Tag Archives | Sociology

Experimental Philosophy And The Problem of Free Will

Plato & Aristotle (Portait by Raffaello Sanzio)

Plato & Aristotle (Portait by Raffaello Sanzio)

ScienceDaily reports:

Philosophers have argued for centuries, millennia actually, about whether our lives are guided by our own free will or are predetermined as the result of a continuous chain of events over which we have no control.On the one hand, it seems like everything that happens has come kind of causal explanation; on the other hand, when we make decisions, it seems to us like we have the free will to make different decisions.

Most people seem to favor free will, and while many, across a range of cultures, reject what is referred to as determinism, they remain conflicted over the role of personal responsibility in situations that require moral judgements, said Shaun Nichols, a professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.

Nichols is part of a growing number of researchers who are gaining insights into this philosophical dilemma by applying experimental methods commonly used by developmental psychologists and other social scientists.

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Brain Science: Filling The Hole Left By The Atrophy Of Theology And Philosophy

Vladimir Putin, seen in the company of the Composure Class.

Vladimir Putin, member of the Composure Class?

An essay written by David Brooks in the New Yorker earlier this year has become required reading among those he terms as the “Composure Class,” privileged members of an elite who “live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most.” Fortunately, the new sciences of human nature can help these poor creatures make sense of their lives:

After the boom and bust, the mania and the meltdown, the Composure Class rose once again. Its members didn’t make their money through hedge-fund wizardry or by some big financial score. Theirs was a statelier ascent. They got good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined fine companies, medical practices, and law firms. Wealth settled down upon them gradually, like a gentle snow.

You can see a paragon of the Composure Class having an al-fresco lunch at some bistro in Aspen or Jackson Hole.

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Study Claims Ogling Women Makes Them Worse at Math

Simpsons CuriesI wonder what the first person to win two Nobel prizes, Madame Curie, would make of this study. Oh, I know the answer from a classic Simpsons episode ... Stephanie Pappas writes on LiveScience:
Getting the once-over from a man causes women to score lower on a math test, a new study finds. Despite this drop in performance, women were more motivated to interact with men who ogled them, perhaps because they were trying to boost their sense of belonging, psychologists report in the February issue of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. "It creates this vicious cycle for women in which they're underperforming in math or work domains, but they're continuing to want to interact with the person who is making them underperform in the first place," study researcher Sarah Gervais, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, told LiveScience.
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Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter

Annie& Daddy WarbucksInteresting article from Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal:

How much do the decisions of parents matter? Most parents believe that even the most mundane acts of parenting — from their choice of day care to their policy on videogames — can profoundly influence the success of their children. Kids are like wet clay, in this view, and we are the sculptors.

Yet in tests measuring many traits, from intelligence to self-control, the power of the home environment pales in comparison to the power of genes and peer groups. We may think we’re sculptors, but the clay is mostly set.

A new paper suggests that both metaphors can be true. Which one is relevant depends, it turns out, on the economic status of families.

For a paper in Psychological Science, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Virginia looked at 750 pairs of American twins who were given a test of mental ability at the age of 10 months and then again at the age of 2.

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Why Legalizing Drugs — All of Them — Is the Only Forward Path For Black America

Prohibition EndsInteresting article from John McWhorter in the New Republic:

This should change, as I have argued frequently over the past year (listen to part of a speech I did on this here). Of the countless reasons why this revival of this Prohibition that looks so quaint in Boardwalk Empire should be erased with all deliberate speed, one is that with no War on Drugs there would be, within one generation, no “black problem” in the United States. Poverty in general, yes. An education problem in general — probably. But the idea that black America had a particular crisis would rapidly become history, requiring explanation to young people. The end of the War on Drugs is, in fact, what all people genuinely concerned with black uplift should be focused on, which is why I am devoting my last TNR post of 2010 to the issue. The black malaise in the U.S.

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Remembering JFK’s Assasination As A Death of Democracy

KennedySite editor’s note: This post from DJ Pangburn originally appeared on death + taxes:

The Kennedy assassination and the conspiracies surrounding it are imbued with such meaning for Americans because the distortion radiating in waves almost immediately following the spectacle was the aftershock of a system convulsing in its own death.

I do not use the “death” metaphor in regards to the JFK assassination lightly, for death is no light matter. Follow me through the looking glass.

Oliver Stone taught an entire generation to invoke Cicero’s Senate speech when thinking about any event and the official version of such events, through the voice of the character X (based on Fletcher Prouty) in the movie “JFK.” He taught people that the “how and the who” is all scenery for the public, and the real questions are: why?, who benefits?, and who has the power to cover it up? ”Cui bono?” The greatest thing the filmmaker ever did was to question the motives of the men to whom Americans willingly relinquish power.… Read the rest

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Reality TV in the Age of Credulity

Joseph Allen writes on Confessions of a CyberCasualty:

kill your tvI recently got my foot smashed to hell while doing something stupid. Crippled and couchbound, I indulged the great American painkiller: Reality Television. That just made me more stupid.

We all know the Idiot Box is an insidious device. The TV snares your attention and lulls you into a passive stupor, polluting the subconscious with compulsive memes and corporate logos. It’s like getting blown by an android in a Wal-Mart stockroom. Yet there I was, swilling beers and letting Jersey Shore, American Idol, and truTV’s All Worked Up drown me under electromagnetic waves of human detritus.

Reverend Ron is a redneck repo man with a bleached flattop and cameras in his face. Ron cruises Lizard Lick, NC with Bobby the badass sidekick, reclaiming unpaid vehicles from ignorant white trash and whippin’ ass when necessary. That’s what All Worked Up is all about.… Read the rest

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Controversial Charity Paying U.K. Drug Addicts £200 To Be Sterilized

project_preventionIs it eugenics, bribery, or a clever way of fixing social dysfunction? A North Carolina-based charity is paying U.K. drug addicts to be sterilized, with the hope being that it will save money for the taxpayer in the long run. The idea went over swimmingly in the United States but is encountering resistance in Britain. BBC News reports:

The first person in the UK to accept the cash is drug addict “John” from Leicester who says he “should never be a father”.

The move has been criticised by some drug charities who work with addicts. Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris admitted her methods amounted to “bribery”, but said it was the only way to stop babies being physically and mentally damaged by drugs during pregnancy.

Mrs Harris set up her charity in North Carolina after adopting the children of a crack addict. Speaking to the BBC’s Inside Out programme, she said: “The birth mother of my children obviously dabbled in all drugs and alcohol – she literally had a baby every year for eight years…I get very angry about the damage that drugs do to these children.”

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Obama Derangement Syndrome: Yes It’s Racist

ObamaDevilHere’s a sort of follow up to two earlier posts about subconscious racism and Obama Derangement Syndrome. Ira Rosofsky writes in Psychology Today:

Pollster Stanley Greenberg and political operative James Carville, last year, reported on a series of focus groups with older, white Republicans in Georgia. They were on a quest to understand the hardcore opposition to Obama. Is it racist?

They concluded no. They admonished us to “Get over it.” The animus to Obama, they claimed, is “based in the same unwavering, bedrock conservative principles that have always led them to oppose liberal policies. Some of their subjects even claim to be post racial-“proud” there is an African-American president.

I have my own informal focus group, and I’m not buying it.

I work as a psychologist in nursing homes, and I talk daily to the older salt of the earth. The other day I assessed the cognitive status of an 87-year-old male member of the Greatest Generation, and realized yet again how enmeshed racism is in our cultural DNA.

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