Scientology – my main problem

August 2, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve written or even thought about Scientology, but just today I read a post over on My Scientology Blog, which was actually the response to some questions asked by a reader. One line really jumped out at me when I read it and it was the following:

The tools we have in Scientology don’t require belief in order to work.

My main problem with Scientology has always been that it categorizes itself as a religion and yet claims that you do not need to believe anything to be a part of it. So, how can it be a religion when we get the definition of religion from any dictionary it always contains the aspect of belief.

Religion:

1. beliefs and worship: people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life

2. system: an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine

3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by

From Encarta Dictionary.

If Scientology was openly a Self-Help system, a set of products for bettering yourself, or even agreed that it’s comparable to Psychology and Psychiatry I wouldn’t have any qualm with it. The rub comes with it claiming it’s a religion, by this definition Science is a religion and so¬†pharmaceutical companies are religious entities.

I just have to sort out a set of questions I can pose to a Scientology that will make them contradict themselves.


Game Theory – The Prisoner’s Dilemma and Golden Balls

May 14, 2009

It’s hard to come in contact with Game Theory without coming across The Prisoner’s Dilemma which is a non-zero-sum game played between two people who are seemingly pitted against eachother. The following is the form in which I was introduced to The Prisoner’s Dilemma recently:

Alice and Bob are gangsters in the Chicago of the 1920s. The District Attorney knows that they are guilty of a major crime, but is unable to convict either unless one of them confesses. He orders their arrest, and seperately offers each the following deal:

  1. If you confess and your accomplice fails to confess, then you go free.
  2. If you fail to confess but your accomplice confesses, then you will be convicted and sentence to the maximum term in jail.
  3. If you both confess, then you will both be convicted, but the maximum sentence will not be imposted.
  4. If neither confesses, you will both be framed on a tax evasion charge for which a conviction is certain (but the sentence is not great).

There are then two possibilities for each gangster, either to cooperate with the other gangster, or to betray the other gangster. This for quite some time confused me as I wasn’t sure if cooperate was to cooperate with the police, or to cooperate with the other gangster. We can now build the following matrix for The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Coop Betray
Coop
Short
Short
Free
Max
Betray
Max
Free
Long
Long

I’ve used the terms ‘Free’, ‘Short’, ‘Long’ and ‘Max’ to give you an idea of the length of time they will stay in jail for, the only one that needs explanation, I would hope, is ‘Free’ which means they spend no time in jail at all and only occurs if they Betray (Confess) and the other party Cooperates (Stays quiet).

The Dominant Strategies are marked in bold and contrary to what we would like to think, the rational solution is always to betray humanity even though you’d both get a shorter sentence if you both cooperated. This is because if I know you’re going to Cooperate I should always Betray you, that way I get off free, it is my best strategy. It must be noted that this is based on a one off game where we will never meet again and probably have never met in the first place, it makes it more interesting if you change things to say that both parties know eachother and therefore have a reason to cooperate.

I won’t go in to the specifics as I want to talk about Golden Balls which is very interesting, but you can make both players of The Prisoner’s Dilemma have cooperation as their dominant strategy by repeating the game indefinatley. This way if I betray you this time I know you’ll betray me next time and we’ll both just end up betraying each other, so, to save this happening, we both cooperate forever.

After looking in to The Prisoner’s Dilemma a bit more I discovered what most people call a real-world example of The Prisoner’s Dilemma in the final round of a gameshow called Golden Balls. This was a TV game-show that aired on ITV in the United Kingdom in 2007 and was hosted by a comedian called Jasper Carrot. The main workings of the game are unimportant, what matters here is the final round. Each contestant, of which there are two, chooses a ball, either Split, which means they try and split the money or Steal which means they try and steal the money. There are three outcomes as follows:

  1. Both players choose Split:- The winnings are split equally between them.
  2. One player chooses Steal, the other Split:- The player who Stole gets all the money.
  3. Both players choose Steal:- No-one gets any money.

To compare it to The Prisoner’s Dilemma, (1) is the same as both gangsters cooperating and getting a short sentence, (2) is the same as one gangster choosing to betray the other and the other gangster cooperating and (3) is the same as both gangsters betraying eachother and both getting a long sentence. From this we can build a simple table that gives payoffs of 100% for winning all the money, 50% if they split the money and 0% if they don’t get anything.

Split
(coop)
Steal
(betray)
Split
(coop)
50%
50%
100%
0%
Steal
(betray)
0%
100%
0%
0%

The problem is the same as The Prisoner’s Dilemma except it is not quite as pure. This is a one time thing, but the players are in the same room, in fact, they’re looking right at each other, their friends and family are watching and they are given the opportunity to convince the other person of their intention to either Split or Steal. There is more at stake than some money, their reputation amongst all people for one. On top of all of this they have been playing a game for the past half hour and have had the chance to betray eachother already, this is not now a case of a pure game, this is now a case of a sub-game.

The best and most amusing example of this follows in this youtube video. I think, more than anything, this video explains The Prisoner’s Dilemma and why it’s a dilemma and causes so much pain and heartache for so many economists, philosophers, psychologists and humanitarians around the world.


The Bridge – Movie

February 16, 2009

I’ve been wanting to see this documentary called The Bridge for a while, and my lovely lovely girlfriend bought it for me for Valentine’s day. Not really the type of thing you’d buy someone for valentine’s day, but for me, it was wonderful. It has always really intrigued me that people commit suicide as I love life so much (if not outwardly then inwardly) and feel it’s a deep shame when people give up their life for whatever reason.

The documentary could easily have gone wrong, and it’s not the type of thing you’d pick up, read the back of and say ‘oh, that’s interesting and sounds tactful’. I’d actually wager that you’d probably go the different route and comment ‘that’s tactless and a bit vulgar, why would these people film people committing suicide and not help them’. It is however very tactful, interesting and even quite eye opening, for me at least.

The Golden Gate Bridge is apparently considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world and it’s not wonder why, from the way this documentary shows it it’s a beautiful sight and in the mist is incredible. Although I prefer the suspension bridge in Clifton, Bristol the Golden Gate Bridge is a lot larger and considered the number one place in the world to commit suicide. The Bridge says that in 2004 24 people committed suicide off the bridge, though the number is more likely to be larger due to people jumping during fog or at night time. Though currently the bridge is shut to pedestrians at night time.

The movie follows one suicide primarily building a character around the person and revealing the most dramatic footage of this one jumper. It’s not surprising that the majority have great depression but what’s interesting is that a few people being saved are caught on camera. One mad, a photographer, takes photos of a woman climbing over the edge, and only as she’s about to jump does he realise what he’s doing, grabbing her by her collar and pulling her to safety. One of his comments being that afterwards when she was being taken away by police, she looked back at him and he thought she was angry for him having saved her (how do you deal with that, you feel like you’ve done a good thing and yet you’re hated by the person you think you’ve ‘saved’).

It’s a documentary that is interesting to watch and I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in psychology or depression.


Bipolar

November 10, 2008

Recently I’ve been reading about Bipolar Disorder and the medication taken for it. It’s a facinating subject looking at all the side effects and the decisions one must make with something like Bipolar. However much I may feel at times like my life is at an end it’s hard to really understand what it’s like to have something like Bipolar. It’s also hard to talk about it without feeling like I am going to offend someone by calling it a disorder, a problem, or an illness.

Where the rest of us may take medication ones or twice a year because we feel a bit low, someone with Bipolar will take 4 or more tablets a day for something which makes them feel low, high or generally squiff without warning. The medication can do the same thing, causing weight gain, movements or even anxiety, but at the end of the day it seems that this is what these people really need to live the same kind of lives that we all take for granted.

One of the ones which seems to worry a lot of people more than anxiety or any of the other side effects is weight gain. Something which many of the drugs cause, Lithium probably being the worst but also being very effective at what it does. I found out recently that there are only two drugs that do what Lithium does (including Lithium). Lithium and Depakote are both mood stabilizers for treating both manic and depressive stages of Bipolar.

For more on Lithium see Wikipedia or/and Bipolar Beat

For more on Depakote see Wikipedia or/and Bipolar Beat