April 7, 2010

Do Our Brains Process Appearance and Morality Similarly?
Whether women were viewing a handsome male face or appraising someone’s good behavior, researchers found the same part of the brain—that which is known for processing reward—was stimulated. When unattractive faces were viewed, or when reprehensible behavior was judged, there was once again neural overlap, this time in the part of the brain known for processing disgust and punishment. (Misty Harris, Canwest News Service)

That’s Disgusting!
Physically, disgust keeps us healthy by steering us away from sources of infection. It warns of dangers we can’t see: pathogens and poisons. The same signal’s just as effective when it comes to invisible social and moral dangers. (Kathleen Taylor, guardian.co.uk)

The Question of Free Will
Jesse Bering: Findings reveal a rather strange dilemma facing social scientists: If a deterministic understanding of human behavior encourages antisocial behavior, how can we scientists justify communicating our deterministic research findings? (Bering in Mind, Scientific American Mind)

Obama Opens Up About His Christian Faith at Easter Prayer Breakfast
In openly personal terms, President Barack Obama honored the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, saying he draws inspiration from an eternal story of pain, suffering, and redemption. (Associated Press)

Animal Caught in China Is No “Yeti”
“It looks a bit like a bear but it doesn’t have any fur and it has a tail like a kangaroo,” one of the Chinese hunters said. “It also does not sound like a bear—it has a voice more like a cat and it is calling all the time—perhaps it is looking for the rest of its kind or maybe it’s the last one?” If it sounds like a cat, then it probably is a cat, says Loren Coleman, who opened the International Cryptozoology Museum in November. (Stephen Kurczy, The Christian Science Monitor)

BOOKS
Faith, Interrupted

What we have is a quiet account not so much of faith’s slow departure, but of a mature man’s growing autonomy. As Eric Lax moves further in space and time from his family and loses his altogether admirable parents, he also feels the faith they’ve bequeathed him—which he once accepted without question or any particular passion—falling away. (Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times)

TELEVISION
The Buddha

David Grubin’s The Buddha, which airs on PBS, is not the story of Buddhism—whose history as a religion, like that of Christianity, really gets going after the demise of its founder and is addressed here only in a couple of lines near the end of the film—but rather that of the historical person who said the things on which followers have based their several, differing practices. (Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times)

Category: Field Notes

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One Response

  1. Sam says:

    I apologize in advance, but I am really only making this comment concerning the free will article mentioned above. Yes, some scientists feel that free will is nonexistent, but the issue is far more complex and nuanced than they give it credit for. That these scientists acknowledge that saying free will is non-existent breeds anti-social behavior should be an indicator to them about how the issue isn’t simply “human beings + determinism = no free will”. This issue has been around for thousands of years. I highly doubt that its going to be solved any time soon.

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