Missing Things

29 December 2011

Can someone explain this?

Psychology and sociology experiments are unique among the sciences in that the test subjects who volunteer for them are generally capable of understanding the implications of the experiments' results. If the premise of the experiment requires deceiving the test subject in some way - as must be done sometimes, in order to simulate a situation for the test subject to act in - it may be that upon full disclosure of the experiment and its results, the test subject's reactions at the time may be cast in an entirely new light. This phenomenon is known as inflicted insight, and experiments which may cause it are strongly discouraged if not outright forbidden by ethics committees.

My question is - why?

What inflicted insight basically amounts to is exposing the less savoury or comfortable facets of a person's own psyche and forcing them to confront them. How could this be considered an undesirable result? The test subject believes something about himself or herself that is wrong, and the researcher is not only helping him or her to Know Thyself - in the best possible circumstance I can think of, I might add - but also preparing evidence that this problem is possible, for the scientific community, to better help other people who may have a similar reaction but were not fortunate enough to participate in the experiment personally.

Here's an example. The Milgram experiment is a famous one in which the unknowing test subject is asked to help with a simple negative feedback test for a 'slow learner'. Whenever the 'slow learner' - portrayed by an actor - gives an incorrect answer, the test subject is to press a button which, they are told, will deliver the learner a 15V electric shock that increases by 15V every time the button is pressed. The test continues until either (a) the test subject refuses to continue a total of five times (a list of four specific responses for the experimenter to use are prepared beforehand; after the experimenter has used all of them and the test subject still refuses, the test ends) or (b) the test subject uses the highest possible setting - 450V.

The hypothesized percentage of test subjects who would complete the test was 1.2% (with a range of 0% to 3%). While every test subject questioned the experiment at some point, 65% of them administered the final 450V shock rather than give up, and of the 35% who gave up none of them went to check the health of the learner or insisted that the experiments cease entirely with other test subjects. (They were informed of the true nature of the experiment afterwards during debriefing.)

Other variations on the experiment demonstrated that there was no significant difference behaviourally between male and female subjects, though female subjects reported higher levels of stress, and indeed there were only three factors that seemed to influence the outcome: compliance decreased when the subject and researcher communicated by phone (greater separation), when the experiment was conducted by an unknown institute rather than Yale (though the difference was not statistically appreciable), and when the subject interacted more directly with the victim. Experiments were also conducted in which the button was real and connected to a puppy, to eliminate the possibility that the subjects in earlier tests were subconsciously picking up that the button did nothing, with no change.

Such experiments would not be permitted today due to reasons of inflicted insight - taking the form in this case of "Here, mate, you just proved you would have electrocuted someone with a learning disorder because an authority figure told you to. And so did most of the other people who signed up to do this. Don't you think there might be something wrong with that?"

There is a coda to this story: a later survey conducted revealed that 84% of responding test subjects were 'glad' or 'very glad' to have participated, and 15% were neutral. Many in fact wrote letters expressing thanks.

01 December 2011

Visual imagery

This is just something interesting I ran across.

You've probably heard of the notion that human beings were 'created in the image of God'. Biblically, the concept originates from Genesis, where the exact words used are tzelem elohim. 'Tzelem' means image, shape, form, &c; 'Elohim' is one of the titles of God (since calling him by name is grammatically verboten).

This may shed a new light on one of the other places where tzelem is used - in the second commandment "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below". Here, tzelem is translated as 'idol' (in other translations, 'graven image').

In my experience this commandment has been the subject of confusion among Christians I've known, including pastors and teachers, since on the surface it seems to be a restatement of 'you shall have no other gods before me', so this connection was something of a minor epiphany for me. God is specifically forbidding depictions of himself for worship, in any form - no balls of fire, no golden calves, no Nehushtan - follow that link, it's a really interesting one - possibly not even the crucifixes and nativity scenes we're all so accustomed to, though I'm not nearly qualified enough as a theologian to say that with any certainty yea or nay.

Why this unique ban? Because God makes his own idols, from clay, that no human artisan can reproduce, and one of them is you. I don't recommend worshiping them - that would violate the preceding commandment - but loving them, on the other hand, is specifically encouraged. :)

24 November 2011

I don't know, what do you think?

The chief drives of the human-being-as-biological-organism are supposed to be food and sex.

Most of the modern world's social ailments, though, can be linked to a surplus or shortage of one or both of these - obesity, anorexia, health fads, body-image disorders, divorce, infidelity, depopulation, and infanticide all come to mind.

This thought is incomplete. The existence of a connection is self-evident, but I'm not sure what it might be or whether it's even significant.

I am, however, reminded of the two injunctions carved over the Oracle at Delphi, as recorded by Socrates through Plato. I spend a lot of time thinking about Know Thyself; this seems to be an apt reminder (and, personally, rather a needed one) of the necessity of Moderation in All Things.

Happy Thanksgiving.

20 October 2011


A four-month gap before another post appears, in the middle of a series, no less. How excruciatingly embarrassing.

Even more so when the post of my return is merely to say 'no, I haven't completely forgotten about this yet, I can't finish it just now but we'll see about next week', without providing anything much in the way of content or food for thought.

(I suppose I should be thankful that it's in front of fewer than ten people.)


Separate note. I've had a couple of people tell me that they really enjoyed what I had to say in Moment of clarity. Is this something I should be aiming for more often? I mean stylistically, with the overflowing slightly-edited stream-of-consciousness rambling-to-myself approach. (Scheduling regular weekly epiphanies would be lovely, but I'm not sure I can arrange that.)

16 June 2011

...an Eternal Golden Braid

Continued from last week, when we were discussing strange loops!

Quick review: a strange loop is anything that linearly relates to itself - if you pick some one action to perform on it, you'll eventually return to exactly where you were when you began.

Now - per the last example last post, human consciousness is itself a strange loop, as shown whenever you think about thinking, or think about why you think or feel the things that you do. So it should be no surprise that philosophy, psychology, mathematics, art, and so on can all be shown to be complex, tangled hierarchies full of strange, looping structures. Here's a couple more examples, for fun:
  • Storytelling. Structures which return the characters to the place they started from at the beginning - physically, mentally, emotionally - are common throughout great literature. The Hero's Journey is a perfect example - albeit an overly specific, misleading, and rigidly stratified one. In the Iliad, the Greeks go to war; in the Odyssey, the last of them finally comes home. (In the beginning of the Odyssey, Odysseus almost gets home but fails.) There and Back Again. Don Quixote. The answers are always in the place you started, but you need the intervening book in order to recognize them.
  • Feynman diagrams. Antimatter and matter are always created together in nature, and annihilate each other when they converge again. Feynman diagrams are just how scientists keep track of their interactions. Particle creation and annihilation is happening constantly, everywhere, and usually the two particles that formed together also destroy each other shortly thereafter - the diagram looks like this (incoming energy waves convert into two particles with mass, which move apart, collide again, and re-release the energy). You'll notice, though, that the regular particle is marked with a forwards arrow, and the antiparticle is marked with a backwards arrow - because one possible interpretation of the math is that there is only one particle and it appears to sometimes be an antiparticle because at that point it has begun moving backwards in time. In other words, the particle is 'creating' and 'destroying' itself, in a single infinitesimal moment, forever.
  • Fractals. You can zoom in indefinitely and get the same image you started with, yes? Well, not for all fractals - the famous Mandelbrot Set, for instance, is unimaginably more complex than that.
  • Let's talk (briefly) about the Mandelbrot Set. Do you know the coordinate plane? With an origin and a defined axis, you can locate any point P(x, y), x units left or right and y units up or down. One of the many, many things we can do with this is to apply a formula to P to define a second point - call it P1. Let's say that if P is x units right and y units up, we'll start at the origin, and move (x squared minus y squared) units right, and (twice x times y) units up. Then, we'll move it x more units right, and y more units up, and call that P1. X and Y can be absolutely anything, and we'll always get another point... so let's say that we take what we just did to turn P into P1, and do it to P1 to get P2, then P3, P4... and so on. We'll do it forever. (Mathematicians have sneaky tricks to find out what happens if you keep doing something forever.) If we keep going forever, we'll find that either our point is now racing toward the edge of the coordinate plane, an infinite distance away - or it's still meandering about, passing by our original point P every so often. Every point that hangs about when you do this is part of the Mandelbrot Set; in this picture, these are the points in black (the non-black points are coloured based on how quickly they run for the horizon). But if the point keeps doubling back on itself when we keep doing the same thing... the Mandelbrot Set consists of all of the points that generate strange loops from a given formula. Awesome? Awesome.
Moving on.

Strange loops can be bewildering at times because our minds are adapted to a conventionally categorical, hierarchical way of thinking - the classic riddle of shallow philosophy, "the chicken or the egg", writ large. The two hands cannot actually be drawing each other, after all! That looping sort of cause and effect makes no sense to our ordinary perception.

So it's very helpful that Hofstadter addresses this. None of the loops we've discussed, he points out, are actually self-sustaining or self-perpetuating. Rather, we can restore part of our usual understanding of things by noticing that every point of the loop has both an internal cause - somewhere else in the loop - as well as an external cause, generally one single one for the loop as a whole. You stand on any step of the Penrose staircase by climbing there from a lower step - and because Penrose conceived of the staircase. Characters reach the fulfilment of their stories with the unnoticed aid of their author. A quine is produced by being run, but only because it was first run on a computer. (The bits that make up computer memory are also strange loops, tiny tiny circuit segments that continuously feed themselves their own voltage as new input.) The trigonometric functions, and fractals, and especially the Mandelbrot Set, were discovered by expanding upon math that was already known. Particle-antiparticle pairs form from errant energy waves nearby in the universe. The Liar Paradox needs someone to say it or there is no "I" to be lying and not lying.

You'll notice I skipped humans, because the human mind is more complex than any of these - it is a self-modifying strange loop. In this sentence, I am now making you aware of the fact that you are thinking about strange loops, such as this sentence and your thoughts. You've just added an additional metarecursion onto that cycle, and you can keep doing that to potentially infinite degrees, limited only by your boredom! But for the moment I'm going to tie whatever cycle you're currently on back to this sentence by noting that by thinking about that uppermost layer and the process by which your mind reflects on itself you've constructed a strange loop of strange loops. With my help, of course. This blog post provides initial external instigation. ;)

My point is, though, that your mind doesn't necessarily need the external instigation. I have no idea how many strange loops that cycle in the last paragraph, for instance, and you might have easily realised the loop of loops without my assistance. This is because your mind is a more complicated, tangled, crazy, and wonderful place than you may have ever realised before! :D

I'm not going to be able to finish this in only two posts. Next time: we have to go deeper.Link

09 June 2011

Gödel, Escher, Bach

I just realized I've never actually discussed Gödel, Escher, Bach in detail here before, and then I went and made reference to it in my last post. Shame on me. It's awesome.

Gödel, Escher, Bach is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, whose subject cannot be really concisely explained. It's about everything. At it's core, you could say it's mostly about human consciousness. And music. And math. And art. (Kind of as implied by the title. You remember Kurt Gödel, right?) And puns, and palindromes, and Möbius strips, and vinyl records that destroy the record players that play them, and the holism/reductionism dichotomy, and computer programming, and artificial intelligence, and Charles Babbage's parable of Achilles and the Tortoise, and... and, it's amazing and you should go read it. Skim the parts that are too jargony for you, if you must, but keep going through it.

Let's talk about a construct that Hofstadter introduces, called a "strange loop". It's a shorthand way to talk about things that linearly relate to themselves. It'll probably be clearer if I discuss examples instead of trying to define it:
  • You've seen M. C. Escher's lithograph of the endless stairs? (The artwork is called 'Ascending and Descending', by the way. The structure itself is called a Penrose staircase, after the fellow who actually invented it - if you can tell me who famously used the correct name, you get an imaginary cookie.) That's a strange loop. You start anywhere on the stairs, and do nothing but walk up - linearly, one direction - and you still return to the point you started from.
  • A quine is a computer program that, with no input, produces its own exact source code as output. This is a strange loop - you proceed linearly down the generations of output, and each one is still the same code with which you began.
  • The trigonometric functions are a strange loop. For the function y = sin(x), the rate at which y changes with respect to x changing is y' = cos(x). The rate at which y' changes is y'' = -sin(x). The rate at which y'' changes is y''' = -cos(x), and the rate at which y''' changes is y'''' = sin(x) = y. Applying one procedure over and over takes you back to the original result.
  • The Liar Paradox - "I am lying right now" - is a strange loop. The thought process goes, if you are lying, then that statement is a lie, so it must not be true that you are lying right now, so you must not be lying. But if you're not really lying, then when you say you are lying you must be telling the truth, in which case you really are lying. Paradox.
  • The way your mind itself works is a strange loop. This is the process called introspection - you are able to recognize that your brain is producing thoughts, and this recognition is itself one of those thoughts.
People tend to think of strange loops as tricksy, exotic, complicated, mind-blowing things, but in reality, they're everywhere. People just tend not to notice them, or to think too hard about them, when they encounter them in real life. It's both frustrating, and depressing.

I'll elaborate on the significance of this next week, but in the meantime, you can go to another fantastic strange loop by following this elegant and finely-crafted link.

02 June 2011

Moment of clarity, possibly?

I just finished 'I Don't Want To Kill You', by Dan Wells. Brilliant, but mostly unrelated. Now I'm thinking about why I find mentally-ill people so sympathetic; it's apparently a bit unusual. Mom, at least, has never hesitated to give voice to the fact that she finds it disturbing and wishes I wouldn't; I don't find it disturbing at all, and unlike some of the other things I enjoy or at least don't mind, I'm not even entirely sure why it might be seen as disturbing. Sociopaths, schizophrenics, malignant narcissists, what-have-you are all in basically the same position as the rest of fallen man but even worse off, because their suffering is, I don't know, an intrinsic part of who they are? (This is kind of a part I can't express well, but it gets down to the idea that personality disorders are harder to treat than broken bones.) It frustrates me to have Mom worry that this kind of concern is itself psychologically unhealthy. (Of course this may all just be justificationary reaction on my part, but I'm increasingly unconfident in that and will continue so until I know otherwise.)

This leads me back around to "I Don't Want To Kill You", because of why I love John Cleaver so much as a protagonist. Not only is he suffering from sociopathy, but he is consciously aware of, and fighting, it. Self-awareness is key. It's a meta-recursive strange-loop thingy, which as I concluded from Godel, Escher, Bach is both an intrinsic component of the human intellect and even more intrinsically a divine attribute, and therefore a part of how man is made in God's image. It is, consequently, absolutely and totally mind-boggling to me in a violently facepalming why would you do that screaming kind of way why anyone would consciously do that, yet circumstantial, testimonial, and, yes, internal evidence suggests that it happens all the time. Forgetfulness and apathy, mostly. But even that aside, it often seems people don't even try. Or think that they're already doing it - I know I'm not the only one who's noticed this. This empathy business doesn't seem to be all it's cracked up to be, frankly. Can't people honestly examine and question themselves? Why is 'DOUBT' such a scary word?

This is where my chain of reasoning breaks down, because the moment of clarity has passed, I am falling asleep, and my attention and thoughts have been drifting into other places even since I started writing this. But, it seems to me, I can try to bring this to peoples' attention. Help to complete that particular strange loop, raise self-awareness, whatever. I'm sure conscious rejection is possible, if inexplicable, but I can help prove the choice to more fully resemble the image of God. I need to write about it, because that's what I can do and what I seem to be decent at. And that comes back to casting traditional 'them's in a different light, playing Devil's Advocate in person, writing stories that enable readers to question whether that are themselves mad, or villainous, or absolutely in the right. Pride is pervasive and in need of deflating.

This moment of clarity, of course, is foremost just a restatement of what I already believe, albeit one that has seen multiple pieces of that net suddenly 'click' together, as well as one that demands rather more action from me than I usually give it. (Sloth is definitely my worst vice.) It's not really all that clear, even, considering how often I point out I'm unsure of some bit, which rather lends support to the idea that this is just a rationalization of my own preexisting behavior. That said, I can not think of a single thing that would contradict this and show why it might be wrong, but, of course, "the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it", &c. (Side-question: does the darkness understand the darkness? The light presumably understands both...) ...and there I go fixating on meta-recursion again. Plus I've implied a distinction between those who are self-aware and those who are not, which given my loathing for "Us-vs-Them" categories makes me quite a hypocrite. And that sentence establishes me as a self-aware hypocrite trying not to be, which I happen to think is the best kind of hypocrite to be, placing me back in the "good-guy" slot in my own mind... though the fact that I feel wrong considering myself a "good-guy" could just be showcasing a symptom of depression that I should be trying to avoid... but that statement is itself just a rejection of responsibility on my part...

Given that entire last paragraph, I'm really praying that this note at least started out on the right track.

19 May 2011

A comment on God...

Really, God is basically the Eldritch Abomination to end all. Unimaginably vast? Check. Entirely not-of-this-world, existing in forms and places we can't imagine? Check. Not to be looked at directly lest you Go Mad From The Revelation? Check. Gets around that by manifesting in metaphorical images that may suggest to outsiders that you might be mad anyway? Check. Not to be named because no one knows how to pronounce it? Yay verily, and more! Thinks and acts in ways that the human mind cannot comprehend? Check. Likely to cause the end of everything if it pokes reality the wrong way? Check. What is NOT bloody freaking AWESOME about this picture?

And now you're going to tell me your hero doesn't like that and is going to kill him by poking him with an exceptionally shiny stick. And then insinuate that my problem is lack of creativity and imagination and zeal for the new and unfamiliar. Right.

14 April 2011

Wiki Walk With Me

- Each article can suck you in. Octopus.
- Once you read one article, you have to read another. Dominoes.
- All the articles are linked to each other. Spiderweb.

Therefore, based on everything I've heard from Cold War rhetoric, wikis are communist.

31 March 2011

Defending the Arts

I wrote this essay some time ago after being invited to watch Come What May, a film from a private Christian production team, with my sister's NCFCA Apologetics group. Their main reason for this is that many of the actors, writers, and various other members of the production team are homeschoolers and NCFCA alumni; my main reason was, frankly, free pizza. I've cut out the bits which deal directly with that film itself, since it obviously has not won fame and renown and so I should not need to caution anyone against seeing it; what remains are some of my thoughts on contemporary Christian art in general.

To begin with, "contemporary Christian art" is notoriously poor. This is more than a simple application of Sturgeon's Revelation ("90% of everything is crap"); music groups - the most common example - as well as game producers and such are considered extremely derivative, mostly due to the popular practice of marketing their work as "the Christian version of [insert secular example here]". In the arts that encompass works of fiction, including film, literature, and the very late, 'bout time you showed up forays into the realm of comics and graphic novels that have more recently come to attention, such plagiarism is frowned upon; but there are other commonalities that I think tend to diminish these works and continue to reflect poorly on their fellows.
(1) Moral conflict is oversimplified and waved at the reader with Aesopian fury.
(2) Every protagonist either begins as a Christian or converts by the end of the story (generally, to the denomination espoused by the author). Every villain is actively opposed to the same to at least some degree (because everyone who isn't a Christian themselves is a godslaying sociopath, of course).
(3) The plot itself favors the heroes, leaving the villains in a position in which they themselves would be obviously better off abandoning their villainy, begging the question of what their motives were to begin with. (There is also a corollary, in that the hero - the person whom the audience is meant to support - is always the protagonist - the person through whom the audience experiences the story. There is a common root here, in which the author feels that the audience must give all of their sympathy to the hero without allowing any to the villain, which would happen naturally if the villain was allowed to provide a point of view.)

Though they are thankfully anything but universal, these seem to be widespread enough for commentary. (I would dearly love to know that I am wrong about this, so by all means, bring forth counterarguments and counterexamples!)

I can imagine two main defenses of this list - that these are hardly unique to Christian fiction, and more significantly, that these are necessary elements of any story that claims to have a basis in Christianity. My response to the first is that, beyond being a mere tu quoque, the stories that succumb to these patterns are usually propaganda, allegory, or children's stories, anything but great literature. "Secular" stories - a misnomer that deserves a post of its own - that possess these same characteristics but still win acclaim do so in spite of these properties, not because of them. These intentions have a place - in basic education and in parables, for physical and spiritual children - but as Christians we have a calling to make art that is more than just a reflection of ourselves and our culture. As in any other work, we are to glorify God, which means striving for anything merely mediocre is unacceptable! "Imitators of God", "Imago Dei", "sub-creators" all speak to human creativity as a divine attribute of the Holy Spirit, and anyone called to create should likewise be ready to say of their work that it is good.

This, of course, is what makes the second argument so potent.
Mustn't any work calling itself Christian art either uphold or permit Christian ethics or worldview, in the plot, the world, the story created?? Mustn't we do our best to affirm and communicate whatever is true, good, noble? Doesn't this place utmost importance on (1) absolute distinctions between good and evil, (2) clear lines between right and wrong, and (3) heroes like Christ and villains like Satan?

Yes! Yes! and NO, NO, NOOOOO!

Fiction fits in an awkward space between that which we hold to be true, and that which we believe to be false. It is unreal in that none of it ever has taken place, or (as you walk along the genre pier towards speculative fictions and fantasies) ever could have taken place; but it is nevertheless true in that the best fiction is internally sound, containing people who act and think like people, concepts and ideas that are comprehensible, events that cause and effect one another as events we experience actually do. The author writes his story with both absolute knowledge and power over its events, godlike in omniscience and omnipotence, but the reader is not, nor ought to be, nor can be placed, in the same position. (I imagine this is part of the reason why the first-person and third-person omniscient are considered so difficult to write well.) The reader is brought into the story through one or more of the characters and knows only what the author tells him. The author has privileged him to enter his world almost as a created being, more a ghost than an incarnation, to leave only when he decides this world is not to his liking (either because it does not contain things that interest him, or because it was crudely assembled) or when the author brings his visit to a close.
This means that to be an effective story, the reader must perceive it in the same way as he perceives the world. I affirm that good and evil both exist, while cautioning that if distinguishing between them were easy, or good was always rewarded, no one would ever choose evil. I affirm that reality is impervious to personal preference and that true and false are mutually incompatible, while knowing that only God has absolute certainty about which is which. I affirm that on at least one key point of conflict a hero must be good and a villain must be evil, while begging you to remember both that pure good and sheer evil do not exist in the created world and any work in which these are invoked is an allegory by default!

Finally, I would like to point out once again that universally-lauded literature, Christian or non, does avoid those three tendencies. Consider The Brothers Karamazov, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, To Kill a Mockingbird, any others that may come to mind. Good literature can sometimes violate these rules within certain limits, such as being directed at a particular audience. True classics, however, do not.

24 March 2011

What IS normal?

Who are these hypothetical normal people who behave in a manner that coincidentally harmonizes with the philosophy of your choice?

I've never met a normal person. That doesn't really prove anything, since the number of people I've met is statistically negligible compared to the number of people who have ever existed, and this is a bit of an abuse of the word "normal" anyway. So... what do people mean when they talk about "normal people"?

I don't know, no one's ever told me. Everyone fairly close to average? (Average what?) The majority of majorities? People who agree with the speaker? Maybe we could poll everyone and say whoever thinks she's normal is normal, and vice versa. If we ended up with considerably more people answering "yes" than "no", this might even seem to be a valid method of sorting them out. But I suspect the percentage of humanity everyone knows is fairly similar to mine, so the comparison that they're making is based on equally insufficient data.

Let's suppose we work out the core aspects of human personality, and can compare people in each aspects in a meaningful way. The most primitive models I can think of, the four humors, uses a pair of dichotomies (say, extroversion and introversion) and is not very accurate. Myers-Briggs uses, I think, four axes, one for each letter, and I can't honestly say every other INTJ would get along with me. The more accurate the model, the more axes are necessary - I know of one that uses sixteen, and I imagine there are plenty of holes in it as well.

Quite a lot of these models have axes that are non-coincident, which just increases the total number further. And we'll have to consider that people with similar personalities don't necessarily agree, and throw in some ideological axes - traditionalist versus neophilic, judicious versus merciful, jack-of-all-trades versus master-of-one, et cetera.


Now - it seems reasonable to expect a plot of where each person falls on each axis to be bell-curve-shaped. Fair enough. Let's say a person with a normal level of some trait is one who falls within a standard deviation of the peak of its graph. Take all of our plenty-seven axes and superimpose their zeroes to get an array of over six billion individuals each represented by a single point in plenty-seven-dimensional space.

I would be quite surprised (note - this is the most subjective bit) if the bell curves on all these axes coincided so smoothly as to leave the majority of all humans within one standard deviation of every single peak. If they don't, which seems most likely, then normalcy has no objective meaning, if there's anything remotely objective about this entire idea when all is said and done.

It's a big internet, so I doubt all is said and done.

17 March 2011

A return to abnormalcy

I seem to know a surprising number of Christians who are fascinated by things most people find repulsive - because they are disgusting, eerie, unusual, horrifying, creepy, what-have-you - and, conversely, a disproportionate number of people I know who enjoy these sorts of things are Christians. This is more than a matter of those being the sorts of people I tend to know, though that's certainly the obvious explanation; rather, when I meet people who like the macabre, as often as not they turn out to be Christian after-the-fact, and when I meet Christians I often eventually discover that they have this fascination.

It's hardly a universally ironclad rule, but it is an interesting recurring pattern. I wonder if there is causality involved somehow in this correlation? It does seem to me that once a person has accepted that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it's quite difficult to fear anything else.