Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Return of Eugenics

2 April 2016
The Spectator

It’s comforting now to think of eugenics as an evil that sprang from the blackness of Nazi hearts. We’re familiar with the argument: some men are born great, some as weaklings, and both pass the traits on to their children. So to improve society, the logic goes, we must encourage the best to breed and do what we can to stop the stupid, sick and malign from passing on their defective genes. This was taken to a genocidal extreme by Hitler, but the intellectual foundations were laid in England. And the idea is now making a startling comeback.
A hundred years ago the eugenic mission involved a handful of crude tools: bribing the ‘right’ people to have larger families, sterilising the weakest. Now stunning advances in science are creating options early eugenicists could only dream about. Today’s IVF technology already allows us to screen embryos for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis. But soon parents will be able to check for all manner of traits, from hair colour to character, and choose their ‘perfect’ child.
The era of designer babies, long portrayed by dystopian novelists and screenwriters, is fast arriving. According to Hank Greely, a Stanford professor in law and biosciences, the next couple of generations may be the last to accept pot luck with procreation. Doing so, he adds, may soon be seen as downright irresponsible. In his forthcoming book The End of Sex, he explains a brave new world in which mothers will be given a menu with various biological options. But even he shies away from the word that sums all this up. For Professor Greely, and almost all of those in the new bioscience, eugenics is never mentioned, as if to avoid admitting that history has swung full circle.

See the rest of the article here

Testosterone may reduce empathy by reducing brain connectivity

Photo credit: DARPA

By David Hader on PsyPost, March 30, 2016

High levels of testosterone may reduce empathy by interfering with communication between parts of the brain involved in emotion, according to a study to be published in the journalPsychoneuroendicinology.
There is a large body of scientific research linking testosterone, a hormone produced in larger quantities by men’s bodies and in smaller quantities in women’s bodies, with impairment in the ability to cognitively process emotional information. This applies particularly processes related to empathy, the ability to correctly identify another person’s emotional state based on cues like facial expression and body language. Women perform consistently better at tasks requiring empathy than men.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anthropology as an Inspiration to Food Studies: Building Theory and Practice.

The aim of this paper is to show the role of anthropological inquiry in the development of a new, interdisciplinary approach to food in culture -- namely: food studies. Early anthropologists, for example, Bronislaw Malinowski and Edward Evans-Pritchard, stressed the social meaning of food while analyzing the outcome of their fieldwork. When the functional approach had been replaced by structuralism, the symbolic meaning of food was given priority. Therefore, Claude Lévi-Strauss constructed his famous culinary triangle to show the connection between culture and nature in human thought; however, the triangle was not based on his own fieldwork, but rather many examples from other works were used to support this theoretical approach.

Full paper: