Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pop Ev Psych goes off the rails on depression

The idea that clinical depression was evolutionarily selected for is why many real evolutionary biologists laugh at something like this as a classical "Just So Story."

It's caveated, has little real explanatory power, doesn't allow for alternative explanations, doesn't well explain away counterexamples and is generally weak.

Beyond that, Andy Thomson and Paul Andrews undercut their own theory, and at a grade-school level.

In response to criticism, they admit that, in essence, "We don't know what depression is."

Well, if you don't know what a trait is, how can you even claim it's selected for, in the first place? You've just said you don't know what it is, so you don't know what is being selected for.


And, of course, given the present (but growing) state of cognitive science and neuroscience, this is the case about ev psych, or rather, Pop Ev Psych, claims about just about any mental or emotional state.

Meanwhile, on his blog, Jonah Lerner, the author of the NYT Mag story, actually defends the general line of thinking of Thomson/Andrews, though in the story, he was good enough to marshal plenty of opponents of their claims.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cultural neuroscience - a new frontier

When the addition is still in basic arithmetic, Chinese speakers use a different part of their brain than do Westerners.

Things like this are part of the purview of cultural neuroscience.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pain-free livestock? Would you eat the meat?

If scientists could find a way to produce, say, veal that didn't feel the pain, especially the subjective sense of pain, of being confined in veal pens, and you don't eat at least some types of meat over the suffering issue, would you eat this? Especially since making such pain-free livestock may be possible?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The human brain, simulated?

In Switzerland, a neuroscientist is hoping to use an IBM supercomputer much more powerful than Deep Blue to do just that.

That's interesting enough. The real thing is that Henry Markram says we (mainly, his professional colleagues being referenced) need to ditch many of their scientific preconceptions about how individual neurons, neuron groups and areas of the brain work.

The story describes how he is modeling the simulation on actual "slices" of mouse neocortex.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

'Ugly evangelical Americanism' rears up again, in Haitai

And, in the middle of earthquake recovery, the government finds both the means and the cojones (what's the French for that?) to throw the book at the child-stealing Idaho Baptists.

How directly the numbnuttery of Pat Robertson and his ilk on Haiti's "pact with the devil" is on this issue, and how much this is just general, "ugly evangelical American" evangelism gone awry, as with the Michigan gun scope maker, the missionaries in Afghanistan a few years ago, or whatever, I'm not sure.

But, "ugly evangelical Americanism" it is, indeed.

Would that President Barack H. Obama would find some cojones to condemn this, too.