April 22, 2006

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Rationality

In Friday's Wall Street Journal, there is an interesting article on aging and cognitive decline by Sharon Begley. Ms. Begley notes that cognitive training has not shown itself (by itself) to decrease the rate [emphasis mine] of cognitive decline as we age. It has been touted in numerous places that the "brain is a muscle too, use it or lose it" and we have usually accepted this as accurate: Exercise your ability to use your mind and your mind will last a lot longer as you grow older.

This "cliché" as it were is now proven to be wrong. It is true that mental training produces increased ability in the aging in that part which is trained; i.e., if you train by using crossword puzzles, you facilitate the ability to do crossword puzzles, but you may not enhance other cognitive functioning such as ability to solve other problems and that though you may enhance the ability vis-à-vis crossword puzzles, the rate of decline in mental functioning is just as steep as in the untrained but maybe from a higher starting point. Ms. Begley states:

Consider an alternative that is gaining scientific support. Say you enter old age (by which I mean your 30s, when mental functioning starts heading south, accelerating in your 50s) with a "cognitive reserve" -- a cushion of smarts. If so, you are likely to be able to remember appointments, balance a checkbook and understand Medicare Part D (OK, maybe not) well into your 60s and 70s. But not because your brain falls apart more slowly. Instead, you started off so far above the threshold where impaired thinking and memory affect your ability to function that normal decline leaves you still all right.

The Active study isn't the only reason scientists are rethinking the use-it-and-you-won't-lose-it idea. In the Seattle Longitudinal Study, older adults received five hours of training on spatial rotation (what would a shape look like if it turned?) or logic (given three patterns, which of four choices comes next?). As in Active, people got better on what they practiced.

But seven years later, their performance had declined just as steeply (though, again, from a higher starting point) as the performance of people with no training, scientists reported last year. That supports the cognitive reserve idea -- if you enter middle age with a good memory and reasoning skills you stay sharp longer -- not the mental-exercise hypothesis."

So, how do we apply some of this knowledge to the current political landscape. Looking at a number of our politicians we can safely say that many are past their prime. Does this necessarily mean that they shouldn’t be in congress (or other elective office)? Does cognitive decline which is a scientific fact differ markedly from what we have always heard that with age comes wisdom?

Vernon Cooper notes: “These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.” One would think then that as Cooper says if knowledge is of the past, than our current crop of aged politicians are full of knowledge for they, well the Democrats among them at least, are spouting off knowledge of how Iraq is like Vietnam, how this should have happened, etc. but no wisdom of how that can and/or should apply to the future. According to Cooper, one could surmise that wisdom can come at any age if one can apply the lessons learned in the past to the future, which is the essence of the exercise of wisdom.

Yet, one must perforce toss in an additional element, that of rationality; rationality in the understanding of Cooper’s “knowledge” in order to be able to apply “wisdom” to the future and map out where are we to go.

This post is essentially then about the irrationality of many politicians, in particular those who are identified with the left of the center aisle and most of them are Democrats. I’ll leave it to the liberal bloggers to attempt to describe any irrationality on the right. That ain’t my job.

In a number of very well laid out essays, Dr. Pat Santy writing as Dr. Sanity discusses rationality beginning with Command Hallucinations:

The American public is hearing voices. And like auditory hallucinations experienced by psychiatric patients, these voices whisper continual doom and gloom. They tell the American consumer that prices are too high. That the economy is tanking; that poverty is on the rise; and that everything is bad, bad, bad.

These voices are persistent and continual. They are unrelenting. They are often frightening. And like the command hallucinations that torment many of my patients, they are completely and totally untrue. You are bad. Life isn't worth living. They are trying to hurt you. Don't try, it's not worth it.

It is very rare for such voices to say anything at all positive. They have a specific goal--and that goal is the distortion of reality.

So why do patients believe them? Especially the one's that are bizarre and so obviously out of touch with any known reality? You know, the ones that say aliens have implanted electrodes in your brain and are monitoring your thoughts and things like that.
It is a triumph of false perceptions over reality. It is testimony to how profoundly and fundamentally people trust their perceptual faculties and let their perceptions rule, even when those perception come in conflict with common sense, truth, or reality.
We, the American people have come to have a similar trust in the voices of the MSM. Over the years, they have almost become an additional perceptual faculty that we rely on--simply because life has become too complicated and overwhelming, that the use of our ordinary senses is insufficient in the modern world.

She continues in a number of posts here, here and here.

Charles Krauthammer is of course the originator of Bush Derangement Syndrome discussed by Dr. Sanity. Krauthammer says BDS is:

the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.
And by the way, Charles Krauthammer is not only a very good columnist but he is also a psychiatrist. That's two!

One of my very favorite sites and someone who has become a friend is Shrinkwrapped. Another psychiatrist who takes on the oft irrational left and the "delusional" media. From one of his posts:

In John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend, 6 blind men approach an elephant and try to describe it by touch alone. One touches its flank and declares an elephant is like a wall; the second touches its tusk and declares an elephant is like a spear. After all six proclaim their sense of what an elephant is, the poem concludes:

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

It seems to me that much of our Media commentary on the war in Iraq suffers from a form blindness that is akin to the blindness of the 6 Indian men.

Shrinkwrapped also notes that there is a significant irrational quality in the Democratic left, especially around the "Bush Lied" meme and the movement towards impeachment of the President. Shrinkwrapped has an excellent prescription - let every candidate stand up and announce publicly if they are in favor of impeachment of George W. Bush, or not. He states in this post:
Further, we have an excellent chance to examine our prejudices in the light of day before the next election. While both extremes are problematic, it has been clear for quite some time that the right-wing extremists tend to be marginal in the Republican party. (I would be delighted if anyone can send me a reasoned argument showing me how I am wrong rather than the typical invective more common from the left; as a general rule, "Bush Lied" is not an argument.) Unfortunately, the core of the Democratic party is ruled by just such emotion. Here is my suggestion. Let us have all political bloggers, left and right, join together in requesting (if you prefer to demand it, feel free) that all candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate for the 2006 elections publicly declare and debate the proposition that George Bush should or should not be impeached. Let us settle this once and for all. Clearly, the Democratic base wants this. If Bush is indeed a fascist, if he lied and broke the law, if he is attacking our civil liberties, then his impeachment is an obvious remedy. Let us have those pressing for impeachment make their best case and leave it to the great bulk of moderate Americans to decide whether or not the partisans can make the case. If they win, so be it; if the Democrats lose, they can then reasonably be asked to re-think their fundamental positions and rejoin the political process as a responsible opposition party. With any luck, this question can be settled before the posturing for the 2008 elections goes into full swing.
Sounds to me like an antidote for the irrationality of the left. That's three!

I am struck, however, about the extent of the "meanness" of the so called Angry Left. The use of attack messages and vulgar language when speaking of their political opponents far exceeds that of the so called Angry White Male and other conservatives after the 1994 elections. The MSM adopted the Angry White Male meme with gusto and spread it far and wide. In fact, it was not anger at what the MSM wanted you to think of, namely "non-Whites and women in government, business, media, education, and other institutions" it was anger at the proclivities of the Democratic Party and those results showed in a major upheaval giving Republicans control of the United States House of Representatives for the first time in more than 40 years, control that continues twelve years later. That loss of power, let alone the loss of face for the Clintonites bedevils the Democratic Party today.

The Bush Derangement Syndrome has led them to fight not for what is right, though that is what they say they are fighting for but to fight for a return to power. Indeed, looking at their leadership, Reid, Pelosi, Dean, Kerry (The haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam to borrow James Taranto’s delicious phrase) and listening to their pronouncements as to why they do what they do can lead a rational person to arrive at a single conclusion. They're nuts!

So far, I've quoted three psychiatrists, all of the same persuasion, that the Democrats in general and their arm the MSM have been increasingly irrational. I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm a Licensed Professional Counselor, but I stand with the three and have contributed my own bit here.

For the record, I'm very unhappy with the Republican party today and have noted so in a couple of recent posts here, and here. I'm not sure I'm willing to vote for any Republicans in Texas at this point, but I can be convinced if they are willing to get off their backsides and govern the way they said they would when we elected them. And yes, this means I may spend Election Day sitting at home, or I may vote libertarian or I may write in votes or I may go fishing - it is up to the Republicans what I do, but I can tell you this for sure, I won’t be voting for any liberal Democrats or conservative Democrats who don’t have the guts to go against their liberal masters and from what I’ve seen, that would be all of them with the possible exception of Joe Lieberman and I can’t vote for him anyway.

Posted by GM Roper at April 22, 2006 07:59 PM | TrackBack

Agggghhhhhh. I made a lengthy comment and lost it before it posted. I'll get back to it after having some ice cream to feel better.

Posted by Woody at April 23, 2006 08:00 AM

You made one small error in your otherwise excellent post. Actually, my wife and children might refer to this as a big error but I won't quibble about a minor kerfuffle. As far as I know, I am now and have always been male, though the field of Psychiatry has become more and more the province of women since I was in my Residency in the late 70's. Actually, I take it as a compliment that my writing cannot be easily identified as "male" in orientation. It may be that writing from a Psychoanalytic perspective, I write with less overt certainty as many others; I have long recognized that the more I know, the less I can be really sure about.
Thanks for your kind words, even at the price of a gender change!

Posted by ShrinkWrapped at April 23, 2006 08:42 AM

Through the miracle of pixelated surgery, the he that should have been a he but was converted into a she is now a he again.

The patient is expected to recover fully and other than a little chagrin on the part of the "surgeon" should now be with his family enjoying his Sunday dinner.

Posted by GM Roper at April 23, 2006 10:58 AM

Outstanding post, George!
Wisdom, rationality, knowledge, and common sense is clearly prevalant in this post.
I believe the donks will attempt to obstruct any vote for impeachment. Most of them, anyway.
That is what they do best.
Since most know that President Bush has done nothing to be impeached for, they certainly won't vote for it.
Butthey don't want to go "on record", because then they have to make a stand.
1. Vote for impeachment and look like a fool.
2. Vote against impeachment and not be able to make the false accusations and distortion of reality they are so fond of doing.
3. Don't vote at all, and have opponents use that against them.
4. Obstruct. The tried and true M.O, they are best known for, an are very good at, since far too many Republicans lack the backbone to put an end to it.
I sure hope that the Republicans get their act together.
The current leadership is virtually non-existant, in the Senate primarily.

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at April 23, 2006 03:21 PM

Oh to have the opportunity to vote, or not, for a Republican! But, then, I live in MA and we only have Republican governors. Initially my residency here was my parents fault, but given my now advancing age its continuance can only be blamed on me.

As for the psychology of BDS and such, I have no expertise on that topic other than the knowledge that rational and thoughtful people do not scream at their televisions nor do they resort to swearing and ad-hominem attacks when discussing/arguing with others.

Excellent post GM.

Posted by too many steves at April 24, 2006 05:01 AM

Ben kinda said it for me. The democrats won't take a stand on impeachment because then they'll have to present a rational argument. And there's no rational argument to be had on this other than simple opinion. The democrats, the MSM and the ultra left wing groups keep using the "who shouts loudest" technique which has no basis in reality or rationality.

For one instance, the shrill "domestic eavesdropping" indignation. Even Constitutional scholars and lawyers can't come to a consensus on it's legality. Both provide their arguments and both have good points, but when we have the mainstream media providing a soapbox for only one side of the argument what we get is lopsided public opinion which applies the brakes to rational discourse.

For another instance, the witch hunt for Rumsfeld is given lopsided coverage leaving the impression that if we'd only done "this" instead of "that" without addressing the whole new subset of problems "that" would have produced then we get more irrationality.

Victor Davis Hanson has addressed it at length. As a military historian, he is endowed with a vast wealth of knowledge on what "that" may likely have produced. But it's never part of the left's argument pertaining to the war or its execution.

For a last example, my brother is a big liberal. (I love him anyway ;-) He is the embodiment of what the left is. He lived in New York for 20 years (he worked in Manhattan). In a political discussion we had once he was railing against Rudy Guiliani with nothing really substantial. I brought up a few good points about Guiliani's governing of the city and he reluctantly agreed, but then concluded with, "Well, I just hate him."

I rested my case.

Posted by Oyster at April 24, 2006 07:01 AM

The stridency from foaming-at-the-mouth Democrats is hurting their Party for some; others are going right along with the madness.

Like you, I'm becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Republican Party, the last straw being the issue of illegal invaders (aka "undocumented workers"). However, I will continue to vote in every election; otherwise, I don't feel that I have the right to bitch.

Once, many years ago here in Fairfax County, many voters were bemoaning their lack of choices in the local elections. En masse, the following write-ins got votes:

1. Matt Dillon (of Gunsmoke) for sheriff

2. Perry Mason for Commonwealth Attorney

I was quite young at the time, but I still recall those two TV characters getting quite a number of votes.

Did the humorous write-ins make any difference in local politics? Probably not. But those who cast those satiric write-in ballots felt that they hadn't violated their consciences.

Posted by Always On Watch at April 24, 2006 09:11 AM

Always On Watch: A similar thing happened a few years ago in the UK during their census. Because there were so few options for choosing a religious affiliation a glut of people wrote in "Jedi Knight". It got the census bureau's attention right away.

I'm betting, too, that Condi gets a substantial number of write ins in '08 whether she runs or not.

Posted by Oyster at April 24, 2006 10:29 AM

"For the record, I'm very unhappy with the Republican Party"--GMR

As well you should be. Faced with the most delusional, manipulative, cynical, and opportunistic Opposition in living memory, what truly useful and long-lasting thing has the Republican Machine done?

Nothing. They typify your distinction between knowledge and wisdom. They have precious little of the former I grant you, but seemingly absolutely none of the latter.

The voters deserve better than a choice between the mad-as-hatters Party ,and the don't-have-clue, and don't-much-care Party.

Frankly they deserve to lose. It's simply a tragedy that they have no-one sane to whom to lose.

Once they do ---- bye-bye.

Posted by dougf at April 24, 2006 12:50 PM

Excellent posting GM!..sigh the ad hominum (spell check?..lol) arguments seem to run both ways but I do perceive much baseless hatred spewing from the left...Pride and Vanity are ruling..not insight or Wisdom....

Posted by Angel at April 24, 2006 01:47 PM

Oh yes this is brilliant. Definitely evidence to support the dumb as a dumptruck full of rocks party: Republican. Of course support means to have them committed to an insane asylum.

Posted by Jake Elmore at April 24, 2006 03:24 PM

Frankly, what has the Republican Party tried to do that hasn't been met with anything but screeching and obstruction, DougF? Not to blindly defend them, but they have tried to invite dialog on social security reform, healthcare, immigration, etc. And each time, the clamor arising from the Democrats has done nothing but twist the issues into class and race warfare and create the perception that the Democrats are the good guys and the Republicans are the bad guys even if they have to lie.

On the other hand, they've become nothing but big spenders kow-towing to every whim of every obstructionist who opens their mouth.

We either have to make a decision and vote or butt out and shut up. I just ask myself a couple questions to settle it in my own mind: How would I feel saying "Madam President" or listening to the news and hearing Harry Reid introduced as "House Majority Leader"? That's all it takes for me.

Posted by Oyster at April 24, 2006 03:59 PM

I'm going to write a new book about the left's values and words and give it a catchy title like "The Godless and the Bull." Any resemblance with any other book is purely coincidental.

Posted by Woody at April 24, 2006 04:29 PM

Does anyone want to discuss the absolute maximum number of years that radiocarbon dating can cover?

Posted by Woody at April 24, 2006 04:35 PM

Less than 50,000 years for the best accuracy range. Just keep trumpeting your imaginary friend. Once you realize these values evolved, there's no need for a mental babysitter, unless of course one is really that immature.

Posted by Mark A. York at April 24, 2006 06:03 PM

Less than 50,000 years can be 10 years. It could be 17 years. It could be 49,999 years. Is that how you define an "absolute" maximum? Sorry that I brought it up.

Posted by Woody at April 24, 2006 06:11 PM

You're just not grasping the concept. It's a range or window of accuracy not an "absolute" one-number is correct and ALL OTHERS ARE WRONG type of deal.

Posted by Mark A. York at April 24, 2006 08:19 PM

Mark, the phrase has to do with the "absolute MAXIMUM." That is not a range. That is the highest number--not a range, not an average, etc. Or, is it the style of the left to say that all numbers are equal and that one number isn't better than another one--sort of a mathematical diversity approach?

Posted by Woody at April 24, 2006 09:16 PM

Mathematical diversity, heh heh!
I think they use that in the global warming computer models, Woody.

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at April 25, 2006 12:17 AM

Fine post, GM.
Reps need to run small gov't, anti-spending Reps in the Primaries, who give the incumbents a scare. In "locked" districts, due to the gerrymander crap.

[Woody, I hope not ALL are following your Marc Cooper junk.]

We need to laugh at the Dems.

Posted by Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 25, 2006 10:36 AM

Absolute maximum is indeed a range depending on the type of sample. I understand Woody your very linear closed mind can't grasp any uncertainty, less the whole world of knowledge be cast aside in favor of myth, but that's the way it is. One year is a nanosecond in geologic time. 45,000 is the general range or break point at which accuracy is a diminishing return in carbon dating. You do get the Darwin Award for obtuseness though.

Posted by Mark A. York at April 25, 2006 10:47 AM

Harry Reid, I believe, is in the Senate not the House. Of course, I would prefer that he was back in his very small town in NV.

Posted by tad at April 25, 2006 11:44 AM

York, you are banned from this site (assuming the IP banning program works) at any rate, ALL future comments of yours will be marked deleted by administrator. I have taken this action based entirely on your inability to contribute to the discussion. You have been asked to leave politely (and not so politely) and have refused to do so and now I take this step. DO NOT COME BACK

Posted by GM Roper at April 25, 2006 12:34 PM

Oppose Harry Reid

Christians Against Leftist Heresy


I Stand With Piglet, How About You?

Reject The UN
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


101st Fighting Keyboardists

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!

Naked Bloggers

Improper Blogs

Milblogs I Read

The Texas Connection
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

American Conservative

The Wide Awakes


< TR>
AgainstTerrorism 1.jpg
[ Prev || Next || Prev 5 || Next 5]
[Rand || List || Stats || Join]

Open Tracback Providers

No PC Blogroll

Blogs For Bush

My Technorati Profile
Major Media Links

Grab A Button
If you would like to link to GM's Corner, feel free to grab one of the following buttons. (Remember to save the image to your own website).

Whimsical Creations by GM Roper
My Store

Technorati search

Fight Spam! Click Here!
YCOP Blogs

The Alliance
"GM's Corner is a Blogger's
Blog, and then some!"
-----Glenn Reynolds

Coalition Against Illegal Immigration

Southern Blog Federation

Kim Komando, America's Digital Goddess
Powered by:
Movable Type 2.64

Template by:

Design by:

Hosted by: