Indigestion 10/09/2013

Another Day in the Demystification of Christianity

The Passion of Christ“Jesus Christ is a fabricated cover story for an Imperial psychological warfare operation born out of the First Jewish-Roman War in the first century.” – http://www.covertmessiah.com/

On October 19th, Joseph Atwill will be showing his documentary and talking to the British public about the extent to which claims are true of ancient Roman’s having invented Jesus Christ …entirely. The basic thesis is that the story of Jesus Christ was an invention of first century Roman elites, who in having run into tactical problems crushing Jewish insurrections in Rome, decided to rely on a psychological approach. Supposedly at this talk, Atwill is going to present confessions made in the first century in regards to the invention of Christ. Unable to watch the documentary myself, I can’t give much of an overview of what the facts are that Atwill depends on to evidence the specificity of his claims. Although, generally I don’t think it is so far-fetched a notion that Jesus Christ is exactly what many people have thought him to be …a political tool used for social control. I will definitely be following how this story unfolds and hoping to not be disappointed by the quality of the research.

A Skeptical Inquiry into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Laughing_Data(One of the fictional representations of an INTP)

This week I attempted to field the opinions of a comrade of mine about personality theories, specifically Myers-Briggs, which is based on C.G. Jung’s cognitive functions and archetypes. Although it wasn’t much of a debate, my comrade’s opinion in my words (after what I can only imagine was a short exploration) was that like astrology and other such bullshit, the Myers-Briggs is worthless pseudo-science and fundamentally flawed because of the Forer Effect. While I especially agree because the MBTI is often administered on the internet and verified only by the test subjects, I had already invested enough energy into studying this system to mine it for anything useful.

Before getting to Myers-Briggs, personality theory in its entirety doesn’t have the most solid basis. Whether someone is considering psychological type theories or psychological trait theories (the two main forms personality theory takes), the best they seem able to conclude is that an individual has tendencies or preferences towards the use of certain behaviors that in concert may or may not closely match predefined types. At their worst, type theories will come right out of someone’s ass (which can be seen in abundance with New Age literature, Astrology, and novelty tests taken on the internet or in teen magazines) and trait theory can describe traits which hardly have any universal ground in human behavior. Of the better examples of personality tests there is the Big Five, the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), and the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test), none of which I will be covering for numerous reasons.

Like even the most superficial and astoundingly absurd personality tests, it’s easy to find an abundance of true believers on the internet. Unlike many of those tests, the MBTI is often used as a professional tool for career advisement and other forms of┬ácounseling (even though the 1991 National Academy of Sciences committee concluded at the time there was “not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs”). Based on testing subjects for strengths in 8 different cognitive functions, it offers an array of 16 personality types …only one of which represents the best fit for anyone, everywhere, for their entire life. These cognitive functions are divided into four dichotomies, each of which concludes a dominant functional use of introversion/extroversion, intuition/sensing, thinking/feeling, and perceiving/judging. Although all eight of these terms have specific definitions, they are meant to be understood in combinations (such as Extroverted-Sensing and Introverted-Feeling) which are difference in predominant use for each type. Fundamentally, there is good reason to believe that these cognitive functions exist and can be understood in this way; but, accuracy in testing how much and to what extent someone uses them is low for the MBTI (except on the introversion-extroversion scale) and it is questionable to what extent they can be understood dichotomously.

Another consistent problem for the MBTI has been that around 39-76% of the time people re-test, they are assigned a different personality type. This has been true for me over the years, having most consistently been assigned INTP (which apparently has a high correlation with the DSM’s schizotypal personality disorder – lol), but also at times having been assigned INFP, INTJ, and others. So far, it’s looking pretty shitty for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. From personal experience I can tell you that when I was assigned different types, there have been very specific context-related reasons for why I would have been giving answers these other types give. This criticism is often countered with MBTI-supporters saying that anyone can use any cognitive function, but more considerate testing and verification would show that I have always been one type and that when I obtained different results it was because at the time I had a reason to be using those other functions more. It’s a nice surface-level retort, but I probably wouldn’t have been in those contexts mentally, emotionally, or circumstantially to begin with if I was really at bottom one type for always and ever.

Some of the few things that have been interesting in studying Myers-Briggs are that the statistical distribution of types in the population seems to be consistent, the cognitive functions themselves and how they relate to behavior is informative, and some social dynamics which are talked about when various types interact (or people with preferences for various cognitive traits) might be useful. In the online forums, I noticed that I did have a lot in common with those of my type or close to my type which I didn’t share with those who were further from my type. Even though there are 16 individual types, they correlate with the 4 temperaments of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational which has its own interesting history) and it seems to me like this more general categorization has shown the most broad behavioral distinctions. The most I can say that I’ve be able to use from studying this has been the correlations between cognitive functions and various forms of behavior (which isn’t specific to Myers-Briggs). Admitted and despite my apprehensions, if someone were to ask me how well a description of my usual MBTI type represents me, I would have to say more accurately and better than anyone or anything else’s has before (except my own, which this has nothing on).

Conclusion: pretty much unfounded, only somewhat useful, and only sometimes meaningfully descriptive.

Some Works of Impenetrable Beauty

A friend of mine posted a link to the Codex Seraphinianus, which is the work of an Italian architect, illustrator and industrial designer from the 1970’s. Though I love the images and the use of an untranslatable script, I couldn’t quite remember where I had seen something like this before. Then while reviewing the blog I was looking at, I remembered that I had heard about the Voynich Manuscript from watching one of those ancient aliens guys talking about it as some kind of mysterious artefact that somehow suggested extra-terrestrial life. I don’t even want to get into criticisms of the ancient aliens show, considerations of DNA scientists recently discovered in the Earth’s atmosphere that they’re almost certain is extra-terrestrial, or proposals that human DNA has ET connections. What I do want to do though is show you these two pretty picture books!

The Voynich Manuscript

The Codex Seraphinianus

[Reason for Lack of Content Today: I have had shit to do and haven’t been reading as much… that’s why]

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