March 22, 2008

MetaLinking – 2008/03/22


Body-Subjects and Disordered Minds – “In his Republic, Plato called 'mental disorder' a "drunken, lustful, passionate" frenzy, in which one gives in to one's "lawless wild-beast nature;" he further suggested that people with such a condition should be punished. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, sociology and law, continue to debate the theoretical and practical bearings of this phenomenon... Despite the number of works attempting to answer these questions, it is rare to find a book that proposes a well-developed theory of mental disorder which can be implemented in both clinical and political practices.”

Monkey Language and Human Evolution - “The ability to string different words together to express complex ideas was a milestone in the development of language that researchers figure occurred relatively late in human evolution. Now for the first time, scientists reveal a primate other than humans can also express a variety of messages by combining sounds into different sequences. The finding suggests this level of language might have occurred far earlier in evolution than before thought.”

The Visible Body - “The Visible Body is the most comprehensive human anatomy visualization tool available today. This entirely Web-delivered application offers an unparalleled understanding of human anatomy. The Visible Body includes 3D models of over 1,700 anatomical structures, including all major organs and systems of the human body.”

Regulating Negative Emotions And The Impact On Brain Activity – “Emotions play an important role in the lives of humans, and influence our behavior, thoughts, decisions, and interactions. The ability to regulate emotions is essential to both mental and physical well-being. "Conversely, difficulties with emotion regulation have been postulated as a core mechanism underlying mood and anxiety disorders," according to the authors of a new study published in Biological Psychiatry on March 15th. Thus, these researchers set out to further expand our understanding of the differential effects of emotion regulation strategies on the human brain.”

Native Americans Traced to 6 'Founding Mothers' – “Nearly all of today's Native Americans in North, Central and South America can trace part of their ancestry to six women whose descendants immigrated around 20,000 years ago, a DNA study suggests.”

Are Humans Meant to be Monogamous? – “News of politicians' extramarital affairs seems to be in no short supply lately, but if humans were cut from exactly the same cloth as other mammals, a faithful spouse would be an unusual phenomenon. Only 3 percent to 5 percent of the roughly 5,000 species of mammals (including humans) are known to form lifelong, monogamous bonds, with the loyal superstars including beavers, wolves and some bats. Social monogamy is a term referring to creatures that pair up to mate and raise offspring but still have flings. Sexually monogamous pairs mate with only with one partner. So a cheating husband who detours for a romantic romp yet returns home in time to tuck in the kids at night would be considered socially monogamous.”

“Meant” to be monogamous? This article, although raising some interesting questions, is mostly speculative and does not address the more significant ‘philosophical questions’ about directionality in evolution, nor whether or not what was in the past 'ought' to be in the future. Humans are much more than their genes.

The Same Region Of The Brain Is Used For Thoughts Of Self And Similar Others
- "Using fMRI scanning, researchers have found that the region of the brain associated with introspective thought is also accessed when inferring the thoughts of other people who are similar to oneself. However, this is not the case when considering those who are different politically, socially, or religiously. "Our research helps to explain how and when people draw on their own inner experiences to make inferences about the experiences of others," says Jenkins. "The findings suggest that the part of the brain that is responsible for introspection also helps us to understand what other people might be thinking or feeling. But this primarily seems to be the case for people who we perceive to be similar to ourselves."


AUDIO: Reconciling Science and Religion
– “Roman Catholic priest and cosmologist Michael Heller won this year's Templeton Prize. "Science without religion is not only meaningless, it's lame," he says.”

The Age of American Unreason – “Identifying herself as a “cultural conservationist” (but by no means a cultural conservative), Jacoby laments the decline of middlebrow American culture and presents a cogent defense of intellectualism. America, she believes, faces a “crisis of memory and knowledge,” in which anti-intellectualism is not only tolerated but celebrated by those in politics and the media to whom we are all “just folks.”

Music fans' favorite drugs don't quite match the stereotype – “Music has been associated with drug use for decades -- from the flower children smoking weed at Woodstock to jazz great Charlie Parker getting hooked on heroin, it seems that every type of music has a drug that we associate with it. Last month we discussed a study where college students were asked what type of substances they thought music fans of 14 different genres of music were likely to use. Here are the results…”

Help bring compassion back to religion
– “As she accepts her 2008 TED Prize, author and scholar Karen Armstrong talks about how the Abrahamic religions -- Islam, Judaism, Christianity -- have been diverted from the moral purpose they share: to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion -- to help restore the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") as the central global religious doctrine.”


Native North Americans Gather to Save the Planet
– “North American Indians assembled in the shadow of ancient Mayan pyramids Monday discussed how their tradition wisdom could help save the planet, and were told that even indigenous cultures have struggled with environmental abuse. More than 200 leaders from 71 American Indian nations in Mexico, the United States and Canada came together in this Mexican jungle to find indigenous solutions to pollution and ecological problems threatening the planet.”

The Economist Has No Clothes
– “Unscientific assumptions in economic theory are undermining efforts to solve environmental problems… Unfortunately, it is clear that neoclassical economics has also become outdated. The theory is based on unscientific assumptions that are hindering the implementation of viable economic solutions for global warming and other menacing environmental problems.”

It might seem common sensical that classical and traditional economics is far from being a scientific discipline. At best economics is a interpretive dialog on economic systems, and worse it is a repressive discourse that reduces human life and social complexity to a set of 'games' or proscriptions of white capitalist elites. The injustices done in the name of "markets" is a shadow 'economics' continues to cast over the lives of millions.

Review: Critical Perspectives in Public Health
– “This collection of readings takes its name from the journal Critical Public Health in which many of the chapters were originally published as individual papers, between 1998 and 2005. The book contains sixteen chapters in four sections, with an integrative introduction to each section. This is a wide ranging collection, covering inequalities, research, colonization/globalization, and the environment. Authors are about evenly spread across both sides of the Atlantic and appear to be mainly social science or medical academics from the specialty of public health. Critical Perspectives in Public Health is a useful reader in providing an overview of methodology and theory, as well as case studies of particular issues.”

The U.S.'s First Smart Grid? – “One of the fun things about editing a project like Worldchanging in times like these is the frequency with which our predictions and speculations get run down and overtaken by commercial realities. We've written a lot about smart grids, touting their potential benefits, from neighborhood survivability to enabling pug-in hybrid-electrics to act as a system of batteries during peak use surges. Now Xcel Energy has announced that it's going to turn Boulder, Colorado, into the United States' first smart grid community”

This is an outstanding project - a must read. If you are in the Boulder area please reach out and support this leading edge work.

Water under pressure
– “More than a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and two billion have inadequate sanitation. This is despite two international decades, a millennium declaration goal, two international years and a string of global celebratory days — all dedicated to drinking-water or sanitation. Why has progress been so slow?”

Water will be THE global issue in a future of scarce resources and POTENTIAL international strife.

Top 10 Questions About Earth – “In an attempt to remedy that, a panel of geologists and planetary scientists announced this week the top 10 questions about our planet that linger today, which have strangely baffled humanity and researchers for hundreds of years and longer. "We have to look to the past and ask deeper fundamental questions about the origins of the Earth and life, the structure and dynamics of planets, and the connections between life and climate, for example," said panel chairman Donald DePaolo, a University of California at Berkeley geochemist.”


Tibetans in China: Fearing the Worst - “It's early evening in Litang, a normally bustling city of some 50,000 in the far west of China's Sichuan province. On a normal day, the streets would be crowded with cars, bicycles, throngs of shoppers, even the odd yak. But today there is an eerie silence, with only the occasional resident hurrying home, eyes to the ground. The shops are all shuttered and the only vehicles on the roads are prowling police cars whose blue and red lights flash in the gathering dusk. Litang, 90% of whose population is ethnically Tibetan, is a city under siege.” - Bill Harryman at IOC is keeping a close eye on the situation in Tibet - check out his latest postings.

AUDIO: China Cuts Off Access to Western News Sites
– “Over the past week of uprisings in Tibet, the Chinese government has cut access to Western media websites to keep the Chinese people from finding out how serious the crisis has been. James Fallows of Atlantic Monthly talks to Susan Stamberg about how China's "Great Firewall" works.”

On Obama: Those Who Hear Only Empty Optimism Aren’t Listening - “I've been trying to avoid the word integral, but that is my sense of Obama -- someone who works with aperspectival thinking and understands that the only way to make sense of chaos is to generate meaning. Some may not approve of the meaning he seeks to generate, but compared to the other options, he is the most advanced mind in the game.”

Over 100 anti-war protesters arrested at NATO HQ - “Around 100 anti-war protesters were arrested trying to force their way into NATO's headquarters in Belgium on Saturday, police said. Police in riot gear and on horses clashed with over 500 activists from across Europe -- opposed to military action in Iraq and Afghanistan and the use of nuclear weapons -- outside NATO's Brussels hub. Water cannons were used to prevent most of the protesters from gaining entry to the large security compound situated on the outskirts of the Belgian capital and close to Brussels national airport.”

AUDIO: Kenyans Struggle Toward Normalcy – “Kenya is getting back to business after two months of ethnic bloodletting kicked off by a contested presidential election. While the political combatants have figured out a way to work together, Kenyans are struggling to put the internecine clashes behind them.”

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