Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ed Dobson - What He Has to Say About His Life-Threatening Illness Will Shake You to Your Core

Ed Dobson | ALS 

Ed Dobson preaching | 2011

Pastor Ed Dobson Is Facing A Life-Threatening Illness.
But What He Has To Say About It Will Shake Your Core

Ed Dobson is the Pastor emeritus, Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, MI
January 5, 2014 (updated January 23, 2014)

If Ed Dobson had given up on his life 13 years ago, he'd have missed walking his daughter down the aisle. He wouldn't have met his grandchildren. His story would have gone untold.

But he didn't give up. Instead, he's chosen to share his story to inspire others.

The 64-year-old pastor from Grand Rapids, Mich., was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's disease") more than a decade ago. He was given 2-5 years to live, according to the video above. Coming to terms with the diagnosis was hard -- but eventually, one fact dawned on him:

It ain't over, 'til it's over.

"I realize there is profound truth in that," Dobson says in this 10-minute clip from 2011. It's the first in a film series called "Ed's Story" that Dobson is still working on while continuing to battle ALS. The 2-year-old video continues to be shared widely online -- because everyone can use a reminder that life is worth fighting for.

If you don't have 10 minutes to spare, at least do this: Skip to the 7:55 mark. You'll be inspired. We promise.

"I didn't expect another Christmas, and now I've had 10," Dobson says towards the end of the video. "And the more I have the more I want. I have my life to share, my own story to share. One day it will be over, but it's not about how long I have left, it's about how I spend the time I do have."

Ed's Story: It Ain't Over

In It Ain't Over, the first film in the Ed's Story series, Ed Dobson reminds us that life isn't over yet and that we don't have to feel overwhelmed by the struggles we're facing today. Difficult news can sometimes make us feel like our lives are over. Ed shows us that we don't know the future, and that things may turn out quite differently from what we expect. edsstory.com

Ed Dobson - Faithfully Facing Mortality

Ed Dobson | ALS 

Ed Dobson preaching | 2011

'Oh, That I Had The Wings Of Dove! Faithfully Facing Mortality

by Ed Dobson, Pastor emeritus, Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, MI
November 14, 2011 (updated January 14, 2012)

I was diagnosed with ALS in November, shortly before Thanksgiving. About a week later I was sitting on the porch of my house watching the first snowfall of the season. As I sat there I was beginning to sink into that darkness. I was thinking that this would be my last winter. I was thinking that this would be my last Christmas. I was hoping to make it to spring! As I sat there depressed, I noticed a bird on the bush outside the window. As I sat there watching, it flew away, and I thought, "I wish I could be that bird." And I thought that the birds have no cares, no issues and no ALS. Then immediately I was drawn to the words of the writer of the Hebrew Scriptures:

"My heart is in anguish within me:
the terrors of death assail me.
Fear and trembling have beset me
Horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, "oh, that I had the wings of dove!
I would fly away and be at rest --
I would flee far away
And stay in the desert."

-- Psalms 55:4-7

This is exactly how I feel. I love the language -- anguish, terrors, fear, trembling and horror. I'm not afraid of being dead. It's getting dead that bothers me. For me, "getting dead" involves choices about wheelchairs, communication assistance, feeding tubes and breathing assistance. It's not pleasant when I think of the future. Of course, I try to ignore it but the underlying reality is always there. I think it bothered the writer of this prayer as well. In the face of death and dying, I would like to be a bird. I would like to get away from this situation. I would like to feel like I am free. This passage expresses my deepest feelings.

I am a follower of Jesus. And I am fully aware of what Jesus says about worry. ("Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself," Matt. 5:34). Do you know how many people have come up to me and quoted this verse? Their attitude is that since Jesus said this, I should obey it. However, they have little to worry about. I am facing death and a life hereafter and I have a whole lot to worry about.

This quotation comes from an extended passage in which Jesus deals with the subject of worry. In the middle of this section on worry, Jesus refers to the birds. "Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store in barns yet your heavenly father feeds them." So every time I see a bird, I am reminded that God takes care of them and if he takes care of them, he will take care of me. As I sit here writing, I am looking out the window and I see a bird. God takes care of that bird and ultimately the same God will take care of me. Of course, I'm not sure how God takes care of a bird. Neither am I sure of how God will take care of me. But since he takes care of the birds, I know he'll take care of me.

So every time I see a bird I have two options. First, I can want to be like the bird and fly away to be at rest. It's the longing to be set free from ALS. It's the longing to be set free from the terrors of death. Second, I can realize that God takes care of the birds and ultimately he will take care of me. Sometimes I go for option one. I long to live and be free. Other times I go for option two. I know God takes care of the birds and I know he will take care of me. My life is lived between these two options. On the one hand is the fear of death. And on the other hand the reality that God will see me through.

Ed Dobson - What Do You Do When You Know You Are Dying?

Ed Dobson | ALS 

Ed Dobson preaching | 2011

Sinking Into Darkness: What Do You Do When You Know You Are Dying?

by Ed Dobson, Pastor emeritus, Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, MI
October 5, 2011 (updated December 5, 2011)

It all began with twitching in my muscles. My wife insisted that I go see a doctor, but being a typical male, I ignored her. At the same time, I was having difficulty opening jars and cans when I was backpacking. I had just turned 50 years old, so I thought that this is what happens when you get old. Then one day, as I was writing out my sermon notes, it was as if my brain and my hand were not cooperating. So the next morning I was in church getting ready to preach. During the song right before I was scheduled to preach, I leaned over to a doctor who is a neurologist and told him about the twitching and the weakness. As I look back at that moment it's really ridiculous -- as if a doctor is going to diagnose me during the service right before I preach. He told me that I needed to go see him, like tomorrow.

Ed Dobson | Ministry to the Sick & Dying
So I went to see him. He spent about 15 minutes examining me and then asked me to come into his office. He told me there were several possibilities. First, my twitches could be benign fasciculations. He told me that everyone's muscles twitch and that maybe mine twitch more than the average (I was hoping that I was just a big twitcher rather than a little twitcher). Second, it's possible that I might have ALS. Once he mentioned ALS, my heart immediately sank. A few weeks later it was confirmed that I had ALS.

There is no way to describe the hopeless feeling of knowing that you only have a few years to live, and most of that time will be in the disabled condition. How does it feel?

  • It feels like you are sinking into the darkness.
  • It feels like you have left the warmth and sunshine and descended into a tomb.
  • It feels like you are in slow motion while the rest of the world speeds past.
  • It feels like you have a ringside seat to your own demise.
  • It feels overwhelming!

I have been a pastor all my life and have helped many people deal with difficult circumstances. But there is a huge difference between helping someone and dealing with it yourself. I thought that if I knew I was dying, I would really read the Bible. I found the opposite to be true. I can hardly pick up the Bible and read it at all.

I thought that if I knew I was dying, I would really pray. I found the opposite to be true. I can hardly pray at all.

I thought that if I knew I was dying, I would begin to think a lot about heaven. I found the opposite to be true. I found myself more and more attached to the people around me.

In the midst of my struggles, I began writing a book entitled "Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness." During my youngest son's second tour of Iraq, compliments of the Army, I sent him a copy of the book. The book contains a morning prayer and an evening promise. Throughout the book I tell stories of my own journey. My son told me that the stories would make wonderful short films.

Ed Dobson brushing his teeth | 2011

Lorna Dobson helping to dress her husband | 2011

Now I have really never been into films. I seldom watch a film and I sure never anticipated in being in a film. When my son returned, we began working on the idea of a series of short, 10-minute films. That idea is now a reality, seven short films in a series called Ed's Story. During the first year we worked on the films, we tried to identify the ideas that would give a sense of hope to people who have had the air knocked out of them. Early in my journey with this disease, I discovered that I did not want to read a lengthy book on suffering. I could only take information in short, concise and focused segments. These short films are designed to do just that. It only takes 10 minutes to watch one.

It is difficult for me to watch the films. When I watch a film I relive the situation over and over and over again. I've discovered that my emotions are just beneath the surface. When I watch the films, those emotions come rushing to the surface. So why did I do the films if it is difficult to watch them? I wanted to do something to give a sense of hope to people no matter what their circumstances. We are all human beings and part of our challenge is to face struggles and respond to them in a healthy way. I'm not sure I have always responded to my struggles in a healthy way, but at least I'm trying.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Radicalness of God's Incarnation: "For God So Loved the World that He Couldn't Stay Away"

For God So Loved the World…That He Couldn’t Stay Away:
A Christmas Meditation

by Roger Olson
December 25, 2014

The Incarnation of God as "one of us"

This is the heart of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore of authentic Christianity: the incarnation of God as “one of us.” Take it away and Christianity is little more than a moralistic, therapeutic deism (MTD). The incarnation, as event and doctrine, is the distinctive note of the Christian witness and the basis of Christian hope.

But many Christians believe in the incarnation of God in Jesus, but fail to grasp the fullness of it as good news about God. Karl Barth best expressed this good news about God in a nutshell: the humanity of God—the startling title (given his early emphasis on God’s “wholly otherness”) of one of his last books.

If Barth was right, and I believe he was, God was always inclined toward us, always determined in himself, by his free decision, as “He who loves in freedom,” to be for us in Jesus Christ. Thus, we must think of the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, the Word, as the “Platzhalter” for Jesus Christ in the Trinity.

Thinking Wrongly of the Incarnation

1 - Many Christians think of the incarnation as God’s rescue mission, its only purpose being to get God the Son onto the cross to change God’s attitude toward us from wrath to love. This does not take the truth of the incarnation seriously enough.

2- Many other Christians think of the incarnation as God’s identification with us, to reveal himself to us, but they too fail to take the incarnation seriously enough because, for them, too often, the incarnation is something of a charade insofar as it was simply a divine “addition” of an impersonal human nature to the Son’s pristine, impassible divine nature.

If we take the incarnation radically seriously, we must conclude that it was not merely a “Plan B” because of humanity’s rebellion or merely a pretense that made God appear to be one of us, with the “God part” of Jesus remaining incapable of suffering.

The Incarnation of God is Radical

I believe the one of the most beautiful, inspiring and truthful pieces of theological literature (which is also profoundly devotional) is Barth’s essay in Church Dogmatics IV/1 entitled “The Way of the Son of God into a Far Country.” There Barth, perhaps almost in spite of himself, grasps and expounds the radicalness of the incarnation. The Son of God, God the Son, God himself in the person of the eternal Word, too leave of the Father’s house and entered into the depths of human misery for our sakes. The result is, for Barth and for me, that God cannot be thought of as untouched, pristine, unaffected by what happened with Jesus Christ.

Because of the incarnation our misery is forever imprinted in the life of God but so is our transformation to glory. The wounds of Jesus (and not just the ones put there by the nails of the cross) are part of God’s life but so is his glorious resurrection. Because of the incarnation God’s grace and glory are part of every human person’s being (in potency) and, with faith, every human is capable of participating in God’s divine life and family forever.

Jesus did not “drop his humanity” when he ascended into heaven; he took his resurrected, glorified (but still wounded) humanity with him and he remains human forever. Because of the incarnation, the event of God’s love, one of "us" is "one of God"; our "being" is God’s and "God’s [being]" is ours—if we have faith in his Son. There’s no hint of pantheism in that; it’s all due to God’s grace which means God could have remained God without the incarnation. But he chose not to be himself without us.

The Incarnation was God's Intended Purpose of Creation

I believe, with the Eastern churches, that the incarnation was God’s great plan and purpose in creation all along; it was not merely a “rescue mission.” It became a rescue mission, but it would have happened even if humanity had not fallen due to rebellion. The purpose of God toward the world, toward humanity especially, was to join with it and join it with him by becoming one of us so we could become part of him. The original plan (to speak mythically) did not include the cross, but it became part of the plan when humanity rebelled. Because of our rebellion and God’s refusal to give up on his plan, the wounds of Jesus remain forever embedded in God’s life.

Love is the Fabric of Reality in God's Incarnation

What’s the final outcome, the “cash value,” of such a vision of God and the world? It must be that love is the fabric of reality, the heart of what it is all about to be, even for God. This narrative, this story, this eventful reality of the incarnation, if taken fully seriously, cannot help but push aside and out-of-the-way any notion of God as desiring glory above all.

Or, rather, it requires a redefinition of “glory” from our fallen notions of it. This truth tells us that Jesus’ wounds are the most glorious thing possible—even for God. The doctrine of God cannot be what it would be without the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus.

It is sad that so many Christians disregard this and prefer instead a philosophical idea of God as glorious according to human conceptions of glory—immutable, impassible, apathetic, self-enclosed, infinite (in the sense of incapable of limitations).

My prayer this Christmas is that all Christians will come to grasp the radicalness of the incarnation and allow it to transform their understanding of God as one of us.

- Roger

A Worldwide Map of how Multilingual People Transmit Information and Ideas.


Many books are translated into and out of languages such as English, German, and Russian, but Arabic has fewer translations relative to its many speakers. (Arrows between circles represent translations; the size of a language's circle is proportional to the number of people who speak it.)

Want to influence the world? Map reveals the best languages to speak

December 15, 2014

Speak or write in English, and the world will hear you. Speak or write in Tamil or Portuguese, and you may have a harder time getting your message out. Now, a new method for mapping how information flows around the globe identifies the best languages to spread your ideas far and wide. One hint: If you’re considering a second language, try Spanish instead of Chinese.

The study was spurred by a conversation about an untranslated book, says Shahar Ronen, a Microsoft program manager whose Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) master’s thesis formed the basis of the new work. A bilingual Hebrew-English speaker from Israel, he told his MIT adviser, César Hidalgo (himself a Spanish-English speaker), about a book written in Hebrew whose translation into English he wasn’t yet aware of. “I was able to bridge a certain culture gap because I was multilingual,” Ronen says. He began thinking about how to create worldwide maps of how multilingual people transmit information and ideas.

Ronen and co-authors from MIT, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Aix-Marseille University tackled the problem by describing three global language networks based on bilingual tweeters, book translations, and multilingual Wikipedia edits. The book translation network maps how many books are translated into other languages. For example, the Hebrew book, translated from Hebrew into English and German, would be represented in lines pointing from a node of Hebrew to nodes of English and German. That network is based on 2.2 million translations of printed books published in more than 1000 languages. As in all of the networks, the thickness of the lines represents the number of connections between nodes. For tweets, the researchers used 550 million tweets by 17 million users in 73 languages. In that network, if a user tweets in, say, Hindi as well as in English, the two languages are connected. To build the Wikipedia network, the researchers tracked edits in up to five languages done by editors, carefully excluding "bots".

In all three networks, English has the most transmissions to and from other languages and is the most central hub, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But the maps also reveal “a halo of intermediate hubs,” according to the paper, such as French, German, and Russian, which serve the same function at a different scale.

In contrast, some languages with large populations of speakers, such as Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic, are relatively isolated in these networks. This means that fewer communications in those languages reach speakers of other languages. Meanwhile, a language like Dutch—spoken by 27 million people—can be a disproportionately large conduit, compared with a language like Arabic, which has a whopping 530 million native and second-language speakers. This is because the Dutch are very multilingual and very online.

The network maps show what is already widely known: If you want to get your ideas out, you can reach a lot of people through the English language. But the maps also show how speakers in disparate languages benefit from being indirectly linked through hub languages large and small. On Twitter, for example, ideas in Filipino can theoretically move to the Korean-speaking sphere through Malay, whereas the most likely path for ideas to go from Turkish to Malayalam (spoken in India by 35 million people) is through English. These networks are revealed in detail at the study’s website.

The authors note that the users they studied, whom they consider elite because—unlike most people in the world—they are literate and online, do not represent all the speakers of a language. However, “the elites of global languages have a disproportionate amount of power and responsibility, because they are tacitly shaping the way in which distant cultures see each other—even if this is not their goal,” Hidalgo says. When conflict in Ukraine flared this past summer, most people in the world learned about it through news stories originally written in English and then translated to other languages. In this case, “any implicit bias or angle taken by the English media will color the information about the conflict that is available to many non-English speakers,” Hidalgo says.

The networks potentially offer guidance to governments and other language communities that want to change their international role:

  • “If I want my national language to be more prominent, then I should invest in translating more documents, encouraging more people to tweet in their national language,” Ronen says.

  • “On the other side, if I want our ideas to spread, we should pick a second language that’s very well connected.”

For non-English speakers, the choice of English as second or third language is an obvious one. For English speakers, the analysis suggests it would be more advantageous to choose Spanish over Chinese—at least if they’re spreading their ideas through writing.

The problem of measuring the relative status of the world’s languages "is a very tricky one, and often very hard to get good data about,” says Mark Davis, the president and co-founder of the Unicode Consortium in Mountain View, California, which does character encoding for the world’s computers and mobile devices. “Their perspective on the problem is interesting and useful.”

Cultural transmission happens in spoken language too, points out William Rivers, the executive director of the nonprofit Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies in Garrett Park, Maryland. Data on interactions in, say, the souks of Marrakech, where people speak Arabic, Hassaniya, Moroccan Arabic, French, Tashelhit, and other languages, are impossible to get but important in cultural transmission, he says. He adds that “as the Internet has become more available to more people around the world, they go online in their own languages.” When they do, now they know how to connect to other languages and move their ideas, too.

[click to enlarge]

Connections by Published Book Translations

Connections by Tweeter Translations

Connections by Wikipedia Edits Translations

Global Language Network - Cesar Hidalgo
MIT Prof. Cesar Hidalgo on multilingualism, hierarchy of the
language networks, and cross-lingual research

Related ~

What Language the World Will Speak in 2115

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Messy Minds (Personalities) of Creative People

Beautiful Minds | Insights into intelligence, creativity, and the mind

The Messy Minds of Creative People

By Scott Barry Kaufman
December 24, 2014

The views expressed are those of the author and are not
necessarily those of Scientific American.

Creativity is very messy.

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well in good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

Or this:

The creative process

The creative process - from the first drop of paint on the canvas to the art exhibition - involves a mix of emotions, drives, skills, and behaviors. It’d be miraculous if these emotions, traits and behaviors didn’t often conflict with each other during the creative process, creating inner and outer tension. Indeed, creative people are often seen as weird, odd, and eccentric.

Over the years, scientists have attempted to capture the personality of creative people. But it hasn’t been easy putting them under the microscope. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has interviewed creative people across various fields points out, creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”

So how can we possibly bring order to the messy minds of creators? A new paper offers some hope. Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.

Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.

The Super-Factors of Personality


Plasticity consists of the personality traits openness to experience, extraversion, high energy, and inspiration.* The common factor here is high drive for exploration, and those high in this super-factor of personality tend to have a lot of dopamine– “the neuromodulator of exploration“– coursing through their brains. Prior research has shown a strong link between Plasticity and creativity, especially in the arts.


Divergence consists of non-conformity, impulsivity, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness. People high in divergence may seem like jerks, but they are often just very independent thinkers. This super-factor is close to Hans Eysenck’s concept of “Psychoticism“. Throughout his life, Eysenck argued that these non-conforming characteristics were important contributors to high creative achievements.


Finally, Convergence consists of high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, and critical sense. While not typically included in discussions of creativity, these characteristics are also important contributors to the creative process.

The researchers found that Convergence was strongly related to Plasticity. In other words, those who were open to new experiences, inspired, energetic, and exploratory tended to also have high levels of persistence and precision. The common factor here is most likely high energy. Perspiration and inspiration feed off each other, leading to even higher energy levels.

Nevertheless, these three super factors were at least partially distinct. For instance, those with high openness to experience and inspiration weren’t necessarily rebellious, impulsive, critical, or motivated to achieve.

Stages of Creativity

Critically, these three super-factors differed in importance depending on the stage of the creative process. While it’s true that the creative process is messy, scientists have at least put some order on things by agreeing on two broad classes of processes that work in cooperation to lead to high levels of creativity: Generation and Selection.

Generation (~ plasticity + divergence)

Generation consists of idea production and originality. During this stage, it’s crucial to silence the inner critic and imagine lots of different possibilities. This stage is all about quantity of ideas.

Selection (~ convergence)

Generation is necessary but not sufficient for creativity, however. Selection helps make the ideas not only novel, but also valuable to society. The Selection stage involves processes such as criticism, evaluation, formalization, and elaboration of ideas. As Furst and colleagues note, “The ultimate goal of Selection is thus to form a coherent final product by providing a constant check during its development.”

Looking at the super-factors of personality, the researchers found that Plasticity and Divergence were most strongly related to the Generation stage of creativity. In contrast, Convergence was most strongly related to Selection. This makes sense, considering that creativity involves both processes relating to novelty and processes relating to usefulness. Indeed, the researchers found that the interaction of Generation and Selection was associated with both the intensity and achievement of everyday creative activities.**

But hold up, you may say. How can creativity be associated with all of these things: openness to experience, inspiration, high energy, impulsivity, rebelliousness, critical thinking, precision, and conscientiousness? Isn’t that contradictory?

Which brings us back to the beginning of this article. Creativity involves many different stages. Those who are capable of reaching the heights of human creative expression are those who have the capacity for all of these characteristics and behaviors within themselves and are flexibly able to switch back and forth between them depending on the stage of the creative process, and what’s most adaptive in the moment.

I told you creativity is messy.


Happy New Year! Thanks for supporting Beautiful Minds in 2014. Look out in 2015 for more insights on intelligence and creativity as well as a new book on the latest science of creativity, co-authored with Carolyn Gregoire.

© 2014 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

* The researchers measured “extraversion”using the Big Five framework. Under this framework, extraversion consists of a collection of traits associated with high sensitivity to environmental rewards, including positive emotions, sociability, enthusiasm, novelty seeking, assertiveness, and self-confidence. This finding does notmean that introverts are less likely to be creative. In fact, research suggests that the sociability component of extraversion is not as strongly linked to creativity as the other components of extraversion. If anything, research shows that the capacity for solitude is essential for optimal creativity. The facets of extraversion that seem to be most crucial to creativity are those associated with enthusiasm, confidence, and ambition.

**Interestingly, selection alone was not related to creativity. In particular, they found that people who were really good at Selection showed reduced levels of creativity if their Generation skills were low. Therefore, Generation skills are essential to creativity, and while generation skills may compensate for lower levels of Selection ability, the highest levels of Selection in the world may not be able to help you create if you have very low Generation ability.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Andrea Kuszewski and Carolyn Gregoire for bringing
those alternative conceptualizations of the creative process to my attention.


About Scott Barry Kaufman

Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the measurement and development of imagination. Kaufman is also co-founder of The Creativity Post and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, in which he presents a holistic approach to achievement that takes into account each person’s personal goals, individual psychology, and developmental trajectory. Kaufman regularly gives keynotes and workshops for educators and business leaders on the development of intelligence, creativity, and human potential (see appearances). To book a speaking engagement, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau atinfo@thelavinagency.com. To reprint one of his articles, contactsales@featurewell.com.

For more on Scott, go to ScottBarryKaufman.com.

Follow on Twitter as @sbkaufman. Or visit their website.

Love Matters: The 1914 Christmas Truce of WWI

Peace is Possible: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Amid the darkness of World War I came an isolated but beautiful moment
where peace, faith, hope and humanity overcame the bonds of war, and,
even if for a night and a day, peace became possible.

Honoring 100 Years After The WWI 1914 Christmas Truce In Our Own Time Of War

The Huffington Post | By Antonia Blumberg
December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014 marks 100 years since the historic Christmas truce united, if just for a few days, warring German and British troops on the WWI battlefield.

After months of fighting, the battle-weary soldiers agreed to lay down their weapons and cross "no man's land" to exchange gifts, goods and soccer games with their enemies. One soldier described the scene in a letter back home, which was later published in the Hampshire Chronicle:

I had a most extraordinary Christmas, and I have come to the conclusion that I would not have spent it out of the trenches for worlds. We went in on Christmas Eve, under the usual conditions of this sniping warfare, and carried on as usual during the night. As soon as it got light, however, the sniping died down on both sides, and by sunrise had ceased altogether. The complete silence was most weird, and I could not help thinking that this sort of mutual agreement would turn into an open truce. So it did. Encouraged by the absence of lead in the air, heads soon began popping up on both sides...

The truce lasted through Christmas and in some places carried through to the New Year. A row of small Christmas trees strung with lights lined the trenches, and the soldiers carried out the ceasefire Pope Benedict XV had asked world leaders to observe just weeks prior.

To honor the 100th anniversary of the Christmas truce, a group of students from Brigham Young University produced the above video with original photographs from 1914, accompanied by the BYU Men's Chorus rendition of "Silent Night." The video was released through Faith Counts, an interfaith organization with joint sponsorship from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Hillel International, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other religious bodies.

The war would continue for another four years after the truce, claiming millions of lives and leaving millions more injured or missing. In our own era of war and unrest, however, the Christmas truce stands out as a reminder of human beings' capacity to put aside differences, lay down arms and join together in a sacred moment, a moment that perhaps could last into eternity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Argument of the Agnostic: Is Religion So Easily Deposed by Rationalism??

Today's article can be quite dissettling for first timers considering the arguments of an agnostic. However, it is quite clearly as plain that such arguments must be heard in order to understand the basis of those arguments when they are presented. Though not an argument for pure atheism, today's article is a strong argument with strong questions as to "Why a believer believers what s/he believes?" And if you do, then pray tell, "Let us all know, by all accounts please," asks the inquiring agnostic.

Essentially, for the evangelist and apologist this plea for a rational argument immediately becomes fraught with all kinds of obstacles and trap doors. In fact, though the temptation is to enter in forthrightly to debate and contend, the wise man knows that belief cannot be taught but caught; cannot be understood but embraced. That it is not necessary to answer the unknowable as much as to question our knowing and ourselves as being the universe's all-knowing omniscience source of de facto explanation as the agnostic would have us become.

Yeah, to answer a fool is to be a fool oneself. Which is most likely what an agnostic would think the closest thing to an answer that a believer might bring. However, for the believer himself or herself, we know all too well that some answers do come in our belief while many will not come. That it is not that we must have answers to help belief but that we must move towards our questioning beliefs in the totality of a faith stripped of its rationalism and demands for proof and knowing. Even those who stood before Jesus Himself seeing the God of the universe could not belief. Seeing, knowing, proving are not very good foundations to walking with God.

Yes, to believe is to be a fool in the eyes of the true agnostic, and yet to not believe is to act foolishly when the only best, surest thing that we can do is to simply believe. A man or woman of faith understands this, and through the course of life will have some questions answered and many not answered but the pith of one's faith is not based upon oneself but upon the One who giveth faith. The Creator God whose image is stamped upon us heart and soul. And through His Son Jesus that helps the unbelief of some to wrestle with life's most important questions of personal meaning, purpose, love, and so on.

Even so, my dear brothers and sisters, we move forward. Not clearly, not easily, but forward into the dark rifts and valleys of life's paradoxes, riddles, myths, and mysteries. What we know is that Jesus is come as Savior and Lord and that is enough. It is in that knowledge that all else becomes meaningful and meaning finds its purpose. Be at peace. Be courageous. Seek to love, not argue. And to touch the unbelief of some that they too may come to know Christ as Savior and Lord. Amen and amen.

R.E. Slater
December 24, 2014

God & Jesus | Credit: Wikimedia

Religion’s smart-people problem:
The shaky intellectual foundations of absolute faith

by John G. Messerly
December 21, 2014

Religious belief the world over has a strenuous
relationship with intellectualism. But why?

Should you believe in a God? Not according to most academic philosophers. A comprehensive survey revealed that only about 14 percent of English speaking professional philosophers are theists. As for what little religious belief remains among their colleagues, most professional philosophers regard it as a strange aberration among otherwise intelligent people. Among scientists the situation is much the same. Surveys of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, composed of the most prestigious scientists in the world, show that religious belief among them is practically nonexistent, about 7 percent.

Academic Philosophers of Faith - 14%

Prestigious Scientists of Faith - 7%

Now nothing definitely follows about the truth of a belief from what the majority of philosophers or scientists think. But such facts might cause believers discomfort. There has been a dramatic change in the last few centuries in the proportion of believers among the highly educated in the Western world. In the European Middle Ages belief in a God was ubiquitous, while today it is rare among the intelligentsia. This change occurred primarily because of the rise of modern science and a consensus among philosophers that arguments for the existence of gods, souls, afterlife and the like were unconvincing. Still, despite the view of professional philosophers and world-class scientists, religious beliefs have a universal appeal. What explains this?

The Appeal of Religion

Genes and environment explain human beliefs and behaviors—people do things because they are genomes in environments. The near universal appeal of religious belief suggests a biological component to religious beliefs and practices, and science increasingly confirms this view. There is a scientific consensus that our brains have been subject to natural selection. So what survival and reproductive roles might religious beliefs and practices have played in our evolutionary history? What mechanisms caused the mind to evolve toward religious beliefs and practices?

Today there are two basic [biological] explanations offered

1 - One says that religion evolved by natural selection—religion is an adaptation that provides an evolutionary advantage. For example religion may have evolved to enhance social cohesion and cooperation—it may have helped groups survive.

2 - The other explanation claims that religious beliefs and practices arose as byproducts of other adaptive traits. For example, intelligence is an adaptation that aids survival. Yet it also forms causal narratives for natural occurrences and postulates the existence of other minds. Thus the idea of hidden Gods explaining natural events was born.

Environmental Explanations for Religion

In addition to the biological basis for religious belief, there are environmental explanations. It is self-evident from the fact that religions are predominant in certain geographical areas but not others, that birthplace strongly influences religious belief. This suggests that people’s religious beliefs are, in large part, accidents of birth. Besides cultural influences there is the family; the best predictor of people’s religious beliefs in individuals is the religiosity of their parents. There are also social factors effecting religious belief. For example, a significant body of scientific evidence suggests that popular religion results from social dysfunction. Religion may be a coping mechanism for the stress caused by the lack of a good social safety net—hence the vast disparity between religious belief in Western Europe and the United States.

Better Conditions = Lower Belief Values

There is also a strong correlation between religious belief and various measures of social dysfunction including homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births, abortions, corruption, income inequality and more. While no causal relationship has been established, a United Nations list of the 20 best countries to live in shows the least religious nations generally at the top. Only in the United States, which was ranked as the 13th best country to live in, is religious belief strong relative to other countries. Moreover, virtually all the countries with comparatively little religious belief ranked high on the list of best countries, while the majority of countries with strong religious belief ranked low. While correlation does not equal causation, the evidence should give pause to religion’s defenders. There are good reasons to doubt that religious belief makes people’s lives go better, and good reasons to believe that they make their lives go worse.

People don’t want to know; they want to Believe

Despite all this most people still accept some religious claims. But this fact doesn’t give us much reason to accept religious claims. People believe many weird things that are completely irrational—astrology, fortunetelling, alien abductions, telekinesis and mind reading—and reject claims supported by an overwhelming body of evidence—biological evolution for example. More than three times as many Americans believe in the virgin birth of Jesus than in biological evolution, although few theologians take the former seriously, while no serious biologist rejects the latter!

Consider too that scientists don’t take surveys of the public to determine whether relativity or evolutionary theory are true; their truth is assured by the evidence as well as by resulting technologies—global positioning and flu vaccines work. With the wonders of science every day attesting to its truth, why do many prefer superstition and pseudo science? The simplest answer is that people believe what they want to, what they find comforting, not what the evidence supports: In general, people don’t want to know; they want to believe. This best summarizes why people tend to believe.

Why, then, do some highly educated people believe religious claims? 

First, smart persons are good at defending ideas that they originally believed for non-smart reasons. They want to believe something, say for emotional reasons, and they then become adept at defending those beliefs. No rational person would say there is more evidence for creation science than biological evolution, but the former satisfies some psychological need for many that the latter does not. How else to explain the hubris of the philosopher or theologian who knows little of biology or physics yet denies the findings of those sciences? It is arrogant of those with no scientific credentials and no experience in the field or laboratory, to reject the hard-earned knowledge of the science. Still they do it. (I knew a professional philosopher who doubted both evolution and climate science but believed he could prove that the Christian God must take a Trinitarian form! Surely something emotional had short-circuited his rational faculties.)

Second, the proclamations of educated believers are not always to be taken at face value. Many don’t believe religious claims but think them useful. They fear that in their absence others will lose a basis for hope, morality or meaning. These educated believers may believe that ordinary folks can’t handle the truth. They may feel it heartless to tell parents of a dying child that their little one doesn’t go to a better place. They may want to give bread to the masses, like Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

Our sophisticated believers may be manipulating, using religion as a mechanism of social control, as Gibbon noted long ago:

“The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world
were all considered by the people as equally true;
by the philosophers as equally false;
and by the magistrate as equally useful.” 

Consider the so-called religiosity of many contemporary politicians, whose actions belie the claim that they really believe the precepts of the religions to which they supposedly ascribe.

Individuals may also profess belief because it is socially unacceptable not to; they don’t want to be out of the mainstream or fear they will not be reelected or loved if they profess otherwise. So-called believers may not believe the truth of their claims; instead they may think that others are better off or more easily controlled if those others believe. Or perhaps they may just want to be socially accepted.

Third, when sophisticated thinkers claim to be religious, they often have something in mind unlike what the general populace believes. They may be process theologians who argue that god is not omnipotent, contains the world, and changes. They may identify god as an anti-entropic force pervading the universe leading it to higher levels of organization. They may be pantheists, panentheists, or death-of-god theologians. Yet these sophisticated varieties of religious belief bear little resemblance to popular religion. The masses would be astonished to discover how far such beliefs deviate from their theism.

Belief Declines with Knowledge or Higher IQs

But we shouldn’t be deceived. Although there are many educated religious believers, including some philosophers and scientists, religious belief declines with educational attainment, particularly with scientific education. Studies also show that religious belief declines among those with higher IQs. Hawking, Dennett and Dawkins are not outliers, and neither is Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

Or consider this anecdotal evidence. Among the intelligentsia it is common and widespread to find individuals who lost childhood religious beliefs as their education in philosophy and the sciences advanced. By contrast, it is almost unheard of to find disbelievers in youth who came to belief as their education progressed. This asymmetry is significant; advancing education is detrimental to religious belief. This suggest another part of the explanation for religious belief—scientific illiteracy.

The Burden of Proof is on the Believer... Not the Unbeliever
[An Argument for Agnosticism]

If we combine reasonable explanations of the origin of religious beliefs and the small amount of belief among the intelligentsia with the problematic nature of beliefs in gods, souls, afterlives or supernatural phenomena generally, we can conclude that (supernatural) religious beliefs are probably false. And we should remember that the burden of proof is not on the disbeliever to demonstrate there are no gods, but on believers to demonstrate that there are. Believers are not justified in affirming their belief on the basis of another’s inability to conclusively refute them, any more than a believer in invisible elephants can command my assent on the basis of my not being able to “disprove” the existence of the aforementioned elephants. If the believer can’t provide evidence for a god’s existence, then I have no reason to believe in gods.

In response to the difficulties with providing reasons to believe in things unseen, combined with the various explanations of belief, you might turn to faith. It is easy to believe something without good reasons if you are determined to do so—like the queen in “Alice and Wonderland” who “sometimes … believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” But there are problems with this approach. First, if you defend such beliefs by claiming that you have a right to your opinion, however unsupported by evidence it might be, you are referring to a political or legal right, not an epistemic one. You may have a legal right to say whatever you want, but you have epistemic justification only if there are good reasons and evidence to support your claim. If someone makes a claim without concern for reasons and evidence, we should conclude that they simply don’t care about what’s true. We shouldn’t conclude that their beliefs are true because they are fervently held.

Another problem is that fideism—basing one’s beliefs exclusively on faith—makes belief arbitrary, leaving no way to distinguish one religious belief from another. Fideism allows no reason to favor your preferred beliefs or superstitions over others. If I must accept your beliefs without evidence, then you must accept mine, no matter what absurdity I believe in. But is belief without reason and evidence worthy of rational beings? Doesn’t it perpetuate the cycle of superstition and ignorance that has historically enslaved us? I agree with W.K. Clifford:

“It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone
to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

Why? Because your beliefs affect other people, and your false beliefs may harm them.

The counter to Clifford’s evidentialism has been captured by thinkers like Blaise Pascal, William James, and Miguel de Unamuno. Pascal’s famous dictum expresses: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” William James claimed that reason can’t resolve all issues and so we are sometimes justified believing ideas that work for us. Unamuno searched for answers to existential questions, counseling us to abandon rationalism and embrace faith. Such proposals are probably the best the religious can muster, but if reason can’t resolve our questions then agnosticism, not faith, is required.

Besides, faith without reason doesn’t satisfy most of us, hence our willingness to seek reasons to believe. If those reasons are not convincing, if you conclude that religious beliefs are untrue, then religious answers to life’s questions are worthless. You might comfort yourself by believing that little green dogs in the sky care for you but this is just nonsense, as are any answers attached to such nonsense. Religion may help us in the way that whisky helps a drunk, but we don’t want to go through life drunk. If religious beliefs are just vulgar superstitions, then we are basing our lives on delusions. And who would want to do that?

An Argument for a Better Humanity

Why is all this important? Because human beings need their childhood to end; they need to face life with all its bleakness and beauty, its lust and its love, its war and its peace. They need to make the world better. No one else will.

John G. Messerly is the author of “The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives.” He blogs these issues daily at reasonandmeaning.com. You can follow him on Twitter @hume1955.