Ideas: August 2008 Archives
There's an interesting piece over at LiveScience called "Monsters, Ghosts and Gods: Why We Believe." It was inspired by the recent string of weirdness. That string began with the so-called Montauk Monster on Long Island, then a Big Foot, then this creature found in Texas last year that the discoverer swore was the Chupacabra, or goat sucker, of Mexican lore. Turns out we want to believe. Most people simply can't not believe. It doesn't matter how educated you are. PhDs are as likely to believe in ghosts as high-school drop outs. But those who hold deep religious beliefs are less likely to buy into the paranormal. Those who attend church infrequently, or never, are more likely to believe Big Foot and the Montauk Monster are really, really real.
From LiveScience: The bottom line, according to several interviews with people who study these things: People want to believe, and most simply can't help it. . . . A related question: Does belief in the paranormal have anything to do with religious belief? The answer to that question is decidedly nuanced, but studies point to an interesting conclusion: People who practice religion are typically encouraged not to believe in the paranormal, but rather to put their faith in one deity, whereas those who aren't particularly active in religion are more free to believe in Bigfoot or consult a psychic. "Christians and New Agers, paranormalists, etc. all have one thing in common: a spiritual orientation to the world," said sociology Professor Carson Mencken of Baylor University.Oh, and that Chupacabra? Not the mythical slayer of domestic animals. Nope. DNA testing showed it's just a coyote.
If you haven't guessed by now, I'm interested in new ways of thinking, news ways of understanding, new ways of seeing the world. Art, to me, is the ultimate lens through which to see the world. Art is a product of culture and the mystery of the human brain (mind?), so it's no surprise that a series by SEED Magazine called Revolutionary Minds caught my attention. It profiles thinkers, writers, and researchers on the vanguard of human knowledge. It's really interesting in and of itself. You might consider spending some time with this podcast featuring social psychologist Heejung Kim (pictured above) at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who is exploring that finest of fine lines between nature and nurture, and how our culture is not merely a product of our genes, but how our genes, over long stretches of time, might be a product of our culture.
From the magazine: Sorting out the competing yet complementary influences of genes and culture is a problem that has captured the attention of some of the most talented scientific minds. Researchers have looked for genes that influence behavior regardless of cultural context. In her first foray into the world of genetics, social psychologist Heejung Kim is taking a decidedly different approach by examining how culture shapes individuals' responses to their biological inheritance. In doing so she is creating a profound new framework for how to think about our genetic and cultural backgrounds.heejung-kim-genetic-accultration.mp3