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Archive for March, 2009

Following a similar pop-psych analysis of Batman and his foes, here are Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and their personality disorders. Check it out and pitch in your differential diagnoses:

ozymandiasAdrian Veidt/Ozymandias

Adrian draws inspiration from Alexander the Great and the Egyptian Pharoah Ozymandias. Referred to as the “smartest man in the world,” Adrian generally looks down at humanity, and sees them as expendable in light of his plans. Under the DSM IV, his behaviour qualifies him under Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”

Dan, I’m not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.

nightowlDaniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl II

Daniel is disillusioned by the life of a superhero, and considers himself helpless and impotent against the changes in history. Dan can be considered as suffering from Avoidant or Anxious Personality Disorder, characterized as “a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation and avoidance of social interaction”.

Y’know, this must be how ordinary people feel. This must be how ordinary people feel around us.

comedianEdward Blake/The Comedian

Edward Blake is described as a ruthless, cynical, and nihilistic person, but capable of deeper insights into the role of a costumed super-hero. In 1940, he even attempted to rape his co-hero Silk Spectre in a fit of lust. The Comedian could be suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder, or a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. Those with this disorder are referred to as sociopaths and psychopaths.

Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.

manhattanJon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan

When Jon Osterman was caught in a freak accident, he was transformed into a godly being who slowly lost interest in human emotions and affairs. He views the universe from a quantum level, and time as simultaneous possibilities rather than linear events–all of which alienates him from people around him. If Jon was still human, he would be considered as a candidate for Schizoid Personality Disorder or a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, and emotional coldness.

A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there’s no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned?

silkspectreLaurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II

Laurie is the daughter of the original Silk Spectre, and estranged lover to Dr. Manhattan. After being alienated from Jon Osterman, she starts a romance with Dan Dreiberg to catch the attention she craves for. Although her case is not as extreme as the other Watchmen, she could be suffering from Histrionic Personality tendencies, or an excessive pattern of emotionality and attention-seeking behavior. These individuals are lively, dramatic, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. They may be inappropriately sexually provocative, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and be easily influenced by others.

What else have you got in there? Chocolate rations? Boy Scout knife? Army-issue contraceptives?

rorshachWalter Kovacs/Rorschach

Walter Kovacs sees existence as random and the world as immoral. He takes it upon himself to impose his idea of good on the world around him and pursues this mission with relentless passion. Due to extreme traumas in childhood, Kovacs might have developed Paranoid Personality Disorder. Those with paranoid personality disorder are hypersensitive, are easily slighted, and habitually relate to the world by vigilant scanning of the environment for clues or suggestions to validate their prejudicial ideas or biases. They tend to be guarded and suspicious and have quite constricted emotional lives. Their incapacity for meaningful emotional involvement and the general pattern of isolated withdrawal often lend a quality of schizoid isolation to their life experience.

Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.

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Controversial inventor, engineer, and physicist, Nikola Tesla and his thoughts on:

The ultimate power:

To create and to annihilate material substance, cause it to aggregate in forms according to his desire, would be the supreme manifestation of the power of Man’s mind, his most complete triumph over the physical world, his crowning achievement, which would place him beside his Creator, make him fulfill his Ultimate Destiny.

Sense-perception:

Our senses enable us to perceive only a minute portion of the outside world. Our hearing extends to a small distance. Our sight is impeded by intervening bodies and shadows. To know each other we must reach beyond the sphere of our sense perceptions. We must transmit our intelligence, travel, transport the materials and transfer the energies necessary for our existence.

Predicting radios, cellphones, fax machines, and the internet:

As soon as it is completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind. More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction.

Language:

Mutual understanding would be immensely facilitated by the use of one universal tongue. But which shall it be, is the great question. At present it looks as if the English might be adopted as such, though it must be admitted that it is not the most suitable. Each language, of course, excels in some feature…. A practical answer to that momentous question must perforce be found in times to come, for it is manifest that by adopting one common language the onward march of man would be prodigiously quickened. I do not believe that an artificial concoction, like Volapuk, will ever find universal acceptance, however time-saving it might be. That would be contrary to human nature. Languages have grown into our hearts.

Military disarmament:

General disarmament being for the present entirely out of question, a proportionate reduction might be recommended. The safety of any country and of the world’s commerce depending not on the absolute, but relative amount of war material, this would be evidently the first reasonable step to take towards universal economy and peace.

Collective oneness:

When we speak of man, we have a conception of humanity as a whole, and before applying scientific methods to the investigation of his movement we must accept this as a physical fact. But can anyone doubt to-day that all the millions of individuals and all the innumerable types and characters constitute an entity, a unit? Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them. I cut myself in the finger, and it pains me: this finger is a part of me. I see a friend hurt, and it hurts me, too: my friend and I are one. And now I see stricken down an enemy, a lump of matter which, of all the lumps of matter in the universe, I care least for, and it still grieves me. Does this not prove that each of us is only part of a whole?

Science and scientists:

The scientists from Franklin to Morse were clear thinkers and did not produce erroneous theories. The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.

Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.

The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter — for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes.

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Nikola Tesla (Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Тесла) (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was an inventor and a mechanical and electrical engineer. Tesla was born in the village of Smiljan near the town of Gospić, Austrian Empire (Kingdom of Hungary, Croatian Krajina). He was an ethnic Serb subject of the Austrian Empire and later became an American citizen. Tesla is often described as the most important scientist and inventor of the modern age, a man who “shed light over the face of Earth”. He is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Contemporary biographers of Tesla have regarded him as “The Father of Physics”, “The man who invented the twentieth century” and “the patron saint of modern electricity.”

(from Wikipedia)

Here’s an interesting video detailing Tesla’s contributions to electricity, military research, telecommunications, and science.

We previously featured Tesla’s work on flying machines on our blog.

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forensic-psychology-psychopath

This article is reprinted here with permission from a Pinoyexchange post “The Sensible Knave” by PEX user: _armada_

*~*~*~*~*

Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.

And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.

Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.

You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.

You can do anything at all …

The Sociopath Next Door

Policemen have flagged down serial killers and stared right at their faces, then let them drive off with an apology and a body in the trunk. A man belonged to a 33-year marriage and held office in a local church—where he typed letters to the police describing how he killed ten victims over thirty years, including a family of four. Last year a father received a life sentence after having nine children with his two daughters, who went through 19 pregnancies. This weekend another man was incarcerated for a similar crime; in court, jurors were asked to smell items from the cellar his daughter had last seen the outside of as an 18-year old, twenty four years ago. His wife, and the three ‘grandchildren’ raised upstairs after being left on their doorstep, had no knowledge of what went on under their feet.

“He will present to you a caring side, a selfless person, the nice man from next door. But what really troubles me is that he has not shown a single sign of regret.”

Aside from the obvious, what’s striking about the most heinous of criminals is how often they’ve gotten away with their acts right under people’s noses. Even after the facts come out, some of the educated respond by pointing to the ‘banality of evil’, equating scientific attempts to identify such individuals with ‘ethnic cleansing’, as if humanity as a race becomes complicit whenever there’s callousness on that scale, outside some mitigating influence.

Man without God may look very much like Fritzl.

Time to draw the line. Saying Village X is morally business as usual for humankind is criminally irresponsible. Blaming irreligiosity or reptilian humanoid aliens from Nibiru is flat-out stupid. These people had jobs, underwent psychological exams and had ongoing contact with government agencies, the military, religious workers, and even the police—yet nothing was suspected till it was too late for the families of multiple victims. Apparently the science these tests were based on was deficient, yet fundamentalists wail away at science’s underpinnings and spotlight the dogmatism of the establishment while ignoring legitimate scientific disputes that affect their followers’ daily lives—worse, some use their influence to make misleading statements about everyday science in the name of a black-and-white theology.

Heinous crimes are preventable, because for most people, the assumptions behind their causes are trapped in ignorance. I am not a psychologist nor do I claim special knowledge about the subject, I only appeal that whatever opinions we form about the matter, ought to be informed.

(more…)

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Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist and author of the theory of relativity, and his thoughts:

On Critical Thinking:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

On Ethics:

A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeeded be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

On Religion:

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

On Education:

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

On Science:

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.

On Mystery:

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

On War:

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

On Love:

No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

On Sheep:

In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.

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Found this cool Penn and Teller video on Daniel’s site. It shows the propensity of people to support suggestion (perhaps because they’re being filmed). The suggestion here delves into the healing/medical properties of magnets and snails (which fall under pseudoscience/pseudomedicine):

Magnet and snail facial practitioners prey on the same cognitive biases as snake oil salesmen.

Law of Attraction anyone?

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Poker, especially its variant Texas Hold ‘em is a very popular game around the world these days. Unlike other cards games such as Blackjack which are simply a question of odds, playing poker involves much more complex strategy since you are not playing against a house dealer, but other poker players as well.

The popular explosion of poker has also fueled an explosion in the number of books detailing poker strategy and nuances, but the more recent poker literature are beginning to delve deeply into the psychological and philosophical aspects of the game.

One psychologist and poker player: Alan Schoonmaker, has authored a number of very interesting poker books which are less about the strategy of poker hands (e.g. what are the best cards, mathematical odds, etc.), but more about getting the edge of playing the game by understanding the emotional and cognitive aspects of it.

In his book, Your Best Poker Friend, Schoonmaker provides an in-depth look at the challenges facing poker players as a result of our inborn biases and the natural way we think and learn.

I quoted an excerpt of Schoonmaker’s book in the Critical Thinking section because it greatly appealed to our thrust in this blog to encourage the process and practice of critical thinking. Arguably, a successful poker player not only has mastery of odds and risk management, but also has the ability to think critically of both himself and his opponents.

Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

Ignoring or misinterpreting later information because of our first impressions can cost us lots of money.

The effects of this tendency combine with one of my favorite subjects, the extremely common belief that we are more talented than we really are. Thousands of studies clearly indicate that people overestimate most of their abilities. Our first impresisons are probably not that good because we are not as perceptive as we think we are.

These insights put Schoonmaker on the same level as other critical thinkers we’ve featured here before like Nassim Taleb and George Soros–who both insist that our ability to accept a world of imperfect information (which is essentially what a poker game is) affects our ability to deal with it.

One of his recommendations:

You must guard against undue optimism, pessimism, and all other distorting emotions. Do whatever it takes to see what is really there, not what you expect, hope, or fear.

This is classic, exactly echoeing William Arthur Ward’s poem on risk.

Check out our excerpt of Schoonmaker’s book here.

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