Sunday, December 18, 2011

Your Brain Often Battles Itself

New studies show that our brains often battle with themselves ~ as in the case of keeping a secret ~ and create stress in the process. According to
Your brain doesn't like to keep secrets. Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, have shown that writing down secrets in a journal or telling a doctor your secrets actually decreases the level of stress hormones in your body. 
Keeping a secret, meanwhile, does the opposite. Your brain also doesn't like stress hormones. So when you have a secret to tell, the part of your brain that wants to tell the secret is constantly fighting with the part of your brain that wants to keep the information hidden, says neuroscientist David Eagleman.  
"You have competing populations in the brain — one part that wants to tell something and one part that doesn't," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And the issue is that we're always cussing at ourselves or getting angry at ourselves or cajoling ourselves. What we're seeing here is that there are different parts of the brain that are battling it out. And the way that that battle tips, determines your behavior."
Eagleman's new book, Incognito, examines the unconscious part of our brains and the complex neural networks that constantly fight one another and influence our behavior.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Strange Matter Behavior in Collider

A lead-ion collision in the Large Hadron Collider.

The Large Hadron Collider ~ the world’s foremost portal to a new view of physics ~ is revealing bits of matter that don't mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts. The discovery could rewrite the known laws of particle physics and help explain why our universe is made mostly of matter instead of antimatter.

The 17-mile circular particle accelerator near Geneva has been colliding protons at high speeds to create explosions of energy, producing subatomic particles. Now researchers are reporting that some matter particles produced inside the machine appear to be behaving differently from their antimatter counterparts, which might provide a partial explanation to the mystery of antimatter.

According to, scientists think the universe started off with roughly equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Over the ensuing 14 billion years, most of the antimatter was destroyed, leaving a universe of mainly matter.

"It's certainly exciting, and certainly worth pursuing," LHCb researcher Matthew Charles of Oxford University told LiveScience. "At this point it's a tantalizing hint. It's evidence of something interesting going on, but we're keeping the champagne on ice, let's say."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Massive Study Confirms Warmer Earth

A large independent study concludes that the Earth is warming up, though did not pursue exactly why this is happening. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Group ~ comprising many of the biggest names in science today ~ analyzed an astounded 1.6 billion temperature reports from around the world.

According to the London Daily Mail:
But Berkeley group's analysis of 1.6 billion temperature reports from weather stations and ships confirmed that over the past 50 years, the world's land surface warmed by 0.911 of a degree centigrade. This tallies with previous estimates by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  
The group's conclusion is not about the causes of climate change ~ whether due to man-made emissions or natural cycles. It's purely a statistical analysis ~ but a more far-reaching one than previous studies. The group's four papers are still under review by fellow scientists.
The study head, physicist Richard Muller, said there were 'legitimate issues' with previous studies. “My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly skeptical,” he told the Daily Mail.

Monday, October 10, 2011

View of Universe May Redefine Gravity

The universe appears to be clumpier than astronomers expected, according to the largest galaxy survey ever conducted ~ a finding that might lead to a new understanding of gravity.

“Maybe on very large scales, Einstein’s general relativity is slightly wrong,” says cosmologist Shaun Thomas of University College London. “This potentially could be one of the first signs that something peculiar is going on.”

According to
When viewed close up, the matter in the universe bunches up into stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters. But as you zoom out, cosmologists expect the universe to look more and more smooth, sort of the way details in an earthly landscape blend together when viewed from an airplane.  
What clumpiness there is comes from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter in the early universe. As the universe expanded, spots with a little bit of extra matter gathered more and more matter through gravitational attraction. Based on the best model of how gravity works and what the universe is made of, cosmologists can extrapolate out from the Big Bang to get a pretty good idea of how lumpy the universe should be on every scale.  
Thomas and colleagues looked at the most zoomed-out view of the universe yet acquired, and found more lumpiness than models predict, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which covers about a fifth of the entire sky, to make a rough 3-D map of 723,556 galaxies that are at least 4 billion light-years away. The researchers calculated how evenly distributed, or smooth, the galaxies appear on length scales of 2 billion light-years.
The findings could mean cosmologists need to reassess their understanding of dark energy, the mysterious force that drives the universe outward at an ever-increasing rate. Dark energy itself is supposed to be almost perfectly smooth, but clumps of dark energy could draw clumps of visible matter around them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Number 57 ~ THE GENTLE

Success through what is small.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
It further one to see the great man.

Penetration produces gradual and inconspicuous effects. It should be not an act of violation but of influence that never lapses. Results of this kind are less striking to the eye than those won by surprise attack, but they are more enduring and more complete. If one would produce such effects, one must have a clearly defined goal, for only when the penetrating influence works always in the same direction can the object be attained. Small strength can achieve its purpose only by subordinating itself to an eminent man who is capable of creating order.

Friday, October 7, 2011

UFO Discovered on the Ocean Floor?

A Swedish ocean exploration team has identified a crashed object some think may be a UFO on the ocean floor between Finland and Sweden. The team, headed by Peter Lindberg, was employing sonar in its search for a century-old wreck when it discovered the mysterious object.

According to
Lindberg explained to local media that his crew discovered, on the 300-foot-deep ocean floor between Finland and Sweden, "a large circle, about 60 feet in diameter. You see a lot of weird stuff in this job, but during my 18 years as a professional I have never seen anything like this. The shape is completely round."  
Adding to the mystery at the bottom of the Gulf of Bothnia, Lindberg said he saw evidence of scars or marks disturbing the environment nearby, suggesting the object somehow moved across the ocean floor to where his team found it.  
. . . Some suggest the object is a flying saucer of extraterrestrial origin (and the seafloor scars were dug up when it crashed), though of all the things that might create a round sonar signature, that seems to be among the more outlandish. It might be a natural feature formation, or possibly a sunken, round man-made object.
Lindberg's claim that the object "is perfectly round" may or may not be accurate ~ the resolution of the sonar image was not high enough to verify that it is indeed round. Lindberg himself did not offer an extraterrestrial origin, though he did speculate it might be a "new Stonehenge."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ten Long-Lost Books

Books from some of the world’s most famous authors are lost and likely will remain so. has compiled a list of 10 of them, some of which are surprises to even literary types.

The list includes obvious candidates such as the many lost books of the Bible ~ both Jewish and Christian ~ and a volume by Homer called "Margites" that predates both the Iliad and Odyssey.

Then there’s a missing play of Shakespeare’s entitled “Cardenio,” which is known to have been performed at least once in 1613. Then there are missing works of Jane Austen, Herman Melville and Thomas Hardy. Even more recent are lost writings of notable 20th century authors Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath.

Click here for the complete list.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Accounts of "Crisis Apparitions"

Increasing recognition is being given to “crisis apparitions,” the term for the spirit of a recently deceased person who visits someone, usually to say goodbye.

According to
Reports of these eerie encounters are materializing in online discussion groups, books such as "Messages" ~ which features stories of people making contact with loved ones lost on September 11 ~ and local ghost hunting groups that have sprung up across the country amid a surge of interest in the paranormal.  
Although such encounters are chilling, they can also be comforting, witnesses and paranormal investigators say. These encounters suggest the bond that exists between loved ones is not erased by death.  
"We don't know what to do with these stories. Some people say that they are proof that there's life after death," said Steve Volk, author of Fringe-ology, a book on paranormal experiences such as telepathy, psychics and house hauntings.
Scientific research on crisis apparitions is scant, but one theory is that a person in crisis ~ someone who is critically ill or dying ~ telepathically transmits an image of themselves to someone they have a close relationship with, but they're usually unaware they're sending a message.

Another theory is that crisis apparitions are guardian angels sent to comfort the grieving. Of course skeptics say it's all a trick of the brain ~ that people in mourning unconsciously produce apparitions to console themselves after losing a loved one.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Evidence: Mayans and Extraterrestrials?

Ancient Mayan sarcophagus lid with astronaut-like image.

The governments of Mexico and Guatamala are cooperating with filmmakers who contend there is proof of contact between the Mayan civilization and extraterrestrials.

"Mexico will release codices, artifacts and significant documents with evidence of Mayan and extraterrestrial contact, and all of their information will be corroborated by archaeologists," according to Raul Julia-Levy, producer of “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond,” due for release next year.

Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado, minister of tourism for the Mexican state of Campeche, said new evidence has emerged "of contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time." He said among the evidence is proof of landings pads in the jungle that are 3,000 years old.

The Guatemalan government has joined the project as well, giving access to artifacts and newly discovered prophecies. While the Guatemalan government is not offering information about aliens, it has joined Mexico in supporting the project.

"Guatemala, like Mexico, is home to the ancient yet advanced Mayan civilization and has also kept certain provocative archeological discoveries classified, and now believes that it is time to bring forth this information in the new documentary," Guatemala's minister of tourism, Guillermo Novielli Quezada, said in a statement. He said the country was working with filmmakers "for the good of mankind."

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seeing is Believing ~ Even If It's False

Due to a strange sensory phenomenon, what we see dominates what we hear. It’s called the “McGurk Effect,” after Harry McGurk, a Scottish psychologist who first identified this powerful illusion. What’s more, even if you know it’s an illusion, you can’t hear the truthful sound unless you close your eyes.

To better understand the profound McGurk Effect, watch this 3-minutes video featuring Prof. Lawrence Rosenblum.

Click here for the NPR article.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UFO Sightings Recently Double in US

The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) says sightings in the US have increased over the past six weeks, with some states more than doubling their normal numbers. "It's pretty exciting," Clifford Clift, the international director of MUFON, told Life’s Little Mysteries. "When you average 500 a month [nationwide] and go to 1,013 in one month, that's an interesting spike in sighting reports."

It could be the start of a verifiable increase in actual sightings or it may mean we’re experiencing a "UFO flap," one of many periodic increases in sightings over the years, usually occurring in urban areas.

According to Life’s Little Mysteries:
Sightings are often fueled by the mass media; people read about mysterious things or see TV shows about them, and interest or concern about them spreads from person to person. It's not that anyone is hoaxing or making up sightings: Research has shown that if you tell people what to look for (a phenomenon called "priming"), people will often see what they are looking for ~ whether those things exist or not. … It may not be that UFOs are actually appearing more often, but instead we're noticing them more. An identical process can be found in the medical field, where an increase in reports of a disease may not represent an increase in the actual number of cases, but instead reflects more public awareness of the disease or better screening techniques.
Scientists are aware that just because more people report a phenomenon does not necessarily mean the phenomenon is occurring more often. However, MUFON and others are keeping track of the current increase in sightings for further analysis.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, September 16, 2011

'Da Vinci Code' and Fear of Death

Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," key to some of the theories.

A new study finds that people who are anxious about death are more likely to believe in the conspiracy theories outlined in Dan Brown's 2003 book, The Da Vinci Code. The author contended in the best-seller that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, leaving living descendents behind. Plus, he says the Catholic Church covered up this fact, while a secret society called The Priory of Sion was formed to keep Jesus' descendents safe.

"It's difficult to change people's beliefs in these theories because they tend to be very fundamental to the way they view the world," study researcher Anna Newheiser, a doctoral student in social psychology at Yale University, told
The researchers gathered college students who had read the book and conducted two studies. In the first, they asked 144 students to rate their agreement with Da Vinci conspiracy beliefs, such as, "The church has burned witches and other 'heretics' to keep the truth about Jesus hidden." The students also filled out questionnaires about their religiosity, biblical knowledge, enjoyment of The Da Vinci Code novel or movie, and their fear of death. 
 The students most likely to believe the conspiracies in Brown's novel were those who enjoyed the book the most, expressed the most New Age beliefs, and felt the most anxiety about dying. People who were religious, knowledgeable about the Bible and desiring of social approval, on the other hand, tended not to buy into the Da Vinci conspiracy.  
Next, the researchers called 50 of the original students back and presented them with historical evidence that the Da Vinci conspiracy is false. They found that among the most religious participants, this counterevidence lessened the belief in the conspiracy. Nonreligious participants, however, did not budge. 
Conspiracy theories "can alleviate people's sense of loss of control by giving them a reason that things happen," Newheiser said. "In this case, it's particularly interesting because it might help people who are nonreligious or non-Christian to understand the events related to early Christian history."

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mystery 'Wheels' Seen Only High Above

Some of the wheels in Jordan's desert.

Thousands of mysterious ancient “geoglyphs” ~ similar in construction to Peru’s famous Nazca lines ~ have been found in the Middle East with the help of satellite-mapping technologies and aerial photography. According to
Referred to by archaeologists as "wheels," these stone structures have a wide variety of designs, with a common one being a circle with spokes radiating inside. Researchers believe that they date back to antiquity, at least 2,000 years ago. They are often found on lava fields and range from 82 feet to 230 feet (25 meters to 70 meters) across. 
"In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older," said David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.  
Some of the wheels are found in isolation while others are clustered together. At one location, near the Azraq Oasis, hundreds of them can be found clustered into a dozen groups. "Some of these collections around Azraq are really quite remarkable," Kennedy said.
His research reveals that these wheels are part of a variety of stone landscapes, including stone structures used for killing animals, lines of stone cairns that run from burials, and a number of strange structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use. 

Click here for the complete article and a photo gallery.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Greek's Oracles Relied on Nature's Signs

"Priestess of Delphi," 1891, John Collier

Oracles in ancient Greece relied greatly on natural phenomena ~ sounds, smells, the rustling of leaves ~ to glean information regarding the fate of individuals and nations alike. According to an article in the Greek journal,
Unlike fortunetellers today … ancient soothsayers dealt less with making specific predictions about the future than offering assurances that particular decisions were correct or incorrect or that the gods looked favorably or unfavorably upon particular actions. Ancient augury took many forms, including the reading of flights of birds and the examination of sacrificial animals’ livers or other internal organs. Sometimes right and wrong, or favor and disfavor, were determined through the casting of lots -- like the rolling of dice today. Colored pebbles or animal bones (including pigs’ “knucklebones”) were commonly used in these divinations.  
More formal, highly ritualized prophetic practices also took place in or beside certain ancient Greek temples. Among the gods associated with oracles and prophesies were Apollo and Zeus, whose sanctuaries at Delphi and Dodona were well-known in Greek lands and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world for their priests’ and priestesses’ strange abilities to convey divine pronouncements.
Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Number 58 ~ THE JOYOUS
The Joyous. Success.
Perseverance is favorable.

The joyous mood is infectious and therefore brings success. But joy must be based on steadfastness if it is not to degenerate into uncontrolled mirth. Trust and strength must dwell in the heart, while gentleness reveals itself in social intercourse. 

In this way, one assumes the right attitude toward God and man, and achieves something. Under certain conditions, intimidation without gentleness may achieve something momentarily, but not for all time. 

When, on the other hand, the hearts of men are won by friendliness, they are led to take all hardships upon themselves willingly, and if need be, will not shun death itself, so great is the power of joy over men.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wormholes Again Deemed Possible

Wormholes theoretically are shortcuts through space and time allowed by Einstein's theory of gravity and potentially permitting rapid travel across many light years' distances.

The concept was weakened, however, when some physicists concluded that wormholes connecting far apart distances in space would likely collapse before something traveling even as fast as the speed of light could pass through them. Now, a new study from Burkhard Kleihaus and Jutta Kunz of Germany's Universtat Oldenberg and Panagiota Kanti of Greece's University of Ioannina, reanalyzes the problem.

The new study employs string theory techniques used in the past to analyze black holes and reveals a range of wormhole diameter-to-energy ratios that appear stable. String theory ~ more properly "superstring theory" ~ broadly envisions subatomic particles as strings or loops of vibrating energy rather than point-like particles described in more standard physics theories.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Christian Scholars Question Adam & Eve

A growing number of conservative scholars believe the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:7 has become too far-fetched in light of recent findings related to the human genome.

Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist and senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, a Christian group that tries to reconcile faith and science, told NPR: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."

With the mapping of the human genome, the evidence is clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population ~ long before the Genesis timeframe of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, scientists can't get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, "You would have to postulate that there's been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence."

Such statements are heresy to evangelicals. "From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith," according to Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. "But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you've got a problem."

Click here for the complete article.
Etching "Adam and Eve" by William Blake.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Number 61 ~ INNER TRUTH

Inner truth. Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.

Pigs and fishes are the least intelligent of all animals and therefore the most difficult to influence. The force of inner truth must grow great indeed before its influence can extend to such creatures. In dealing with persons as intractable and as difficult to influence as a pig or a fish, the whole secret of success depends on finding the right way of approach. One must first rid oneself of all prejudice and, so to speak, let the psyche of the other person act on one without restraint. Then one will establish contact with him, understand and gain power over him. When a door has thus been opened, the force of one’s personality will influence him. If in this way one finds no obstacles insurmountable, one can undertake even the most dangerous things, such as crossing the great water, and succeed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Superstitions and Evolutionary Benefits

Researchers are finding that superstition may be linked to the ability to learn. Clearly, it makes no sense for organisms to believe a specific action influences the future when it can't, yet superstitious behavior in both humans and animals often persists in the face of evidence against it.

According to Live Science:
Superstitions are not free ~ rituals and avoidances cost an animal in terms of energy or lost opportunities. The question becomes how can natural selection create, or simply allow for, such inappropriate behavior? 
"From an evolutionary perspective, superstitions seem maladaptive," said Kevin Abbott, at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and co-author with Thomas Sherratt of a recent study published in Animal Behavior.

The study suggests multiple reasons for such anomalies to exist: perhaps superstition is adaptive as a placebo, or for social bonding. Or maybe it really is maladaptive now, but is "the outcome of traits that were adaptive in ancestral environment; sort of like cognitive wisdom teeth," said Abbott. 
The first description of superstitious behavior in animals came from psychologist B.F. Skinner in 1948. He put half-starved pigeons in cages, offering them a few seconds of access to food trays at regular intervals. As long as the intervals were short, the birds began offering up behaviors ~ like spinning counter-clockwise, rocking from side to side or tossing their heads up as if they were lifting a bar.
They would do these behaviors "as if there were a causal relation between [its] behavior and the presentation of food," wrote Skinner. Once the behaviors were established, they tended to persist, even as time intervals between feeding lengthened.  

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unexpected Drop in Solar Activity

Fading sunspots and weakening magnetic activity near the poles are signs the sun may be less active in the coming years. Three separate studies point to the sun heading into a more dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle greatly reduced or even eliminated.

"The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus," Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, said in a June 14 news briefing. today (June 14). "This is highly unusual and unexpected. But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

According to Live Science:
Sunspots are temporary patches on the surface of the sun that are caused by intense magnetic activity. These structures sometimes erupt into energetic solar storms that send streams of charged particles into space. 
Since powerful charged particles from solar storms can occasionally wreak havoc on Earth's magnetic field by knocking out power grids or disrupting satellites in orbit, a calmer solar cycle could have its advantages.
Astronomers study mysterious sunspots because their number and frequency act as indicators of the sun's activity, which ebbs and flows in an 11-year cycle. Typically, a cycle takes roughly 5.5 years to move from a solar minimum, when there are few sunspots, to the solar maximum, during which sunspot activity is amplified.

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Red Wariness is Evolutionary

New research indicates that evolution has played a key role in why people have strong associations with the color red ~ stop, danger, hot, and dominance, to name just a few. Tests into the meaning and impact of colors involved the male rhesus macaques, a species of monkey found in Puerto Rico.

The similarity of our results with those in humans suggests that avoiding red or acting submissively in its presence may stem from an inherited psychological predisposition,” says Dartmouth College neuroscientist Jerald D. Kralik.

According to Medical News Today:
Two human experimenters, one male and one female, entered the monkeys' colony and found isolated males to test. Both people knelt down, placed a Styrofoam tray in front of them, drew an apple slice from their backpacks, held the slice at chest level for the monkey to see, then placed the apple on the trays. Both stood up simultaneously and took two steps back. 
The monkey typically went directly to the slice he wanted, ran off, and ate it.
The humans wore T-shirts and caps, whose colors ~ red, green, and blue ~ were changed in each of four conditions: red on female, green on male; then vice-versa; red versus blue; blue versus green.
The results were striking. The monkeys paid no mind to the sex of the experimenter. Green or blue made little difference to them either. But in the significant majority of cases, they steered clear of the red-clad humans and stole the food from the other tray.
"We ~ primates and then humans ~ are very visual," Kralik explains. "We are also very social." In both realms, color has important effects, from telling us which food is edible to helping us gauge the emotions of others by the relative redness of their skin. Put the two together, he says, "and we start to see that color may have a deeper and wider-ranging influence on us than we have previously thought."

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Wave/Particle" Measurement Achieved

Physicists have now observed light behaving as both a wave and a particle ~ a feat that “pulls back the veil” on quantum reality in a way previously thought impossible.

According to the BBC:
For instance, a well-known rule called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle maintains that for some pairs of measurements, high precision in one necessarily reduces the precision that can be achieved in the other. One embodiment of this idea lies in a "two-slit interferometer", in which light can pass through one of two slits and is viewed on a screen.
… Now, Aephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto and his colleagues have sidestepped this limitation by undertaking "weak measurements" of the photons' momentum. The team allowed the photons to pass through a thin sliver of the mineral calcite that gave each photon a tiny nudge in its path, with the amount of deviation dependent on which slit it passed through. 
By averaging over a great many photons passing through the apparatus, and only measuring the light patterns on a camera, the team was able to infer what paths the photons had taken.
On one level, the experiment appears to violate a central rule of quantum mechanics, but Professor Steinberg said this was not the case. "While the uncertainty principle does indeed forbid one from knowing the position and momentum of a particle exactly at the same time, it turns out that it is possible to ask 'what was the average momentum of the particles which reached this position?'" he told the BBC. "You can't know the exact value for any single particle, but you can talk about the average."

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Learning the Language of Attraction

Here Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho talks about the workings of the universe and attraction. He's the author of The Alchemist, a short novel he wrote in 1988 and that now has sold 65 million copies and is one of the best-selling books in history.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Do We See the "Apocalypse" as Renewal?

People’s fascination with “end times” likely is rooted in the emotional and cognitive processes of our brains. Such thinking helps us make sense of the world, according to Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Conspiracies and Politics.

Writing in New Scientist, he says:
Emotionally, the end of the world is actually a renewal, a transition to a new beginning and a better life to come. In religious narratives, God smites sinners and resurrects the virtuous.
 For secularists, the sins of humanity are atoned through a change in our political, economic or ideological system. Environmental prognostications of calamity are usually followed with reproaches and recommendations for how we can save the planet. 
… Cognitively, there are several processes at work, starting with the fact that our brains are pattern-seeking belief engines.
… Apocalypse thinking is a form of pattern-seeking based on our cognitive percepts of time passing. We connect A to B to C to D causally because they are connected chronologically, and even though occasionally they form false patterns, in the natural world they are connected often enough that in our brains time and causality are inseparable.
Shermer believes apocalyptic visions help people make sense of “an often seemingly senseless world.”

Click here for the complete article.
Drawing: Albrecht Durer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse