April 2, 2012

Our Drive to Join
E.O. Wilson: Have you ever wondered why, in the ongoing presidential campaign, we so strongly hear the pipes calling us to arms? Why the religious among us bristle at any challenge to the creation story they believe? Or even why team sports evoke such intense loyalty, joy, and despair? The answer is that everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags. And so it has ever been. (Newsweek)

Furry Friends
Just as with people, animals of other sorts can benefit from having a BFF. New studies show that animals with someone they can count on—to get them out of a scrape, share food, or deliver a kind gesture—are more likely to reproduce and are better at fighting disease. Such findings suggest that the need for a trusted, dependable companion goes way back in time. If so, friendship may confer evolutionary advantages. (Susan Gaidos, Science News)

Medicine and Faith
After discovering that silence on matters of spirituality left some patients unsatisfied with the care they received at the University of Chicago, two doctors there and four faculty scholars chose to examine how some medical schools either encourage or discourage physicians to integrate their faiths in conversations with patients and their own professional lives. Doctors who set their faith aside, they say, can become disillusioned and less effective. (Manya Brachear, Chicago Tribune)

Human Engineering to Address Climate Change
There may be another route to avoid the potentially disastrous effects of climate change: We can deliberately alter ourselves, three researchers suggest. Human engineering, as they call it, poses less danger than altering our planet through geoengineering, and it could augment changes to personal behavior or policies to mitigate climate change, they write in an article to be published in the journal Ethics, Policy and the Environment. (Wynne Parry, LiveScience)

More on Post-Traumatic Growth
It turns out that people who contend they have begun to take time to smell the roses may actually be descending into a psychological abyss with sometimes bizarre and potentially tragic manifestations. (Gary Stix, Scientific American)

How to Feel Like You Have More Time
The bit of wisdom on offer from a professor at Harvard Business School: Spend more time doing things for other people. This is, of course, completely absurd. How could taking on another task possibly help? The answer has to do with the important distinction between time—that thing that can be measured with atomic clocks, that marches on, merciless—and subjective time, our experience of the flow of events. (Gareth Cook, The Boston Globe)

Animal-Shaped Mounds in Peru
Archaeological evidence at the sites pegs some at more than 4,000 years old. “It’s going to shake everybody’s views,” Robert Benfer told LiveScience. “The previous oldest animal figures were at Nazca and they’re 2,000 years old.” The Nazca Lines are simple stone outlines of animals decorating the Nazca Desert in Peru. Like the newly discovered mounds, they may have had ritual significance. In addition, the shapes likely coincided with the constellations these ancient people saw in the Milky Way. (Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience)

EVENT
Rock Beyond Belief

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs. Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or without a religious preference. (Colleen Jenkins, Reuters)

Category: Field Notes

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