June 1, 2015

Pope FrancisThe Catholic Church and Climate Change
From Galileo to genetics, the Roman Catholic Church has danced with science, sometimes in a high-tension tango but more often in a supportive waltz. Pope Francis is about to introduce a new twist: global warming. (Seth Borenstein, Associated Press)

Budgies Yawn Contagiously
“Contagious yawning by itself is not exactly empathy, but it hints at the tendency to mimic and synchronize with the bodies of others,” says Frans de Waal of Emory University in Georgia. “This process is probably the basis of mammalian empathy.” De Waal thinks this is a good starting point for examining empathy in other types of animal. “Until now, most empathy research has been on mammals,” he says. “Empathy may turn out to be a mechanism even more widespread than we think, which is all the more remarkable given that it was thought just one or two decades ago that empathy was uniquely human.” (Penny Sarchet, New Scientist)

The Oldest Known Murder
The study doesn’t just show evidence of a murder hundreds of thousands of years old; it also points toward early use of a primitive cemetery. (Sam Sanders, The Two-Way, NPR)

Why Do We Experience Awe?
Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner: Years ago, one of us, Professor Keltner, argued (along with the psychologist Jonathan Haidt) that awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps—collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship—awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong. Now, recent research of ours, to be published in next month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, provides strong empirical support for this claim. (The New York Times)

John Horgan on Faith vs. Fact by Jerry Coyne and Private Doubt, Public Dilemma by Keith Thomson. (The Wall Street Journal)

Jerry Coyne

Talking from the University of Chicago, where he is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, he explains why new scientific discoveries are undermining the claims of religion; why Stephen Jay Gould was wrong; and how U.S. law is not doing enough to protect children from being martyrs to their parents’ faith. (Simon Worrall, National Geographic)

Category: Field Notes


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