Posts Tagged ‘brain washing’

Would religions survive if children were not brainwashed into them?

May 25, 2017

Whether “indoctrination” of an empty child’s mind is less reprehensible than the “brainwashing” of an adult mind that has existing beliefs is not the point.  At issue is whether beliefs, which, by definition, exist outside the realm of knowledge, can be force-fed. No religion allows its followers to develop their own beliefs. All religions presume to instill their standard beliefs onto their own adherents and onto potential converts. Can beliefs be externally imposed or must they be developed internally? My own “belief” is that an idea, which is not the result of an individual’s own cognitive processes but is externally imposed, cannot be a true “belief”. All societies permit, and most approve, the indoctrination of children into the religions of their parents (or guardians). Apart from coerced conversions (which are still going on), I would guess that over 95% (and perhaps 99%) of all those who follow a religion, follow that of their parents.

Human behaviour has effectively made religion hereditary. Religion is not controlled by our genes except in that our genes may determine how susceptible we are to indoctrination. Yet our religious beliefs are determined by who our parents are. Unfortunately parents have not succeeded as well in indoctrinating children away from other undesirable behaviour. The growth or decline of religions across the world simply mirrors fertility on the one hand and the coercive conversion of peoples into the religion.

If a group of children were brought up in isolation on a desert island, by robotic instructors confined to teach only in the area of knowledge, and to answer any question in the space of ignorance with a “don’t know”, some of the children may well develop “religious” beliefs with divine power being attributed to the sun and the moon and the winds and the waves. But for there to be war between the sun-worshipers and the wind-worshipers there would first need to be those arrogant enough to anoint themselves as priests. There would be no organised religions without priests appointing themselves as special messengers of the divine powers. There would be no religious wars without “turbulent priests” bent on religious expansion. If every child was allowed, as it felt necessary,  to develop its own religious beliefs, organised religions would never catch hold. And if organised religions did exist they would merely wither and die without a continuous stream of new adherents in the form of brain-washed children growing up.

The problem lies not in whether one believes in gods or not, but in that organised religions exist and that they compete. They compete by claiming that one set of beliefs in the space of ignorance are superior or better than another set, also in the space of ignorance. The claims for the one or for the other are made by turbulent priests. It has been so ever since organised religions came into being. It is still so today, whether it is a mad mullah pronouncing a fatwa or a Hindu God-man calling for the destruction of a mosque or a Buddhist monk attacking unbelievers or a “celibate” Pope pronouncing on family values.

Who will rid us of these turbulent priests?


 

Marc Hauser makes his comeback with “brain-training” for at-risk children

June 4, 2013

Marc Hauser who was terminated / resigned from Harvard for rather suspect data creation (the Hausergate affaire) is now making his comeback with a new enterprise called Risk-Eraser

Risk-Eraser transforms the learning and decision-making of at-risk children by building more effective programs. Our goal is to erase the risk in the lives of at-risk populations.

His program is touted as being evidence-based and involves critical thinking and “brain-training” to give a program which “helps students reach higher goals in both school and in their social lives, enables programs to run more efficiently, and empowers teachers to engage in the most exciting methods of pedagogy”. 

Google Maps: West Falmouth Hwy #376, W. Falmouth, MA, 02574

Some irony in his claim of being “evidence-based” and the line between “brain-training” and brain-washing is rather thin. Brain-washing – even in a good cause – and with vulnerable children would seem to raise a number of ethical issues.

Risk-Eraser, West Falmouth Hwy #376, W. Falmouth, MA, 02574​

Looks nice there.

Currently he is the only member of the team. A Technical team and an Advisory team are said to be “coming soon”.

Marc Hauser, PhD

I am the founder of Risk-Eraser. The company grew out of two passionate interests: to understand human nature and to improve the lives of those less fortunate.  My PhD is in the mind and brain sciences.  I was a professor at Harvard for 19 years.  I have published over 200 papers and six books. I have won several awards for my teaching, and am the proud mentor of some of the best students in my academic areas of interest; these individuals now hold distinguished professorships at major universities all over the world.

 His main transgression may have initially been due to confirmation bias and this may have led to the data “manipulation”.  I am quite sure that not everything Hauser did or does is tainted — but the real problem is that discerning what is or is not suspect is going to be difficult.

To implement any confirmation bias with “at-risk children” could I think be very destructive.  Applying “brain-washing” techniques on “at- risk” children seems itself not to be devoid of risk.


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