linkfest – 11/06/11

Siberians share DNA with extinct human species

Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought

Ethnicity and camping – from the inductivist.

Is mental time travel what makes us human?

Lynn On The Jews: Yes, It’s Intelligence—But There’s Something Else Too – review of richard lynn’s latest book, “The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence,” from steve sailer.

The ‘rich club’ that rules your brain

Decoding the Brain’s Cacophony“Scientists now know that the brain runs largely on autopilot; it acts first and asks questions later, often explaining behavior after the fact. So if much of behavior is automatic, then how responsible are people for their actions?”

Are birds’ tweets grammatical?

Back to the trees – greg cochran on the flores hobbit.

Bones reveal 18th and 19th-century breastfeeding fads

Exercise Cuts Risk From Obesity Gene“The obesity risk of a genetic variation can be least partially offset with exercise.” – from parapundit.

A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain

Sperm Whales Really Do Learn From Each Other“Sperm whales, Earth’s biggest-brained animals, live in far-flung clans with lifestyles so different and vocalizations so complex that it’s natural to think they have culture.”

Does Inequality Make Us Unhappy?

Scientists and autism: When geeks meet“Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen thinks scientists and engineers could be more likely to have a child with autism. Some researchers say the proof isn’t there.”this week’s issue of nature is all about autism.

bonus: There’s just something about him… – the latest on the wonderfully weird Toxoplasma gondii from carl zimmer.

bonus bonus: An Unexpected Alliance“Lee Siegel considers the weird comedy of letters between T.S. Eliot and Groucho Marx”

(note: comments do not require an email. groucho cat.)

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23 Comments

  1. @ “So if much of behavior is automatic, then how responsible are people for their actions?”

    Plenty. Those “automatic” responses, a lot of them, are based on past learning and experience. E.g., if you rob a bank you are likely going to jail. Or if somebody yells, “Duck!” you hit the ground, especially on the battlefield. Besides, I’m dubious of these neurological studies that claim the physical action precedes the mental reaction (or however they describe it). Most research results turn out to be wrong after all. Especially the most “interesting” ones. :)

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  2. @“Lee Siegel considers the weird comedy of letters between T.S. Eliot and Groucho Marx”

    Don’t miss my comment in the comment section. I felt like hbd* Chick over on Blogginheads.

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  3. @luke – “Don’t miss my comment in the comment section. I felt like hbd* Chick over on Blogginheads.”

    oh, ouch! well, i feel for ya! (^_^)

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  4. @luke – “I’m dubious of these neurological studies that claim the physical action precedes the mental reaction (or however they describe it).”

    yes, most research winds up to be wrong, but this stuff has been replicated quite a few times now (please, don’t ask me for the references on a sunday! — i will look them up, tho, one of these days…), so i think that they’re on to something.

    and what they’re on to seems to me to be that our subconscious brain is much more active and making many more decisions for us than any of us realize, and that a lot of the “reasons” all of us give for our actions are mostly after-the-fact rationalizations.

    puts a big question mark after “free will” in my book, but the book is still open and i’m waiting to jot down notes re. further evidence. (^_^)

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  5. @ “The left hemisphere was just concocting an explanation, Dr. Gazzaniga said.” To please his interlocutor perhaps? Excuses are explanations for other people, not necessarily true. But presumably he has covered that obvious objection.

    Anyway, did you know female brains are organized differently right/left? Seems I read recently that the interpretative (narrator) function is spread around in both hemispheres in grown women, unlike in the case of men. One thing’s for sure: my wife is a lot more complicated than I am.

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  6. Not to get all Clintonian here, buit a lot depends on what we mean by “responsible” and what we mean by “you”. We may (or may not) be metaphysically responsible for our actions, but we are certainly responsible for our actions in the sense that we initiate them, and can be deterred from initiating certain actions by the anticipation of certain consequences. As I’ve noted before, whenever the Left starts asking if someone is “really” responsible for their actions, you can bet that it’s a prelude to trying to let criminals/perverts off scot-free. And of course, those of us of a certain age remember how well THAT worked out, back in the swingin’ Sixties…

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  7. @luke – “Anyway, did you know female brains are organized differently right/left? Seems I read recently that the interpretative (narrator) function is spread around in both hemispheres in grown women, unlike in the case of men. One thing’s for sure: my wife is a lot more complicated than I am.”

    yes, i did know that! (^_^)

    i’m very right-brained, though. poor language skills (particularly speaking). it’s quite a trait of autists/aspies to have a larger right hemisphere — or more densely packed with gray matter, anyway. and fewer connections between the two hemispheres.

    i don’t think my left hemisphere gets much chance for “narration” over and above the hard-core factual processing of my right hemisphere. (~_^)

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  8. @jk – neat! thnx for the links! (^_^) and the (belated? early?) birthday wishes. (^_^)

    @jk – “I’m always looking forward to your linkfest.”

    awww, shucks. (*^_^*) glad you like them!

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  9. @luke – “Here is a nice new link on the subject, Thinking Fast and Slow. Add this to your reading list. I’m adding it to mine. :)”

    that does look good! thnx.

    “Kahneman presents our thinking process as consisting of two systems. System 1 (Thinking Fast) is unconscious, intuitive and effort-free. System 2 (Thinking Slow) is conscious, uses deductive reasoning and is an awful lot of work. System 2 likes to think it is in charge but it’s really the irrepressible System 1 that runs the show. There is simply too much going on in our lives for System 2 to analyse everything. System 2 has to pick its moments with care; it is ‘lazy’ out of necessity.”

    exactly! (~_^)

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  10. @tschafer – “…but we are certainly responsible for our actions in the sense that we initiate them, and can be deterred from initiating certain actions by the anticipation of certain consequences.”

    some more than others, i think. someone who scores high on conscientiousness on one of those big 5 personality tests (*ahem* someone not like me) will probably be easily deterred. judging by the recidivism rates of criminal psychopaths … eh, them not so much.

    don’t mistake me, tho. if we aren’t really responsible for our actions, i don’t think we should be let off the hook. rather i would conclude that, say, psychopaths should be, for instance, followed up on more throughout their lives or something. or maybe just locked up for life if the individual’s behavior was bad enough.

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  11. Certainly, penalties can never be 100% effective, but most criminals are not total psychopaths, and so some deterrance can be obtained by the strictness and (probably more important) the certitude of punishment. That’s probably the best we can do, but it’s not nothing. Also, with regard to psychopaths whose behavior is bad enough, if this behavior includes murder, I’d like to point out that the recidivism rate for those who undergo the death penalty is zero…

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  12. @tschafer – “That’s probably the best we can do, but it’s not nothing.”

    that’s the best we can do … now. but, hopefully, with lots more research and greater understanding, we will be able to do better in the future.

    “I’d like to point out that the recidivism rate for those who undergo the death penalty is zero…”

    yes. that’s a very good rate! (~_^)

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  13. @luke – ot (it’s my blog! i can go ot if i want to. (~_^) ) – you once mentioned eating a high-fat diet. did you see this research that was just published last week about three types of fatty acids being good for increasing the size of heart cells? cool stuff! particularly since the research involved sssssssssnakes! (^_^)

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  14. Oops, this fraud just came to light concerning certain kinds of automatic behavior. Hat tip Lubos Motl, whom you might like btw. He’s on my bookmarks bar right beside you and three or four others who shall not be named. Anyway, you gotta admit this topic is topical. ;)

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  15. @luke – “Oops, this fraud just came to light concerning certain kinds of automatic behavior.”

    yes, oops, indeed. how do these people get away with actually making up data?! =/

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  16. “hopefully, with lots more research and greater understanding, we will be able to do better in the future.”

    Well, I hope so too, but given our experience with new theories of crime and punishment over the last one hundred years (their implementation almost always raises the crime rate) I can only say that I’m not very optimistic. Maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age, but living through the ’60’s and ’70’s does that to you…

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  17. @Tschafer – “Certainly, penalties can never be 100% effective, but most criminals are not total psychopaths,” Even the worst sociopaths can be deterred because they don’t want to get caught and suffer the consequences; self-interest, not conscience, is what restrains them. Some of the confessions on SociopathWorld, a blog for, by, and about sociopaths, brings this out clearly.

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  18. @luke – ot (it’s my blog! i can go ot if i want to. (~_^) ) – you once mentioned eating a high-fat diet. did you see this research that was just published last week about three types of fatty acids being good for increasing the size of heart cells? cool stuff! particularly since the research involved sssssssssnakes! (^_^)

    I justified my high-fat diet on a hunch that nothing that tastes that good could be bad for you — and to annoy my wife! ;) [pssst, Not to worry, but also owing to certain otolaryngological complications to keep up my weight; excuses and explanations are two different things]

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  19. @luke – “Even the worst sociopaths can be deterred because they don’t want to get caught and suffer the consequences….”

    the only problem is, in those case you have to keep the deterring pressure up. once you take your eye off them, they’ll be back to the same old funny business again.

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  20. @luke – “I justified my high-fat diet on a hunch that nothing that tastes that good could be bad for you….”

    i’m sure you’re right about that. one exception is sugar, i think. sugar tastes good, but too much of it is prolly bad for us (she said as she sits here sipping a root beer…). it tastes good, though, since we have evolved to eat glucose, just not sucrose.

    clearly humans have spent a long time eating animal fat and it is good for us. i, myself, don’t really like fat on meat (it’s a texture thing), but i love all sorts of dairy products, which i eat plenty of. (^_^) there’s a whole bunch of ladies online who love cooking who swear by butter (here’s one). i’m with them! (^_^)

    Reply

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