April 27, 2009

University Reformation

I am always pleased to discover like-minded, progressive professors who are not preoccupied with guarding their small territory. I have argued that the tendency in universities has been to develop autonomous departments and to develop sub-departments that assume all the characteristics of human groups – group boundaries, isolation of specialists, competition for scarce resources, delusions of group importance and competitions for privilege and prestige. The departmentalization and fragmentation of the study of humans by humans is a study in itself.

In the midst of the great 2009 recession, when all prior assumptions became obsolete or at least negotiable, Mark Taylor stated: “ If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured.” He argued the graduate education tended to produce highly specialized people who had limited or no employment opportunities: “The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages an educational system that has become a process of cloning. Faculty members cultivate those students whose futures they envision as identical to their own pasts, even though their tenures will stand in the way of these students having futures as full professors.”

For at least three decades I have championed the notion of interdisciplinary collaboration. In Group Dynamics, I stated: “In the most advanced universities some smart people want to connect disciplines and integrate knowledge. Eclectic groups gather to synthesize the information that has accumulated in separate disciplines. Inter-disciplinary groups attract the smartest and most versatile people who are interested in understanding the whole truth, but these humans are not the most effective politicians and seldom are good administrators. The result is that multidisciplinary groups are often short-lived or lack the ability to sustain high levels of funding to achieve a significant and enduring voice in the politics of the organization. A genuine and lasting understanding of human behavior requires that psychology is unified and united with biology, anthropology, sociology paleontology, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science and all the other disciplines that reveal the underlying patterns, tendencies and problems of humans. Indeed, in university terms, separate and competing departments will have to merge in a unified School of the Human Mind.”

Taylor suggested: “ If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured, a long process to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative.” He emphasized the need for curricum reform, the elimination of competing departments to be replaced by inclusive cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural studies.

Human problems proliferate at a frantic pace. Crises of greater and greater magnitude continue to emerge. In an ideal world, people who are smart enough to enter university would be focused on problem solving and crisis management, using all the knowledge and tools available. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world and a well-informed realist recocognizes that humans of all shapes, sizes and colors are limited by built-in features of their brain. Humans are critical and disputatious. Humans in Universities acquire superfical civility, but really, most of them are preoccupied with maintaining or advancing their social status and defending their territory. While it is obvious that Universities, banks and car companies all need fundamental re-structuring, who is going to design and lead this reformation?


Mark C. Taylor. End the University as We Know It. NYT April 27, 2009 (Taylor is the chairman of the religion department at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Field Notes From Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living.”)

See also Stephen Gislason. Group Dynamics.

April 21, 2009

High IQ Barak Obama

The US has imploded into its collection of affluent delusions - a kind of cognitive black hole. For outsiders like me, who studied the depredations of the Bush administration, total collapse of the American economy was not a surprise, but no-one could predict the details. The Bush group created fear, if not panic, in most of the rest of the world. The Bush group displayed a remarkable ability to create enemies inside and outside the country.

Barak Obama has come to rescue the good citizens of that country from their own excesses. He is, by all the measures, a perfect president and an exemplary man. His wife is an exemplary woman. Barack has renewed permission for the smarter US citizens to review what has happened to their great experiment in civil society, engage in intelligent conversation, and plan for a better future. I am enjoying his example of a good natured, rational man confronting an endless series of problems in a methodical manner. He has assembled a talented and able team of advisors and administrators. If there is justice in world, he will succeed and we will all live happily ever after.

Obama gets top IQ marks on my scale. Here is a brief description:

IQ is a handy short form for overall intelligence and IQ scores could be considered as approximate measurements of a number of underlying abilities. Comprehensive IQ testing would go far beyond the relatively selective IQ tests in common use. Comprehensive testing would evaluate at least eight critical domains of mental ability:

1. The ability to live in a group, to cooperate with others and, at the same time, to compete successfully for status, privileges, resources and mates.

2. The ability to recognize what is really going on out there in diverse situations and to act appropriately.

3. Information processing ability including the ability to find, evaluate and apply knowledge relevant to completing real world tasks.

4. The ability to navigate through different environments and to move skillfully with minimal risk of injury or death.

5. The ability to send and receive communications with language and other expressive modalities such as mime, singing, dancing, rhythm, drawing, sculpture, model-making, playing musical instruments.

6. The ability to design, make and use tools effectively.

7. The ability to set goals, sequence, plan and implement strategies

8. The ability to self-evaluate and correct behavior, ideas and strategies when they are not working.

Stephen Gislason April 21 2009.

See Intelligence and Learning

April 20, 2009

We Are One

I have often heard the claim “we are one.” In the best possible world, all humans would recognize others as brothers and sisters, not in the usual familial sense where brothers and sisters fight among themselves, but in an ideal sense of loving, respecting and protecting close kin.

You could argue that an ultimately good future religion would champion this single truth and provide guidance towards sustaining harmonious coexistence.To know that we are one is to transcend human nature. Although different teachings have suggested that transcendence is the goal and offer practices to achieve the goal, the task is formidable and seldom, if ever achieved. The simplest explanation of the difficulty is that differences are more important to humans than similarities.

When you acquire true knowledge and acceptance of human nature, you are ready to begin a journey toward We Are One.

Human nature and human destiny lies within programs in the old brain. Individuals can transcend the old programs by diligent learning and practice but individual effort and learning does not change the genome. Whatever we value about civilized human existence - culture, knowledge, social justice, respect for human rights and dignity must be practiced anew and stored as modifications of each person's neocortex.

Success at humanitarian efforts within a society reveals that portion of human attitudes, beliefs and behavior that can be modified and/or are supported by innate tendencies. Failure of moral authority reveals the extent to which innate negative tendencies prevail no matter how diligent the effort to modify or suppress them.

Each person must understand and modify four innate tendencies:

1. The tendency to criticize, blame and punish others is inevitable in humans and opposes the tendency to cooperate with and care for one another.

2. The tendency to form exclusive groups and discriminate against others is also universal and opposes the tendency toward tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

3. The tendency to covet the property of others, to lie, cheat and steal is also universal and opposes the tendency to respect the integrity of the other, to cooperate and share.

4. The tendency to anger, hatred and killing is also universal and opposes the tendency to recognize the common humanity in the other and opposes the intelligence of seeking ones’ own well being by protecting the well-being of others.

More about Religion for the 21st Century