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Entries in brain science (17)

Thursday
May032012

Motivated Reasoning in American Politics | Was Richard Grenell More Republican Misogyny? 

Daily French Roast

Anne is reading …

The Republican Brain

Any book entitled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality is certain to create controversy. The Atlantic publishes an informative and comparatively neutral passage from Chris Mooney’s analysis of how we’re built for bias in public life.

The idea is called ‘motivated reasoning’ — thought and argument that sounds rational and debate-worthy but actually isn’t.

Our human brains are the product of an evolutionary process. The older parts — including the subcortex and the limbic regions — operate in the nether land of survival of the fittest and fight or flight response, riddled with often involuntary, rapid-response reactions.

The more sophisticated prefrontal cortex is able to reason abstractly, learn language and generally drive decision-making with more conscious, goal-directed behavior. Comparatively-speaking, the prefrontal cortex runs slow.

Another potential liability expresses itself also in the way our old brain functions with our new one. The theory of motivated reasoning prompts us to protect our theories with “a diverse battery of cognitive defenses designed to repel attacks” on our positions, writes psychologist Paul Klaczynski of the University of Northern Colorado.

Perhaps motivated reasoning isn’t a liability but an asset. It’s possible that human reason didn’t evolve as the pursuit of the objective truth. The power of persuasion, getting members of your group to behave in a specific way, has historically been key to group survival and the development of civilization. 

Motivated reasoning inevitably leads to bias, as both Republicans and Democrats employ selective reasoning skills to reinforce our key beliefs and keep us on track.

By the same token, the theory also suggests that if you insulate yourself from belief challenge, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the worst flaws of reasoning, without deriving any of the benefits of it.

DFR Boys Club

Richard Grenell: More Republican Misogyny?

The short-lived appointment of openly gay Richard Grenell, who formerly served as an aide to John R. Bolton, United States ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush Administration, focuses on the rejection on his homosexuality and support for same-sex marriage.

Writing about Grenell’s departure before getting started, the NY Times says:

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.” Like many interviewed, this adviser insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Indeed the right responded. “If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead,” Tweeted Bryan Fischer, a Romney critic with the American Family Association.

Ironically, Grenell himself had a history on Twitter. Before dwelling on his “women issues”, it’s a fact that the Romney appointee swiped at Newt Gingrich, saying “I wonder if newt has investments in Lipitor.” Suddenly gone were 800 other Tweets, mostly targeted at women.

Examples of Grenell’s now deleted Tweets include:

Obama: No Condom Left Behind

rachel maddow needs to take a breath and put on a necklace

Hillary is starting to look liek Madeline Albright

note to children: when your mom is a grandmother DO NOT let her wear backless dresses

#FreeContraception is really Obama’s population control strategy

More Boys Club

Dolan Admits Catholics Don’s Agree With Church’s Birth Control Prohibition Think Progress

Sunday
Apr292012

Obama & The Clintons Cement Ties for 2012 Election | Senate Renews Violence Against Women Act

Daily French Roast

Anne is reading …

Forging Political and Policy Ties

Bill Clinton may be President Obama’s most important ally in his re-election campaign, in a burying of the ax that formally leaves behind the bitter days of the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton. Huff Po quotes Terry McAuliffe, “a close adviser to both Clintons and one of the most ardent protectors of their political brand”:

“It makes absolutely clear that, to the extent that there were different wings of the Democratic party, there is now one wing of the Democratic party,” said Chris Lehane, a Clinton backer. “And it’s the president’s party.”

 

Senate Renews Violence Against Women Act

Fifteen Senate Republicans joined 51 Democrats and two independents to approve the stalled Violence Against Women Act with amendments that now expand the law to explicitly provide protection to gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer called today on House Republicans to renew the bill. Republicans are working on their own version of the bill, without the added protections for new constituencies not covered under the expiring act.

“I want to say, to the small group in the House of Representatives moving to stop this bill. Stop it. Pass this bill,” Schumer said, calling the renewal a “no brainer.” Schumer added that the House version doesn’t even contain the word “women”, writes the NY Daily News.

Last month Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance urged support for New York State’s Aggravated Domestic Violence Bill, reports the NY Daily News.

“As a result of outdated New York State domestic violence laws, a serial abuser who hurts his victim for the 100th time can receive the same sentence he did for his first conviction — a maximum of one year in jail for an A misdemeanor, the same crime level as not paying a subway fare. That is not justice for victims.”

DFR on Religion

The Atlantic asks if Catholic Schools should be able to fire teachers over fertility treatments.

Emily Herx was a popular literature teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, until she used her medical leave for in vitro fertilization. Herx lost her job and says a church official called her a “grave, immoral sinner.” When she appealed to Fort Wayne Bishop Kevin Rhoades, he told her IVF was “an intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it.” The federal government saw things a bit differently. Herx filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and won — paving the way for a civil lawsuit.

Reverend Richard Sparks argues that the confusing “minefield” of Catholic teaching is more about Church teachings than politics. Perhaps, but in either case, it’s about bishops’ power over women.

Pope BenedictFaith and Analytical Thinking Skills

Researchers Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan publish research experiments designed to measure the relationship between individual with strong analytical thinking skills and a person’s faith.

Prior research has suggested that religious beliefs are rooted in intuitive processing. In this new research, published in Nature, the authors conclude that there is a significant positive correlation between faith and analytical thinking skills. via Chicago Tribune

Related articles:

Georgetown University President: We Will Continue Providing Birth Control To Our Employees ThinkProgress

With High Premarital Sex and Abortion Rates, Evangelicals Say It’s Time To Talk About Sex Huff Po

We Are All Nuns Nicholas D. Kristof for NYT

Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns Maureen Dowd for NYT

Iowa View: U.S. nuns are under attack from the pope The DesMoinesRegister.com

The Politics of Faith and American Exceptionalism Mugambi Jouet for Huff Po

Saturday
Apr212012

Exercise Increases Brain Health & Performance | Fluid Intelligence | Stunned American Nuns Regroup To Respond

Daily French Roast

Anne is reading …

Brain science is a favorite topic at AOC, leaving us hunkered down in the latest New York Times MagazineAll in Our Minds”.

A feature article “Can You Make Yourself Smarter?” reviews the state of scientific debate as the ability of brain-building exercises that ultimately increase IQ by improving fluid intelligence at almost age.

Not up for debate is the impact of exercise on our brains. The newest research, outlined in “How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain” confirms that exercise appears to build a brain that not only resists physical shrinkage but one with enhanced cognitive flexibility.

Just as exercise slows or reverses physical decline in our muscles, it appears to slow the brain’s decay by producing new neurons. In tests on mice and rats, those that ran had about twice the rate of new neurons as the couch potatoes.

Even this test result is not the whole story. To be relevant to the brain’s functioning, the cells improve intellect only then they join the existing neural network. This is not a given, leaving many neurons rattling around untethered.

New research confirms the benefits of exercise in generating increased transferable, multi-tasking skills in our brains.

Just how exercise remakes minds on a molecular level is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that exercise prompts increases in something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or B.D.N.F., a substance that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Scientists can’t directly study similar effects in human brains, but they have found that after workouts, most people display higher B.D.N.F. levels in their bloodstreams.

More DFR

Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST - Sister Mary Alice Chineworth, 94, and other nuns at the Oblate Sisters of Providence motherhouse all have their favorite spots to sit during evening prayers in the chapel Aug.24, 2011, in Catonsville, Md.Pundits are weighing in on the aftermath of this week’s major report that cracks down on American nuns through their primary organization the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for what it called “serious doctrinal problems.”

PBS’ Bob Abernethy interviewed David Gibson, national reporter for Religion News Service, who said abut the Leadership Conference on Women Religious:

They’re (the nuns) thinking of simply disbanding and reorganizing on their own, out from under the church’s purview. But the church will have, they have—the archbishop of Seattle has a five-year mandate to oversee this overhaul, and they (the bishops) can rewrite their (the nuns) statutes and vet their (the nuns,) speakers for their (the nuns) conferences and pretty much do as they (the bishops) like.

Sisters of mercy, devotion — and dismay LA Times

In Philadelphia last week, a child sex-abuse trial involving Catholic clergy led to a bombshell — a bishop from West Virginia was accused of abuse.

In Kansas City, a Catholic bishop goes on trial in September, accused of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Last year church officials paid $144 million to settle abuse allegations and cover legal bills, and although many of the cases went back decades, church auditors have warned of “growing complacency” about protecting children today.

So who’s in trouble with the Vatican?

Nuns.

American nuns stunned by Vatican accusation of ‘radical feminism,’ crackdown The Washington Post