Saturday, September 24, 2011

Joseph Epstein: Puncturing Our Pretensions

9/24/11. Epstein reflects on La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680) who perfected pithy verbal darts aimed at deflating our self-deceptions. Better reality instructions you will not get.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teenage Brains


"To see past the distracting, dopey teenager and glimpse the adaptive adolescent within, we should look not at specific, sometimes startling, behaviors, such as skateboarding down stairways or dating fast company, but at the broader traits that underlie those acts.

Let's start with the teen's love of the thrill. We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected..."

Book Review: Your Medical Mind


"...In 'Your Medical Mind,' oncologist Jerome Groopman, and his wife, endocrinologist Pamela Hartzband, offer a road map for navigating the medical maze and the mountains of information that Google searches produce. In an era when the magisterial physician who dictates care is obsolete, the book may be a welcome guide for those who are daunted by the choices they face, ranging from taking a cholesterol-lowering drug to making end-of-life decisions for a loved one..."

Excerpt from "Your Medical Mind:"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nathan Glazer on the Limits of Social Policy

9/21/11. 88 year old Professor Glazer has witnessed the gaps beween the intentions and consequences of American social policy.

“Against the view that to every problem there is a solution, I came to believe that we can have only partial and less than wholly satisfying answers to the social problems in question. Whereas the prevailing wisdom was that social policies would make steady progress in nibbling away at the agenda of problems set by the forces of industrialization and urbanization, I came to believe that although social policy had ameliorated some of the problems we had inherited, it had also given rise to other problems no less grave in their effect on human happiness.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Richard Dawkins

9/20/11. A passionate atheist, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins seeks to find out why we are here, wonders what life means, and whether their is a purpose to our existence. He once said that we are the lucky ones - because most people are never born.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Daniel Kahneman: The Marvels and the Flaws of Intuitive Thinking

"...If you want to understand intuition, it is very useful to understand perception, because so many of the rules that apply to perception apply as well to intuitive thinking. Intuitive thinking is quite different from perception. Intuitive thinking has language. Intuitive thinking has a lot of world knowledge organized in different ways than mere perception. But some very basic characteristics that we'll talk about of perception are extended almost directly into intuitive thinking..."

What if the Secret to Success is Failure?


"...Randolph has been pondering throughout his 23-year career as an educator the question of whether and how schools should impart good character. It has often felt like a lonely quest, but it has led him in some interesting directions. In the winter of 2005, Randolph read “Learned Optimism,” a book by Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who helped establish the Positive Psychology movement. Randolph found the book intriguing, and he arranged a meeting with the author. As it happened, on the morning that Randolph made the trip to Philadelphia, Seligman had scheduled a separate meeting with David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools and the superintendent of the KIPP schools in New York City. Seligman decided he might as well combine the two meetings, and he invited Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, who was also visiting Penn that day, to join him and Randolph and Levin in his office for a freewheeling discussion of psychology and schooling..."

David Brooks: The Planning Fallacy

9/16/11. Wise people know the limits of their intelligence. Intelligent people don't.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bachmann in Overdrive

9/15/11. Michele Bachmann speaks to the dangers of the HPV vaccine. She is eerily uninformed. Enough children are now needlessly dying from not getting life-saving vaccines. Bachmann reminds me of how some liberals fought for the rights of schizophrenic patients to refuse their psychiatric medications.

From Scientific American:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Quotations


"We see only what we know."

--- Goethe (1749 - 1832)

"Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp'd,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is."

--- Shakespeare (1564 - 1616

"None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realise it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'ld like to be, and you lose your true self for ever."

--- Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)

"...he who remains passive when overwhelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering elasticity of mind."

--- Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882)

"In addition to perceived burdensomeness, the other important psychological state in my model of suicidal behavior is the perception that one does not belong --- the feeling that one is alienated from others and not an integral part of a family, circle of friends, or other valued group."

--- Thomas Joiner 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Psychologist

9/2/11. Vladimir Nabokov knew much about human nature.

Brian Boyd writes:
"...Psychology fills vastly wider channels now than when Nabokov, in the mid-20th century, refused to sail the narrow course between the Scylla of behaviorism and the Charybdis of Freud. It deals with what matters to writers, readers, and others: with memory and imagination, emotion and thought, art and our attunement to one another, and it does so in wider time frames and with tighter spatial focus than even Nabokov could imagine. It therefore seems high time to revise or refresh our sense of Nabokov by considering him as a serious (and of course a playful) psychologist, and to see what literature and psychology can now offer each other..."

Gary Becker: The Great Recession and Government Failure

9/2/11. Nobel economics laureate, and professor of economics at the University of Chicago:

"When comparing the performance of markets to government, markets look pretty darn good."