"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (II Timothy 3:6-7, ASV)
This topic began on the first of this month with an overview on trees. The rest of this thread will look at the applications of the Brain Overview" post. The book that helped me make the connection between what we've been discussing on this blog for the last two plus years and the latest discoveries in brain research is Dr. Leaf's "Who Switched Off My Brain?"
Yesterday, we saw how one measure of intelligence is the individual's ability to complete the first feedback loop and create a "full thought". Another measure of intelligence is the ability to see patterns. IQ tests present patterns and measure how quickly and accurately the individual can recognize the pattern and complete it. For instance, what is the next letter in this series?
O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, N, ?
How quickly did you realize this series is the first letter in the words for the numbers from one to nine?
In the last five years, studies using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on the brain have resulted in some crucial revelations on how our brains work. These studies show our brains are made to look for patterns whether we are conscious of it or not!
More specifically, our brains are made to detect contradictions and anticipate (predict) future events without any effort on our part. Our brains are "ever learning"...however, we have the choice of whether we are going to file this information away in the trees of our brain...whether we are going to "come to the knowledge of the truth".
It takes an intentional effort to wreck the brain's ability to detect contradictions and ignore patterns. In later posts, we will see how this damage physically occurs. For now, realize this damage only occurs after takes years of intentional effort.
What are some examples of the brain "ever learning", without us being aware?
When we experience two consecutive events, our brain considers the third event a given. For instance, if a friend of yours is on time two days in a row, your brain treats their on time arrival for the third day like it has already happened. When it doesn't happen, the amygdala sends a signal to the adrenal glands and you get upset. (This is also why jokes are told "in three's" with the third event being something different...to trigger the amygdala to get an involuntary emotional response: laughter.)
Remember in the "Brain Overview" post, the cortex (forest) and your amygdala (library of emotional perspectives) are both able to determine your response. This response can be conscious (intentional) or beyond your conscious (unaware). This is an example of a response beyond your consciousness.
This example dealt with a pattern being broken at the third event. If the first break in the pattern happened later, your amygdala would fire in a way that made you more upset. (We covered this phenomenon during the explanation of "experiential faith".) This finding that later breaks in a pattern led to more illogical responses explained the mystifying behavior exhibited by investors.
Every publicly traded company issues their quarterly earnings. Prior to issuing their earnings, these companies issue forecasts or predictions of future quarterly earnings. Investors are looking for companies that can meet or exceed their estimates. When a company falls short of their estimates, people get upset and sell the stock at a lower rate...in effect attempting to punish the company.
One of the phenomena that people could never explain is that companies that had a longer streak of meeting or exceeding their forecasts got punished more when they broke their streak vs. companies that had a shorter streak. In fact, the smarter investors bought up the stock of these companies immediately after they broke their longer streak, because the stock always quickly rebounded to its true value. It appeared that everyone lost sight of the truth for a day or two when these very successful companies missed their forecast for one quarter.
We now know the reason people don't think logically in this case is that their amygdala is overwhelming their cortex and driving their emotional and illogical behavior.
Another type of pattern is the "cyclical or alternating pattern". To use the "friend being late" analogy...the first day they would be on time. The second day they would be late. The third day they would be on time. The fourth day they would be late. MRI imaging found that the brain recognizes this pattern after the sixth event.
Again, in applications involving investments, people became more upset when a longer pattern was broken...even if the result was "positive"! Our brain recognizes patterns whether we are conscious of it or not...and our brain creates and circulates chemicals and impulses that can completely take over the body...whether we are conscious of it or not. Let's look at a famous test illustrating this point...
Dr. Gregory Burns of Emory University placed people in a setting where they had to respond to a visual screen by moving their right or their left index finger. At the same time a tube was placed in their mouth that either gave them a burst of water or sweet kool aid. Dr. Burns was specifically looking at a group of people he calls "learners"...people who have the healthy connections in their brain.
The screen and the liquid seemed to give a random pattern to the conscious (logical) part of the brain. However, the "unaware brain" did recognize that a left index finger triggered a burst of sweet kool aid. In every case, "learners" would "involuntarily and without awareness" suddenly rapidly move their left index finger...the "unaware" part of the brain took direct control of physical movement.
The healthy brains had more connections and the connections were more solid...the feedback loops were quicker. A brain that is "ever learning" is a healthy brain. This "ever learning" phenomenon has wide applications. For example, when people tell you to go with your first answer on a multiple choice test, they are telling you to take advantage of your "unaware connections".
One of my "gains" ("things that give me energy" from the exercises to determine your ARE) is helping people have the "aha!" moment. I now realize that I am helping people become more intelligent.
I have several large oak trees in my backyard that seem to be far apart. However, the branches approach each other. Even though they do not overlap, they seem to be close enough for a daring squirrel to make the jump. Lately, I have been sitting on my deck re-reading Dr. Leaf's book and watching a squirrel find all the ways to get from one tree to another.
Yesterday the squirrel jumped from one tree to the end of a weak branch of another tree. The squirrel's weight caused the branch to drop over three feet, but it held on. It made its way to the trunk of the second tree, climbed down, climbed back up the first tree, and remade the jump.
This "connection" was not possible last year, but the branches have grown closer and the squirrel has found a short-cut that it remade several times yesterday until it did it smoothly. The same thing happens in our brain...
Basically, people have two or more topics in their head that are completely separated. Think of it as the two trees in their brain. In order to go from one tree to another, they have to return back to the trunk of the tree they are on, get down to the ground, find the next tree, walk towards it, climb the trunk, and find the branch.
The "aha!" moment is when they make a hard connection between the two trees. They can go immediately between the two topics by a new connection that I helped create. This new connection actually speeds up a feedback loop and they become physically more intelligent! The energy from that connection must be powerful in the brain because it results in their eyes lighting up...and that is what gives me energy.
The goal of "Modeling God" is to help people understand their Bible and hear from God more clearly and more often. The models presented in "Modeling God" increase the connections in the brain with relation to the Bible...the individual understands the Bible more and more quickly...this motivates people to read their Bible more often. However, there is a dark side to this process...
THE DARK SIDE
Realize that when we get bad information, we are cutting connections and creating "dead ends" in the brain. If the information is contradictory or encourages us not to see patterns, then it is fighting the "unaware brain"...the brain that is able to produce toxic chemicals, damage connections, and begin the process that results in physical illness...without us being aware of it!
Take a moment to truly think about the following paragraph and come to an intentional conclusion:
The worst thing we can do is encourage people not to think, embrace contradiction, celebrate mystery, not look for patterns, live in denial, and try to feel good about how we can't know or aren't supposed to know. This is an intentional effort to resist the "unaware brain" and the result is connections are broken, trees are burned, and the rest of the body is open to illness. There is nothing worse than this...because it ultimately leads to everything else that is bad.
Notice, there is no "maintenance" mode. There is no mode where we are not helping and not hurting the individual. When we exchange information, we are either becoming more intelligent or we are becoming less intelligent.
I now know why most of the people under 30 years old like "Modeling God" and the overwhelming majority of people over 30 years old detest "Modeling God"...most of the people over 30 years old have damaged brains. Most of the people under 30 years old haven't completely damaged their brains. How do peoples' brains get damaged? There are two main ways...
First, people emotional, mentally, and spiritually abuse each other. Isn't it interesting that we put people in jail for physical abuse, yet we will look the other way with mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse? Is this what the Bible says we ought to do? It seems to me the Bible tells us to take physical abuse (turn the other cheek) and flee from mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse (false doctrine)...yet the church, especially when it comes to marriage, actually teaches the opposite response. Who is right: the church or the Bible? Why is there a discrepancy between the church and the Bible?
Second, the church is actively teaching people under 30 years old that they ought to not think, embrace contradiction, celebrate the mystery, and try to feel good about how we can't know or aren't supposed to know: post-modernism and Calvinism. Recently, a study found that 89% of kids who are raised going to church, don't attend church after graduating high school...basically, after they are out from under their parents control and aren't forced to go. What is actually going on here?
Myself and others have talked to pastors and authors about this statistic and the response is that the world is more powerful than God and it is all the fault of the individual...the church is doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They see church attendance as always positive, so they are off the hook...they can't be blamed. "How can church attendance be a bad thing?"
What if the church is actually abusing these kids by setting fire to the trees of their brain? What if church is actually hurting the intelligence of these kids? Is there going to be a day in the future where the data will support a lawsuit against the church for abuse? What if they hook up a person to an MRI, have them listen to a sermon, and they find that connections are actually broken? What if 89% of the kids still have a good enough brain to realize they have to get out before they lose the rest of their ability to think?
What if we find out that the brain responds to a church service the same way it responds to television: entertainment occasionally interrupted by a purchase opportunity?
What if both church service and television viewing can be proven to have the same impact on the brain? It's not enough to limit the damage...every exchange of information is either making us more or less intelligent...it is either increasing the connections or limiting the connections. Is your interaction increasing the connections and removing contradictions in your beliefs?
What about Young Life, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Calvinism, post-modernism, etc.? What about "Christian" authors whose response to dealing with the battlefield in peoples' brains is to tell them to try not to think? How are they measuring their impact? Are they focusing on the short-term appearance...people smiling and acting happy? Or are they focusing on the Long Term effects...a majority of people no longer attending church five years after leaving their organization? Who is their "customer"? Is it the kids? Is it the parents?
How do these organizations rationalize their poor results? Do they blame the kids? Do they blame the world? Do they appeal to not thinking?: "There is no way to say for sure what is causing this." Do they appeal to appearance over truth?: "This is going to hurt the cause of Christ by making Christianity look bad to the general public."
What is going to happen five or so years from now when more information proves our traditional "Christian" teachings (from church and "Christian" authors) that are contradictory to the Bible are actually making people less intelligent?
Why do we focus on the physical? Why do we deny the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects? Why don't we improve our obviously faulty, contradictory, and un-Biblical doctrine?
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them." (Romans 16:17, ASV)
Church leaders tend to quote this verse from Romans by omitting the "contrary to the doctrine" portion.
"But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth." (I Timothy 4:1-3, ASV)
Later times: doctrines of demons, hypocrisy, lies, branded conscience, and not believing and knowing the truth. We are going to look at all of these and their physical effects on the brain...
Are we experiencing the deception Paul warned us about?