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Stuart Firestein, PhD: Pleasures of Scientific Mystery and the Cultivation of Doubt

Stuart Firestein, PhD: Pleasures of Scientific Mystery and the Cultivation of Doubt | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

Dr. Stuart Firestein is the Chair of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences where his highly popular course on ignorance invites working scientists to come talk to students each week about what they don’t know. His colleagues and he study the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet.

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It's Official: Austerity Economics Doesn't Work

It's Official: Austerity Economics Doesn't Work | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
Having adopted the policies of Keynes in response to a calamitous recession, the United States has grown more than twice as fast during the past three years as Britain, which adopted the economics of Hoover (and Paul Ryan).

 

One of the frustrations of economics is that it is hard to carry out scientific experiments and prove things beyond reasonable doubt. But not in this case. Thanks to Osborne’s stubborn refusal to change course—“Turning back would be a disaster,” he told Parliament—what has been happening in Britain amounts to a “natural experiment” to test the efficacy of austerity economics. For the sixty-odd million inhabitants of the U.K., living through it hasn’t been a pleasant experience—no university institutional-review board would have allowed this kind of brutal human experimentation. But from a historical and scientific perspective, it is an invaluable case study.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/austerity-economics-doesnt-work.html#ixzz2EY1gNue5

 

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UND professor seeks human rights in dangerous corners of the world | Grand Forks Herald | Grand Forks, North Dakota

UND professor seeks human rights in dangerous corners of the world | Grand Forks Herald | Grand Forks, North Dakota | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

After being held at gunpoint in Zimbabwe and caught in a civil uprising in Mali, UND anthropologist Marcia Mikulak is known to put research ahead of her own safety. But after years of calling attention to the plight of a northeastern Brazilian tribe, she recently saw her effort save someone else.

 

In October, she heard the criminal sentences of a tribal leader and more than 40 tribal members had been removed after a long battle for their freedom.

 

“Part of me was angry, and part of me was ‘Thank God, he won’t go to prison and die,’” said Mikulak.

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A Very Remote Period Indeed: Cavemen, quadrupeds and science, oh my!

A Very Remote Period Indeed: Cavemen, quadrupeds and science, oh my! | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

By Julien Riel-Salvatore

 

So... there's a new paper in PLoS ONE about how 'cavemen' depicted four-legged animals better than 'modern' artists (Horvath et al. 2012). I usually try to refrain from paper bashing here, but there is such a high density of wrong (if not downright fail) in this one, that it's hard not to. Becky Farbstein agrees, and points out that:

 

1) anyone using the word 'cavemen' with a straight face in a scientific publication today cannot be taken to know anything about the time period in question;

 

2) the paper's conclusions are only surprising or noteworthy if you assume that cavemen (and by extension hunter-gatherers) are somehow less advanced at a fundamental level than 'modern' folks (again, whatever that is);

 

3) and - extremely importantly - that there is no reason to expect that an artist, archaic or modern, necessarily operates with the goal of depicting quadrupeds realistically; to assume that this is the case fundamentally misinterprets what art can be and usually is, i.e., not strictly about representing reality.

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Anthropologists for Justice and Peace: Brian Ferguson: "Full Spectrum: The Military Invasion of Anthropology"

Anthropologists for Justice and Peace: Brian Ferguson: "Full Spectrum: The Military Invasion of Anthropology" | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

This and the previous post feature two chapters by Brian Ferguson dealing with the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, and broader issues of militarization, global surveillance, and cultural counterinsurgency that arise. One of the chapters was nearing publication, but the very sad passing of our friend and colleague, Neil L. Whitehead, this past March has apparently hindered one of the projects. Both papers are published here with the expressed permission of Brian Ferguson. I am also using the opportunity to draw attention to some key passages.

 

Global Scouts and Virtual Empire: Militarizing Anthropology and Neuroscience

 

Ferguson's chapters presents material that remains as important to current discussions on the future of anthropology as at any time during the zenith of debates around the Human Terrain System:

 

"this chapter draws on a flotilla of other manuals, reports, and proposals, to demonstrate just how deeply entrenched and programmatically wide-ranging are the military’s cultural demands. Anthropologists need to understand that the Department of Defense and other security agencies are already taking what they want from anthropology, and their appropriation of people and knowledge could transform the discipline in the years to come." (p. 1)

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Anthropologists for Justice and Peace: Brian Ferguson: "Plowing the Human Terrain: Toward Global Ethnographic Surveillance"

Anthropologists for Justice and Peace: Brian Ferguson: "Plowing the Human Terrain: Toward Global Ethnographic Surveillance" | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

This and the next post feature two chapters by Brian Ferguson dealing with the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, and broader issues of militarization, global surveillance, and cultural counterinsurgency that arise. One of the chapters was nearing publication, but the very sad passing of our friend and colleague, Neil L. Whitehead, this past March has apparently hindered one of the projects. Both papers are published here with the expressed permission of Brian Ferguson. I am also using the opportunity to draw attention to some key passages. ...

 

While Ferguson says that "an anthropologized Department of Defense might well mean less blundering around, less shooting and bombing" (even though he himself has found to evidence to warrant such a claim)," he notes that "a well-run imperium always finds ways to reduce the bloodshed," and that therefore there is at least nothing remarkable about the claims that U.S. military and political leaders are looking for "humane" ways to fight war.

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Behaviour evolves, but evolution is a lot more than ‘survival of the fittest’

Behaviour evolves, but evolution is a lot more than ‘survival of the fittest’ | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

By Agustín Fuentes

 

Recent headlines promise to tell us about the evolution of human sociality, the evolution of war and peace, and even the evolutionary and genetic correlates of cellphone use.

Pretty cool, but there is no way that these can be simple, straightforward stories, no matter how well told. Evolution involves complicated genetics, messy development, and niche construction.

 

Not everything we do is directly the product of evolutionary forces, or even evolutionarily relevant, but evolution is important to understanding behaviour. Our bodies and the neurological and psychological processes that influence the way we think, feel and act are, in part, shaped by our evolutionary histories and ongoing evolution. But evolution is not simply ‘survival of the fittest.’ It is more complicated than that.

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How common 'cat parasite' gets into human brain and influences human behavior

A new study demonstrates for the first time how the Toxoplasma gondii parasite enters the brain to influence its host's behavior. This research was led by researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden publishes December 6 in the Open Access journal PLOS Pathogens.

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Anthropology and Moral Optimism - Free PowerPoint

Anthropology and Moral Optimism - Free PowerPoint | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

From Jason Antrosio

 

This is a complementary presentation to What is Anthropology? This presentation focuses on the purpose of anthropology, primarily based on material from Anthropology, Moral Optimism, and Capitalism: A Four-Field Manifesto. It can be adapted to a variety of anthropology courses and presentations, especially near the end of a four fields introduction to anthropology.

 

This presentation uses examples from the 10th edition of the four field Applying Anthropology: An Introductory Reader. This presentation serves as a review and summary of the material, putting the issues into a larger context. The presentation can be easily modified to accommodate other articles. (Please see also the review of Applying Anthropology, 10th edition.)

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Why we don’t need Michael Palin’s ‘Brazil’

Why we don’t need Michael Palin’s ‘Brazil’ | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

The ABC has recently screened Michael Palin’s travel program “Brazil” but unfortunately, the show has been much more about the expected sex, samba, and soccer stereotypes than the complexities of the country.

 

This is the case even when the images he showed and his interviewees themselves hinted at the latter. Brazilians in these shows are always brown, never Asian (Brazil is the home of the largest Japanese community outside Japan, comprising around 1.5 million people), or blonde (the descendants of Germans, Polish, Jewish and other Eastern Europeans who started to settle Brazil in the 19th century), or just regular folks going about their daily business.

 

Dr. Cristina Rocha is Senior Lecturer at University of Western Sydney. She points out the way that Michael Palin's series pretty much goes back to cliches of Native Americans and hyper-sexualised Cariocas, even though it covers some interesting ground (I thought the material on new efforts at policing and infrastructure in Rio's favelas was great, but the segement on Salvador was old hat). I found myself losing interest in it, especially because there was zero discussion of the really remarkable political policies (with some outbursts of old-fashioned corruption) that are helping to bring some significant change to the country.

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Brains in the Wild: Update from the AAAs

Brains in the Wild: Update from the AAAs | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) 111th Annual Conference in San Francisco, and one of the session topics focused on neuroanthropology: ‘Brains in the Wild: The Challenges of Neuroanthropology.’

 

I would like to share the content of this session – including papers by Daniel Lende, Jeffrey Snodgrass, Sarah Mahler, and Greg Downey – and outline the researchers’ main message concerning current and future scholarship in this very new field.

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Open Access Publishing: Potential Unintended Consequences of the Finch Proposals

Open Access Publishing: Potential Unintended Consequences of the Finch Proposals | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
The second in our series on open access in IR and social science (first post here, third here, fourth here, fifth here, sixth here), this time from Colin Wight. Colin is a Professor in the Departme...

 

The recommendations of Dame Janet Finch in relation to ‘open access’ (OA), seem to represent the first steps in what looks to be an inexorable trend towards a major reform of academic publishing. The OA movement has been gathering momentum and the academic boycott of major Dutch publisher Elsevier, was simply the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at forcing governments, academics and publishers to rethink, not only how research outputs are handled, but also how they are funded.

 

That the UK Education Secretary, David Willetts, moved so quickly to implementation after the publication of the Finch report, suggests that advocates of OA were knocking at an open door. Most academics are in favour of OA. It makes sense. After all, why should government funded research not be publically available and why should commercial publishers be allowed to fill the coffers of their shareholders on the back of taxpayer funded research?

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Awake on the Operating Table, a Violinist Plays During His Own Brain Surgery - Healthy Living - Everyday Health

Awake on the Operating Table, a Violinist Plays During His Own Brain Surgery - Healthy Living - Everyday Health | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
Deep brain stimulation offers hope for patients with essential tremors, but the surgeons must be guided by the patient himself. For Roger Frisch, that meant playing the violin while having brain surgery.

 

With his career in jeopardy, Frisch sought out neurosurgeons at Mayo Clinic. Their solution: A technique called deep brain stimulation, which involved implanting electrodes deep inside the brain. But in these operations, surgeons must be guided by the reactions of the patient and, in Frisch's case, that meant performing a concert as surgeons stimulated his brain so they could tell whether the technique was working.

 

With video!

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Pseudoscience and TED | john hawks weblog

Pseudoscience and TED | john hawks weblog | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

Phil Plait discusses ("TEDx Talks: Some Ideas Are Not Worth Spreading") a public letter from the TED organizers to their derivative TEDx community: "A letter to the TEDx community on TEDx and bad science". I have criticized TED in the past for promoting Elaine Morgan, who gave a TED talk on her ideas regarding the aquatic origins of human adaptations. Although TED provides a platform that has enabled some scientists to bring valuable work to a broader public, many TED talks have promoted ideas that have either quickly proven wrong (bacteria making DNA from arsenic) or are dismissed for good reasons.

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The Invention of Political Consulting

The Invention of Political Consulting | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

Fantastic long read from back in September by Jill Lepore

 

“I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty,” by Upton Sinclair, is probably the most thrilling piece of campaign literature ever written. Instead of the usual flummery, Sinclair, the author of forty-seven books, including, most famously, “The Jungle,” wrote a work of fiction. “I, Governor of California,” published in 1933, announced Sinclair’s gubernatorial bid in the form of a history of the future, in which Sinclair is elected governor in 1934, and by 1938 has eradicated poverty. “So far as I know,” the author remarked, “this is the first time an historian has set out to make his history true.”

 

It was only sixty-four pages, but it sold a hundred and fifty thousand copies in four months. Chapter 1: “On an evening in August, 1933, there took place a conference attended by five members of the County Central Committee of the Democratic party, Sixtieth Assembly District of the State of California.” That might not sound like a page-turner, unless you remember that at the time California was a one-party state: in 1931, almost all of the hundred and twenty seats in the state legislature were held by Republicans; not a single Democrat held a statewide office. Also useful to recall: the unemployment rate in the state was twenty-nine per cent. Back to that meeting in August, 1933: “The purpose was to consider with Upton Sinclair the possibility of his registering as a Democrat and becoming the candidate of the party for Governor of California.” What if Sinclair, a lifelong socialist, ran as a Democrat? That’s one nifty plot twist.

 

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/24/120924fa_fact_lepore#ixzz2EUwgvVOp

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Serious and Not-So-Serious Musings on Archaeology: On "Cavemen" and Presumptions of Naturalism in Prehistoric Art

Becky at Serious and Not-So-Serious Musings on Archaeology is also onto the PLOS paper on paleolithic art and naturalism.

 

@jorios tweeted about a paper published this week in PLoS ONE, from Horvath et al., entitled, "Cavemen Were Better at Depicting Quadruped Walking than Modern Artists: Erroneous Walking Illustrations in the Fine Arts from Prehistory to Today". The title alone motivated me to prioritise reading this paper ASAP. There are so many problems with calling prehistoric people "cavemen." First off, our Palaeolithic ancestors did not universally live in caves. Secondly, the term "prehistory" refers to any society that pre-dates the first evidence of a written language. Prehistory can span an extremely long time-period beyond the Palaeolithic that varies from region to region. In Egypt, "prehistory" may have ended as early as c. 3100 BC, whereas in Australia, prehistory is thought to have ended with the first European colonisation of the Continent, in 1788 AD. In some places, "prehistoric" people lived in sedentary societies and even cities; these settlements (usually) bear little resemblance to caves. I'm honestly horrified that PLoS ONE and the reviewers of this paper allowed this title to be published.

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Affect, exchange and Yolŋu-matha idioms based on the term ‘gumurr’ (chest/sternum)

Affect, exchange and Yolŋu-matha idioms based on the term ‘gumurr’ (chest/sternum) | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

 The most basic, important concept associated with affect and morality in Yolŋu-matha is ŋayaŋu (‘state or sense of feeling’). While I decided to use the English term ‘feeling’ as the final translation for ŋayaŋu throughout the thesis, there are a number of things that distinguish ŋayaŋu from ‘feeling’ as it is normally used in English.

 

New post by @BreeBlakeman

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allAfrica.com: Somalia: How Childhood Trauma of Somali and Other Refugees Has Shaped Gang Culture On Britain's Streets (Page 1 of 2)

allAfrica.com: Somalia: How Childhood Trauma of Somali and Other Refugees Has Shaped Gang Culture On Britain's Streets (Page 1 of 2) | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
allAfrica: African news and information for a global audience...

 

I recently gave a talk for Radio 4's Four Thought series, exploring the links between childhood war trauma suffered by young Somali men and the way some are drawn to violent gang culture.

 

Like other young Somali men I arrived in Britain in the 1990s as a child refugee fresh from the anarchy and mayhem of civil war in Somalia. Prior to settling in Britain many of us endured profound traumatic events.

 

Once in Britain, we were thrown into existing zones of poverty in the inner cities, confused, alienated and unable to make sense of our new homes. We had little in the way of education, and were plunged into unfamiliar British life without a map.

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High School Football Can Lead to Long-Term Brain Damage, Study Says

High School Football Can Lead to Long-Term Brain Damage, Study Says | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

A sweeping new study has found evidence that long-term brain damage can occur after playing football for just a few years... in high school.

 

Released Monday by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, the study found such injuries to six young men who played football in high school, but stopped before college, and did not play professionally.

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The Muslim 'prayer bump' and Traumatic Brain Injury

The Muslim 'prayer bump' and Traumatic Brain Injury | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
Aggression, depression and reasoning affected...

 

A physical characteristic that many of its members, as well as millions of Muslims throughout the world share is the noticeable prayer bump, or more correctly, the zebibah (Arabic for raisin).

 

Seen by many of its bearers as a sign of true devotion to Islam, the cranial bruising is caused by the repeated hitting of their foreheads to the ground while making their daily Salah, or prayers required of every male Muslim.

 

Not Just For Boxers And Football Players Anymore...

 

Great Britain's Oxford University published an academic research paper entitled "Repeated mild injury causes cumulative damage to hippocampal cells," in which repeated Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (rMTBI) has

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The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion, Part 1 - 5 | Ideas with Paul Kennedy | CBC Radio

The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion, Part 1 - 5 | Ideas with Paul Kennedy | CBC Radio | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
Human beings, according to French thinker René Girard, are fundamentally imitative creatures. We copy each other's desires and are in perpetual conflict with one another over the objects of our desire. In early human communities, this conflict created a permanent threat of violence and forced our ancestors to find a way to unify themselves. They chose a victim, a scapegoat, an evil one against whom the community could unite. Biblical religion, according to Girard, has attempted to overcome this historic plight. From the unjust murder of Abel by his brother Cain to the crucifixion of Christ, the Bible reveals the innocence of the victim. It is on this revelation that modern society unquietly rests. Girard's ideas have influenced social scientists over his long career as a writer and teacher.

 

IDEAS producer David Cayley introduces this seminal thinker to a wider audience. 5 part series of podcasts from Canada's CBC Radio.

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PM Julia Gillard: ‘The end of the world is coming'

PM Julia Gillard: ‘The end of the world is coming' | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it
PM Julia Gillard: ‘The end of the world is coming'...

 

Okay, it's not really neuroanthropology, but Australia's Prime Minister records a farewell fellow Australians as part of Triple J's celebration of the Mayan 'end of the world' (see previous post on how this is ridiculous -- let me count the ways).

 

Excerpt: "Whether the final blow comes from flesh eating zombies, demonic hell beasts or from the total triumph of K-pop, if you know one thing about me it is this: I will always fight for you to the very end," Ms Gillard says in solemn tones.

 

Finishing the video, the Prime Minister observes: "At least this means I won't have to do Q&A again."

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Koalas Are Enduring a Pandemic Like Those Our Ancestors Faced

Koalas Are Enduring a Pandemic Like Those Our Ancestors Faced | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

To understand what it means to be human, you have to understand koalas. Or, to be more precise, you have to understand how they are dying from a bizarre viral outbreak that has been raging for the past 150 years or so. The koalas are now going through something our ancestors experienced 31 times over the past 60 million years. And those ancient viral outbreaks have helped to make us who we are today.

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How many times do I have to tell you the Maya didn't give a shit about your dumb apocalypse?

How many times do I have to tell you the Maya didn't give a shit about your dumb apocalypse? | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

By Annalee Newitz

 

There are two things I am pissed about. One, the new age dumbasses who think that the ancient Maya predicted the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012. And two, the people who revel in debunking these predictions based on the logic that all doomsday prophesies are unscientific. Because here is the thing. The issue is not religion vs. science. The issue is historical and cultural. The Maya did not, in fact, ever predict an apocalypse. I'm cool with people believing in some ancient mystical whatever if that makes them happy. But mistakenly attributing a belief to a culture you know zip about, and then getting all googly-eyed about how we're in a super mystical time? No. That shit needs to stop right now.

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How Athletic Culture Still Suppresses Concussion Research

How Athletic Culture Still Suppresses Concussion Research | Neuroanthropology | Scoop.it

A researcher's struggle to get players and leagues to cooperate in a study of traumatic brain injury...

 

The last time Dr. Paul Echlin attempted to research concussions occurring in young ice hockey players, one of the two participating teams dropped out halfway through the study.

 

Now, two years later, Echlin managed to get all of the data needed for a massive, 4-part analysis of traumatic brain injury among college varsity players -- but not without meeting enough opposition that he was inspired to write an accompanying editorial decrying the competitive culture that keeps concussions dangerously under studied and underreported. All were published in a special issue of Neurosurgical Focus.

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