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How are we born?
Posted: 29 June 2007 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Are we born with love and compassion? Or are do we learn to feel that way?  Is it genetic?  If so have we always been loving and compassionate?

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Posted: 02 July 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Watching children in their early formative years doesn’t make me think of compassion. Quite the contrary. As the little tykes fight each other over simple things like “you’re on my side of the line” or “that’s MY cookie!” I think that compassion and respect are more learned than programmed qualities. Some people do seem to have more of a capacity for compassion than others, but who at this point knows if that results from nurturing or genetics? Babies don’t have compassion for their mother’s schedules or problems. And how could they? Later on we realize all the crap our parents went through to get us to eat, sleep, and exist. It took lots of hard work, and part of a parent’s duty is to teach mutual respect and compassion. But most of us learn the hard way and many of us remain compassionate because we know it’s for our own good. We have “selfish wisdom” derived from our own or other’s experiences. True selfless compassion takes a lot of work, and the fact that Buddhism and other self-based philosophies have techniques to cultivate and create compassion in others suggests heavily that to act with an unselfish compassion we have to think and act different than selfish agents. In other words, we have to “untrain” our selfish base desires.

But a follow-up question could be: is our capacity for compassion a human genetic feature?

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Posted: 03 July 2007 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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It’s not about being born with those things, it’s about being born with a capacity for those things. Humans, having sophisticated brains capable of a wide range of emotions, can both love and hate. It’s enculturation and our exposure to our environment which brings out given behaviors.

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Posted: 06 July 2007 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“rogerflat”]It’s not about being born with those things, it’s about being born with a capacity for those things. Humans, having sophisticated brains capable of a wide range of emotions, can both love and hate. It’s enculturation and our exposure to our environment which brings out given behaviors.

In the book, “Callapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond, chapter 10, “Malthus in Africa: Rwanda’s Genocide” shows how ‘other behaviours’ can be brought out.  How can neighbors, family, and friends start slaughtering each other?  How can children become butchers?

The author closes chapter 10 with these paragraphs:

The term “Malthusian crisis” is impersonal and abstract.  It fails to evoke the horrible, savage, numbing details of what millions of Rwandans did, or had done to them.  Let us give the last words to one observer, and to one survivor.  The observer is, again, Gerard Prunier:

“All these people who were about to be killed had land and at times cows.  And somebody had to get these lands and those cows after the owners were dead.  In a poor and increasingly overpopulated country this was not a negligible incentive.”

The survivor is a Tutsi teacher whom Prunier interviewed, and who survived only because he happened to be away from his house when killers arrived and murdered his wife and four of his five children:

“The people whose children had to walk barefoot to school killed the people who could buy shoes for theirs.”

Diamond had commented before:  “Similar motives may operate again in the future, in some other countries that, like Rwanda, fail to solve their underlying problems.  They may operate again in Rwanda itself, where population today is still increasing at 3% per year, women are giving birth to their first child at age 15, the average family has between five and eight children, and a visitor’s sense is of being surrounded by a sea of children.”

How are we born?  In great numbers.  In numbers more than our instinct for compassion and cooperation can bear.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 06 July 2007 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]How are we born?  In great numbers.  In numbers more than our instinct for compassion and cooperation can bear.

It’s like I sometimes say: The best way to eliminate the demand for the labor of poor people is to eliminate the supply. Actually, it won’t eliminate the demand, but at least the rich would be scraping off the bottom of their own barrel.

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INVEST in cynicism!

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Posted: 07 July 2007 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Its a learn behavior, we are born ego centrist, in uterus everything is taken care for, once we are born we cry an mom provides food, temperature, comfort etc…. spiritual development is much similar to human development, infancy, child, youth, young adult, adult and wisdom

Infancy——————self center interest (ego centrist)
Child———————-parent guided life (religion guided)
Youth———————-rejection of establishment (new laws)
Adult————————acceptance of establishment (not everything is wrong)
Wisdom——————-recognize our limitations to change the establishment (take what is good and educate what we can contribute)

Religion only function should be the human spiritual development, unfortunaly mostly creates fundamentalist which are mostly self center beings that only cares about being right themselves.

Only few become Spiritual Beings mostly caring and loving others. Most of us stay either religion guided following what the book say or we are told, or take in issues such as environment protect the planet which is better than just to follow religion.  Only few get to become an adult in spirituality recognizing weakness is not in others but in us. And very rarely some become spiritual leaders and become a true example of LOVE and WISDOM

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“Life is the COEXISTENCE of opposites values”
Love is Forgiveness
Peace is Tolerance
“In the beginning Man created God according to his own image and understanding. Over the years as Men understanding of morality, violence and tolerance evolves, so evolves our understanding of a Loving God”.

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Posted: 08 July 2007 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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mammooth,

if you haven’t already read it, you may be interested in the book, “Cosmic Consciousness” by Richard Bucke.  Many of his views are outdated, but the main ideas have to do with human biological/mental development, as in your list.  He is especially interested in the enlightenment experience, or cosmic consciousness that comes to some people in their early thirties.  On Amazon you can read some reviews and interesting excerpts.

http://www.amazon.com/Cosmic-Consciousness-Richard-M-Bucke/dp/0821600001

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 08 July 2007 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]mammooth,

if you haven’t already read it, you may be interested in the book, “Cosmic Consciousness” by Richard Bucke.  Many of his views are outdated, but the main ideas have to do with human biological/mental development, as in your list.  He is especially interested in the enlightenment experience, or cosmic consciousness that comes to some people in their early thirties.  On Amazon you can read some reviews and interesting excerpts.

Just curious then, unsmoked, having read Bucke, what do you think of Philip K. Dick’s “enlightenment” in 1974?  It seems similar to Bucke’s cosmic consciousness, but he interpreted it in a much more spiritual manner.

just curious.

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History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

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Posted: 09 July 2007 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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The Bible would dictate that we are born evil.  A view I was raised believing, and seeing evidence for in crying, demanding, self-centered babies.  But this was not evidence for Biblical truth as I had thought.  It was evidence for self-centered sentient beings who have no other means to communicate other than crying and fussing.  They express “I feel uncomfortable” but give no indication as to what is making them uncomfortable, as they themselves do not know what the cause is.
If you spend some time reading books on the development of the brain, it is clear that everything we know was learned in unique context to the environment we learned it in.  So I would say that love and compassion must be observed in order to be understood and therefore learned.  That is not to say that they wouldn’t come naturally after observing the benefits that they entail.  But if one was brought up with harshness and meanness, I would argue that they would have no context with which to understand love and compassion until they have been observed.

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Posted: 11 July 2007 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“switch”][quote author=“unsmoked”]mammooth,

if you haven’t already read it, you may be interested in the book, “Cosmic Consciousness” by Richard Bucke.  Many of his views are outdated, but the main ideas have to do with human biological/mental development, as in your list.  He is especially interested in the enlightenment experience, or cosmic consciousness that comes to some people in their early thirties.  On Amazon you can read some reviews and interesting excerpts.

Just curious then, unsmoked, having read Bucke, what do you think of Philip K. Dick’s “enlightenment” in 1974?  It seems similar to Bucke’s cosmic consciousness, but he interpreted it in a much more spiritual manner.

just curious.

I haven’t read Phillip K. Dick’s work, and know very little about him.  Based on what little I know, I’d say what he experienced in 1974 was drug related, or a combination of drugs and schizophrenia.  Recall that Bucke wrote about Walt Whitman, Jesus, Gautama, and enough others to give us a pretty good idea what he meant by cosmic consciousness. 

The other night, I watched a PBS special on the Mormons.  Joseph Smith’s work of fiction, which launched the entire Latter Day Saints phenomenon, didn’t strike me as cosmic consciousness either.  The non-LDS commentators on the program talked about how the U.S. at Smith’s time was swarming with would-be Christian prophets, some deluded, some charlatans, and at least one of the historians thought Smith was a charlatan who came to believe his own fantasies.  When God got around to telling Smith to adopt polygamy as part of the church ‘program’, we can recognize a familiar pattern of modern fake gurus and their harems of young acolytes.  (Smith later donned a splendid military uniform, brandished a sword, and ran for president).  Did the likes of Jim Jones, David Koresh, believe their own claims?

However, I think Phillip K. Dick’s 1974 visions etc. were real, not something he deliberately made up, but caused by drugs or mental illness or both.  Am I right in saying that Conan Doyle wrote under the influence?
Van Gogh’s paintings?  How many of what we call ‘great works’ were written under the influence; just as, how many ‘great performances’ today?  But Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’, is something else - written over a span of time - rising from a deep, natural source of inspiration that Bucke called cosmic consciousness.

I think Thoreau also experienced what Bucke was talking about.  He didn’t even want to use caffeine.  “Why dash the hopes of a morning with a cup of tea?  Water is my drink.”  Was it Thoreau or Emerson who called Whitman, ‘the good gray poet’.  At any rate, both of them admired him.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 11 July 2007 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“ramshacklejones”]The Bible would dictate that we are born evil.  A view I was raised believing, and seeing evidence for in crying, demanding, self-centered babies.  But this was not evidence for Biblical truth as I had thought.  It was evidence for self-centered sentient beings who have no other means to communicate other than crying and fussing.  They express “I feel uncomfortable” but give no indication as to what is making them uncomfortable, as they themselves do not know what the cause is.
If you spend some time reading books on the development of the brain, it is clear that everything we know was learned in unique context to the environment we learned it in.  So I would say that love and compassion must be observed in order to be understood and therefore learned.  That is not to say that they wouldn’t come naturally after observing the benefits that they entail.  But if one was brought up with harshness and meanness, I would argue that they would have no context with which to understand love and compassion until they have been observed.

In his book, ‘Collapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’, Jared Diamond writes in the chapter dealing with Haiti and the Dominican Republic:

“Haitians remember Trujillo’s worst single atrocity, his ordering the slaughter (by machete)of all 20,000 Haitians living in the northwestern Dominican Republic and parts of the Cibao Valley between October 2 and October 8, 1937.”  What is this, 600 miles from our shores?  Were the slayers a different species?  Surely we’re not capable of such an act.  I understand there are about one million Dominicans living in NY City - they must be just like us.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 16 July 2007 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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unsmoked wrote:

In the book, “Callapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond, chapter 10, “Malthus in Africa: Rwanda’s Genocide” shows how ‘other behaviours’ can be brought out. How can neighbors, family, and friends start slaughtering each other? How can children become butchers?

I never read the whole book (way too long and dry) but I actually did read that chapter on Rwanda.  It was very interesting. Many of the Hutu majority killed even other Hutus when this was purportedly supposed to be an ethnic cleansing of the Tutsi.

I think Diamond sums it up best at the end of the chapter when he says that the fact that killing your neighbor will mean that you can take over his land, his livestock, and his property wasn’t necessarily the cause of the atrocity in Rwanda. But you also can’t rule it out as being a contributing factor.

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Posted: 16 July 2007 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“rogerflat”]unsmoked wrote:

In the book, “Callapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond, chapter 10, “Malthus in Africa: Rwanda’s Genocide” shows how ‘other behaviours’ can be brought out. How can neighbors, family, and friends start slaughtering each other? How can children become butchers?

I never read the whole book (way too long and dry) but I actually did read that chapter on Rwanda.  It was very interesting. Many of the Hutu majority killed even other Hutus when this was purportedly supposed to be an ethnic cleansing of the Tutsi.

I think Diamond sums it up best at the end of the chapter when he says that the fact that killing your neighbor will mean that you can take over his land, his livestock, and his property wasn’t necessarily the cause of the atrocity in Rwanda. But you also can’t rule it out as being a contributing factor.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans were rounded up and taken to camps for the duration of the war.  Four years later, I wonder how many were able to return to their homes, farms or orchards?

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 16 July 2007 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans were rounded up and taken to camps for the duration of the war. Four years later, I wonder how many were able to return to their homes, farms or orchards?

Yep, I see what you’re saying although that is somewhat different. Americans were justified for imprisoning Japanese Americans given the circumstances of the war and the fanaticism of the Japanese (although now-a-days that would be unacceptable).

Japanese Americans were essentially all condemned from the outset and whatever theft occured on their property after their imprisonment was a result of that. However, in Rwanda it was different.  You could simply accuse your neighbor of being a Tutsi sympathizer and murder him and take his property. It would be akin to someone in 1940s America accusing an asian person of being Japanese and then imprisoning them and robbing them….which didn’t happen.

Also, the circumstances leading up to the boiling point of the Rwanda crisis was all about racism and classism, this was not the case with the Japanese.  The fact that they would lose their belongings was also not a benefit conceived by Americans, but was at worst an opportune bonus to those who happened to prosper from it.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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But a follow-up question could be: is our capacity for compassion a human genetic feature?

There is some evidence that compassion is related to genes, in that there are some (4%?) of the population who never express compassion, guilt, remorse or empathy (See Hare’s work on Psychopathy).

Dennis

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Truth, especially “moral truth,” is that elusive human creation whose exclusive apprehension is claimed by many, who then sanctimoniously condemn anyone else who does not agree with their particular apprehension, while denying that any question can be posed about their own apprehension.  I will try to avoid that tendency.  DEC

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Posted: 27 July 2007 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Humans have as much capacity for compassion as they do for violence and hate. Both seem very natural depending on the circumstances. We tend to hate the unknown and “the other” and tend to feel compassion towards our own kind. Compassion for “the other” seems like learned behavior based on an innate capacity. Hate for “the other” seems to come pretty natural. A recent book called “Baboon Metaphysics” explores the question whether or not primates can empathize. They see no evidence whatsoever for empathy in baboons or chimpanzees (some have argued for at least slight signs of empathy in chimps). They theorize that humans, who share a 30,000,000 year old ancestor with baboons, developed the capacity for inferring mental states (and thus compassion and hate) in others relatively late in evolution. Though they admit that more studied need to get done, they cautiously conclude that such mental acrobatics, including recursive thinking, remain human-only traits.

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Ed Womack
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