March 15, 2010

Psychopaths Seek Rewards No Matter the Consequences
Correlations, the researchers report online in Nature Neuroscience, suggest that the greater the activity in a person’s dopamine circuits when they anticipate rewards, the more impulsive their personality. For psychopaths, everyday rewards may trigger abnormally large mesolimbic system responses, and thus create an overwhelming drive to seek out something rewarding despite the consequences of their actions, neuroscientist Joshua Buckholtz of Vanderbilt University says. He believes that this motivation coupled with a lack of empathy leads to crime. (Michael Torrice, ScienceNOW)

Law and Neuroscience
Who killed Lennon, the person or the brain? That’s the kind of question neuroscientists, lawyers, and judges are wrestling with today, says Michael Gazzaniga, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and head of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind. (Cathy Lynn Grossman, Faith & Reason, USA Today)

Georg Northof to Theologians: “We Will Never Be Able to Answer the Existence of God”
One of the world’s foremost neuroscientists is about to tell some of the world’s foremost theologians the bad news: God may exist, but the human brain is simply not capable of knowing that for sure. (Jennifer Green, Ottawa Citizen)

Social Studies Curriculum Standards Change in Texas
After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government, and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it. (James McKinley Jr., The New York Times)

“Social Darwinism” Has Little to Do With Darwin or His Theory of Evolution
Michael Zimmerman: Let’s stop this confusion and find a better name for social Darwinism—one that makes intellectual sense and permits people to understand its intent. In that spirit, I’m creating a contest calling for suggestions of a name change. The new name needs to be short and catchy. It needs to be fully expressive. It needs to be divorced from the science with which it has nothing to do. (The Huffington Post)

God Is Dead, Now Let’s Act Morally
Michael Ruse: There are those—and I am one—who argue that only by recognizing the death of God can we possibly do that which we should, and behave properly to our fellow humans and perhaps save the planet that we all share. (guardian.co.uk)

Stem Cell Expert Rudolf Jaenisch Is the World’s “Hottest” Researcher
“Our annual roundup of researchers who have authored multiple Hot Papers allows us to recognize those who are leading scientific thought,” said Christopher King, editor of Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch. Science Watch uses the Web of Science database to see which recent papers are being cited the most by other researchers. (Maggie Fox, Reuters)

Panel Debates God’s Future
The event, held at Caltech, was a much-anticipated face-to-face meeting of Deepak Chopra and Michael Shermer. “These guys have been going at it for years on the Internet and on TV,” said ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, who moderated the discussion. “Until today, however, they’ve actually never met.” (Brian Day, Whittier Daily News)

“Theology After Google” Conference
More than talking about how to use new media and social-networking tools, the conference was about how those tools reflect a new cultural mindset that is changing how people pray. (Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times)

BOOKS
The Art of Choosing

If choice is good, Sheena Iyengar, now a professor of business at Columbia University, wondered, why did having so much of it leave her feeling so overwhelmed? (Evan Goldstein, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Category: Field Notes

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