Monday, December 3, 2012

Agnotology: The Surge - 2

The Earth is a global public school system.
This series is taking a look at various aspects of one segment of the study of propaganda called Agnotology.

Agnotology functions as a discipline that was originally named by Robert N. Proctor, a historian who specializes in the history of science.

In the first post of this series we pointed out that Agnotology focuses on the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly and specifically dealing with the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data; for example, misleading information about the consequences of the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas).

In today's post we will focus on a critical aspect of the "culturally induced" mechanism that generates and/or perpetuates scientific "ignorance or doubt" in American culture.

But I will go beyond that to assert a hypothesis called "the cultural Amygdala", which is to be described as a dynamic portion or extension of the physical Amygdala.

Concept of the cultural Amygdala
To review a bit, the physical Amygdala is a recognizable physical section of the brain (see The Toxic Bridge To Everywhere), whereas the hypothetical cultural Amygdala is composed only of separate brain circuits that are connected to the physical Amygdala.

The cultural Amygdala is not a physically visible brain component in the way the physical Amygdala is, so the graphic "Concept of the cultural Amygdala" is used for conceptual purposes only, intended to help visualize and contrast the two concepts.

The red areas represent the two physical Amygdala components and their connection (red line) by circuits to one another (there are actually two parts that make up the physical Amygdala, one in the left brain, and one in the right brain).

The white globes that look like balls of thin yarn represent the cultural Amygdala, which is located around and connected to the physical Amygdala.

I will argue that the cultural Amygdala originates by and within the society / culture a person is born and raised in, which includes the family culture of that person.

This cultural Amygdala therefore contrasts with the physical Amygdala because the latter originates from direct biological processes.

Even though the cultural Amygdala is intertwined with the physical Amygdala, the circuits of the cultural Amygdala begin where the physical Amygdala ends.

Those circuits of the cultural Amygdala are then modified and/or extended over the lifetime of the individual by the cultural dynamics at work in the culture that individual lives in.

The behavior of the individual within a culture, along with the individual's genetic makeup, influence the development of the cultural Amygdala; limited, controlled, and/or enhanced by the physical Amygdala as it interacts with other portions of the brain.

We begin the basic structure of the hypothesis with this statement about how cultural behavior interacts with and contributes to genetic makeup:
Michael Skinner has just uttered an astounding sentence, but by now he is so used to slaying scientific dogma that his listener has to interrupt and ask if he realizes what he just said. Which was this: “We just published a paper last month confirming epigenetic changes in sperm which are carried forward transgenerationally. This confirms that these changes can become permanently programmed.”

... the life experiences of grandparents and even great-grandparents alter their eggs and sperm so indelibly that the change is passed on to their children, grandchildren, and beyond. It’s called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: the phenomenon in which something in the environment alters the health not only of the individual exposed to it, but also of that individual’s descendants.
(A Closer Look At MOMCOM's DNA - 4, quoting "Sins of the Grandfathers"; see also Michael Skinner - Epigenetics). This would indicate that the very different cultural behaviors of China, Russia, United States, Mexico, Iran, and the other nations, in general build a different cultural Amygdala within individuals who live in those societies.

Additionally, any sub-culture within a nation or society will have some influence on the development of each individual's cultural Amygdala within that sub-culture.

For instance, a person raised in a small farming town in the state of Mississippi  will develop a different cultural Amygdala when compared to a person raised in New York City, even though their physical Amygdala will be substantially the same.

Their fears, desires, tastes, and life experiences will cause different circuitry within the cultural Amygdala because that construct depends on their different cultures, whereas the physical Amygdala, being more rudimentary, is not dependent on culture for its development.

That is where Agnotology comes in, because it is "the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt", as was stated earlier in this post.

Agnotology can lay out the specifics of why and how cultures develop ignorance and/or doubt, as well as how that ignorance spreads or ceases to exist, noting that ignorance spreads or is extinguished in different ways in different cultures.

The efforts of Agnotology could take place more easily, perhaps, if a hypothesis or theory of a cultural Amygdala is developed in order to observe, reveal, and categorize relevant social dynamics encoded within circuits of the hypothetical cultural Amygdala.

The notion of memes and meme complexes is not totally foreign to such a hypothesis (see e.g. A Structure RE: Corruption of Memes and The Territorial Realm of Toxins of Power).

This subject is not without serious drama, because cultures will even develop and promulgate deadly ideas, or reject them, based on that particular culture's physical Amygdala and/or cultural Amygdala.

One researcher considered the process as follows:
1) A new pattern of behavior is invented, or an existing one is modified.

2) The innovator transmits this pattern to another.

3) The form of the pattern is consistent within and across performers, perhaps even in terms of recognizable stylistic features.

4) The one who acquires the pattern retains the ability to perform it long after having acquired it.

5) The pattern spreads across social units in a population. These social units may be families, clans, troops, or bands.

6) The pattern endures across generations.
(W.C. McGrew, 1998, "Culture in Nonhuman Primates?", Annual Review of Anthropology 27: 323). The stark differences among cultures within the same species may have similar dynamics:
Culture is considered to be group-specific behavior that is acquired, at least in part, from social influences. Here, group is considered to be the species-typical unit, whether it be a troop, lineage, subgroup, or so on. Prima facie evidence of culture comes from within-species but across-group variation in behavior, as when a pattern is persistent in one community of chimpanzees but is absent from another, or when different communities perform different versions of the same pattern. The suggestion of culture in action is stronger when the difference across the groups cannot be explained solely by ecological factors ...
(ibid, "Culture in Nonhuman Primates?", at 305). As an example, consider the cultural acceptance or rejection of global warming induced climate change, as reported by main stream media news in the video below.

Does it depict two conflicting cultural Amygdalas at work within the U.S.A., as well as international cultural differences of the type which Agnotology focuses on?

That news report in the video below begins with:
"Well, only in America is it controversial for me to begin tonight's program by declaring that global warming is really happening. For doubters, 332 straight months of above average temperatures is not proof enough. And even among believers there is a fight over who to blame, God or man, natural cycles or fossil fuels." - ABC News Anchor

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.


  1. Dredd, Thanks much for the link. I don't agree w/ some of your views which makes you even more interesting to me. I find communicating w/ people w/ whom I often agree a bit boring. I respect your intellect and appreciate your wit and sense of humor. I've bookmarked you.

    So, what's your take on my friends theory about black folk and dogs? Could it be a cultural Amygdala? Ironic you posted this today.

  2. ndspenelli,


    A lot of "things" are manufactured.

    An example, but not an exhaustion of the literature available, would be the book "Manufacturing Consent" by Chomsky et al.

    I know it is considered to be rebel science, but portions of our brain are actually "manufactured" by our culture (see e.g The Skulls They Are a Changin), a study of Caucasian American skulls from ~1815 thru ~1980, which reveals strange growth.

    The brain is in part culturally changed, especially through the manipulation of the amygdala.

    That much is not controversial (see e.g. A Structure RE: Corruption of Memes - 3, quoting "Memory Morphing in Advertising").

    A change in memory is a physical brain change, often "manufactured" (see e.g. The Toxic Bridge To Everywhere, quoting Lakoff).

    You asked, "So, what's your take on my friends theory about black folk and dogs? Could it be a cultural Amygdala?"


    The attitude toward animals is one such manufactured portion of the cultural Amygdala portion of our brain.

    Even though it is a sub-cultural endeavor, nevertheless, the same principles apply.

    I did not want to get into it too much in this one post, but in this series will later deal with sub-cultural aspects of the hypothesis of a cultural Amygdala.


  3. “They who have put out the peoples eyes reproach them of their blindness.” – John Milton

  4. Yeah Anonymous,

    That is called blaming the victim.

  5. The NOAA 2012 Arctic report card: Link

  6. The odds are 99.7% to 0.3% that 2012 will be the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. Link