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Stephen Gislason

Stephen Gislason MD

Persona Books are an integrated collection

The first book in this series, Human Nature, presents essential knowledge of human nature, a 21st century description of anthropology, neuroscience, sociology and psychology - disciplines that need to be integrated as they are in these books. All the Persona Digital books describe the essential dynamics of human nature but emphasize different vantage points, contributions from different disciplines and the needs of different readers. Taken together, the books provide a comprehensive understanding of human nature. For quick and inexpensive access to these books, click the eBook download button associated with each book.

Human Nature

Presents essential knowledge of human nature. The topics are essential to understanding human nature, its origins and its problems. You could treat each topic as module of a larger system that develops emergent properties as the modules interact. Each reader discovers the features of human nature in himself or herself and then discovers similar features in others. After you understand more about the dynamics of close relationships, you can look at larger groups. You can continue by applying your insights into human dynamics to governments, countries and international affairs. All the Persona Digital books describe the same dynamics but emphasize different vantage points. Contributions from different disciplines serves the needs of different readers. Taken together, the books provide a comprehensive understanding of human nature.

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Surviving Human Nature

Focuses on the contradictions, paradoxes and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature. Dr. G wrote:" In Surviving Human Nature, I review the most urgent problems that all humans share. I suggest solutions based on a current and detailed understanding of human nature. I realize that all the issues I discuss are complex. I am examining the negative features of humans without relinquishing hope. I am naturally optimistic and I have enjoyed a privileged life. At the same time, I am well informed and not afraid to confront the negative aspects of my nature and human nature in general.

The 20th Century was the century of domination of planet earth by a single species. Human activities have become all pervasive and clusters of human constructions have replaced the natural world in all habitable regions of the planet. Human events are deeply troubling overall but at the same time, much has been accomplished in reaching for a sustainable, good life for some but not all humans. At least one billion humans live in poverty, vulnerable to disease, famine, natural disasters, injury and death inflicted by other humans. The 20th century will be remembered as the century of waking up to the universe as it is. We woke up to our own nature and responsibility and can no longer plead ignorance

Humans changed the face of planet, driven animals and plants into extinction, invented hydrogen bombs and other sophisticated killing machinery. Humans fought wars, experimented with different social, political and economic models of society. We survived two world wars and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Some of us now enjoy unprecedented security and prosperity. Of all human folly, the American-Russian military competition was the winner in the insane game category, mutually assured destruction with hydrogen bombs. A reprieve was achieved with the collapse of the Soviet Union; however, the bombs have not gone away and the threat of destruction will recur unless a new international government is successful in creating a more rational and compassionate world with enforceable laws against killing and habitat destruction. We have experimented with international coalitions and dreamed of a benevolent world government but the negative features of human nature prohibit the realization of the dream. We understood that persistent and unreasonable conflict is characteristic of humans. Humans have proliferated beyond reasonable numbers and despite amazing advances in science and technology; we have not achieved sustainable levels of population. Climate, breathable air, food, water and energy are finite resources that will limit the success of expanding populations. Our infrastructures are temporary and vulnerable. Most reasonable people now know that we can no longer rely on our instincts and let nature take its course. Nor can we carry on with outdated social, religious and economic ideologies based on misunderstandings of human nature and planet ecology. We have to become better informed and more deliberate. We have to think ourselves out of some dangerous predicaments and we need new ideas of social organization.

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I and Thou

Focuses on intimate relationships. Innate tendencies are hard at work when people meet, become lovers and end with arguments and fighting. The same tendencies determine how family members interact and explain why so many families are “dysfunctional.” When lovers form an enduring pair bond, they often become parents and everything changes. Humans seek bonding with others are distressed when they become isolated. Humans bond to each other in several ways. The most enduring bonds are kin-related, based on closely shared genes. The deepest bonding occurs when mother and infant are together continuously from birth and mother breast-feeds the infant. Bonds among family members are the most enduring. Bonds to friends, lovers and spouses are the next most significant. Bonds to colleagues, neighbors and even strangers that are admired from a distance are next. Friendships are often temporary bonds, based on the need to affiliate with others for protection, social status, feeding, sex and fun. Success in business and professions is dependent on affiliations with others. Success depends on what you know, on who you know and how well you are regarded.

Affiliations are ephemeral and must be maintained by regular contact, grooming, food sharing, expressions of conformity and concern, and exchange of gifts and favors. Trust is established over time by regular and reliable maintenance of affiliation. The strongest connections are maintained by grooming, eating and sleeping together. Social conventions rely on bonding. Descriptions such as “love, affection, friendship, loyalty, duty, faith, and obligation” refer to affiliation and bonding.

Humans groups employ bonding strategies intentionally – initiating new members into the group with rituals, secrets, symbols, costumes and codes that distinguish members from non-members. Groups emphasize special privileges given to members and resist attempts of outsiders to enjoy these privileges. The most celebrated bonding is described as "falling in love" and occurs between individuals who are not related. The experience of falling in love is a complex of feelings, emotions, perceptions and cognitions designed to bring to two people together in a tight, exclusive bond that supports reproduction. The essential feature of falling in love is a fascination with another person coupled with a drive to be with them and to protect them. Men often idealize their loved one and suspend business as usual in favor of serving the needs of their potential spouses. Women are overwhelmed with maternal feelings and fantasies of home, the family, and enduring devotion and support of the male. The female task to choose the right male, motivate and train him to devote all his resources to her and her children.
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Emotions and Feelings

Investigates the for-me-ness of experiences, using neuroscience and philosophy. Everyone has some idea what emotions and feelings are but their exact nature is elusive. We can begin by noting that emotions and feelings are not the same. The first issues to be discussed are semantic, not trivial by any means. There are many words that refer to emotions and feelings. There is no standard use of terms. We recognize that brains bring information about the outside world together with information from inside the body. Images of the outside tend to be detailed and explicit in consciousness. Monitor images from inside the body tend to be vague and variable. Generally, humans are ignorant of internal processes and invent all manner of imaginary and irrelevant explanations to explain feelings. The term “emotion” is best used to point to animal and human behavior. There are a small number of primary emotions and variations that involve mixtures of emotional displays with other behaviors. Joy, anger, fear and pain are pure emotions. Other, more complex and derivative experiences act as interfaces to emotions. Love, jealousy and hate are not emotions. These are descriptions of complex interactions and evaluations that involve a range of feelings and interface to true emotions some of the time. For example, lovers experience a range of feelings and display different emotions at different times. Euphoria is the benefit of being in love. Sadness and anger are the cost of being in love. Jealousy, like love, is another complex of cognitions, feelings and emotions that exist to monitor and regulate close relationships. The absence of emotional display is highly valued in polite society. Humans have advanced toward civil and productive social environments that are emotionally neutral. Emotional neutrality is a requirement for acceptable behavior in school and work environments.
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Language and Thinking

Focuses on the innate features of language and identify the uses and abuses of language in the creation of social truths and lies. Language is an important tool and determinant of social interactions. From the introduction. "Humans resemble other animals in their ability to communicate. Communications involve chemical senses, sounds, body language, and visual signals. Communication is all about community, sharing information, sending warning signals and fulfilling the needs of the group. Human languages combine many different expressions of communication in a complex manner. Ideas about written language tend to dominate scholarly investigations, but sounds and gestures have been more important in the evolution of communication systems. Speaking is a spontaneous feature of the brain, and all normal children will speak if they hear a language spoken; any language will do. Older infants imitate words they hear spoken and if adults engage them in conversation, will expand their vocabularies and start to make meaningful statements."
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Intelligence and Learning

Describes the origins and features of intelligence. Learning is discussed in terms of neuroscience. Education is reviewed with a view to needed reformations for the 21st century. The challenge is to become intelligent about intelligence. Humans have a great interest and ability to create nonsense. You could argue that many of the features of intelligence are deployed in the cause of nonsense but nonsense is not intelligent. Intelligence is really about survival in a threatening world. Humans survive because of the genius abilities such as vision, hearing, skilled movement and speech; abilities that are built into their brain, innate gifts from nature. Humans do not learn how to see or how to hear what is going on out there, but they do have to learn what it means to them today. This is an interactive process. Speech is a form of sound interaction. Although modern humans tend to emphasize individual thought and expression, most “thinking” is talking in groups. The value of speech is to connect individuals in “thinking” groups. Books and other publications link large numbers of humans in common patterns of language-dependent thinking. The newest human abilities are more dependent on learning and are the least reliable. Reasoning, planning and learning to tolerate other humans in a friendly constructive manner require the most sustained practice. The term, “nice,’ refers to these characteristics and therefore nice people require sustained learning to remain reasonable, to tolerate others and to behave in a friendly, constructive manner. To become nice and to remain rational and skilled, a human must belong to and work within a supportive group that shares these characteristics. Human groups often have the opposite effect, supporting intolerant and irrational thinking and behavior.
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The Good Person - Ethics and Morality

Ethics is about the interface between selfish interests and actions and the common good. Both the good and the bad tendencies of mindbodybrain are innate properties that have useful functions, were not invented by modern society and are not going to change until the construction of brain changes. The dialogue between good and bad in human affairs is constant, predictable and universal. When a baby is born, the family and local community begin to teach the emerging being what is going on here and now. They provide the local language, costumes, customs beliefs and the local science and technology. All adult humans have a n ethical standard and a technology to teach. While the local culture has an obvious impact on the appearance and behavior of emerging adults, the constant innate features of the human mind are pervasive and persistent. The variance in mental abilities within a local group will often be greater than inter-group variance.

Ethics are about standards and rules of conduct or, more precisely, modern ethicists attempt to decide what good and reasonable behavior is. All humans make decisions and evaluate the behavior of others. A scale of evaluations from right to wrong is typical of ethical judgments. Each group develops norms to guide actions and judgments about behavior.  The presence of ethical standards requires individuals who can anticipate the consequences of actions; evaluate consequences in terms of selfish and of group interests; and who have the ability to choose between alternative courses of action

In practice, professional ethicists are employed by governments, universities, hospitals and other organizations; they do best by examining specific situations and engaging the people involved in conversations about specific interactions. When behavior and/or decisions are questionable but laws have not been broken, Ethics committees substitute for judges or juries and deliver advice or judgments. The value of ethics decreases as issues become of more general importance or are issues of law. Professional ethics can be appreciated as an abstract exercise in description and reasoning that may fail to appreciate the deep determinants of human feelings, beliefs and conduct. This inquiry is about human nature, complete with descriptions of imbedded social regulation and morality. An understanding of all these discussions is required for meaningful ethical discourse.

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Children and Family

Examines the intense interactions of parents and children. From Dr. G's preface:" Parents receive a lot of advice from many people. Popular magazines and books offer a continuous stream of conflicting advice. Professionals have a variety of opinions about child-rearing that range from helpful suggestions to misleading and even bizarre ideas. Child psychology is an eclectic assembly of ideas, miscellaneous observations, opinions, fears and irrational beliefs. Confusion prevails in education about what children should learn and how they should learn it. Parents receive a lot of advice from many people. Popular magazines and books offer a continuous stream of conflicting advice. If psychologists, physicians, and educators are confused, what about parents? The best parents are pragmatic and not theorists. They stay involved with their children, follow some basic guidelines they learned and tend to do whatever works. Good parents improvise childcare with a combination of innate generosity, common sense, love and concessions to the demands of modern life.

In this book, I develop a perspective based on understanding human nature. The deep lineage for every human lies in the interaction of many layers of biological determinants. The culture of parents, schools and community impose a second lineage on a child that sets limits on the form and content of learning. A family is any combination of adults and children that creates a home. The essence of family is caring and nurturing. We are social creatures. Children are innately social, but need to learn what we are doing these days. The learning requirement is greater than ever before, because we now depend on complicated technologies and must learn to interact with a great number of other humans who will be different from us in many ways. To include more humans in the family of man as constructive peaceful contributors, each child must receive loving care, the right food, sophisticated education, opportunities for employment and the freedom to express his or her version of humanity. Thoughtful, well-educated and affluent parents have the opportunity to understand their responsibilities, to plan and allocate resources for an unborn child. A good parent faces a continuous series of challenges and problems that need solution. Parenting is not an easy job. A realistic understanding of human nature will help parents to guide their children toward a successful adult life.
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The Sound of Music

Covers a wide range of music topics from the history of instruments, music theory, composing to the most current technologies involved in music composition and sound recording. A special chapter on the Musical Brain explains current knowledge in the brain processing of sound as it applies to language and music decoding. A chapter on the Music Business reviews the dramatic changes in music marketed and discusses some of the dilemmas and controversies facing musicians. The author states:" This book emerged from notes I have kept for several decades. Over many years, I have learned more about music theory, electronics applied to sound reproduction and to performance skills. Music descriptions often are often complicated and the use of terms can be inconsistent and confusing. As with other subjects I have tackled, I assumed that with a little extra effort more precise descriptions would be welcomed by readers seeking a practical understanding of music. We begin with a consideration of what sound is and how animals use sounds to communicate. Music is not a human invention, but we do elaborate sound communication more than other animals in our production of both speech and musical performances. The discussion continues with noise, an important topic that is poorly understood. A well informed musician will refrain from making noise and understand Ambrose Bierce when he stated: Of all noise, music is the least offensive." I include both acoustic and electronic instruments in my discussions of music creation. In my world, electronics dominate every aspect of work and play and most music I create and listen to was created, stored and distributed electronically. The art and science of recording is an important study for all 21st century musicians. Increased sophistication about the nature of sound, the art of combining musical sounds, and the effect on the listener's brain are all required for music to advance beyond noise toward a more effective means of human communication."

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Neuroscience Notes

Places the human brain at the center of the universe. Everyone needs to know something about neuroscience. The brain has become a popular topic in all media, but confusions arise when the brain becomes an abstract fantasy in the minds of journalists and product promoters. While it is true that brain is the organ of the mind, our language makes it difficult to speak correctly at different levels of meaning. Neuroscience notes will give the intelligent reader and understanding of how the brain actually works.

Neuroscience views minds as manifestations of the living processes found in brains. Brain science does not "explain" mind, or consciousness, but does give us strategies for understanding the properties of mind. Neuroscientists have made rapid progress in the past few decades and some of them are asking the same sorts of questions that only philosophers used to ask. The difference is that neuroscientists are sometimes able to ask more specific questions that may lead to more insight into the basic principles of the human experience.

Neuroscientists are motivated and equipped to find real and practical answers to philosophical questions, leaving philosophers behind in an anachronistic philological niche, repeating discussions of what philosophers said hundreds to thousands of years ago. This is not to argue that all neuroscientists are philosophers or that all neuroscientists understand the human mind, since many are focused on highly specialized tasks that reveal little or nothing about how the whole system works. Neuroscience is the broad inquiry into the structure and function of animal nervous systems. Neuroscience begins with the consideration of how the simplest animals on the planet interact with their environments.

The deep sense that develops in humans who study and understand life is that every creature that lives on planet earth shares common properties. Nervous systems allow organisms to sense, decide, act and remember. These properties begin as simple devices and evolve into sensing strategies that are increasingly complicated, more accurate and more effective. A complex device such as the human eye is easier to understand if you already understand a simple device such as light detecting pigment spot in a snail. Thus, it makes sense for a neuroscientist to study all animals and to assume that principles learned about older, simpler animals can be applied to newer, more complex animals such as humans. Bodybrainmind is an open-ended, self-regulating system, highly responsive to the molecular determinants impinging on it through food and the environment. Life is an expression of cells, tiny containers of molecular codes and metabolic processes. In system terms, a living cell is a self-regenerating, recursive system that can reproduce itself through cell division. A human is a community of several trillion cells that cooperate more or less to sustain a life of limited duration.

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Religion for the 21st Century

Examines how innate tendencies are expressed as religions and how religions in the past have created conflicts that threaten human survival or, at least, hinder progress toward solutions. New religions and variations on old religions continue to emerge. The book examines the best paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

Any discussion of religion invites misunderstanding and conflict. No discussion of religion will make sense until the importance of group identity is understood. Humans may sometimes look like individuals, but the truth is that all humans are members of local groups that determine what they know, how they communicate and how they treat other humans. Each local group develops stories, beliefs and rules. Collections of local groups with special beliefs into larger organizations are often described as “religion.” Members of local groups are described as “religious” if they recite group slogans, attend meetings and celebrations. Religions often claim special privileges for their members so that the term “religious” is used to claim advantages and superior moral authority where none actually exists. The idea of large multinational organizations called “religions” is misleading. At best, the idea of religion is a fuzzy category that implies more coherence than can be found in the real world. Religion is a convenient fiction.

Humans have convened in small groups for thousands of years to celebrate, to appease evil spirits and to encourage good spirits to offer more privileges and benefits. Humans continue to dress up in costumes, beat drums, chant, sing, and dance and make offerings to innumerable gods. These celebrations help to maintain group unity and often induce euphoric feelings in the participants. While there has always been an archetypal form to these group activities, each local group develops its own version of myths, rituals and celebrations.
The belief in spirits is the universal form. The names, number and idiosyncratic expressions of the spirits is the local content. If you consider “religious” expressions around the world and throughout, history, you would notice that there a number of basic themes with thousands of imaginative variations. You also notice that in every tribe, village or city, people believe they have special relationships with gods and spirits not enjoyed elsewhere.

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Persona Digital publishes a series of books on current topics in psychology, sociology, neuroscience and philosophy.  The author is Stephen Gislason MD.

Persona Digital

eBooks can be downloaded to any destination on the planet. Printed books are shipped only to Canada and the USA by postal services. Prices are in Canadian Dollars. US Prices are lower, depending of the exchange rate. eBooks are less expensive, incur no shipping charges and can be downloaded as soon as payment is received thru Pay Pal