October 29, 2014

Pope FrancisMore on the Pope’s Statement on God and Evolution
Pope Francis said that the theories of evolution and the big bang don’t contradict church doctrine. But while some may find this news shocking, if welcome, this isn’t actually another case of Francis trying to modernize the views of his traditionally conservative institution—though many religious groups continue to attack scientific explanations of the origins of mankind, the Catholic Church has not been one of them for at least a half-century. (Miriam Krule, Slate)

“Auditory Illusions” in Prehistoric Cave Art
Depictions of interesting sounds, such as echoes and natural amplifications, appear to have made their way into everything from cave art to Stonehenge, according to new research presented at the Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Indianapolis. Among other things, the discovery could help to explain why so much early cave art showed human hands and images of herds of running animals. Steven Waller of Rock Art Acoustics suggests that the echoes and reverberation of things like hand clapping in a cave would have been misinterpreted as being “supernatural.” (Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News)

Religiosity, Racism, and Suicide
The study is the first to study the benefits of religiosity in an environment of perceived discrimination and depression. “Although discrimination can have adverse emotional consequences, the findings suggest that the ‘use’ of religion perhaps to connect with others or to meet some other need can be emotionally helpful among individuals who experience racism,” said Rheeda Walker. (Rick Nauert, Psych Central)

Do We Sometimes Make Better Choices When We’re Hungry?
Hunger is a “hot state” emotionally, according to Denise de Ridder and her colleagues at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In a paper published in PLOS ONE, they argue that hot states, which are characterized by heightened arousal, make people rely on their gut feelings and therefore improve their decision-making. (Marissa Fessenden, Smithsonian.com)

Matter and Meaning: Exploring the Religion and Science Dialogue

Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, presented the results from a survey on the relationship between science and religion. (Sarah Frazier, The Rice Thresher)

October 28, 2014

Akhbar:Clker.comOur Magical Thinking
C. Nathan DeWall: Yes, children believe in magic because they don’t know any better. Peter Pan never grew up because he embraced magical beliefs. But such beliefs make for more than happy Halloweeners and children’s books. They give a glimpse into how the mind makes sense of the world. We can’t overcome magical thinking. It is part of our evolved psychology. Our minds may fool us into thinking we are immune to magical thoughts. But we are only fooling ourselves. That’s the neatest trick of all. (The New York Times)

Yanomamö Warriors Who Kill Together
Cultural anthropologist Shane Macfarlan discovered to his surprise that most co-unokais, or men who participated in the same killing, weren’t brothers. At best, they were cousins. But most were related by marriage: Seventy percent of married unokais had a wife directly related to one of their co-unokais. The paper, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a twist on Napoleon Chagnon’s original ideas about how being a warrior boosts men’s fitness, and fits current notions that war is a mode of cooperation. (Lizzie Wade, Science)

Pope Francis on God and Evolution
He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist. “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service)

Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation

Gabriele Oettingen: Based on two decades of research findings, replicated across a variety of research participants, contexts, and methods, you would be ill-advised to indulge in dreams about achieving your goals and then assume you’re well on a path to success. Life just doesn’t work that way. (Science of Us, New York Magazine)

The Theory of Everything

The movie doesn’t deserve any prizes for its drive-by muddling of Stephen Hawking’s scientific work, leaving viewers in the dark about exactly why he is so famous. Instead of showing how he undermined traditional notions of space and time, it panders to religious sensibilities about what his work does or does not say about the existence of God, which in fact is very little. To its credit, the movie does not shy away from the darker parts of Hawking’s story. It is based on the 2007 memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, by his first wife, Jane Wilde. (Dennis Overbye, The New York Times)

October 27, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationThe Ignorant Mind
David Dunning: For more than 20 years, I have researched people’s understanding of their own expertise—formally known as the study of metacognition, the processes by which human beings evaluate and regulate their knowledge, reasoning, and learning—and the results have been consistently sobering, occasionally comical, and never dull. The American author and aphorist William Feather once wrote that being educated means “being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” As it turns out, this simple ideal is extremely hard to achieve. Although what we know is often perceptible to us, even the broad outlines of what we don’t know are all too often completely invisible. (Pacific Standard)

Why We Want to Hear Gossip
A new study suggests it’s because the rumors, innuendo, and hearsay are ultimately all about us—where we rate in the unofficial local hierarchy, and how we might improve our standing. “Gossip recipients tend to use positive and negative group information to improve, promote, and protect the self,” writes a research team led by Elena Martinescu of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. “Individuals need evaluative information about others to evaluate themselves.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Can How We Walk Affect Our Memories?
The striking finding is that students who were unknowingly guided by feedback to walk with a happier gait tended to remember more positive than negative self-referential words, as compared with the students who were guided to walk with a more negative style. That is, the happy walkers recalled an average of 6 positive words and 3.8 negative words, compared with the sad walkers who recalled an average of 5.47 positive words and 5.63 negative words. Focusing on the students who achieved the happiest style of gait, they recalled three times as many positive words as the students who achieved the saddest style of gait. (Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest)

Creationism Conference at Michigan State University
A creationist conference set for a major research campus—Michigan State University in East Lansing—is creating unease among some of the school’s students and faculty, which includes several prominent evolutionary biologists. The November 1 event, called the Origins Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.” (Viviane Callier, Science)

Gerard Russell

The Yazidis are one of many minority religious groups that have survived in the Middle East for thousands of years. Others include the Copts, the Samaritans, and the Zoroastrians. But with the increasing radicalization of Islam and other political pressures, these groups face an uncertain future. For his book, Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former British and UN diplomat Gerard Russell spent several years traveling to remote corners of the Middle East where these faiths hang on. Speaking from his home in London, he explains what George Clooney can expect from his new wife, why Detroit is one of the best places to hear ancient Aramaic, and why it’s important for us all that these minority religions survive. (Simon Worrall, National Geographic)

October 24, 2014

Ezekiel J. EmanuelWhy I Hope to Die at 75
Ezekiel J. Emanuel: Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value. But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. (The Atlantic)

Collective Mourning Online
Christina Chaey at Fast Company wonders, “should our thoughts on the dying remain a private affair?” Or “is it fair to bring others into our own, deeply personal experiences with death through very public mediums?” Katy Waldman at Slate asks, “Is it somehow more tasteful, even nobler, to keep grief private?” (Anna Altman, Op-Talk, The New York Times)

Asking Americans About Praying
It was a small survey, especially when compared to the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, which interviews more than 35,000 respondents. But small or not, the LifeWay survey reveals some interesting features of America’s prayer life. Almost half of those surveyed said they pray at least once every day, while nearly a third say they pray several times a day; 83 percent think at least some of their prayers are answered, while 14 percent do not know. But what are those prayers? (Casey N. Cep, Pacific Standard)

Mormon Temple Garments
The basic argument goes that the garments are not so different from the nun’s habit, the Jewish prayer shawl, or the robes of a Buddhist monk. And all of these tie into a much more earthbound concept—something psychologists call embodiment, or embodied cognition. (Melissa Dahl, Science of Us, New York Magazine)

A Rabbi’s Review of “The Rap Guide to Religion”
Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman: Since I am always looking for interesting and intelligent perspectives on the interaction of science and religion, when a friend of mine told me about this project, I had to go see it. And I was deeply impressed. (The Huffington Post)

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