The various excerpts that follow contain research findings and journalistic commentary that inform the issues discussed occasionally among a small group of humanists in the Bay Area. We are interested in how man-made places reveal the ways that varying values and norms stemming from changing environmental conditions interact with ( i.e., shape or are shaped by) our genetic heritage.
The children of people who have experienced extremely traumatic events are more likely to develop mental health problems.
And new research shows this is because experiencing trauma leads to changes in the sperm.
These changes can cause a man’s children to develop bipolar disorder and are so strong they can even influence the man’s grandchildren.
Psychologists have long known that traumatic experiences can induce behavioural disorders that are passed down from one generation to the next.
However, they are only just beginning to understand how this happens.
Researchers at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich now think they have come one step closer to understanding how the effects of traumas can be passed down the generations.
Both positive and negative experiences influence how genetic variants affect the brain and thereby behaviour, according to a new study. "Evidence is accumulating to show that the effects of variants of many genes that are common in the population depend on environmental factors. Further, these genetic variants affect each other," explained Sheilagh Hodgins of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal. "We conducted a study to determine whether juvenile offending was associated with interactions between three common genetic variants and positive and negative experiences." Hodgins and her colleagues published the study on December 11, 2014 in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.
As this article argues, at the very minimum body cameras should be worn by the police. They will definitely help to dilute the cops' confrontational mode which is highly toxic to aggressive young black males.
More important I think is to follow up on Pharrell's astute comment in Ebony. This means getting a better understanding of the biosocial variables in the inner city.
Michael Brown was at a convenience store stealing cigarillos before he was killed. But Pharrell says he was upset when he saw the way Brown was acting towards the owner.
“It looked very bully-ish,” he said. “That in itself I had a problem with. Not with the kid, but with whatever happened in his life for him to arrive at a place where that behavior is OK. Why aren’t we talking about that?”
People quckly misread this to mean a criticism of Michael Brown when it is just the reverse. The fault lies with the community and family-- a particular kind of…
BEN TUFFT http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/virus-that-makes-humans-more-stupid-discovered-9849920.html Sunday 09 November 2014 A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US. The algae virus, never before observed in healthy people, was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness. Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes.
Surprisingly, the researchers found DNA in the throats of healthy individuals that matched the DNA of a virus known to infect green algae. Dr Robert Yolken, a virologist who led the original study, said: “This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition.
“Many physiological differences between person A and person B are encoded in the set of genes each i…
BY PETER FROST • OCTOBER 18, 2014 • 900 WORDS
• LEAVE A COMMENT The ratio of index finger length to ring finger length provides an index of sexual differentiation. Credit: Wikimedia Commons .... "In general, women from Northwest Europe have more masculine digit ratios, whereas women from farther east and south have more feminine digit ratios. This geographical trend is more pronounced for the right hand than for the left hand. Since the right-hand digit ratio is associated with social dominance, Northwest Europeans may be less sexually differentiated for that particular trait, as opposed to being less sexually differentiated in general. Presumably, this isn’t a new tendency. Women must have been more socially dominant among Northwest Europeans even before the late 19th century and the earliest movements for women’s suffrage. So how far back does the tendency go? To medieval times? To pre-Christian times? It seems to go back at least to medieval times and, as such, forms part of the…
Truths of a French Village NY Times http://nyti.ms/1yosFSU
By Roger Cohen
A few weeks ago I was in France, where I’ve owned a village house for almost 20 years that I am now planning to sell. A real estate agent had taken a look at the property and we had made an appointment to discuss how to proceed. She swept into the kitchen, a bundle of energy and conviction, with an impassioned appeal: “Monsieur Cohen, whatever you do, you must on no account sell this house!” I gazed at her, a little incredulous. “You cannot sell it. This is a family home. You know it the moment you step in. You sense it in the walls. You breathe it in every room. You feel it in your bones. This is a house you must keep for your children. I will help you sell it if you insist, but my advice is not to sell. You would be making a mistake.” This was, shall we say, a cultural moment, one of those times when a door opens and you gaze, if not into the soul of a country, at least into territory that is distinct and deep and a…
September 17, 2014
Why Germans Pay Cash for Almost EverythingMatt Phillips, Quartz
The Associated Press As banks, technology giants and would-be disruptors such as Square scrummage over the payment system of the future, German consumers seem perfectly happy with the payment system of the past. Germany remains one of the most cash-intensive advanced economies on earth. Read Full Article ››
Doebeli’s bacteria echoed the evolution of lizards in the Caribbean. Each time the lizards arrived on an island, they diversified into many of the same forms, each with its own set of adaptations. Doebeli’s bacteria diversified as well — and did so in flask after flask.... To get a deeper understanding of this predictable evolution, Doebeli and his postdoctoral researcher, Matthew Herron, sequenced the genomes of some of the bacteria from these experiments. In three separate populations they discovered that the bacteria had evolved in remarkable parallel. In every case, many of the same genes had mutated....
How Much Do Our Genes Influence Our Political Beliefs?
It’s been a key question of American politics since at least 1968: Why do so many poor, working-class and lower-middle-class whites — many of them dependent for survival on government programs — vote for Republicans?
The debate over the motives of conservative low-income white voters remains unresolved, but two recent research papers suggest that the hurdles facing Democrats in carrying this segment of the electorate may prove difficult to overcome.
In “Obedience to Traditional Authority: A heritable factor underlying authoritarianism, conservatism and religiousness,” published b…
David de Ugarte57 ~ April 11th, 2013 http://english.lasindias.com/culture-a-users-guide What is national culture, really, and how should it be understood when it’s time to travel and deal with people “from outside?” While the word “people” is in ever-greater danger of sliding, the word “culture” was born in a dangerous place, because, in spite of how it might appear, it’s very much a political term, a concept formed and created in the bosom of German romantic nationalism. It carries such amibiguity that Gustavo Bueno, a notable archaeologist of concepts, ended up exclaiming that "No one understands what Culture is, as no one understood in the days of yesteryear what the Grace of God was. Culture is a myth, and an obscurantist myth, as was the myth of Grace in the Middle Ages or as was the “twentieth-century myth,” the myth of Race, in the first half of that century. In a certain way, it could be said that the myth of Culture incorporates, additionally, through the nationalisms of t…
By Roger Scruton JANUARY 25, 2012 http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/poll/nature-nurture-and-liberal-values-roger-scruton-jesse-prinz-david-eagleman-neuroscience/#.U5i1UvldWSo
Biology determines our behaviour more than it suits many to acknowledge. But people—and politics and morality—cannot be described just by neural impulses Human Nature by Jesse Prinz (Allen Lane, £22) Incognito by David Eagleman (Canongate, £20) You and Me: the Neuroscience of Identity by Susan Greenfield (Notting Hill Editions, £10) The answer given by evolutionary psychologists is that culture is an adaptation, which exists because it conferred a reproductive advantage on our hunter-gatherer ancestors. According to this view many of the diverse customs that the standard social science model attributes to nurture are local variations of attributes acquired 70 or more millennia ago, during the Pleistocene age, and now (like other evolutionary adaptations) “hard-wired in the brain.” But if this is so, cultural c…
SIX years after the financial meltdown there is once again talk about market bubbles. Are stocks succumbing to exuberance? Is real estate? We thought we had exorcised these demons. It is therefore with something close to despair that we ask: What is it about risk taking that so eludes our understanding, and our control? Part of the problem is that we tend to view financial risk taking as a purely intellectual activity. But this view is incomplete. Risk is more than an intellectual puzzle — it is a profoundly physical experience, and it involves your body. Risk by its very nature threatens to hurt you, so when confronted by it your body and brain, under the influence of the stress response, unite as a single functioning unit. This occurs in athletes and soldiers, and it occurs as well in traders and people investing from home. The state of your body predic…
Gray Matter By SANFORD E. DeVOE IN recent years we have seen plenty of studies of the impact of fast food on our bodies. But what about our psychological health? It stands to reason that fast food would have an effect on our mental state. From its production to its consumption, fast food both embodies and symbolizes speed and instant gratification. Moreover, through extensive franchising and large advertising budgets, fast-food companies shape many of the cues in our everyday environment.
Photo A tour led by Elena Martinez, center, visits spots under consideration for inclusion on the South Bronx Culture Trail.CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
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Casa Amadeo on Prospect Avenue, a Latin record store on the National Register of Historic Places, is perhaps the only place in the city where one can worship at a shrine dedicated to the Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández.
On a recent Saturday, Miguel Angel Amadeo told the tale of his shop’s beginnings in East Harlem, its move to the Bronx and Mr. Amadeo’s reign as owner, cultural arbiter and link to politicians, salsa legends and historians since 1969.