The Heinlein Hormone

You all remember Starship Troopers, right? That slim little YA contained a number of beer-worthy ideas, but the one that really stuck with me was the idea of earned citizenship— that the only people allowed to vote, or hold public office, were those who’d proven they could put society’s interests ahead of their own. Heinlein’s […]

Posted in: biology, neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 30 Comments

Fruit Flies, Forest Fires, and the Ecstasy of Being Wrong.

I’ve got this friend, known her since we were both grad students back in the eighties: well-regarded in her profession, well-published, even coauthored a few texts on evolutionary ecology. Keeps getting best-teacher awards for her work in the classroom. Occasionally she appears as the resident expert at the local Café Scientifique‘s Valentine’s Day edition, where […]

Posted in: biology, scilitics, sociobiology by Peter Watts 23 Comments

The Constraints of Time, The Limits of Reason

  As a postscript to my previous entry — and as a case study to the current one — I spent a little while over this weekend doodling the outlines of a fake nature documentary riffing off the old “Hinterland: Who’s Who” vignettes that used to run on CBC.  Mine was called “Internet:  Who’s Who”.  […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics, sociobiology by Peter Watts 352 Comments

Martin Luther King and the Vampire Rights League

Some of you may remember my ruminations on the evolutionary significance of sociopathy, my tentative musings that it may be not so much a pathology as an adaptation, and my almost pathetic relief (scroll down to Oct 14) when people with actual credentials wonder the same thing and thus make me look like less of […]

Posted in: sentience/cognition, sociobiology by Peter Watts 123 Comments

The Cuddliness of the Uplifted Billionaire.

So this Guy Kahane character, deputy director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics,  has been raising a few hackles with his musings on using drugs to induce “moral” behavior. The article has been cut and pasted all over the web (about eight hundred bloggers have opined at last count), and it certainly seems provocative enough […]

Posted in: neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 26 Comments

CuddleKill: or, Liz Cheney Explained

Well, I warned you all. A shower of oxytocin, to fill all you bickering hordes with trust and mutual love. Except, wouldn’t you know it, it’s never quite that simple. You may remember oxytocin by one of its cutesy pseudonyms (“the cuddle hormone”, “the morality molecule”) if not by its technical handle. It’s the hormone […]

Posted in: biochem, neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 42 Comments

“And God and the Economy
 Have Blessed Me with Equality”

A couple of papers on the nature of religious belief came down the pike last week. One was high-tech, analytically complex, and neurological. The other was low-tech, analytically naïve, and all evo-psych handwavey. It also claimed to rebut the whole school of thought embodied in the first paper, although I don’t think it did— yet […]

Why Believers Kick Atheist Ass at Scrabble

Here’s a fascinating possibility: that people with religious beliefs are better at pattern-matching than those without. The empirical findings are out of the Netherlands (popsci summary here), and are phrased much more conservatively: when presented with visual stimuli containing two levels of resolution (for example, a big square consisting of a bunch of little rectangles) […]

Posted in: ass-hamsters, Dumbspeech, sociobiology by Peter Watts 14 Comments

Understanding Sarah Palin: Or, God Is In The Wattles

Here’s a question for you. Why hasn’t natural selection driven the religious right to extinction? You should forgive me for asking. After all, here is a group of people who base their lives on patently absurd superstitions that fly in the face of empirical evidence. It’s as if I suddenly chose to believe that I […]

The God-Shaped Hole

Previously, on No Moods, Ads, or Cutesy Fucking Icons… Many religious people are idiots. My Dad’s religious, but he’s no idiot. There are some other smart religious people out there too. Maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. But they can’t be, because I’m a scientist and they’re not! But real scientists have to allow for […]

Posted in: ass-hamsters, rant, sociobiology by Peter Watts 31 Comments