John Freestone

Writer Editor Musician
Harrogate, United Kingdom

About John

Bio

John Freestone overcame severe childhood priviledges to emerge one of the world's lesser-known also-rans. From an early age he applied his inconsiderable linguistic talent to the art of waffling smugly about nothing, although he didn't pursue a career in politics. He survived the rigours of a loving family and private education to embark irresolutely on a science degree at Oxford, where he busied himself with the task of getting as high as possible. By the second year, he realised he could no longer go on frittering money away on education and rent, dropped out and spent the next few years living in other people's houses, claiming to be the reincarnation of Bob Dylan, despite rumours that Bob wasn't dead.

John developed his musical abilities unsteadfastly ever since he left the Dogmatic Reductionist Strait-jacket of Meritocracy (after the drummer called him an "effete ponce"). He went on to become one of the best-known members of a rock band, almost instantly recognised by the others. He made a successful foray into stand-up, on one occasion standing up for over ten minutes. He was offered, but declined, Chairmanship of the Apathy Society.

John held down several demanding jobs over the course of his career, mostly involving moving things about or occasionally pressing a button, but his ponderous rise to insignificance has not been without its challenges. In 1990 he was forced to consult a therapist to address his personal problems, in particular, how to avoid the poverty, boredom and self-loathing that came with a life of extreme indolence. He needed a new direction, a good job, one that involved making a shed-load of money without having to get off his backside. After several sessions, he realised that the answer was giving him eye-contact in the face: he decided to become a therapist. He continues very successfully to think about becoming a therapist to this day.

John has had an interest in Buddhism ever since he learned that "Zazen" means "sitting doing nothing for extended periods". He has made considerable progress in his meditation, gaining many insights into the nature of Reality, Emptiness, and Pastry. He currently lives in a shed on his neighbour's land, and will accept Devotional Gifts.

Areas of Expertise

psychology - health

An idea worth spreading

The Munchhausen Trilemma

I'm passionate about

Joy, the kids, human relationships, international co-operation, the environment, comedy, education, the internet, camping, blogging

Talk to me about

stuff

People don't know I'm good at

secretly whistling

My TED story

...has just started.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

120336
John Freestone
Posted 20 minutes ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
You seem to be saying that I don't understand your truth because my intellect has been "Reason incapacitated". I use reason, instead of using my "Right Thinking", which is my "Birth Right". One of the adjectives from "reason" is "rational". Something is rational if it conforms to the principles of reason (you also say my intellect is "Logic incapacitated", adjective: logical). The opposites of "rational" and "logical" are "irrational" and "illogical". So it seems that your thinking, if it rejects reason and logic, must be irrational and illogical. That is, of course, an example of using reason and logic. How does reason or logic incapacitate intellect? This is exactly what led to human progress. The computer you type your opinions into runs entirely on logical principles. Furthermore, your writing includes many statements that use reason. They appeal to reason, as in the example of the test of your view of Alzheimer's disease earlier, or, above: "That I condemn Wrong, therefore, I condemn Nazis and Zionists' Thinking and Oppose their Wrong actions". You capitalize a verb and an adjective, here, incidentally; your English is getting worse. ;) The use of "therefore" shows that you are trying to argue rationally. Why is it alright for you to use logic? I'm glad to hear you do consider Nazism wrong thinking, but you still haven't answered: do Nazis get an extraordinary incidence of Alzheimer's? Shouldn't we expect them to if your statement of the cause of Alzheimer's is correct? Where is ANY EVIDENCE that wrong thinking is the cause of Alzheimer's? Please provide some. Why is the medical view wrong, which says there is a range of other causes? Do you really imagine that no Moslem with views you would consider absolutely correct suffers from Alzheimers? Do you believe you are immune? Would you not get medical treatment if diagnosed? Would you ask your religious leader what wrong thoughts you've been having? Are there other diseases you think good Moslems never get?
120336
John Freestone
Posted about 21 hours ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
Syed, you appear to be deliberately complicating the issue. I realise that English may not be your first language, but I sense that you could write it better if it wasn't for this vain attempt to hide behind your own incomprehensibility. This is what happens when you cling to a view despite contrary evidence. The historical development of empiricism is largely irrelevant. It is essential to understand that IT TESTS BELIEFS AGAINST REALITY - the basis of science. If we believe, for instance, "Alzheimers disease, is the consequence of Applying the Brains wrongly, over a protracted period of time" then we should test this. We should treat it as a hypothesis. This means that we must come up with conditions that will be observable if our hypothesis is false (this would disprove our hypothesis and we must find another, or cling to our irrational belief). You even came up with one immediately after proposing the idea: "Ever heard of Right thinking people ever suffering Alzheimers syndrome ?" You correctly identify a test here. If people who think right suffer from Alzheimers, we have evidence against the hypothesis. Of course, we have the problem of deciding what "thinking rightly" means. To you it may mean accepting Islam, to others it may mean demonstrating sound judgement in making decisions in life, not being obviously insane, etc. I suggested another test, hoping that you would agree that German Nazism was not thinking right. In this case, if your idea is correct, we should expect Nazis to get a lot of Alzheimer's disease. I asked the same of scientists, since I imagine you might think they aren't thinking right (since they are empiricists). Do Nazis or scientists get more Alzheimers? Do Moslems not suffer from it? If you can't show these figures, you should explain why. On the other hand, you reject empiricism as a flaw. So you win, although, to my mind, only by deliberately ignoring reality. Hiding. Do you understand my point?
120336
John Freestone
Posted 2 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
Again, I urge you to take your own advice and never close the doors to learning. Herein lies the root of so much of the world's evil, believing that one has a pure understanding of an absolute right, which "does not need to be qualified by Reason, or any of the many Moral justifications"... and the prejudice that certain people who don't agree with that absolute view are "a Prejudiced people" with no right to "sit in judgement". The irony is that you don't see it as prejudice or a moral justification that you make. It is a short distance from here to oppression, totalitarianism and genocide.
120336
John Freestone
Posted 2 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
I thought that "Chopra" was a bit off target, and that you were probably a Muslim. Where Chopra's cultural influence is presumably Hinduism or Buddhism, and he makes his pronouncements as a guru, yours might be nearer to the Sufi tradition. It doesn't matter, and I should not characterize your views according to one religion or another. I criticize - "critique" - the method by which you arrive at your opinions. In this I perceive yours as no different, essentially, from Chopra's or a whole host of other gurus. My intention was to identify that you belong to this broader tradition, from your words about finding knowledge in meditation and your criticism of scientific knowledge. My point about the unnecessary use of capitals was also to draw attention to this particular way of pronouncing opinion that a certain type of person uses. It seems to be one of the ways you persuade yourself and others of the reality of the view. Nouns, in English, do not require capitals, only proper nouns. It seems rather underhand (unless you genuinely don't understand) to reply to all this with a denial that you said "all knowledge comes through Meditation". If you can see the difference between empirical science and however you would denote your method, deal with that honestly; don't hide behind sentence constructions. I didn't say anything about matter. Empiricism doesn't require matter. It requires evidence to support opinion. The lack of support for your views is my criticism, as well as your rejection of scientific opinions for which there is evidence. For example, you recently said that Alzheimer's disease results from digesting wrong knowledge. If you knew any of the science, you'd see that your view was untenable. It's ironic: digesting your wrong knowledge led to wrong knowledge. It's insulting to scientists, too, who find out real knowledge by testing such ideas against reality. That's all empiricism is. Why didn't all the Nazis get Alzheimers? Why don't scientists?
120336
John Freestone
Posted 3 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
Syed, I didn't and would not call you a minor or major prophet. It's interesting you came up with that yourself just to disabuse me of it. I support you in your right to hold whatever opinions you want, and to claim that you have special knowledge beyond reason, but I urge you to keep an open mind (as you have asked me to do) to the possibility that you might be fooling yourself. Certainly what you write seems like grand pronouncements about the nature of reality, it dismisses the hard-won scientific knowledge with hand-waving and Many Capitals. It reads like a wannabe Chopra. But you fail to provide any evidence of your claims, or any evidence to disprove the things you dismiss. All Knowledge comes through Meditation, you suggest. Mind directs evolution, you suggest. I would have said much the same at one time. I now laugh at such ideas. Please don't take that as an insult - I am laughing at my old self, and writing this in a spirit of hope and help, to invite you and anyone who reads this to try the path of empiricism, reason, scepticism and study. Meditating is easy (no, really). Learning things people have worked for decades to discover and prove, a little harder. Forgive me if I don't reply again, and all the best, John
120336
John Freestone
Posted 5 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
Syed, I'm guessing that you have little knowledge of evolution through natural selection (ETNS). Have you read anything serious about it, maybe The Selfish Gene or On the Origin of Species, or are you just pronouncing on the basis of criticisms you have read somewhere, or heard expressed somewhere? There can hardly be a scientific theory more soundly and fully supported. I challenge you to find just one example of biologists calling something natural as a way to get around not being able to explain it. Scientists - at least reputable ones - don't just slap the label "natural" on things, as far as I'm aware, to cover up their ignorance, and I'm rather offended that you - apparently without any support for this view - suggest it. Your characterizing of ETNS as giving the fittest the right to survive suggests that perhaps you misunderstand "fittest" in this context, a very common mistake. ETNS describes how organisms that are better equipped in their phenotypes to produce viable offspring will do so, and thus leave more descendants than those less able to do so. This is the "fitness" in the theory - like they fit their environment, note, not that they're physically strong. As far as I am aware, nobody has ever shown that this process is driven by "Mind", but perhaps you have other evidence. Presumably you would have to define "Mind" to include something quite primitive, since evolution works in the simplest organisms. Maybe you mean the Mind of God. I am ready to be educated, but won't take much notice of unsupported pronouncements about the nature of reality if they don't have evidence behind them. Similarly, mathematicians don't "define" unexplained results with infinity, and I suspect that your knowledge of maths is about as deep as of biology. Ironically, there is a great deal of mathematical support for evolution through natural selection. ETNS can be modelled extensively in computer programs, for instance.
120336
John Freestone
Posted 13 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
These are very interesting points. I would like to know more about how organs and whole bodies self-organize, because I think this is where an answer to your question of location and function is to be found. I'm not sure if it's well understood yet. I think we can be fairly sure, however, that a brain does not recognise faces, or perform any of the other functions identified, without the relevant collection of neurons wired up to do so, even though they can be found in different areas in different people or, as you say, be reproduced elsewhere if damaged. Similarly, a body cannot pump blood round without a heart developing, but I don't think we have a clear idea yet about how stem cells "know" to develop into one organ or another. Unlike brain regions, we don't have the ability to replace organs if they're damaged (although we grow and replace organs cell by cell according to type). I think there is some evidence that physical position or structure influences these differentiations. Embryos, for instance, first form a vaguely differentiated overall structure, a head-tail continuum, before smaller regions make finer changes. I don't know how the DNA establishes these regional differences. Certain organs' structures - like the bare collagen scaffold of a heart, for instance - can be artificially seeded with stem cells (from a different species, indeed), and they will produce a working heart, even starting to beat. Human heart cells have been seeded onto mouse heart scaffolds in this way. Sponges will reassemble themselves after being virtually liquidized. A slime mould is a single celled organism, yet it sends parts of itself out like filaments into its environment exploring for sources of food and establishes highly efficient networks of these filaments to distribute the energy between sources, even "solving" mazes. I don't think this indicates some underlying universal intelligence, by the way, just complex, evolved chemistry, pure mechanics.
120336
John Freestone
Posted 13 days ago
Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind
This is a really superb talk - thanks Nancy - clear, well-paced, confidently presented and fascinating. As well as the overview of this particular project, I appreciated the insights into the scientific process generally - the teams working on such a big project, the personal involvement as experimental subjects that some scientists engage in, and the rigorous elimination of alternative hypotheses and repetition of experiments. It's also exciting to think of the knowledge being uncovered and that will be in future. The idea of mapping the wiring diagram of the brain seems far-fetched, given that it is the most complex thing we know of. I suppose that theoretically it cannot be done fully - doesn't it have more connections than there are atoms in the universe or something? - but we might go a long way towards a general schematic. Mapping the human genome seemed far-fetched, too, but we now do it routinely. I had the same thought Constandina Sharpe related earlier about whether the region responded to shape and colour or food, or as indicating food in the natural environment. Brains evolve such units to respond to anything with significant enough selective advantage, presumably, so an environmental shape-colour combination might indicate something attractive (or repulsive) for other reasons, but it is hard to imagine that this isn't indeed a food-recognition area, in its main function. The test comparing responses to fruits and modern, artificial designs obviously does not eliminate that hypothesis. We do not imagine that immature birds don't respond to brightly coloured beaks of their parents because they also respond to bright blobs of colour on a beak-shaped card - in fact, we deduce the opposite from it. There is an important clue here to the deeper principle of how evolution works: purely functionally. Whatever ripe fruit or honey looks like or tastes of, we experience as pleasant because that response led to our ancestors' selective success.
120336
John Freestone
Posted 2 months ago
Tim Berners-Lee: A Magna Carta for the web
Yes, a Magna Carta for the Web would be a great benefit, but it seems unlikely that it will be a short document of a few truths we can all agree on, or that it will be a short project to construct. Let me put it another way: there is a danger that a crowd-sourced list of obvious truths will consist of incompatible wishes like "Everyone should be free to access what they want online" and "Everyone should be assured of privacy". The Web embodies the general political paradox of rights and responsibilities - we can't be free without potentially impinging on someone else's freedom. Your right to access any piece of data might conflict with my right to protect it from you, or even to delete it. A partial solution comes from ownership: if it is not your data, you don't have the right to access it; if it is mine, I can do what I want with it, including refuse it or delete it. We can agree on certain commonly owned data, and data shared in various ways. One way this difficulty plays out is through social structures and the power hierarchies they populate. We expect as individuals, for instance, to be able to find out how much profit businesses make, but we don't expect Walmart bosses to phone up and ask us how much we made this year. We expect ISPs to provide services that are reasonably stable, but they don't require our computers to be on all the time. We demand as much transparency in government as possible, but don't want that principle reversed. And behind all this pleasant difficulty I sense a darker threat. The data war is underway, and those with the money, hardware, expertise and software will control those without it, while the little people do what we can to ameliorate this imbalance. The Web was a playground at first, now it's becoming a battlefield over opinion and power. Even with these challenges, though, it is the most amazing tool for humanity's education and enlightenment. Thank you, Tim.