April 8, 2013

The Battle Between Skeptics and Believers
T. M. Luhrmann: Anthropologists have a term for this racheting-up of opposition: schismogenesis. Gregory Bateson developed the word to describe mirroring interactions, where every move by each side makes the other respond more negatively, like those horrible arguments with your spouse where everything you say makes the other person dig in their heels more fiercely. These days, we Americans live not only with political schismogenesis, but also religious schismogenesis. (The New York Times)

Memories of Near-Death Experiences
Long after a near-death experience, people recall the incident more vividly and emotionally than real and false memories, new research suggests. “It’s really something that stays in the mind of people as a clear trace, and it’s even more clear than a real memory,” said Vanessa Charland-Verville, a neuropsychologist in the Coma Science Group at the University of Liege in Belgium. (Tia Ghose, LiveScience)

Altruism in Animals
It’s still unclear what motivates an animal to save a drowning swimmer, or protect a girl from kidnappers, or raise a lost child; it seems to defy evolutionary sense. But altruism and cooperation may be just as natural as predation. Some experiments in humans suggest that generosity can induce the same kind of pleasurable reward in the brain that we get from food or sex. And if we’re hard-wired to enjoy being nice, there might be similar setups in brains across the animal kingdom. (Roxanne Palmer, International Business Times)

Temporal Lobe Discharges and Speaking in Tongues
Glossolalia—“speaking in tongues”—is a practice best known in association with “Charismatic” branches of Christianity. Practitioners, often as part of religious services, produce streams of speech which correspond to no known language. But could glossolalia sometimes be associated with a brain abnormality? Here’s an interesting case report. (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

Gerard ‘t Hooft

Gerard ‘t Hooft explains why he is an ambassador for the Mars One project, and whether he fancies a reality-TV-funded move to the Red Planet himself. (Govert Schilling, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes


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