July 30, 2013

Comparing the Minds of Gods
How come some religions don’t believe in a god or gods with moral concerns? Benjamin Purzycki may have the answer. He argues there’s a difference between explicit, formal theological religious beliefs and people’s religious intuitions. Even among religions that state their gods are unconcerned by human moral behavior, he predicts there is an automatic bias toward believing that these gods know and care about interpersonal behavior between people. To test this moralization bias theory, Purzycki has conducted what he describes as “the first study to systematically compare the minds of gods.” (Christian Jarrett, Research Digest)

More on Health and Happiness
Researchers have found a strong link between living one’s life with a sense of purpose and enjoying a robust immune system. However, shallower forms of happiness such as “simple self-gratification” produce the opposite result, weakening the body’s immune response. A new study finds these two basic types of happiness—“eudaimonic” and “hedonic”—produce internal changes that are in “stark contrast at the level of molecular physiology.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Different Explanations for Why Some Mammals Are Monogamous
“Monogamy is a problem,” said Dieter Lukas of the University of Cambridge in a telephone news conference on Monday. “Why should the male keep to one female?” The evolution of monogamy has inspired many different ideas. “These hypotheses have been suggested for the past 40 years, and there’s been no resolution of the debate,” said Kit Opie of the University College London in an interview. On Monday, Opie and Lukas each published a large-scale study of monogamy that they hoped would resolve the debate. But they ended up coming to opposing conclusions, which means the debate over monogamy continues. (Carl Zimmer, The New York Times)

Empathy as a Choice
Jamil Zaki: Studies suggest that instead of automatically taking on others’ emotions, people make choices about whether and how much to engage in empathy. (The Moral Universe, Scientific American)

Things We Don’t Understand About the Human Brain
Despite all the recent advances in the cognitive and neurosciences, there’s still much about the human brain that we do not know. Here are eight of the most baffling problems currently facing science. (George Dvorsky, io9)

Category: Field Notes


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