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In Brains, Size Is Not All that Matters

Two recent science articles indicate that scientists should be careful before inferring intelligence from brain size (picture).  PhysOrg reported on work to uncover the genetic basis of microcephaly – reduced brain size in humans.  “The cerebral cortex in particular has undergone a dramatic increase in surface area during the course of primate evolution,” the article […]

Debunker Busters

Often in science reports, new findings debunk previously held beliefs.  But then, a thoughtful reader might ask, didn’t the previously held belief debunk a belief prior to that?  Sometimes it gets difficult to believe the current belief has any credibility, when the debunkers turn on each other. A dilemma about dilemmas:  Psychologists and philosophers have […]

Science Flipflops

Science says… on second thought, science says the opposite.  Or, we’re not sure what science says.  The following recent stories show that things you thought science had proven may not be true at all.  What’s next? Take testosterone for fairness:  The image of the testosterone-crazed, egotistical, reckless, raging road warrior is all wrong.  At least, […]

What’s Natural for Humans?

Should humans do what comes naturally?  What comes naturally?  And what do we mean by natural?     Nicholas Wade in the New York Times said, “We May Be Born With an Urge to Help.”  He began with the same question: “What is the essence of human nature?”  Then he discussed evidence that infants have […]

Seeing Sound and Hearing Light

Synesthesia, the syndrome in which people’s senses become confused, may not be so off the wall.  Research at the University of British Columbia “flips the traditional view of how we perceive the world on its head.” Experiments show that our brains perceive the world by synthesizing multiple inputs.  The latest evidence of this is that […]

Consequences of Bad Choices: Well, Duh

Responsibility – integrity – honesty – respect – healthy choices.  Those are the values of a bygone generation.  Do we need science to tell us that our grandparents were right?     PhysOrg reported that “Teen sexual activity and gambling [is] associated with taking nonprescribed medications to get high.”  And Live Science reported, “Coed Dorms […]

New Word Means Green Living: Bioplastics

Did you know that 10% of America’s oil consumption goes into making plastic?  The plastic products from oil pollute our landfills and harm the environment.  Next month, a company founded by a biology professor from MIT is going to make plastic from something green: corn.     Anthony Siskey and Oliver Peoples, according to PhysOrg, […]

In Brains, It’s Quality, Not Quantity, that Counts

Most anthropologists are obsessed with brain size.  How many cc’s (cubic centimeters) of brain could fit in the skull of this or that hominid?  PhysOrg reminds us that “Bigger not necessarily better, when it comes to brains.”  Here’s a shocker from scientists at Queen Mary University: “Tiny insects could be as intelligent as much bigger […]

What Is Man?

Science often makes pronouncements about the human species.  We should be mindful of the worldview behind them.     Live Science published an article with the confident-sounding title, “Human Evolution: Where We Came From,” accompanied by the iconic sketch of Ardi (see 10/02/2009) and an obligatory reference to Darwin.  Even though reporter Charles Q. Choi, […]

Modern Men Are Wimps

Whatever happened to survival of the fittest?  Our ancestors were much stronger, says the author of a new book on anthropology.  PhysOrg reported on a book by Peter McAllister that says today’s males don’t measure up physically to their counterparts even a century ago, let alone those in the Roman empire and earlier.     […]

Conservationists Moan Lack of Hikers

When hiking and backpacking were popular in the 1970s, the number of environmentalists and conservationists rose accordingly.  Since then, many content themselves to watch TV and remain city-bound.  The internet exacerbated the problem.  Science Daily said, “a recent fall-off in strenuous outdoor endeavors portends a coming decline in the ranks of conservation backers.”     […]

Human Evolution Celebration Exposed

The evolutionary story of human origins is often told like a cultural myth that is intuitively obvious.  Humans emerged in Africa after their ancestors came down from the trees and walked upright.  They began to hunt with stone tools and used fire.  They migrated north out of Africa and populated Europe, overtaking the Neanderthals who […]

Your Eye Sees Trouble Before You Do

In slapstick comedy, the fall guy gets the pie in the face when the clown in front of him ducks.  It’s funny because most of us instinctively duck when we see something coming.  But two recent experimental studies are revealing new automated capabilities built into the eye and brain that are quicker and more automatic […]

Do You Need a Darwinian Doctor?

Visualize a cartoon of Charles Darwin as Hippocrates.  It accompanies a book review in Science by Peter T. Ellison (Harvard).1  Ellison realizes that the mass of material doctors need to master is formidable, but thinks that “Evolutionary biology, however, is no longer an expendable topic in medical education.”     The book is Principles of […]

Mutation: Not a Bug, a Feature

Evolutionary biologists are sometimes risque with the way they discuss mutations.  They treat them almost like magic wands, able to produce wondrous new organs and functions by accident. Health to them, death to you:  One article on Science Daily discussed a mutation that causes congenital heart disease in humans, but may have been a stepping […]
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