What Mormons Believe About Jesus Christ / By The Mormons

 

The “thing” about the Mormons is that they can SOUND RATIONAL about the most IRRATIONAL “things” !!!

Add this post to: Why Asperger’s say that neurotypicals are stupid…

from: http://mormonnewsroom.org

Check out: http://templestudy.com/tag/holyofholies

The following excerpts are taken from an address to the Harvard Divinity School (Puritans)  in March 2001 by Robert L. Millet, former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University. It is offered on Newsroom as a resource.

What Do We Believe About Jesus Christ?

Latter-day Saints are Christians on the basis of our doctrine, our defined relationship to Christ, our patterns of worship and our way of life.

What Do We Believe About Christ?

  • We believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh (John 3:16). We accept the prophetic declarations in the Old Testament that refer directly and powerfully to the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of all humankind. We believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the fulfillment of those prophecies.
  • We believe the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament to be historical and truthful. For us the Jesus of history is indeed the Christ of faith. While we do not believe the Bible to be inerrant, complete or the final word of God, we accept the essential details of the Gospels and more particularly the divine witness of those men who walked and talked with Him or were mentored by His chosen apostles.
  • We believe that He was born of a virgin, Mary, in Bethlehem of Judea in what has come to be known as the meridian of time, the central point in salvation history. From His mother, Mary, Jesus inherited mortality, the capacity to feel the frustrations and ills of this world, including the capacity to die. We believe that Jesus was fully human in that He was subject to sickness, to pain and to temptation.
  • We believe Jesus is the Son of God the Father and as such inherited powers of godhood and divinity from His Father, including immortality, the capacity to live forever. While He walked the dusty road of Palestine as a man, He possessed the powers of a God and ministered as one having authority, including power over the elements and even power over life and death.
  • We believe Jesus performed miracles, including granting sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to some who had died and forgiveness to those steeped in sin. We believe the New Testament accounts of healings and nature miracles and the cleansing of human souls to be authentic and real.
  • We believe Jesus taught His gospel — the glad tidings or good news that salvation had come to earth through Him — in order that people might more clearly understand both their relationship to God the Father and their responsibility to each other.
  • We believe Jesus selected leaders, invested them with authority and organized a church. We maintain that the Church of Jesus Christ was established, as the Apostle Paul later wrote, for the perfection and unity of the saints (Ephesians 4:11–14).
  • We believe that Jesus’ teachings and His own matchless and perfect life provide a pattern for men and women to live by and that we must emulate that pattern as best we can to find true happiness and fulfillment in this life.
  • We believe Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and that He submitted to a cruel death on the cross of Calvary, all as a willing sacrifice, a substitutionary atonement for our sins. That offering is made efficacious as we exercise faith and trust in Him; repent of our sins; are baptized by immersion as a symbol of our acceptance of His death, burial and rise to newness of life; and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37–38; 3 Nephi 27:19–20). While no one of us can comprehend how and in what manner one person can take upon himself the effects of the sins of another or, even more mysteriously, the sins of all men and women — we accept and glory in the transcendent reality that Christ remits our sins through His suffering. We know it is true because we have experienced it personally. Further, we believe that He died, was buried and rose from the dead and that His resurrection was a physical reality. We believe that the effects of His rise from the tomb pass upon all men and women. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (Corinthians 15:22).
  • We do not believe that we can either overcome the flesh or gain eternal reward through our own unaided efforts. We must work to our limit and then rely upon the merits, mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel to see us through the struggles of life and into life eternal (2 Nephi 31:19; Moroni 6:4). We believe that while human works are necessary— including exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, receiving the sacraments or ordinances of salvation and rendering Christian service to our neighbors — they are not sufficient for salvation (2 Nephi 25:23; Moroni 10:32). We believe that our discipleship ought to be evident in the way we live our lives.

In essence, we declare that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and the central figure in our theology.

How Are We Different?

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Christ that emerges from centuries of debates and councils and creeds. Over the years that followed the death and resurrection of the Lord, Christians sought to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). We believe that the epistles of Paul, Peter, Jude and John suggest that the apostasy or falling away of the first-century Christian church was well underway by the close of the first century. With the deaths of the apostles and the loss of the priesthood, the institutional power to perform and oversee saving sacraments or ordinances, learn the mind of God and interpret scripture was no longer on earth. To be sure, there were noble men and women throughout the earth during the centuries that followed, religious persons of good will, learned men who sought to hold the church together and to preserve holy writ. But we believe that these acted without prophetic authority. 

In an effort to satisfy the accusations of Jews who denounced the notion of three Gods (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) as polytheistic, and at the same time incorporate ancient but appealing Greek philosophical concepts of an all-powerful moving force in the universe, the Christian church began to redefine the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One classic work describes the intersection of Christian theology and Greek philosophy: “It is impossible for any one, whether he be a student of history or no, to fail to notice a difference of both form and content between the sermons on the Mount and the Nicene Creed. … The one belongs to a world of Syrian peasants, the other to a world of Greek philosophers. … The religion which our Lord preached … took the Jewish conception of a Father in heaven, and gave it a new meaning.” In short, “Greek Christianity of the fourth century was rooted in Hellenism. The Greek minds which had been ripening for Christianity had absorbed new ideas and new motives.”[i]

What is the result? Such Platonic concepts as the immutability, impassibility and timelessness of God made their way into Christian theology. (Yes, this is all true, but it’s ALL neurotypical madness, so what’s the point?) As one group of Evangelical scholars has stated: “Many Christians experience an inconsistency between their beliefs about the nature of God and their religious practice. For example, people who believe that God cannot change his mind sometimes pray in ways that would require God to do exactly that. And Christians who make use of the free will defense for the problem of evil sometimes ask God to get them a job or a spouse, or keep them from being harmed, implying that God should override the free will of others in order to achieve these ends. …

“These inharmonious elements are the result of the coupling of biblical ideas about God with notions of the divine nature drawn from Greek thought. The inevitable encounter between biblical and classical thought in the early church generated many significant insights and helped Christianity evangelize pagan thought and culture. Along with the good, however, came a certain theological virus that infected the Christian doctrine of God, making it ill and creating the sorts of problems mentioned above. The virus so permeates Christian theology that some have come to take the illness for granted, attributing it to divine mystery, while others remain unaware of the infection altogether.”[ii]

Latter-day Saints believe that the simplest reading of the New Testament text produces the simplest conclusion — that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are separate and distinct personages, that They are one in purpose. We feel that the sheer preponderance of references in the Bible would lead an uninformed reader to the understanding that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate beings. That is, one must look to the third- and fourth-century Christian church, not to the New Testament itself, to make a strong case for the Trinity. Sounds kind of sane, (for neurotypicals) n’est-ce-pas? 

Some Distinctive Contributions

What, then, can the Latter-day Saints contribute to the world’s understanding of Jesus Christ? What can we say that will make a difference in how men and women view and relate to the Savior?

Now for the bat crap crazy stuff:

The First Vision

Joseph Smith’s First Vision represents the beginning of the revelation of God in our day. President Gordon B. Hinckley has observed: “To me it is a significant and marvelous thing that in establishing and opening this dispensation our Father did so with a revelation of himself and of his Son Jesus Christ, as if to say to all the world that he was weary of the attempts of men, earnest through these attempts might have been, to define and describe him. … The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation.”[iii] By revelation Joseph Smith came to know that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead. From the beginning Joseph Smith taught that the members of the Godhead are one in purpose, one in mind, one in glory, one in attributes and powers, but separate persons.[iv]

There was reaffirmed in the First Vision the fundamental Christian teaching — that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, was buried and rose from the tomb in glorious immortality. In the midst of that light that shone above the brightness of the sun stood the resurrected Lord Jesus in company with His Father. Joseph Smith knew from the time of the First Vision that death was not the end, that life continues after one’s physical demise, that another realm of existence — a postmortal sphere — does in fact exist.

The Book of Mormon

Through the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, came additional insights concerning the person and powers of Jesus the Christ. We learn that He is the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (1 Nephi 19:10) and that through an act of infinite condescension He left His throne divine and took a mortal body (1 Nephi 11; Mosiah 3:5). We learn from the teachings of the Book of Mormon prophets that He was a man but much more than man (Mosiah 3:7–9; Alma 34:11), that He had within Him the powers of the Father, the powers of the Spirit (2 Nephi 2:8; Helaman 5:11), the power to lay down His life and the power to take it back up again.

Another prophet, Alma, contributed the unfathomable doctrine that the Redeemer would not only suffer for our sins, but that His descent below all things would include His suffering for our pains, our sicknesses and our infirmities, thus allowing Him perfect empathy — “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11–12). Truly, the Book of Mormon prophets bear repeated witness that the atonement of Christ is infinite and eternal in scope (2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:11–12)

One could come away from a careful reading of the second half of the New Testament somewhat confused on the matter of grace and works, finding those places where Paul seems almost to defy any notion of works as a means of salvation (Romans 4:1–5; 10:1–4; Ephesians 2:8–10) but also those places where good works are clearly mentioned as imperative (Romans 2:6; James 2:14–20; Revelation 20:12–13). It is to the Book of Mormon that we turn to receive the balanced perspective on the mercy and grace of an infinite Savior on the one hand, and the labors and works of finite man on the other.

In the Book of Mormon, the sobering realization that no one of us can make it alone is balanced by a consistent statement that the works of men and women, including the receipt of the ordinances of salvation, the performance of duty and Christian acts of service — in short, being true to our part of the gospel covenant — though insufficient for salvation, are necessary. The prophets declared over and over that the day would come when people would be judged of their works, the works done “in their days of probation” (1 Nephi 15:32; 2 Nephi 9:44). That is, “all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been — if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil (Alma 9:28). In summary, the undergirding doctrine of the Book of Mormon is that we are saved by the grace of Christ “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23), meaning above and beyond all we can do. As we come unto Christ by covenant, deny ourselves of ungodliness and love God with all our souls, His grace—His divine enabling power, not only to be saved in the ultimate sense but also to face the challenges of each day — is sufficient for us (Moroni 10:32).

The Book of Mormon has a high Christology; that is, the doctrine of Christ is thick and heavy on the pages of this scriptural record, and the testimony of the divinity of the Lord and Savior is powerful and direct. One cannot read the Book of Mormon and honestly come away wondering what the Latter-day Saints believe about the Divine Sonship. The Book of Mormon establishes clearly that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations” (Book of Mormon title page; 2 Nephi 26:12).

At the heart of the doctrine restored through Joseph Smith is the doctrine of the Christ. “The fundamental principles of our religion,” he observed, “are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”[v] The glorious news, the glad tidings is that Christ our Lord has come to earth, offered Himself as a ransom from sin and made available deliverance from death and hell. We rejoice in the message of redemption that fell from the lips of Old and New Testament prophets. More especially we exult in the realization that knowledge and truth and light and understanding concerning Jesus Christ — who He was, who He is and what marvels have come to pass through Him — have been delivered through additional scriptural records and modern prophetic utterances.

“Him Declare I Unto You”

One of the main reasons Latter-day Saints are often relegated to the category of cult of non-Christian is because we believe in scripture beyond the Bible. To be sure, we love the Bible. We cherish its sacred teachings and delight in reading and teaching it. We seek to conform our lives to its marvelous precepts. But we do not believe that the Bible contains all that God has spoken or will yet speak in the future.

Occasionally we hear certain Latter-day Saint teachings — like some of those concerning the Savior that I have detailed earlier — described as “unbiblical” or of a particular doctrine being “contradictory” to the Bible. Let’s be clear on this matter. The Bible is one of the books within our standard works, our scriptural canon, and thus our doctrines and practices are in harmony with the Bible. There are times, of course, when latter-day revelation provides clarification of additional information to the Bible. But addition to the canon is hardly the same as rejection of the canon. Supplementation is not the same as contradiction. All of the prophets, including the Savior Himself, brought new light and knowledge to the world; in many cases, new scripture came as a result of their ministry. That new scripture did not invalidate what went before nor did it close the door on subsequent revelation.

Most New Testament scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark in the preparation of their Gospels. One tradition is that John the Beloved, aware of the teaching of the synoptics, prepared his Gospel in an effort to “fill in the gaps” and thus deal more with the great spiritual verities that his evangelistic colleagues chose not to include. How many people in the Christian tradition today would suggest that what Matthew or Luke did in adding to what Mark had written was illegal or inappropriate or irreverent? Do we suppose that anyone in the first century would have so felt?

Would anyone accuse Matthew or Luke or John of writing about or even worshipping a “different Jesus” because they were bold enough to add to what had been recorded already? Surely not. Why? Because Matthew and Luke and John were inspired for God, perhaps even divinely commissioned by the church to pen their testimonies.

If Luke (in the Gospel, as well as in Acts) or John chose to write of subsequent appearance of the Lord Jesus after His ascension into heaven, appearances not found in Mark or Matthew, are we prone to criticize, to cry foul? No, because these accounts are contained in the Christian canon, that collection of books that serves as the rule of faith and practice in the Christian world.

The authority of scripture is tied to its source. From our perspective, the living, breathing, ever-relevant nature of the word of God is linked not to written words, not even to the writing of Moses or Isaiah or Malachi, not to the four Gospels or the epistles of Paul, but rather to the spirit of prophecy and revelation that illuminated and empowered those who recorded them in the first place. The Bible does in fact contain much that can and should guide our walk and talk; it contains the word and will of the Lord to men and women in earlier ages, and its timeless truths have tremendous normative value for our day. But we do not derive authority to speak or act in the name of Deity on the basis of what God gave to His people in an earlier day.

Just how bold is the Latter-day Saint claim? In a letter to his uncle Silas, Joseph Smith wrote the following:

Why should it be thought a thing incredible that the Lord should be pleased to speak again in these last days for their salvation? Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion that I should say ‘for the salvation of his creatures in these last days’ since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word [the Bible] which he has previously given. But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not sufficient or Abraham. … Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest his hope upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but was privileged with the assurance of [God’s] approbation in the sight of heaven by the direct voice of the Lord to him. … I have no doubt but that the holy prophets and apostles and saints in the ancient days were saved in the kingdom of God. … I may believe that Enoch walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. … And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries as soon [as] he ever did to theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? Or is he a respecter of persons?[vi]

Latter-day Saints feel a deep allegiance to the Bible. It seems odd to us, however, to be accused of being irreverent or disloyal to the Bible when we suggest to the religious world that the God of heaven has chosen to speak again. Our challenge is hauntingly reminiscent of that faced by Peter, James, John or Paul when they declared to the religious establishment of their day that God had sent new truths and new revelations into the world, truths that supplemented and even clarified the Hebrew scripture. And what was the response of the Jews of the day? “Who do you think you are?” they essentially asked. “We have the Law and the Prophets. They are sufficient.” Any effort to add to or to take away from that collection of sacred writings was suspect and subject to scorn and ridicule. And so it is today.

A Willingness to Listen and Learn

A number of years ago a colleague and I traveled with two Evangelical Christian friends to another part of the country to meet with a well-known theologian, author and pastor/teacher in that area. We had read several of his books and had enjoyed his preaching over the years. As a part of an outreach effort to better understand those of other faiths (and to assist them to understand us a little better), we have visited such institutions as Notre Dame, Catholic University, Baylor, Wheaton College and various religious colleges and seminaries. We met this particular pastor and then attended his church services on both Sunday morning and Sunday evening and in both meetings were impressed with the depth and inspiration of his preaching.

The next day we met for lunch and had a wonderful two-hour doctrinal discussion. I explained that we had no set agenda, except that we had admired his writings and wanted to meet him. We added that we had several questions we wanted to pose in order to better understand Evangelical theology. I mentioned that as the dean of religious education (at that time), I oversaw the teaching of religion to some 30,000 young people at Brigham Young University and that I felt it would be wise for me to be able to articulate properly the beliefs of our brothers and sisters of other faiths. I hoped, as well, that they might make the effort to understand our beliefs so as to represent accurately what we teach.

Early in our conversation the minister said something like: “Look, anyone knows there are big difference between us. But I don’t want to focus on those differences. Let’s talk about Christ.” We then discussed the person of Jesus, justification by faith, baptism, sanctification, salvation, heaven, hell, agency and predestination, premortal existence and a number of other fascinating topics. We compared and contrasted, we asked questions and we answered questions. In thinking back on what proved to be one of the most stimulating and worthwhile learning experiences of our lives, the one thing that characterized our discussion, and the one thing that made the biggest difference, was the mood that existed there — a mood of openness, candor and a general lack of defensiveness. We knew what we believed, and we were all committed to our own religious tradition. But we were eager to learn where the other person was coming from. (Blah, blah, blah)

This experience says something to me about what can happen when men and women of good will come together in an attitude of openness and in a sincere effort to better understand and be understood. Given the challenges we face in our society — fatherless homes, child and spouse abuse, divorce, poverty, spreading crime and delinquency — it seems so foolish for men and women who believe in God, whose hearts and lives have been surrendered to that God, to allow doctrinal differences to prevent them from working together. Okay, you believe in a triune God, that the Almighty is a spirit and that He created all things ex nihilo. I believe that God is an exalted man, that He is a separate and distinct personage from the Son and the Holy Ghost. He believes in heaven, while she believes in nirvana. She believes that the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday, while her neighbor feels that the day of corporate worship should be on Friday. This one speaks in tongues, that one spends much of his time leading marches against social injustice, while a third believes that little children should be baptized. One good Baptist is a strict Calvinist, while another tends to take freedom of the will quite seriously. And so on, and so on.

Latter-day Saints do not believe that the answer to the world’s problems is ultimately to be found in more extravagant social programs or stronger legislation. Most or[S1] all of these ills have moral or spiritual roots. In the spirit of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, is it not possible to lay aside theological differences long enough to address the staggering social issues in our troubled world? My recent interactions with men and women of various faiths have had a profound impact on me; they have broadened my horizons dramatically and reminded me — a sobering reminder we all need once in a while — that we are all sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father. We may never resolve our differences on the Godhead or the Trinity, on the spiritual or corporeal nature of Deity or on the sufficiency or inerrancy of the Bible, but we can agree that there is a God; that the ultimate transformation of society will come only through the application of moral and religious solutions to pressing issues; and that the regeneration of individual hearts and souls is foundational to the restoration of virtue in our communities and nations. One need not surrender cherished religious values or doctrines in order to be a better neighbor, a more caring citizen, a more involved municipal. (So rational! So Puritan!)

In addition, we can have lively and provocative discussion on our differences, and such interactions need not be threatening, offensive or damaging to our relationships. What we cannot afford to do, if we are to communicate and cooperate, is to misrepresent one another or ascribe ulterior motives. Such measures are divisive and do not partake of that Spirit that strengthens, binds and reinforces. President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the Latter-day Saints:

We want to be good neighbors; we want to be good friends. We feel we can differ theologically with people without being disagreeable in any sense. We hope they feel the same way toward us. We have many friends and many associations with people who are not of our faith, with whom we deal constantly, and we have a wonderful relationship. It disturbs me when I hear about any antagonisms. … I don’t think they are necessary. I hope that we can overcome them.[vii]

There is, to be sure, a risk associated with learning something new about someone else. New insights always affect old perspectives, and thus some rethinking, rearranging and restructuring of our worldview are inevitable. When we look beyond a man or a woman’s color or ethnic group or social circle or church or synagogue or mosque or creed or statement of belief, when we try our best to see them for who and what they are, children of the same God, something good and worthwhile happens to us, and we are thereby drawn into a closer union with the God of us all. (Okay, okay! Just stop!)

Conclusion

Jesus Christ is the central figure in the doctrine and practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the Redeemer.[viii] He is the prototype of all saved beings, the standard of salvation.[ix] Jesus explained that “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We acknowledge Jesus Christ as the source of truth and redemption, as the light and life of the world, as the way to the Father (John 14:6; 2 Nephi 25:29; 3 Nephi 11:11). We worship Him in that we look to Him for deliverance and redemption and seek to emulate His matchless life (D&C 93:12–20). Truly, as one Book of Mormon prophet proclaimed, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).

As to whether we worship a “different Jesus,” we say again: We accept and endorse the testimony of the New Testament writers. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), literally the light of the world (John 8:12). Everything that testifies of His divine birth, His goodness, His transforming power and His godhood, we embrace enthusiastically. But we also rejoice in the additional knowledge latter-day prophets have provided about our Lord and Savior. President Brigham Young thus declared that

we, the Latter-day Saints, take the liberty of believing more than our Christian brethren: we not only believe … the Bible, but … the whole of the plan of salvation that Jesus has given to us. Do we differ from others who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? No, only in believing more.[x]

It is the “more” that makes many in the Christian world very nervous and usually suspicious of us. But it is the “more” that allows us to make a significant contribution in the religious world. Elder Boyd K. Packer observed: “We do not claim that others have no truth. … Converts to the Church may bring with them all the truth they possess and have it added upon.”[xi]

Knowing what I know, feeling what I feel and having experienced what I have in regard to the person and power of the Savior, it is difficult for me to be patient and loving toward those who denounce me as a non-Christian. But I am constrained to do so in the spirit of Him who also was misunderstood and misrepresented. While it would be a wonderful thing to have others acknowledge our Christianity, we do not court favor nor will we compromise our distinctiveness.

We acknowledge and value the good that is done by so many to bring the message of Jesus from the New Testament to a world that desperately needs it.

The First Presidency of the Church in 1907 made the following declaration: “Our motives are not selfish; our purposes not petty and earth-bound; we contemplate the human race, past, present and yet to come, as immortal beings, for whose salvation it is our mission to labor; and to this work, broad as eternity and deep as the love of God, we devote ourselves, now, and forever.”[xii]

Actually, it’s not some “Trinity doctrine thing” that “other Christians” care about (or know about) it’s the whacko “archaeology” of Mormon history and beliefs that put them at the top of the list of Bizarre Cult Fantasies, over and beyond those of New Age Cults and “Ancient Aliens”

Google: “Mormon Archaeology”

 

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Anxiety Disorders / Stress is bad; why do we promote stress?

Journal of the American Osteopathic Assoc., March 2004 vol.104 S2-S5

http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2092999

Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders

Charles Shelton, Doctor of Osteopathy

Before posting the article, I think it’s important to at least try to explain the difference between an MD and a DO. There is info online, but it’s not very clear except to say that the two are genuine medical doctors, but osteopathy has a different “philosophy and practice” style than “allopathic” medical doctors.

Info from the article: This article was developed from a lecture presented by Dr Shelton at a symposium sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals at the 108th Annual AOA Convention and Scientific Seminar on October 15, 2003, in New Orleans, La. Dr Shelton is a national speaker on the visiting speakers bureau of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. He is also on the speakers bureaus of GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer Inc; Cephalon, Inc; and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr Shelton is also on the CNS advisory panels of Pfizer Inc and Elan Pharmaceuticals.

What is a DO? From The American Osteopathic Assoc.

“Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well. (Comment; the average person might think that all doctors had some training in patient interaction, but as many of know from experience, apparently not!)

DOs receive special training in the musculoskeletal system, your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. (Hence osteo-bone) By combining this knowledge with the latest advances in medical technology, they offer patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

Osteopathic physicians focus on prevention, tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their wellbeing. DOs strive to help you be truly healthy in mind, body and spirit — not just free of symptoms. (See article for lists of pharmaceuticals “used for” each anxiety disorder)-

_____________

Abstract

Major anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than in men. Although the tendency toward anxiety disorders appears familial, other factors such as environmental influences can play a role in the risk for anxiety. This clinical review focuses on the pathophysiologic basis for anxiety disorders. It provides brief overviews of panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. It also summarizes treatment options for patients with anxiety disorders. (Specific pharmaceuticals for each anxiety “type” may be informative IF you’ve been correctly diagnosed – a very big IF!)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR)1 defines the five major anxiety disorders as social anxiety disorder (SAD), panic disorder (PD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Panic attacks, which represent an extreme form of anxiety, can occur in association with most of these anxiety disorders, though they are not typically associated with GAD. Lifetime prevalence rates of the major anxiety disorders range between approximately 3% (OCD) and 12% (SAD) and are approximately two times greater among women than among men.2,3

Pathophysiology of Anxiety Disorders

In the same way that behavioral traits are passed from parent to child, anxiety disorders tend to run through family structures. Studies comparing the risk of psychiatric illness in identical twins (who share 100% of their DNA) have found that in general, if one identical twin has a psychiatric condition, the risk that the other twin will have the same condition is approximately 50%.4 It therefore appears that nongenetic factors, including environmental influences occurring throughout the lifespan, must also contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.2,3

The human body attempts to maintain homeostasis at all times. Anything in the environment that disturbs homeostasis is defined as a stressor. Homeostatic balance is then reestablished by physiologic adaptations that occur in response to the stress response. (Comment: The dangerous American social belief that “superior humans” actually “thrive on more and more stress” is highly dysfunctional! The current idiotic belief is that the practice of increasing the stress that the average person must “deal with” every day, somehow (mystical natural selection) “improves” performance is abusive and a perversion of “survival of the fittest.” It’s DEADLY and accounts for the increase in poor health outcomes for Americans.  But if it increases profits – it “must be good”!

The stress response in humans involves a cascade of hormonal events, including the release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which, in turn, stimulates the release of corticotropin, leading to release of the stress hormones (glucocorticoids and epinephrine) from the adrenal cortex. The glucocorticoids typically exert negative feedback to the hypothalamus, thus decreasing the release of CRF.6

The stress response is hardwired into the brain of the typical mammal and is most often triggered when survival of the organism is threatened. The primate stress response, however, can be triggered not only by a physical challenge, but also by the mere anticipation of a homeostatic challenge. As a result, when humans chronically and erroneously believe that a homeostatic challenge is about to occur, they enter the realm of neurosis, anxiety, and paranoia. (Comment: This is not an “erroneous belief” – it is the purposeful and chronic state of the American social power structure to ensure that “homeostatic challenge” occurs 24/7. FEAR and conflict are promoted as the constant state of human reality by government and the media; by unstable employment and skewed presentations of threats from violence and crime via “news” programs and entertainment)

The amygdala is the primary modulator of the response to fear- or anxiety-inducing stimuli. It is central to registering the emotional significance of stressful stimuli and creating emotional memories.7 The amygdala receives input from neurons in the cortex. This information is mostly conscious and involves abstract associations. Being stuck in traffic, in a crowded shopping mall, or on an airplane may serve to trigger the anxiety response in a susceptible individual via this mechanism. (Comment: That’s almost every one; and “corporate policies” – ex. the airline industry – are pushing this stress to the MAX for passengers.)

The amygdala also receives sensory input that bypasses the cortex and thus tends to be subconscious. An example is that of a victim of sexual abuse who suddenly finds herself acutely anxious when interacting with a number of friendly people. It may take her a few moments to realize that characteristics of the individuals with whom she is interacting remind her of the person who abused her.

When activated, the amygdala stimulates regions of the midbrain and brain stem, causing autonomic hyperactivity, which can be correlated with the physical symptoms of anxiety. (You cannot “turn it off”) Thus, the stress response involves activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This axis is hyperactive in depression and in anxiety disorders.8,9

Corticotropin-releasing factor, a 41 amino acid peptide, is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system (CNS) that acts as a key mediator of autonomic, behavioral, immune, and endocrine stress responses. The peptide appears to be anxiogenic, depressogenic, and proinflammatory and leads to increased pain perception.10 γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibits CRF release.6

Glucocorticoids activate the locus caeruleus, which sends a powerfully activating projection back to the amygdala using the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The amygdala then sends out more CRF, which leads to more secretion of glucocorticoids, and a vicious circle of feedback between the mind (brain) and the body results.5 Repeated stimulation of the amygdala results in strengthened communication across its synapses with other regions of the brain (ie, long-term potentiation) (The damaging results of stress don’t go away, but are cumulative)

Prolonged exposure of the CNS to glucocorticoid hormones eventually depletes norepinephrine levels in the locus caeruleus. As norepinephrine is an important neurotransmitter involved in attention, vigilance, motivation, and activity, the onset of depression may subsequently occur. (Bad outcomes such as depression are PHYSICAL and not “hooky-spooky magic – psychology”)

Serotonin appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders as well. Agents that enhance serotonin neurotransmission may stimulate hippocampal 5-HT1A receptors, thus promoting neuroprotection and neurogenesis and exerting an anxiolytic effect.11

GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS, is another neurotransmitter believed to be inherently involved in the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders. Levels of GABA appear to be decreased in the cortex of patients with PD, compared with those in control subjects.12 Benzodiazepines facilitate GABA neurotransmission and therefore can improve anxiety. (Comment: This is where the “rubber meets the road” – the assumption that medication can “resolve” anxiety – it may effectively (or not) “mask symptoms” BUT pharmaceuticals “for brain pain” de facto create more problems in the form of side effects and changes to the brain – that’s  how they work. They change the brain; children’s’ brains are still developing! It’s a crap shoot for the individual taking the drug; it’s wildly uncontrolled testing on humans. Drugs do not REMOVE the source of stress that is causing anxiety! They OVERRIDE the brain-body alarm system, not only for “erroneous threats” but for actual threats such as toxic environments, unhealthy conflict-driven work environments, destructive relationships and anything that is “too stressful” in the person’s environment. They provide “negative adaptation” that allows for the damage to the person to continue. That said; in the immediate crisis of debilitating anxiety, benzodiazipines may be the only relief!) 

The remainder of the articles deals with the specific DSM disorders and “drug”  treatment …

 

 

Anxiety Disorders cont., / Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder

This is a continuation of post – Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders, by Charles Shelton, Doctor of Osteopathy. Dr Shelton is a national speaker on the visiting speakers bureau of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. He is also on the speakers bureaus of GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer Inc; Cephalon, Inc; and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr Shelton is also on the CNS advisory panels of Pfizer Inc and Elan Pharmaceuticals.

I’m using this article for reference because Dr. Shelton is obviously thoroughly embedded in the “Big Pharma” industry. I’m not concerned here with the wildly predatory “business” model of pharmaceuticals, but with the “drugs” that are “recommended” for treatment. Drug manufacturers are more conservative about which medications should – should not be prescribed for specific conditions than are many prescribers! Instructions and warnings are included with medications, which are so “legally protective” that reading them is often skipped – by prescribers! They go by what the drug sales rep. tells them; it’s an incredibly careless system; a crap shoot that depends on the integrity of your prescriber.

I’m not giving “medical advice” but clarifying some pitfalls in the “game” of American healthcare, based on a lifetime of experience with the “mental” healthcare system.

WARNING: Your prescriber may be ignorant of drug “chemistry” – side effects, conflicts between different drugs when taken together, or may simply be “pill happy” – the “try this” scenario of passing out pharmaceutical samples and adding more, more, more drugs. Do not trust a “randomly-assigned” prescriber – always read the side effects and other warnings: ask THE PHARMACIST about the drug’s potential for harm and any other concerns.


Back to the article:

“In general, individuals with PD may see up to ten practitioners before a correct diagnosis is made, have continuous increases in health care utilization spanning 10 years before diagnosis, and have a 5 to 8 times greater likelihood of being high users of health care.”

Now that’s a great confidence-producing set of statistics! What arrogance to claim that this dismal record indicates “expert” knowledge on the part of the psychology-psychiatry-therapy healthcare system.

Panic Attacks

Figure 1. Agents used in pharmacotherapy for panic disorder.

As discussed, panic attacks, defined as discrete periods of sudden symptom onset usually peaking in 10 minutes, can occur with most anxiety disorders.

The DSM-IV-TR criteria for panic attack are as follows: palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath or smothering; feeling of choking; chest pain or discomfort; nausea or abdominal distress; feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint; derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached); fear of losing control or going crazy; fear of dying; paresthesias; chills or hot flushes; one or more unexpected panic attacks. (?)

A “PA” is a single event; it may have one of many “causes” and occur only once or infrequently. To be a disorder, it must meet criteria below. One attack does not constitute a disorder. It is always a good idea to be checked out by a MEDICAL doctor first, to rule out a physical condition before consulting a “therapist” of unknown quality.

Panic disorder: at least 1 month of worry, including change in cognition or behavior;     presence or absence of agoraphobia; or attacks not accounted for by another mental disorder, or general medical condition. That’s pretty vague! It’s obvious HOW EASY it is for a “potential patient or client” to meet the requirements and to be diagnosed – a real profit bonus for “assembly line” type therapists and clinics!

Panic attacks must be differentiated from PD. Panic disorder as defined by the DSM-IV-TR includes: recurrent unexpected panic attacks; and at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one or more of the following:

persistent concern about having additional attacks; worry about the implications of the attacks or their consequences (eg, losing control, having a heart attack, going crazy); or a significant change in behavior related to the attacks.

In general, individuals with PD may see up to ten practitioners before a correct diagnosis is made, have continuous increases in health care utilization spanning 10 years before diagnosis, and have a 5 to 8 times greater likelihood of being high users of health care.

Now that’s a great confidence-producing set of statistics! What arrogance to claim that this dismal record indicates “expert” knowledge on the part of the healthcare system.

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What really is a “panic attack”? It’s the activation of the “fight, flight or freeze” response. 

Myriad papers and articles about panic attacks are fairly repetitive:

1. There is no “real danger” present in the environment (at the time of that attack) that would justify the “extreme or “over” reaction.

2. Therefore, the PA is an abnormal event. The trigger is a memory of a prior experience with similar conditions (crowds, etc) that has “taken over” the response by the fight, flight freeze system. “Phobia”.

3. The PA is “illegitimate” given the benign circumstances that “actually” exist at the time of the PA.

4. The FFF system will shut down and return to “normal” in 10 minutes, so don’t “panic”!

5. Underlying these assumptions is the “belief” that the FFF response is an “animal thing” – that is, designed for wild environments and encounters between predator and prey. It’s “archaic” in essence; not suited to “modern life” but resurrected if a person is in “real danger” – a physical attack, natural disaster, an accident. Otherwise, the modern “environment” is safe, benign, non-threatening. HAH!

6. The descriptions are subtly judgmental: WOMEN are more likely to experience PA and anxiety than men, therefore the “cause” must be the unstable female psyche! (Hormones) Her system is “broken” – abnormal or damaged, which is a traditional view of “being female”.

Well! What does this indicate? Conditions that were “present” during a traumatic experience (example: a child being locked in a closet as punishment for “bad behavior” in a social situation) are not “imaginary” – confronting similar conditions (a crowded  event in which “good behavior” is a social requirement) are not imaginary: this is a normal fight, flight or freeze function. If a prey animal “survives” a predation event by the automatic physiological response of “OMG! I’m gonna die – run like Hell” OF COURSE it will “remember” the situation; it learns by the experience. If it simply “forgot” the experience, it probably would not survive for long. This is unconscious  processing: it’s the same in humans. These deep survival mechanisms did not go away because in our “imagination” we are no longer “truly animals” but live in wonderful cities and suburbs safe from natural consequences.

Why women? Because females are prey animals: females are “trapped” as the objects of sexual predation, violence and psychological imprisonment in “belief systems” that classify females as “lesser beings.” Females must repress “survival” behavior in order to survive.

Any child who has been traumatized by a single “life-threatening” event, or subjected to chronic abuse, is a candidate for ANXIETY which is the anticipation of both the horrible event reoccurring and the physical response of fight, flight or freeze, which is a frightening physical response. “Life and Death”

Telling a person who has a “panic attack” that it’s not real, or serious, or that it’s all in the mind, or that it will “go away” in ten minutes, or that they are being “a baby” or that they are weak, or are a “social embarrassment” is cruel. Saying these things in effect devalues the original trauma as “unimportant or imaginary” – telling him or her that they ARE CRAZY. This is stimulus for more anxiety and painful behavior.

Underlying the very high rates of “pathology” in American culture is the principle belief in, and unshakeable use of, punishment for any and all “social disobedience”  – from serious crime to the crime of simply being “a child.” Brutality, whether or not it’s physical or psychological, is held to be an “American Virtue”.

Researchers can fiddle with “the brain” AFTER THE FACT that the developing child brain has been compromised by maltreatment during pregnancy, premature birth, horrific medical intervention, abusive parents, malnourishment or neglect, or the prevalent (although denied) guidepost of spare the rod, spoil the child –  but this is madness: the origin of “disorder” is the diehard belief that brutality “toughens people” “produces superior individuals” especially males, and that life is a competition for “promoting one’s DNA”. This perversion means that only predators “win” –

Whoopee! More hypotheses, more studies, more verbiage, more funding, more denial that human on human predation causes damage to individuals, societies and the degeneration of Homo sapiens as a viable species.

A paper that flogs the obvious: Hyperventilation accompanies and exacerbates panic attacks.

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2009 May 30;167(1):133-43. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2008.07.011. Epub 2008 Jul 25.

Panic disorder and control of breathing.

Abstract

Anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder (PD), are associated with respiratory abnormalities. PD consists of unexpected panic attacks (PA) with anxiety, fear and many autonomic and respiratory symptoms. There is a substantial body of literature demonstrating that stimulation of respiration is a common event in panic disorder patients during PA. A number of abnormalities in respiration, such as enhanced CO(2) sensitivity, have been detected in PD patients. As a result, some investigators advanced that there is a fundamental abnormality in the physiological mechanisms that control breathing in PD. Studies indicate that PD patients with dominant respiratory symptoms are particularly sensitive to respiratory tests compared with those who do not manifest dominant respiratory symptoms, possibly representing a distinct subtype. Accumulated evidence suggests that respiratory physiology remains normal in PD patients and that their tendency to hyperventilate and to react with panic to respiratory stimulants like CO(2) represents the triggering of a hypersensitive fear network. However, some recent evidences support the presence of subclinical abnormalities in respiration and other functions related to body homeostasis. The fear network, composed by the hippocampus, the medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and its brainstem projections, may be abnormally sensitive in PD patients. This theory might explain why both medication and psychosocial therapies are clearly effective. The evidence of abnormalities in several neurochemical systems might be just the expression of the complex interactions among brain circuits. Our aim was to review the relationship between respiration and panic disorder, addressing the respiratory subtype of panic disorder, the hyperventilation syndrome, the respiratory challenge tests, the current mechanistic concepts and the pharmacological implications.

 

 

From the Archives / Essay on Social Petri Dish

One “fun” result of getting a new computer (with a CD drawer, no less) is being able to go back through all those CD back ups that I should have thrown away years ago, but kept. This dates to ca. 2006…

 

Early One Morning in the Universe

Humanity may be stuck on a wheel of incarnation (repeating the same mistakes, generation after generation), but the individual need not be

What if the form and content of human belief come down to a design preference, with the majority of people preferring a hierarchical plan, based on the family: a design fated to bog down in jealousy and unfair treatment: a system based on parental rage – life in a social petri dish that breeds implacable tragedy from which the individual cannot escape, even in death?

At the other end of the spectrum of ideas, and so far, a neglected alternative, is something clean and random and spontaneous: a scheme based on experience, which does not require supernatural affirmation of our collective and primeval family delusions. The fact that the body will die, permanently and forever, opens the imagination to that which lies beyond human control, and frees the individual from bondage to the group, because it is my body, not theirs.

Society tells its children that a glow worm, or some larval stage of development, was inserted into each of their bodies at conception, or at birth, or baptism, or when the sex hormones turn on, depending on the cultural context they were born into and that this ghostly thing was activated by the supernatural, thus causing the child to be alive. In actual practice, we proceed through life guided by infinitely more ancient and practical instructions called DNA. The results are not perfect, certainly. In Homo sapiens, it is apparent that the code results in a brain of dubious reliability. It is painful to admit, but necessary.

The claim is that this supernatural thing will leave my body when it perishes; a thing which is held by the majority of people in my culture to be my true identity, but which is alien to me – unknowable, in fact. A temporary resident that has no particular form or substance, but which is locked in combat with an inherently evil physical body – a body that for as long as I may live, never really belongs to me. This is put forth as a stupendous delusion: I am expected to believe that my real self is on loan from a supernatural source, and my individual abilities and pursuits discarded as worthless except in reference to this source: my status is that of a puppet activated by magic.

Creation stories, devised by primeval tribes and salvaged or scavenged or embroidered by civilizations of size and material sophistication, fail the pure design test, which requires consonance with Nature. These schemes begin by naming and claiming pieces of existence, an approach to conceptualizing the environment that is understandable in primitive circumstances, hatched by the need for power in the childhood of humankind. The leap our ancestors made to magical connections between objects and ideas is significant in animal evolution, but faulty. Our ancestors had to be satisfied with what their brains could do constructively, which is to make analogies.

Many of these early connections are elegant, while other myths are positively stupefying, perhaps because the original symbolism is lost to us. Many stories that have come down to us betray the weaknesses in human memory, just as each copy of an image is farther removed from the original and loses its distinction. What we have is a cultural junk drawer jammed by absurdities, which have been patented by repetition and fanciful interpretation, which served our species in their time, but we now hoard these errors at terrific cost; cultural ideas have not kept pace with technology. Mythology has become an end in itself. Reality is lost.

Like the genetic code itself, human culture is both repetitive and additive. Genetic information is not thrown away; unnecessary bits are instead stashed in great unused collections of instructions, which is why most of our DNA matches that of both extinct and existing species; why the human fetus recapitulates evolution, why each of us is a portable portion of an ancient sea. Nature is conservative, and yet favors the workable mutation and the turning on and off of old switches.

By means of language and technology, human beings also gather vast amounts of information. Certain knowledge remains active in a culture, some lies dormant: certainly, not all information is of equal value. The results are a mixed affair. An advance in technology may be valued because it can be used in war, while its peaceful uses are ignored, or eventually borrowed and put to a different use.  An idea may be valued because it sanctions the rights of ruthless rulers. A war may be fought because it appears to be motivated by moral good, but which in reality merely exploit greed. There is no way to judge cultures as a whole any more than we can judge DNA, or the results of evolution.  And yet, we do, because we can, because we have a brain built to contrast and compare; ideas are a product of human thought, but most ideas are  not at all helpful to survival.

Our peril to ourselves and to the life of the planet lies in obsessing over and hoarding bits of cramped opinion that will never produce a picture of existence that is new in any way. The picture that mankind persists in using as its model of the universe was created by ignorant and fearful minds that were driven by the necessity of wresting control from a powerful environment, but we are mature and ought to have learned something from the history of our species. Our current picture is as jumbled as those clots of discarded DNA; useful, not useful.

We are perfectly capable of accepting the totality of the universe in an attitude of respectful silence, in recognition of what we do not know, and with a comprehensive view that doesn’t require a beginning and ending point in us. We are the sole creature to arise on earth (as far as we know) to have the ability to view the many threads of existence. Throughout life, each of us will perceive these mysteries in changed ways, even if we are not aware of it. That is, we learn.

For our species, the universe of mind is whatever we make of it. Despite this creative attribute, physical reality does exist, and we are ultimately powerless when faced with this truth. From deep within us great fear arises, causing us to cast our theories, dreams, imaginings, fears, and limitations onto a sublime unknown. We write our own story, one that explains how it was all meant to be, but these ‘meant-to-be’ stories are wishes designed to soothe our nerves and explain our cruelty. Why do we need to deflect ownership of our perpetual violence, cruelty, and destruction when this is actual behavior?

We respond to beauty as strongly as to food or sex. Beauty is inherent in physical reality: contrary to what one might assume, mathematicians and physicists understand this best, since mathematics is the language of physical reality. What could be more beautiful and concise than E=mc2? We are a product of physical reality, therefore beauty is built into us. Beauty is the motivation for civilized and sane behavior, for kindness and for learning. Why paint animals in the deep recesses of a cave, why labor for decades to erect temples, why undertake near-fatal journeys just to collect fantastic and beautiful materials from around the earth, if not to participate in a beauty that is also within us? What we desire from beauty is fusion with the universe.

What has happened to mankind that our cultures are so out of balance with the physical world? Beauty and light did not leave our world, but are abandoned by the mass of human beings for various dreary versions of existence, in which every living thing is worthless when compared to profit. These plodding schemes are crowded and disorganized and not beautiful at all because they do away with possibility. Tangled loops of anti-knowledge go around and around in the minds of those who are stuck on limits within the brain. But the universe does not stop evolving in order to satisfy their need for a finite answer, and yet the mass of humans dwell on the tired details of texts and rituals that ignore common experience. We think that the universe will become whatever we want it to be, but whatever it may be, it exists ‘as is’ and we merely constrain our knowledge with beliefs, preferences, and delusions.

I feel more free as a body that will die, than believing that something unnatural will leave my body, to proceed onward and upward into a supernatural domain. Most of it seems a design preference. There is something clean and spontaneous in a design that is not required to house itself in levels of existence freed only for a time from the great overseeing One. I fear I am a renegade soul out to proceed on my way alone.

 

 

 

 

Temperament / Personality What are they?

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Early Greek system of diagnosis and a juvenalized modern version. Many many modern ideas owe their origin to the persistence of ancient ideas. Culture is an institution that grows though hoarding, not editing.

Asking Google this question produced:

1.Temperament refers to the different aspects of an individual’s personality like extroversion or introversion. It is regarded as innate or inborn and is not learned.
2.Personality is what arises within an individual. Personality, which remains throughout an individual’s life, is made up of certain characteristic patterns like: behavior, feelings, and thoughts.
3.Temperament is a basic inherited style whereas personality is acquired on top of the temperament.
4.The personality of an individual can be acquired in years. Factors such as education, socialization, various pressures in life, and other various aspects affect the personality of an individual.
5.Some of the fundamental characteristics related to personality are: consistency, psychological and physiological impact on behaviors and actions, and multiple expressions.

Read more: Difference Between Temperament and Personality | Difference Between | Temperament vs Personality http://www.differencebetween.net/language/words-language/difference-between-temperament-and-personality/#ixzz3p2BH8RyN

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Temperament refers to the characteristics and aspects of personality that we are born with. For that reason, they are similar to traits in that they are both innate (born with these things) and enduring. Infants who are anxious and nervous tend to be the same way when they are older. One difference though is that temperament more often relates to emotionality…the specific emotional characteristics such as calm, anxious, or nervous. In psychology, trait theory (also called dispositional theory) is an approach to the study of human personality. Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. CONFUSED YET?

Personality is a person’s unique behavioral and cognitive patterns; OR, a person’s unique consistent pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting. For example, some peoples’ personality tends to be shy and introspective while others tend to be outgoing and extroverted. Because personalities, by definition, are stable patterns which cannot be changed easily, there has been great debate between personality theorists and social psychologists about the actual impact of personality on behavior, thought, and emotion. For example if someone is shy, does that mean that they will virtually never act in an outgoing manner?

Read more: http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Personality#ixzz3p2CjR0zZ (Adler University)

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Temperamental Qualities at Age Three Predict Personality Traits in Young Adulthood: Longitudinal Evidence from a Birth Cohort 

Avshalom Caspi1,* and Phil A. SilvaChild Development / Volume 66, Issue 2, pages 486–498, April 1995

In an unselected sample of over 800 subjects we studied whether behavioral styles at age 3 are linked to personality traits at age 18. We identified 5 temperament groups (labeled Undercontrolled, Inhibited, Confident, Reserved, and Well-adjusted) based on behavioral ratings made by examiners when the children were 3. These groups were reassessed at 18, and their personality styles were measured with the self-report Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. Results pointed to continuities across time. As young adults, Undercontrolled children scored high on measures of impulsivity, danger seeking, aggression, and interpersonal alienation; Inhibited children scored low on measures of impulsivity, danger seeking, aggression, and social potency; Confident children scored high on impulsivity; Reserved children scored low on social potency; and Well-adjusted children continued to exhibit normative behaviors.

Hmmmm…does not support the vast amount of intervention being applied to correcting or changing a child’s temperament-driven behavior.

Personally, I think the intractable nature of many Aspie “symptoms” is due to the misidentification of TEMPERAMENT, which is innate, as symptoms of a “developmental disorder” – no amount of coercion, training, or social pressure will change temperament – negative attacks on WHO WE ARE will only continue to produce anger and failure in those who want to change us AND retreat on our part.

einstein

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PTSD in Elephants / PLEASE, PLEASE Listen to every word

From Kerulos website. See more details in Elephant Breakdown / Nature vol. 433/24Feb. 2005

Trans Species Psychology

In 2005, Kerulos’ Director Gay Bradshaw diagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in free-living elephants. This science has catalyzed an entirely new approach to elephant conservation and welfare.

Historically, elephants in India and other parts of Asia roamed across the continent. Today, there is intense conflict between humans and elephants. Elephants in close confinement captivity live in chronic stress, deprivation, and pain even when direct physical punishment is not employed. While culturally engrained images of performing animals and zoo exhibits may evoke nostalgia and fascination for humans, the experience of animals in captivity is far different. The measure of elephant suffering can perhaps be best appreciated when we take into account the radical differences between captivity and the wild habitats to which they are ecologically, psychologically and evolutionarily adapted.

When release from abuse does occur, the road to recovery is not easy. Elephants coming to sanctuary experience tremendous improvements, yet they still carry the scars and burden of their past experience. Similar to human prisoners who survive, elephants from circuses and zoos are diagnosed with Complex PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and other trauma-induced conditions.

Sadly, free-living elephants are no longer immune from the ravages of trauma. Poaching, culls, and the stress of life in shrinking habitat have torn apart elephant society. Orphaned infants suffer physiological and emotional shock when they lose their mothers and families and elephants everywhere are under siege from human pressures. Elephants and their culture are threatened with collapse.

Elephants, Us, and Other Kin. Presented by G.A. Bradshaw at the UCLA Annual Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference 2014. See video below.

 

Modern social humans won’t stop until every last living thing on earth is tortured, made insane, or is driven to extinction.

Dear Asperger; Do you see yourself in this tragedy?

 

Human self-domestication / Martin Brüne

Open Access

On human self-domestication, psychiatry, and eugenics

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 20072:21

DOI: 10.1186/1747-5341-2-21

© Brüne; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007

Abstract

The hypothesis that anatomically modern Homo sapiens could have undergone changes akin to those observed in domesticated animals has been contemplated in the biological sciences for at least 150 years. The idea had already plagued philosophers such as Rousseau, who considered the civilisation of man as going against human nature, and eventually “sparked over” to the medical sciences in the late 19th and early 20th century. At that time, human “self-domestication” appealed to psychiatry, because it served as a causal explanation for the alleged degeneration of the “erbgut” (genetic material) of entire populations and the presumed increase of mental disorders. (This is a misconception on the part of psychiatry and medicine, and in itself does not prove-disprove self-domestication- me)

Consequently, Social Darwinists emphasised preventing procreation by people of “lower genetic value” and positively selecting favourable traits in others. Both tendencies culminated in euthanasia and breeding programs (“Lebensborn”) during the Nazi regime in Germany. Whether or not domestication actually plays a role in some anatomical changes since the late Pleistocene period is, from a biological standpoint, contentious, and the currently resurrected debate depends, in part, on the definitional criteria applied.

However, the example of human self-domestication may illustrate that scientific ideas, especially when dealing with human biology, are prone to misuse, particularly if “is” is confused with “ought”, i.e., if moral principles are deduced from biological facts. Although such naturalistic fallacies appear to be banned, modern genetics may, at least in theory, pose similar ethical problems to medicine, including psychiatry. In times during which studies into the genetics of psychiatric disorders are scientifically more valued than studies into environmental causation of disorders (which is currently the case), the prospects of genetic therapy may be tempting to alter the human genome in patients, probably at costs that no-one can foresee.

In the case of “self-domestication”, it is proposed that human characteristics resembling domesticated traits in animals should be labelled “domestication-like”, or better, objectively described as genuine adaptations to sedentism. (Agreed – me)

Introduction

The term “domestication” refers to a goal-directed process through which humans have changed physical features of plants and animals by replacing natural through artificial selection to adapt these species to specific human needs. In animals, domestication-associated changes also include behavioural characteristics, which, above all, have led to a reduction of aggression and an increase of “tameness” [1]. At least since Darwin’s pioneering work on domestication [2], biologists have controversially debated whether several aspects of domestication-induced traits in animals could similarly be present in humans, and this issue has recently been reconsidered [1, 3]. Even earlier, however, philosophers have been plagued with the question of man’s place in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1755), for instance, had argued that “civilised” living conditions would have negative consequences, subsumed under the term “degeneration” [4]. Conversely, in the 1940s, the German philosopher Arnold Gehlen proposed a self-domestication theory of Homo sapiens, according to which domestication would, on one hand, induce biological maladaptedness through abandoning natural selection, but, on the other hand, open new prospects for cultural development [5]. Similarly, recent humanism has highlighted the positive aspects of a presumed human domestication such as to prevent “brutalisation” of human societies (comment in [6]).

Whereas philosophers have extensively discussed putative effects of human self-domestication in terms of moral values, by the turn of the 20th century psychiatrists became interested in the hypothesis of human self-domestication, because it seemingly provided a causal explanation for what was perceived as signs of degeneration of the human genepool (“erbgut”) (Again, a concept promoted by practitioners of psychiatry and medicine, and not a scientific effort into the proof-disproof of self-domestication. ) [7].

In 1857, the French psychiatrist Benedicte Morel sought to introduce objective measures in support of the concept of “degeneration”, suggesting that subtle physical abnormalities would indicate the deterioration of mental health and also account for delinquent behaviour, because such deviations would be most prevalent in mentally ill and criminals [8]. Indeed, by the turn of the 20th century, with increasing biologising of psychiatry, leading professionals were concerned about the seemingly rising number of hospitalised patients and searched for biological explanations, leaving aside social factors [9]. Hence, the hypothesis of the domestication of man was welcome, and, in light of the then prevailing cultural pessimism and upcoming eugenic idealism put forth by August Forel and Alfred Ploetz [10], readily adopted as rationalisation of a host of unresolved questions in psychiatry and related social issues. It is perhaps not exaggerated to state that this one-sided biological view of mental disorders and handicaps also contributed to what followed in Germany under the Nazi regime.

Albeit modern human biology may be largely free of moral allegations, there seems to be a need for discussing the possible impact of biological findings and hypotheses on contemporary conceptualisations of mental health and treatment options of psychiatric disorders. This premise is based on the fact that biological ideas have always been at risk of socio-political misuse, (and I contend that this is exactly what is happening in ASD and Asperger research and diagnosis) and on the concern that the advent of new genetic techniques may be tempting to “improve” human genetic material and eliminate unwanted traits, part of which could erroneously be attributed to human self-domestication.

In this article, I shall (1) deal with the biological evidence for human self-domestication and the historical development of the idea, including its entanglement with political opportunism during the Nazi epoch in Germany; (2) outline how and why the self-domestication hypothesis was adopted by leading (German) psychiatrists, and possibly contributed to positive and negative selection programs during the Third Reich in Germany; (3) finally argue that the debate between philosophy, biology, and other medical sciences including psychiatry necessitates a common language for further interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, as well as awareness of the dangers of naturalistic fallacies. (Halleluiah! It’s about time!)

More next post…..

Part 2 Human self-domestication / Martin Brüne

Part 2

Human self-domestication – the development of an idea

Charles Darwin was the first to systematically examine biological changes in species under artificial breeding conditions. Even though he did not refer to the question of human self-domestication in his two volumes on Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication [2], Darwin proposed clear definitional criteria for the process of domestication. He emphasized (1) that the domestication of animals is more than taming, (2) that it represents a goal-oriented process for human purposes, (3) that the variability of physical and ‘mental’ characteristics is greater in domesticated species than in their wild ancestors, including the occurrence of dwarfism and gigantism, (4) that the behavioural plasticity and educability of domesticated species is greater, and (5) that the brain size of domesticated animals is smaller than that of their wild ancestors’.

In spite of these unequivocal definitional criteria, Darwin was remarkably vague regarding the possibility that humans could have undergone domestication. In The Decent of Man [11], he wrote the following (the most critical phrases are highlighted in italics by the author): “It is, nevertheless, an error to speak of man, even if we look only to the conditions to which he has been exposed, as ‘far more domesticated’ (Blumenbach 1865) than any other animal. … In another and much more important respect, man differs widely from any strictly domesticated animal; for his breeding has never long been controlled, (this is not true! The social hierarchy is a reproductive selection machine!) either by methodical or unconscious selection. No race or body of men has been so completely subjugated by other men, as that certain individuals should be preserved, and thus unconsciously selected, from somehow excelling in utility to their masters. Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well known case of the Prussian grenadiers;” (p. 29) … By contrast, in another paragraph Darwin stated: “We might, therefore, expect that civilized men, who in one sense are highly domesticated, would be more prolific than wild men. It is also probable that the increased fertility of civilised nations would become, as with our domestic animals, an inherited character …” (p. 45–46). (Darwin was a man of his time and class; likely oblivious to de facto social selection. People married and reproduced within their “proper place” on the pyramid.

With respect to brain size Darwin argued, however, that in contrast to domesticated animals the human brain and skull has increased over time. Nevertheless, in the chapter on human races, Darwin reiterates that “man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, …” (p. 178); and later: “With man no such question can arise, for he cannot be said to have been domesticated at any particular period” (p. 183). And finally: “With our domestic animals a new race can readily be formed by carefully matching the varying offspring from a single pair, or even from a single individual possessing some new character; but most of our races have been formed, not intentionally from selected pair, but unconsciously by the preservation of many individuals which have varied, however slightly, in some useful or desired manner” (p. 188). In summary, although Darwin did not hold a clear position concerning the possibility that domestication could have taken place in homo sapiens, he pointed to the fact that no scientific proof in favour of such a hypothesis existed, particularly, due to a lack of goal-directedness or conscious selection of traits. However, he also made clear that humans might share some characteristics typical of domesticated animals such as increased fertility.

In the biological literature following Darwin, the term “domestication” became increasingly poorly defined. The criterion of intentional and goal-directed selection, which according to Darwin’s definition was critical for domestication, was largely replaced, at least with respect to humans, by the equation of culture and civilisation with domestication. (One example of intentional goal directedness: The Harem – females selected for social position, connection to allies or subjugated nations, tameness and beauty and continually replenished with youthful baby producers. A broad “blood” base (genetic pool) was available: a veritable farm for producing “top males” for the continuation of a dynasty.

An extensive evaluation of the topic was put forward by Eugen Fischer in his essay on Die Rassenmerkmale des Menschen als Domestikationserscheinungen (“The racial characteristics of man as a result of domestication”, 1914) [12]. A couple of years later, Fischer became known for his publication of Grundriß der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene (“Outline of human genetics and racial hygiene”), which he edited together with Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz in 1921 [13]; all authors later became leading authorities in Nazi eugenics and supported the legalisation of sterilisation and dismantling of welfare institutions to reinstitute the laws of natural selection [10].

( A prime human conceit that has ravaged the planet: we are so intelligent that our blunders-efforts at reshaping natural processes and entire ecologies are de facto  improvements on nature. WE ARE NOT THAT SMART!)

In his essay on the domestication of man, Fischer suggested that domestication should be defined as a condition in which “the nutrition and reproduction has been influenced over a number of generations by humans” (author’s translation). In line with these greatly relaxed definitional criteria of domestication, Fischer reasoned that humankind should be considered domesticated from the beginning of its existence. (We were never wild animals?) Fischer considered racial differences to be the result of domestication, because “almost all characteristics of human races could be found in domesticated animals, except for the low variability of the external ear and the lack of dappling of the skin or hair.” Interestingly, Fischer regarded blond hair, blue eyes, and bright skin colour of Europeans as signs of domestication-induced partial albinism, as well as, dwarfism and gigantism in some populations, racial differences concerning the disposition for obesity, temperament, character and intelligence. Even “the permanent female breast indicates domestication much like the udder of domesticated cattle” (author’s translation) [12]. However, the point that “Aryans” should be carriers of outstanding signs of domestication was apparently overlooked, a point to which I will return in the discussion. Remarkably, however, the very same attitude towards domestication and racial hygiene including support of sterilisation was also found in leading Jewish scientists such as Richard Goldschmidt, who was Professor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Berlin-Dahlem [14]. Goldschmidt argued that the abandonment of natural selection and “radical extermination of the unfit” (Goldschmidt, 1933, pp. 214; author’s translation) ought to be replaced by positive and negative eugenic measures (apparently, Goldschmidt later realised that the Nazi regime held an even more radical position regarding eugenics and was expatriated by the Nazis in 1935; he was appointed Professor of Genetics and Cytology at Berkeley, CA). Even anthropologist Franz Boas, who was not a racist and strongly opposed the Nazi regime, described curly hair, variation in stature and increasing or decreasing pigmentation of the skin as signs of human domestication, but was inconclusive about how much environmental and genetic factors contributed to these variations [15]. Thus, although Fischer and colleagues may, to a certain degree, have had an opportunistic interest in mixing scientific ideas with political claims, the association of acknowledging the self-domestication hypothesis with eugenic consequences during the 1930s was not only an issue for racist scientists. (The misconception / mixing of non-scientific social, political, and religious beliefs has not disappeared in psychology. Biological sources are sought for justification of  discrimination. These prejudices do not negate the possibility of domestication, but unfortunately, have made it a “shady” subject for study. The same problem taints psychology and its support and contributions to American Eugenics movement.) 

In the 1920s, another, entirely independent biological concept was adopted from embryology to explain human self-domestication. The Dutch anatomist Louis Bolk (1926) [16] postulated that adult humans would resemble juvenile apes, and that the retention of juvenile characteristics of the ancestral species into adulthood of the descendant, referred to as “foetalisation” or “neoteny”, could be associated with the process of domestication. For example, the zoologist Max Hilzheimer (1926/1927) argued that “the recent European should be considered the most progressively domesticated form whereas Neanderthals were much less juvenilised” (author’s translation) due to the more pronounced retention of juvenile traits in anatomically modern humans compared to Neanderthals (at that time, it was not known that Neanderthals were not ancestral to anatomically modern humans) [17]. The parallel drawn between domestication and neoteny is interesting in light of the currently resurrected debate about human self-domestication (see below).

In the 1940s Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz’ published some speculations on the relation of human psychological capacities to the process of domestication. In his article Durch Domestikation verursachte Störungen arteigenen Verhaltens (“Domestication-induced disorders of species-typical behaviour”, published in 1940) Lorenz reiterated parallels between the living conditions of civilised inhabitants of metropolitan areas with domesticated animals, which he thought indicated signs of degeneration [18]. (The assumption of “degeneration” damaged scientific research.)

Lorenz proposed that the intensity and frequency of instinctual patterns of behaviour were altered under these conditions, leading to a hypertrophy of some instincts due to a lowered releasing threshold and to a functional disruption of species-typical behaviours. Beside the alleged domestication-associated morphological features in human beings, such as shortening of the extremities and of the base of the skull, atony of the muscles, and obesity, which he later subsumed under the term ‘Verhausschweinung’ (a term hard to translate that roughly compares the physical appearance of human beings with domesticated pigs), Lorenz described a domestication-associated diminished social sensitivity and a functional disruption of love, marriage, and the “copulation drive”. Apart from his appallingly coarse language, which conformed to the writing style of that time, Lorenz did not refrain from discussing racial hygienic consequences such as the “extermination of ethically inferior people.” Moreover, and from our perspective today virtually ridiculous, Lorenz proposed a positive selection for Anständigkeit (decency) and for the physical ideal of the ancient Greek. (As modern western “civilized” and Christian people, we applaud ourselves for having high ethical and moral standards, but what is the underlying goal of military, economic, and cultural invasion by any nation? It’s murder, rape and pillage – virtual extinction of peoples and cultures – on a massive industrial scale. “Democratization=Domestication” How many so-called primitive tribal people, religious minorities, and any “outgroup” that is labeled enemy, or any enemy at all is “cleansed” of its heritage, values beliefs and practices by military, social and corporate actions? Civilian casualties, millions of displaced refugees – hypocritically disguised as the inevitable consequence of the mysterious “fog of war.”)

By contrast, in his chapter on Psychologie und Stammesgeschichte (“psychology and epistemology”, first published in 1943) [19] Lorenz took over Arnold Gehlen’s idea that human beings were specialised in being non-specialised. Gehlen had acknowledged Bolk’s and Hilzheimer’s hypotheses as scientific proofs for his thesis of man as “Mängelwesen” (“deficient being”). Following Gehlen, Lorenz highlighted man’s lack of physiological specialisation while rejecting the hypothesis of deficiency. In contrast to his earlier exclusively negative approval, Lorenz now accepted the hypothesis of domestication-associated neoteny, which accounted for the positively asserted human “Weltoffenheit” (“cosmopolitanism”) and persisting explorative behaviour. This was new, since he now ascribed to neoteny a variety of human behavioural and psychological features in addition to his physical characteristics. Even in his later writings, however, Lorenz stuck to his culturally pessimistic attitude, while partially backing off from his writings during the Nazi regime.

Since the 1960s, both the foetalisation and the domestication hypotheses concerning humans have been refuted by various scientists. Starck (1962), for example, criticised that Bolk’s hypothesis had been so broadly accepted simply because the many problems of explaining human evolution could be resolved with apparent ease. According to Starck, hairlessness and the reduction of pigmentation of the skin (a geographic phenomen due to varying solar radiation) were more reliably explained by chance mutations rather than by foetalisation. Moreover, the retention of juvenile characters (i.e. neoteny) did not sufficiently explain the increased variation of traits under domestication [20]. In addition, Herre and Roehrs (1971) rejected the human self-domestication hypothesis for its lack of goal-directedness and artificial selection of traits; nor was there evidence for a “wild” ancestral human species from which a domesticated homo sapiens should have derived. They further argued that a reduction of instinctual patterns of behaviour in human beings could also better be explained by a more sophisticated cortical control rather than domestication [21]. (Objections based on the lack of scientific evidence at the time and the resistance to Homo sapiens the animal.)

As with many scientific ideas, these hypothesis of human self-domestication has recently been revived as a possible explanation of changes of human physical traits since the late Pleistocene changes include the reduction of body size and decrease in skeletal robusticity, modifications in cranial and dental features including reduction in cranial capacity, shortening of the facial region of the skull and maleruption of teeth, and reduction in sexual dimorphism. In contrast to earlier biological writings, other domestication-associated features observed in animals such as an increased variation in skin colour, increasing fat storage, earlier sexual maturation and activity, and reduction in motor activity are not discussed with respect to human self-domestication in recent accounts [1]. It is indeed plausible to assume that these changes could have taken place due to the creation of an artificially protective environment after humans adopted a more sedentary lifestyle in the Neolithic period, thereby relaxing natural selection pressures. (But! selection pressures changed and increased due to selection by a new urban and dietary environment that required behavioral and reproductive adaptation.  Reproduction became controlled by social customs, class barriers to reproduction partners, and selection of females for tameness.)

Similarly, the idea that foetalisation and domestication could be related has recently been highlighted in a seminal paper comparing anatomical features and behaviour of apes and humans [3]. The authors argue that changes in social structures of early humans, compared to our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee, could have favoured the selection against aggression, and that such selection was accompanied by a reduction of sexual dimorphism in humans and the retention of juvenile characteristics in body shape and behaviour. Interestingly, a parallel development has been proposed in the bonobo, which displays more neotenic physical features and is much less aggressive compared to the common chimpanzee [3].

From a biological perspective the greatest dispute with regard to physical changes in anatomically modern humans akin to domestication pertains to a slight but measurable decline of brain volume from around 1,400 cm3 to roughly 1,300 cm3, which could be interpreted in further support of the human self-domestication hypothesis. However, this decline in stature was accompanied by a reduction in body size such that the allometric brain-body relation remains unchanged [22]. In contrast to humans, domesticated animals show a large disproportionate decline of brain size by up to 30%, especially of the sensory perceptual centres, compared to their wild ancestral species, yet no such pronounced decline has convincingly been demonstrated in any human population.

We have a huge stumbling block in the investigation of self-domestication in humans: Which “human” is our wild ancestor?

Part 3 next…

How Animals Think / Review of Book by Frans de Waal

How Animals Think

A new look at what humans can learn from nonhuman minds

Alison Gopnik, The Atlantic 

Review of: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

By Frans de Waal / Norton

For 2,000 years, there was an intuitive, elegant, compelling picture of how the world worked. It was called “the ladder of nature.” In the canonical version, God was at the top, followed by angels, who were followed by humans. Then came the animals, starting with noble wild beasts and descending to domestic animals and insects. Human animals followed the scheme, too. Women ranked lower than men, and children were beneath them. The ladder of nature was a scientific picture, but it was also a moral and political one. It was only natural that creatures higher up would have dominion over those lower down. (This view remains dominant in American thinking: “The Great Chain of Being” is still with us and underlies social reality)

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection delivered a serious blow to this conception. (Unless one denies evolution)  Natural selection is a blind historical process, stripped of moral hierarchy. A cockroach is just as well adapted to its environment as I am to mine. In fact, the bug may be better adapted—cockroaches have been around a lot longer than humans have, and may well survive after we are gone. But the very word evolution can imply a progression—New Agers talk about becoming “more evolved”—and in the 19th century, it was still common to translate evolutionary ideas into ladder-of-nature terms.

MAN ILLUS

Modern biological science has in principle rejected the ladder of nature. But the intuitive picture is still powerful. In particular, the idea that children and nonhuman animals are lesser beings has been surprisingly persistent. Even scientists often act as if children and animals are defective adult humans, defined by the abilities we have and they don’t. Neuroscientists, for example, sometimes compare brain-damaged adults to children and animals.

We always should have been suspicious of this picture, but now we have no excuse for continuing with it. In the past 30 years, research has explored the distinctive ways in which children as well as animals think, and the discoveries deal the coup de grâce to the ladder of nature. (Not in psychology!)The primatologist Frans de Waal has been at the forefront of the animal research, and its most important public voice.

In Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, he makes a passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.

De Waal outlines both the exciting new results and the troubled history of the field. The study of animal minds was long divided between what are sometimes called “scoffers” and “boosters.” Scoffers refused to acknowledge that animals could think at all: Behaviorism—the idea that scientists shouldn’t talk about minds, only about stimuli and responses—stuck around in animal research long after it had been discredited in the rest of psychology. (Are you kidding? “Black Box” psychology is alive and well, especially in American education!) Boosters often relied on anecdotes and anthropomorphism instead of experiments. De Waal notes that there isn’t even a good general name for the new field of research. Animal cognition ignores the fact that humans are animals too. De Waal argues for evolutionary cognition instead.

Psychologists often assume that there is a special cognitive ability—a psychological secret sauce—that makes humans different from other animals. The list of candidates is long: tool use, cultural transmission, the ability to imagine the future or to understand other minds, and so on. But every one of these abilities shows up in at least some other species in at least some form. De Waal points out various examples, and there are many more. New Caledonian crows make elaborate tools, shaping branches into pointed, barbed termite-extraction devices. A few Japanese macaques learned to wash sweet potatoes and even to dip them in the sea to make them more salty, and passed that technique on to subsequent generations. Western scrub jays “cache”—they hide food for later use—and studies have shown that they anticipate what they will need in the future, rather than acting on what they need now.

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that these human abilities also appear in other species. After all, the whole point of natural selection is that small variations among existing organisms can eventually give rise to new species. Our hands and hips and those of our primate relatives gradually diverged from the hands and hips of common ancestors. It’s not that we miraculously grew hands and hips and other animals didn’t. So why would we alone possess some distinctive cognitive skill that no other species has in any form?

De Waal explicitly rejects the idea that there is some hierarchy of cognitive abilities. (Thank-you!) Nevertheless, an implicit tension in his book shows just how seductive the ladder-of-nature view remains. Simply saying that the “lower” creatures share abilities with creatures once considered more advanced still suggests something like a ladder—it’s just that chimps or crows or children are higher up than we thought. So the summary of the research ends up being: We used to think that only adult humans could use tools/participate in culture/imagine the future/understand other minds, but actually chimpanzees/crows/toddlers can too. Much of de Waal’s book has this flavor, though I can’t really blame him, since developmental psychologists like me have been guilty of the same rhetoric.

As de Waal recognizes, a better way to think about other creatures would be to ask ourselves how different species have developed different kinds of minds to solve different adaptive problems. (And – How “different humans” have done, and continue to do, the same!) Surely the important question is not whether an octopus or a crow can do the same things a human can, but how those animals solve the cognitive problems they face, like how to imitate the sea floor or make a tool with their beak. Children and chimps and crows and octopuses are ultimately so interesting not because they are mini-mes, but because they are aliens—not because they are smart like us, but because they are smart in ways we haven’t even considered. All children, for example, pretend with a zeal that seems positively crazy; if we saw a grown-up act like every 3-year-old does, we would get him to check his meds. (WOW! Nasty comment!)

Sometimes studying those alien ways of knowing can illuminate adult-human cognition. Children’s pretend play may help us understand our adult taste for fiction. De Waal’s research provides another compelling example. We human beings tend to think that our social relationships are rooted in our perceptions, beliefs, and desires, and our understanding of the perceptions, beliefs, and desires of others—what psychologists call our “theory of mind.” (And yet horrible behavior toward other humans and animals demonstrates that AT BEST, this “mind-reading” simply makes humans better social manipulators and predators) human behavior our In the ’80s and ’90s, developmental psychologists, including me, showed that preschoolers and even infants understand minds apart from their own. But it was hard to show that other animals did the same. “Theory of mind” became a candidate for the special, uniquely human trick. (A social conceit)

Yet de Waal’s studies show that chimps possess a remarkably developed political intelligence—they are profoundly interested in figuring out social relationships such as status and alliances. (A primatologist friend told me that even before they could stand, the baby chimps he studied would use dominance displays to try to intimidate one another.) It turns out, as de Waal describes, that chimps do infer something about what other chimps see. But experimental studies also suggest that this happens only in a competitive political context. The evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare and his colleagues gave a subordinate chimp a choice between pieces of food that a dominant chimp had seen hidden and other pieces it had not seen hidden. The subordinate chimp, who watched all the hiding, stayed away from the food the dominant chimp had seen, but took the food it hadn’t seen. (A typical anecdotal factoid that proves nothing)

Anyone who has gone to an academic conference will recognize that we, too, are profoundly political creatures. We may say that we sign up because we’re eager to find out what our fellow Homo sapiens think, but we’re just as interested in who’s on top and where the alliances lie. Many of the political judgments we make there don’t have much to do with our theory of mind. We may defer to a celebrity-academic silverback even if we have no respect for his ideas. In Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet cares how people think, while Lady Catherine cares only about how powerful they are, but both characters are equally smart and equally human.

The challenge of studying creatures that are so different from us is to get into their heads.

Of course, we know that humans are political, but we still often assume that our political actions come from thinking about beliefs and desires. Even in election season we assume that voters figure out who will enact the policies they want, and we’re surprised when it turns out that they care more about who belongs to their group or who is the top dog. The chimps may give us an insight into a kind of sophisticated and abstract social cognition that is very different from theory of mind—an intuitive sociology rather than an intuitive psychology.

Until recently, however, there wasn’t much research into how humans develop and deploy this kind of political knowledge—a domain where other animals may be more cognitively attuned than we are. It may be that we understand the social world in terms of dominance and alliance, like chimps, but we’re just not usually as politically motivated as they are. (Obsession with social status is so pervasive, that it DISRUPTS neurotypical ability to function!) Instead of asking whether we have a better everyday theory of mind, we might wonder whether they have a better everyday theory of politics.

Thinking seriously about evolutionary cognition may also help us stop looking for a single magic ingredient that explains how human intelligence emerged. De Waal’s book inevitably raises a puzzling question. After all, I’m a modern adult human being, writing this essay surrounded by furniture, books, computers, art, and music—I really do live in a world that is profoundly different from the world of the most brilliant of bonobos. If primates have the same cognitive capacities we do, where do those differences come from?

The old evolutionary-psychology movement argued that we had very specific “modules,” special mental devices, that other primates didn’t have. But it’s far likelier that humans and other primates started out with relatively minor variations in more-general endowments and that those variations have been amplified over the millennia by feedback processes. For example, small initial differences in what biologists call “life history” can have big cumulative effects. Humans have a much longer childhood than other primates do. Young chimps gather as much food as they consume by the time they’re 5. Even in forager societies, human kids don’t do that until they’re 15. This makes being a human parent especially demanding. But it also gives human children much more time to learn—in particular, to learn from the previous generation. (If that generation is “messed up” to the point of incompetence, the advantage disappears and disaster results – which is what we see in the U.S. today). Other animals can absorb culture from their forebears too, like those macaques with their proto-Pringle salty potatoes. But they may have less opportunity and motivation to exercise these abilities than we do.

Even if the differences between us and our nearest animal relatives are quantitative rather than qualitative—a matter of dialing up some cognitive capacities and downplaying others—they can have a dramatic impact overall. A small variation in how much you rely on theory of mind to understand others as opposed to relying on a theory of status and alliances can exert a large influence in the long run of biological and cultural evolution.

Finally, de Waal’s book prompts some interesting questions about how emotion and reason mix in the scientific enterprise. The quest to understand the minds of animals and children has been a remarkable scientific success story. It inevitably has a moral, and even political, dimension as well. The challenge of studying creatures that are so different from us is to get into their heads, to imagine what it is like to be a bat or a bonobo or a baby. A tremendous amount of sheer scientific ingenuity is required to figure out how to ask animals or children what they think in their language instead of in ours.

At the same time, it also helps to have a sympathy for the creatures you study, a feeling that is not far removed from love. And this sympathy is bound to lead to indignation when those creatures are dismissed or diminished. That response certainly seems justified when you consider the havoc that the ladder-of-nature picture has wrought on the “lower” creatures. (Just ask ASD and Asperger children how devastating this lack of “empathy” on the part of the “helping, caring fixing” industry is.)

But does love lead us to the most-profound insights about another being, or the most-profound illusions? Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine would have differed on that too, and despite all our theory-of-mind brilliance, (sorry – that’s ridiculous optimism) we humans have yet to figure out when love enlightens and when it leads us astray. So we keep these emotions under wraps in our scientific papers, for good reason. Still, popular books are different, and both sympathy and indignation are in abundant supply in de Waal’s.

Perhaps the combination of scientific research and moral sentiment can point us to a different metaphor for our place in nature. Instead of a ladder, we could invoke the 19th-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt’s web of life. We humans aren’t precariously balanced on the top rung looking down at the rest. (Tell that to all those EuroAmerican males who dictate socio-economic-scientific terms of “humans who count”) It’s more scientifically accurate, and more morally appealing, to say that we are just one strand in an intricate network of living things.

About the Author

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley.