendencies to fall into illusion, self-sabotage, and deceit. I am sure that this book is going to be more than impactful for someone who otherwise may not have been formerly aware of the many ways we, as human beings, learn and adapt to thinking too fast. Anyone who reads this book will benefit from the knowledge provided by Daniel Kahneman, and, although there is not necessarily a natural tendency for us to think constructively and slowly, this book and the ways in which Daniel Kahneman challenges us to shift our perspectives, with numerous tests, experimental examples, and theoretical proposals, it is not possible to not have taken something of substance from this book. 

I provided a link to a YouTube video that relates to Thinking, Fast and Slow that I found very interesting! This video does a good job in bringing all of the from the book together through critical analysis of concepts within the text: 
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO4BNlFkCZY