Monday ReadsPosted: January 14, 2013
I’m going to try to find some interesting reads to begin this week since it’s undoubtedly going to get ugly again on the political front. Here’s a quick one from Scientific American on the impact of how our minds compartmentalize things. Maybe this explains all those crazy republicans that believe that cave men and dinosaurs roamed the Garden of Eden together.
If you have pondered how intelligent and educated people can, in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, believe that evolution is a myth, that global warming is a hoax, that vaccines cause autism and asthma, that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration, conjecture no more. The explanation is in what I call logic-tight compartments—modules in the brain analogous to watertight compartments in a ship.
The concept of compartmentalized brain functions acting either in concert or in conflict has been a core idea of evolutionary psychology since the early 1990s. According to University of Pennsylvania evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban in Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite (Princeton University Press, 2010), the brain evolved as a modular, multitasking problem-solving organ—a Swiss Army knife of practical tools in the old metaphor or an app-loaded iPhone in Kurzban’s upgrade. There is no unified “self” that generates internally consistent and seamlessly coherent beliefs devoid of conflict. Instead we are a collection of distinct but interacting modules often at odds with one another. The module that leads us to crave sweet and fatty foods in the short term is in conflict with the module that monitors our body image and health in the long term. The module for cooperation is in conflict with the one for competition, as are the modules for altruism and avarice or the modules for truth telling and lying.
I know BB has some strong feelings about this branch of psychology so I can’t wait to see what she says.
In an interview this weekend, General Colin Powell pointed out the ugly underbelly of the Republican party with its rabid Obama hatred linked to obvious racism. He points out some of the more noticeable dog whistles we heard during the election last year.
“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.”
Powell, who endorsed Obama, pointed to a number of statements that were directed at Obama as evidence that there is still racism within the party.
“When I see a former governor say that the president is ‘shuckin’ and jivin’.’ That’s a racial-era slave term,” Powell said, referring to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin using the term to describe Obama’s response to the attacks in Libya.
Powell also pointed to former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, who was an aggressive surrogate for Mitt Romney, for calling Obama “lazy” after the first debate during the campaign.
“He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well; he said he was ‘lazy,’” Powell said “Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is “shiftless,” and then there’s a third word that goes along with it.”
Powell also eschewed the “birther movement.”
“The whole birther movement: Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?” Powell asked. “I think the party has to take a look at itself.”
The recent spate of extreme weather ought to have every one taking global warming seriously. Unfortunately, we have a lot of folks in denial. US scientists are trying hard to get every one’s attention to the facts.
Global warming is already having a major impact on life in America, a report by US government scientists has warned. The draft version of the US National Climate Assessment reveals that increasing storm surges, floods, melting glaciers and permafrost, and intensifying droughts are having a profound effect on the lives of Americans.
“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience,” states the report.
Health services, water supplies, farming and transport are already being strained, the assessment adds. Months after superstorm Sandy battered the east coast, causing billions of dollars of damage, the report concludes that severe weather disruption is going to be commonplace in coming years. Nor do the authors flinch from naming the culprit. “Global warming is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels,” it states.
The uncompromising language of the report, and the stark picture that its authors have painted of the likely effects of global warming, have profound implications for the rest of the world.
If the world’s greatest economy is already feeling the strain of global warming, and is fearful of its future impact, then other nations face a very worrying future as temperatures continue to rise as more and more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere.
“The report makes for sobering reading,” said Professor Chris Rapley, of University College London. “Most people in the UK and US accept human-induced climate change is happening but respond by focusing attention elsewhere. We dismiss the effects of climate change as ‘not here’, ‘not now’, ‘not me’ and ‘not clear’.
“This compelling new assessment by the US experts challenges all four comforting assumptions. The message is clear: now is the time to act!”
7:31 - With the exception of Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence, NBC really is focusing on the oldsters. Kevin Costner had lots of interesting things to say. NOT! (That’s an old-people joke.)
7:29 - Is it true that Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller live in a tent in the Irish countryside? Didn’t I read that somewhere?
7:28 - Oh good grief, Matt Lauer is making Aeschylus and Agamemnon jokes. What is this, mid-’90s Bravo? Get it together, NBC.
7:26 - Right now Ricky Gervais is probably standing at the window, staring out and quietly regretting saying no this year.
7:23 - Hathaway’s awards blitz has officially begun. Will we survive it? Will anyone? We will not know until February 25.
7:21 - Bahahaha, Jennifer Lawrence towering over Al Roker is wonderful. Not a very dignified week for Mr. Roker.
Hmmm. Guess I”m glad I watched Big Bang Theory Reruns. Here’s the list of winners if you’re interested. The best comedy/musical went to Les Mes. The Director award went to Ben Affleck for Argo. Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained got the best screen play award.
I don’t know if you or yours have had any experience with depression but it can be debilitating. Here’s some thoughts about the condition from Noahpinion that really resonated with me as some one who has been there and done that.
Depressed people often remark that it’s impossible to remember what depression is like after it’s over, and impossible to imagine feeling any other way when you’re in the middle of it. Therefore, most of what I’m saying here comes from things I wrote when I was in the middle of major depressive episodes. I think my most colorful description was that depression was like “being staked out in the middle of a burning desert with a spear through your chest pinning you to the ground, with your eyelids cut off, staring up at the burning sun…forever.”
So, let’s hope we begin to see more real dialogue on the issues that challenge us today. Gun Violence, Joblessness, and Global Warming are huge issues that shouldn’t be defined by liars.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?