March 26, 2012

Is Free Will an Illusion?
The Chronicle Review brought together some key thinkers to discuss what science can and cannot tell us about free will, and where our conclusions might take us. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Post-Traumatic Growth
Experiencing growth in the wake of trauma, Richard Tedeschi, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, asserts, is far more common than P.T.S.D. and can even coexist with it. (Jim Rendon, The New York Times Magazine)

Godless Come Out to Rally
Despite intermittent rain, several thousand people gathered on the lawn across from the National Museum of American History to hear a roster of speakers that included comedians, activists, and the first openly atheistic member of Congress—Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.). (Lori Aratani, The Washington Post)

Heathen Manifesto
Julian Baggini: This manifesto is an attempt to point toward the next phase of atheism’s involvement in public discourse. It is not a list of doctrines that people are asked to sign up to but a set of suggestions to provide a focus for debate and discussion. Nor is it an attempt to accurately describe what all atheists have in common. Rather it is an attempt to prescribe what the best form of atheism should be like. (guardian.co.uk)

BOOKS
The Atheist’s Guide to Reality

Philip Kitcher: The evangelical scientism of The Atheist’s Guide rests on three principal ideas. The facts of microphysics determine everything under the sun (beyond it, too); Darwinian natural selection explains human behavior; and brilliant work in the still-young brain sciences shows us as we really are. Physics, in other words, is “the whole truth about reality”; we should achieve “a thoroughly Darwinian understanding of humans”; and neuroscience makes the abandonment of illusions “inescapable.” Morality, purpose, and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go. The conclusions are premature. (The New York Times)

MOVIES
People v. The State of Illusion

Ingrid Wickelgren: The film, which was written and produced by a former attorney Austin Vickers, invokes a good deal of science to back up the simple, uplifting argument that we all have the power to change our lives by changing our own minds. The message is not unlike that of many life coaches, but the arguments are more subtle and interesting than the platitudes I usually hear. Here are some lessons the film extracts from the science along with a few untethered snippets of advice for becoming a happier person. (Streams of Consciousness, Scientific American)

Category: Field Notes

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