Line in the sand

A Line in the Sand

Society · · Leave a comment

Every once in a while, a feminist here or there likes to come along and draw a line in the sand, declaring one side as “real feminism” and the other side as fake feminism, or kowtowing to the patriarchy, or…well, fill in the blank with your preferred negative term. Many feminists rightfully get uneasy about these sorts of things, myself included (who am I to say that your feminism is not “real”?). I typically think that labels are nebulous to begin with, and are generally used to describe some rough cluster of beliefs, values, and opinions. But I’d like to go against my uneasiness and perhaps my better judgment and draw a line in the sand for a moment, in the hopes of delineating one critical aspect of feminism. (Don’t worry; I’ll force myself to soften up a little bit at the end.)Continue Reading

Correlation does not imply causation

Correlation and Causation

Science · · Leave a comment

Oftentimes when scientific research is presented in a non-scientific context, such as in the news, someone will add the disclaimer that “correlation does not equal causation”. It’s a statement which has become more well-recognized in the general public in recent years, which is a great trend. However, I still find it problematic because it is sometimes used to dismiss correlational research as somehow invalid or subpar. The truth is that while the statement is correct, it is simplistic. So I’d like to offer a more nuanced understanding of how to evaluate research, at a level that an educated but non-scientific audience can understand and appreciate.Continue Reading

Honesty

The Honest Self

Over the past few days, I’ve begun to notice something about myself. When I watch movies or TV shows, I find myself drawn to the characters who display honesty and transparency. They are often my favourite characters. Locke (in the first half of the series) from Lost. Abed from Community. Gale (in his minor role) in Breaking Bad. Kenneth from 30 Rock. Peter and Hiro from Heroes. These people are not all perfect characters, nor are they always the brightest. But there is some charming simplicity in their actions that draws me toward them. In real life, my closest friends are also ones that display this honesty. I find myself drawn to these people because of the value that I place on honesty.

Obviously, there is nothing taboo about valuing honesty. As the old adage says, “Honesty is the best policy.” But I am drawn to a type of honesty that goes beyond simply not telling lies. It has its roots in something more integral to the self. It is not quite “authenticity”, for that implies being one’s “true self,” whatever that means. The honesty I look for has more to do with a simple sincerity of heart: a degree of integrity. It involves defining one’s purposes and making them plain to everyone. It involves finding one’s identities and being true to them. It is akin to the existentialists’ idea of “good faith,” living a life without self-deception.Continue Reading

World in the shape of a heart

The Way Forward

Society · · Leave a comment

With the recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the news media have every day brought us yet more information. More stories. More pictures. More heartache. The stories of children huddled in closets and teachers reassuring and protecting them, of victims’ families finding themselves facing a Christmas of mourning rather than joy, of gifts unopened and family gatherings missing their youngest member…it is all heart-wrenching. I don’t often find myself overwhelmed with emotion, but reading these stories has left me with tears in my eyes almost every morning. The lives of children, brimming with potential waiting to be unleashed, have been cut short. And as the families of these little victims weep, the world weeps with them.Continue Reading

Grab bag

The Grab Bag Self

Psychology · · 3 comments

What is the “self”? Such a question has had a multitude of answers from philosophers and psychologists throughout history. Although there is an immediate understanding of what I refer to when I say “I”, upon reflection that clarity vanishes. Do I refer to my physical body? That changes over the course of my life as my cells are replaced one by one. (If I have my arm amputated, am I still the same person?) Is it my consciousness? Then I am conceivably a different person when asleep or drunk then when awake or sober. Is it my memories and experiences? Psychology has demonstrated that recalled memories are largely a reconstruction of the brain rather than a true recollection. And what happens if I get amnesia or Alzheimer’s?

All these questions make it difficult to truly pin down what the self entails. We have some sense of continuity over time, but that continuity can be easily broken. So I’d like to take some time to examine, from a psychological perspective, just what it means to have a “self” and to have a sense of self-identity. In the process, I’d like to advance a theory of the self that suggests that at least some of the continuity we experience is illusory. Instead of being a coherent structure, the self is constantly being assembled and reassembled by our minds. So with that said, hang on to your hats, and let’s begin.Continue Reading

Values

Moral Education in a Multicultural Environment

One of the skills that I believe is important to teach in schools is the ability to develop and apply moral values to everyday life. In the past, this sort of thing was done by integrating religion into school. Children would be taught Christian moral values and principles, and they learned to apply them. Once schools became more secularized, this religious moral education was removed. And don’t get me wrong—I believe that is a good thing. However, no system of moral values was put in its place. Instead of embracing the moral values of secular society, schools opted toward a “no-values” approach that removed as much value-judgment as possible. The emphasis shifted to facts and analysis of facts instead of values and value judgments.Continue Reading