• money-greedy1

    What Causes Poverty

    What causes poverty? The same thing that causes global warming, war, debt, and a host of other global evils ...

  • 1237498_73106875

    The Greek Financial Crises – What is Money

    What is money? And why is debt such a problem? The answers lie within ...

  • -Domestic-Violence-Against-Men

    Intimate Partner Violence (feminist’s shame)

    Surprise surprise surprise. Men are abused by their intimate partners just as much as women are. ...

  • einstein

    Are Scientists Spiritual?

    Are scientists spiritual? The answer is yes! Recent research suggests that the majority of scientists at top universities in North America have spiritual leanings, even though they may not like to admit it. ...

  • sociology_word_cloud_1

    What is Sociology?

    What is Sociology? Glad you asked. Sociology is the study of the world that we create. ...

  • umohm-alan-schwartz

    What is Religion?

    Most sociologists would say religion is either fantasy, social gathering, or elite machination; but in fact it is so much more. ...

  • Psychosis_5_0

    The American Nightmare

    This photo of my parents reveals much about their personalities (her’s vivacious and outgoing, his withdrawn and closed off), their relationship (little real contact), and also the times. The typicality of their lives reveals much about the USA. My mother was a farmer’s daughter whose father lost the farm to the banks, and they had ... ...

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    Killing the little girls of the world – the lingering problem of female infanticide

    In our country, babies are considered weaker if they are born female. In some other countries, babies are murdered at birth if they are born female. ...

Surveys

Featured Articles

Addressing the Academy

Classroom Controversy

  • The Boy Scouts do not have the right to deny basic human rights and decency.

    Queers Need Not Apply: The Boy Scouts of Amerika Continue to Disappoint

    Boy Scout Oath (or Promise)* On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.   Morally straight. Wow. In other words, queers need not apply. You’ve got to be kidding me. What century are we living in? On July 18, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America announced the results of a confidential, two-year review of its policy that explicitly excludes gays. The Boy Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, stated that a special eleven-member committee came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy ‘‘is absolutely the best policy’’ for the 102-year-old organization. Since when is unvarnished prejudice against a historically-maligned minority a good thing? Isn’t it somewhat hypocritical for an organization that requires its members “to help other people at all times” to gleefully endorse discrimination against gays? In what sense is perpetuating age-old, irrational prejudices “helpful” to gays? In case this might be news to the Boy Scouts, on September 20, 2011, the United States military officially terminated its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. In doing so, the US military officially accorded non-heterosexuals the same civil rights as heterosexuals, while also affirming the enlightened notion that it was no longer “morally straight” to discriminate on the basis of sexuality. That historic policy shift by the US military represents a resounding endorsement of fundamental democratic freedoms. America’s democratic principles assert that, all people being created equal, everyone should enjoy the same unalienable rights: freedom, fairness, justice and equality. In practice, however, US democracy has all-too-often rolled out the red carpet to some (i.e., European, male, property-owning, heterosexual, Christians) while dehumanizing, subjugating and abusing “Others.” Though it took more than a century of aggressive social activism on the part of marginalized minorities, Americans gradually came to realize that there was a vast and inappropriate gulf between the USA’s democratic principles and its practices. Thus, slowly and grudgingly, American morality has transitioned from celebrating the abuse of marginalized minorities to castigating such malignant indiscretions. In other words–although more than a few Americans lament the passage of “the good old days”–it is no longer considered “morally acceptable” to treat Africans like slaves, women like property, indigenous people like vermin, and members of the GLBT community as deranged criminals.   Three cheers for the (long, slow, reluctant) march of democratic progress! Wahoo. The Boy Scouts have decided that, in spite of the march of progress, they are going to dig in their heels in a futile effort to preserve their anachronistic, undemocratic version of morality. For the Boy Scouts, gays may not necessarily be deranged criminals, but gays still fall into the category of undesirable “others.” As a private club, the US courts have ruled that the Boy Scouts are welcome to take this lonely, last, loathing stand against civil rights. For an organization that has existed for 102 years and that congratulates itself for upholding the highest moral principles, it is sad that the Boy Scouts would flaunt such an appalling ignorance of history, morality, common decency and democracy. *From the Boy Scouts page at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts.aspx  

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  • Big Brother is Watching

    Facebook is a Spy Machine

  • Young-Justice-01x13-Alpha-Male-05

    Ding Dong the Alpha Male is Dead

  • Wealth and Inequality in America

  • Life in a "connected" world

    Are you my "friend?"

  • 6b_PedCrossing_DavePowell_Flickr

    Information, Corporations, and the Free Will Self-delusion

Commentary

Planet of the Persnickety Apes

Planet of the Persnickety Apes: Darwin and the Aesthetics of Survival

For reasons that anthropologists have not yet fully uncovered, Homo sapiens evolved a pronounced aesthetic sensibility (Schellekens and Goldie, 2011): not only has Homo sapiens developed more sophisticated tools and weapons than any other species, Homo sapiens has also cultivated the most elaborate artistic sensibilities (Diamond, 1992, 2012). Mere survival has never been enough for Homo sapiens, humans have also hungered for aesthetic satisfaction: beauty, self expression, art, imaginative invention, “Progress,” etc. Other species are perfectly content with the mundane and mediocre. Cows and horses do not complain about eating grass, nor do they seek ways to dress up their salads in order to make them as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate.

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How consumerism has enslaved us

It used to be identity was to be found in the way we thought, the groups we were a part of, and the things we held dear. More and more, however, we exist in a monotonic world where our identity is provided by the things we display (cloths, watches, smart phones, stinky chemical scents), our thinking is remarkably conformist and identical, and we all belong to the same social group knowm as "the consumers." It is a brave new world world where the pain of our shrinking sense of self can, we are told, be easily be mitigated and managed with the appropriate product purchase (booze, antidepressents, social phones) . But in case you haven't realized, more product purchase doesn't help. The anxiety and malaise continue to grow.

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First flight

Agency vs. Determinism: Redefining Reality One Creative Idea at a Time

A surprising number of people believe that the universe is deterministic (Hawking, 2007; Kurzweil, 2005; Skinner, 1971—among many others). Determinists believe that humans don’t have any control over their lives, or the world around them. Further, determinists reject the idea that humans can think or act innovatively. From a deterministic perspective, the environment controls everything. No matter how purposeful, self-willed or innovative individuals may believe they are, determinists contend that freedom of choice and individual creativity are naught but an illusion. 

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Darwin rules!

Darwin Day: Celebrating the Scientist that People Love to Hate

 There are two kinds of people in this world: those who celebrate Darwin Day, and those who don’t. Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809-1882) is without doubt one of the most important scientists who ever lived. He is also one of the most controversial. First published in 1859, Darwin’s theory of evolution has proven to be one of the most groundbreaking achievements in the history of science. Not only did evolution establish a unique theoretical framework which subsequently gave rise to the field of modern biology—and a plethora of related scientific disciplines—but evolutionary theory also helped to advance a radical secular, scientific cosmology. In other words, evolutionary theory gave life to an entirely new way of looking at the world from a purely scientific perspective. This is why scientists make such a fuss about Darwin’s birthday. Yet, is it precisely because of evolution’s secularizing propensity that it has proven to be such a persistently controversial scientific theory. Theologically-inclined folks tend to dislike Darwin and his irreligious ideas. Always have. Always will. Of course, some theologically-minded folks have found ways to maintain their religious faith, while also cultivating some level of conviction in Darwinian evolution. However, it is worth pointing out that Darwin himself was never able to artificially bifurcate his religious and scientific beliefs in that fashion; the young Charles Darwin was a faithful Christian, but the mature Darwin was a secular humanist. In 1831, Darwin embarked on his historic journey on the HMS Beagle as a firm believer in creationistic principles. Like many natural philosophers of his day, Darwin believed that Genesis offered a literal version of Creation. However, as Darwin’s nearly five year circumnavigation unfolded, he encountered phenomena, such as the anomaly of ancient marine fossil beds that lay at the very peaks of the Andes, that rattled his faith in young earth creationism. Ultimately, Darwin’s creationist beliefs were completely undone by the creatures that he encountered in the Galapagos Islands. Though he had witnessed many wonders during his travels, the bizarre menageries that Darwin encountered in the Galapagos exceeded anything that he had yet imagined. From giant tortoises to endless varieties of land crabs and snails, Darwin marveled at the seeming adaptability and (dare he think it?) mutability of the species that he observed. Perhaps as he gazed upon the spectacle of marine iguanas bobbing in the surf, Darwin gave thought to a new and unsettling idea. Just as Charles Lyell had suggested in his fascinating book about the earth’s geology, tiny and slow-paced changes had the net result, over the eons, of introducing extraordinary alterations to the earth’s geological features, might not the same be true for living organisms? In other words, could the tiniest physiological changes accumulate sufficiently across time to bring about the transmutation species? Ultimately, these insights gave rise to Darwin’s unapologetically secular theory of evolution, which can be summarized as follows: Variation: whether it’s dogs, grass, or fruit flies, organisms in any breeding population tend to vary from one individual to the next Overpopulation: from oak trees to salmon, parents tend to produce more progeny than can survive to maturity Struggle for survival: the overproduction of progeny tends to inspire high-stakes competitions to secure limited resources Survival of the fittest: individuals with advantageous genetic traits enjoy an edge in the competition to secure scarce resources Evolution through natural selection: winners of bio-ecological competitions survive and pass advantageous genetic traits to their offspring—which, in turn, brings about the gradual evolution of new species Rarely do scientific theories elicit even the slightest attention from the general public. Apart from a few celebrated scientists, such as Einstein, the workaday world of science usually operates off the radar screen of public interest. Not so with Darwin. Evolutionary theory has inspired widespread acrimony from the moment of its first publication. In addition to other objections, many people have been displeased with the idea that, within the confines of evolutionary theory, humans do not occupy any special pride of place. From Darwin’s perspective, humans were, quite simply, just another form of life (Darwin, 1871). Essentially, evolution postulates that humans exist because their ancestors, just like any other complex organism, randomly developed advantageous genetic traits. For those who are in need of a loftier sense of theological or philosophical purpose, they won’t get it from Darwin. Furthermore, evolutionary theory also constitutes an unforgivable affront to anyone with an affinity for creationism. In Christian theology, God is not only the source of Creation, but God is also the most sacred being in the universe. By discounting the role that God plays in the origin of species Darwin’s theory has been attacked for being a slur upon the sanctity of creation and, worse, as an insult to God. One might guess that after, more than 150 years of monumental scientific success, evolutionary theory would have won the public’s hearts and minds. Not so. In national public opinion surveys, slightly less than half of US adults generally report that they believe humans have evolved from some other species of animal (similar surveys conducted among scientists generally yield overwhelming support, in the range of +90%, for evolutionary theory). Given the, at best, tepid public support for evolutionary theory, legislators are often inspired to search for ways to undermine Darwinian evolution in the public sector, and their favorite place to attack evolution is in the classroom. The most recent example of such an attack is currently underway in Indiana. On January 31, 2012, the Indiana State Senate passed Bill 89 which would allow local school districts to offer “instruction on the various theories of origins of life” which “must include theories from multiple religions.” It will be interesting to watch the progress of this bill. Clearly, the goal of Indiana Senate Bill 89 is to challenge the privileged position that evolutionary theory currently occupies as an explanatory perspective in high school science classrooms—a privileged position, I should add, that evolution has earned by dint of being vetted and tested by more than 150 years of rigorous scientific research. Nevertheless, should Indiana Senate Bill 89 move forward and be approved by the Indiana House of Representatives, the new law would have a devastating effect on Indiana’s high school science curriculum. ...

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