Evolutionary Psychology and the Allure of Pseudoscience

A review of ‘Survival of the Sexiest’, The Nation.

Why do religions exist? One common, if slightly anti-religious, explanatory scenario runs like this: imagine you’re a prehistoric person without any understanding of gravity, meteorology, or other concepts which explain natural phenomena. You may be led to ask the question, “why does the river move?” The only things we know of that move by themselves are humans and animals, so there must be something ‘living’ in the river. Or what causes the wind? Something living, a spirit, akin to the breath of a human. Part of what lends this explanation its appeal is…

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For He Gives to His Beloved Sleep (Mode)

What happens when we lose the final frontier? A look into the necessary uselessness of sleep.

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

1. Aquinas followed Aristotle in claiming the end (telos, purpose) of biology is medicine. Science has long been a technical discipline designed primarily to promote human flourishing / well-being. Of course, it was always contemplative to a degree, satisfying curiosity or even, as Aquinas also notes, teaching us about God. The study of creation reflects upon the Creator. One wonders what the role of science is today, what a panel of researchers would say if asked. My best guess would be something along the lines of increasing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; if pressed further, one might say that pure knowledge works to bolster happiness and/or…

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Noise Pollution and Our Personalized Sound Environments

The Atlantic recently ran a great longread from Megan Garber called “Sonic Boom” outlining how digital technology is further transforming the way we interact with sounds or noise that we encounter in our daily lives. Garber profiles throughout history how we’ve interacted with sound as well as current research that seeks to control, contain, and regulate what is commonly referred to as “noise pollution”.

No surprise here but historically, we’ve gotten significantly louder. And with the advancements of human technology increasing the noise around us, we’ve been outpaced at adjusting to the increase in noise pollution. This…

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Striving in Our Sleep, or Resting to Work Better?

Talk about grist for the mill! Did you see Eve Fairbanks’ riff in this past Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, “When Did Sleep Become So Nightmarish?” Amazing stuff. She takes her own struggle with insomnia, what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared a full-blown “public-health epidemic”, and uses it as an entry point to exploring the mentality surrounding sleep in this country–or at least the sleep industry, which has apparently become a $32billion/year endeavor. What she finds could not be more relevant to those interested in the relationship between productivity and identity (or ‘works righteousness’). It’s enough to,…

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The Lion Shall Lie Down with the Zoologist

On the viral video front, there is an incredible story circulating about Kevin Richardson, the so-call “Lion Whisperer,” a South African zoologist (not the Backstreet Boy) who playfully interacts with lions and hyenas on animal sanctuaries. While watching the video, I kept thinking to myself this guy is crazy and going to end up like the Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin or Timothy Treadwell, the subject of the film Grizzly Man, who were both killed by the wild animals they studied. In comparison though, there is something very fascinating and almost otherworldly about how comfortable Richardson is with these lions—they actually know him and…

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Hitting the Bottle (of Purell): Control Issues in the Hygiene Hypothesis

This comes from biology nerd Lex Booth.

Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.’ — Genesis 11:4

Life in college during the cold & flu season is like navigating a Petri dish.  A roommate’s sneeze is enough to fill a house with the dread of an impending epidemic.  When a classmate coughs nearby, there is no sympathy, just offense by such blatant irresponsibility: ‘How dare you?  Don’t you know I have an interview next week?’  Parents of small children are equally familiar…

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Another Week Ends: Hoffman and Addiction, Parenting Confessionals, Harris v Haidt, Trite Apologies, Super Bowl Commercials and Transform(ers)ational Ministry

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, of Magnolia and, more recently, The Master fame, passed away this week in what the press generally called a “heroin overdose”. On the subject of addiction, it was painful and touching recalling his role in Owning Mahowny, and a moving reflection on Hoffman’s death comes from fellow Hollywood icon and recovering addict Aaron Sorkin at Time, ht BJ:

I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant…

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Another Week Ends: Doctor Death, The Yoga Righteous, Performance Reviews, Child’s Play, and Luther vs. Calvin Super Bowl Barbarism

1) A head resident at Stanford University, aged 36, just found out he has inoperable lung cancer, and wrote about in the New York Times. In the recognition of his own (near) mortality, Dr. Paul Kalanithi talks about crossing the line from doctor to patient, and what that’s done to his perspective on the statistics of his condition. He knows that, as a doctor, what one must do is instill or summon hope in patients–tell them they’ve got a vague sense of possibility to go further, tell them what they need to focus on (their families, their own well-being) to…

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What Can Woody Allen Trapped Inside John Calvin Teach Us About Anxiety?

“To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I’m like a duck—paddling, paddling, paddling…” – Scott Stossel

You don’t have to have a therapist on speed dial to relate. You don’t need a prescription to Xanax or Ativan, or a shelf full of ‘dealing with anxiety’ books to know what he’s talking about. You don’t even need to be interested in mental health. If you have a pulse, you know. Of course, it helps if you have an Internet connection too. The skyrocketing rates of anxiety in America are no…

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Modern Origins of Anxiety – Scientific Christianity and Epistemic Optimism

The question of what causes anxiety is one to which we’ve given an embarrassing amount of attention, especially within the context of Christianity. The Onion was good to remind us a few week ago that “Anxiety [Isn't] Resolved By Thinking About It Really Hard”, but the relationship between religion and anxiety is a fascinating and potent one; i.e., the decline of religion and rise of anxiety may not be completely independent phenomena… but by “decline of religion” we don’t just mean secularization, but also certain shifts within religion itself. As a Church called to look for the plank in our own eyes, I think…

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Marilynne Robinson Talks God and Science

Marilynne Robinson was on Krista Tippett’s On Being this Sunday, with physicist and professor Marcelo Gleiser, talking about the limits of knowing, and the much-hyped and far-lacking polarities drawn between God and Science. In their conversation, Robinson and Gleiser have some beautiful points about the untrue egotism of scientific “knowing,” and the differences between descriptive knowledge and explanatory knowledge.