Category Archives: psychology

Sam Harris and The Very Bad Wizards

No, it’s not a new novel from Terry Pratchett. If you’re in the mood for discussion about religion, free will, morality, drugs, guilt, blame and vengeance, then you are in luck. Sam Harris joined philosopher Tamler Sommers and psychologist David Pizarro on their December 15th podcast. You can listen either on Sam’s site here or on The Very […]

The only known recording of Sigmund Freud’s voice

It’s always exciting for me to hear a famous person’s voice for the first time, especially when that person was rarely recorded.  I remember when I first found out that there were lots of Dylan Thomas recordings (he’s one of my favorite poets); but I was disappointed when I heard him read his poems in a […]

I had a dream

For years I’ve been afflicted with “academic anxiety dreams,” which go like this: I have an imminent final exam in college, and either haven’t studied for it, can’t find my way to the exam room, or am late for it. These dreams aren’t as frequent as they used to be (which was almost every night) but they still […]

Paul Bloom debunks the “Moral Law argument for God”

I’ve just finished reading Paul Bloom’s short book, Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, which was published last November by Crown Publishing. Bloom, who works at Yale, is a well-known psychologist, specializing in the development of morality—especially in infants. I recommend his book, especially if you’re interested in how much of human morality is […]

Are primates hard-wired to be scared of snakes?

Posting will be light today as there’s a Horseman afoot (see next post), but I wanted to call attention to a paper that’s of some interest. It can even be construed as a decent bit of research on (horrors!) evolutionary psychology. The paper by, Quan van Le et al. in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA […]

Does reading literary fiction make us empathic?

UPDATE:  I had forgotten that Steve Pinker talked about the link between reading fiction and becoming empathic in his book The Better Angels of our Nature (one commenter mentioned this below), but hey, the book is 800 pages long and I can’t remember everything! Pinker mentions his discussion, and his agreement that the Science paper is dicey, […]

A disease of the brain, but not of the mind?

Besides the NBC evening news, the only show I regularly watch on television is “Sixty Minutes,” and I try not to miss it each Sunday. Last night’s episode (consisting, as usual, of three disparate segments) was good, but there was one thing that I’d like to nitpick. (At least I’m not saying that “I don’t […]

Dawkins as you’ve never seen him before

This nine-minute video of Richard Dawkins begins as a lecture on memes—an idea that has never excited me—and seems pretty straightforward except for Richard’s aloha shirt (a nice one, too). At 4:57, he grabs both his notes and the podium and strides offstage.  All hell then breaks loose, with Dawkins appearing electronically as a Great […]

David Brooks: The brain is not the mind

David Brooks always seems to write above his pay grade when he weighs in about science. His pop evolutionary-psychology book The Social Animal, which was excerpted in The New Yorker, was pretty dreadful, and, I think, inimical to the public understanding of evolution in its pretense that we have a thorough understanding of the evolutionary […]

Is religion a mental illness?

Several readers have sent me this link, but I have to say I’m not that convinced that the views expressed in this news item have any substantive content, or will catch on in society. The piece, “Leading neuroscientist: Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’” (note the scare quotes), is from […]

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