Friday, July 22, 2011

Social pressures and false memories and Mormon miracles

From the lovely world of r/cogsci comes a link to ScienceDaily titled How Social Pressure Can Affect What We Remember: Scientists Track Brain Activity as False Memories Are Formed.

Turns out, social pressures can affect what we remember--to the point where a false memory becomes King.

The study went something like this:
1) volunteers watch a documentary
2) they return 3 days later to fill out a memory test and were told to rate their confidence in their memories
3) later, they were taken back to the lab to fill out the test while being scanned by an fMRI machine
3.1) While taking the test, they were given a "lifeline" in which they were given the supposed answers of their fellow viewers, alongside social-media-esque pics
3.2) the participants ended up answering incorrectly 70% of the time, even though they had previously answered correctly and with high confidence
4) to test whether this was due to social demands or no, they took the participants back to the lab
4.1) they were told to take the memory test yet again
4.2) they were also told that the answers they'd received from the "lifeline" were randomly generated by a computer

The grand finale: nearly half of the participants retained their false beliefs.

But just look at the fMRI results, summarized by the researchers:
An analysis of the fMRI data showed differences in brain activity between the persistent false memories and the temporary errors of social compliance. The most outstanding feature of the false memories was a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is known to play a role in long-term memory formation, while the amygdala, sometimes known as the emotion center of the brain, plays a role in social interaction. The scientists think that the amygdala may act as a gateway connecting the social and memory processing parts of our brain; its "stamp" may be needed for some types of memories, giving them approval to be uploaded to the memory banks. Thus social reinforcement could act on the amygdala to persuade our brains to replace a strong memory with a false one.

Does anyone else see the implications?

Want to revisit the evolution of a Mormon miracle?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh my god, the antichrist (and Michelle Bachman's church)

It's not like an anti-Mormon, an anti-American, or "hostile towards" anything in that sense.

Anti, in the Greek, I just learned, can also mean "opposite, counterpart".

And that definition of the prefix, according to this article, is what Luther had in mind when he declared the Pope to be the "anti-Christ".

The church Michelle Bachman was a part of, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, holds this stance too.

Now, I'm probably more surprised at this definition because it's been over a year since I've cared to read what the Bible said about the anti-Christ (somewhere in... Thessalonians?).

Still, having lived in the Bible Belt where Obama usually upholds this title, I always thought it was something more menacing. Maybe it still is under that definition. I don't know.

It'd be interesting to hear the full history of that term though.

Hello, Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Live and Let Live: hypocrisy?

"Live and let live" was the general idea behind a recent post on r/atheism from a believer.

I mostly agree with this idea. But a comment from an atheist really appealed to why this idea is disagreeable:
"Live and let oppress I think you mean. Or live and let rape. Or live and let mutilate. Or live and let lie about aids. If you were just living, I'd be fucking fine with that."

Sure, he cites some of the more extreme examples of where "live and let live" go wrong. But here's the general issue: the believer from this post cited "live and let live" when his religion doesn't follow that same line of thought.

And obviously, Mormonism falls under this issue.

I'm not going to turn into some raging critic and share with every Mormon the history of their church, but if they ever brought the idea of "just letting people live" in some casual conversation about whatever, I'd have something to remind them of.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A post for my own records--"Evolution of a Mormon Miracle"

Also, it reminds me of how horrendous i leave the writing on my own blog.


Religion is like a Relationship, figuratively as well as physiologically

Dear god, I've been saying this ever since I realized how similar my relationship with people I loved was similar to how I "loved" God. Sure, there's no real "give and take" like a true human relationship, but I easily believed there was. I mean, God gave his one and only son to die for me!


Turns out there's scientific backing to this little musing:
"Scientists have so far identified about 20 hard-wired, evolved "adaptations" as the building blocks of religion. Like attachment, they are mechanisms that underlie human interactions: Brain-imaging studies at the National Institutes of Health showed that when test subjects were read statements about religion and asked to agree or disagree, the same brain networks that process human social behavior — our ability to negotiate relationships with others — were engaged."

This and other ways that science has shown how belief is embedded in the brain can be read at this link:,0,5682260.story.

The article has a fun title, too: "Science and religion: God didn't make man; man made gods"


Edit: another fun snippet--"Among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce "out-group" hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in groups of kin and allies. Religion hijacks these traits. The rivalry between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, for example, or the doctrinal battles between Protestant and Catholic reflect our "groupish" tendencies."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Free Agency under fire (in case you missed it from USU Shaft's link bomb)

This article was linked from USU Shaft's link bomb #21, but the Neuroscientist who wrote the article made such a strong case for the following point that I had to re-post:

When your biology changes, so can your decision-making and your desires. The drives you take for granted (“I’m a heterosexual/homosexual,” “I’m attracted to children/adults,” “I’m aggressive/not aggressive,” and so on) depend on the intricate details of your neural machinery. Although acting on such drives is popularly thought to be a free choice, the most cursory examination of the evidence demonstrates the limits of that assumption.

Not true--just turn it off!

Like a liight switch, just go click!

it's a cool little Mormon trick

#couldntresist #parodyliveson #quotedfromBoMMusical

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I hated the Mormon church. In turn, it changed my life for the better

Back when I was an Evvie, it took me a year and a half to have a firm grasp of Mormonism. Its history, its belief system; how it's supported, why that it doesn't work. I was at my prime in a year and a half, and it was time. I sent a Facebook msg to a Mormon friend who was on a mission.

You know the Evvie drill: time to save a soul. Which was bullshit, I wanted revenge against the institution.

Who hasn't? There's no pretending that the main reason embittered people (read: mostly those with a big conflict with the church) like Mormonism is because we're virtuous and just "find it fascinating." I find psychology fascinating because it sometimes evidences that beliefs err on the delusional side. Not afraid to admit it.

What I am afraid to admit is that because of the church, I've become a better person.

Why? Because I shared my bitterness in the form of hatred for over two years?

Yes. That is entirely why I'm a better person.

Because from my bitterness, from my hatred for every logical delusion buried in the mind of a Mormon and because of what it meant for my life, I found my own logic to be delusional.

What makes the Bible any better than the BoM? And I don't mean qualitatively better. I mean what puts the Bible above the BoM in any logical sense?

I became a Universalist. I questioned my beliefs on Hell. I questioned my beliefs on gay marriage. I questioned the value of religion itself.

And not in a sense that religion is without value. I questioned it in a sense that Christianity is the only religion with "True" value, and everything else is "an abomination unto the Lord" (a founding Mormon concept that, honestly, Evvies like I once was believe just as wholeheartedly).

One year ago today, I sent that missionary my "I'd like to discuss some questions I have" message. And just yesterday,I had my discussion with that Mormon friend of mine. Met him at the local Mormon Institute, the only place I can currently see the girl who loves me (and I, her; for the past three years of god-dammmit-why-the-hell-is-there-a-temple-sealing pain).

I shared with him my experiences with Mormonism. An Evvie upbringing, a dance with Mormon criticism, a sudden insight from personal reflection, my Universalist upheaval...

and how I visited him today to share that I no longer think his religion is something I wish to deprive him of.

I was honest with him. I still disagree with some of the Mormon moral beliefs.

But I was also honest with myself:

Though I find Mormonism entirely false, with unjustifiable moral issues strengthened by (come on, guys) "spiritual" methods of fact-finding, I find that I can't still devote my time to defaming his beliefs.

I've found other things to do in my godless life that are meaningful and filled with a grand purpose. And they involve finding a way to get a long with the group of people I hold more contention for than any. other. group.

Throwing away my Christian beliefs--throwing away my selfish, Christian beliefs--I find that I can finally do as Christ commanded.

The most simple, remorseless command of all: to love thy neighbor.

And even, after all the pain and tears from a needlessly ended, Shakespearean of a three-year relationship...

to love my greatest enemy.

And that's how--after years of bitterness, hatred, and anger--I can say what, for years, I have found unthinkable:

Mormonism has changed my life.

And it has changed it for the better.