Monday, 23 April 2012

You are more than a human resource

Philip Hunter in Prospect (April 2012) states the slightly politically incorrect, but nevertheless quite probably true, message that ‘IQ turns out to be a consistent indicator of success for individuals, nations and companies.’  He cites two books: IQ and the wealth of nations (2002) and IQ and global inequality (2006) both by Richard Flynn and Tatu Vanhause which give extensive evidence and arguments for this.

If by ‘success’ we mean earning power there is no doubt that, all else being equal, higher IQ makes you more able to solve problems which require speed and complexity of reasoning, and this is bound to be of immense practical value in achieving goals in everyday life, science, business or care for others. There are many other factors that have a bearing on how much money you are able to earn and on your role in society. E.g. artistic talent, inventiveness, lateral thinking, social skill, communication skill, cunning, empathy, compassion, competitiveness, ruthlessness, perseverance, honesty, affability, physical strength, physique and attractiveness. However, intelligence is probably the single biggest factor and often a necessary condition for the others to be effective, rightly or wrongly.

In general people are much more likely to admit to a bad memory or laziness in acquiring knowledge or bad education or lack of talent or lack of imagination than to a having a low IQ. Why are people so touchy about their innate intelligence? And why is it taboo to admit different IQ levels in different racial or social groups? 

 Human beings have a strong tendency to gauge a person’s worth by how useful he or she is. In the west this tendency has increased with the secularisation of society and what was once called the Personnel department in an organisation is now Human Resources. Labour is sold on a free market basis where supply and demand dictates the wage level and people accumulate signs of wealth which come to be regarded as marks of status and prestige in a meritocracy. Hierarchies in western societies are becoming steeper again, returning to what they were before the social reforms of a century ago  instigated by a strange mixture of Marxism and Christianity; and the welfare of those at the bottom is becoming increasingly precarious. A large strata of society have to work longer hours to support a family than a generation ago and it is no longer possible for most people to bring up a family on the wages of one man or one woman.

It is bad enough to have a hard life, working long hours, with no job security, fear of being thrown into debt by illness, no time to enjoy life, little hope of giving our children a reasonable education and no period of retirement prosperity to look forward to. But if on top of this the lowest paid in society are to be regarded as trash because they are not so intelligent or as useful as those above them this is not only a tragic denial of a person’s spiritual value to our Creator but, as the victims at the bottom of the social order also lose faith in their divine worth, they will feel even more oppressed.

When that happens they will follow whoever presents themselves as a saviour. If God is removed from their worldview they will follow whoever sets himself or herself up as the one to offer security, prosperity and purpose. Adolf Hitler did it in a secular democracy, the Wiemar Republic, in the 1930s Germany, offering all these rewards to a deprived de-Christianised populace. It worked for a while but the end result was hell, mercifully superseded by a post-war administration which at least attempted to re-instate Christian values.

So it worries me when I see people basing their self worth and that of others on material success, status and money. History teaches us that they can be swept away without warning by economic collapse, war, plague, famine or natural disaster, and then, what...?

For a nation state to run effectively and fairly we have to recognise the reality that people are different and have, through accident or providence, different degrees of intelligence and other attributes. It is the only way that everyone can be matched to one of the multifarious tasks that need to be performed in any country. But in a spiritual sense we are equal and if we follow the commands of Jesus Christ we are on the way to making our earthly existence more like heaven than hell. Fortunately, in my own country (UK), despite aggressive atheism, the Christ-inspired values are still prevalent. But how long will they last without constant spiritual renewal to remind us that we are more than a human resource?


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Jean Paul Sartre - not the way to Peace on Earth

This is an earlier posting republished because it seems to have vanished from the system.

The French existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) reached the conclusion that if God does not exist life is absurd. He did not believe in God and so proceeded to find a way of looking at reality which allows an individual to live meaningfully in an absurd reality.

 I have to admit that I have not seriously tried to read his classic opus Being and Nothingness because it seems flawed from the outset, assuming what philosophers have written about is correct (but wait, if there is no such thing as meaning or truth, how can one say anything is correct or incorrect?), and virtually incomprehensible from the first sentence. However, his conclusion that life is absurd without God is a conclusion I share and many have reached it independently.

If Sartre, and those who follow him, seriously think there is a way of living a Godless life that does not seem absurd to the one living it, then that life must be based wholly on illusion.

Thinking about this recently it occurred to me that one theme of the Holy Bible is that if we do not believe in God we go to something called hell. Metaphysically, ‘hell’ means to me and a growing number of Christians, a state of being beyond the physical world where those who do not believe they were created by God get the kind of existence they want.  At a practical earthly level it has a clear pragmatic meaning applicable to all humankind, regardless of faith or creed. Hell is indeed what happens in this life if we abandon belief in our Creator (the God who ‘so loved the world...’, not just Christians) and the absolute love and truth which emanate from God.

 Consider what happens when people abandon belief in the sacred source of being. Objective truth, love, loyalty, social institutions, the judicial system, laws, art, literature, music, religion, science, engineering and the universe itself are all totally arbitrary and meaningless. Any individual with the necessary charisma and self-belief (e.g. Hitler, Mao-Tse Tung or Stalin) can fool or force whole populations into his or her own illusory world-view, however atrocious. See also the posting 1984 and postmodernism.

 In a world that has abandoned God all doing good means is doing what makes you feel good or is expedient. A serial killer feels good doing what he does. In World War II  a concentration camp scientist starved a baby to death by forcing its mother to deny it milk, so he could see how long it could survive without milk. No doubt this made him feel good, either viscerally or in that he was gaining medical knowledge for the human race. Ancient pagans sacrificed humans to their numerous gods and this made them feel safe.

Others left old people to die in the wild when it was inconvenient to keep them alive.  Some do what modern society calls good because their society makes them feel good or because it gains the approval of others. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Mao Tse Tung’s (Mao Zedong’s) China made their people feel good in ways which would make us, the members of a western society, cringe. Bankers distort financial reality to get status and wealth. Criminals rob or murder more often and with increasing amounts of gratuitous violence.  Journalists invent or exaggerate to increase sales. Scientists distort reality because they want fame or fortune rather than to honour their Creator, or because they want to feel like God. Some medieval priests, departing from the command of Christ, tortured people to death for their heretical beliefs.

All through the Holy Bible there are warnings of what will happen when we abandon God. If in their pride and arrogance societies abandon their Creator and the divine origin of right and wrong, truth and falsity, then what follows is truly hell on earth. It is a guarantee of war, famine, disease, ignorance, mass insanity and a downward spiral to social chaos. Anything goes once the social strictures, unbacked by God, have faded away. I’ m not saying that God is a fiction designed to maintain order. There are sound philosophical arguments for the existence of God as well as a wealth of biblical text written and assembled hundreds of years before the Roman church. The fact that disorder arises when God is abandoned is one indication at least that our Creator is very much involved in our progress as a species and it is not surprising that disbelief is classed as a sin..

Abandoning God is not the way to Peace on Earth.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

WEIRDs are the root of political correctness

A group of American cultural psychologists has identified an elite in the western world which is responsible for setting the norms and values through western societies as reflected in the media, the government and the public institutions. They used the acronym WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. This subculture has been emerging from elite higher education institutions and schools in North America, UK, Europe and Australasia since the end of World War II.

There are five dimensions to a culture:
  1. Concern for suffering
  2. Desire for justice
  3. Loyalty to the group
  4. Deference to authority
  5. Recognition of the Sacred
WEIRDs are only concerned with the first two, especially when it is foreigners and others outside one’s own in-group who suffer hardship or injustice. It is this ironic narrowness of perception through excessive cosmopolitanism which gives rise to the divorcement of policy from reality and the multiplication of widely derided laws, rules and regulations (see this dictionary of politically incorrect terms) which try to achieve the world commanded by Christ without recognising His divine nature. It is therefore important not to recognise gender, race or national differences in language in case this leads to 'unfair' (who decides what is unfair?) discrimination of some kind. We have to pretend that everyone is equal in body and mind when we know we are not equal. It is in spirit that we are equal but since most WEIRDs don’t recognise the divinity of Christ’s commands and the presence of the Holy Spirit in all people on Earth they have to lay down contrived expressions to guard against wrong  behaviour and distort reality. (Unbelievers must decide what is wrong by arbitrary standards, which may or may not coincide with the those coming from God.)

David Goodhart (Prospect, April 2012) asks whether the WEIRDs are now floundering in the face of their failure to recognise loyalty to one’s in-group, the need for authority in maintaining order and the reality of the Divine. He argues that the secular left will disappear unless it rectifies this situation and he puts his hope in a new book by Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind.

This book, it appears, uses evolutionary concepts, the only ones understood and accepted by most WEIRDs, to justify the reality of the dimensions 3,4 and 5.

A brave try. But it is flawed if recognition of the sacred is attempted by humanists, since by its very definition humanism denies the sacred. All values originate from man, not from our Creator, and so are entirely without authority, as one might expect from a worldview in which all meaning and purpose is purely an accidental by-product of biological evolution in a universe stripped of purpose and meaning. You can’t have ‘sacredness’ without God. You can only have a self-appointed demagogue propagating the values of a human being appointed as a surrogate god, as in Hitler’s Germany or Maoist China or Stalin’s Russia. Not a welcome development for any society. In my own country Richard Dawkins has already written a new set of the Ten Commandments and hopefully that is as far as it will go judging from the backlash against aggressive atheism in the UK.

 I am not saying that all political correctness is misguided. Some offensive expressions should indeed be removed from our vocabulary to encourage positive, kinder thinking but terms have been introduced rapidly without public consultation or consent as a result of the failure to believe in God as the source of moral righteousness.


See also Distorting reality
reach me at

Friday, 6 April 2012

Innovation in caring for the elderly

 Most of the developed world is faced with difficult decisions on how to care for the rapidly growing population of elderly people who can no longer care for themselves. In my own country, the UK, there are 800,000 dementia sufferers. Globally the figure is 35 million, projected to reach 115 million by 2050.

 The most difficult ones to help are those who not only cannot help themselves but, through mental frailty are unable to ask what help they need or do not even know. I recently read in The Times (31 March, 2012, article by David Charter, p.46) of an imaginative new scheme to make the lives of severe dementia sufferers as normal as possible.

Hogeweg is a specially designed village near Amsterdam. It is a community of 152 living in 23 separate houses. To get to the shops, restaurant and hairdressers they have to go through open spaces, exposed to sun, rain and wind, not covered walkways. There is no traffic and although the whole perimeter is secure they can walk around in complete safety without feeling like prisoners, even though it could be argued that in fact they are prisoners. But such people need protection from a world full of hazards as well as to be within reach of medical or psychological help. The ethos is to allow them to live as normal a life as possible.

The design and interior of each house is based on detailed research of Dutch society and is on one of seven themes: Christian, Indonesian, urban, rustic, homely, cultural or upper class. There is an individual room for each person, a large shared sitting/dining room and a kitchen. The 6 residents meet for an evening meal cooked in their own kitchen.

Less medication is needed and residents are in general calmer than their counterparts in conventional nursing homes.

A natural question comes to mind. Is it ethical to deceive the residents into thinking they are free agents in the real world?

As an ordinary Christian layman I see it like this. If you believe in a loving Creator who wants to bring all people of all races, cultures and creeds together in peace and ultimately to eternal life and you want to help God do this your aim must be to serve God by serving his people, as commanded by Jesus Christ. A dementia patient is one of God’s children and one must help that person in any way within your power to feel less frightened, less anxious, more bold, more caring, more aware of God’s holy presence in all of life and death. What is more truthful? The act of loving care that goes into creating a reassuring environment and helping someone feel secure and comfortable inside their ailing mind-body system, someone whose essence is I believe beyond the mind-body system and is learning from the experiences of love and suffering. Or is it pumping them full of drugs and minimising all human contact because it is time consuming and expensive? Which is more true to God? And which causes the greater spiritual growth and learning in the carer?

Hogeweg, which will no doubt further improve with experience, should give carers, visitors, pastors, chaplains, psychologists and counsellors time to interact with the residents in a relaxed way and in a supportive environment.

There may be another strategem to make richer the lives of dementia sufferers: give them as much contact as possible with mainstream society. I know from experience that many older people failing in mind and body get great pleasure from seeing people go about their business the way they once did themselves, and interacting with young people, especially children, and being entertained in simple ways.

How this might be done? I think there is great scope for further innovation here. Here are some examples which come to mind for a place like Hogeweg.

  • a cafe in the midst of the development open to the general public and to residents (clients from outside would be issued with a pass on entry for security purposes).

  • a theatre for both residents and the public (again, passes would be issued for security).

  • arrange with schools, colleges, drama groups, musicians and choirs to perform in the theatre.

  • a race-track passing through an area where residents can see the contestants. It could be for people, bikes or horses subject to certain safety precautions.

Such measures would, I believe, enrich the lives of dementia sufferers in their last years while friends and relatives would find their visits more meaningful and enjoyable as they shared experiences with the residents and staff. 


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Better restaurants, less food

It is well established that in the USA, UK and other parts of the well-fed world that a large proportion of people eat too much, often of the wrong type of food, so that they can be undernourished and overfed at the same time. People eating too much is not only obscene when set against famines and malnourishment on a large scale but is a sign of neurosis, media obsession with food and enslavement to the stomach.

My impression, living in the UK, is that there is a growing awareness of this. I also think that there is a business opportunity here which could help accelerate society towards a lower consumption per person.

So I am suggesting a new approach to catering where the customer pays according to quantity, i.e. the amount of food on his or her plate. Many clients of self-service restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets and takeaways would prefer not to be given huge portions as standard but to be charged according to the amounts and types of food they choose to have placed on their plate – either by themselves or by the person serving them. In the past this was not a practicable proposition but with modern camera-cum-computer technology the situation could change quickly. All one needs is a camera to register how much food is piled onto your plate and a weighing device, and to feed these two parameters into a program to calculate the appropriate charge, an amount approximately proportional to the type and weight of food chosen by the customer.

No more leaving an eating or serving establishment with a bloated feeling or guilt or embarrassment at having wasted a good proportion of the food when so many in the world are starving. Not only would this improve the customer experience it would mean, globally

  • less energy wasted on food production and transport as well as lower fossil fuel emissions and less use of water

  • reduced greenhouse emissions from food production and rotting waste

  • customer trends towards smaller portions would be reinforced by price penalties for larger ones

  • the habit of smaller helpings from caterers would spread to home eating habits

  • food retailers would need to reflect the trend e.g. customers could have food dispensed in variable amounts by machines matched to reusable packaging

  • farmers, retailers and caterers would have to concentrate on quality and customer demands to get the necessary profit margins

  • less obesity in the developed world

  • lower expenditure by health services on diabetes, hip replacement and heart problems

I invite someone to try this.  If you do please email me and I might be your first customer. Or perhaps someone else somewhere in the world has already done this