* SuperFreakonomics has already generated tremendous and noisy controversy in the blogosphere, and Stephen Dubner responds on his blog: Global Warming in SuperFreakonomics: The Anatomy of a Smear.
I read the book, like approximately half the U.S. population, and thought it intriguing mostly in the first chapter, which is really about the changing social mores around women.
* Kahlo, Trotsky and Kingsolver: The writer [Kingsolver] on dust, dirt, rain and her new novel set in 1930s Mexico. I’ve never gotten into Kingsolver’s fiction, but I like this interview.
* Why do we rape, kill, and sleep around? Whatever the cause, don’t blame evolution for it:
Evo psych took its first big hit in 2005, when NIU’s Buller exposed flaw after fatal flaw in key studies underlying its claims, as he laid out in his book Adapting Minds. Anthropological studies such as Hill’s on the Ache, shooting down the programmed-to-rape idea, have been accumulating. And brain scientists have pointed out that there is no evidence our gray matter is organized the way evo psych claims, with hundreds of specialized, preprogrammed modules. […]
Like other critics, he has no doubt that evolution shaped the human brain. How could it be otherwise, when evolution has shaped every other human organ? But evo psych’s claims that human behavior is constrained by mental modules that calcified in the Stone Age make sense “only if the environmental challenges remain static enough to sculpt an instinct over evolutionary time,” Pigliucci points out. If the environment, including the social environment, is instead dynamic rather than static—which all evidence suggests—then the only kind of mind that makes humans evolutionarily fit is one that is flexible and responsive, able to figure out a way to make trade-offs, survive, thrive and reproduce in whatever social and physical environment it finds itself in. In some environments it might indeed be adaptive for women to seek sugar daddies. In some, it might be adaptive for stepfathers to kill their stepchildren. In some, it might be adaptive for men to be promiscuous. But not in all. And if that’s the case, then there is no universal human nature as evo psych defines it.
That is what a new wave of studies has been discovering, slaying assertions about universals right and left.
This should be mandatory reading in conjunction with Geoffrey Miller’s Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior and The Mating Mind.
* In His Own Literary World, a Native Son Without Borders concerns Sherman Alexie . The money shot:
[Alexie] characterized the high-six-figure advance he is being paid for a subsequent novel, a thriller that is still at least a year away, as lucrative enough that it constituted “a pornographic deal.” He was quick to note that he meant nothing bad by that.
“No, I like porn,” he said.
* The Books of Brin—that’s Sergey Brin of Google fame.
* Eventually the U.S. will hit the wall on deficit spending. The result is not going to be happy.
* Apple releases new 27-inch LED Cinema Display, and it comes with a new Mac.
* Free Mac mini—you save the cost of the computer in the form of electric bills.
* Bob Higgs on understanding the government, which is really about understanding economics:
Until more people come to a more realistic, fact-based understanding of the government and the economy, little hope exists of tearing them away from their quasi-religious attachment to a government they view with misplaced reverence and unrealistic hopes. Lacking a true religious faith yet craving one, many Americans have turned to the state as a substitute god, endowed with the divine omnipotence required to shower the public with something for nothing in every department – free health care, free retirement security, free protection from hazardous consumer products and workplace accidents, free protection from the Islamic maniacs the U.S. government stirs up with its misadventures in the Muslim world, and so forth. If you take the government to be Santa Claus, you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies.
(Hat tip Marginal Revolution.)
* An interview with New York Review of Books Classics editorial director Edwin Frank. I love this quote: “Finding something lost gives us a sense of new possibility, don’t you think?”
* Slate has a fascinating take on Why gay marriage, getting high, and going to Cuba will soon be legal. The best parts come near the bottom:
For similar reasons, there is not likely to be any retreat on the basic legal status—as opposed to tinkering around the margins—of the right to have an abortion or own a gun. Conservatives would be wise to give up on the one, liberals on the other. In each of these cases, popular demand for an individual right is simply too powerful to overcome. The Internet has been a crucial amplifier of all such claims. With pornography, and gambling, the Web itself became an irrepressible distribution tool for indulgences that were once perforce local. When it comes to gay marriage, the Web has accelerated the recognition of a new civil right by serving as an organizing tool and information clearinghouse. More broadly, the freest communications medium the world has ever known has raised expectations of personal liberty. In a world where everyone has his own printing press, restrictions on private behavior become increasingly untenable.
Republicans face a risk in resisting these new realities. Freedom is part of their brand; if the GOP remains the party of prohibition, it will increasingly alienate libertarian-leaners and the young. But the party as presently constituted has very little capacity to accept social change.
* Seattle doctors try flat-rate no-limit primary care. If I lived there, I’d be tempted to sign up for $39 a month and no hassles.
* Student Loans and Payback Time: Student debt as the new form of indentured servitude.
* Want 50Mbps Internet in your town? Threaten to roll out your own. This is from Ars Technica:
ISPs may not act for years on local complaints about slow Internet—but when a town rolls out its own solution, it’s amazing how fast the incumbents can deploy fiber, cut prices, and run to the legislature.
* Obama’s right. It’s time to stop taking the network’s skewed news seriously. And I love the lede:
Last week, when White House communications director Anita Dunn charged the Fox News Channel with right-wing bias, Fox responded the way it always does. It denied the accusation with a straight face while proceeding to confirm it with its coverage.
* Attention retail establishments: noise costs you millions:
Based on personal experience and interviews with many shoppers I believe that many people turn around and leave before they even get inside a shop because of its noise. The eyes are being told: “Come in, hang out, spend your money”, but the ears are being told: “Leave at once, hostile environment, not safe”.
I agree: it’s unusual and refreshing to find stores/coffee shops that feel like entering an acoustical oasis instead of a hurricane. The most fascinating part of the post comes at the end: “Most shop soundscapes are arbitrary. Nobody designed them: they are the accidental results of design by people with no ears…”
* Beware the reverse brain drain to India and China. U.S. immigration policies aren’t discussed extensively in the piece but probably should be.