May 26, 2016

They didn’t make their brains, their crimes are not their fault

The sciences have grown steadily bolder in their claim that all human behavior can be explained through the clockwork laws of cause and effect. This shift in perception is the continuation of an intellectual revolution that began about 150 years ago, when Charles Darwin first published On the Origin of Species. Shortly after Darwin put forth his theory of evolution, his cousin Sir Francis Galton began to draw out the implications: If we have evolved, then mental faculties like intelligence must be hereditary. But we use those faculties—which some people have to a greater degree than others—to make decisions. So our ability to choose our fate is not free, but depends on our biological inheritance. [...]
According to Harris, we should acknowledge that even the worst criminals—murderous psychopaths, for example—are in a sense unlucky. “They didn’t pick their genes. They didn’t pick their parents. They didn’t make their brains, yet their brains are the source of their intentions and actions.” In a deep sense, their crimes are not their fault. Recognizing this, we can dispassionately consider how to manage offenders in order to rehabilitate them, protect society, and reduce future offending. Harris thinks that, in time, “it might be possible to cure something like psychopathy,” but only if we accept that the brain, and not some airy-fairy free will, is the source of the deviancy.

Physics killed free will and time’s flow. We need them back
Modern science has taken a wrong turn – and it's all because real numbers aren't real at all, argues quantum physicist Nicolas Gisin
"Time passes, and free will exists – any other way, science makes no sense."
By Nicolas Gisin
What irony, then, that the search for scientific truth seemed to kill free will. That started with Newton and his universal law of gravitation. Derived from observations of the solar system bodies, it speaks of a cosmos that operates like clockwork and can be described by deterministic theories. Everything that happens today was set in motion yesterday, ...

How Hardwired Is Human Behavior? - Harvard Business Review › 1998/07 › how-hardwir...
How Hardwired Is Human 

Nigel Nicholson New fields of science don't emerge in a flash, and evolutionary psychology— sometimes called modern Darwinism—is ...
Countless management books have been written extolling the virtues of confidence; they cleverly feed right into human nature. Given their biogenetic destiny, people are driven to feel good about themselves. But if you operate on a high-octane confidence elixir, you run into several dangers. You neglect, for instance, to see important clues about impending disasters. You may forge into hopeless business situations, assuming you have the right stuff to fix them. The propensity to put confidence before realism also explains why many businesspeople act as though there isn’t a problem they can’t control: The situation isn’t that bad—all it needs is someone with the right attitude.
The truth is, even with self-confidence we cannot control the world. Some events are random. [...]
Leadership. As noted at the outset of this article, evolutionary psychology does not dispute individual differences. Indeed, an increasingly robust body of studies on twins conducted by behavioral geneticists indicates that people are born with set predispositions that harden as they age into adulthood. Genes for detachment and novelty avoidance have been found, for instance, which together appear to amount to shyness. It used to be assumed that shyness was induced entirely by environment—if a shy person just tried hard enough, he or she could become the life of the party. The same was said for people who were highly emotional—they could be coaxed out of such feelings. But again, research is suggesting that character traits such as shyness and emotional sensitivity are inborn.
That personality is inborn is not news to any parent with more than one child. You provide a stable home environment for your brood—the same food, the same schools, the same basic experiences on a day-to-day basis. And yet the first child is introverted and grows up to be an R&D scientist. The second, who never stopped chattering as a child, grows up to become a flamboyant sales executive. And still a third child is as even-keeled as can be and pursues a career as a schoolteacher. Evolutionary psychology would tell us that each one of these individuals was living out his biogenetic destiny.
All three of these children are hardwired for certain dispositions. For instance, each falls somewhere along the continuum of risk aversion described earlier. But each one’s level of aversion to risk differs. The point is, along with each person’s fundamental brain circuitry, people also come with inborn personalities. Some people are more dominant than others. Some are more optimistic. Some like math better than poetry. People can compensate for these underlying dispositions with training and other forms of education, but there is little point in trying to change deep-rooted inclinations.
The implications for leadership are significant. First, the most important attribute for leadership is the desire to lead. Managerial skills and competencies can be trainedinto a person, but the passion to run an organization cannot. This feeds into the rather unpopular notion that leaders are born, not made. Evolutionary psychologists would agree and, in fact, posit that some are born not to lead.
Second, the theory of inborn personality does not mean that all people with genes for dominance make good leaders. A propensity for authoritative behavior might help, but some organizational situations call more urgently for other traits—such as empathy or an ability to negotiate. There are as many types of leaders as there are leadership situations. The important thing is to have the personality profile that meets the demands of the situation.
Third and finally, if you are born with personality traits that don’t immediately lend themselves to leadership—shyness is a good example, as is high sensitivity to stress—that doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. Rather, it means that you must protect yourself in certain ways. If you have a low threshold for stress, for instance, you would do well not to lead from the front lines. You could put your trusted senior managers there and position yourself in the corporate office to focus on strategy.
The worst problem an organization can get itself into, this line of thinking suggests, is to have a leader who does not want to lead. Reluctant leaders can survive as symbolic figureheads but will perform poorly if asked to manage other people. The motivation to lead is the baseline requirement for competent leadership. After that, other personality traits and managerial skills matter. They must match the demands of the situation. But if the person in charge is not born wanting to lead, he or she should do everyone a favor and follow or ally themselves with partners who do.

Carl Schmitt: Nazi-era philosopher who wrote blueprint for New Authoritarianism

May 25, 2016 9.02pm AEST

there is one German thinker from the 1930s who does help to explain the rise of the “new authoritarians”. Carl Schmitt, a brilliant jurist and political philosopher, both predicted the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and was – for a short time – a passionate defender of Hitler’s regime. He fell out with the Nazi party in 1936, but spent the rest of his life writing powerful critiques of liberal politics. After years in the wilderness, his works are again attracting attention. Three of his big ideas, in particular, shed some light on the way the new authoritarians think about politics. [...]
Quick-fix authoritarian solutions will ultimately fail, but they can also be highly destructive. The second half of the 20th century can be defined as a struggle between Schmittian politics – the authoritarianisms of the left and of the right – and a workable liberal alternative.
After 1945, Germans refused to accept the assumptions of a Schmittian world, of a society divided into friends and enemies. Instead they forged a constitution that embedded the rule of law and liberal freedoms. That embrace of liberal democracy was a hard-fought lesson. The rise of the new authoritarians around the world is forcing us to learn it all over again.

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