Tag Archives: education

National Measurement and Flourishing

Published on Mar 20, 2014
National Measurement and Flourishing
Dr Felicia Huppert

Abstract

Governments around the world are recognising the importance of measuring subjective well-being as an indicator of progress. But how should well-being be measured? A conceptual framework is offered which equates high well-being with positive mental health. Well-being is seen as lying at the opposite end of a spectrum to the common mental disorders (depression, anxiety). By examining internationally agreed criteria for depression and anxiety (DSM and ICD classifications), and defining the opposite of each symptom, we identify ten features of positive well-being. These combine feeling and functioning, i.e. hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being: competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self esteem, and vitality. An operational definition of flourishing is developed, based on psychometric analysis of indicators of these ten features, using data from a representative sample of 43,000 Europeans. Application of this definition to respondents from the 23 countries which participated in the European Social Survey (Round 3) reveals a four-fold difference in flourishing rate, from 41% in Denmark to less than 10% in Slovakia, Russia and Portugal. There are also striking differences in country profiles across the 10 features. These profiles offer fresh insight into cultural differences in well-being, and indicate which features may provide the most promising targets for policies to improve well-being. Comparison with a life satisfaction measure shows that valuable information would be lost if well-being was measured by life satisfaction. Taken together, our findings reinforce the need to measure subjective well-being as a multi-dimensional construct in future surveys.

Keywords: Well-being, Flourishing, Population sample, Europe, Measurement, Survey

The Science of Well-being
Wed, 17th May 2006

Felicia Huppert
How much do we know about what makes people thrive and societies flourish? While a vast body of research has been dedicated to understanding social problems and psychological disorders, we know remarkably little about the positive aspects of living – about what makes our life happy and meaningful. Felicia Huppert takes us on a tour of her new book, The Science of Well-being, in which she and her co-writers search for the answers to these questions

Group behaviour

Group Flow: The Pathway to Peak Human Performance

Ever wonder why group workouts are so successful and popular? Training for marathons, triathlons, CrossFit, and many other physical activities and sports often have a huge group-training component.

At first, it seems obvious. Humans are social creatures. It’s just more fun to workout with friends. But, even if you’re a loner there may be an actual physical benefit to working out in a group. That benefit is called group flow.


What Mel Brooks Can Teach Us about “Group Flow”

By R. Keith Sawyer | January 24, 2012 

R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on creativity. He elaborates on the ideas in this essay in his book Group Genius.

Researcher R. Keith Sawyer looks to comedians and jazz groups for 10 keys to more creative, successful teams in the office, on the field, and beyond.

Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly coined the term “flow” to describe a particular state of heightened consciousness—what some people refer to as being “in the zone.”

Csikszentmihaly discovered that extremely creative people are at their peak when they experience “a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future.” When they enter the flow state, people from a wide range of professions describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self-consciousness, and they get so absorbed in the task that they lose track of time.


Group behaviour (or group behavior) in sociology refers to the situations where people interact in large or small groups. The field of group dynamics deals with small groups that may reach consensus and act in a coordinated way. Groups of a large number of people in a given area may act simultaneously to achieve a goal that differs from what individuals would do acting alone (herd behaviour). A large group (a crowd or mob) is likely to show examples of group behaviour when people gathered in a given place and time act in a similar way—for example, joining a protest or march, participating in a fight or acting patriotically.

Special forms of large group behaviour are:

  • Crowd “hysteria
  • Spectators – when a group of people gathered together on purpose to participate in an event like theatre play, cinema movie, football match, a concert, etc.
  • Public – exception to the rule that the group must occupy the same physical place. People watching same channel on television may react in the same way, as they are occupying the same type of place—in front of television—although they may physically be doing this all over the world.

Group behaviour differs from mass actions, which refers to people who behave similarly on a more global scale (for example, shoppers in different shops), while group behaviour refers usually to people in one place. If the group behaviour is coordinated, then it is called group action.

Swarm intelligence is a special case of group behaviour where group members interact to fulfill a specific task. This type of group dynamics has received much attention by the soft computing community in the form of the particle swarm optimization family of algorithms.

Group dynamics is a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics), or between social groups (intergroup dynamics). The study of group dynamics can be useful in understanding decision-making behavior, tracking the spread of diseases in society, creating effective therapy techniques, and following the emergence and popularity of new ideas and technologies.[1] Group dynamics are at the core of understanding racism, sexism, and other forms of social prejudice and discrimination. These applications of the field are studied in psychologysociologyanthropologypolitical scienceepidemiology, education, social work, business, andcommunication studies.

A group’s structure is the internal framework that defines members’ relations to one another over time.[5] The most important elements of group structure are roles, norms, values, communication patterns, and status differentials.[1]

A “role” can be defined as a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way. Roles may be assigned formally, but more often are defined through the process of role differentiation.[6] Role differentiation is the degree to which different group members have specialized functions. Functional (task) roles are generally defined in relation to the tasks the team is expected to perform.[7] Other types of roles are the socio-emotional role, which helps maintain the social fabric of the group, the individual role and the leader role.

Group “norms” are the informal rules that groups adopt to regulate members’ behaviour. Norms refer to what should be done and represent value judgments about appropriate behaviour in social situations. Although they are infrequently written down or even discussed, norms have powerful influence on group behaviour.[8]

Group “values” are goals or ideas that serve as guiding principles for the group.[9] Like norms, values may be communicated either explicitly or on an ad hoc basis. Values can serve as a rallying point for the team. However, some values (such as conformity) can also be dysfunction and lead to poor decisions by the team.

Communication patterns describe the flow of information within the group and they are typically described as either centralized or decentralized. With a centralized pattern, communications tend to flow from one source to all group members. Centralized communications allow consistent, standardization information but they may restrict the free flow of information. Decentralized communications make it easy to share information directly between group members. When decentralized, communications tend to flow more freely, but the delivery of information may not be as fast or accurate as with centralized communications. Another potential downside of decentralized communications is the sheer volume of information that can be generated, particularly with electronic media.

Status differentials are the relative differences in status among group members. Status can be determined by a variety of factors, including expertise, occupation, age, gender or ethnic origin. Status differentials may affect the relative amount of pay among group members and they may also affect the group’s tolerance to violation of group norms (i.e., people with higher status are given more freedom to violate group norms).

Group development focuses on the somewhat unique way groups are formed and the way they may change over time. There are a variety of development theories and some suggest that groups develop through a series of phases culminating in effective performance.[10] The most common of these models is Tuckman’s stages of group developmentmodel (1965). It breaks group development into the following five stages:[1]

  • Forming: As the group convenes, conflict is usually low to non-existent as everyone tries to determine their individual role and the personalities of fellow team members. This stage is often marked by agreeable neutrality while the group takes form and begins to navigate the unknown.
  • Storming: Storming occurs after the group overcomes the sense of uncertainty and begins to actively explore roles and boundaries. Chaos, pronounced efforts to influence others, and instances of conflict and/or enthusiasm are common.
  • Norming: Norming in groups indicate that norms and role ownership are emerging. Generally this means that conflict and chaos is decreasing or has ended.
  • Performing: Originally noted as the final stage, performing occurs when the team completes their primary task(s).
  • Adjourning: Tuckman (1977) refined the model to include a fifth stage to address how the group begins to disengage and move on to new tasks potentially beyond the team.

While Tuckman’s (1965) model is useful in describing developmental processes, there are instances when groups do not strictly adhere to the exact sequence. Additionally, the storming stage may decrease but not fully dissipate and continue across other stages.

The history of group dynamics (or group processes)[2] has a consistent, underlying premise: ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ A social group is an entity, which has qualities that cannot be understood just by studying the individuals that make up the group. In 1924, Gestalt psychologist, Max Wertheimer identified this fact, stating ‘There are entities where the behavior of the whole cannot be derived from its individual elements nor from the way these elements fit together; rather the opposite is true: the properties of any of the parts are determined by the intrinsic structural laws of the whole’ (Wertheimer 1924, p. 7).[3]

As a field of study, group dynamics has roots in both psychology and sociology. Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920), credited as the founder of experimental psychology, had a particular interest in the psychology of communities, which he believed possessed phenomena (human language, customs, and religion) that could not be described through a study of the individual.[2] On the sociological side, Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), who was influenced by Wundt, also recognized collective phenomena, such as public knowledge. Other key theorists include Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931) who believed that crowds possessed a ‘racial unconscious’ with primitive, aggressive, and antisocial instincts, and William McDougall (psychologist), who believed in a ‘group mind,’ which had a distinct existence born from the interaction of individuals.[2]

Ultimately, it was social psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890–1947) who coined the term group dynamics to describe the positive and negative forces within groups of people.[4] In 1945, he established The Group Dynamics Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first institute devoted explicitly to the study of group dynamics.[5]Throughout his career, Lewin was focused on how the study of group dynamics could be applied to real-world, social issues.

An increasing amount of research has applied evolutionary psychology principles to group dynamics. Humans are argued to have evolved in an increasingly complicated social environment and to have many adaptations concerned with group dynamics. Examples includes mechanisms for dealing with status, reciprocity, identifying cheaters, ostracism, altruism, group decision, leadership, and intergroup relations.[6]

Swarm intelligence (SI) is the collective behavior of decentralizedself-organized systems, natural or artificial. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence. The expression was introduced by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989, in the context of cellular robotic systems.[1]

SI systems consist typically of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment. The inspiration often comes from nature, especially biological systems. The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of “intelligent” global behavior, unknown to the individual agents. Examples in natural systems of SI include ant colonies, bird flocking, animal herdingbacterial growth, and fish schooling. The definition of swarm intelligence is still not quite clear. In principle, it should be a multi-agent system that has self-organized behaviour that shows some intelligent behaviour.

The application of swarm principles to robots is called swarm robotics, while ‘swarm intelligence’ refers to the more general set of algorithms. ‘Swarm prediction’ has been used in the context of forecasting problems.

Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such asmemoryperception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations – that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selectionAdaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Some evolutionarypsychologists apply the same thinking to psychology, arguing that the mind has a modular structure similar to that of the body, with different modular adaptations serving different functions. Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.[1]

The adaptationist approach is steadily increasing as an influence in the general field of psychology.[2][3]

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that EP is not simply a subdiscipline of psychology but that evolutionary theory can provide a foundational, metatheoretical framework that integrates the entire field of psychology, in the same way it has for biology.[4][5][6]

Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations[3] including the abilities to infer others’ emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. They report successful tests of theoretical predictions related to such topics as infanticideintelligence,marriage patterns, promiscuity, perception of beautybride price, and parental investment.[7]

The theories and findings of EP have applications in many fields, including economics, environment, health, law, management,psychiatry, politics, and literature.[8][9]

Controversies concerning EP involve questions of testability, cognitive and evolutionary assumptions (such as modular functioning of the brain, and large uncertainty about the ancestral environment), importance of non-genetic and non-adaptive explanations, as well as political and ethical issues due to interpretations of research results.[10]

 

The morality of evolution

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is a book on evolutionary theory by English naturalist Charles Darwin, first published in 1871. It was Darwin’s second book on evolutionary theory, following his 1859 work, On the Origin of Species, in which he explored the concept of natural selection. In The Descent of Man, Darwin applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, and details his theory of sexual selection, a form of biological adaptation distinct from, yet interconnected with, natural selection. The book discusses many related issues, including evolutionary psychologyevolutionary ethics, differences between human races, differences between sexes, the dominant role of women in choosing mating partners, and the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society.


As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children, and if they become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like … Charles Darwin.

Ezra Taft Benson

More than other modern societies, United States relies, even depends, on myth to cement its confidence. Americans are profoundly ahistorical.

Our national myths are representations of identity and the actual instrument of acculturation. This process of acculturation through myth, moreover, is achieved through entertainment: television and movies. The culture of a society—its ethos—defines distinctive patterns of individual and group behavior. Culture shapes the way we look at the world. Whatever our immediate group membership, our final sense of identity is shaped by larger cultural patterns. If we define ourselves according to myth, what kind of worldview has it given us?

First, at the core,  the United States has an essentially religious value system. The primal myth of our origin is that of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” with the Plymouth Colony completely overshadowing Virginia and its lineal transplanting of British class and caste. We believe that the source and inspiration of America is bound up in religion: religious freedom, but also the moral vantage of Calvin. The impact of Protestant thought is felt in the ways we talk about mission, service, sacrifice, restraint. It underlies the sense that Americans share of serving a higher calling. This underpinning remains dominant today even though it is highly secularized, and transmuted into legal, constitutional language.

Second, Americans still hew a set of specific myths about the United States. One of these is that America is the source of human progress and can achieve perfection as a society. Americans believe that there has never been a society quite like our own. This American “exceptionalism” suggests that we are a people graced with unusual natural endowments. We think of ourselves literally as a “people of plenty.” But our mythology also reminds us that this land was a great “untamed wilderness,” a “land of savagery.” It was the exceptional will, unity and vision of the American people and their beliefs that transformed the landscape. The twin icons of national bounty and national achievement have inspired two senses of an American national purpose: a conviction that the United States should serve as an example to the world, that America and its people are the model for all human development; and an impulse to change the world for good, to become the active agency of human progress. Tyranny and resistance to change are so entrenched in the world that only direct American intercession can shift the direction of history. America’s gifts demand that it assume a missionary role.

In the United States at the turn of the 20th century, Darwinism was greeted with glee because it seemed so compatible with the prevailing ideology of theday,  where robber-baron capitalists like the Carnegies, Mellons, Sumners, Stanfords and yes, even Jack London, could not stop rattling on about how the “survival of the fittest” justified crushing unions, exploiting immigrant labor or being left unregulated to amass huge fortunes while administering monopolies. In the popular ethos of the United States, there is a confusion of Capitalism with the American worship of the individual and the nuclear family. It can be argued that these ideas are related but they are different and independent. According to the American work ethic you only get what you work for, but this is not what Capitalism is. Capitalism is the idea that market forces, carried out by intelligent agents looking for profit (self interest), let by themselves will generate wealth and prosperity for society as a whole. The dichotomy Capitalism/Socialism is actually dated. If one understands socialism as government control of the economy, all, 100%, of the world’s governments are socialist to some degree. In any case, we now live in a competitive society and are often told that to get ahead we require drive, commitment and determination, that we must expend a great amount of energy and, if necessary, use force to get what we want. A ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality is deeply entrenched in our culture. Despite the fact that this Wild West mentality  is a historical byproduct, it is now attributed to Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

Religious fundamentalists are sincere on their view of the World as a battleground between Good and Evil. For them anything that undermines faith in God, specially with regards to children, is utterly evil. The teaching of Science to children, in particular Evolution, is seen as a threat to children indoctrination. Nonetheless,  the attack on Evolution is an attack on Science as a whole. Science is not about what to believe but rather a method to perceive Reality. It is the critical objective look at reality aspect of Science that is perceived as a treat by the religious establishment. However, teaching religious ideas as an alternative to factual descriptions of reality undermines science education by misinforming students about the scientific method — the basis for science literacy.

The scientific method teaches students the fundamentals of science — how to observe data, perform experiments and form scientific theory. Religious explanations for creation are not science – they cannot be confirmed or denied by the scientific method. Teaching them as science confuses and misleads students about the scientific method, thereby warping their ability to live in a technology-driven society

Most people don’t read scientific papers because they are extremely complex. Even college science students have a hard time digesting scientific papers. But what is easy to understand is that, since the bible says this, science says that, therefore science is the devil, and since we hate the devil and our job is to fight him, we must hate science and fight it. Christian leaders can be blind sighted to the outside world at times. All this commotion about a science that goes against the bible. The Bible today, still says that the Earth does not move around the sun as much as it did thousands of years ago. The Bible did not change. At the end of the Middle Ages, Christian leaders threatened heavy punishment to Galileo for suggesting that, based on his scientific evidences, the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Any effort to introduce a theological doctrine into public school science curricula would inevitably offend some teachers and students. After all, a Protestant fundamentalist’s “literal” reading of Genesis would likely differ markedly from that of a Catholic or an Orthodox Jew. Both public school educators and religious leaders should be concerned about the prospect of biology lessons degenerating into debates on Biblical or religious interpretation.

Evolution by natural selection, at its core, works like this: living organisms are characterized by heritable variation for traits that affect their survival and reproductive abilities. This heritable variation originates from the (truly random) process of mutation at the level of DNA. The process of evolution turns out to be largely the result of two components: mutations (which are random) and natural selection (which, again, is not random). It is the joint outcome of these two processes that—according to evolutionary theory—explains not only the diversity of all organisms on Earth, but most crucially the fact that they are so well adapted to their environment: those that weren’t did not survive the process. Because the environment changes overtime, and therefore, what characteristics of life forms are better changes, and it cannot be said in absolute terms that extinct forms are inferior to those present today.

You may find it intuitively difficult to believe that two relatively simple natural processes can produce the complex order we observe in living organisms. But the beauty of science is that it so often shows our intuitions to be wrong. Because nature does not always function according to our common sense or intuition, the scientific method a necessity on the quest of the human race for survival.

Evolution is both a theory and a fact, contrary to simplistic creationist views. How can this be? Evolution is a fact in the sense that it is beyond reasonable doubt that living organisms have changed over time throughout the history of the earth. It is a theory in the sense that biologists have proposed a variety of mechanisms (including, but not limited to, mutation and natural selection) to explain the fact of evolution.

The theory of evolution is a fundamental concept of biology and it is supported by the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. Simply eliminating evolution from the public school curriculum in order to ease community tensions would do a great disservice to all students. It would deny public school students an adequate science education – which is more and more becoming a necessity for professional success in a high-tech world.

It must be said that there is a propagandistic perversion of language, and there are religious groups that use the language of science to mislead and actually undermine a scientific conceptualization of Reality. Religious opponents of evolution have cloaked religious beliefs in scientific sounding language and then mandating that schools teach the resulting “creation science” or “Intelligent Design” as an alternative to evolution. Intelligent Design organizations are fundamentalist religious entities that consider the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry. Creation science rested on a “contrived dualism” that recognized only two possible explanations for life, the scientific theory of evolution and biblical creationism, treated the two as mutually exclusive such that “one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution,” and accordingly viewed any critiques of evolution as evidence that necessarily supported biblical creationism. Creation science is simply not science because it depends upon supernatural intervention, which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable.

The argument for Intelligent Design (ID) is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God, traced back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. Although proponents of ID occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed. The writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. Dramatic evidence of ID’s religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the “Wedge Document.” The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture. The Discovery Institute, the think tank promoting ID whose CRSC developed the Wedge Document, acknowledges as “Governing Goals” to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Because Science wins over Religion on factual description of Reality, the attack on Science is made nowadays on moral grounds.  From the point of view of religious fundamentalists, Science is a competing religion, although a silly one at that. Then the scientific community is under attack with this straw-man argument against evolution:

But if design, conversely, is rational, why do so many scientists reject it? Because this is not an issue of science, but of religion. Their religion is that of materialism and naturalism, and they are under no illusions as to the implications of design.

James M Tour, in the blog entry Layman’s Reflections on Evolution and Creation. An Insider’s View of the Academy, claims insufficient understanding of what he calls Macroevolution. Macroevolution is evolution on a scale of separated gene pools.[1] Macroevolutionary studies focus on change that occurs at or above the level of species, in contrast with microevolution,[2] which refers to smaller evolutionary changes (typically described as changes in allele frequencies) within a species or population. However, contrary to claims by creationists, macro and microevolution describe fundamentally identical processes on different time scales.

Russian entomologist Yuri Filipchenko first coined the terms “macroevolution” and “microevolution” in 1927 in his German language work, “Variabilität und Variation”. Since the inception of the two terms, their meanings have been revised several times and the term macroevolution fell into limited disfavour when it was taken over by such writers as the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1940) and the paleontologist Otto Schindewolf to describe their orthogenetic theories.[7]

A more practical definition of the term describes it as changes occurring on geological time scales, in contrast to microevolution, which occurs on the timescale of human lifetimes.[8] This definition reflects the spectrum between micro- and macro-evolution, whilst leaving a clear difference between the terms: because the geological record rarely has a resolution better than 10,000 years, and humans rarely live longer than 100 years, “meso-evolution” is never observed.[8]

As a result, apart from Dobzhansky, Bernhard Rensch and Ernst Mayr, very few neo-Darwinian writers used the term, preferring instead to talk of evolution as changes in allele frequencies without mention of the level of the changes (above species level or below). Those who did were generally working within the continental European traditions (as Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, Bernhard Rensch, Richard Goldschmidt, and Otto Schindewolf were) and those who didn’t were generally working within the Anglo-American tradition (such as John Maynard Smith and Richard Dawkins). Hence, use of the term “macroevolution” is sometimes wrongly used as a litmus test of whether the writer is “properly” neo-Darwinian or not.

At the end of his article, Tour makes a reference to the movie, “Expelled. No Intelligence Allowed.”, a pro-intelligent design movie, which among other claims, strongly implies that Charles Darwin‘s ideas led to Adolf Hitler‘s atrocities. Tour asserts that a subset of the scientific establishment is retarding the careers of Darwinian skeptics. He closes citing  Viktor Frankl , The Doctor and the Soul with the comment If Frankl is correct, God help us:

“If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.
“I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers [emphasis added].”

The movie Expelled main theme is that what it calls Darwinism inherently contain the seeds of Nazism, and even more Darwinism equals Nazism. This frighteningly immoral narrative is capped off a la Moore, with shots of the Berlin Wall, old stock footage of East German police kicking around those trying to escape through the wall to the West and some solemn blather by Ben, who calls upon each one of us to rise up in defense of freedom and knock down a few walls in order to get creationism back into the curriculum at American Schools.

From Darwin to Hitler: evolutionary ethics, eugenics, and racism in Germany is a 2004 book by Richard Weikart, a historian at California State University, Stanislaus,[1] and a senior fellow for the Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute.[2] The work is controversial.[3] Graeme Gooday, John M. Lynch, Kenneth G. Wilson, and Constance K. Barsky wrote that “numerous reviews have accused Weikart of selectively viewing his rich primary material, ignoring political, social, psychological, and economic factors” that helped shape Nazi eugenics and racism.

The Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement, “provided crucial funding” for the book’s research.[5] The Institute operates DarwinToHitler.com, which promotes the book and intelligent design.[6] Prominent historian and critic of the intelligent design movement, Barbara Forest, states that the book is tied to the DI’s ‘wedge strategy‘ of attacking Darwinian science as morally corrupting.[7] This strategy aims to “defeat [the] materialist world view” represented by the theory of evolution in favor of “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”[8]

Weikart has appeared in creationist films promoting the book. In 2006, Weikart appeared in Coral Ridge Ministriescreationist film Darwin’s Deadly Legacy in which Weikart claims “Darwinian ideology is the core” of Nazism and D. James Kennedy concludes: “To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler.”[9][10] In 2008, Weikart, a supporter of intelligent design,[11] also appeared in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.  In fact, scientific theories, even those like Darwin’s that address organic life, are morally neutral.”   Creationist organizations, like Creation Ministries International cite Weikart’s work claiming it shows “extensive documentation of the Darwin–Hitler link.”

There were many nations, such as Britain which embraced Darwinism but saw a considerable number of their population killed trying to eliminate Nazism. There were other nations, such as the Soviet Union, where Darwinism was seen as so dangerous and subversive to State sponsored dreams of social engineering that those who espoused it were killed or exiled and a complete biological fairy tale, Lysenkoism, put into classrooms and agricultural policy ultimately leading to the deaths of millions from starvation.

Now, Christian groups are tying a neutral scientific theory to racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.That is extremely irresponsible and untrue. In fact, Christianity has a stronger link to anti-semiticism and xenophobia than Evolution which is a scientific theory that purports every man is from the same ancestor.

Throughout history, especially in the Crusades, European Christianity has consistently been a xenophobic culture – Jews were expelled out of England, were treated as second class citizens by Christians, and were not allowed to own lands. Black people were expelled by the Protestant Queen Elizabeth during the food shortage in England. Nazi Hitler, had Christianic themes in support of his treatment of the Jews.

The linking of Nazism to Evolution is a dishonest and cheap attempt at trying to personify a scientific theory as the root of all evil in the world. Evolution implies is that every human came from a single ancestor. Darwin himself was anti-slavery and he said that there was “no clear distinctive characteristics to categorize races as separate species, and that all shared very similar physical and mental characteristics indicating common ancestry”. However this went against Christian beliefs of that time. A German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who wrote “Life of Jesus”, “The Positivity of the Christian Religion” and thought to be Christian by many critics believed that scientific racism – or the use of science to propose that other races such as blacks are of different heritage and descended from apes “fitted well with the Christian belief of a divine Creation following which all of humanity descended from the same Adam and Eve.

The Bible sanctions slavery, and from the 1820s to the 1850s it was cited in the Southern States of the United States of America to support the idea that negroes had been created unequal, suited to slavery, by writers such as the Rev. Richard Furman, Joseph Smith Jr. and Thomas R. Cobb.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism).

Christians are very uncomfortable with the idea that Adam and Eve were Africans – who, by the now debunked scientific racism are deemed to be descendants of apes. This was a central Christian tenet for much more years than evolution was around, and it was the catalyst for the systematic degradation of a particular group of people – the fact that black people were descendants of apes, gave Christians the biblical right to rule over them. Now that evolution has equalized and showed that all men are equal, and given the current taboo of identifying oneself as racist as well as the demise of Scientific racism. Many xenophobic people turn to Intelligent Design as their last ditch attempt to salvage some element of supernatural support for dominion over a certain group of people. This does not mean all Intelligent Design supporters are racists, but it is certainly a comfortable place for xenophobic individuals to channel their energies to.

Experience & Education

Experience & Education is a short book written in 1938 by John Dewey, a pre-eminent educational theorist of the 20th century. It provides a concise and powerful analysis of education.[1] In this and his other writings on education, Dewey continually emphasizes experience, experiment, purposeful learning, freedom, and other concepts of progressive education. Dewey argues that the quality of an educational experience is critical and stresses the importance of the social and interactive processes of learning.

Dewey suggested that students organize fact-based comprehension through meta-cognition, or by building onto prior experiences, preconceptions, and knowledge, and therefore, the educator’s role is in creating an educative experience.

Dewey argues that not all experiences are educative and that, in fact, some experiences can be mis-educative. The central challenge to experience-based learning is to create fruitful experiences and organize them in progression to guide students’ learning. A mis-educative experience stymies the growth of further experiences. Enjoyable experiences may be mis-educative if they are disconnected and promote dispersive, disintegrated and centrifugal habits. In traditional schools, people associated boredom with the learning process. The experiences had by teachers and students were of the “wrong kind.” It Is not the absence of experiences in traditional schooling that Dewey finds troubling, but the defective nature of these experiences. Therefore, the educator’s duty is to determine the quality of an experience. Each experience has two aspects: the immediate agreeableness or disagreeableness and its later impact on further experience.

Dewey maintains that students must feel a sense of purpose in their learning to avoid mental slavery. Dewey describes a slave as someone who “executes the purpose of another or is enslaved to his own blind desires.” A genuine purpose consists of impulses, desires that are measured against perceived consequences. A purpose involves thinking about future consequences resulting from acting upon impulse. Schooling should not just concern itself with appealing to a student’s desires or impulses. Educators must help students foresee the consequences of enacted impulses and desires. More importantly educators must help drive the direction of the purpose. The formation of purposes involves: observation of objective conditions; an assessment of past experiences with similar conditions; and judgment of observation combined with memory to determine significance.