Intelligence: All That Matters by Stuart Ritchie

This book is useful in clearing away misconceptions about intelligence research that have been popularized in Social Media and Liberal-leaning media outlets. One of the most shocking facts presented in this book is Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences has no basis in scientific research; at best, Musical Intelligence may be different from General Intelligence (G-Factor) but there are mixed results even there from the scientific studies. Studies on the so-called Multiple Intelligences has found no evidence that they’re separate as Gardner claims them to be. The G-Factor generally shows that if you’re good in one area, then you’re good in others and you can improve your skills faster as a result. For instance, emotional intelligence falls into the category of IQ too and doesn’t contradict the current psychological model of the five personalities. The only possible area where Gardner’s theory might have merit is Musical Intelligence and the results for that are mixed from scientific research, so Gardner’s claims there are also unlikely to have merit.

Ritchie explains in his book that there is a strong correlation between our genes and our IQ according to repeated scientific studies, there are two more important and crucial factors that should be mentioned; the most productive way to increase your IQ is to focus on living a healthy life because focusing on one’s health helps improve our physical development especially before the age of 25, similar to research that shows malnutrition diminishes our brain development as children. Equally noteworthy is that our personal motivation plays a stronger factor in increasing and determining IQ than our genes which corroborates Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit, where she explains how effort counts twice. Our genes play a factor, but they’re not the sole or the most important factor. The scientific consensus shows that IQ can increase depending on our social environment and strikingly enough – absent any form of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse – parenting doesn’t play a significant factor in influencing a child’s IQ. Ritchie repeatedly clarifies that despite the genetic influence, studies show a stronger link with motivation and good health in determining our IQ. One sad fact from the scientific studies is that there is rabid cognitive decline for all human beings in our ability to learn and process new information quickly after the age of 25, so childhood development and motivation is especially important to increasing a person’s IQ over a lifetime.

Ritchie goes on to dismiss the popularized book The Bell Curve by Charles Murray as there is a total lack of scientific research on the question of Race and IQ. Ritchie cautions making spurious generalizations due to the history of the eugenics movement; one such example of a genocide that I know of is the forcible sterilization of Native American women by several State governments within the US. All we can say at the moment is that we don’t know enough about Race and IQ. Similarly, the IQ differences of men and women have no real scientific research to back them; at best, one country’s analysis from the 1940s and it’s impossible to determine what social factors could influence the results from back then. The research itself showed that men and women of a certain country were totally equal in intelligence with men having more spatial intelligence and women with more verbal intelligence as kids during the first study and as adults several years later. That isn’t enough to make a determination or rule out social factors. The only factor unambiguously determined is that atheists generally have a much higher IQ than religious people.

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My Readings for these past couple of years

2018 Book Reading:

List of Completed Readings:

Disuniting of America by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Why There Is No God by Armin Navabi

The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran

Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran

The Ishvara Gita translated by Andrew Nicholson

The Devi Gita translated by MacKenzie Brown

Samkyha Karika by Bramrishi Vishvatma Bawra

Who Is A Hindu? By V.D. Savakar

No Fears, No Excuses by Larry Smith

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Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

I began reading this book out of curiosity on what insights Dr. Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose work and counseling focuses on sexual relationships, could offer in the subject matter of married sex lives. I had found her speaking events to be quite educational and useful for understanding people’s sexual inhibitions and preferences. Seeing her tackle issues of social norms of marriage and how the US may be going about it the wrong way in the age of openness was refreshing.

I think this book is most definitely worth reading for anyone. Regardless of if your interests are marriage or the single life, there’s definitely useful information to be gleaned in this book.

Perel details that one of the reasons married couples have less sex, outside of the context of raising a young child before their kindergarten years, is because they stress togetherness too much and holding nothing back from each other. Instead of seeing their spouses in terms of husband and wife, with a secure and quick reference, we should strive to maintain their otherness and acknowledge their separateness as individuals who exist for themselves so as not to generalize who they are in connection to you.

Perel notes how certain married couples lost the erotic drive because they think of their spouse in terms of mother and father of their children and feel it’s somehow unnatural or even out of the bounds of what’s socially acceptable to eroticize their spouse. This revelation genuinely perplexed me. Evidently, spouses who cheat have this issue and speaking with a married co-worker when I explained this revelation from Perel’s research into the thoughts and feelings of those who cheat also came as a surprise to them. After all, why should society dictate one’s relationship to one’s spouse? That seems altogether ridiculous, but evidently many married couples humble themselves to the norms of a society that largely doesn’t care what they do in the bedroom.

Long story short, the best way is to work towards making a romantic setting (even romance requires effort and doesn’t come easy) and to remember to emphasize separateness / Otherness. The reason you should focus on Otherness is to emphasize your spouse or sexual partner as their own individual apart from you. The passion and eroticism is unlikely to return unless that is emphasized. You don’t need to share everything and it ruins the passion in a romance when people take that path due to the lack of mystery and surprise. In effect, Otherness in marriage and recognizing your partner as their own entity separate from you can go a long way in bringing the passion back into the relationship.

There is more subject matter to be gleaned as this summary is just an overview. For instance, BDSM culture isn’t unhealthy when you have two consenting partners and Dr. Perel lists an anecdote where a breast cancer survivor used such for foreplay and eroticism to get her husband back into feeling passionate for her in the bedroom.

If you’re interested in clearer explanations of all this material, I recommend reading the entire book as this is simply a summary of what Dr. Perel details in her book.

Islam and the Future of Tolerance Film Review

A concise and clear film on the challenges that Reformist Muslims and their allies face in order to modernize Islam. Sam Harris notes that Maajid Nawaz’s reformist movement is likely the toughest job of them all. The ultimate message of the film is that we, the public, can help with criticizing bad ideas such as in internet forums, twitter, facebook, and other places. This film is recommended for those who want to help reformist and Ex-Muslims into changing the conversation and getting liberals and centrist conservatives to help regain the narrative on the problems of Islam. Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz go into the concentric circles and differences between Jihadism (violence in the name of Islam for a political goal of imposing an Islamist order), Islamism (a movement trying to impose an Islamist order, but not all do so by violent methods), Conservative Muslims (Muslims who don’t want Sharia as the law of the land, but want to maintain their own Islamic conditions in their families; potentially including hatred for Jews, hatred for Gays, and honor killing), and then the smallest group would be the Reformist Muslims that Maajid Nawaz is a part of.

The majority of the film centers around Maajid’s early life, how he was mistreated in British schools by his classmates at a very early age, and how his isolation became more pronounced when Neo-Nazi groups had a resurgence in Great Britain. The immediate consequence of which resulted in numerous beatings, racial epithets hurled at him daily, and witnessing his friends severely injured by Neo-Nazis using knives to stab his friends in the neck or other areas throughout his early life. His safety was constantly threatened and he witnessed the bloodied bodies of his friends far too often. His parents were actually quite normal and did their best, but the political climate of the youth during his time resulted in him withdrawing from others. He spent his time listening to rap music and that’s when radical Islamic recruitment organizations were able to exploit him.

I have to say that this explanation made way more sense than the tripe he had said in the Bill Maher interview. I had been interested in his viewpoints, but I had thought he was lying when he mentioned how rap music got him into an Islamist group. That explanation made absolutely no sense to me and I had assumed that Sam Harris had been duped by a man who was clearly a dishonest actor. It wasn’t until much later – after listening to the Ex-Muslims of North America panel – that I decided to give him a second chance. While Ex-MNA seemed like legitimate actors, I was still unwilling to believe that Maajid Nawaz was until they had mentioned his work in one of their panels because his explanation about rap music was the silliest thing I had ever heard as an excuse to join an Islamist group. His more detailed and honest explanation here seems far more believable and reasonable. To my own chagrin, Maajid Nawaz clearly has difficulty speaking openly about his early life because it was so painful for him. Considering the conditions he lived in and what he witnessed due to the Neo-Nazis of Britain, it’s not surprising or unreasonable to expect that he was easy pickings for an Islamist group at the time.

These next few portions are tidbits from the film and I’m going through them in a messy manner. The film organizes itself coherently and all these details make complete sense within the film, but it’s too much for me to go through in a few paragraphs. He went to college and used the idea of cultural tolerance to his advantage for the Islamist group’s purposes with the administration too flimsy to challenge him because they didn’t want to look like racists. It should be noted that it was not the professors who neglected this, but specifically the college administration that Maajid Nawaz highlights in his explanation. After a brutal murder caused by one of his fellow organizers who killed a black youth at the campus, he and his buddies were all expelled from the college. As an adult, he speaks of his regrets and how the college should have challenged them on a sexist picture they distributed around the campus, but the college administration never did due to fear of being referred to as racist. He mentions how, if they had, that murder may never have happened since they were given free access to do as they pleased in their student organization using the charge of racism as a shield. He speaks of the horrifying experiences in an Egyptian torture prison and how it was Amnesty International’s kindness and activism for his human rights that led to the first cracks in his belief in a Sharia-enforced society. Later on, in an interview on the BBC, when he was challenged on the sexist views of the Islamist group he was a part of where his views on the organization truly started to slip. Eventually, he became a former Islamist and founded Quilliam and joined with Sam Harris for both the book and the film after they had a scathing first encounter.

Sam Harris details the troubles he’s gained for differentiating religions by doctrines and how singling out Islam’s has caused wave after wave of criticism within the atheist community and the Left with clips of his debates with Hedges, Aslan, and the infamous incident with Ben Affleck. Harris explains the issues he’s had and how difficult Maajid Nawaz’s position is in reforming Islam. In fact, Ex-Muslims seem to gain higher yields in getting people to outright leave Islam than Maajid’s own activism and I’m firmly in favor of their cause. However, Harris and Nawaz are still allies in trying to change this dynamic as reforming 1.6 billion people is going to be decades of hard work. Even in the more atheist tolerant countries like the US, atheists are still discriminated against, the Christian Right continues to try to destroy women’s rights, and the Christian Right doesn’t acknowledge the targeted murders of transgender people.

Overall, this film is a 5 out of 5. It’s highly recommended if you want to learn more about the problems of Islam and how to help Ex-Muslims or Reformist Muslims.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition Review (PC)

This game has to be one of the worst disappointments I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing. I suppose I fell for the hype train for this game’s release, but only found an unmemorable and awful failure of a story and convoluted gameplay. Tales of Vesperia’s cast is among the most forgettable of them all. Nobody but Karol has any real character development and there’s only one really good twist in the entire story and it’s wasted with no impact. I tried forcing myself to complete this game, but I just can’t stand it anymore. This game is absolutely horrible and it’s positive qualities don’t make-up for its colossal failure in one very important aspect.

Music: The music is great and a pleasure to listen to. It fits the mood and setting spectacularly for the most part.

Gameplay: The gameplay feels like a more convoluted version of Tales of the Abyss’s gameplay, but I think that’s simply my own personal preference. The gameplay is fun, fast, and exciting. There are no drops in quality or any technical issues from my experience, and you do have to think over how to beat challenging enemies like optional bosses on the field or the secret mission system that offers bonuses for preventing bosses from regaining a particular advantage against you throughout boss battles. Overall, the gameplay is a very enjoyable experience and I personally really liked using Yuri Lowell’s gameplay style.

Characters: The characters are all realistic, believable, and really fun to listen to for the most part. Seeing them engage with each other is fun, but as the story slowly falls apart, it’s clear that these otherwise great cast of characters is absolutely wasted on this terrible story. I liked everyone but Rita, who felt more like a one-dimensional character compared to the more complex, upbeat, and compelling characters who have more interesting reasons for what they’re doing. However, apart from Karol, none of them are really developed and the game itself even points out the main character, Yuri Lowell, hasn’t changed at all throughout the journey. Yuri does come close to being a gary stu, but only because of how the entire plot falls in the party’s lap out of an ongoing convenience of there always being danger that needs Yuri’s assistance to beat. The characters motivations and decisions aren’t adequately developed or challenged apart from Karol. It’s a really interesting and likable cast that’s essentially wasted on a terrible plot.

One annoyance though, the new voice actor for Yuri Lowell is totally noticeable and sounds like some idiotic stereotype of a surfer throughout the game, which ruins the enjoyment of listening to him in the English version. People complaining about the voice actor sadly weren’t exaggerating as I had initially believed. It’s awful, but you do get the Japanese audio option. It’s still disappointing though and does detract from the overall game.

Plot: Fans of Vesperia admit the plot is “generic” — but that’s only putting it in the nicest of terms. The fact is this game’s plot doesn’t really exist. It’s a set of events that have no coherence when you try to fit all the pieces together. Around 20 hours of this 50 hour plot is honestly just searching for an answer to Estelle’s question, having the party separate in a town, talking to the party members, Yuri asks Estelle what she wants to do, and then the party setting off for the next dungeon with something totally fucking stupid preventing some character from answering Estelle’s question. That’s 20 hours of the game as the only motivation and it’s a completely stupid one. Ostensibly, Yuri and Karol are forming a guild and doing a job for Estelle, and despite Judith’s suggestion its really following Estelle’s whims…. that’s what the entire game essentially becomes anyway. The plot is non-existent trash. Estelle’s questions could have been answered in one sentence. 20 hours for a one sentence explanation that you can figure out through basic critical thinking skills.

After this godawful clusterfuck of an adventure, some random NPC becomes the villain and Yuri randomly concludes that he’s “behind everything!” — whatever that means. The main villain doesn’t even state his goal, Yuri randomly comes up with an epiphany about what it is. This is honestly the dumbest and most poorly written storytelling I’ve seen since Chrono Cross.

This game’s plot is among the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a Tales game and that is saying something as  I thought Tales of Graces F was the worst. Vesperia is only a better by a miniscule amount. If anyone would like to argue it is a ten-year old game as a flippant excuse, that just makes it worse. Its predecessors Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Symphonia were phenomenally written stories with some of the best plots ever written in all of video gaming. But of course, the writer of those stories wasn’t doing Vesperia’s plot and instead Vesperia seems to have four writers who clearly wanted different things, so this plot is a muddled fuck-up of an excuse compared to those stories.

Apologies in advance, but the flaws outstrip the positives:

Overall Rating: 4/10.