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Ask Dr. Robertson 17: The Era of Personality Disorder Diagnosis

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee: Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson

Numbering: Issue 5: The Age of Experts

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: Question Time

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: June 4, 2021

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: One Time Per Year

Words: 728

Keywords: counselling psychology, Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, psychology, self-esteem.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about self-esteem, psychology, old articles, and socio-psychological phenomena.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We have commented briefly on “The Age of Psychology,” “Epidemic of Low Self-Esteem,” “Crazy Making in Our Communities,” “schizophrenia,” “From Lloydminster to Lenningrad,” and religious fundamentalism. It has been a small bit since the commentary. What are some developments on the views there for you?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: You certainly delved into my personal ancient history for this question, Scott. “The Age of Psychology” was the first column I wrote prior to the millennium for the now defunct newspaper The Northerner. My intent was to show how pervasive applied psychology is in our lives, for both good and ill. I do not think that has fundamentally changed in the intervening decades. You have actually linked six articles I wrote from that era, and I am guessing that you see them connected in some way. I think they all relate to how we interpret the world, creating and maintaining our worldviews.

My views on the “epidemic” of self-esteem have become more nuanced since I wrote that article. While low self-esteem continues to be an issue often confronted by counselling psychologists, and I continue to recommend that parents find the good and positive in their children, the “epidemic” label has led people to become afraid of giving balanced and constructive feedback. This has resulted in a disconnect between subjective and objective reality. For example, U.S. students typically score higher on measures of mathematical self-concept as compared to Chinese students but the Chinese students score higher on measures of mathematical achievement. The result is that many U.S. Americans do not know what they do not know, but they think they are doing just fine – not cognisant that they are being outclassed by the Chinese.

In North America we have witnessed grade inflation to maintain student self-esteem. In an example of this, I case-conferenced with a teacher to discuss reading problems with his adult upgrading class in a northern community college. “But they all have marks in language arts above 80%,” I said. “I know,” he replied, “I helped them get good marks by reading the questions to them and by helping them with their answers”

The teacher said that about a third of his students were functionally illiterate, and he wanted to know what he could do to help them. I suggested he could begin by giving honest feedback. Students need to know their strengths and weaknesses so that they can dedicate their efforts to overcoming those weaknesses. This unfortunate teacher sensed that for these students it was already too late – that they did not have the skills to handle such constructive feedback.

The flip-side of the over-zealous application of the self-esteem movement is mental fragility. Students have been taught that they can be whatever they want to be, but the self that is then created is fragile. Sooner or later reality impinges on illusions. We now have the word “micro-aggression” to describe and defend against that experience. When someone, usually inadvertently, says or does something to challenge a fragile worldview, the fragile self at the core is taught to feel the experience as a micro-aggression. Lashing out with defensive anger and hatred, they demand apologies, community censorship, even firings. If these demands are met they feel vindicated with their fragile selves affirmed.

The other four articles you referenced, Scott, all have to do with how people create and enforce dysfunctional realities. “Crazy making” describes a woman who, after being convinced by an abusive family and community that she was crazy, began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. “Schizophrenia” describes a common reverse process – people who actually suffer from the disease refusing to take their medication because they believe that they no longer have the condition. “Lloydminster to Leningrad” describes the ways two racists, separated by distance and time, held on to their anti-Semitic beliefs in the face of evidence. “Fundamentalism” describes how a religious congregation attempted to shut down La Ronge’s only bookstore for carrying the wrong kind of books.

As a society we made considerable progress in combating racism, supporting people with mental health problems, and in promoting free speech and the diversity of ideas. I fear a new dark age where society is being re-racialized through identity politics, gaslighting is occurring at a societal scale to challenge our ability to think objectively, and authors and academics are being “de-platformed” so their ideas cannot be heard.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and Question Time by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com and https://medium.com/question-time

Copyright 

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time 2012-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,294

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

From the professional website for Professor Priest: “Graham Priest grew up as a working class kid in South London. He read mathematics and (and a little bit of logic) at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He obtained his doctorate in mathematics at the London School of Economics. By that time, he had come to the conclusion that philosophy was more fun than mathematics. So, luckily, he got his first job (in 1974) in a philosophy department, as a temporary lecturer in the Department of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of St Andrews. The first permanent job he was offered was at the University of Western Australia. He moved to Australia when he took up the position, and has spent most of his working life there. After 12 years at the University of Western Australia, he moved to take up the chair of philosophy at the University of Queensland, and after 12 years there, he moved again to take up the Boyce Gibson Chair of Philosophy at Melbourne University, where he is now emeritus. While he was there, he was a Fellow of Ormond College. During the Melbourne years, he was also an Arché Professorial Fellow at the University of St Andrews. He is a past president of the Australasian Association for Logic, and the Australasian Association of Philosophy, of which he was Chair of Council for 13 years. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 1995, and awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University of Melbourne in 2002. In 2009 he took up the position of Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where he now lives and works. Graham has published in nearly every leading logic and philosophy journal. At the last count, he had published about 240 papers. He has also published six monographs (mostly with Oxford University Press), as well as a number of edited collections. Much of his work has been in logic, especially non-classical logic, and related areas. He is perhaps best know for his work on dialetheism, the view that some contradictions are true. However, he has also published widely in many other areas, such as metaphysics, Buddhist philosophy, and the history of philosophy, both East and West. Graham has travelled widely, lecturing and addressing conferences in every continent except Antarctica. For many years, he practiced karatedo. He is a third dan in Shobukai, and a fourth dan in Shitoryu (awarded by the head of style, Sensei Mabuni Kenei in Osaka, when he was training there). Before he left Australia he was an Australian National kumite referee  and kata judge. Nowadays, he swims and practices taichi. He loves (good operajazz , and 60s rock … and East Asian art.” He discusses: dialetheism; the nature of truth; the construction of formal logic; some classic examples of formal logical statements with a dialetheism counterpart; the strengths and weaknesses of traditional logics, paraconsistent logics, and dialetheism-based logic; formal dialetheism; systems build on top of dialetheism; true paradoxes; philosophy and metaphilosophy; and the realm of metaphilosophy.

Keywords: Dialetheism, formal logic, Graham Priest, logic, metaphilosophy, paradox, philosophy.

Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s step into dialetheism. What is it, fundamentally?

Professor Graham Priest[1],[2]: Contradictions are things of the form ‘it’s raining and it isn’t raining’, ‘I saw someone and I saw no one’. Melbourne could be in Australia and Melbourne couldn’t be in Australia’. A dialetheia is a contradiction that is true. And dialetheism is the view that there are such things.

Jacobsen: How does dialetheism change the discourse on the nature of truth?

Priest: There are many views in the history of philosophy about the nature of truth (that it is correspondence with reality, that it is what is verified by experience, and so on). Dialetheism does not change this discussion. In saying that some contradictions are true, ‘true’ can mean whatever you think it does. However, it has been high orthodoxy in Western philosophy that contradictions cannot be true (the Principle of Non-Contradiction). Aristotle locked the view into Western philosophy with what can only be described as poor arguments (as most modern scholars of Aristotle would agree). However, virtually all western philosophers have accepted it since then. (Arguably, there have been some exceptions, such as Hegel. But Hegel’s defenders tend to contest this.) Modern dialetheism is a view of the last forty years or so; and it is exactly the view that the Principle of Non-Contradiction is wrong.

Jacobsen: With statements as both true and false, how does this alter the construction of formal logic?

Priest: Let me keep this as simple as possible. Standard systems of logic are usually based on the assumption that statements are either true or false, not both, and not neither. They also have a notion of negation. The negation of ‘the sun is shining’ is ’the sun is not shining’. The negation of ‘all philosophers are happy’ is ‘some philosophers are not happy’, and so on. If A is some statement, logicians write its negation as ~A. And the standard assumption is that A is true if ~A is false, and A is false if ~A is true. This setup has various consequences. One is that if A is any sentence, ‘A or ~A’ is true. (A is either true or false, so one of these must hold). This is sometimes called the Principle of Excluded Middle.

Another is that ‘A and ~A’ is false (One or other of these must be false.) This is the Principle of Non-Contradiction.

Clearly, if some contradiction can indeed be true, the Principle of Non-Contradiction fails.

Other consequences of the standard set up are not so obvious. An inference is something of the form ‘So and so, therefore such and such’. The so and so is called the premise, and the such and such is called the conclusion. An inference is valid if whenever the premise is true, the conclusion must also be true. That is, it can’t be the case that the premise is true, and the conclusion isn’t. But given the Principle of Non-Contradiction, it can’t be the case that something of the form A and ~A is true. So whatever B is, it can’t be the case that A and ~A is true and B isn’t. In other words, any inference of the form ‘A and ~A , so B’ is valid. Everything follows validly from a contradiction! This fact is sometimes called by its medieval name, ex falso quodlibet sequitur. Modern logicians more often call it by another name, Explosion, since it says that once one’s information is inconsistent it explodes to deliver everything.

Now if ‘A and ~A’ can be true, it can be the case that ‘A and ~A’ is true, and B is not true. That is, Explosion is not valid. Modern logicians call systems of logic where Explosion is not valid paraconsistent (beyond the consistent).

Jacobsen: What are some classic examples of formal logical statements with a dialetheism counterpart with more sense made through dialetheism than with formal logic in traditional interpretations of the logic?

Priest: There are many of these—though, of course, they are all philosophically contentions, since dialetheism is too. The ones that most people think of first are those connected with the paradoxes of self-reference. The oldest of these is the liar paradox, a sentence that says of itself that it is false. If this sentence is true, it is false; and if it is false, it is true. So, it seems to be both. A structurally similar, but more modern, paradox is Russell’s paradox. Consider the set of all those sets that are not members of themselves. If this is a member of itself, then it’s not a member of itself. But if it isn’t, it is. So, it seems to be both a member of itself and not a member of itself.

Actually, I think that the most obvious examples of dialetheias concern legal situations. Suppose that a jurisdiction says that all people in class X can do such and such, and no person in class Y can do such and such. Things are perfectly consistent until and unless someone turns up who is in class X and class Y. Then, until the law is changed, that person can and can’t (legally) do such and such.

There are many other examples, but let me just give you one more. There are many philosophers whose views entail that that there are certain things that are ineffable—Kant (noumena), Nāgārjuna (ultimate reality), Wittgenstein (form, in the Tractatus, Heidegger (being)—and they explain why these things are so. Now, if they can do this, then these things must be effable as well. So, we have a contradiction. Of course, the truth of these particular contradictions depends on the philosophical views in question being correct.

Jacobsen: What are the strengths and weaknesses of traditional logics, paraconsistent logics, and dialetheism-based logic?

Priest: Firstly, the standard logic of our day was invented around the turn of the 20th century by Frege, Russell, and others, and is now called ‘classical logic’. Next, in the last 60 years, we have seen an explosion of non-classical logics, driven by many different considerations. Paraconsistent logics are just one class of these. Thirdly, dialetheism is not a kind of logic, but a theory about what kinds of things can be true. It naturally motivates a paraconsistent logic, but one might be motivated to endorse such a logic for reasons other than dialetheism.

The strength of paraconsistent logics is that they can handle inconsistent data, theories, or other information, without these blowing up in one’s face. Reasoners seem to do this quite naturally all the time. A weakness is that there do seem to be times when it is correct to reason in a way that is classically correct, but not so paraconsistently. The most obvious reasoning of this kind is when we reason by reductio ad absurdum. We assume something for the sake of argument, show that a contradiction follows, and conclude that the assumption was incorrect. A paraconsistent logician owes us an explanation of why this is kosher, when it is.

Jacobsen: If we take formal dialetheism system of ratiocination with the appropriate symbol systems (e.g., ¬, ˜, , ≡, , , !, , and so on), can you provide some formal samples of English sentences or statements, arguments inclusive of the previous sentences/statements as premises, and the dialetheism formal representative counterparts with English-based interpretations of the “dialetheism formal representative counterparts,” please?

Priest: Expressing things in a formal language makes things more precise, but it doesn’t really change matters of substance, so let’s stick to ordinary English. First, a valid inference is the following: if the premises are true, then so is the conclusion. Dialetheism affects what sorts of things might be true, but it doesn’t affect that understanding of validity. It means some of the premises of an inference can be false as well as true, but that does not affect validity. Consider an inference from ‘A and ~A’ so A. If ‘A and ~A’ is true, so is A; so, this inference is valid. It makes no difference if ‘A and ~A’ is false as well as true.

But this does raise the question of what interesting things might be proved from true contradictions. The place where that question has been most investigated is in the theory of sets. Let R be the set of all things that are not members of themselves (as in Russell’s Paradox). And let us suppose that it is, indeed, the case that R is a member of R and R is not a member of R. A number of very interesting consequences about sets follow from this. However, many of these involve technical aspects of the theory concerning, for example, higher orders of infinity. This is not the place to go into them.

Jacobsen: What systems build on top of dialetheism, or may build on top of dialetheism, to advance the research into the system of dialetheism-based logic?

Priest: Perhaps, the most obvious are theories where paradox lurks. Theories of truth and sets are clear examples, but there are others. There’s paradox called the sorites. If someone is sober, and consumes 1cc of alcohol, they are still sober. So, start with someone who is stone cold sober, if they consume 1cc of alcohol, they are still sober. So, if they consume another cc, they are still sober. So, if…. So, by the time they have consumed 500ccs (5 litres), they are still sober. That’s obviously false. You can construct a similar paradox with any predicate like ‘sober’, which is vague in a certain sense. How to handle this kind of paradox is highly contentious, but, certainly, there are dialetheic accounts. The idea is that between being sober and not being sober, there is a borderline area where a person is both sober and not sober.

But there are also theories where there are no standard paradoxes, but which allow for formulations where contradictions June arise. These include theories of topology, geometry, arithmetic. It would take several pages to go into these, so I forego this. Some theories in the history of science have used inconsistent mathematics. For example, the infinitesimal calculus from Newton and Leibniz till about the 19th century operated with a mathematics according to which infinitesimals were non-zero (at one point in a computation), and zero (at another). There are, as far as I know, no contemporary scientific theories using inconsistent mathematics. But we now have many new kinds of inconsistent mathematics, and, perhaps, some of these will find application in the future. After all, scientists will use any bit of mathematics appearing to deliver the right empirical results.

Jacobsen: Also, as you study paradoxes, what are true paradoxes in the fullest sense – no matter the system of logic applied, if such things exist?

Priest: I’m not really sure that I understand what you mean. However, there are many systems of logic—accounts of what follows from what. There is one in which nothing follows from anything. That is, for no A and B does A follow from B, in such a system of logic, you can’t establish anything. A fortiori, you can’t establish any paradoxes. Of course, that’s not a very interesting point. What we want to know is what can be established in the correct logic.

Jacobsen: What are philosophy and metaphilosophy?

Priest: The definition of ‘philosophy’ is a hard philosophical question, and there is no consensus as to the answer. I think that probably the best one can do is to give examples of the sorts of questions that philosophers discuss. Questions like: Is there a god? Is reality always mind-dependent? What is it to be conscious? What is it for an action to be good? How should one live? What is the best way to run the state? What makes something a work of art? How do we know any of these things?

The word ‘metaphilosophy’ is a relatively new one. Its meaning is somewhat vague, but, I guess, that a metaphilosophical issue is one that reflects on what philosophy is, and how it goes about its business. The question ‘what is philosophy?’ is a prime example. The term June be a new one, but metaphilosophical questions have always been an important part of philosophy. They are central to discussions in Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein—to name just some of the more obvious philosophers who have engaged with such questions.

Jacobsen: How does dialetheism apply in the realm of metaphilosophy? This can set the stage for Part Three.

Priest: The most obvious way in which it applies is that Western philosophers have virtually always taken it as a methodological principle that contradictions are not rationally acceptable. Hence, any philosophical theories that have endorsed contradictions have been rejected out of hand. Clearly, this should not be the reaction of a dialetheist. This is not to say that a dialetheist will accept a contradictory theory. They June well think that a consistent theory of the issue at hand is better. The matter of rational theory-choice is a complex one. The point is that a theory is not to be rejected simply because it contains a contradiction.

A small corollary of this is one concerning philosophical hermeneutics. I give one example. The general point is obvious. If one reads texts of Hegel, the most obvious interpretation of various of his views is a dialetheic one. Commentators of his work have often strained to interpret him in some other way, for fear of making him appear irrational. They did not need to do so. They can read his texts in a much more straightforward (and charitable) way. If one tries to force the thought of a dialetheist into the procrustean bed of consistency, what emerges is bound to be a badly distorted view.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, Graduate Center, City University of New York (2009-Present).

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2) [Online]. June 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, June 1). Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, June. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (June 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): June. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Dialetheism, Truth, True Paradoxes, and Metaphilosophy: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (2) [Internet]. (2021, June 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-2.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links June be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and June disseminate for their independent purposes.

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,401

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Gulalai Ismail is a Co-Founder of Aware Girls. She has been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Anna Politkovskaya Award, and recognized as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 by Foreign Policy. She discusses: authoritarian governments and women’s rights activists; terror and fear; the United Nations and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; religion; Pakistani Islamic interpretations; a way out; Iceland; science; biotechnology and genetic engineering; biology and technology; biotechnology interests; becoming tired of a field; children’s rights documents as a youngster; and human nature.

Keywords: Aware Girls, ethics, fear, freethinkers, Gulalai Ismail, human rights, religion, terror, women’s rights.

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted April 24, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Have you see prominent women’s rights activists cave or cater to the whims of authoritarian governments because it is too scary, too dangerous, or, if careerist, too liable of a threat to their stature in the society with the title of them as an activist or a rights defender?

Gulalai Ismail[1],[2]: In Pakistan, it is not easy when the state institutions are after you, start persecuting you. Not many people can still opt to continue their resistance. Pakistan has amazing women’s rights activists who are working for women’s rights. In my case, in my situation, one of them became public in my support. A few of them were very supportive. Those who were supportive were in the background. They would not come in public. They would give me different kind of support. It was the non-Muslim public in public. Very few women’s activists and very few civil society organizations in Pakistan. They stood with me. Because they were very afraid of the Pakistan military establishment. Have I answered the question?

Jacobsen: It is a hard question. Because there are multiple layers to it. On the one hand, you did answer it. On the other hand, on some other levels, you did not answer it. There are some cases. You alluded to them. The cases in which an individual women’s rights activist will support certain things, but will not speak out and will work against the aims of rights out of fear, terror.

Ismail: See, I do not think any woman activist works against the rights. But they stay silent. I find this problematic. When an activist, when you are silent on certain issues, because people responsible for the issues are not so powerful, but then you do not question issues for which institutions are really powerful, they have to be held accountable for the issue; and, you don’t speak out on it. There is selective activism. The activism depends on who is the perpetrator of the rights. If the perpetrator of the rights community are the politicians, then you are okay with it. If the perpetrators are the most powerful military institution in Pakistan, then you choose not to act and speak out on it. But then, in Pakistan, it is our 5th anniversary of Sabeen Mahmud [Ed. who was assassinated on April 24th, 2015, at the age of 40.]. She showed her solidarity on the issues of enforced disappearances and missing persons, and extrajudicial killing. She was killed. Malala Yousafzai is another one. There is another woman from Karachi, whose name I am forgetting. She was working on land rights. She was killed by the mafia. So, I will not judge so harsh. I will not judge harshly Pakistani women activists because I know it is a country where you can get killed. Women activists get killed. There are many cases where women activists have been killed. Not every woman can choose to speak up at the cost of being martyred. It is not an easy choice to flee the country, not everyone can do it. I will not judge them very harshly.

Jacobsen: That is a fair point.

Ismail: Generally, I will judge harshly civil society organizations because individuals can be at much more risk. I think civil society organizations have a huge responsibility in showing solidarity to the movement, to the rights-based movements, who are under attack by the Pakistan establishment. Civil society organizations stay silent. In Pakistan, the funding of NGO sector is strictly controlled. There are many bureaucratic barriers to the NGOs and the civil society organizations to access foreign funding and implement their projects. If you are someone who supports movements like ours, then the Pakistan military establishment, the security agencies, will not give clearance. The NGOs or civil society organizations can be suspended. There will be difficulties in accessing funds. The civil society organizations do not get funds. I think that they need to be judged. They need to be called out, “If you claim to be human rights organizations and civil society, then you cannot stay silent while the state is persecuting activists, abducting activists. You still stay silent.” That is outrageous. Most civil society organizations of Pakistan stay silent. They only stand for certain kinds of rights, which the Pakistan military approves. That is unacceptable for Pakistan civil society to work only for those human rights are acceptable to Pakistan military.

Jacobsen: Starting on December 10, 1948, as we both know, the United Nations founded, or put into force, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This, to this day, remains a rather universal document, so aptly titled, and continues to maintain a force in international relations for the increase in a more just and equitable world. At the same time, there is an elephant in the room regarding multiple competing ethics in the world today, as they have in the past. One brand comes in Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and other ethical systems, religious ethical systems. Another comes in that which can be found in the United Nations in international humanitarian law or international human rights. Either one provides a window into how human beings should be or act in the world in relation to one another based on a particular conception of human nature. With that, it does seem to boil down to transcendental traditional religious ethics versus secular international human rights morality. The latter incorporates freedom for the former with freedom of religion, freedom of belief, freedom of conscience, while the former does not because, as per the Amsterdam Declaration from 2002, if I remember right, stipulates the for-all-timeness [Laughing] of these transcendental traditional religious ethics. So, as you’re fighting for women’s rights or human rights, more generally, incorporative of women’s rights, what do you note as the long-term challenges between, in the big picture, these two different conceptions of ethics that belie two different images of human nature?

Ismail: Scott, for me, it is simple. You cannot use religion as an excuse to deprive people of their human rights. The human rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the universal guiding document for the states, governments, and for the communities. These are human rights. If any system of ethics, if any faith, if any religion, or any system deprives people from their certain rights, that is not acceptable. In the modern world, religion cannot be used as an excuse to deprive people of certain rights or to give some extra privileges to some of society, to give one dominance to one gender or one class of people. No, I think, you cannot use religion at all. For example, religion is used to curb freedom of expression. Blasphemy laws are used to cut freedom of expression to raise questions on religion. In every country, wherever there are blasphemy laws, or laws cutting freedom of expression, or other human rights of these people because one or another religion is not happy about it, I think religions have no place in any constitution anywhere in the country. We need separation of religion from the state and the constitution because rights should not be defined by religion or as religion. Rights should be defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not according to religion. We need not only a secular constitution and secular rights. We need to reclaim secular spaces. As with the examples of the religious fundamentalist sections of the society have gained our political spaces, we, as secular people, need to reclaim secular spaces because this world belongs to everyone, not just the political power, which religious fundamentalists enjoy. We need to reclaim that space. I think, we must be very clear. It is a time of science, rationality, and technology. Of course, it is people. It must be limited to a private matter.

Jacobsen: Are there any parts of religion that you do like?

Ismail: No.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ismail: [Laughing] The festivals, [Laughing] I like. Because now, they are the only festivals. I like the festivals. People, for example, in Pakistan claim the people in Pakistan are giving, because they give a lot of money in charity, but most of the charity money ends up in terrorist organizations. Some people are more giving because of religion. When I was in hiding, my family, most of my family, is very religious. When the whole campaign started against me, it started on 23rd of May. I will be celebrating my anniversary. Maybe, you can publish this article on the 23rd of May. It was when I left home. It all started there. I am completing one year of it. They are deeply religious people. My aunts used to do a lot of Quran recitation. They prayed a lot to God for my safety. They find mental peace; they find hope in religion, in those dark circumstances. They can get some hope. When I look back, there is not anything, except the festivals.

Jacobsen: Why are the men given more power in Pakistani Islamic interpretations in general?

Ismail: In every Islamic interpretation that I have heard of.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Correction noted.

Ismail: [Laughing] There is not a single Islamic interpretation where there is general equality as a norm.

Jacobsen: For the men, in some of these fundamentalist Islamic communities, they must put on a certain persona, a false self. This leaves them constricted emotionally and otherwise.

Ismail: It is Patriarchy. Scott, it is patriarchy and the expectations of the gender boxes the culture has set for men and women. Women must have a certain person and certain roles. Men are expected certain personas and certain roles. It is patriarchy that has destroyed both men and women.

Jacobsen: What is the way out?

Ismail: The way out is equal distribution of resources among the genders and ownership of the resources. Economic empowerment is key. The chances women will be able to get their rights is if they are economically empowered, and having more women in the political spaces. Women in the decision-making, more equal numbers of women in Parliament and state governments because that is where the decisions are made. If women are not part of the decision-making, of course, men will create laws and policies protecting their status quo and powers. Equal portions of women in the Parliament. Equal numbers of women in the decision-making and economic resources for women, too. It is the key for women. Also, the religious-based constitutions, faith-based constitutions, go against women. For women’s empowerment, we need secular countries, secular states. Not just secular states, we need secular societies. If the constitution is secular, and if the society is not secular, then it will support Patriarchy and sectarian violence. It will instill mob violence on the issue of violence if the society is not secular. We need secular society, secular constitution. Also, we need welfare state, not security state, because security states prioritize or prefer war over human welfare. They use religion to implement their ideas to promote their narratives. In security states, the money is spent on tanks and bombs, and defense, and not on human welfare. We have seen this in the corona pandemic. The ways countries like Pakistan will not be able to fight back because most of the resources were spent on security, not human security. We need to redefine security and shift from national security to human security because human security is more important.

Jacobsen: For those who want a good example of a country most robust in their efforts towards equality, I would highly recommend looking at Iceland.

Ismail: Yes, I think [Laughing] they should look to Iceland and all Nordic countries. They can look at the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, to see how feminist leadership looks like, because the New Zealand Prime Minister is an example of feminist leadership. They can look to New Zealand too.

Jacobsen: What is your favourite part of science?

Ismail: Biotechnology, genetic engineering.

Jacobsen: Why those two?

Ismail: I was in school when I first heard of human cloning. I fell in love with the idea of human cloning. I fell in love with the idea of human cloning. Because always, we have ben told God is all-powerful. He created human beings. He is the supreme power because he created human beings. I thought the idea of human cloning gave me a sense, “You know, the human brain is so advanced. It can go to the extent of technology. It can do anything. Science is great.” I love the idea of genetic engineering. I love the idea of taking beneficial genes from one organism and bringing it to another organism for the benefit of the other organism. I love genetic engineering. Also, it has played such a huge role in human advancement in fighting against diseases, even in helping with pandemics as well. Biotechnology and genetic engineering have advanced human understanding. Human cloning is the best thing. It gives the idea of a human brain, how we can advance. I am not saying that we should or should not do something. I am not going into the ethics of human cloning. However, in terms of the science and the possibilities, I find this fascinating.

Jacobsen: Do you think there is any distinction, at the end of the day, between the ways in which nature produces functional systems via evolution – human beings and other organisms – and what human beings create with artificial intelligence or various manifestations of conscious design of organisms, whether animal husbandry or the aforementioned genetic engineering? Do you think there is any real distinction between the technology that we make and human beings and other biology as fundamentally just another form of technology? In other words, the line is blurred.

Ismail: I have never thought about it. However, of course, it is different. I am not very aware of the computer technology and the artificial intelligence. I am not that type of technology person. I am the [Laughing] biotechnology person. There are echo chambers. There are proper ecosystems. I am aware of what humans have been doing to the climate, the Earth, causing global warming, how the impacts of industrialization on the ocean and ocean life. Also, we humans have been cruel to the rest of the organisms and the rest of the creatures of the world. We have not quite destroyed the planet. Of course, I cannot make a comparison between human life and artificial intelligence. I am not the right person to talk about it. I am a very naïve person on it. Yet, they seem like quite different things. What do you think, Scott?

Jacobsen: If I look at the natural world as a comprehensive system, the natural world amounts to the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom. Over time, over billions of years, hundreds of millions of years, human beings and other organisms arise. Human beings with opposable thumbs, binocular vision, flat-balled heels, bipedalism, the ability to stand upright, and very large brains in addition to the development of the neocortex, we have this ability to not only think in relatively general ways. We can then physically manifest the cognitive generalism in the environment. The best evidence of this might be the physical dominance of the surface of the Earth by the human species. The things that human beings create, we call tools. We call technology. We get those through a process called science, in general, outside of trial-and-error. Evolution via natural selection among other selection mechanisms develops functional complicated structure. Those structures yield functions. They can be plural functions, not just individual functions. In those plural functions that evolution produces through these structures that it evolves, it amounts to a form of technology. Similarly, human beings develop structures. Those have functions for us. The direction, or the idea of what those structures are for, will depend on the organism or entity using them. However, if one simply takes a designed structure that can function in diverse ways or in a single way, then it amounts to a technology. Similarly, human beings are like a three-and-a-half-billion-year-old or more iPhone. We have a bunch of function centralized in one unit, in one organism. Same with other organisms. My sensibility is such that the distinction between what we call technology and what we call biology is probably an artificial barrier, where one simply comes about via evolution via natural selection and other selection mechanisms and the other comes about by human conscious engineering. But it is all part of the same comprehensive system. So, to me, the line is more blurred than distinct. Biology and human-created things are both technology emergent in different forms. That is what I can come up with off the top [Laughing]. So, your interest in biotechnology. Where did that start?

Ismail: That started right when I was in school and read this article on human cloning. That is where my interested started. I am still into biotechnology. I studied biotechnology for six years. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love biotechnology. Biotechnology or sciences, too, are dedicated fields of work. You need to work in a lab. If you are a biotechnologist, it was difficult to my human rights activism because my human rights activism was a full-time job. It required travel. It required going to the communities. I was not able to sit in the lab and do human rights work. That is why I continued the work on human rights. Also, in Pakistan, we do not have research institutes as such. We have a few. The most famous research institute is about agriculture. I was not interested in the agriculture part of biotechnology. I was more interested in the human side [Laughing] of biotechnology.

Jacobsen: You know what, I have heard the same from neuroscientists and psychologists. Over time, they got tired of rats, fruit flies, and c elegans. They could not take it anymore. So, they left the field [Laughing].

Ismail: Pakistan is a huge producer of wheat and cotton. Most of the research was around wheat and cotton. I was not interest in spending time on wheat and cotton. If it was about a research institute about genetic diseases or more human, then I would have continued the career in biotechnology. There are very few women who will have the opportunity to work for human rights like me. I felt this is a bigger responsibility to continue the human right activism work.

Jacobsen: Do you think a lot of this interest in science and ethics came about at the same point earlier in life for you? With the interest in biotechnology and cloning on the one hand, and the interest in children’s rights when your father introduced you to the children’s rights documents.

Ismail: Yes, they were around the same time. There was no secret. I wanted to study science and become a scientist. When I was in school, I was in eighth grade in the chemistry class. In the books, we had physics, chemistry, and biology. Chapter 1 or 2 would be about scientists. Lists of scientists who have contributed to biology or physics, or chemistry. All of them were men. So, I was in grade eighth. I raised a question o the chemistry teacher, “Why are you not teaching about women scientists? Why are there only men scientists in the book?” The teacher laughed at me and said, “They are waiting for you to become a scientist to include your name. You have not become a scientist. That’s why we don’t have a woman scientist yet.” Everyone laughed at me. At that point, I was like, “If that is the case, then I am going to become a scientist. There will be women scientists in the book.” It is the thing I wanted too. I was aware. There are fewer women in science than men. Although, at the time, I did not have the access to information and knowledge, which an eighth grader would have today. I was 13 or 14. I was aware of the gender discrimination in academia. I was becoming more aware. I wanted to become a woman scientist. Now, when there is the corona pandemic, I wish I had not disconnected [Laughing] from biotechnology. I wish I could volunteer in a lab. However, it has been 10 years since I studied biotechnology. [Laughing] They would not consider me legible to work in a lab on coronavirus now.

Jacobsen: What do you think is human nature?

Ismail: What is human nature? This is a philosophical question. Mostly, I think, we are a product of our societies. We are mostly the product of our environments. Whatever we learn from our environment, I do not believe people who say, “Conflict is human nature.” I do not think conflict is human nature, or this or that is human nature. We grow in our families, in our communities, in certain cultures. We learn and unlearn. Learning and unlearning is a continuous process, but mostly most of the people would be products of their environment. If there is any nature, I think that is the nature. What do you think is human nature?

Jacobsen: That is a very philosophical question [Laughing].

Ismail: [Laughing] Why is it a philosophical question?

Jacobsen: It is a good question [Laughing].  

Ismail: Someone who has read psychology may be better.

Jacobsen: Yes. Human nature comes from two places at a minimum. Of course, we have nature-nurture. Everyone understands that at this point. However, the human organism is an integrated system. So, we see philosophical traditions around empiricism and rationality. Human beings, though, are an integrated system with sensory input and rational faculties. As any cognitive scientist will tell you, or simply if you look at a list of cognitive biases, e.g., Availability Heuristic, Hindsight Bias, etc., Dunning-Kruger Effect [Laughing], these are images into how the human mind is deeply flawed and incapable of certain kinds of rational inquiry as a matter of innate disposition. These could be, or can be, overcome with knowledge of them. However, not all the time. Even trained medical experts, they may not use their medical expertise, sometimes. Same for other fields or human disciplines. So, this integrated system of sensory input, limited as it is, and rationality, flawed as it is; they provide a window into what seems like a traditional philosophical divide, which, in fact, is a unified system and, therefore, should be seen as a unified philosophical system traditionally divided into two, empiricism and rationality. These are unified in some sense. They may not be 50/50. However, they are united. In that coming together, more of human nature can be something both innate, in the sense that we have certain equipment that we’re born with, but also the degree to which the equipment is responsive to the environment. Then within all of that, after a certain point, human beings develop a certain ability for conscious discrimination and choice in the world. That is where things become murkier.

The idea of freedom of will, since it may exist or how one defines it, would not be boundless. It would be finite. It would be finite based on capacity limits of the human nervous system and capacity limits in terms of time. How long can someone deliberate with the finite computational system? So, this integrated system bringing together empiricism and rationality depicts a human nature. That is both limited, grounded in the empirical, capable of the rational, and potentially capable of developing a certain amount of freedom and choice while in a closed and synergistic system. So, human nature is bounded in those ways. Then to the cultural question of human nature, yes, certainly, the flavours, the colours, the sights, the sounds, those, in a manner speaking, are human nature. It may be like the linguistic facility or faculty. In that, there is a general underlying structure. Something akin to this unified system described before. What comes out of this are the various flavours of culture in the peoples, we see. Many linguists will note a very apparent, stark difference between the world’s languages, written and spoken, while it is belying a certain very fundamental and close similarity of the system that produces all of them. So, it is a very superficial difference, where there is a quite common system of linguistic capability. Similarly with the various things seen coming out of all forms of human culture, whether religious, political, or otherwise, I would make the same argument for the arts and music. What these are telling us are, probably, in fact, what seem like stark differences between Baroque music and Hip-Hop, they are superficial differences. So, human nature is probably functionally infinite in its capacity to have different combinations of its systems to produce cultures in large groups, but also finite in its structure given by the fact that both the sensory systems that we have, and the rational systems that we have, are, no doubt, themselves limited.

Human nature is akin to a string of premises that I am trying [Laughing] to build here from what we get by the very fact of being born human, and how we grow over time akin to the way a snowflake grows over time. Certain capacities will come online over time and produce this integrated system. The things we find in cultures around the world are reflective of a very common set of simple systems that produce – that are themselves finite – a functionally infinite variety, as we have seen over recorded human history for thousands of years among all peoples. I think, the humanist vision is akin to not looking at the superficial image of the world. Something like ignoring Plato’s Cave, but leaving the cave and looking at what are the simple, finite principles that comprise human nature. So that, we can have a little more humility and a universal vision of what is a human being. It is not a universalism of ignoring the complexity or diminishing it, but valuing it as part of a common set of naturally produced parts of what make up a human being. So, human nature seems to be something both dynamic, integrated, while simple, but producing a functionally infinite set of outputs. That was a long road. I am sorry. I do not have enough breadcrumbs. 

Ismail: That was a very eloquent answer.

Jacobsen: I do not have enough breadcrumbs to get home [Laughing]

Ismail: [Laughing].

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Co-Founder, Aware Girls.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 22). Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Human Rights Defenders, Terror, the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Religion, and Human Nature: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (4) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-4.

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Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,836

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Christopher Angus is a Member of the ISI-Society. He discusses: growing up; extended self; family background; youth with friends; education; purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence; extreme reactions to geniuses; greatest geniuses; genius and a profoundly gifted person; necessities for genius or the definition of genius; work experiences and jobs held; job path; myths of the gifted; God; science; tests taken and scores earned; range of the scores; ethical philosophy; political philosophy; metaphysics; worldview; meaning in life; source of meaning; afterlife; life; and love.

Keywords: Christian, Christopher Angus, family, ISI-Society, metaphysics, philosophy, politics.

Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you were growing up, what were some of the prominent family stories being told over time?

Christopher Angus[1],[2]*: Any such stories mainly revolved around being farmers living in a rural community within the larger context of Canada’s stories and Canada’s relationship with the rest of the world.

Jacobsen: Have these stories helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Angus: I’m no longer involved with farming, but yes they have. My roots are still there, and after having lived in a fairly large city for a while, I am now back in a rural area of our province.

Jacobsen: What was the family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Angus: My family came from western Canada (western Manitoba to be more exact), with a typical prairie culture and the English language. They were Protestant (United Church of Canada). It was a culture steeped in rural activities such as hockey, camping, hunting, sports, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and the like.

Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Angus: It was fairly good, so far as these sorts of things go. I’ve heard horror stories from others that I did not experience. However, I was suffering from insomnia and hypoglycemia for most of my life, so I wasn’t always functioning at full IQ potential. The hypoglycemia is under control, but the insomnia still afflicts me.

Jacobsen: What have been some professional certifications, qualifications, and trainings earned by you?

Angus: I have a certificate in graphic arts, as well as some other smaller things. I’m mostly self-taught in film, more specifically animated film.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

Angus: It was mostly curiosity. I knew that I was above average, but I didn’t have any idea that I would score as high as I did.

Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Angus: Officially, around 6 years ago.

Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of the past have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy — many, not all.

Angus: People are uncomfortable with, or scared of, that which they can’t understand. The typical person cannot understand many of whom are classified as “geniuses.”

Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Angus: I think there were interesting people in the late 1900s who became somewhat lost over time in our current cultures. Their ideas and inventions have been overlooked and even replaced by that which has set us back. Edison is an example. Also, I believe William James has some brilliant insights into psychology, the mind/body question, consciousness, etc, which were later largely lost. I think he’s going to be noticed again.

Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Angus: The typical response is that genius is what happens when the profoundly intelligent person does something with their intelligence, acts upon it, as it were. But I think it may be more complicated than that. For instance, people can have brilliant flashes of insight and not do anything with them, or have the resources, time, or freedom, to fully pursue them.

So, I’d think genius is when intelligence works with known information in a way that brings about something brilliant and does something fresh with that information, whether it works its way out in science, the arts, philosophy, or whatever. But I would think there needs to be the necessity of it being at least on the pathway to what is true and real, not something that a person just dreamt up that is actually utterly untenable – I’ve seen that in the high IQ “world”.

There are surely plenty of examples of genius that we will never know about, and there’s plenty that we have accepted as genius which likely is not.

Jacobsen: Is profound intelligence necessary for genius?

Angus: How do we define genius? Some would say that Michael Jackson was a genius musician and performer, but so far as I know he wasn’t of profound intelligence.

I would define genius as the ability to take known information and synthesize it into something new and fresh that others haven’t seen or considered before. I’d say that profound intelligence would be needed for that. Michael Jackson didn’t do that as far as I can see. He had an immense talent on display, but it wasn’t outside of the previous box to the extent of being genius, in my opinion.

Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and jobs held by you?

Angus: I’ve mostly worked within the artist/animation field and am working on my own films.

Jacobsen: Why pursue this particular job path?

Angus: It’s where my passion lies, what I’m best suited towards doing. Also, I believe it can be my voice in the world, and I believe that the arts and story can have an immense impact.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Angus: I think the most important aspect of the notion of “gifted” is to realize that such people have some different needs, peer issues, and some different ways of interacting with the world, all while often still wanting to maintain some sort of sense of normalcy and safety in society. These needs are real and shouldn’t be marginalized.

The myths are that people with high IQ are automatically “geniuses” who have minds that can figure many things out without error. The truths that dispel them are the fact that so many high IQ people have differing views. They can’t all be right. High IQ can help a person along in many ways, but it can also lead them down a path of getting more stuck.

Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Angus: There are a lot of philosophical arguments for God being debated right now, arguments such as the Kalam argument (an updated argument of the uncaused cause), the question of absolute morality, various spiritual experiences, fine tuning in the universe, etc. I actually don’t believe that any of these arguments concretely prove God’s existence even if some of them have more weight than others do, although the question of where the information needed to create consciousness is quite interesting — in order to create consciousness, it surely would have had some sort of comprehension of consciousness and thus either be a higher consciousness or have come from it.

But here’s the thing: although these arguments might not give solid weight on their own, none of them exist in a vacuum. They are all part of a whole. So if we look at these various arguments — and life in general — in a holistic manner, then theism becomes the most tenable (for some the only tenable) foundation by which to view the world.

Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Angus: I respect science and generally understand the scientific method, but it isn’t my primary inclination. I am much more interested in philosophy, theology, and of course the arts. So, I see science’s value, but Scientism is far from being a trap for me.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Angus: Recently:

GIFT High Range IQ Test – 158 SD15

Verbatim – 156 SD15

FIQURE – 155 SD15

Jacobsen: What is the range of the scores for you? The scores earned on alternative intelligence tests tend to produce a wide smattering of data points rather than clusters, typically.

Angus: Mid to late 150s SD15.

Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: I’m not sure if I accept any of the more “official” views on this subject. I’ll suggest that a healed and healthy human psyche also has a strong and healthy light of a conscience that we should live according to. Of course some have scathed over consciences (or scathed over in certain areas) and it is for those with right conscience to influence society in different ways in response to societal concerns. I think the light of conscience is a divine light attuned to a higher law (does conscience have any validity if there isn’t a higher good and thus plumb line for morality?).

Then there’s the question of who has the healthy psyche and is most attuned to their conscience, but often as things unfold, this can become more apparent as society considers people’s motivations. Thus, this would also leave room for some sort of reasoning as people debate the best response according to conscientious interaction with the information around them.

So, perhaps something like Divine Command Theory. Maybe a soft form of Divine Command Theory with an understanding that there is a divine light of conscience in humanity attuned to a higher goodness, and thus, moral law.

In regards to Divine Command Theory, people could argue that morality should be based on certain religious texts, but of course not everyone believes in these texts (or at least certain ones), and besides, how people interpret them is largely based on their conscience (or scathed over conscience). Added to this free societies consider religious freedoms to pursue or reject certain religious texts or views of value.

So where does that leave us? Perhaps, pursue healing and let the light in our conscience shine bright.

Jacobsen: What social philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: I would say that I lean towards Classical Liberalism. I reject Libertarianism because, although I believe humanity has free will in that we are not bound to a chain of cause and effect but can actually make true choices (our own causes with their own effects — which is another discussion), I do not believe that our will is separate from some mighty strong influences on it. Therefore, although we are free as individuals to some extent, we are also deeply influenced by our environments. But this shouldn’t lead to a social stance which takes away from the individual freedoms that we are capable of attaining. Therefore, I support individual property rights, unencumbered business, and the like.

Related to this, I believe in a rule of law and penitentiary system that is merciful to the human condition when appropriate, but also that treats all citizens equally, and that, when appropriate, can also come down hard on certain horrific criminal behaviour.

So, I think we should consider how strongly we are influenced and respond accordingly, but we should also consider that we do have choices to make with certain moral obligations and a conscience to help guide us and also act respond accordingly to those concerns. Of course, this doesn’t lead to easy black and white answers on some issues. But a person’s psyche within their community, isn’t black and white. This, however, isn’t to take away from the necessity of the above mentioned rule of law.

This answer dovetails a bit with my previous comment about ethical philosophy, so it might be pertinent to add that I see great value in a society or culture having an emphasis on inner healing. This would help with a lot of other issues.

Jacobsen: What economic philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: Capitalism and a free market makes the most sense to me. This along with a slight amount of socialism in relation to roads, law enforcement, park systems, some support of the arts, and the like. There can be a stability with some socialism, but it also doesn’t take much for it to get bogged down, and a free market is more easily corrected by the people who retain more control. Some have never lived with their freedoms having been lost and do not understand the importance of freedom. Others are currently realizing its value and how tenuous it actually is. A free market society is the best economic system to protect freedoms while it can also allow for care for the downtrodden via charities, business endeavors, etc, which work towards that end.

So I see freedom as something which should also be considered in regards to economic systems. Some societies or groups within societies put less emphasis on it than others, which is understandable as each society or sub group can have its own “personality” with different views on how much freedom is pertinent, but we should all agree to never allow it to be lost, and actively protect it.

Jacobsen: What political philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: I believe that the US constitution with its emphasis of putting power in the hands of “We The People” and its attempt to protect this sentiment doesn’t just make the most workable sense, it may serve to help to protect freedom not only in the US, but also abroad. If the US loses its freedoms, then it won’t bode well for rest of us.

Jacobsen: What metaphysics makes some sense to you, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: I would sit somewhere between idealism (the notion that all comes out of consciousness and consciousness permeates the universe), and dualism.

I believe that there is a profound conscious aspect to the universe with consciousness being key. But I also believe that the natural world is a very real and not a mere illusion created by consciousness, as can be found in Idealism.

To put it another way. I’d align somewhat with panentheism, if one considers it to mean that higher consciousness is in and throughout a very real natural world with its own truly independent conscious creatures, but also above that natural world in a way whereby the notion is very clearly delineated from pantheism.

I’m also not sure if this would lead to animism as I don’t know if all “consciousness” is necessarily the same as found in humanity, or even other creatures. For instance, a rock might have some sort of “life,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can interact.

Jacobsen: What worldview-encompassing philosophical system makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Angus: Would populism count as a philosophical system? It’s of course far from my only belief, but I believe it is currently notable as I think that the rise of populism is quite pertinent to the season that we are in — considering what is being exposed — and that this movement has just begun.

Jacobsen: What provides meaning in life for you?

Angus: My faith. Any other aspect to my life has no value unless it is hinged to this in some way. Without that connection, it is ultimately empty.

Jacobsen: Is meaning externally derived, internally generated, both, or something else?

Angus: It’s both, and something else. We often create meaning based on our interaction with external truths, but they are true. The human ability to do so is also an externally true element of existence. So, our creation of meaning is an attempt to grasp what is true and meaningful beyond us.

Jacobsen: Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, why, and what form? If not, why not?

Angus: Yes. As a Christian I believe in a state of conscious awareness and interaction, in a loving existence with Christ when people accept it. I’ve heard and read a variety of interpretations of this afterlife, and while some things said may have validity, I’m just not in the position to fully accept these views. I just don’t know.

Jacobsen: What do you make of the mystery and transience of life?

Angus: Mystery leads to wonder, and part of the human endeavor is to probe into the mystery in some shape or form, but of course it always goes deeper — everything ends in mystery of some sort. We’ve answered some of the hows, but there’s always a deeper why to these things. Why does beauty exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does love exist in the universe? Those are profound questions not enough people are asking these days, and ultimately I would say that those speak into the transience of life.

Jacobsen: What is love to you? 

Angus: Different personalities receive and give love in different ways, and it’s good to understand this when interacting with different people. Yet in these differing ways it isn’t true love unless there is an element of self-sacrifice.

True love, like true beauty, is far beyond the superficial. Which brings an interesting question — to what extent is love related to suffering and beauty?

I mean, can one attain to a comprehension of beauty with any depth, if they have never loved and suffered?

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, ISI-Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 22). Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Christopher Angus on Family, Background, Life, Philosophy, Being Christian, and Love: Member, ISI-Society (1) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/angus-1.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,138

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

From the professional website for Professor Priest: “Graham Priest grew up as a working class kid in South London. He read mathematics and (and a little bit of logic) at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He obtained his doctorate in mathematics at the London School of Economics. By that time, he had come to the conclusion that philosophy was more fun than mathematics. So, luckily, he got his first job (in 1974) in a philosophy department, as a  temporary lecturer in the Department of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of St Andrews. The first permanent job he was offered was at the University of Western Australia. He moved to Australia when he took up the position, and has spent most of his working life there. After 12 years at the University of Western Australia, he moved to take up the chair of philosophy at the University of Queensland, and after 12 years there, he moved again to take up the Boyce Gibson Chair of Philosophy at  Melbourne University, where he is now emeritus.  While he was there, he was a Fellow of  Ormond College.  During the Melbourne years, he was also an Arché Professorial Fellow at the University of St Andrews. He is a past president of the Australasian Association for Logic, and the Australasian Association of Philosophy, of which he was Chair of Council for 13 years. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 1995, and awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University of Melbourne in 2002. In 2009 he took up the position of Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where he now lives and works. Graham has published in nearly every leading logic and philosophy journal. At the last count, he had published about 240 papers. He has also published six monographs (mostly with Oxford University Press), as well as a number of edited collections. Much of his work has been in logic, especially non-classical logic, and related areas. He is perhaps best know for his work on dialetheism, the view that some contradictions are true. However, he has also published widely in many other areas, such as metaphysics, Buddhist philosophy, and the history of philosophy, both East and West. Graham has travelled widely, lecturing and addressing conferences in every continent except Antarctica.  For many years, he practiced karatedo. He is a third dan in Shobukai, and a fourth dan in Shitoryu (awarded by the head of style, Sensei Mabuni Kenei in Osaka, when he was training there). Before he left Australia he was an Australian National kumite referee  and kata judge. Nowadays, he swims and practices taichi. He loves (good operajazz , and 60s rock … and East Asian art.” He discusses: the family background; the larger self; early formation; adults, mentors, or guardians; being someone who hardly ver reads anything; pivotal education; formal postsecondary education; being a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center; the main area of research; and advice to aspiring philosophy students.

Keywords: Cambridge, City University of New York, family, Graham Priest, logic, philosophy, upbringing.

Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: For this opening session for the series, I would like to begin with an analysis of the family background of you. The ways in which you became choate, philosophically mature. You made a mark in the philosophical world. A history and a trajectory stems from somewhere, not simply talent or insight. What’s family background or lineage, e.g., surname(s) etymology (etymologies), geography, culture, language, religion/non-religion, political suasion, social outlook, scientific training, and the like?

Professor Graham Priest[1],[2]: I was born in 1948 in the UK, and grew up in post-WW2 South London. I was a working-class kid, and an only-child. My father (George Priest) was a manual labourer in a power station, and my mother (Laura Priest) was a homemaker, though she did part-time jobs sometimes, to help make ends meet. Neither was well educated, but my father worked long hours to support the family, and my other was very loving. I could read before I went to school. We had no phone, car, or even TV (till I was a teenager). There was nothing that you would call high culture in my home. So, I had no idea of art, classical music, drama—and certainly not philosophy.

My mother was a Christian. I have no idea of my father’s religious views: he never spoke about them. I was brought up as a Christian. The church was a Congregationalist one. (I believe that this is now part of the United Reform Church.) Congregationalism was Protestant, not as heterodox as Quakerism, but further in that direction than other Protestant groups such as Methodists and Baptists.

In those days, there was an exam called the 11 Plus. Kids who did well in this were creamed off and sent to Grammar Schools. These were state schools, but were academically oriented. I was lucky enough to pass and went to John Ruskin Grammar School in Croydon. When I was there, I discovered an aptitude for mathematics and decided to go to university to study it. This was made possible for working class kids, since the post-WW2 Labour Government had abolished university fees. At least, they made them payable by local government bodies while providing a cost of living grant. So, my going to university cost neither myself nor my parents anything. I applied to several universities and was accepted by St John’s College, Cambridge. My schoolteachers told me that I would be a fool to turn down a place in Cambridge. So, I accepted and went there to read mathematics.

Jacobsen: With all these facets of the larger self, how did these become the familial ecosystem to form identity and a sense of a self extended through time?

Priest: Going to Cambridge was an eye-opening experience for me in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, I was taken out of my working-class culture and put in a highly intellectual and educated one. So, my eyes were opened to art, drama, philosophy, and restaurants—things. Many of the kids came from wealthy families who had gone to public schools, which is what the British call a private school. It was the first time I had mixed with such kids. So, I was brought face to face with the British class system for the first time: the privileges of wealth, power, and the British establishment. I developed a love/hate relationship with the place.

Next, taken out of a Christian environment, I started to think about my religious views more critically. I concluded: no rational ground for the belief in a god, much less a Christian god, exists. For a powerful example, the extraordinary amount of gratuitous suffering in the world strikes me as much of a knock-down argument against the existence of such a god as anything can be. So, I became an atheist, which I am to this day.

In matters academic: I was studying with a bunch of kids. All of whom were very smart. I realised that many of them were much brighter than me. However, an old school friend put me on to mathematical logic. I became fascinated by the subject. It was not really taught in the mathematics degree, so in my last year I changed to philosophy. In Cambridge, the study of a degree is called a tripos. A tripos has two parts. (Don’t be fooled by the name, it refers to a three-legged stool that students sat on when they were examined in the old medieval university.) I had done Part One of the maths tripos in my first two years, and in my final year I did Part Two of the philosophy (called moral science) tripos, which was the logic option. This taught mathematical logic, but, of course, many of the philosophical issues that surround the subject too. I was at a disadvantage in studying these because most of my peers had already studied two years of philosophy. But when it came to technical matters, I had an advantage because of my mathematical training.

At Cambridge, I met Annie. The woman who became my wife. Our son was born about a week before my final exams. After Cambridge, we moved down to London to different colleges of London University. I did an MSc in mathematical logic, and then a doctorate in mathematics in the same area at the London School of Economics.

By the time I finished this, I was aware of two things: first, that I would only ever be, at best, a mediocre mathematician; and second, that philosophy was a lot more fun than mathematics. I applied for 52 academic jobs in my last year as a research student, and got nowhere. I was about to take a job with the British Gas Board as a mathematician modelling gas-flow, when two temporary university jobs came up at the last moment. One was at the City University of London in the mathematics department; the other was in the philosophy department at the University of St Andrews. And for me, it was a no-brainer. I took the philosophy job. Why they offered the job to someone with virtually no background in philosophy, I still have no idea (though I remain grateful to this day!). They didn’t even have me teaching logic. I taught the philosophy of science.

I continued applying for permanent jobs in the UK for my two years in St Andrews, without success. The first permanent job I was offered was at the University of Western Australia, in Perth, Australia. We decided that we would go there. We thought that we would be back in a few years—and I did apply for several jobs back in the UK, without success. In effect, we had emigrated. I became one of the happy band of Australian philosophers.

Jacobsen: Of those influences, what ones seem the most prescient for early formation?

Priest: Clearly, those things engendering a love of mathematics and philosophy in me. I guess I have to say, also, my working-class background, which has given me a deep distrust of the status quo, in philosophy, politics, and everywhere else.

Jacobsen: What adults, mentors, or guardians became, in hindsight, the most influential on you?

Priest: That’s hard to say. For a start, my mother for her love and nurturing. My high school maths teacher, R.D. Pearce, who communicated the beauty of mathematics to me. One of my supervisors in Cambridge, Sue Haack, who engaged me in the philosophy of logic. My Ph.D. thesis supervisor, John Bell, who showed me, amongst other things, what it was to be a good teacher.

Jacobsen: As a young reader, in childhood and adolescence, what authors and books were significant, meaningful, to worldview formation?

Priest: I hardly ever read anything.

Jacobsen: What were pivotal educational – as in, in school or autodidacticism – moments from childhood to young adulthood?

Priest: My being able to read before I went to school was clearly an enormous factor in my education. Falling in love with the beauty of mathematics, and realising that I was quite good at it was another, I do remember reading one book, which struck me before I went to university: Alan Watts’ The Way of Zen. The immediate effect was to make me take to heart the fact that there were religions other than Christianity. Also, that there were smart people who endorse these. More amorphously, I was attracted to a number of ideas of Zen, as Watts described them. These didn’t have a great effect at the time, but they must have lodged somewhere in my brain, since I happily turned to the study of Buddhist philosophy later in life.

Jacobsen: For formal postsecondary education, in academia, why select LSE, and then Melbourne for the academic path? 

Priest: London because I could do an MSc in Mathematical Logic there, and LSE because I could work with John Bell, whom I met as an MSc student, liked, and got on well with. As I said, after that I had a temporary position in St Andrews, but the first permanent job I was offered was at the University of Western Australia. I was there for about 12 years when the chair of philosophy (chair on the British/Australian sense, not the North American sense) came up at the University of Queensland. I was ambitious; I applied and got it. About a dozen years later, the Boyce Gibson Chair came up at Melbourne University. This was the oldest chair of philosophy in Australia, and the then Dean of Arts said he wanted the new chair to regenerate the department. (It had fallen a bit into the doldrums.) All this appealed to me. I applied and got the chair. To tell the truth, I had had it with the University of Queensland by that time. It had been taken over by a self-serving bureaucracy. This had destroyed collegiality (which I value greatly) and introduced top-down line managerialism. Academic values were no longer important, managers were fixated only on money—and climbing the bureaucratic ladder. Melbourne had maintained its older academic values. I was at Melbourne for about 12 years. By the time that I left, the malaise that had affected the University of Queensland had effected Melbourne as well. (Indeed, such managerialism had taken over, and still maintains its hold on, all the Australian Universities, though this is not the place to go into how and why this happened.) I had become tired of fighting rear-guard actions (which I had done at both Queensland and Melbourne). So, when I was offered a job at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, I was happy to jump ship.

Jacobsen: As a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position? 

Priest: I teach one graduate course per semester, usually on whatever I choose. I also supervise Ph.D. dissertations by any student who asks me. On top of that, I run a weekly logic and metaphysics research seminar, and often go to other research seminars. Sometimes, I perform administrative roles, such as on the departmental admissions committee. Most of the rest of my time is spent on research, writing books and papers. In connection with that, I frequently travel within North America and overseas to give talks and attend conferences. Finally, there is “service to the profession”: refereeing journal articles, writing references for job applications, reports on promotion and tenure applications, reports on grant applications, etc.

Jacobsen: What are the main area of research and research questions now?

Priest: Philosophy is an enormously broad area, with many sub-areas: logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, ethics, aesthetics, social philosophy, political philosophy, history of philosophy, to name but some of the more standard ones. Research in many topics in all these areas is highly active. There is no hope of going into details in any sensible way here. I, myself, have many different areas of research interest: logic, the philosophy of logic and mathematics, metaphysics, socio-political philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, the history of philosophy—and again in many different parts of these. You can get a more detailed sense of some of the questions I have been engaging with from the publications page of my website: www.grahampriest.net.

Jacobsen: If you could give advice to aspiring philosophy students with an interest in metaphilosophy, what would it be for them?

Priest: It would be the same as I would give to students with an interest in any other area of philosophy. Find some questions that engage you. Try to figure out how you would answer them. Reading a few good philosophers who have thought about the questions is always helpful. Then write it up. (That always helps to get your thoughts straight.) Make your answer clear, and your reasons as cogent as possible. Don’t confuse obscurity with profundity, or simplicity with superficiality.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, Graduate Center, City University of New York (2009-Present).

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 22, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 22). Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Distinguished Professor Graham Priest on Family, Education, and Opening One’s Eyes to the Wider Intellectual World: Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York (1) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/priest-1.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

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Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 6,721

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf is an Assistant Professor at VIA University College and a prominent member of the high-IQ communities. He discusses: growing up; a sense of an extended self; the family background; experience with peers and schoolmates; purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence; the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses; the greatest geniuses in history; a genius from a profoundly intelligent person; some work experiences and educational certifications; more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses; the God concept; science; tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations); the range of the scores; and ethical philosophy.

Keywords: background, culture, family, IQ, physics, Simon Olling Rebsdorf, society.

Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you were growing up, what were some of the prominent family stories being told over time?

Dr. Simon Olling Rebsdorf[1],[2]*: [My private weblog is here: https://humanlifelab.wordpress.com]

The midwife dragged me into this worldly place in the city of Odense, Denmark, in 1971. Looking back from this halfway vantage point, I still wonder whether retrospective selection of milestones or turning points in our consciously remembered life story do in fact contribute to changing our own self-images into a narrative of someone we would rather like to be, instead of who we are. However, this is a risk as well as a cerebral human condition.

When my parents got divorced, I was five and my big brother nine years old. The divorce took a lot of energy, especially when my age was around 10 and 14. In this period, my parents had quarrels, legal cases about custody rights. Thinking about my grandparents is more comforting. My grandfather was a creative man full of ideas. He was a craftsman working at a lathe, in his own shop business in the attic in central Copenhagen. Very ingenious and skilled. During the Second World War, he decided to hang a hand grenade on the back of the front door to the shop, just in case German Nazi SS troops would enter the courtyard. Illegally, he crafted little pieces for weapons of the Danish Resistance Movement. He was never caught. This is probably the most prominent family story, which was told many times.

Jacobsen: Have these stores helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Rebsdorf: In some sense, yes. Resistance against authority and a critical mind has been heralded as the norm and a necessary attribute of family members.

Jacobsen: What was the family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Rebsdorf: Danish. My father was born in 1930 in the southern part of Jutland, the Danish peninsula, in a city called Ødis, close to Kolding. My late father’s brother was concerned with genealogy and made a family tree dating back to the 1600 hundreds. During World War 2, my father’s family hosted a young boy, who was a member of Hitler Jugend -the nazi boy scouts – but the boy’s parents had managed to escape Germany and in Denmark, they had found my father’s family to host the boy for some time. I remember my immediate shock when my father told me that had he been raised in Germany instead of Denmark, he might as well have been a conscientious Hitler Jugend boy. His point was a cultural relativist one, and I understood this immediately after some explanation. My father is now 90 years old. He has always played classical music and jazz – he plays the violin, and he is the reason, I have learned to appreciate and play music myself from the age of 5, when he forced me to tale violin lessons.

My father, went to Copenhagen aged 17 to study pharmacy. He ended up becoming a fresh water researcher, even publishing in Nature once. I found out about this in 2018. Without him ever letting me or my family know! How typically humble of him, not mentioning it. In 1999 he co-authored a paper on “Regional Trends in Aquatic Recovery from Acidification in North America and Europe,” Volume 401 Number 6753 pp513-622, (it’s on page 575, name: A. Rebsdorf). On behalf of the National Environmental Research Institute in Denmark.

My mother was born in 1945 and grew up in the island Zealand, close to the Danish capital. Copenhagen, in a city called Hillerød. Her father, my granddad who owned a lathe shop, was extremely protective of his youngest daughter, and was known to hire a private eye to follow her on dates. My dad lived across the street from them and they fell in love. The had two children, Morten, my big brother, in 1967, and I, in 1971. In 1976, they god a divorce and have had several other girlfriends/boyfriends since. My mother studied to work in a kindergarten and has done so all her life. She is now retired. My mother has always been the more creative kind, having us dress up, play, dance, draw and just live out ourselves and our curiosity.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a general feeling that my free choices were ok, no matter what they were. Later in life I’ve realized the importance of this and the role this general outlook has had on my life and life choices.

Going to lower elementary school in the hamlet Bryrup in the middle of the Danish peninsula Jutland, I had a great time until control was lost due to the separation of my parents. Looking back, mathematics, English, natural sciences, music and the Danish language seemed quite easy and all-interesting, but they were not trivial topics to me.

Music was the exception. Playing instruments and singing was effortlessly intuitive to me. I played everything by ear and frowned inside when the other kids could not play the right rhythm or worse, couldn’t remember what we played last week. This was a walk in the park for me. I learned the music notations system three times in my life – and forgot it three times. I never really made use of musical scores. The music has always been kept safely in my mind’s ear and my head is always full of music and sounds.

My dad forced me to play the violin from age five, and later I turned to piano, then electric bass, drums and guitar, now upright bass and piano. Today I am grateful to his stubborn demands of weekly rehearsals in my room. Music has always been my thing. However, whenever I have been good at something, I have kept this experience to myself. [https://humanlifelab.wordpress.com/music]

The Nordic Law of Jante completely imbued my upbringing and schooling: A pattern of group behavior that negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate, is what usually made me keep my successes to myself. But it also made me try to do better. I never told anyone when I was good at something. Never. I didn’t want to appear as the archetypical, annoying smart-guy.

Regarding religion: My upbringing has had a clear lack of religion. It is a mystery to me why I was baptized at all. More about this ecumenical topic below.

Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Rebsdorf: I didn’t perceive of myself at all as the brainy child who could read prematurely or solve math problems years ahead of the norm. And if I was, I would never have known, let alone been told. I was just a pretty happy little brother with a creative pre-school teacher mum, and an academic dad researching fresh water resources. I loved being left on my own to discover the universe. Philosophizing, as I learned later, was my favorite activity and my mind was a lively place, an inner world not accessible to others. It was my own world. It provided a sense of control. And nobody ever entered it.

I whole-heartedly believed that everybody else in kindergarten and elementary school were likely to have similar individual inner worlds just like mine, filled with colored numbers, friendly creatures of music, physical sensations of huge, imaginary bubbles of tension when pressing together my middle and index finger, as well as inner dialogues and discussions with imaginary people. This was my world, a warm place of structure, texture, and ethereal, rhythmic sounds and shapes. Later in life, I learned that perhaps my assumption wasn’t true for all the people around me, and this was perhaps one reason why my peers sometimes talked about boredom – a mental state completely uncharted by me.

Five years after my parents’ separation, an important milestone unearthed. A bipolar ‘Barbarossa’ artist befriended my mum and they became lovers. With his long red beard and spiky hair, this manic-depressive, psychopathically-bent artist painter completely took over my mum, deprived her of all her self-esteem to his own personal, economical gain by spending all her money on his art production. Emotionally, this became a very dark period of four years, then a happy kid full of inner life from the outset. But at the same time, intellectually, it became four vital years of research and tremendous learning for me. Despite Barbarossa’s bad characteristics and ill temper, he cracked the physical universe more open for me. Perhaps he embodied a provocative counter-movement against the Law of Jante, which ultimately educated me. A ten-year-old, I flipped through his subscription issues of the Scientific American, and I mimicked transmission gears from technical manuals using LEGO technic. He taught me Goethe’s theory of colors, how to play card games, how to draw human faces using charcoal, and he introduced me to the artist M.C. Escher, promptly turning the Dutch mathematician and painter into my favorite artist, owing to his impossible geometrical works, which I copied and developed further. As a result, mathematical topology became a burning interest of mine, but I just didn’t know the technical term at the time. It all took place on a completely intuitive level by way of paper origami and drawings, e.g. of the three-dimensional shadows of the tesseract, a mathematical four-dimensional cube, or attempts to draw the four-dimensional one-surfaced manifold known as the Klein bottle.

One vital problem was that it all happened in a state of complete loneliness. Emotionally, I closed myself down for self-protection, as Barbarossa took advantage of my mother, so I was left to myself a lot. I philosophized in a great cherry tree, looking down on passing cyclists, often falling asleep between two thick, supporting branches. I craved sacrosanct places for myself, making caves in the woods and hugging my impartial, natural friends, the trees. I had too many feelings everywhere around me, so I reduced the emotional complexity by creating my own quiet spaces and letting curiosity lead the way.

Only last year, by the help of a cognitive psychologist, I have discovered former obsessive tendencies, which I had completely forgotten. The loss of control by proxy of my run-down mother turned into obsessive activities to provide some feeling of control. I counted everything countable around me, I pressed my fingers together to feel myself, I had obsessive thoughts of fate, constantly, yet quietly, I was beating complicated rhythms with my fingers and toes – and then came a horrid fear of darkness.

In addition, I also became a proficient liar. Children of divorce are perfectly loyal to both their parents, and to me this simply meant lying to them – but then I also began lying to my teachers and classmates. I made up immense scaffolds of lies taking up a lot of mental energy. I took my lying to the next level when my parents fought over the legal custody of me and my big brother. In the 80’s, in Denmark, the mother usually won such legal custody disputes, despite any father’s stubborn fight against it. My own father fought persistently, which I only got to know later in life. Sadly, the dispute also turned my father from an academic into an alcoholic academic.

I was so good at lying and setting up facades that none of my teachers believed what I had gone through. But finally, and luckily, my mother left the inspirational yet unhealthy crackpot artist. Today, I believe that the four emotionally dark years also provided me with an intellectual strength and mental capacity that I would never have been without. Perhaps I should thank my mother for her emotional dispositions towards the infamous Barbarossa, even if I have become a skilled liar and professional coward as a bi-product of that period.

Thomas – an odd one out in my class – and me, became friends throughout the last two years of elementary school. And we formed a closed sphere not very open for others. I managed to play cowboys and Indians with my classmates, but with Thomas, there was an opening into a common discovery of the universe by creating and drawing comic magazines, practicing British dialects, dressing up as detectives, role playing, producing soundscapes with a ghetto-blaster and cassette tapes, or creating neologisms for fun. Soon we decided to sit ourselves on the front row in physics/chemistry classes, just to break with the present anti-scientific culture in the class. It worked. Quickly I got better at the hard sciences, and I remember my great preparations for the exam – and my utter disappointment that my friend Thomas didn’t invest the appropriate energy into the topics.

High school was not favorable for my self-worth. I couldn’t decode the system of reproducing facts from the blackboard. What got me through high school was the seven hours of music lessons and playing in numerous bands on the side. Also in high school, I teamed up with the odd one out, Martin, and in this way, I found my investigative companion. Together, we found our own motivation outside our classes. We made up a system of linguistic babble creation that turned into a smash-hit at our high school parties. On stage, we read aloud a new text sounding like normal sentences, yet made no sense whatsoever. Our brief success was likely due to the deliberate incorrectness of the prose as compared to all the rational orderliness crafted by the teachers. Socially, I managed to hang out with the popular people due to my merits as the most proficient bass-player – and a ‘world famous’ babble creator. In retrospect, I regard my high school years as a sort of social compensation for an energetic period of research and investigation prior to high school. If only high school could manage to embrace curiosity and out of the box thinking. My sacred inner world from lower elementary school had been partly sacrificed during high school, and it took me years to gain access again.

Another milestone was a library book on astronomy – and sheer luck. I have never had a plan. Curiosity and immediate lust has been my life-guide and I have always been at a completely loss of direction or ambition in life. An important value transferred from my poor grandparents via my mother and then to me is this: money don’t matter. I still believe this to be very true. At least when you are a Scandinavian kid built into an expensive tax system, world class health care safety, great job opportunities and very low crime rates. My high school result was poor, below average. I had somehow lost my academic grip from elementary school. I sucked. And a downward spiral resulted in low self-esteem and lack of trust in the future. All seemed dark and pointless. I worked in odd jobs and sensed my father’s silent frustration of missing future avenues. After high school, when working as an unskilled painter of some locker room walls at the local gym, I secretly read a large book on astronomy from the municipal library. At nights, I drew the night sky constellations and studied stellar creation. I have eaten all sorts of popular science books since age nine. I devoured the astronomy book in the restrooms of the gym as well as during passionate reading marathons in my rented abode. Completely alone. Whenever the gym manager came to check up on me, I managed to hide the book and lie to him about some technical difficulties hampering my painting progression. I just couldn’t believe that the gym manager believed my lies. But I was a pro, so it worked.

And the astronomy monograph had a momentous impact. The necessary passing grade averages were low for many natural sciences studies at university, such as astronomy. This was my luck. I enrolled at the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. And moving to a college in the capitol was my fresh start.

I felt very alone while in Copenhagen, and I seriously though about just killing myself. But I didn’t have what it takes, luckily. And then came the intelligence test. Much of my bad luggage and suicidal tendencies due to loneliness and academic failure were swiftly wiped away after passing the Mensa test. Indeed, even love life became a reality a few years after practicing the art of flirting. And then I met my wonderful congenial, my wife Charlotte.

My ensuing authorship and research highlights include a six-months research visit at the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, University of Chicago, including a stay at the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, but also an affiliation with the Morris Fishbein Institute of social sciences. In 2009 I published a 500-page monograph on the history of modern astrophysics in the US and in Denmark entitled The Father, the Son, and the Stars. In addition, I published two PhD-based peer-reviewed research papers in the Cambridge periodical Journal for the History of Astronomy, co-authored two master thesis-based peer-reviewed research papers in the renowned Oxford periodical Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, and a peer reviewed article in the international history of science periodical Centaurus. Another rich experience was the co-authoring of a textbook on creative idea development for the teaching of bachelor students of innovation management at the Aarhus School of Business. But my hot dream remains the completion of a literary fiction novel as well as having some of my short stories published. One day, I left academia and have tried many sorts of positions since then. After heading the European Space Agency’s Danish education resource office in Denmark and working as project manager and fundraiser at the House of Natural Sciences, I have been appointed assistant professor at VIA University College teaching and researching higher science education. This seems to be the right spot for now. Our kids are 8 and 10, and it’s like life cannot cease to keep educating me.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

I never managed to find the very good response to this question. Having always been rather ambivalent about IQ tests, I have tried to live with this inner dilemma. This means that I tend to think, still, that the urge to belong to a high intelligence society is just a Freudian mechanism in order for the insecure snowflake to find some force and energy from like-minded poor things like myself. But at the same time, I tend to feel that like-mindedness rather strongly, and this feeling cannot be ignored either. The clear over-representation of megalomaniac super narcissists within many esoteric high IQ circles and societies tell their own story of the Freudian mechanisms at work. I have never met so many arrogant brain-bragging and apparently self-contained people as I have met in high IQ societies. At the same time, I have made some deep and rare friendships that I would never be without. Perhaps the sea of brain-braggers is the costs of finding congenial soul gems out there.

The history of intelligence tests is dubious and not only very flattering. However, the idea is interesting and the value of a measured intelligence in some ways or another cannot be ignored. The issue of cultural bias (and many other biases) is very important to constantly articulate. History tells us sad stories of some of the apparent pitfalls hidden in the process of defining intelligence.

High mental capacity is there, though. Its existence is indisputable. It is a great responsibility to host high mental capacity “under the helmet,” and I am full of gratitude and humility. Sometimes it fells like a straitjacket to constantly remind myself that time is of the essence and that action is needed in the real world.

I have been Mensa member many times – and then I’ve terminated my membership again. I stopped as member of Mensa recently once again. I fail to see that the society does good in the world outside this club. It is too closed – but I am fully aware that this legitimizes its existence to many members. In turn, I am very ambiguous about Mensa and also about many other high IQ societies. Disillusion is perhaps what is my issue with them. The intention seems to always be the same – good ambitions and hopes for lively activity to change the world to a better place. The question is, what ends it really serves. In a broader perspective, do all these digital (and somewhat physical) societies provide us all a better world in any way? Hardly.

And how does an exclusive club manage to do anything inclusively to – or for – the world? If we really want to make a change, and not just share funny pictures and anecdotes (and make fun of all the low IQ idiots making our lives miserable, as some members seem to believe) how do we organize in order to take steps in this direction? This bugs me these days.

To what extent are the high range (and medium range) IQ societies representations of real life, and to what extent are they esoteric circles of narcissistic megalomaniacs with low self-esteem in which they can feel better than the idiotic low-IQ world. This outlook is somewhat harsh, I know. But this kind of sentiment is exactly what I felt in some of these clubs I have frequented.

On the other hand, of course, are the many interesting discussions that can be had with like-minded people and clearly this serves ourselves very nicely. Self-service is just not enough for me anymore. We need a bigger perspective. Supporting members to get out of their safe esoteric circles and act in the real world might be worth considering.

Another problem: The idea of genius. If the concept of genius is to be taken seriously, we don’t need a list of current “geniuses” whose only achievement that counts is a formal intelligence test. As a PhD in science studies and the history of science and technology, this is not how genius should be defined. This is not the kind of extraordinariness the world needs, in my view. Genius has its linguistic origin from the latin verb, which means “I breed.” So, from a linguistic perspective, a genius displays unique creative power. There is no necessary connection to a high IQ, although there could probably be a common quantity of creative persons within high IQ circles. But it seems clear that you’d also find a common quantity of people displaying creative power from other parts of society, and hence also from non-high IQ circles. The role on creative power played by nature, nurture acquired skills, hard work and experience is of course unknown. Investigations of rare creative composers indicate that many years of practice is a prerequisite for the creation of masterpieces. A high IQ would clearly not be sufficient, and probably completely irrelevant. I fear that some members of many high IQ societies tend to exaggerate the role of mental capacity with relation to the concept of genius. And remembering that the mark of a genius often goes hand in hand with deepfelt admiration, some insecure and non-creative people with impressive high IQ raw scores may elevate themselves to pedestals that they/we clearly didn’t disserve.

My name figures on the World Genius Directory (160 SD15), but I fail to see why, exactly. There seem to be a set formal IQ limit of 145 SD15. By this somewhat empty definition, I am a genius… But society should be the judge, not a formal IQ test. what is my standing unique gift to mankind? What is my creative power, in comparison to the great masters? I may have displayed some creative power – see e.g. my “Creating Stuff” webpage, but apart from two lovely children, my creations are not to be heralded by future generations as something magnificent. My PhD dissertation is probably the most important (scientific) contribution, which also has some creative power built in, but more importantly, this is the result of hard work and not genius. Earning a PhD is by no means unique anymore.

So, High IQ should not stand alone, clearly. It needs to be combined with other traits such as creativity or high skill performance, talent, and hard work. IQ and skill are not at all necessarily correlated. High IQ might even induce laziness on the poor soul getting a high raw score. Humility works better, I think.

Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Rebsdorf: A key turning point in my life was passing a Mensa test in 1993 at my first year as an astronomy and physics student at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. Passing the test transformed me from a low-achieving, near-suicidal, rather lonely and insecure young man into a higher-achieving, self-confident student with an increasing amount of self-respect.

I left the Mensa-club same year, though, and I distanced myself from the esoteric society by presenting my experience at social meetings as a botched taboo event not worth taking seriously. The Danish Mensa society was rather small at the time, and I even made fun of the people in the club and, immaturely, I called them losers. This judgement was perhaps partly due to my cultural background in terms of the infamous Law of Jante, but ultimately, the blame is clearly on me. As Seneca have allegedly and wisely stated, “When you judge, investigate.”

I still fail to remember what made me take the life-changing Mensa test back in 1993. For long, this has been a conundrum to me, as I didn’t regard myself to be neither intelligent, nor high-achieving or in any way particularly mentally capable at that time. For years after the test result, I kept telling myself that I had just rehearsed to becoming skilled at passing the test. I thought that I had simply managed to ‘cheat’ the test. But knowingly, I somehow unconsciously forgot the tremendous impact it had had on all my future performances in natural sciences, and an ensuing career of many different interesting employments with the guiding principle of increasing the scientific literacy in society.

Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of the past have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy – many, not all.

Rebsdorf: Their views have conflicted with

  • common zeitgeist (original composers like Arnold Schönberg or Karlheinz Stockhausen)
  • religious dogma (examples are legion, sadly, e.g. Giordiano Bruno and the Catholic Church, Galileo Galilei,… or e.g. the 1277 Condemnation of Aristotelianism), or
  • social/cultural norms (artists like painter Picasso, composer John Cage).

In addition, within scientific circles, of course breaking with scientific standard models/normal science have oftentimes resulted in expelling researchers from the scientific community, until a theory had proven strong enough to survive as a new paradigm.

Some examples of self-proclaimed new scientific paradigms are to be found in High IQ circles. One example is the so-called TDVP theory hailed by its own authors as a new paradigm. I have co-written a highly critical article about this – it is to be found at my research publication overview at ResearchGate. In this article, my cowriter and I discuss central aspects of “Triadic Dimensional-Distinction Vortical Paradigm” (TDVP) by Vernon Neppe and Edward Close. In my opinion, the scientific discipline of physics is the most important part of the study of reality (ontology), almost by definition. It appears that some of the most important premises in TDVP are incorrect. It follows that if the basic premises are wrong or meaningless, the whole “paradigm” must be considered to be wrong and meaningless. I question whether or not this proclaimed paradigm-changing framework, in fact, represents a scientific theory, whether the theory is meaningful and substantiated, or whether it is something else.

This is one example, I think, of the display of the lack of humility and perhaps even disrespect of the scientific profession within High IQ circles. The authors behind TDVP should not be the ones to claim the theory to be neither ground-breaking nor paradigmatic. This job is saved for the scientific community, the test of nature, and history. My, and others’, critical claims opposing their theory have been completely rejected by the authors, which is another clear display of their lack of understanding of the negotiation element of the scientific process. Enough about this. Just an example.

Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Rebsdorf: The canon of the greatest geniuses is easily googled. Figures like Goethe, Da Vinci, Galilei, Newton, Descartes, Kant, Einstein, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Donald Trump (pun intended) often heralded with a bit of envy by many aspiring intellectuals as the embodiment of their wettest dream: to make huge profit by means of mental capacity. Some other names:

– Georges Lemaître, cosmologist and priest, consciously embracing religion and rationality without mutually confusing of mixing the two incommensurables

– Jens Martin Knudsen, late Danish physicist and life-on-Mars-enthusiast

– Nicole Oresme, late French medieval natural philosopher, of whom I’ve written an article

– Ole Rømer, Danish discoverer of the speed of light, which should have been named after him

– Niels Bohr, for his creation of a creative research environment in the 1920’s leading to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

– Steward Brand, for his early premonition that we need to think on the long term

– Fjodor Dostojevskij, for his fictitious creativity and introspection and clear display of the human condition

– Thom Yorke: Iconoclastic and uniquely creative band leader with a faint singing voice yet rare composing ability

– Avishai Cohen: The most brilliant double bass virtuosi and composer of the present: Exceptional creative ability

– Donald Trump: A political genius. But only if you ask himself. In other words, who has got the right to define genius?

Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Rebsdorf: We need an unambiguous definition of the term genius first. Utilizing a thesaurus definition of genius, i.e. “exceptional intellectual or creative power of other natural ability,” the difference either stands out as pretty clear, or the opposite. It depends on your use of the logic “or” in the definition. So, having e.g. tested to be highly intelligent potentially puts a person in the pool of geniuses. Yet it might not be enough. Also, some display of unique creative power of other natural ability is required for the person to qualify. Unless you take the “or” literally. And then you can form a long list of geniuses by simply collecting the names of people with rare IQ test results. This has been done already and can be found on the website “World Genius Directory.” Once fascinated by this possibility, I also ended up on that list with a result of 160 SD15. Yet it is of course likely that my range is somewhere else. Perhaps below, perhaps above. No one knows for sure. And nobody really cares. So, in my view, a high IQ raw score is clearly not enough to qualify as a genius. You need some special super power, creative or other rare ability. Otherwise, how does e.g. great professional skill make a genius, like genius jazz players or classical music composers? Some cases might be found in the intersection between profound intelligence and rare creative ability. Mozart of Bach is a likely example, although we will never know their mental ability or intelligence quotient, will we?

More interestingly, a genius might just be a “truly great person.” My wife would be one of the best examples.

Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and educational certifications for you?

Rebsdorf: Do you mean passed formal exams and work experience? That’s all listed here:

Work

2020 –            Assistant Professor | VIA University College, Denmark

2017 – 20       Head of ESERO Denmark & Project Manager | House of Natural Sciences, Denmark

2017 – 20       Danish delegate representative | European Space Agency Advisory Committee on Education

2010 –            External University Examiner | Science & Technology Faculty, Aarhus University (AU)
– Philosophy and History of Science, Higher Science Education & Science Communication

2015-2017     Publishing Editor| Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark

2013-15         CCO (Chief Communications Officer) & Project Manager| House of Natural Sciences

2012-13         Communications Consultant| Regional Hospital Central Jutland

201011         Writing Consultant | Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

2008-12         Information Officer | International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems,
Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark
– Research communication and research coordination
– Secretary of ICROFS’ National Programme Committee in the period 2008-2010.

2007-08         High School Physics Teacher| Eux, Viborg, Denmark

2004-06         Postdoc| Centre for Science Education, Aarhus University

2001-04         PhD Graduate| Centre for Science Studies, Aarhus University

2000-01         Creative Idea Developer | Danish Technological Institute, Denmark
– Facilitating idea development, project management, advising inventors, negotiating with companies and inventors on intellectual property rights.

Education

2018              International Business Academy – IBA Kolding | Fundraising Manager
Academic Education in Communication and Dissemination: Fundraising & lobbying, strategic fundraising and partnerships, financing opportunities, financing, 10 ECTS, grade: A.

2014                NGO-Project Management | Project Management, Leadership, Coaching and Strategy
Practicing project management: Resource management, team management, conflict management, personal management, 10 ECTS, grade: A.

2008                Higher National Diploma in Journalism | Danish School of Media and Journalism
Media studies, press law and ethics, language in the media, journalistic idea development and research, journalistic dissemination, presentation techniques.

2004                Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Natural Sciences (Science Studies) | Science & Technology,

2001-2004     PhD Graduate| Centre for Science Studies, AU, Aarhus University

– The PhD project (Amazon) was a study of the development of astrophysics in the 20th
Century. Focusing on the Danish professor of astronomy Bengt Strömgren (1908-1987), in
the USA formerly known as “The Great Dane” amongst scientists, the dissertation is a
biographical study, investigating Strömgren’s life in science and the development of
astronomical and related fields. The project includes institutional and technological
developments and the international astronomical networks of scientists and science-
politicians. At the same time, it is a comparative study of two local contexts, the Danish and
American observatories and the scientific networks of the field of astrophysics.

2000                MSc in Physics | Science & Technology, AU
– Teaching skills of high school physics

1998    BSc in Physics | The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Rebsdorf: I have already embarked on this question above.

Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Rebsdorf: I belong to the agnostic and atheist branch, but certainly NOT anti-theist. The world need no more missionaries, religious or anti-religious. E.g. Richard Dawkins’ choir of non-believers is not productive. Mocking religious people is futile. Science and religion are incommensurable in the sense that a rational argument is given little weight by the faithful, and the religious narrative is given little weight by the rationalist. What we need is mutual respect – and the freedom to believe and think what we want, as long as it is not illegal, and as long as we can keep it to ourselves (or at least away from educational institutions) and stop brainwashing our offspring and the young generations.

I hope that my own children, now aged 8 and 10, will choose not to be baptized (most likely there is just one realistic alternative to choose from: the Christian Lutheran), but it is completely their own choice. I have shown them the world map of religions just to present the clear display of hefty cultural-geographical bias – and we have discussions about the roots and apparent needs of religion, the idea of god and the concept of creation ex nihilo, the humanly biased need for a primus motor and our dislike for infinity before and after the ever-flowing present moment. Kids love these kinds of subjects, if we hear them out.

Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Rebsdorf: Very much. Working for increasing the scientific literacy as well as the interest and motivation for science and technology has been a guiding principle and the core of my professional working life since 2000. It is important and meaningful to me. And science leads the ways when it comes to training critical thinking, a commodity in general decline. We need a new enlightenment.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Rebsdorf: Life-time member of a number of intellectual societies (links given) – a crazy collecting hobby of mine, mostly involving puzzle solving but also some (digital) socializing on online platforms. Below you have it all. So, long and not very interesting list:

≥ 160, SD 15:

[150; 160], SD 15:

[140;150], SD 15:

[132; 140], SD 15:


< 132, SD 15:

Numericore test result.

Jacobsen: What is the range of the scores for you? The scores earned on alternative intelligence tests tend to produce a wide smattering of data points rather than clusters, typically.

Rebsdorf: See above. In short: 132 < X < 161 (SD 15)

Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Rebsdorf: I am not sure how to interpret this question.

If you mean which established (or home-spun) moral philosophies that I tend to cling to, then perhaps – and somewhat surprisingly to many – a selection of the fundamental tenets formulated in modern satanism (Yes, but in an iconoclastic version completely devoid of the ridiculous biblical embodiment of evil named Satan) combined with Kant’s moral philosophy are good picks. Philosophical ethical ideas could thus be turned into human virtuous practice by including the message of the following inspiring moral principles:

  • Deontology and Virtue: The rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty, the categorical imperative
  • Benificense, Least Harm (what is right and good): One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason. Not only existing creatures, but also past and future, unborn creatures (the lack of action on a basis of empathy for unborn generations is one of the greatest challenges of our time, technologically as well as ethically, I believe)
  • Nature: As completely dependent – and intricate parts of – Nature all humans should strive to act accordingly with respect and humility
  • Justice: The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions. Still, we need to abide to the law, national and international
  • Respect for Autonomy: The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend (and take the consequences). To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own. Respect different views of virtue.
  • Human Knowledge Morality: One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs
  • Human Fallibility: People are fallible. Of one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.

Some very important virtues and imperatives are also found in many religions, but in my view that to some extent include messages comparable to the above practical working tenets.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Assistant Professor, VIA University College.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 15). Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Assistant Professor Simon Olling Rebsdorf on Background, Work, Philosophy, and High-IQ Societies: Assistant Professor, VIA University College (1) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rebsdorf-1.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,215

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Gulalai Ismail is a Co-Founder of Aware Girls. She has been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Anna Politkovskaya Award, and recognized as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 by Foreign Policy. She discusses: reportage in North Waziristan; most dangerous person in Pakistan; Pashtun Tahafuz Movement; human rights and humanitarian law; freethinkers; most dangerous woman; and a lifelong commitment.

Keywords: Aware Girls, freethinkers, Gulalai Ismail, human rights, North Waziristan,  Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted April 24, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You did some rights work and reportage in North Waziristan looking at the cases of women who were raped or sexually assaulted by security forces of Pakistan. What were some of those findings? And what was some of the protest you gave over those acts of the police forces? Also, what was the reaction of the police force or the state forces?

Gulalai Ismail[1],[2]: It was January 2009, when I saw a video on the internet. It was a video of a small boy. Maybe, he was 11 years old. His name was Hayat. In that video, the young boy was saying that he was from North Waziristan. He was saying that his brothers had been picked up months ago by security agencies. However, their home was continually barged into by the security forces. He mother was harassed regularly. He was so fed up with it. When this video came out, there was a lot of anger about the issue of harassment by security force. The security forces tried to shut down the woman. They tried to claim this was a lie, etc. The mother of the little boy, she presented herself in a local council meeting with local elders. She gave a testimony. She said, ‘It is true.’ She is regularly getting harassed by security forces. Home is regularly getting barged into by security forces. Her husband and son have already been taken by the security agencies, as in missing persons. Victims of forced disappearances. A s women’s rights activist, I felt a responsibility. When she spoke about sexual harassment, in a tribal area, where women do not have access to public spaces, where there are not enough schools and the literacy rate is really low with women’s less than 10%, they do not have access to media. There is not internet.

The government has still not given the right of the internet to people of Waziristan. There is not internet over there. It is a complete information blackout area. A woman who is so brave and courageous stood and spoke out against sexual harassment. As a women’s rights activist, I felt a responsibility to go visit her and show solidarity with her. To tell her, she is not alone. I, along with other women activists, I went there to meet her. When we went there, dozens of women came to see us. We were told a number of stories of sexual harassment by the security forces. Also, some of the women claim that some women have been abducted aby security forces. Those women have never been given back. They have not been returned to their families. We got to know the story of the woman who was part of a later incident. It was a policy of the state security agencies. It happened regularly. It was a common policy. The women from the area, it is such a taboo for a woman to be in public spaces all around Pakistan. Every woman in Pakistan is not comfortable to be on media. They are not even allowed by the men in the community and the family to be on the internet or to give any interview. This one woman was very brave. She had a small piece of paper with 25 lines on it. She said that she wanted to give the media an interview. Her husband had been picked up by the security agencies. The security forces keep barging into her home. They come and harass her every time. She drew one line on this paper for every incident. She had this paper with 25 lines marking every time of the harassment by the security forces.

This helps us know sexual harassment is either a policy or the security forces keep on enjoying immunity for the crimes committed against women in the areas, where they are engaged in military operations. Of course, in Pakistan, the mainstream media is not allowed to cover any issues in which people are critical of the Pakistani military. Also, the mainstream media is not allowed to give coverage to any activist of the movement known as Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. We were not given coverage. The story was not given coverage on any mainstream media. Of course, there are some channels like Voice of America or Europe Radio, which gave coverage to the story and gave voice to the issue. We also wrote letters to the international commission on the status of women to take notice of it. To make sure justice is done, the reconciliation commission should be established. Nothing was done. Instead, activists who went there. I went there. I started experiencing harassment by state authorities. A few days later, I was arrested from a protest. We were doing a protest against the murder of a peace activist. Right from there, I was arrested. We were all arrested, who were doing the protest. I was made a missing person. I was kept incommunicado for almost 48 hours, for two days. My family did not know where I had been kept. No one was given any access to counsel, to a lawyer. Soon after it, the crackdown started against me, which never ended. I was released. Even then, I was released only after immense international pressure. Even after the release, the crackdown did not stop.

Then when I highlighted the issue again in May of 2019, I highlighted the issue when protesting against the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl in Islamabad, which is the capital of Pakistan. We were protesting this. She was raped and murdered by someone in the neighbourhood. The police had not lodged a complaint of the girl gone missing. When the girl had gone missing, they went to the police to find their girl and file a complaint. The police refused to take the complaint, ‘She must have eloped with someone. So, we won’t take the case.’ A few days later, she was found dead and raped. Then the hospitals were not even willing to do her post-mortem. So, a protest was happening. Civil society was doing a protest against it. In the protest, I highlighted the issues of sexual harassment in North Waziristan. [Laughing] For that, I was booked under a case or clauses under the anti-terrorism laws of Pakistan for defaming Pakistan military and for promoting ethnic violence, for engaging in treason, which is a life sentence. I do not know what they would have done if they had arrested me. Soon after the speech, I became the most wanted terrorist in Pakistan. I was highlighted as a terrorist, as someone who is a terrorist. Soon, they started raiding our homes. The digital surveillance was started. My parents were under digital surveillance. The raids were not any raids.

We are talking dozens of commandoes and police who raid our homes, check our homes, every corner of the home, harassing my sister and siblings and parents who were home; they took our mobile phones. We had CCTV cameras installed in our home. Those were taken from our home. Every few weeks, our home would be raided as if it were the home of the biggest terrorist or the headquarters of the biggest terrorist organization in Pakistan. Similar raids were done on my relatives’ homes. Soon, we got to know. My name was put on some state kill list. I was on a blacklist. Before that, my name was added on some personal special interest list. I used to be investigated, interrogated, by the counter-terrorism department of the special investigation agency of Pakistan. It was non-stop for more than a year. It has been a non-stop harassment by the state. I risked disappearances, booking me in cases of terrorism. It has been crazy. The past one-and-a-half year has been really crazy.

Jacobsen: If stated to Pakistan as the most dangerous person, let alone women but person, in the country, many people know the name and know the purported crime. I would assume statements were made in public by them, about you, about then movement you are involved with, or about your organization. If any, if my assumption is correct, what were they?

Ismail: The movement has always been presented very negatively in the mainstream media because the mainstream media is not allowed to invite us or members of the movement. They discuss us. They portray us as traitors. In April, it was the 29th of 2020. The director of the ISBR, the media public relations wing of Pakistan military. The director or the spokesperson of the Pakistan military, he did a press conference and threated the PT movement saying, ‘The time is up for the PT movement. It is time for action.’ His famous sentence, “The time is up for PTF.” Shortly after the press conference and the statement about strict action taken against us, and we’ve crossed the red line and will not be tolerated anymore, many videos emerged online on YouTube saying, “The time is up for Gulalai,‘ and two others. This was the kind of statements that were given about us. They were always threatening and outrageous statements against our basic rights, our fundamental rights. Besides this, when I was still in hiding because of the situation created for me, my life was at risk. Imran Kahn was visiting the United States. He was giving a speech in the United States Institute of Peace. He was asked about me and the crackdown about me. He started using the question as an excuse to promote more propaganda against the movement. He did not answer the question and promoted more propaganda against us over there.

One of the unfortunate situations for us is the political leadership have not come forward. In a way, they should have come forward in support of the movement. They have not come forward against the crackdown against us, in the way they should have come down against the crackdown against us. The political parties did not take a strong stand in support of the movement because, in Pakistan, the elections are engineered b the Pakistan military agency. Anyone critical of the military agency are afraid that they will not win and will not be able to get into the Parliament. They do not put themselves in trouble by questioning, or issuing support in solidarity with people like me or the movement. It is unfortunate. If there was any talk, then it was negative and only negative statements of propaganda.

Jacobsen: For the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, what is the history there? Of course, you have Pashtun heritage. However, in Pakistan, this is a particularly sensitive issue. One, as you have noted, among many others with some overlap and, in other ways, not. What is the status of the movement? What is the trajectory?

Ismail: The history of the movement is after 9/11, the militant organizations started to organization in the Northwest of Pakistan. The state let them organize. The state hesitated and let them have access to resources because they were a strategic asset of Pakistan. They tried to establish Islamic state in Pakistan. They were killing people, even attacking the government institutes. Military operations started against them. Many more military opens have been dozen affecting millions of people. Millions of people are displaced from their homes. Most of them were displaced on very short notice. Not enough support was provided to the people who were displaced. They were not even given the label of Internally Displaced people. Because when you are given the label, the certain rights apply to IDPs, Pakistan avoided it, even called Intermittently Displaced People., or ITTPs or something to prevent them from having rights of displaced people. Thousands of families, even today, are living in those camps. They are not able to return to their homes. The camps were more like concentration camps. They are guarded by the military, the Pakistani military. They are not controlled by civilians. The civil society is not allowed to enter the camps and meet with the people inside the camps. Political parties are not even allowed to visit these camps. Only the military controls it. Landmines were used, which are against international law. No landmines, no excuse can be used to fill whole villages with landmines, even if you are doing a military operation. However, dozens of people have lost their lives. Dozens have people have been disabled because of the landmines.

Then extrajudicial killing is another phenomenon that emerged. Extrajudicial killing was done not just in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but all over Pakistan. When killed extrajudicially, they would be labelled “terrorists” rather than be given a free and fair trial. Hundreds of them were killed in fake police encounters. They were not real police encounters. They would be abducted, tortured, and killed, and the dumped, and then a fake police operation or encounter would be staged. Then the this would be labelled the “terrorist running away, so he was killed by the state.” Most were killed extrajudicially and were innocent people who do not have any link with a terrorist organization. Thousands of innocent people were killed extrajudicially. If you look at the whole military set of operations, not a single leader of these terrorist organizations was killed in these military operations. Who were these people? These were never shared with the public. Who were these terrorists who were killed? How did the Pakistani military come to the conclusion that this person was a terrorist? No kind of information was given to this day. No one knows, never even names have been given, the information has not even been given to the Parliament. There is one parliamentarian who belongs to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.

He has raised questions in the Parliament. He asked the Defense Department to give him the list of the terrorists killed in military operations because more than a dozen have been done. He wants the list. Not even the list of names of people has been provided. Similarly, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearances became a big phenomenon. Most of the people, even if someone is not innocent, you cannot make them a victim of enforced disappearance. So, thousands of people became victims of enforced disappearances. They are brought internment centers. They are not given the right to a free and fair trial. They are not given the right to access family. They are not given the right to access to a lawyer. Once someone has gone missing, I have met families whose family members are missing for years, for 10 years, for 14 years. They do not know where they have gone. Enforced disappearance is another issue with targeted killings too. The local head witness and the Pakistan military, itself, has allowed terrorist organizations organize in their villages and to kill the local people. No action will be taken against the terrorist organizations, except in the name of military organizations crimes were committed. All of the human rights abuses were committed by Pakistan state military during the war against terror.

Jacobsen: With the lack of transparency with the public comes the basis for a lack of accountability to the public and to the international community, especially around human rights and humanitarian law, what is the status of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Pakistan?

Ismail: If you speak about the tribal areas of Pakistan, then there is complete informational blackout. There is no T.V. There is only in some parts where you can listen to radio. No T.V. and no internet, the Pakistani government and the Prime Minister of Pakistan speaks so much about the lockdown of Kashmir. He speaks so much against the shutdown of internet in Kashmir. In the tribal areas of Pakistan, this has been like this forever. I do not if internet was ever even given to the trial areas of Pakistan. So, there is complete informational blackout in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In the rest of Pakistan, the situation for freedom of expression is really difficult. It is dire. There is no freedom of expression for voices of dissent. People who are dissidents. People who think differently; people who are critical of the state policy. In Pakistan, only religious clerics has freedom of expression. Only terrorist organizations have freedom of expression. Only banned terrorist organizations have freedom of expression. Human rights activists and common people do not have freedom of expression. IF they dare to use freedom of expression, like my father, then they are booked for cases for terrorism or cybercrime. The cybercrime case filed against his because he has been accused of speaking against the government. In the whole civilized world, you would not put someone in prison because they are being critical of the government. The FIR of my father says that he has been charged for cybercrime because he has speaking against the government. So, the regressive laws like cybercrimes laws and anti-terrorism laws of Pakistan are used against voices of dissent. I am not the only dissident. I am not the only human rights activist who had to flee the country to save my life. Many dissidents have to flee the country, to leave the country, to save their lives. There is a huge community where so many people had to leave Pakistan because it was no longer safe for them living in Pakistan. It was because of their political opinions. They were no longer tolerated in Pakistan for their political opinions.

Jacobsen: How many cases of humanists and others of a similar freethinker stripe, given the information blackout when bad things happen to them, whether injury, death, or otherwise, simply go unnoticed via the information blackout?

Ismail: I do not know how many cases go unreported, Scott, to be honest; because if there is no information, I don’t know the real figures. However, based on the religious fundamentalism and the support militants have enjoyed, I am sure many cases go unreported. The data available, I am sure this is unrepresentative and the persecution by state authorities and by the community is much greater.

Jacobsen: Are you still considered the most dangerous woman from Pakistan?

Ismail: Well [Laughing]…

Jacobsen: …[Laughing]…

Ismail: …just last week, Pakistan submitted an appeal in the court asking to cancel the appeal of my father, as he was booked on a cybercrime case. He is on bail now. But Pakistan is trying to cancel the bail of him. He has been tortured and persecuted because he is my father. In January when my mother received a letter, she is on the Exit Control List. This is based on my being the most dangerous person in Pakistan.

Jacobsen: This title, the most dangerous woman in Pakistan, whether a formal title or informally implied, is going to follow you for the rest of your life. This is not something that just goes away.

Ismail:  Yes, I think those who are ready for war. Those who support terrorism. Patriarchal institutions too, I am glad that they see me as the most dangerous person.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ismail: They should be really, really afraid that, now, they have a strong woman who is out there to expose their agenda [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ismail: She will not sit back. Until, they are all held accountable. I am glad that they think I am dangerous.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Co-Founder, Aware Girls.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 15). Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismakil-3>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, North Waziristan, and Being the Most Dangerous Person in Pakistan: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (3) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-3.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Conversation with Uwe Michael Neumann (1)

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,919

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Gulalai Ismail is a Co-Founder of Aware Girls. She has been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Anna Politkovskaya Award, and recognized as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 by Foreign Policy. She discusses: faith, misogyny, and uplifting women; science, religion, and the status quo in Pakistan; Aware Girls and Saba Ismail; and extremist organizing.

Keywords: Aware Girls, extremists, faith, Gulalai Ismail, Humanism, Islam, misogyny, Pakistan, religion, Saba Ismail, science, Zia-ul-Haq.

Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted April 24, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In some cultures where there is some of the more extreme forms of violence against women and girls, where we see genital mutilation, infibulation, and clitoridectomy, it is mixed up between culture and faith.

How are forms of explicit misogyny in practice – let alone an attitude – reflected in religious values and in cultural values? On the other side, which religious and cultural values appear to uplift women in Pakistan?

Gulalai Ismail[1],[2]: Very interesting question, religion, Islam, has been part of our cultures and every community for hundreds of years. It has mixed with the local culture. So, faith and culture are very strongly linked with each other. I think faith is part of the culture. It is one sub-part of the culture.

They are strongly linked to each other. The religion has changed a lot. It has influenced in so many ways. Faith has influenced and shaped the culture, the festivals, the community activities. In Pakistan, especially in the Northwest of Pakistan, I have seen – and my parents have seen – how regularly the religious fundamentalists took up more political space.

They gained more political space and gained more cultural space. So, the cultural events, the cultural festivals, were declared by the religious clerics as non-Islamic and bad. They were banned or abandoned by the people under the influenced of the religious extremists.

So many cultural events and cultural activities, which used to happen a decade ago, or two or three decades ago, they used to happen; they are not happening now. All the faith-based festivals or mostly faith-based festivals are happening now.

Even some of the cultural events have still survived, however, they are always under attack. People from the agricultural communities, especially from the Punjab, would come together and fly kites.

They would sing. They would dance. They would fly kites. Now, the festival is under attack by state actors and by the religious fundamentalists calling this un-Islamic and part of Hindu culture. Therefore, they should not celebrate it.

Pakistan is such a diverse country because many nations live in Pakistan. Every nation has their own culture. So, sometimes, the festivals are very beautiful. The languages are very beautiful. Not much has been done by the state authorities to preserve the culture and the music.

There is only one federal institute alongside the Pakistan National Council of the Arts at the federal level. These are the two state institutes, federal level institutions, working to preserve languages, music, and culture. They are just two institutes.

There is not much at the state or the culture level to preserve the beautiful parts of the culture because, in Pakistan, the resources is linked to the polices. Pakistan is a country where the resources are invested heavily in defense and security.

On the whole, it is promoting the narrative that Pakistan is a security state. The money is spent on the manta that we are under attack by India and Israel, and the Jews, are conspiring against us; India is conspiring against us. We are under attack on all sides.

Therefore, we need a stronger security and more investment in defense. So, much of the money is spent on tanks, bombs, on the nuclear bomb, education in our curriculum, children are not taught about the music, the heritage, the diversity. They are mostly taught about religion. You will find religion in English course books.

You will find religion in Pakistan study books [Laughing]. You will find religion in Islam study books. You will find religion in Urdu study books. Religion is studied so much in Pakistan. Religion and religious intolerances are taught as the thinking for the kids in education.

Religion has been a huge space in the cultural and political life. Look at the corona pandemic, in the midst of the corona pandemic, every country of the world is asking its people and issuing guidelines to stay at home. The countries are on lockdown.

The whole world is under lockdown. The governments are asking people only to come out for necessities. Only on necessities is business ongoing. During the month of Ramadan, the month of Ramadan has started.

When it starts, even countries like Saudi Arabia, which I think is [Laughing] the epitome of a religious country, when Saudi Arabia mentions the closing of the mosques during the month of Ramadan, people have to stay at home.

The Kaaba is one of the holiest places for Muslims. It has been closed down due to the coronavirus. In Pakistan, the president invited the delegation of religious clerics before the month of Ramadan started. They had twenty demands from the government.

The twenty demands were the mosques must remain open for prayers and prayers much continue. All demands were accepted by the government. It was announced the mosques would remain open for Ramadan prayers during the month of Ramadan. That is a very dangerous president.

Pakistan does not have accessible healthcare. We have a very bleak healthcare system. If the pandemic hit us the way it has hit countries like the U.S. or Europe, then Pakistan will be seeing dead bodies on the roads. Because our healthcare system cannot afford it.

We do not have a strong healthcare system, even the strongest healthcare systems are breaking down in the pandemic. We do not have a system. The government of Pakistan, they agreed to the demands of the religious clerics at the cost of lives of the people.

During the corona pandemic, when all over the world, the media channels are inviting either the mayors, governors, who are giving briefings to people, and the doctors and medical experts. They are coming and giving information on it.

In Pakistan, every media is bringing religious leaders to talk about corona pandemic. Too much media, public space has been given to religious elements at the cost of the lives of people, at the cost of the destruction of the society of Pakistan.

Jacobsen: The former Nobel Prize winner Abdus Salam noted one thing to Steven Weinberg who he collaborated with in the past. He noted that an individual who is in many Middle Eastern countries with Muslim heritage. They will very easily and widely accept the technological and technical masteries that are brought about by science. All of the technological marvels and wonders that one can see implemented in Dubai or in the United Arab Emirates in general, or elsewhere. At the same time, the attitude and thought process of science that brings about the findings through that methodology. Those, he noted, were very, very hard to bring to a wide audience because the religious leaders and some of the political leaders saw this, in essence, as a threat. This is according to Steven Weinberg. In that, this would be an erosive or corrosive force on fundamentalist ideologies. How is this reflected in some of the Pakistan? Not only in the press briefing with religious clerics, but also in the attitudes of the public towards technology, on the one hand, and science as an attitude, a methodology, and a set of findings, on the other.

Ismail: In Pakistan, religion has been used in so many different ways for the benefit of maintaining status quo. It goes back to the history of Pakistan. For example, in Pakistan, if you raise the question, “What does it mean to be a Pakistani?” Who are you when you say you are Pakistani? In Pakistan, the Pakistani identity has been made synonymous with being Muslim and to Islam. It has roots in the subcontinent of India. Pakistan was made for Muslims. It was a country to be made for Muslims or in the name of Islam. Religion was made for the subdivision of the Indian subcontinent in the first place. Also, it was made to define what is meant by a Pakistani. That is why you can see how religion slowly, and gradually, took a huge part in the constitution of Pakistan. Pakistan was formed in 1947, but many years later in 1956 when the first constitution was formed; Pakistan was given the name the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” The Preamble of the Pakistan Constitution is known as the Objective Resolution. It says, ‘This country made in the name of Islam. The country will be ruled according to Islam.’ According to the Objective Resolution, people are not sovereign units of the country. God is the most sovereign. God is the most sovereign entity. The Objective Resolution was about how it Islamic the whole country. Slowly and gradually, religion was used by religious political parties. The same religious political parties who initially opposed the formation of Pakistan. After the formation of Pakistan, those religious political parties started using religion to gain more access to politics to have more say in the decision-making.

So, religion was mainstreamed by those religious political parties. The political parties and the military dictators were the biggest users of the religion. Zia-ul-Haq was a military dictator. His justification for overthrowing democracy and establishing a military dictatorship was Islam. He started the Islamization of Pakistan. He Islamized the laws of the country. To this day, we have not been able to recover from the Islamization of Zia-ul-Haq. He was the one who introduced many Islamic laws, which we are still part of the laws of Pakistan. They are still used. Sharia courts were established. The religious leaders have been given a role in the judiciary in the form of Sharia courts. Similarly, there is a religious council, an advisory religious council, which gives advice to the Parliament (of Pakistan). The only time the Parliament consults the religious council is when the Parliament has to legislate about women’s rights. The only time the Parliament thinks that they need to counsel these advisors is for women’s rights. Women are at the receiving end of the mainstreaming of religion in Pakistan. As I said, it has been used by Pakistan military. Then religion has been used for the strategic interests. The military establishment of Pakistan along with the political parties have used religion as a strategic asset. For example, when Pakistan had been supporting Taliban in Afghanistan. Religion was used to recruit people for Jihad.

There are hundreds of madrassahs, hundreds of jihad training institutions, founded all over Pakistan, so people could be brainwashed and trained for jihad in Afghanistan. The school curriculums were changed all over Pakistan. More religion was inserted in the curriculum. The narratives of jihad could be promoted. They are still part of the curriculum. Those jihad materials are still part of the curriculum. So, religion has been used by the military establishment and the political parties. They have been using religion to enjoy more control at the cost of destroying the social fabric of the society. As I said to you, religion is a big part of the curriculum; so, critical thinking skills are not part of the curriculum. People are never given – children, young people – the skills to criticize, to question. Criticism or raising questions, the whole school culture in built in a way that students are discouraged from raising questions. Students are not encouraged to raise questions; they are discouraged from raising questions and from critical thinking skills. So, religion has been used to maintain status quo in Pakistan. Throughout the previous decades, the military establishment, and mainstream political parties, have mainstreamed religious political parties. Most of the terrorist organizations in Pakistan. They try to emerge in the form of political parties. They run their election campaigns. They secure a huge amount; they will not be able to make it to the Parliament, but they secure a huge number of votes.

Jacobsen: When you founded Aware Girls, was it 16?

Ismail: Yes, I was 16.

Jacobsen: A co-founder with Saba (Ismail), what were some discussions that you can recall between Saba and you?

Ismail: While living in a girl while we were witnessing, even becoming victims, to the gender discrimination, we really wanted to do something to change it. One of my cousins was almost our age when she wanted to become a pilot. She was taken out of school and married to a person in the family who was almost twice her age. It was a time when we were very shocked and traumatized how one of our own cousins could be taken out of school and not be given the opportunity to go to school and pursue her dreams. This was the breaking point for us. We could not do anything. We discussed this a lot with our families. No one would listen to these two small girls who were discontented with the cousin’s marriage. We could not do anything to stop the marriage. We wanted to do something. So, it would not happen to any other woman. We talked to women and girls in our neighbourhood, in our schools. Most of the time, when we would discuss this with girls, we would not find a lot of interest among the girls. [Laughing] Starting a revolution against the gender discrimination, most of the girls had internalized it. I think the discrimination is internalized as a defense mechanism. We were these young girls. We thought, “These young girls are not allowed to make a movement, to resist against Patriarchy. Because they are not aware of their rights.” We decided to start by giving them education and awareness of their human rights. We started this campaign with the name of “Aware Girls.” It was a campaign to give girls awareness and education on their rights.

Once in our head, the idea, ‘Once they are aware of their rights and have some leadership skills, they will be able to speak up for their rights. We would go and the girls would have discussions about the issues faced in their daily lives. The kind of discrimination aced by them. What can be done, how they can negotiate for themselves inside of the home in their families for their rights, how to negotiate their rights, that is how it started. Once we started, of course, the more we learned. It is not just about lack of knowledge with the young girls. It is about lack of opportunities, lack of platforms, and about a conducive environment. Girls need a conducive environment to exercise their human rights. It needs supportive families. It needs supportive communities. It needs a state there for young girls to protect their rights. We got involved in advocacy work. We were working on changing the laws. We were working on leadership skills for girls in leadership. In 2009, we started working on peacebuilding after the region was threatened with terrorism and recruitments by the Taliban or by the militant organizations.

Jacobsen: How do terrorist organizations, extremist organizations, encourage men into their ranks, women into their ranks? And how do those men and women who end up in them become slotted to particular roles?

Ismail: The recruitment was started by the state. When they wanted to recruit people for jihad. The number of madrassahs were increased, and the number of terrorist institutes were founded. The media was used by the state. The media was sued to promote the narrative, the extremist narratives. The curriculum was used. In Pakistan, most of the people have been indoctrinated with a fundamentalist form of Islam. It is really easy for militant organizations and for terrorist organizations to identify the most vulnerable in the community and to reach out and recruit them. The madrassah training centers have been used to recruit people. Most of the time, these are the centers for recruitment. Mosques have been used. These militant organizations’ leadership, even until now, visit mosques and introduce themselves. They ask people to come and down join them. They have been given a lot of power to do huge political gatherings. Even last year, there was a huge political gathering of banned terrorist organizations, where they asked people. They took bait. They took promises of people offering for them to join jihad. They do huge public gatherings. They recruit people through mosques and religious madrassahs. Also, they recruit people who are vulnerable, who have different issues, who like the idea of war, who like the idea of weapons, or who like the ideas of jihad.

Also, they recruit through community. There are a number of women madrassahs. Most of the women have been recruited through those religious madrassahs. For example, there was a very famous case, where a madrassah teacher was going to join ISIS along with more than a dozen students of the madrassah. She was arrested and brought. It is not just mosques and religious schools. It is, as I said, generally through community and online recruitment is done and social media is used. Our public schools are good enough to indoctrinate people. There was a very famous case a few years back when a student from medical college. She was a student of medical college. She was recruited online for ISIS. Then she was brought back. This was how we got to know of the incident. Women are recruited are online from public universities, and from religious schools. The militant organizations have a huge network. Their network is limited to universities, schools. They have networks in the bureaucracy as well. They are in the military of Pakistan as well. Even within the military of Pakistan, you could see. People have been indoctrinated with the idea of jihad. It is real. Therefore, they should go for jihad. Almost every part of the society has their network, their people.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Co-Founder, Aware Girls.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 8). Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Gulalai Ismail on Zia-ul-Haq, Misogyny, Religion, Faith, Science, and Pakistani Politics: Co-Founder, Aware Girls (2) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/gulalai-ismail-2.

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Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on: Member, World Genius Directory (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,013

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Mr. Sudarshan Murthy is a Member of the World Genius Directory. He self-describes as follows: “My name is Sudarshan Murthy. I am 41 years old male from Bangalore, India. I have studied Master of Pharmacy and working in the research and development of Nutrition Products for general wellness and disease-specific products. I am a creative individual and published research papers in journals and also published books on appropriate strategies for curing acidity and ulcers of the stomach and intestine. I have developed a product called Glucovita Bolts which is a chewable tablet of Glucose and Vitamins and Minerals for energy and reduction of fatigue. This product can be taken by individuals who suffer from chronic fatigue. My hobbies are numismatics, philately and travelling. My interests are astronomy, reading books, solving IQ tests, understanding the secrets of ancient knowledge particularly Indian Vedas which I believe is a storehouse of profound knowledge on various aspects of life and the cosmos.” He discusses: grandfather; proposed medicines; importance of education; missing out on meeting with close relatives; education; innate ingenuity; Mysterium; theories or ideas; Newton; Leonardo Da Vinci; Sushrutha; Bhaskaracharya; “deep observation”; the mind of a genius; the more promising paths; order; the disagreements among “different religions”; scientific principles; eternal mysteries; rule utilitarianism; situational ethics; politics; tripartite metaphysical formulation; and societies.

Keywords: Bhaskaracharya, family, genius, Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, metaphysics, order, Rule Utilitarianism, Situational Ethics, Sudarshan Murthy, Sushrutha.

Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: As your grandfather was illiterate and living in a village without formal education, your story seems like one of triumph in spite of the circumstances. Why did he study Ayurvedic by himself?

Mr. Sudarshan Murthy[1],[2]*: My Grandfather was an orphan. He was in a small village. He then came to the city in search of a job. When he came here he was taken into the shelter by an elderly gentleman who was an Ayurvedic physician. He took my grandfather as an office boy for his clinic. My grandfather was having sharp intellect. He developed an interest in medicines and gradually became a compounder and then finally started to understand the medicines and Ayurveda under his master’s guidance. As the master’s children were not interested in Ayurveda the master started teaching Ayurveda to my grandfather. My grandfather took a keen interest in this and then started his own clinic. Since he became well-versed in Ayurveda he started developing his own medicines.

Jacobsen: What were some of the proposed medicines by your grandfather?

Murthy: He developed Ayurvedic medicines for memory, hairfall, diarrhea and high fever. He was doing clinical trials on medicines for children’s health when he suddenly expired.

Jacobsen: Between the home life, the surgeon, the doctor, and the electrical engineer, what is the importance of education within the family?

Murthy: I personally believe that education is important to get formal accreditation to start our professional practice but everything depends on our ability to apply our knowledge in our chosen education to be successful in our life. Education, by itself, cannot guarantee success in life. It is the innate ability and ingenuity which is required to succeed in our life. There are many such examples. Baba Ramdev from India who started Patanjali Ayurved became a Rs.10000 Crore company in a span of 6 years which many multinational companies have failed to achieve. He is having no formal Ayurvedic education. He is now invited to IIT and IIM to coach students on how to achieve success in life.

Jacobsen: Do you regret missing out on meeting with close relatives in a different start when younger?

Murthy: Yes I feel bad that I was not able to meet and stay with close relatives during my younger days when intimate relationships do form and stay long-lasting. Now I am not having any close relationship which helps to build emotional strength. This makes me feel lonely and insecure.

Jacobsen: Why pursue the education in pharmacy, business administration, food and nutrition, writing, and the sciences regarding clinical trials?

Murthy: I am crazy as far as education is concerned. I am interested to learn a variety of knowledge, especially in medical field. But only technical knowledge is not sufficient to progress in life but it requires business sense also so I studied business administration.

Jacobsen: Why are internal qualities of “innate ingenuity” so often unseen or unobserved without a formal test, even by the person with the innate ingenuity? It seems counterintuitive at first blush.

Murthy:I think that the world is based on the principle of “what you see is what you believe” and every person is also framed like that. We don’t believe ourselves till we see what we have done. This is a problem with genius people. They don’t believe themselves till others make them see what they have done.

Jacobsen: Is Mysterium still extant?

Murthy: I saw the group on facebook. Mr. Monte Washburn is the admin. The name is “Mysterium Society”.

Jacobsen: Do you have any particular theories or ideas that you’re trying to advance?

Murthy: I don’t have any particular theories or ideas to advance. I believe any theory which is made for common good without exploitation.

Jacobsen: What makes Newton one of the great historical geniuses, in character and in productions?

Murthy: Newton is great because he first observed the theory of gravity operating in the earth by observing and thinking why did apple fall on the ground why did it not go up. As I mentioned before this quality of profound observation is what makes a person genius.

Of course his three laws of motion and various other inventions make him one of the greatest historical geniuses.

Jacobsen: What makes Leonardo Da Vinci one of the great historical geniuses, in character and in productions?

Murthy: The same argument which I put forth for Newton applies here also. Many people know about him and his various inventions but what I admire in him is that he could write with both hands and he could write the words /sentences in their mirror image as well simultaneously. This shows his profound imagination and his ability to visualize the mirror image without actually seeing in mirror. This is an extraordinary quality of usage of his mind.

Jacobsen: What makes Sushrutha one of the great historical geniuses, in character and in productions?

Murthy: Sushrutha is considered the first surgeon of India. He was so brilliant that he could actually fit the nose to a person who had lost his nose. In those olden times, he could perform surgery when knowledge of medical science was not so advanced. This makes him one of the historical geniuses of India. Some even say that he could perform cloning and also able to fit one animal’s body part into humans. Even today we don’t know how this can be done without eliciting organ rejection by the body.

Jacobsen: What makes Bhaskaracharya one of the great historical geniuses, in character and in productions?

Murthy: Bhaskaracharya was an ancient Indian mathematician and astronomer who is said to have discovered gravity much before Newton. He is also known for developing various mathematical equations on algebra, geometry and trigonometry. His achievements can be found on google search. This makes him one of the historical geniuses of his time.

Jacobsen: Can “deep observation” be trained, or is it more innate?

Murthy: I believe deep observation can be trained.

Jacobsen: What explains the level of creativity in the “application of ideas that originates from the mind of a genius”?

Murthy: Let me give you an example of the Wright brothers. Every human being saw the birds flying in the air on an almost daily basis. But it was the minds of the Wright brothers who thought why humans can’t fly. This gave them the idea of designing a machine like a bird having wings that can be used to fly off humans. The result we see today is the aeroplane.

This shows that geniuses can convert the ideas into reality, i.e., they not only get ideas but also know how to apply them as well.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more promising paths for the “various medical and nutrition products in the healthcare industry”?

Murthy: Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”. This explains that the food that we eat should be healthy and suitable for our body and mind. Also, the medicine should be in the form of food and not be a separate entity which we take only when we fall sick. The ultimate meaning I believe is that food is healthy to our body and mind i.e.it should make our body and mind fit and should act as medicine to ensure we do not fall sick. The junk foods and synthetic medicines of today are not healthy. They do harm our body in some way or the other. Many medicines are not without side effects.

Jacobsen: Why can “such order” not “happen on its own”?

Murthy: This is a mystery to me. If we the events around us happening or happened in the past it becomes clear that order did not happen on its own. This is because nature is always in the process of change. The process of constant change does not allow the order to happen on its own. For example, seasons change so do the flowering pattern and birds migration. This changes the order. Some plants bloom in winter while some die. Some viruses become active in winter while some lie dormant or die.

Jacobsen: What do you make the disagreements among “different religions” on the aspects, form, and interactions with humanity, even representations to human beings, of “this supreme intelligence” called “God”?

Murthy: There is a story about 7 blind men describing the elephant in seven different ways. All of them are partly true but none correctly describing the elephant as it is. This is what applies to different religions representing the supreme intelligence in their own ways without any knowing correct representation of God. The religions still today is similar to the blind men describing an elephant, partly correct but not wholly true.

Jacobsen: What scientific principles most intrigue you?

Murthy: One scientific principle that intrigues me and also teaches me that all are created equal is the free fall principle. When two or more objects of different masses are allowed to fall freely at the same time from a similar height they fall at the same time irrespective of their masses but our thinking says that objects with greater mass should fall first. This is the most intriguing phenomenon in science.

 Jacobsen: What things about nature seem like eternal mysteries rather than problems with the potential for solution?

Murthy: There are two such things which appear as eternal mysteries of nature: – Why does the natural death occur, i.e., why do animals age and die? The second mystery is: why children born to the same parents have different life events?

Jacobsen: Why rule utilitarianism for an ethical philosophy more than others?

Murthy: Ethical philosophy is concerned with morally right or wrong and utilitarianism is based on morality which advocates actions that bring happiness and pleasure and opposes any action that causes harm. Hence any action which is done to bring happiness and pleasure automatically becomes morally right and otherwise actions that bring unhappiness and pain to all is morally wrong.

Jacobsen: What make situational ethics best for a social philosophy? Does this tie into rule utilitarianism?

Murthy: As I said before social philosophy concerns itself with social behaviour and interprets the society in terms of ethical behaviour i.e. right or wrong and situational ethics is concerned about the particular context of an act when evaluating ethically. Both these are concerned with ethics i.e. what is morally right or wrong. Thus situational ethics is best for social philosophy as helps in evaluating morally right and wrong actions. Rule utilitarianism is concerned with actions that bring the greatest good. I believe that any actions/behavior in society that brings the greatest good for all is morally right. Thus situational ethics is best for social philosophy and both these can be linked to the philosophy of rule utilitarianism.

Jacobsen: Why should politics be above religion or beliefs of people? It seems as if a formal argument for secularism.

Murthy: The politics should be for the benefit and greatest for all. The religion or beliefs of people may not always be for the greatest good of all people but maybe only for their specific religion or belief. Secularism is something seen away from religion and not based on the greatest good for all. It is a viewpoint and not necessarily for the greatest good of all people. Politics should be for the greatest good for all and includes secularism but not necessarily secularism.

Jacobsen: What is the “spiritual” in this tripartite metaphysical formulation of the physical, the mental including emotion and perception, and the spiritual?

Murthy: Spiritual means relating to our soul and not to material or physical things. Being Spiritual means we become consciously aware that we are all one and are a part of the whole divinity which exists and surrounds us. This is something more than the sensory experience.

Jacobsen: What societies seem to fit these social, economic, political, and philosophical views in one more than others, i.e., practical manifestations of them?

Murthy: As of now I am unable to see any societies that fit all these dimensions. But if all of them come together as one society then maybe it will be.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, World Genius Directory.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2) [Online]. May 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, May 8). Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, May. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (May 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): May. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Mr. Sudarshan Murthy on Grandfather, Education in Family, Regrets, Newton, Da Vinci, Sushrutha, Bhaskaracharya, Science, and Ethics: Member, World Genius Directory (2) [Internet]. (2021, May 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/murthy-2.

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