Thursday, August 31, 2017

Laws of Nature Disprove Free Will? The Internal Contradiction in Claiming That

Invoking His Sophisticated Understanding of the Law of Causality, Spinoza Commits the Stolen Concept Fallacy


Stuart K. Hayashi




Portrait of Spinoza from 1665; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



Roderick Fitts’s essay on free will, “The Freedom of Human Action,” has given me new insight. It pointed out that at least some understanding of the Law of Causality — of the causal link between cause and effect — is implicit in long-term decision-making. I want outcome Y instead of outcome B. I ascertain that doing X will result in outcome Y, whereas doing A will result in outcome B. Therefore, choose to do X instead of A.

This conflicts with Spinoza’s argument that the Law of Causality precludes free will. If Spinoza is correct that the Law of Causality precludes free will, how can Roderick Fitts argue that some recognition of cause-and-effect connections is implicit in exercises of free will?



Brief Summary of What Spinoza’s Argument Is and What It Overlooks
I have already summarized Spinoza’s argument and given my rebuttal to it. But I will review briefly here. (This link to all my blog posts on free will.)

Spinoza’s argument against free will is as follows: when you observe objects and come to understand the nature/identity of each object observed, you find that one event will yield an easily predictable outcome. The event is an entity — a storm cloud — raining down on another entity, a rock. The rock erodes. Moreover, the storm cloud raining down on the rock caused the rock to erode. Due to the respective natures of both storm clouds and rocks, in any instance wherein a storm cloud drops rain on a rock, the rock will erode. That is because of the nature of rocks; the rock could not do anything else. For a rock to respond to any other manner under those conditions would be contrary to the rock's nature as a rock, contrary to the Law of Identity. If you understand the Law of Identity, and the respective natures of each entity in a situation, you know how the entity being acted upon (in this case, a rock) will act in response.

Spinoza then points out that human beings are also entities — we humans are entities no less than rocks are. Accordingly, the Law of Causality is just as applicable to human beings as it is applicable to rocks. To Spinoza, it follows that human beings are just as predictable as rocks are when heavy rain falls on rocks. It also follows that no human being is proactive but is only reactive to outside stimuli, just as a rock only reacts to outside stimuli. For a human to have free will, that human would have to be proactive, not merely reactive.

As Spinoza puts it,

...nature is always the same... ...that is, nature's laws and ordinances, whereby all things come to pass and change, from one form to another, are everywhere and always the same; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature's universal laws and rules. Thus the [human] passions of hatred, anger, envy, and so on, considered in themselves, follow from this same [metaphysical] necessity [meaning the same mechanistic determinism of cause-and-effect] and efficacy of nature; they answer to certain definite causes, through which they are understood... I shall, therefore,...consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner...as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.

Spinoza’s argument overlooks (1) in Nature, an unprecedented effect can occur (this is called an Emergent Property) and (2) that the respective Laws of Identity and Causality are valid does not preclude an unprecedented phenomenon (an Emergent Property) from occurring. What an Emergent Property means is this: when particular physical components end up arranged in most particular arrangements, usually nothing new happens. However, when those physical components end up arranged in a particularly fortuitous matter, something unprecedented can occur.

As an example, all of the chemicals that make life possible were already on Earth for billions of years before there were any organisms. When those chemicals ended up being arranged in most possible arrangements, nothing new happened — and that was for billions of years. But one day, those chemicals ended up in an arrangement that resulted in something unprecedented: the first primitive organism emerged. Hence the respective Laws of Identity and Causality being contextual absolutes, which apply consistently in most circumstances for millennia, does not preclude unprecedented phenomena from occurring. And the presence of volition in organisms started off as an Emergent Property. That is why the respective Laws of Identity and Causality can apply consistently in most contexts and remain contextually absolute even if there are natural phenomena that are not as predictable as what happens to a rock when it is rained upon heavily.

Now I will get to how, when Spinoza invokes the Law of Causality to deny free will, he falls prey to the Stolen Concept fallacy. Objectivists are familiar with how a commentator such as Sam Harris engages in this fallacy when he tries to persuade you to reject the idea of free will. (My longer rebuttal to Sam Harris is over here.) If everything you do is a foregone conclusion — being the result of unconscious processes (Sam Harris says your conscious mind only rationalizes taking the action that your unconscious reptilian brain compelled you to perform) — then it is pointless for him to try to convince your conscious mind to change its opinion. Any time a debater tries to convince you to reject the idea of free will, it is premised on the implicit recognition that what your opinion will be by that argument’s end is not a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, when it comes to Sam Harris’s case in particular, it is self-contradictory for him to attempt to appeal to your conscious mind when he argues that it is not the conscious mind that is behind the steering wheel anyway.

Objectivists are familiar with that argument, but that argument only places emphasis on the implicit fact that the person to whom the appeal is being made is the person who possesses free will. I want to point out the other side. The person pitching his own argument against free will — be it Sam Harris or Spinoza — also relies on the implicit recognition of free will as he comes to that anti-free will conclusion. Indeed, Spinoza would be relying on an implicit recognition of his own free will even if Spinoza kept his own conclusions against free will in his own head and never tried to sell anyone on those arguments.



For a Philosopher to Gain a Sophisticated Understanding of the Law of Causality, He Must Recognize Free Will, At Least Implicitly

The reasons are:


  1. To make any major philosophic inquiry is a long-term decision. That means:
  2. To make a philosophic inquiry is an exercise of free will. And:
  3. To reach a sophisticated philosophic understanding the Law of Causality is a philosophic inquiry. That means:
  4. To reach a sophisticated philosophic understanding of the Law of Causality, one must exercise free will.


It is not merely the case that when Spinoza tries to convince you that you have no free will, Spinoza is implicitly recognizing that you do have free will after all. It is the case that even if Spinoza tried to convince no one else — if he only sought to form his own conclusions and keep them to himself — the very act of launching into an erudite inquiry about the Law of Causality itself is an exercise in free will. Before Spinoza initiated his inquiry about the Law of Causality, he recognized there were two possible outcomes:


  • Y – Spinoza has a confident, philosophically sophisticated conclusion about whether there is a Law of Causality, a conclusion supported by solid reasoning.
  • B – Spinoza has no firm conclusion about whether there is a Law of Causality; he is agnostic on it.


Spinoza wanted outcome Y instead of outcome B. And he recognized that action X led to outcome Y whereas action A led to outcome B. These are the two possible options available to him:


  • X – Spinoza initiates a philosophic inquiry on whether there is a Law of Causality, meaning whether causality — cause-and-effect — applies consistently.
  • A – Spinoza refrains from launching into a philosophic inquiry on this.


Per Roderick Fitts’s explanation, Spinoza wanted outcome Y instead of outcome B, and therefore he chose action X over action A. And that was an action of free will. The exercise of free will is a prerequisite into a sophisticated philosophic investigation of Causality — this applies even if the investigator never discloses his findings to anyone else. Spinoza invokes his sophisticated understanding of the Law of Causality to deny free will, and yet one must exercise free will to acquire a sophisticated philosophic understanding of the Law of Causality. Hence, even if Spinoza did not try to convince anyone else about the invalidity of the idea of free will, for Spinoza even to conclude in the privacy of his own mind that there is no free will, he must implicitly recognize his own free will and act on that free will.



Wait; Am I Contradicting Myself Over Whether It’s Recognition of Free Will or Recognition of Causality That Comes First?
At this point, a critic might say that I am the one who is contradicting himself. The critic can say,

First you stated agreement with Roderick Fitts that within every act of free will there is, at least on an implicit level, a recognition of the Law of Causality. That would imply that someone understands causation before one exercises free will by choosing one alternative over another. But then you argue that for someone to arrive at a sophisticated, philosophically literate understanding of the Law of Causality, one must both exercise free will and, at least on an implicit level, acknowledge the existence of one’s own free will. But that would imply that someone acknowledges his own free will before coming to understand causation. Well, which is it?

Here is the difference: you do not need to engage in a conscious, long-term decision-making process to grasp causation on a primitive, implicit level. However, for you to gain a sophisticated, philosophically literate comprehension of the Law of Causality, you do need to engage in a conscious, long-term decision-making process while recognizing, at least on an implicit level, that this is an implementation of free will. Therefore, this is what happened: Spinoza first understood causality on a primitive, implicit/unconscious level. It was with that primitive, implicit/unconscious acknowledgment of causality that he first exercised free will. Then he exercised free will in order to gain his sophisticated, philosophically literate comprehension of the Law of Causality.

As noted by child researcher Alison Gopnik in her book The Philosophical Baby, psychologists have conducted controlled experiments on babies that evince that this is the case. In both the control and experimental samples, a baby is placed under a mobile. In the experimental sample, the mobile is tied to the baby’s leg and, when the baby moves her leg, it moves the mobile. In the control sample, nothing ties the baby to the mobile; the mobile moves independently. The babies in the experimental sample stare at the mobile for longer periods of time than do the babies in the control sample, and it is always after the baby has caused the mobile to move. From this, the psychologists infer that the babies in the experimental sample show more interest than those in the control sample exactly because the babies in the experimental sample are first coming to grasp, at least implicitly, that it is their own movements that are causing the mobile’s movements.

This suggests that when a person first comes to understand causality on an implicit, primitive level, that was not the result of some conscious decision. However, we do know that when someone gains a strong and sophisticated philosophical understanding of the Law of Causality, such as Spinoza’s, that is attributable to that person making the conscious long-term decision to study the Law of Causality. And we know that that conscious, long-term decision, picked among various possible options, was an exercise in free will.



Conclusion
Hence, Spinoza both exercised free will and implicitly (but not consciously) understood his own free will in order to come to his sophisticated, philosophically literate comprehension of the Law of Causality. But then he improperly invoked that sophisticated, philosophically literate comprehension of the Law of Causality to deny the existence of free will. That is how his argument commits the Stolen Concept fallacy.

And here is another way that that happens: recognition of any entity as an object that is impacted upon is contingent on the presence of a subject (a conscious observer, such as you) observing that entity as an object. In this context, “object” refers to an entity being observed and the “subject” refers to the consciousness that is observing the object. That is, the subject is a conscious person doing the observing (in this case, you in particular). In this context, the “subject” has agency; it can choose which particular objects it does or does not place its focus upon. In Spinoza’s argument, all conscious, decision-making humans are treated only as objects that are acted upon; his argument overlooks that there are any subjects possessing any agency. But no entities could be recognized as objects if not for there being a subject — you — to focus on them. And which objects you do or do not focus on, depends on your agency — that is, your exercise of free will.

No, Spinoza, an understanding of causality does not preclude free will. On the contrary, a recognition of causality, at least on an implicit and simple level, is what helps someone exercise free will.



On September 2, 2017, I changed every use of the word causation to the word causality.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

'Tax Burden Justifies Immigration Restriction': Argument the Right Stole from Nanny-State Left

Stuart K. Hayashi



Screen shot from the motion picture "Born in East L.A.,"
prod. Peter Macgregor-Scott, dir. Cheech Marin (Universal Pictures, 1987).


I point out that a free republic allows for anything that is peaceful. If I want to lodge Mexicans on my land, and they want to lodge on my land, then there's no reason for the State to initiate the use of force upon us; this shouldn't even require a license from the government (visa). To this, the right-wing anti-immigrationists reply that it is their business, because we have a welfare state, and therefore, to reduce the tax burden, immigrants should be kept out. Then I say that anyone genuinely concerned about reducing the tax burden would demand cutting back government spending per se, having everyone -- native-born and foreign-born alike -- pay their own way. Then the right-wing anti-immigrationists say, "But the welfare state is never going away. Just accept it. The best we can do to reduce the tax burden is to restrict immigration." That's actually an argument they stole from left-wingers: specifically, the left-winger advocates of the Nanny State.

Attorney John Banzhaf, former Obama adviser Cass Sunstein, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lead the left-wing health police, saying the government should police your health. They want to protect you from your own lifestyle choices, such as imposing taxes on soda and other sugary beverages. To this, right-wing people generally point out that this is none of Cass Sunstein's business; if a right-wing man wants to drink lots of Coca-Cola, that is none of the government's business. To this, the left-wing health police reply, "But it is my business! Taxpayer funds now pay for everyone's health care, and, everything else being equal, healthcare spending on the obese is higher than it is for the non-obese. Therefore, to reduce the tax burden, we are justified in policing choices that contribute to obesity." To that, right-wing people properly respond that the solution is to cut government spending on healthcare across-the-board and let everyone pay their own way.

Now, how would those right-wing people like it if the left-wing health police said this?: "But taxpayer-funded healthcare is never going away. Just accept it. The best we can do to reduce the tax burden is to police people's health-related lifestyle choices."

Don't you think that right-wing people would properly rejoin?: "No, it's still none of your business. What I do with my own body peaceably is none of your business, and your citation of taxpayer funding doesn't justify policing what I may or may not peaceably consume."

If that's the case, then when it comes to immigration, the legitimate rejoinder to these right-wing anti-immigratoinists is, "No, it's still none of your business. The national origins of whom I invite peaceably onto my own land is none of your business, and your citation of taxpayer funding doesn't justify policing whom I may or may not peaceably invite onto my land."

Yet many of the same right-wing people who accept, as valid, that final rebuttal against the health police are the same people who arbitrarily reject that very same rebuttal when applied to the issue of immigration control.

When someone point outs that the real way to reduce the tax burden is to de-socialize medicine and let everyone pay their own way, the Nanny-State health police refuse to relent on their need to police your health. From that, I conclude that their claim to care about rolling back the tax burden is disingenuous; the real priority is to micromanage other people's lifestyle choices.

Likewise, when someone points out that the real way to reduce the tax burden is to shrink the welfare state for everyone and let everyone pay their own way and to have private charity, the anti-immigrationists refuse to relent on the supposed need to restrict immigration. From that, I conclude that their claim to care about rolling back the tax burden is disingenuous; the real priority is to block immigrants from poor countries in general.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

My Three Arguments for Free Will

Stuart K. Hayashi


There are three arguments repeatedly given against free will; I shall address them here.

Portrait of Spinoza from 1665; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



1 of 3: Does the Law of Cause-and-Effect Preclude Free Will, As Spinoza Insists?
For a long time, I struggled with Baruch Spinoza's argument against free will, which says that the Law of Causality/the Law of Cause-and-Effect precludes any entity from possessing free will. You may recall that I dealt with that argument before here, but, as a refresher, the argument goes: when we observe the Law of Identity with natural objects, we find that once we understand their nature, they become eminently predictable. For example, rain clouds, rocks, asteroids, and comets are all entities, each has its own nature. We can think of what happens when a rain cloud drops rain drops on a rock. What happens is that the rain pouring down on the rock will cause the rock to erode. Based on the respective natures of rain clouds and rocks, we know that any time a rain cloud rains down on a rock, the rain pouring down will cause a specific effect, the effect being the erosion of the rock. Once we know the natures of entities, we observe that under the same circumstances in the future, the entities will behave in the same manner as they did before; they are mechanistic and predictable. When rain falls on a rock, the rock will erode, and we know that the rock, by its nature, will not behave in any other manner; for the rock unexpectedly to react differently would be contrary to the rock's identity.

Spinoza's argument continues that humans are entities. Doesn't this mean that once we know the nature of human beings, it follows that once we know how a human will behave in a specific circumstance, that circumstance's re-occurrence will cause the human to behave exactly the same as before? Doesn't that mean that human beings, then, are just as mechanistic and predictable in their actions as a rock that has rain drops pouring down on it? Does the application of the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality (and the Law of Causality is the Law of Identity as applied to action) preclude free will in human beings? Spinoza says the answer is yes.

In Spinoza's words,

...nature is always the same... ...that is, nature's laws and ordinances, whereby all things come to pass and change, from one form to another, are everywhere and always the same; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature's universal laws and rules. Thus the [human] passions of hatred, anger, envy, and so on, considered in themselves, follow from this same [metaphysical] necessity [meaning the same mechanistic determinism of cause-and-effect] and efficacy of nature; they answer to certain definite causes, through which they are understood... I shall, therefore,...consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner...as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.


I like neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga's reply to Spinoza. Spinoza overlooked the occurrences of emergent properties. To recognize emergent properties in Nature is to reconcile the Law of Causality with free will. The idea behind Emergent Properties is that a set of components can be arranged in various fashions and, usually, nothing new happens; those components remain nothing more than the sum of the parts. However, there are cases in which those components, being arranged in a particular fashion, will educe an unprecedented phenomenon.

An example would be how the first microorganisms emerged from nonliving matter. For billions of years, the exact same chemicals existed on Earth. The chemicals react with one another but, for the most part, those reactions do not educe any unprecedented phenomenon. But one fateful day, when those chemicals were arranged in a particularly fortuitous fashion, it resulted not only in a chemical reaction, but a chemical reaction unlike any other. If you arrange chemicals in most arrangements, nothing new happens. However, one day four billion years ago, the chemicals were arranged in such a fashion that the first primitive organisms emerged: living organisms emerged from nonliving matter. That new phenomenon is the Emergent Property.

The net profit in utility that emerges from voluntary trade and cooperation is also an Emergent Property. Suppose that when you and I work alone, you produce 100 units of wealth, and I produce only 17. However, what if we work together to produce a new machine that is more efficient than what any one person could do through manual labor? As a consequence of our working together, you produce 10,000 units of wealth, whereas I produce 300. That net gain in productivity is also an Emergent Property.

The Big Bang would also be an Emergent Property. For an unspecified duration, the universe existed in one particular form. However, some components within the universe formed a particular fortuitous arrangement, setting off the Big Bang, causing the universe to take on another form (the present form).

Michael Gazzaniga says that the emergence of free will from entities that previously had no free will, is itself an Emergent Property. The first organisms, such as bacteria and protists and insects, are relatively mechanistic and predictable; beetles and cockroaches are like machines made out of meat. But mutations happened and caused organisms to grow ever more complex. In our primate ancestors, the matter eventually became arranged in some fortuitous fashion that sparked some new unprecedented phenomenon: volition.

Hence, the Law of Causality does not preclude free will. Rather, the cause-and-effect chain of events ultimately produced one particularly fortuitous effect, the fortuitous effect being that our species possesses the faculty of volition.



2 of 3: "The Very Fact That Every Choice of Yours Is a Response to Something External to You, Means Your Choices Are Never Proactive"
There is another type of argument that tries to cite the Law of Causality in an attempt to discredit the concept of free will. I call this argument "You only possess free will if you make choices in a vacuum."

The argument goes: in order for you to have free will truly, you would have to be proactive: you would have to perform actions that are not caused by -- that are not a response to -- any stimulus external to yourself. But the fact is that everything you do is a reaction to some stimulus. Hence, you are purely reactive; everything you do is a response to forces that are external to your conscious control. For example, you might take a particular course of action to obtain food, but that is merely in response to your body first indicating to you that it is hungry. Hence, you do not have free will; you are that rock that merely educes a predictable response to forces outside of itself.

That argument is a straw man, because the fact that you must make choices within a context, in consideration of conditions external to yourself, does not erase the fact that various options remain open to you and that you take the initiative to select among those options.

This notion that you only have free will if you take an action that is independent of any consideration or stimulus outside of your conscious control, is what I call the Rationalistic Interpretation of free will; this (mis)interpretation is quasi-Platonic and quasi-Kantian. The idea is that you make choices outside of any contextual considerations, not prompted by anything outside of yourself. That is, you make choices within a vacuum.

But reality is not like that. Of course there are entities and phenomena that exist outside of yourself. Of course there are circumstances outside of yourself that, despite not having been chosen by you, nonetheless necessitate action (and therefore decision-making) on your part. The Rationalistic argument simply takes for granted that you only have free will if you make choices regardless of context. And, of course, it is impossible to make choices regardless of context, because the "context" consists of the factual considerations all around you. Therefore, the Rationalists conclude that free will is nonexistent. But their argument consists of question-beginning. It is rigged. They try to pre-define free will, describing a situation that cannot exist. Then they simply point out the situation does not exist and thus declare victory over the concept of free will.

But we don't have to accept that false definition of free will. Instead, we define free will according to the facts; we recognize that there is some faculty of choice possessed by human beings; that faculty is what is to be recognized properly as free will.

Yes, the facts of reality cause you to feel hunger, and you must act in response to that; you don't have control over the fact that when your body needs food, you feel hunger. But, contrary to the Rationalists, that your actions constitute a response to such a fact of reality -- a fact you did not choose -- does not preclude you from having any choice per se. You must take a course of action to satisfy that hunger, but there are many avenues available to you by which you might go about to try to address this physiological need. You might forage for food; you might go hunting for it; you might become a farmer and grow it. You might go up to someone with food and ask for some of it. You might do a job to create wealth and trade that wealth for food. Sadly, some people choose to starve themselves (another psychiatric condition that involves selflessness).

We have the "You didn't build that" attack on free will. It is said that Steve Jobs never really produced his wealth, because he was born into fortuitous circumstances that caused him to do what he did; he was just as passive receptacle responding to the external stimuli around him. Steve Jobs was raised in that part of California where there were already computer engineers around him; his friends were the sons of computer engineers. Hence, Steve Jobs had a head start over someone born somewhere else -- say, in the American South -- who easily might have been interested in the same industry if he grew up around people from that industry.

That argument overlooks the fact that many people born in the same circumstances as Steve Jobs could have done what he did, and yet they did not. Many other people around Steve Jobs were born in that area and had friends who whose fathers were computer engineers; some of them were the children of computer engineers. Many people were in the same fortuitous circumstances as Steve Jobs and had the same resources available to them, but did not do what he did. The reason that Steve Jobs did what he did -- which others in the same privileged position did not do -- is that he chose it. He took the initiative to do it. When both person A and person B start off in the same circumstances but person A does something creative and that person B did not do, person A is being proactive. That person A is acting within some context that precipitated action on his part, does not preclude his action from being recognized, properly, as a proactive initiative. Proactivity does not mean acting in a vacuum, absent of any prior considerations or stimuli; to be proactive means that, in light of one's circumstances, one takes the initiative to go beyond what has long been the conventional and expected course of action that has been taken in response to those circumstances.

Free will does not mean that one must act independently of considerations of context. Rather, it is the context in which human beings find themselves that gave rise both to the need and ability to make the very choices that are the exercise of free will.



3 of 3: Your Conscious Mind Makes No Choices; It Only Rationalizes the Action Your Subconscious Pre-Selected for You?
I want to address a final attack on free will, which I have addressed in a previous post: Sam Harris's argument that all conscious decision-making is simply a rationalization for actions that your unconscious "reptilian brain" -- driven by instinct and emotion -- preselected for you.

Sam Harris cites experiments by Benjamin Libet on very simple, specific motor movements, such as whether you move your left index finger instead of your right index finger. The experiments supposedly show that when you are asked to perform a simple task involving such simple movements, the unconscious part of your brain is activated many seconds before the conscious decision-making prefrontal cortex is activated. From these rather simple results, Sam Harris makes the sweeping conclusion that all human actions are therefore governed by the subconscious, and when you activate your prefrontal cortex, what your conscious mind does is not part of the decision-making process at all. Citing Benjamin Libet's experiments, Sam Harris says that your conscious mind definitely does not initiate the decision-making process; the subconscious does. Therefore, concludes Harris, your conscious reasoning has no functioning other than to rationalize the course of action that was already put into motion by your subconscious.

Here is why Sam Harris's argument is one big straw man: Benjamin Libet's experiments only test physiological responses with respect to an isolated motor movement, and a long-term life decision -- such as embarking on a career in chemistry -- is not just one isolated motor movement; it's not one flick of the left index finger.

That your unconscious mind can precede your conscious mind in detecting the need for a decision is not the same as the unconscious mind making the decision for you. Moreover, a conscious choice -- which you can change -- consists not of one motor action but of many motor actions. For example, today I might choose to walk to the grocery store. If I do that, I don't consciously think out of every step of the way: "First I raise my left foot; then I lower my left foot; then I raise my right foot; then I lower my left foot." Of course my conscious mind does not think out every motor movement. Contra Sam Harris, recognition of that fact does not imply that going to the grocery store today was not a conscious choice on my part.

Buried in Sam Harris's citation of Libet's experiments is the assumption that Libet and other researchers can pinpoint the exact moments, on the noumenal level, where the decision-making process respectively begins and ends. Sam Harris has arbitrarily decided that the point in the experiment where the unconscious parts of the brain are activated is the time where the decision-making process begins. And he has arbitrarily decided that the point where the prefrontal cortex experiences blood flow is the time where the decision-making process ends.

In reality, the decision-making process is ongoing; it goes on continuously throughout all of waking experience. One small choice is part of a series of steps encompassing a much larger choice. I have made the life choice to be a writer. When I was six years old, I was drawing monsters (the drawings looked how you would expect a little boy's drawings to look, and I remain proud of them) and my mother, not taking it as seriously as I would, asked me if I wanted to staple the sheets together to make a book. I did that. Days later I stapled other sheets together to make other books. Each page had a drawing on it. Eventually, each drawing had a caption on it. I ended up adding more and more narrative prose. My mother said somewhat casually, "Maybe when you're older you will try to write as a your job." I laughed and said, "Ha ha; maybe." As this went on, I began to contemplate the prospect of that more seriously. Today I do try to write as a job. Sometimes I get very frustrated and wonder if I should quit. My refraining from quitting, counts as part of the choice to take the action of writing. Part of a long-term decision is maintaining one's commitment to it.

The question to ask Sam Harris here is: what point in Stuart's journey here marked, on the noumenal level, the beginning of the decision-making process when it came to his deciding to be a writer? I can tell you that I don't know, at what point, marks the true beginning of the decision-making process. And I'm not too worried about finding what I can call the precise starting point. What matters to me is whether I maintain commitment. The very fact that you keep at a task, when the option of quitting remains possible to you, evinces the presence of free will.


On September 1, 2017, I added the quotation from Spinoza.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Evolutionary Psychology Has Made Accurate Predictions: Marlene Zuk's Examples

Stuart K. Hayashi



Diorama of Homo erectus at the National Museum of Mongolian History;
source: Wikimedia Commons.


An unfair proclamation I commonly hear is that evolutionary psychology should be dismissed because its theories have never been tested according to their predictive power. The criticism goes,

Evolutionary psychologists only speak of what happened in the past. But if it were a real science, then the principles it describes should apply consistently. And if the principle applies consistently, evolutionary psychologists should be able to apply that principle to make predictions in experiments. That doesn’t happen. Therefore, evolutionary psychology consists entirely of just-so stories wherein evolutionary psychologists observe some current social arrangement and then work backward, coming up with some story to explain how that arrangement came about.

I won’t argue that evolutionary psychology is perfect. Often evolutionary psychologists do come up with rationalizations for social and political collectivism. As I have pointed out before, many enthusiasts of evolutionary psychology, such as Jonathan Haidt and Michael Shermer, try to cite evolutionary psychology to proclaim that biology itself disproves Ayn Rand’s ethical theory. And even after frequently acknowledging that voluntary trades are win-win positive sum games, many evolutionary psychologists still subscribe to a fallacious neo-Malthusian economic paradigm that presumes that human beings under free enterprise will fritter away all nonrenewable natural resources and destroy themselves.

However, it is actually untrue that evolutionary psychology has not been applied to making accurate predictions. Zoologist Marlene Zuk provides several examples in Riddled With Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Makes Us Who We Are, (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007).



Predictions and Tests of Evolutionary Psychologists’ Theories on Polygyny
Here is one example of a longstanding theory in evolutionary psychology. There are species that are called polygynous. The more polygynous a species is, the more it is a “harem species.” This means that many males compete against one another in displays of machismo. The male that wins the competition gets to have sex with many females, and the males that lose the competition will die without having mated at all. Some species are more severely polygynous than others, and evolutionary psychologists tend to describe our species as “mildly polygynous” (this is one reason why so many feminists disparage evolutionary psychology as one big rationalization for patriarchal gender norms).

The more aggressively polygynous a species is, the more different the males will look from the females -- the extent to which males and females of the same species look different is called sexual dimorphism. Generally if a species is aggressively polygynous, either the male is much more colorful than the female (males compete for female attention according to how they look; this is in birds) or the male is much larger than the female (as the males outright fight one another).

Evolutionary psychology continues that the more polygynous a species is, the more testosterone the males produce -- the testosterone contributes to the competitive aggression. Simultaneously, testosterone production weakens the immune system. This means that if the evolutionary psychologists’ theory about polygynous species is true, then -- everything else being equal -- the more polygynous a species is, the more vulnerable old-age males of the species will be to parasites than females of the same age. Note that this theory was developed before scientists put the theory to the test in experiments. And Marlene Zuk describes how this theory was indeed put to the test. Was the prediction accurate?

Sarah Moore and Ken Wilson from England found an ingenious way around the problem using a simple surrogate for the degree of male reproductive competition: the size differential between the sexes. Species in which the males are relatively larger are presumed to have experienced more male sexual competition in their evolutionary history. They used information available in the scientific literature on body size and parasites from 106 different mammals ranging from deer to elephants to mice, and they also used sophisticated methods for taking into account the ancestral relationships between species. The parasites included single-celled organisms, worms, mites, fleas, and ticks. Viral and bacterial infections, though potentially extremely important in the lives of the animals, are simply too difficult to document in wild populations, so Moore and Wilson left them out of the analysis. 
Moore and Wilson first found the same pattern that had been established in smaller studies: Males had persistently higher levels of parasitism than females. As they predicted, the greater the difference in size between males and females, the greater the disparity between male and female parasite levels. The scientists also gathered data on longevity in the sexes, and found that when males died at a younger age, they also had a disproportionately higher level of disease. Furthermore, where they could at least classify species into those in which males had the potential to mate with more than one female and those that were monogamous, Moore and Wilson showed that male-biased parasitism was more likely in the former. This is consistent with the idea that intense male competition leads to males being the sicker sex. [Marlene Zuk cites Sarah L. Moore and Ken Wilson, "Parasites as a Viability Cost of Sexual Selection in Natural Populations of Mammals," Science vol. 297, year 2002: pages 2015-2018.]

Those were from pages 136–37 of Marlene Zuk’s book.

You may recall my mentioning that William Donald “W.D.” Hamilton is the scientist who coined kin selection. With W. D. Hamilton, Marlene Zuk conducted her own experiment to test this theory. The brightness of a male peacock’s feathers indicates its resistance to disease. If a peacock is very bright blue, that does not indicate the absence of parasites in its system. Rather, the peacock’s bright blueness indicates that there are many parasites in the peacock’s system but that its immune system is so strong, the peacock is able to survive in spite of the parasites anyway. According to this understanding, then, evolutionary psychology predicts that the brighter blue a male peacock is, the more parasites should be found in its family history. Marlene Zuk and W. D. Hamilton ran a test on this and found that the evolutionary psychologists’ theory proved correct. (William D. Hamilton and Marlene Zuk, “Heritable True Fitness and Bright Birds: A role for Parasites?”, Science vol. 213, year 1982: pages 384-387.)



Does the Evolutionary Psychologists’ Prediction About Polygyny Apply to Human Societies As Well? Another Test
Moreover, evolutionary psychologists such as Bobbi S. Low have found that this theory has accurately predicted findings in human societies. According to evolutionary psychology theory, it is the case that -- everything else being equal -- the more severely polygynous a particular human society is, the more parasites will be found in the systems of the men. Is that the case?

That part, of course, could still be important, and Bobbi Low, a biologist at the University of Michigan, looked at human societies around the world to see whether parasites were more prevalent in cultures where polygyny, the practice of a single man having many wives or concubines, was more common. She reasoned that this was similar to our prediction about heavier parasite burdens leading to higher degrees of sexual selection and hence showier plumage in the birds. Indeed, societies where polygyny is common are more plagued by diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness, and various worms.

That is from pages 160–61, citing Bobbi S. Low, “Marriage Systems and Pathogen Stress in Human Societies,” American Zoologist vol. 30, no. 2, year 1990: pages 325-339.



Evolutionary Psychologists’ Theory About Collectivism, Xenophobia, and Disease
Here is another evolutionary psychology theory -- one developed by W. J. Freeland in 1976: it is that particularly insular, collectivist, xenophobic societies are that way on account of communicable disease. The theory is that they started out as rather open to contact and trade with foreigners but, as a consequence, they contracted communicable diseases. The members of the society who survived the original epidemic were able to maintain their society by becoming less welcoming toward contact with foreigners and also more keen on enforcing social conformity.

If that theory were correct, then it follows that if you check the history of communicable diseases among various societies, the most insular and xenophobic of societies should also be the ones with the most severe histories of communicable diseases being passed from person to person. In 2009, a Canadian team led by Randy Thornhill conducted such an investigation. The team’s findings corroborated Freeland’s theory. See Randy Thornhill, et all., “Parasites, Democratization, and Liberalization of Values Across Contemporary Cultures,” Biological Reviews vol. 8 (no. 1, February 2009): pages 113–133.



Conclusion
Yes, evolutionary psychology theories have been used to make accurate predictions in experiments concerning human behavior and human societies.

The problems with evolutionary psychology normally come from the evolutionary psychologists’ misinterpretations of their own data. As I wrote of previously, evolutionary psychologists frequently observe the trend that hunter-gatherer societies foster a collectivist interpretation of ethics and morality, and thereby conclude that a modern, liberalized, industrial society also ought to be collectivist, making an ethics of peaceable self-interest unworkable. However, it is terribly inaccurate to proclaim that evolutionary psychology theory has never made accurate predictions that scientists have tested. No, evolutionary psychologists’ theories on how specific behaviors arose do not amount to mere “just-so stories.”

Monday, August 07, 2017

Murder Threats That Ingrid Johnsen 'Ledingham' Issued Publicly, and Her Other Public Morbid Gestures, Warrant Concern

Trigger warning:  I normally mock trigger warnings, but one truly is applicable in this case.  This blog post discusses issues pertaining to murder threats, child abuse, rape, incest, suicidal gestures, and mental illness.


Stuart K. Hayashi


Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham (Ingrid J from BiggerPockets) and me
before I learned the full extent of the physical danger 
she poses to herself and others (there were 
already troubling signs visible then, though).



This is a revised version of a post from here.  The difference is that, this time, I name names.  The reason is that there is evidence that there is a greater danger in my not doing so than in my doing so.

Some years ago I became very close to someone who suffers from a dangerous pathology -- demonstrably a physical danger to herself and others.  Unless she returns to regular psychiatric care and is forthcoming to acquaintances, co-workers, online correspondents, and people in general about the dangers that her condition poses -- having a history of suicidal, self-harming, and even homicidal ideation, all of which she has expressed publicly for years -- this is not something to let go.



Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's Murder Threat for Her Mother, Lillian Johnsen, Made Publicly Viewable By Ingrid Herself
In 2004 in the town of Tromsø, Norway/ Norge, Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" -- daughter to Mark Ledingham, Tromsø kommune Web coordinator whose photos of the aurora borealis are internationally recognized --  put up this threat to kill her mother Lillian Johnsen.  Despite Norwegian being her first language, Ingrid wrote the murder threat in English and it has been publicly available on the World Wide Web this entire time.  It is not one of those terse threats that people write on Twitter or YouTube, along the lines of, 'You disagree with me? Then I hope you die!'  Though the threat is grammatically inept in composition, it is nonetheless serious in tone and intent.  Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" does not say that she has some long-term plan to kill.  Rather, she envisions that one day she will become so incensed by Lillian Johnsen's nagging that she will take a knife and thrust the knife into Lillian Johnsen.  This is described in graphic language as so:


Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" of  Tromsø threatening the life of her mother Lillian Johnsen; click on the link to enlarge.


The murder threat that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham wrote for her mother, Lillian Johnsen, is documented and archived.  There are copies of it available, saved in multiple locations.

I have mentioned this to other people before -- including people whom both Ingrid and I mistook for friends of hers.  Those people turned out to be sycophantic "Nice Guys™"; they said it was evil for me to discuss Ingrid's situation with anyone else, even when I hid her name.  Those people elide the fact that a right to privacy does not extend to violent threats, especially not violent threats  made as publicly as the threat that Ingrid issued -- a murder threat Ingrid took the initiative to make publicly visible to a billion people -- even if that particular violent threat ends up not being acted upon (it may still be acted upon at a later date).  It is also everyone's business that Ingrid went around accusing a classmate of violently threatening her; a false accusation of violence is itself an initiation of the use of force, as someone falsely accused can be met with retaliatory force, such as by police or by a court summons.  As I have explained before, violent threats cannot be privatized, meaning they are necessarily everyone's rightful business to know about.  That applies if a relative raped you and you still try to shield that relative from the repercussions of that (my explanation).

Some people in our respective circles have rationalized that the murder threat that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham put out is "long past." After all, they say, it is more than ten years old.  Moreover, four months after Ingrid wrote her original death threat, she wrote a follow-up post on that same thread where she claims to be all better:  "...im happy that i allowed myself to hate her [the mother]. otherwise nothing would have changed. I now love my mom to death like many other precious people in my surroundings."

But it wasn't all better.  Ingrid made it all too obvious she is not recovered.

For me, my fear is not that Ingrid will necessarily try to kill her mother; it's that she put up that murder threat at all, and just left it up for posterity.  Should Ingrid go untreated, there will easily come a day when Ingrid can do something extreme to anyone to whom she has felt emotional attachment (explanation below).  And it might not be direct violence on her part; it might come in the form of accusing someone falsely of a crime (that is also explained below).

Contrary to sycophants with whom Ingrid has surrounded herself, the murder threat Ingrid wrote for her mother and posted publicly on the Web is not some part of some ordinary domestic quarrel.  When you have a domestic quarrel, do you post a murder threat on the Web for everyone to see and read in English, and just leave it up thereafter?  The murder threat Ingrid issued, as well as her public displays of suicidal and body dysmorphic gestures, are symptoms of a still more troubling and violent phenomenon.  If Ingrid and those around her are to be safe from Ingrid's threatening behavior, she has to be helped to confront these bigger issues.  Recovery from such problems means facing those issues openly and honestly -- not trying to pretend that they're not there and don't have lasting ramifications.  If everything were fine, Ingrid would not have changed her name legally to commemorate something that she has repeatedly conveyed has been a major contributor to the homicidal and suicidal and self-harm gestures she has exhibited publicly.



Years After Threatening Her Mother Publicly, Ingrid Continued Exhibiting Publicly the Fixation on Violence and Death
I knew Ingrid when she was on Oahu from 2008 to 2012.  Her legal name was not "Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham," but "Ingrid Johnsen."

In late 2010, Ingrid got one of her enablers, the corpse artist Erlend Anker Barstad Mørk of Trondheim, Norway, to upload onto YouTube a video where she gives a monologue about being a neo-fascist "of the Fourth Reich" (Fourth Reich being a continuation of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich).  Ingrid had recited this monologue to me before, telling me it was a joke.  It was very disturbing even then.  From Erlend Anker Barstad Mørk's upload, it is not obvious that it is a joke, despite parts of the monologue sounding very strange; Erlend listed the video as "News and Politics."  And I am sad to admit that this was far from the first instance in which Ingrid boastfully compared herself to a neo-Nazi. :'-(

That Ingrid calling herself a neo-fascist "of the Fourth Reich" in the video was some joke is especially unclear for another reason: Ingrid and Erlend got embroiled within a sleazy Far Right political circle in Norway whose most prominent figures regularly demanded that Norway's government block immigrants from North Africa (evidence of the xenophobia here, here, here, and here; much of this relates to Kjetil Knausgård's pro-bigotry "Libertinius" page).  If you don't want people thinking you are a neo-Nazi, it's not wise to associate with a circle that promotes xenophobic propaganda.  (Sadly, Ingrid actually first heard of that political organization from me, before it became so brazenly sleazy and took on such a stridently bigoted position against north African immigrants; I heard about it under the false pretense that it was about promoting a free market.)  People in the xenophobic political circle are among the sycophants who wanted me to go along pretending that all of Ingrid's public morbid gestures were safe and fine.

Around 2014, Erlend "privated" the disturbing video.  But as I type this, Radaris retains a record of the video's existence -- complete with Ingrid's birth name (more about that later) -- and Radaris's record of it is documented and archived.  Again, there are multiple copies of this.



Since you're probably not Ingrid's mother, you are probably wondering, 'Why the hell should I care?'  Until Ingrid confirms that she has returned to psychiatric care on a regular basis, there are grounds to be concerned that Ingrid continues to pose a danger to colleagues with whom she networks, such as on the BiggerPockets real-estate investing forum. That could be you. Explaining this requires more context.  (If you want to learn an additional reason why Ingrid likely continues to pose a  physical danger both to herself and to others, that is below under the heading "The Accusation Against the Classmate.")



The Beginning of the Story Behind This
Before Ingrid showed me the murder threat and the disturbing "Fourth Reich" video, over a period of months she slowly introduced more and more clues indicating the danger.  First, she explained why she was born with her mother's last name instead of her father's, her father being an expatriate from Minnesota. (As should be clear by the end of this, this family history seems very pertinent to Ingrid's public suicidal, dysmorphic, and homicidal gestures.)

This is the story:  around the 1960s, there were three brothers in Minnesota (around Duluth but also around Woodbury and Brooklyn Park):  Wil Honkala, Maynard Duane Honkala, and Delbert Honkala. (Their other siblings were Clarence W., Marvin, Vivian, and Dory.)  Maynard Duane Honkala was supposed to care for the siblings Cheri Honkala (a radical left-wing political activist, U.S. presidential running mate with Jill Stein for the Green Party in 2012, and mother-in-law to a famous actress) and Cheri's older brother Mark Honkala.  This Mark Honkala suffered from depression and killed himself by jumping off a bridge.  According to various publicly available interviews and memoirs of Cheri Honkala's, both Cheri Honkala and her mother received domestic abuse.  When it comes to disclosing this, I am not disclosing information that Cheri Honkala herself has not availed to the public.  This is from Washington City Paper:

When an alcoholic stepfather stepped into the picture [for Cheri Honkala], physical and sexual abuse soon became household routines. . . . 
[Cheri] Honkala says she was hospitalized every year as a consequence of abuse. By the time she was 13, in 1976, Honkala told her mother that she had been abused not only physically but sexually as well.
Cheri Honkala's son, Mark Webber, is named after Cheri's brother.  (Mark Webber has also appeared in such famous motion pictures as Scott Pilgrim Versus the World.)

As Cheri Honkala's birth father left her mother "a couple of months" after Cheri's birth (page 215), Cheri received the last name of her stepfather: Honkala.

Cheri Honkala's cousin-through-marriage, Julie Flynn of Minnesota (more about her below), mentioned in an e-mail that Maynard Duane Honkala "drank himself to death" (verbatim quotation from August 31, 2011).  Julie Flynn wrote to me,

The two uncles my sister [Nancy Henderson Honkala] was talking about...one killed himself when I was 12 [Delbert Honkala], and the other one drank himself to death. The one who killed himself [Delbert], lived with us for a while and the other one my sister used to sleep at their house a lot. The one who drank himself to death [Maynard Duane Honkala], had a son who committed suicide when he was a teen. He jumped off the highest bridge in Minneapolis to his death.

Maynard Duane Honkala's brother Wil Honkala (he spells it Wil with only one L) married Doris Ledingham.  They raised four children:  Nancy Honkala (now Nancy Henderson Honkala), Julie (now Julie Flynn), Brian Honkala, and Mark Honkala.  Yes, it appears that the two brothers each raised someone named Mark Honkala.  This Mark Honkala was brought up believing that Wil Honkala was his biological father, but that was not the case.  Again, Ingrid didn't tell me all the names of her aunts and uncles; I learned those names later.  But I give the full backstory now to get it out of the way.

Ingrid didn't tell me about Cheri Honkala or Maynard Duane Honkala either.  Nor did she tell me that there was more than one "Mark Honkala"; I learned about all that later.  I put that here now because, seeing this in retrospect, the context is much clearer if I state it all now.

This is what Ingrid did tell me directly, though initially her  telling of this was vague, leaving out some important details: Doris Ledingham Honkala had an extramarital affair, and this other Mark Honkala was the result.  After this Mark Honkala learned what had happened, he tracked down his biological father, but his biological father wanted nothing to do with him.  Around this time, Mark Honkala decided to change his last name to "Ledingham" -- his mother's maiden name.  He moved permanently to Tromsø kommune, Norway, where he became something of a civic figure, and where he took nature and landscape photos that have since become internationally renowned.  There, he married the divorcée Lillian Johnsen, and their daughter together was Ingrid Johnsen.

Ingrid said, "When it was the time to decide what name went on my birth certificate, my mom said to my dad, 'If we give her your last name, how do we know you won't just change it again? We'll give her my last name; it's simpler!' "  Ingrid laughed as she told me this.

Despite Ingrid writing in that follow-up in April 2004 that she was all better now,  she continued, between 2008 to 2012 on Oahu, displaying morbid and even violent gestures.  By late 2010, she made the morbid gestures very public. Many of these morbid gestures remain on the Web, and have been documented and archived. There are also copies of this evidence available as well. Of course, in the beginning the morbidity was not so obvious to me, though Ingrid was already making some isolated but bizarre hints at it.

When telling me about her father's history, Ingrid sounded vulnerable for the first time. She said that she puts on a front of bravado to hide her inner demons-- that she tries to make herself appear to other people that she is in a position of authority and responsibility, because she believes if people see her in such positions and seeming confident and professional, they will not question her judgment or sanity.  No red flags went off for me; I reassured her that there was nothing unusual about nursing self-doubts.



The Accusation Against the Classmate 
In the weeks that followed her telling me about the story behind her last name, Ingrid increasingly showed an obsession with child molesters.  The first joke she ever told me happened to be what she identified as her favorite signature on online postings:  'The internet is where men are men, women are men, and small children are undercover FBI agents," alluding to online sting operations against child predators.  Then Ingrid would reminisce about an ex-boyfriend back in Norway, Fritz.  She said that Fritz was a deep, caring person who empathized with everyone, a man of upstanding good taste.  Then she stared at the ground and giggled approvingly, "He always joked that he was a pedophile trying to lure kids into sex with him."

Then in February of 2010, Ingrid came to a professor and me, and told us a troubling story about a classmate of hers in that professor's class.  (I know the classmate's name but, for the time being, I won't provide it here. I might change that if later I find that it's necessary.)  Ingrid told the professor and me that the classmate had sexually propositioned her and, when she rejected him, he grew angry.  She continued that, based on his boasting about killing people in war and about his womanizing, she was afraid the classmate wanted to rape her.  They got into an argument and Ingrid had grown direly afraid of him.  A week later, Ingrid came to the professor and me and said that she was proven right to fear the classmate as violent, because he threatened her, "If you tell anyone what happened that night, I kill you!"

Ingrid insisted that we not go to the police (in retrospect, I should have reported this to the police against her wishes) but that she wanted the professor to keep the classmate and her separate from one another.  She did not file any formal complaints with Hawaii Pacific University (HPU), but she did go around informally circulating this accusation among several other schoolmates.  I completely believed the accusation at the time. (It's still important to listen.)

This is not the end of the classmate story; nor have we even reached the most disturbing part of it.  That is below, under the heading "The Danger Posed to Colleagues."

Then Ingrid told the professor, several other schoolmates, and me a troubling story where she accused her writing instructor of invading her personal space as he flirted with her.  Again, she did not file a formal complaint, and sternly insisted that none of us confidantes do so, either.  I completely believed this accusation as well.

I told her, "Ingrid, that's sexual harassment."

Then she laughed and replied, "No, no, no, no!  I would never say anything to get him in trouble."

I thought, Never say anything that could get the writing instructor in trouble? You just made that accusation right in front of a faculty member.



Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's Repeated (and, At the Time, Seemingly Random) Mentions of Child Molesters
One night in April of 2010, when Ingrid and I were going out for an evening stroll, she said, out of nowhere, "Why are people so bigoted when a convicted child molester moves into the neighborhood?"

My eyes shot wide open and I sputtered, "Whah? . . . Wh-wh-wh-what do you mean?"

Ingrid explained, "Whenever someone who, as an adult, had sex with a small child moves into the neighborhood, people immediately want to run him out.  They should consider that the child consented to the sex."  She argued that a prepubescent child should be recognized as contractually competent to consent to sex with an adult caregiver.  She would not be swayed from this opinion, at least not this night.

Later, she also told me that when she was thirteen, she was groped by her then-best-friend, also thirteen years of age at the time.  She attributed her fear of men to the incidents of her friend groping her, though those incidents did not explain her obsession with child molesters in particular, nor her apparently fearing American-born men more than Norwegian-born men.



The Danger Posed to Colleagues (The Latest News Indicates This Danger Is Ongoing As This Is Posted)
Another night that same month, Ingrid was telling me about her day and then she said, very casually, that she bumped into the classmate.  I mean the same classmate she previously accused of threatening to kill her.  I was alarmed.  As calmly as I could, I asked her to go on.  What happened?  Ingrid said that she and the classmate had a nice talk, and he was just a nice, fun, friendly flirt.  Then she started into space, giggled, and said, "Hee-hee! I . . . like [Classmate's name]!"

I was stunned.  I couldn't say anything in response.  Ingrid only responded to the awkward silence by changing the subject.

Ingrid also frequently talked about how she has had a long history of wanting to die.  In high school, she threatened to kill herself several times.  Moreover, she mentioned hating her body and that this hatred for her body goes back to her early childhood, long before the boy groped her when they were both thirteen.  She mentioned that ever since she was little, she thought that female anatomy is disgusting because it makes her vulnerable to predatory males.  She did not elaborate on whether she felt threatened by one or two predatory males in particular.

The next day, I went to the professor to address him about Ingrid talking up that classmate as if she did not remember her allegation about him.  The professor brushed off my concerns.  Even as Ingrid made increasingly obvious and public morbid gestures, which the professor saw up close, the professor acted as if it was safe and acceptable.  For those reasons, I have lost a lot of respect for this man and, after years of closeness, have grown estranged from him.

Throughout May of 2010, Ingrid oscillated back and forth in her memory of the classmate. First she switched back to saying he violently threatened her, and she went around telling other schoolmates about this.  The next day, she oscillated to resuming talk about the classmate being just a nice, fun flirt. Two days later, she resumed saying he was violent and dangerous.  Every time Ingrid changed her story, she sounded as if she did not remember what she said the previous time, even if that previous time was no more than the day before.

Ingrid also showed me something else.  Years earlier, Ingrid Johnsen Ledingahm wrote this disturbing blog entry condoning rape:

Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham wrote this disturbing blog entry condoning rape;
click on the image to enlarge it and make it more readable.


My conjecture on this is that Ingrid is still being affected by something inflicted upon her before she was thirteen and that boy groped her, and the scenario she imagines, wherein Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham recasts herself as the rapist, is her way of trying to regain a feeling of power and control. But judging by the continuing public morbid gestures, Ingrid trying to imagine herself as the rapist has failed to have a lasting therapeutic effect for her.

I do suspect that the classmate acted in a threatening manner toward her.  After all this, I maintain that people need to listen to women when they speak out about having been raped.  I have heard of how there are many cases in which, after being raped, the rape victim continued to be friendly toward her rapist; the rape was so traumatizing to the victim that she tries to rationalize to herself that there must have been sort of some of misunderstanding, and that the rapist is still a friend to her.  I understand that there are many cases where a rape victim tries to shield her rapist from facing the social repercussions of the public learning of what happened, especially if the rapist is a close relative.

If Ingrid was similarly rationalizing the incident with the classmate, that would not preclude the need for an intervention.  Most rape victims do not put murder threats for their mothers on the World Wide Web, keep those murder threats publicly visible for years and years, and then show those murder threats to you while trying to tell you that you are betraying her trust if you don't play along and pretend that the homicidal and self-harm gestures are safe and normal. Ingrid's original accusation against the classmate being true would not make her behavior in this situation any less dangerous.

By the autumn of 2010, Ingrid became very insistent on wearing the same garment to university class almost every day.  She had previously taken me to her apartment and she showed me all her clothes. It was not that she had lots of garments that looked alike.  No, it was the same black garment every day.  Then -- encouraged by the same enabler in Norway who uploaded the horrid "Fourth Reich" video -- Ingrid uploaded photos of herself photoshopped to have a chalky white face like a corpse.  Two of the corpse photos even went on Ingrid's LinkedIn account, next to her résumé, and one of them appeared on the official website of Hawaii University's SIFE chapter (SIFE later changed its name to Enactus).  I think some people tried to assume Ingrid was "just being a Goth or a Black Metal fan."  However,  Ingrid has a history of wanting to be dead literally (this is something Ingrid has documented publicly).  For that reason, I could not dismiss this as Ingrid "just being a Goth"; I had to take this seriously.

Here are the corpse pictures; you can judge for yourself if I overreacted.






The corpse image on the bottom is the
chronologically first photo
Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham
put on her LinkedIn page.
For some reason, people were
expected to interpret
the corpse image as
looking very professional
and businesslike.

Remember that this is from Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's blog:

I wanna die... i wanna die.. 
i dont want this.. i dont wanna be alone.. im such a looser.. I`m gonna cut myself [cut her wrists with a blade] so bad tonight.. 
no point of this shit.. 
my "b/f" [boyfriend in sarcastic scare quotes] just called.. got me wondering if i was supposed to be at work tonight.. i owno.. [sic] hope not, i wanna just die, and cut [my wrists]


Ingrid had some other interesting (that is putting it euphemistically) posts on her blog. This blog post refers to the body dysmorphia:

cut my face up [ . . . ] 
wish i could get hold of a knife so i could cut up that "little pretty" face of mine.. Cut it up and make it ugly, just as ugly as I feel.. then shoot myself in the head so I no longer ever would be able to analyse or think FOR SHIT. [. . .]  I wish I could kill myself. [. . .]  I know how fucked up it is having to have some stupid bitch around u talking about killing herself. [. . .]

i wanna fuck my face up so no1 [no one] will ever recognize me..  [ . . . ] i hate you audio [Audio is short for Ingrid's username at the time, Audiobuster].. i swear to god u deserve a knife

Thankfully, Ingrid did not slice up her face. However, as you can see from the corpse-face images, Ingrid did find another morbid method of "fuck[ing] my face up so no1 will ever recognize me."

She told me (and this is briefly mentioned on her blog) that, often she will perform morbid gestures very openly but people around her will go on pretending everything is safe and normal.  She said she is of two minds about it.  On the one hand, she said, it's disconcerting to her that no one confronts her compassionately about her mental illness. On the other hand, she said, it's good that people are too cowardly to confront her because she fears confrontation, and the other people's tacit acceptance of her pathology makes it convenient for her to continue the self-destructive behavior. This is how she phrased it years earlier:

its so strange.. i live with two other people in this house, i go to school 450 pupils, no1 [no one] and i mean no1 [no one] notices the wounds on my wrist or the scars. [It turned out this was self-deception on Ingrid's part; people noticed but pretended that they didn't. --S.H.] its great really 
i`m wondering if i should cut it deeper... it hurts like a bitch but.. maybe I`ll go..
or die if u prefer that word.
I resolved that I would not be one of those idle bystanders who played along in pretending that Ingrid didn't need help when she does.



"A Lot of Abuse in My Family's Past[,] Including Sexual Abuse" 
--Ingrid's Aunt Julie (From the Honkala/Ledingham Pedigree) 
By this time, I already lost trust in Mark Ledingham's judgment. I did notice, though, that on Twitter he was following an eccentric woman from the same home state in the USA that he was from -- someone named Julie Flynn.  (This was before I knew the names of Ingrid's aunts and uncles.)  What got my attention was that the woman's website purported to be for a charity she set up, one for helping at-risk teens and twentysomethings (Ingrid's age range at the time).  All of the mental illness symptoms that this Julie Flynn woman's website described were the same as what Ingrid had either admitted to having or had exhibited to me directly. I thought, Who is this strange woman? Is she perhaps a psychologist with whom Mark Ledingham had consulted about Ingrid's problems in Norway?  About symptoms that are now becoming strong and publicly visible once again?

I contacted Julie Flynn. I told her I was interested in her website, because I had a friend in her twenties who was exhibiting the symptoms the website described.  I mentioned to this Julie Flynn woman, though, that I am worried that if she is a psychologist, she might consider it a conflict of interest for me to describe my friend's situation, as I think this Julie Flynn woman knows my friend somehow.  Julie Flynn replied she is not a psychologist and it is OK for me to tell her what concerns me.   I told her about the morbid gestures but had not yet mentioned anything about the accusations about the classmate, the fear of men in general, or the obsession with child molesters.  On September 4, 2010, she wrote, "I've figured out you are talking about my neice [sic] Ingrid."

Aunt Julie remarked that Ingrid's situation was both familiar and unfamiliar.  The situation was unfamiliar in that, this entire time, Aunt Julie was unaware that her Norwegian niece was going through all this. Yet, Aunt Julie continued, what I described was indeed familiar in one respect:  when Aunt Julie described mental illness symptoms on her own website, she was describing her own symptoms, and she was startled by how Ingrid's symptoms were similar to her own.

Before I could say anything about the child-molester fixation or the accusation about the classmate, Aunt Julie asked me whether Ingrid exhibited a prominent hang-up about sex.  Aunt Julie Flynn said (also on September 4, 2010), "There is a lot of abuse in my family's past[,] including sexual abuse." Throughout the months, Aunt Julie revealed that both a cousin and uncle of hers killed themselves, though in different ways. The cousin very deliberately committed suicide by throwing himself off a bridge (this was the other Mark Honkala, stepson to Maynard Duane Honkala and brother to Cheri Honkala). The uncle was Delbert Honkala, brother to Maynard Duane Honkala  and Wil Honkala.  Julie Flynn has written of having memories of being sexually assaulted by Uncle Delbert; Julie Flynn mentions that on her own website over here,

Between the ages of seven and twelve, I was sexually abused by two family members. It didn't last the entire time, one was one incident and the other I honestly don't remember as of yet how long it lasted. 
The incident I'm having trouble remembering, was done by my uncle who committed suicide when I was about the age of eleven [this isn't Maynard Duane Honkala].

Later, Aunt Julie alleged explicitly that not only Uncle Delbert, but her father Wil Honkala himself sexually abused her. She added that when she talked to Mark Ledingham about this, Mark Ledingham professed -- not entirely convincingly -- no knowledge of this.

I asked Aunt Julie if Ingrid had ever been left alone with Wil Honkala; Aunt Julie replied that that might have happened.

Julie Flynn went through the following pattern.  Every few weeks, she told me she would have a compassionate conversation with Ingrid about the public morbid gestures, and about their having so many symptoms and traumas in common.  But, last minute, Aunt Julie would delay this.  Then she would start talking to me about something else, such as her co-workers irritating her.  Eventually she told me that she would have the compassionate conversation after she had her own confrontation with Wil Honkala and Doris Ledingham Honkala -- with Wil Honkala for sexually abusing her and with Doris Ledingham Honkala for being an enabler who looked the other way as the abuse took place.  Aunt Julie planned on confronting her parents with this through a snail mail.  She typed up a draft and e-mailed it to me.  I still have the entire draft in my possession.

At the last minute, though, Aunt Julie decided against mailing the letter. She rationalized that Doris was in poor health and the confrontation would worsen it.  Then she became uncommunicative and rude, and I do not think the compassionate conversation with Ingrid ever happened.  It might have dawned on Aunt Julie that if she looked further into the matter with Ingrid, she might uncover something incriminating about a patriarch other than Wil Honkala, Maynard Duane Honkala, and Delbert Honkala.

Here is part of the draft.





Click on the image to enlarge it and make it more readable.


I have printed out Julie Flynn's letter; I have hard copies of it.  I have also saved all of the aforementioned information in multiple places.

Doris Ledingham Honkala died in October of 2016.

It took an embarrassingly long time -- more than a year -- for me to admit to myself that the sexual abuse that Julie Flynn and Cheri Honkala  alleged at the hands of Wil Honkala and Maynard Duane Honkala respectively might be connected to Ingrid's repeated and obsessive (and, at the time, seemingly random) mentions of child molestation.  It took me more than a year to acknowledge to myself the possibility that Ingrid's disturbing behavior might not have been fully attributable to that boy groping her when she was thirteen -- horrible as that was -- but that the disturbing behavior might have roots going back to something inflicted upon her much earlier in life, and possibly inflicted by someone closer to her than that boy.



Note that "Wil A. (Doris) Honkala" is listed as a surviving brother to Maynard Duane Honkala. Cheri Honkala is listed among his "children," though she was his stepdaughter.  Maynard is "preceded in death by" his "brother, Delbert." Delbert is the uncle of Julie Flynn's who committed suicide when she was eleven.
Cheri Honkala quoted in the book "Myth of the Welfare Queen," talking about having been sexually abused by her stepfather Maynard Duane Honkala, brother to Wil Honkala and Delbert Honkala.
With respect to "alcoholic," remember Julie Flynn having mentioned her uncle who "drank himself to death."

A photo of me with David Zucchino's book about Cheri Honkala having been
sexually abused by her stepfather. I borrowed this from the library.
My photo of the page in the David Zucchino book mentioning this.
In Microsoft Paint I added the red marks to indicate where this is mentioned.
That part zoomed in.


Washington City Paper discussing Cheri Honkala having been sexually abused by stepfather Maynard Duane Honkala, brother to Wil Honkala and Delbert Honkala.
Julie Flynn, daughter to Wil Honkala and Doris Ledingham Honkala, discussing on her website her having been "sexually abused by two family members." The "uncle who committed suicide when I was about the age of eleven"  was Delbert Honkala, brother to Wil Honkala and Maynard Duane Honkala (recall that Maynard was "preceded in death by...brother Delbert."  The second family member, more cryptically alluded to here, whom Julie Flynn accuses is Wil Honkala, who also raised Mark Ledingham, father to Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham of Tromso.






Having to Go It Alone
It was up to me to have a compassionate conversation with Ingrid.  Most other people in our circles noticed the public morbid gestures but were too intimidated to say anything; they became perfect sycophants who helped Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham pretend that all of her public morbid gestures were safe and acceptable.

When I tried to talk to Ingrid about this, she feigned memory loss, pretending not to remember what she had told me about her obsession with child molesters and death and fear of men.  Then she added that by raising the topic with her directly, I was being more evil and frightening than the classmate who threatened to kill her.  She added that my confronting her about this was more evil and hurtful than all of the misogynistic epithets her ex-boyfriends hurled toward her.  Soon after saying all this, she again feigned memory loss, this time pretending not to remember being angry just minutes earlier.  As if she didn't know how the conversation started, she began talking casually about her day and then put on a smile and asked me how my day was.  I reminded her of what our conversation was about -- her violent and morbid gestures.  She then grew enraged again and intoned ominously, 'This is not over!"

For the sake of my physical safety, I had to cut off ties to Ingrid. But I never stopped caring.

Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's public morbid gestures reminded me of what she wrote on her blog about the self-cutting.  When it came to her making the more recent public morbid gestures, she was again two minds about it:  making very obvious cries for help in public and, yet, when confronted about it, trying to cover up something -- and this time perhaps the horrible truth  struggling to reveal itself was not only about her, but also about someone else.



BiggerPockets.Com:  Where the Danger of Continued Violence Remains
More recently when I looked at the BiggerPockets real-estate investing forum, Ingrid -- of all people -- popped up.  She talked about how she is a big shot real-estate investor who owns a parking garage in Norway and who is interested in New York.  She finally stopped using the horrid corpse pictures for her avatar.

However, she changed her name; she now goes by "Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham."  To someone unaware of the context, that must seem a touching tribute to a man of obviously large meaning in her life.

But based on Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's repeated unsolicited (and, at the time, mysterious) references to child molesters, and also based on what her aunts said about the patriarchs of the family, I am afraid that the name change appears to be yet another -- albeit subtler -- morbid gesture.

She has been talking about networking for her real-estate business.  This reminded me of what Ingrid said back in 2009 about how it's important that she project an image of being responsible and in charge, hoping that this will preclude anyone from questioning her sanity ever again.  If you network with Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham as a colleague, it would be prudent to remember her behavior with respect to her classmate and the writing instructor.  As long as Ingrid refuses to take responsibility publicly for her public morbid gestures -- including, but far from exclusively, the still-online murder threats and photoshop-corpse photos -- there is probable cause in concluding that the danger remains.

On Facebook, I noticed Ingrid Johnsen's mother, Lillian Johnsen.  I wrote her a private message re-introducing myself (Ingrid mentioned her to me before) and telling her about how Ingrid's murder threat for her is still on the Web for everyone to see.  Hours later, Lillian Johnsen blocked me. It was tempting to think, "Well, if Mrs. Lillian Johnsen is going to be like that, then I guess she deserves to face the repercussions of Ingrid's public morbid gestures going unaddressed, as hazardous as those repercussions could be."  But no, the truth is that Lillian Johnsen is not the only person in danger; the violence is something that can be directed toward anyone to whom Ingrid has felt some emotional attachment.

I wrote to BiggerPockets.Com about this. I didn't mention Ingrid's name, but I did mention that I recognized a person posting on the BiggerPockets website who still has a murder threat publicly viewable on the World Wide Web for everyone to read in English.  I wanted to add that, based on the incident with the classmate, I think it's dangerous for real-estate investors to network with my friend if she isn't openly receiving treatment for her condition.  Scott Trench of BiggerPockets replied to me that as long as the morbid gestures aren't on the BiggerPockets forum itself, none of that is his concern.

Because of Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's refusal to return to psychiatric care concerning her condition, I had no other recourse but to bring this up publicly.

First off, falsely accusing someone of a violent crime is itself an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is this.  If X goes to Z and accuses Y of having committed violence against X, then Z may easily respond with violence toward Y, either doing the violence himself as retribution or going to the police (remember that government action is backed by the threat of violence).

Furthermore, every impassioned public threat of violence -- such as the one that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham put on the Web publicly for her mother -- must be taken seriously.  Serious public threats of violence count as an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is that, although not all violent threats are acted upon, there is probable cause to judge that the person who issued the threat might still act upon it one day.  Even if Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham doesn't carry out her violent fantasy regarding her mother, she has given enough reason for people to suspect she might do something equally dangerous or retributive to someone else to whom she feels emotionally attached. You cannot justly hide behind the phrase 'This is my privacy and none of your business!' when the matter involves violent threats you have issued publicly against your own mother, particularly when you have continued, throughout the years, issuing public gestures indicating a continued obsession with death and violence.  And no, the right-wing Norwegian cliques' reinforcement of her suicidal, self-mutilating, body dysmorphic, and homicidal gestures does not constitute free speech -- as I argue here, reinforcement of someone's self-harm is not something to which that self-harmer is competent to authorize.

The implicit message behind Ingrid Johnsen
Ledingham's public morbid gestures.


If you have come into contact with Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham, even if only on a forum such as BiggerPockets, and truly care about her well-being and the safety of those around her, don't be like that professor and those phonies in that right-wing Norwegian political circle: don't play along and pretend that the situation with her is safe. That is not being a true friend but a sycophant. Please, please, please confront her compassionately and firmly (pardon that redundancy) about how her happiness, her being able to accept herself and her past, without all these evasions, is most important, and that the courage to return to regular psychiatric care is worth it.  Ingrid's internal well-being -- not putting on the image of being a big shot of a real-estate investor -- should be the priority.  Be an in-patient if that's what it takes to address the lingering fixation on child molesters and incest. People around Ingrid -- even if only co-workers or acquaintances, and if they only know her through online communication -- do have a right to know about her violent threats and the inconsistency in her accusations about crime, and they do have a right to expect (a) that she be in regular treatment for her condition and (b) that, for their safety, she be transparent with them about her condition.



On October 2, 2017, I added the quotation about "drank himself to death" and my photographs of the David Zucchino book.