Our Better Angels

A friend put me onto an article by Win McCormack in the New Republic discussing possible connections between group or societal behaviors and human nature. The article is built around a book, titled A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation, by the philosophy, Peter Singer. The gist is about the age-old conflict between two poles of human nature: self-interest and altruism or communitarianism. The article pivots around the idea that both are a part of human nature, based on E. O. Wilson’s theory of (Darwinian) group selection as the inherent on social species. Further, how is this “new” idea going… Read More

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Racism and the Brain: A Long, Complicated Story

  This post continues the thread of thought in the previous one. In that post, I brought up the incident of Amy Cooper siccing the police on a nearby black birder. I wrote: The recently reported case of a white woman, Amy Cooper, calling the police when a black man, birding in Central Park, asked her to tether her dog, as she should already done, provides an excellent example of this cognitive process. Cooper had been working for a company with an outstanding reputation for dealing with diversity and had been given extensive training in co-existing with people of color.… Read More

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Prejudice Starts at Birth

Evolution has endowed humans and many other animals with a brain that is bi-hemispheric. The great mass of neurons are contained in two separate halves. In his book, The Master and his Emissary, British psychiatrist and writer, Iain McGilchrist, argues that each side attends to the outside world in strikingly different ways that reflect their evolution. One half, the right side in humans, gathers information about the immediate world, a function derived from animals’ need to be alert for predators. The other half, the left side in humans, contains information necessary to perform essential tasks like feeding or gathering food.… Read More

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To Change This Broken World, Stop and Learn How to Think About It

What can one say? Anything that is coming to mind to set down on paper seems too frail and inadequate to capture the moment. Each time I say to myself that we have hit bottom, something happens to deepen the trench we have become mired in. One thing, however, keeps cropping up. The criticality of recognizing the root causes of our various and interlinked messes. Let me pick just a few: covid-19, joblessness, racism, brutality, lies, poverty, obesity and on and on. We have all the words we need to build a wonderful nation, so the fact that it is… Read More

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The Mask Is Off

Not the Covid-protecting version, but the one covering the Nation’s face. The deep lines and cracks are showing. They have been developing for some years. Amazing how fast a country can age. The big question is how long have we been hiding behind it. Did we have it on, even at the time de Tocqueville told his glowing story? Is our history more than what the winners have written? By the numbers, America is great, or, maybe, was great. Our riches are stunning. We have been the envy of other countries, admiring our freedoms. Our global economic and military forces… Read More

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Finding Something Good in Covid-19

Everyday more bad news. Deaths around the world have reached into the hundreds of thousands. Economies have shut down, leaving millions unemployed. I was born in the middle of the Great Depression, and certainly never expected to see anything like that again. But here it is. One might ask of anything good can come out of this crisis. The best answer to that question that I read about is some return to normalcy. But when and how close to the old status quo is a big unknown. Fewer people are asking a related question, “Why should we return to the… Read More

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Finding McGilchrist in Some of My Favorite Authors

My Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement class is over. When I planned it and choose the primary readings from Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry (pictured), I had not tied it to my own work. I thought how wonderful it would be just to expose my colleague to their work. But as the term progressed, I discovered that both writers offer extraordinary examples of the right-brain at work. That we are interconnected to one another and to the Earth is central to both their essays. Berry is more explicit, as the following examples show. I have excerpted a few paragraphs… Read More

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Enough Is Enough

With the so-called “sarcastic” remark about shooting up with powerful disinfectants, the President has gone over the edge. Better the edges because there are so many limits that are being transcended by this clown. How anyone can condone the acts of this snake oil salesman who occupies the highest office of the land is beyond me. What he did is so reprehensible as to eliminate any remaining questions about his ability to spend even one more day in the White House. Peddling snake oil remedies from the Rose Garden, perhaps understandable in 1800, seems to be the epitome of high… Read More

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Life and Liberty in the Balance

The President’s recent approbation of those who would protest against the orders to practice social distancing ignores both common sense and the essence of libertarianism. Whether either of these parties are aware or not, the conservative idea of individual liberty arises from the seminal essay, On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill. He is very clear about its limits in this key section of the essay. This comes at a place in his essay following the enumeration of what constitutes individual liberty. What I contend for is, that the inconveniences which are strictly inseparable from the unfavourable judgment of others, are… Read More

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