The year 2011 proved to be a challenging year. A number of serious health issues in close family members took center stage. The frequency of my posts declined in part due to these important distractions but other factors also played a major role. Although I published fewer articles, the number of visits to my blog increased substantially.
Over the course of the year, I had 18,305 hits at my website by 15,167 unique visitors, accounting for over 25,000 page views. I had visitors from every state in the Union and visits from people from 140 nations around the world. Visitors from the United States accounted for the vast majority of those hits, but the UK, Canada, and Australia also brought in a large contingent of visitors.
One article in particular far outpaced all other posts. My post on Brain Waves and Other Brain Measures accounted for as many visits as the next three most popular posts combined. Of my posts published in 2011, only four made it to this year’s top ten list. The other six were published in 2010. Of those six from 2010, four were also on the top ten list last year.
Great interest persisted in my post entitled Nonmoral Nature: It is what it is. This review of Stephen Jay Gould’s most famous article sustained a number two ranking for a second straight year. I had also reviewed in 2010 a very popular New York Time’s article by Steven Pinker entitled The Moral Instinct. This article moved up a notch this year, ultimately ranking number three. My critical article on the Implicit Associations Test ranked number four this year, versus a number six ranking last year. And my Hedgehog versus the Fox mindset piece ranked number ten this year, compared to a number seven ranking last year.
So here is the Top Ten list for 2011.
- Brainwaves and Other Brain Measures (2011)
- Non Moral Nature: It is what it is (2010)
- Moral Instinct (2010)
- IAT: Questions of Reliability and Validity (2010)
- Where Does Prejudice Come From? (2011)
- Cognitive Conservatism, Moral Relativism, Bias, and Human Flourishing (2011)
- What Plato, Descartes, and Kant Got Wrong: Reason Does Not Rule. (2010)
- Intuitive Thought (2010)
- Effects of Low SES on Brain Development (2011)
- Are you a Hedgehog or a Fox? (2010)
It’s interesting to me that this list includes the very foundational issues that have driven me in my quest. And each was posted with great personal satisfaction. This encompassing cross section of my work is, in fact, a good starting point for those who are new to my blog. There are several popular 2011 posts that ranked outside the top ten but ranked highly relative to other posts published in 2011. These other posts include:
One article I published late in 2011 has attracted significant attention. I believe that it is perhaps one of the most important posts I’ve written. As I was writing this retrospective, Conspicuous Consumption and the Peacock’s Tail was far outpacing all other posts.
The most emotional and personally relevant articles pertained to significant problems in healthcare in the United States and my wife’s battle with breast cancer. These articles include: (a) What not to say to someone with cancer: And what helps; (b) Up and Ever Onward: My Wife’s Battle With Cancer; (c) Cancer, Aging, & Healthcare: America, We Have a Problem; (d) We’re Number 37! USA USA USA!; and (e) Tears of Strength in Cancer’s Wake. The latter pertains to perhaps the proudest parental moment of my life.
Another very important issue that I wrote a fair amount about includes the pernicious affect of poverty on child development. Clicking here takes you to a page that lists all of the articles on this topic. Knowing the information in this series should motivate us, as a society, to truly evaluate our current political and economic policies.
One of my favorite articles tackled my long standing curiosity about the geology of the place I live. The article itself did not get a lot of attention, but I sure loved writing it.
This two-year journey, thus far has resulted in perhaps unparalleled personal and intellectual growth. It has changed the way I look at life, the world around me, and my fellow human beings. It is my sincerest hope that those who have seen fit to read some of my material have experienced shifts of perception or at least a modicum of enlightenment.
The bottom line:
The human brain, no matter how remarkable, is flawed in two fundamental ways. First, the proclivities toward patternicity (pareidolia), hyperactive agency detection, and superstition, although once adaptive mechanisms, now lead to many errors of thought. Since the age of enlightenment, when human kind developed the scientific method, we have exponentially expanded our knowledge base regarding the workings of the world and the universe. These leaps of knowledge have rendered those error prone proclivities unessential for survival. Regardless, they have remained a dominant cognitive force. Although our intuition and rapid cognitions have sustained us, and in some ways still do, the subsequent everyday illusions impede us in important ways.
Secondly, we are prone to a multitude of cognitive biases that diminish and narrow our capacity to truly understand the world. Time after time I have written of the dangers of ideology with regard to its capacity to blindfold its disciples. Often those blindfolds are absolutely essential to sustain the ideology. And this is dangerous when truths and facts are denied or innocents are subjugated or brutalized. As I discussed in Spinoza’s Conjecture:
“We all look at the world through our personal lenses of experience. Our experiences shape our understanding of the world, and ultimately our understanding of [it], then filters what we take in. The end result is that we may reject or ignore new and important information simply because it does not conform to our previously held beliefs.
Because of these innate tendencies, we must make additional effort in order to discover the truth.
Posted by Gerald Guild
Categories: Adaptive Unconscious
, Erroneous Thinking
, Life and Time
, Rational Thought
, Socioeconomic Status
| Tagged: Cognitive Biases
, Confirmation Bias
, Erroneous Thinking
, Implicit Associations
, Intuitive Thinking
, Rational Thought
, Spinoza's Conjecture
The geology of Western and Central New York tells an incredible story, the words of which, are laid out in the rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and the seemingly banal roadside cuts throughout this region. The stunningly beautiful cascading waterfalls of Watkins Glen and Ithaca along with the equally dramatic rock city formations of Cattauraugus and Chautauqua Counties round out this tale with a worthy exclamation point.
Figure 1: Devonian World View
The nascent bedrock of this region was laid down over 380 million years ago (mya) on what was then an equatorial continent rotated about 45o clockwise from its current orientation (see Figure 1). The fossil remains and geological features also indicate that this area was submersed under a vast shallow ocean (see Figure 2 below).
Figure 2: North American Devonian
A continental collision with Baltica (proto Europe) starting 410 million years ago (mya) pushed up the Acadian Mountains that once stood mightily along North America’s east coast. Forces of nature then slowly eroded these huge mountains and the fine particulates flowed deep out onto the Catskill Delta that then covered much of the Southern Tier of New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Catskill Delta
Over vast periods of time those particulates settled to the bottom of the ocean creating layer upon layer of sediment that eventually lithified: the clay sediments became the shale, the silt became siltstone, and the sand became sandstone (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Northeastern US Devonian Deposition Pattern
Devonian Deposition Key for Figure 4
Standing in this region 380 mya would have necessitated a boat. There were no rolling hills of green – just rolling waves of salty water.
It was likely quite hot (average temp 80° F) with no appreciable winter and certainly no snow. At the bottom of the ocean lived brachiopods, crinoids, coral, placoderm fish, eurypterids, and trilobites. No mammals yet, not even dinosaurs.
As the mountain sediment inflow slowly filled our sea and worldwide oceanic water levels trended downward, this area slowly approached the shoreline of that shrinking ocean. Today’s sandstone remains are evidence of beachfront long ago. The Acadians continued to shed contents but, larger material was laid down. The top surface of the current mountain top rock city formations of Cattauraugus and Chautauqua Counties were once the bottom of a shallow sea (see Image 1). The pebbles (see Image 2) in those mighty rock city quartz conglomerate rocks were flushed into this shallow sea by torrential floods.
Image 1: Rock City Formation, Olean, New York
Image 2: Quartz Conglomerate, Rock City Formation, Western New York
It’s hard to imagine their former lowland status today when standing upon these high points gazing down below at the rolling hills and whittled valleys.
Over yet another immensely vast period of time, the earth remained tectonically active and another continental collision, this time with Africa, pushed up the Allegheny Mountains between 360 and 245 mya. Pangaea, the last super-continent, existed 330 to 220 mya and the dinosaurs reigned supreme on land. About 190 mya the Atlantic Ocean opened and began it’s ongoing expanse. Concurrently our continent was propelled north-by-north-west by plate tectonics, slowly bringing it closer to its current northern hemisphere location. During this gradual transition, a mighty asteroid struck near the Yucatan Peninsula (65 mya) causing a cataclysmic global disaster that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs (except for those that evolved into our current birds). Small rodent like mammals did survive and thereafter thrived – ultimately giving rise to us and our fellow mammals.
Until about 1.8 mya the geology of this region remained relatively stable. Things again got exciting as the most recent ice-age commenced. Huge and powerful glaciers slowly carved their way through our landscape gouging out deep valleys and Finger Lake crevasses (see Image 3). They slowly plowed through those long accumulated and lithified deposits creating new lower grounds and thus substantial opportunities for erosion. The surviving rock city formations constitute the few locations in NY that were not scoured by those powerful glaciers. Regardless, the near misses that exposed the under layers of more delicate sedimentary rock beds (e.g., shale), led to the erosion of this base material and thus the characteristic breakage and shifting of those conglomerate structures that make them city like today.
Image 3: New York Finger Lakes – NASA Image
The deep Finger Lake gouges left by the glaciers also left hanging-falls that slowly eroded to form the incredible formations at Watkins Glen, NY (see Image 4), Buttermilk Falls, and Taughannock Falls (in Ithaca, NY).
Image 4: Watkins Glen State Park, New York
About that same time, the high peaks of the Adirondacks were just beginning to rise from the north country plains being uplifted by a magma hotspot. The Adirondacks are actually composed of bedrock much older than the bedrock exposed in Central and Western New York.
All of these remnant features are unique and incredibly beautiful landmarks that speak volumes about the vast amounts of time and power that played out in this story. Whenever you pass a roadside cut, think back to when each layer was once the floor of a warm ocean. Make time to get to Rock City in Olean, Panama Rocks in Panama, NY or Thunder Rocks in Allegany State Park. Think about how the top of those rocks, the relative top of the world in Western New York now, were once the bottom of this world. Then picture mountainous walls of snow and ice halting just in time to spare your ground. Finally, imagine their sculpting retreat. What a beautiful and powerful story our wondrous land tells.
Allman, W., & Ross, R. (2008). Ithaca is Gorges: A Guide to the Geology of the Ithaca Area. 4th Ed. Ithaca: Museum of the Earth.
Ansley, J. (2000). The Teacher Friendly Guide to the Geology of the Northeastern U.S. Ithaca: Paleontological Research Institute.
Van Diver, B. (1985). Roadside Geology of New York. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company.
Whiteley, T., Kloc, G., & Brett, C. (2002). Trilobites of New York: An Illustrated Guide. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Figures 1-4: John Wiley and Sons – used with permission. http://higheredbcs.wiley.com/legacy/college/levin/0471697435/chap_tut/chaps/chapter11-03.html
Images 1, 2, & 4: Photographs by Gerald Guild
Image 3: NASA Image: http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect6/Sect6_2.html
Posted by Gerald Guild
| Tagged: Science