October 21, 2017

Why I Left Facebook


I did so to increase my mental freedom, lower instances of external grabbing of my attention, and lessen the commercial manipulation of my values and behavior.

Facebook had just become too much. Their ownership of my photos, pestering with ads, nudges to post more often, and the Trump-supporting posts of some of my Facebook friends were more than I wanted in my life. The real issue was FB's strategy of becoming better at getting my attention and more effective at controlling my point of view. That is to say, my beliefs, values and behaviors. It's a freedom and free will thing for me.

Here is my last post on Facebook:



I have left Facebook. I still express myself but only on my blogs listed below. You are welcome to visit one or more of them and leave any comments you may have. If you have a blog or website of your own please send me a link to it. Thank you.

Being Human – Our Past, Present and Future in Nature
www.jameselassiter.blogspot.com
On Anthropology and Biology

Being – In Nature and the Ethnosphere
www.jelassiter.wordpress.com
On the Anthropology of Culture, Cultural Evolution, and the Peoples of Africa

Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds
www.owl-ibis.blogspot.com
On the Natural & Social Sciences, History, Philosophy, Modern Stoicism, and Aspects of Cultural Studies, including the Sacred

Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC
www.migrationanthro.com
On Human Migration, Refugees, Cross-Cultural Training, and Workplace Culture Analysis
~~~
There are three basic options for leaving Facebook:

If You Like What You Find Here on 'Being Human'....

....you might also like my other blogs and website. If you do, kindly visit them, follow or subscribe to them via email, and leave your comments, if any, on my posts. Thank you.

Here’s a guide to what each site is about:


Being – In Nature and the Ethnosphere
www.jelassiter.wordpress.com
On the Anthropology of Culture, Cultural Evolution, and the Peoples of Africa

Begun in April 2014, this blog focuses on the anthropological concept of culture and prehistoric and historic cultural evolution. Within cultural anthropology emphasis is on ethnology and ethnography, the study, analysis, description, and comparison of specific cultures, with an emphasis on the past and present peoples of Africa. To follow this blog, click the “Follow” popup menu in the lower right corner and enter your email address.




Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds
www.owl-ibis.blogspot.com
On the Natural & Social Sciences, History, Philosophy, Modern Stoicism, and Aspects of Cultural Studies, Including the Sacred

I initiated Owl & Ibis - A Confluence of Minds as a private critical thinker club in mid-2013. On September 22, 2015, I made it public as an open-to-all freethinker online forum and in-person gathering. On September 6, 2017, following my departure from Facebook, I moved the online forum for O&I posts and comments from Facebook to this blog. O&I is a secular, humanist, free-thinker discussion group. Discussion topics are drawn solely from the natural sciences, social sciences, philosophy, history, and cultural studies, including the sacred. Sacred topics have to do with the impact of sacred beliefs and behaviors on the well-being of the individual and his/her society, and on Humankind as a whole. Owl & Ibis is not the forum for religious apologetics and proselytizing. The chairship of meetings will rotate among the participants. At each meeting a presentation will be made by the chair. The presentation will cover a topic from one of the above subject areas and should include a point of argumentation. Any time remaining after the presentation will be used for discussion. Meeting attendees accept and advocate, totally or in part, an understanding of the Universe based on the principles and methods of scientific-secularism, skepticism, and reverence. Owl & Ibis is tolerant of a wide range of worldviews and belief systems. Pluralism and inclusion are regarded to be the best ways forward in Humankind’s efforts at forging a global morality and civilization, and for acting responsibly as Earth's steward. Owl & Ibis attempts to contribute to such a future. To follow this blog fill in the “Follow by Email” form on its left sidebar.





Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC
www.migrationanthro.com
On Human Migration, Refugees, Cross-Cultural Training, and Workplace Culture Analysis

Begun in May 2009, Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC provides expert international and domestic consultancy and training services to governmental and international agencies, non-governmental organizations and voluntary agencies, and corporations and businesses. The multidisciplinary, holistic, participant observation methods of anthropology are applied to human migration, refugee populations, and business and organization workplace analysis.  Behavioral scientific rigor and humanism are essential to this approach. Training programs are also provided on cross-cultural communication and other skills necessary for living and working in multi-cultural, international settings. The MAC website also provides news and commentary on migration, immigration and refugee matters around the world. To follow or subscribe to this website go to its home page and complete the form “Follow by Email.”


October 9, 2017

The Evolutionary Origins of Exogamy – A Way of Avoiding Inbreeding, or Building Trust and Cooperation Between Us and Them?




Perhaps there's a better, more plausible explanation for the findings about prehistoric exogamy described in this report.

I think the findings provide evidence for inter-group cooperation as the norm, over the still wildly popular and persistent notion of our 'red in tooth and claw' social relations and human nature. Specifically, the prehistoric use of exogamous mating networks to establish more stable, predictable if not peaceful inter-group relationships and alliances seems a more likely motivation for out-group mating behavior among our ancient ancestors than, as the reports states, their realizing mating outside one's group would avoid the genetic risks of inbreeding. 
[‘red in tooth and claw,’ Tennyson, 1849, https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/red-in-tooth-and-claw.html%5D]

Excerpts
"The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonised western Eurasia. The results suggest that people deliberately sought partners beyond their immediate family, and that they were probably connected to a wider network of groups from within which mates were chosen, in order to avoid becoming inbred.

"This suggests that our distant ancestors are likely to have been aware of the dangers of inbreeding, and purposely avoided it at a surprisingly early stage in prehistory.

"The symbolism, complexity and time invested in the objects and jewellery found buried with the remains also suggests that it is possible that they developed rules, ceremonies and rituals to accompany the exchange of mates between groups, which perhaps foreshadowed modern marriage ceremonies, and may have been similar to those still practised by hunter-gatherer communities in parts of the world today.

"The study's authors also hint that the early development of more complex mating systems may at least partly explain why anatomically modern humans proved successful while other species, such as Neanderthals, did not. However, more ancient genomic information from both early humans and Neanderthals is needed to test this idea."

October 1, 2017

A Better Way to Study, Explain and Report on Human Behavior Research



by Stephanie D. Preston
Science  29 Sep 2017
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1353-1354

The text in the above diagram image of the brain highlights an important inconsistency within this article and raises an important question. Does "social behavior in humans occurs because of the connections between oxytocin and the reward-based dopaminergic system" as the caption says? Or does social behavior that an individual chooses based on a decision made after assessing risks and prompted by the desire for and hope of reassuring and safe social interactions, generate such hormonal/neurotransmitter connections that are maintained when positive, rewarding interactions begin to, in fact, take place? In this regard the article's researcher and the article's author do in fact caution that the popular literature link between the oxytocin hormone and complex human behavior is overly simplistic. I think the latter is a better explanation.

Yes, consciousness, mind and self are dependent on the brain's biochemistry. But the processes at work at these higher levels of complexity, including 'agency,' need explanations of their own. They are not reducible in a causal sense to biochemistry alone. Bottom up hormonal and neuronal process explanations by themselves are insufficient to discover and explain the myriad of causes underlying and influencing human individual and social behavior.

Excerpts
"Converging research on the role of oxytocin in social bonding suggests that approaching others becomes less scary and more rewarding when it is valuable to the individual."
...
"[I]t has been assumed that oxytocin facilitates social bonds by rendering another individual like a drug—something to approach, enjoy, remember, and seek again. This interpretation is so intuitive that hundreds of 'popular science' articles have been written about oxytocin as the 'love drug' or the 'hug/trust hormone.' However, the reality is far from being this simplistic."
...
"Oxytocin in humans has also been linked to rewarding and pleasurable phenomena such as romantic love, parenting, and comforting touch; and altruism may be promoted by this oxytocin-VTA mechanism. However, there are many noted failures in human research to replicate associations between oxytocin and prosocial behavior. Such failures may reflect that rodent research usually involves clearly bonded, adaptive contexts (mating and caregiving), whereas human research employs more abstract tasks such as giving money to a stranger."

Graphic Text
How social processes become rewarding
Studies in mice suggest that social behavior in humans occurs because of the connections between oxytocin and the reward-based dopaminergic system, which presumably mediates the ability of humans to notice, seek, remember, and return to rewarding experiences of all types—in this case social contact. GRAPHIC: C. BICKEL/SCIENCE

September 28, 2017

Evolving Ourselves - The Future of Being Human in Nature


Being human in Nature includes our biological responses to the physical world, and our ever-increasing number of new adaptive strategies and improvements to long-standing ones.

Revising the very notions of what 'human' and 'Nature' mean is also included here. Beyond our beliefs, values and behaviors, human cultural adaptation also includes improving the effectiveness and reach of our medical procedures and computer and pharmaceutical technologies.

As we have done with all past inventions and innovations, we will have to confront the ethical and moral challenges such interventions into humanness and Nature raise. In doing so we will seek to normalize those new ideas, methods and technological uses that provide the greatest good and least harm to the greatest number of people. 

Might we one day direct our species' and Earth's evolution? Not in the haphazard, often harmful ways we are doing it now but in a reasoned (scientific and humanistic), deliberative, sustainable manner that truly improves not only our species wellbeing and flourishing, but also that of our entire planetary home.

The following excerpts from the book, Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth, by Juan Enriquez and Steven Gullans (2015), provide insights into some of what is already underway in 'evolving' our future, and what may come of our efforts to redefine the mechanisms and outcomes of our and Life's evolution itself.

September 15, 2017

Roundabout VI


TRIBALISM, A COMPUTER SIMULATION

September 14, 2017


I'm not sure I understand this article's title and if the question it poses is answered in the narrative. Your thoughts?
"On this line between beastly machines and angelic rationality, where do we find the human species? If we humans are super-rational, or at least on our way there, there is reason to be optimistic. ... Our cultures are evolving today, but not, it seems, toward any harmony. The chaos of the 21st century makes our simulations feel immediately familiar. ... As intellectuals at both political extremes increasingly see the possibility of a rational political order as a fantasy, Shibboleths take up their role in defining racial, national, and religious boundaries and appear once again to be ineradicable features of political life."

...

"The [computer simulation] models, at least, encourage a guarded optimism. ... Even the genocidal machines at the violent end of the spectrum may carry a heartening lesson. They emerged from the depths of a circuit board, simulated on a supercomputer in Texas. They had no biological excuse to fall back on. Maybe we, too, shouldn’t make excuses: If a behavior is so common as to emerge in the simplest simulations, perhaps we ought neither to fear it, nor to idolize it, but to treat it, the same way we do cancer, or the flu.

"What if we saw tribalism as a natural malfunction of any cognitive system, silicon or carbon? As neither a universal truth or unavoidable sin, but something to be overcome?"



THE CASE AGAINST CIVILIZATION

September 13, 2017


"[T]he lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us."

...

"A key to that lost or forsworn ability [anthropologist James] Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. ... The secret ingredient [to living a Keynsian life of less selfish greed] seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As [Suzman] says, 'If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.' There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."




WHY RELIGION IS NOT GOING AWAY AND SCIENCE WILL NOT DESTROY IT

September 12, 2017

March 6, 2017

A Letter To America From An African



"Dear America,

"[L]ast year’s hostile presidential campaign and election unmasked you and laid you bare. The veil of democracy that has always shrouded your ways and protected you from scrutiny came off. The mystery of a matrix of constitution, law and order that made you divine was violated. Your power, benevolence and beauty, which have been the focus of our envy and desire, have been tainted.

"America, for long we worshipped at your altar. You became the mirror through which we viewed and judged neighbours, friends, foes, and ourselves. You my friend were infallible. We wanted to be like you."
~
"For long, we believed that the principles of democracy and a free society were tightly cemented in the hearts and minds of every American. We envied your ethos for individual rights, regardless of an individual’s race, religion or sexual orientation. We thought yours was the perfect egalitarian and equitable society where all can aspire to and achieve the ‘American dream’. That perfection pedestal, upon which we had placed you, is quickly crumbling. You have exposed your nakedness for the world to see. In your effort to make ‘America Great Again’, you may have replaced us as the laughing stock and pity pet of the world."
~
"America, you have demystified yourself. You have sprawled naked – exposed for the world to see. You no longer confuse or confound us. You have stripped naked and revealed all your flaws.... We can now see that you are no better than the rest of us, and in some instances, may be worse off."
~
"[R]emember all the Western media reports about tribal clashes, xenophobia, dictatorship, corruption, military coup d’√©tats, poverty, disease and hunger in Africa? I never knew I would live to see the day when all this would be said, in some way, of AMERICA! You have proved that at heart we are all the same – good and bad. You have shown the world that Africa does not hold the patent for ‘ugly’.

"As Africans, we have noticed some striking similarities in the character of the man Donald J. Trump and his rise to power to that of some of our past and present strongmen, dictators and tyrants - the ones you condemn and castigate."
~
"It is my earnest hope that Mr. Trump will not follow this lead. I also hope that his actions will not trigger a global epidemic of ill will and disdain for the U.S. or lead to a violent international incident.

"I wish you all the best as you try to settle into your new role.

"Yours truly,

"An African"

February 24, 2017

HALF PRICE! - Circumcision and Coffee in Uganda



KINDLE PRICE REDUCED! To celebrate the upcoming official launch in East Africa of my new book Circumcision and Coffee in Uganda my publisher has reduced the Amazon Kindle eBook price for everyone to US$9.99. That's 50% off the original Kindle price beginning now and throughout the month of March 2017. Thank you for your support of this book, a tribute to a great people. All book sale proceeds go to assist needy youth in Uganda.

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

February 13, 2017

White, Christian Trump Supporters - Let's Talk



"You say you are aggrieved because you have not achieved what you think you deserve or you think some less deserving other has taken it. Despite having moved into the middle class, I have spent my career teaching about and advocating for labor unions, a living wage, affordable childcare, social security, affordable healthcare, accessible higher education. Progressives are actually the ones who support the economic programs and policies that could make a difference for the working class.


"You have a right to be aggrieved, but I fear you are targeting the wrong people. Low paying jobs, job insecurity, companies moving work overseas, low benefits, little vacation ― these are the results of decades of policies that benefit the truly wealthy ― those whose wealth depends not on the labor of their hands but on their ability to exploit the production of poorly paid laborers. The problem is not that immigrants have taken your jobs or drained money from the safety net. The problem is that the system of wealth sets workers against one another so they do not target the real economic power that limits their work and financial security."

Trump won mainly due to the margin Rust Belt Whites gave him because they were angry. Angry because there are fewer employment opportunities where they live; because they felt like second class citizens; because they believe they deserve the lion's share of the wealth and opportunity the country has to offer; because they believe it is they and the politicians they elect who should say if non-Whites should get any of the pie and, if so, how much. Shut up! Now you know how Blacks, Latinos, and other non-whites have lived and felt for decades - marginalized, underemployed, living in the shadows of wealth all around them. Don't like it, huh? Too bad! It is the American corporations that sent your jobs overseas, not because the Liberals in the White House and Congress forced them to but because it meant more profits for those corporations and their stock holders.

African Americans and Latinos who voted for Trump: Do you really believe Trump is going to give you more equality and access to wealth and power than have the Democrats? Read below my post entitled "Doomed?" on Trump and Bannon's vision for our country and a world dominated by White, Western civilization. In this new world they are working toward you will not be sitting as equals among the wealthy and powerful on the bus. You will return to the rear and be forced to take the crumbs they may or may not brush your way.

All of us in the US want a better, fairer chance at achieving the American Dream. Resist the Trump regime to the best of your ability and vote the Republicans out in 2018!


US Secretary of Public Education Destruction

Betsy DeVos
US Secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos is Secretary of Education. What!? I believe and accept it. But I don't like it and will do what I can to resist her actions to dismantle and drain the swamp at the US Department of Education. Here's what DOE (ED) does, from its official website:

Overview and Mission Statement

ED's mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. ED's 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to:

  • Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.
  • Collecting data on America's schools and disseminating research.
  • Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
  • Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

"Ignoramus" - "A totally ignorant person—unknowledgeable, uneducated, or uninformed; a fool." In terms of her qualifications to lead this department, the one that oversees education across our nation, she is "totally ignorant", "uneducated", and "uninformed". As for being a "fool" that applies to more than her. Being utterly unqualified she nevertheless accepted the post. Only a fool would do that. The bigger fools are the person who nominated her and those in the Senate who voted to approve her. Utter fools!

How is she going to lead this department's effort to "promote preparation for global competitiveness" by dismantling it and sending all authority over education to the states and local communities, where home schooling, creationism as equivalent evolutionary biology, and charter school segregation can expand?

Do you think US students are weak now compared to other countries in their knowledge of science, math, history, geography, and critical thinking? Wait until our children's education goes totally local and our kids graduate and lay some "creation science" and "alternative facts" on them at international professional conferences. Boy, that sure will demonstrate we are globally competitive, won't it!? That is, if our locally-schooled attendees know enough about international geography to find their way to the meeting in the first place.

Me? Just a whiny, snowflake liberal elitist who is intolerant of alternative facts and other points of view - attended public schools throughout, BA, MS, PHD; Peace Corps Volunteer science teacher 1980-83; school board chairman, Lincoln Community School, Accra, Ghana 1988-89.

No, don't even start. Every time I stop at a yard sale here in Fayette County, Georgia and go through the home school science books being sold, every one of them is creation science published at Bob Jones University. And no, charter schools are not better for most families, especially not for poor families who can't afford them; improving public schools is.

Yes, I'm very unhappy about what the president is doing. His picks for Justice, State, Health, and Housing and Urban Development were bad enough. But to me, a lover of knowledge and education, the choice and confirmation of DeVos was the absolute worst.
Join this patriot and many others who love our already great country and who don't support what is being done to it and its institutions, including the Department of Education. Resist and prepare for the November 6, 2018 election!

February 8, 2017

Doomed?


The US electoral system has given control of the US and Humankind's future to delusional and destructive forces. The future no longer belongs to those seeking a gradual, peaceful progression toward realizing Enlightenment ideals. Instead we are being led toward the destruction of the global system. This will clear the way for Trump to establish Western Christian supremacy throughout the world with the US in charge. For details about this vision and plan, read anything you can find (including the links below) about top Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon's view of history and plan for the world's future

No, what you're reading now is not the ranting of a hare-brained, politically correct, snowflake; a quiche-eating, progressive liberal whiner, a pinhead urban intellectual who doesn't know what he's talking about.

I'm a sergeant's son and Vietnam era veteran; former Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Africa; former Peace Corps country director in two African countries; former assistant immigration attaché and diplomat; retired Department of Homeland Security refugee resettlement manager; and an ethnographer who has studied people's beliefs, values and behavior for over forty years.

January 2, 2017

Roundabout V


HOW FEAR HELPS THE GUN BUSINESS (CONTINUED)
June 24, 2016

Let's see if I correctly understand the recent article on guns I posted. Many white folks in the US were alarmed over black folks and their supporters demonstrating and rioting in the '60s and '70s. Many of these people became fearful, judgmental, resentful, and blaming. Instead of seeking an understanding of why blacks were complaining and rioting, and, if any of their complaints had merit, what if anything might be done to address their grievances, many whites decided to call the disturbances a law-and-order matter with an often unspoken undertone of group-blame based on racial prejudice and bias.

A large part of their response to this perceived threat to their person, property, wealth and power was to buy guns and shoot blacks and anyone else who might try to rob or harm them. This, such whites thought but most would not say, would help protect themselves and their stuff, and slow down or stop the ongoing erosion of their societal power and privilege.

Let's now consider what happened next. Most Republican politicians and key fundamentalist Christian leaders quickly jumped in and proclaimed their strong support for this kind of thinking and action. Underneath it all they knew it was a quasi-law and order response yet they went along with it and festooned it all with religious righteousness and patriotism.

Now, let's see how this response to America's social and cultural evolution toward a more just, humane, rational society worked out. Well, we now have a society where gun selling, buying and use are, for all practical purposes, poorly controlled to the point that a significant number of preventable deaths of innocent people cannot be stopped. Worst of all, the majority of a major political party and their base of supporters are on the verge of putting forward a vulgar, race-baiting, misogynist, laissez-faire uber-capitalist for the US presidency.

How did all this happen? Go to the top of this post and the essay and start over. What can we do? 1) Do not confirm Trump as the GOP nominee. 2) If he's nominated, vote against him in November and encourage others to do the same. What about the problem of choosing inappropriate responses to social problems? Support people at all levels of society and circumstances who offer societal and individual responses and solutions based on reason, unbiased research evidence, and critical thinking; and oppose in all forums and situations those who act on, feed into, racialize, politicize, profit from, and supernaturally sanctify our emotions and fears.

Do you think I correctly understand this? If not, please explain.


POPULISM AND DEMOGAUGERY 2016
June 27, 2016

You know me, Mr. Positive and hopeful about our species' continuing survival and flourishing based on our first 200,000 years of cultural evolution. My optimism that the global morality and civilization we are building, following the establishment of the UN in 1945 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN in 1948, will continue to grow and become a reality.

However, the populism and demagoguery currently on display among many in the UK and US, and elsewhere, and the continuing persecution of millions by repressive governments and certain followers of religion are beginning to make me question my hopefulness.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
...
- W.B Yeats

I've known and loved this poem for years. Now I look at the phrase "the center cannot hold" and ask: What exactly is that "center?" And what might Yeats have meant by "cannot hold?"

The center must mean more than a government authority. It must also mean a commitment by Humankind to specific principles - enlightened, reasoned governance; a balance between an individual's freedom and his/her duty to others; and an appreciation and respect for the diversity of human beliefs, values, and behaviors, locally and globally.

Irishman Yeats wrote this poem in 1919, during the turmoil after WWI and at a time when Britain was dealing with Irish uprisings. His center holding or not referred to Britain remaining a United Kingdom during that time. It was also an obvious alarm about a broader, civilizational or Humankind as a whole problem.

Is H. sapiens at another fork in the road of its cultural evolutionary journey? Our first being to choose dependence on group life and the development of ever more efficient tools as survival strategies, or not. And now, after many successive evolutionary forks that have been navigated successfully, are we at a time of choosing between reason and emotion, between principled democracy and mob rule as means for pursuing human flourishing? In many ways it would seem so.

Choosing paths forward in the past was accomplished by different means - political, religious, military - and sometimes by necessity or luck. Sometimes enlightened, benign despots held sway. It was only in the middle of the last century that a successful attempt was begun to unify Humankind under a set of elective principles to pursue peace, human rights, and flourishing for all.

Is the current populism and demagoguery a statement that these goals currently at the center of Humankind's collective striving are ignoble or unachievable goals? That unfettered individual emotion and violence and rabid nationalism are our preferred ways forward at this current fork in the road? Are we now crying out to be the brutes of our short-sighted emotions as opposed to the deliberate and measured guidance of our reasoning?

Your thoughts?


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