February 22, 2012

Not Nasty by Nature
Biological research increasingly debunks the view of humanity as competitive, aggressive, and brutish, a leading specialist in primate behavior told a major science conference. “Humans have a lot of pro-social tendencies,” Frans de Waal, a biologist at Emory University, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. New research on higher animals, from primates and elephants to mice, shows there is a biological basis for behavior such as cooperation, said de Waal. (AFP)

Moral Rules and Kin Selection
An experiment shows we have at least two parallel systems for deciding right and wrong: one that says some actions, like killing, are bad, and another that tells us to protect kin. (Michael Marshall, New Scientist)

How Life Got Started
Life on Earth first bloomed around 3.7 billion years ago, when chemical compounds in a “primordial soup” somehow sparked into life, scientists suspect. But what turned sterile molecules into living, changing organisms? That’s the ultimate mystery. By studying the evolution of not just life, but life’s building blocks as well, researchers hope to come closer to the answer. (Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience)

The Birth of New Brain Cells
It is one of the hottest topics in neuroscience, and the idea that we can boost the growth of new brain cells with various kinds of physical or mental exercise seems to have equally taken hold of the public imagination. On top of this is the exciting prospect that we could one day use new neurons to repair the brain after injury or disease. But does it really happen? While there is good evidence that adult neurogenesis takes place in animals, there is reason to believe that does not necessarily apply to our own species. (Moheb Costandi, New Scientist)

Science, Religion, and Education
A perceived conflict between science and religion has led Americans to rank nearly last among industrialized countries in understanding evolution, educators told a major science conference. But research suggests that education changes anti-science attitudes among even the most religious of students, while history shows that science can thrive alongside religion, said Kenneth Miller of Brown University. (AFP)

Category: Field Notes

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