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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 87 - 1st March, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

History (27 Feb) - Fifty years ago, on 28 February 1953, Francis Crick walked into the Eagle pub in Cambridge, UK, and announced something for which he would later share a Nobel Prize. [more] [video] [audio]



Neuroeconomics (27 Feb) - A new field, called neuroeconomics, is using the tools of neuroscience to find the underlying biological mechanisms that lead people to act, or not act, according to economic theory. [more]


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Smell (27 Feb) - What's smell got to do with modern art? How does a fragrance set the scene for memory? Why are humans losing their sense of smell? Neuroscientist Upinder Bhalla believes that our smell system could prove an easier route to understanding the human brain than more conventional means. [more]


Sense of direction (19 Feb) - You know that old saw about women having a terrible sense of direction? Well, it's sometimes true, researchers say. It depends on what time of month it is. [more]



Crime - diet (23 Feb) - It may sound implausible, but a controversial theory is gathering momentum: that one explanation for crime may be found on our dinner plates. The premise is that the brain needs the right fuel to function properly - otherwise it will misbehave. [more] and [more]


Religion (1 Mar) - The human race does not necessarily get less religious as it grows richer and better educated. We are living through one of the great periods of scientific progress and the creation of wealth. At the same time, we are in the midst of a religious boom. [more]


Suicide bombers - shyness (19 Feb) - Dr Raj Persaud talks to Dr Andrew Silke Fellow of the University of Leicester Scarman Centre, about the psychology of the suicide bomber, and to Danny Hulme, a psychology student at Manchester University and Susie Scott, a postgraduate sociologist at Cardiff University who describe living with shyness and social phobia. [more] [audio]

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Psychiatry (23 Feb) - Renegade psychiatrist Fuller Torrey has taken on fiery critics, federal researchers and Freud in a decades-long search for the causes of schizophrenia. [more]


History of biology (25 Feb) - Fifty years ago, on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1953, two young scientists walked into the Eagle, a dingy pub in Cambridge, England, and announced to the lunchtime crowd that they had discovered the secret of life. [more] and [more] This year, the genetic revolution that James D. Watson and Francis Crick ushered in with their discovery of the structure of DNA celebrates its 50th birthday. [more]

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Psychology (5 Feb) - Robert Jay Lifton is professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Graduate School University Center and director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at The City University of New York. He has written books on many topics, including a Japanese cult that released poison gas in the Tokyo subways, Nazi doctors, Hiroshima survivors and Vietnam vets. He will discuss the emotional impact of the Columbia shuttle disaster, as well as the impact of an impending war in Iraq, and the looming nuclear crisis in North Korea. [more]


Psychiatry (21 Feb) - All the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association: Psychiatric News 21 February 2003; Vol. 38, No. 4. [more]


Schizophrenia (25 Feb) - Melbourne researchers have dramatically reduced hallucinations and delusions in men with severe schizophrenia by giving them oestrogen. A team led by Jayashri Kulkarni, director of the Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, gave 33 young men small doses of estradiol for two weeks. [more]


Voices on DNA (25 Feb) - Researchers and others tell how DNA's discovery, and the decades of genetic research that followed, affected their work and lives. [more] Deciphering DNA, first achieved 50 years ago this week, is a testament to the triumph of reason over superstition. [more]


Placebo effect - false hope syndrome - flashbulb memory (12 Feb) - Controlled trials have shown that a simple sugar pill, or placebo, can sometimes be just as effective in relieving symptoms as genuine medication - just as long as the patient believes the pill they're swallowing contains the drug in question. But the mystery remains - how exactly does the mind effect the cure? [more] [audio]


Ritual (11 Feb) - Do we perform the most beautiful and evocative ceremonies because of the activity in our brains based in our basal ganglia? This is the claim of some neuroscientists who claim that the desire to perform ritual is a primitive instinct that can be found throughout the natural world. [more] [audio]


Journalism - history of science (25 Feb) - If journalism is the first draft of history, as the saying goes, then it's often a terrible draft. A case in point happened in 1953, when Francis Crick, a graduate student at Cambridge University, and Dr. James D. Watson, a young biochemist, published a short paper in the journal Nature proposing that DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecule seemingly responsible for heredity, had a double helix structure. [more]


Genetic engineering (25 Feb) - Since the double helix discovery 50 years ago, people have been haunted by fears of what scientists might do with their growing genetic knowledge. Some fears have been shared by the scientists themselves. Some have been a bit far-fetched. [more]


Evolution of language (25 Feb) - In an evolutionary competition symbolic "thieves" quickly out-survive and out-reproduce the honest sensorimotor "toilers," who must learn everything the hard way, from experience. [more]


DNA (25 Feb) - Dr. Rosalind Franklin's famous picture of the "B-form" of DNA, the shape the molecule takes when it stretches out in water, could be called biology's Rosetta stone. [more]


Genetics - endocrinology (24 Feb) -  The traditionally "female" hormone progesterone makes male mice aggressive towards their offspring, shows a new gene knockout study. It overturns the textbook view that testosterone prompts males to threaten their pups. [more]


The new humanists (24 Feb) - "In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person today," writes John Brockman. [more]


Alien abduction (24 Feb) - Researchers at Harvard University have devised an experiment to determine if memories of an abduction by space aliens would provoke the same physiological reactions that occur when other people, such as combat veterans and those who survive deadly car accidents, recall their traumatic experiences. [more]


Obituary (24 Feb) - Robert K. Merton, one of the most influential sociologists of the 20th century, whose coinage of terms like "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "role models" filtered from his academic pursuits into everyday language, died yesterday. He was 92 and lived in Manhattan. [more]


Gender (23 Feb) - How does a 16-year-old girl react when she is told one day that she is not a girl? That she is in fact a boy. That the last 16 years she spent in frocks, sitting with the girls at school and with a perfectly feminine name like Ratna, were all a lie. [more]


Repression (23 Feb) - Repression? Isn't that the thing that makes you sick, that splits you off, so demons come dancing back? Doesn't that cause holes in the stomach and chancres in the colon and a general impoverishment of spirit? Maybe not. [more]


Emotion (21 Feb) - The study of feelings, once the province of psychology, is now spreading to history, literature, and other fields. [more]


Development (19 Feb) - George Bush's close links with the drugs industry have been blamed for the failure of talks in Geneva aimed at securing access to cheap medicines for developing countries. [more]


Obituary (19 Feb) - Dr. Paul Meehl, a University of Minnesota psychologist whose writings on research methodology, mental illness and other topics influenced generations of researchers and psychotherapists, died on Friday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 83. [more]


Sexual behaviour (19 Feb) - The promiscuous sex life of lesbian Japanese monkeys is challenging one of the central tenets of Charles Darwin. He argued that females are coy, mate rarely and choose mates to ensure the best genetic inheritance for their offspring, while males are promiscuous and fight among themselves for female partners. [more]


Prehistory (11 Feb) - Stonehenge, one of England's best-known prehistoric landmarks, may have been built by nobleman hailing from modern day Switzerland or Germany, according to a new analysis of a nearby burial site. [more]


Genetics (12 Feb) - "Enthusiasts for genomics have corrupted scientific endeavour and undermined hopes of medical progress," writes David Horrobin. [more]


Fear, guilt, and aggression (11 Feb) - At the University of California at Irvine, experiments in rats indicate that the brain's hormonal reactions to fear can be inhibited, softening the formation of memories and the emotions they evoke. At New York University, researchers are mastering the means of short-circuiting the very wiring of primal fear. [more] The amygdala is a one-inch long part of the brain, deep down, an inch or two from either ear, and is the source and location of some of the most essential and primitive mental processes that we have. [more]


Biography (27 Feb) - Within months of his death in 1990, the reputation of Bruno Bettelheim - the revered survivor of the camps, head of the famous Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School for troubled children at the University of Chicago, formidable educator, and author of the acclaimed The Informed Heart, The Empty Fortress, Love Is Not Enough, The Children of the Dream, and The Uses of Enchantment - appeared to be in shreds. [more]


Genetic archaeology (12 Feb) - A remarkable living legacy of the Mongol empire has been discovered by geneticists in a survey of human populations from the Caucasus to China. They find that as many as 8 percent of the men dwelling in the confines of the former Mongol empire bear Y chromosomes that seem characteristic of the Mongol ruling house. [more]


Profile (10 Feb) - He believes fervently in the survival of the fittest and that we are pre-programmed by our genes. But Richard Dawkins also believes that life is much more interesting when we rebel against them. [more]


Genetics (8 Feb) - Charles Darwin's theory of human evolution was published long before knowledge of genes was available. But Richard Dawkins reveals that an obscure letter found in a library proves Darwin was already doing research into heredity which anticipated the breakthroughs of the next century. [more]


Primatology - conservation (6 Feb) - A catastrophic die-off of lowland gorillas and chimpanzees at the very heart of their range in central Africa has been reported by scientists. [more]

PAPERS & COMMENTARY

Suicide (1 Mar) - People suffering from major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to attempt suicide, and women with both disorders are more likely to have attempted suicide than men with both disorders. [more]


Genetics (1 Mar) - A father's genes may play a role in the timing of birth and in the risk of repeating a prolonged pregnancy, suggest researchers in this week's British Medical Journal, BBC News Online.


Suicide - media (1 Mar) - The media should be more aware of their potential influence on suicide, according to several letters in this week's British Medical Journal. [more]


Genomics (28 Feb) - Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a powerful new technique for deciphering biological information encoded in the human genome. Called "phylogenetic shadowing," this technique enables scientists to make meaningful comparisons between DNA sequences in the human genome and sequences in the genomes of apes, monkeys, and other non-human primates. With phylogenetic shadowing, scientists can now study biological traits that are unique to members of the primate family. [more]


Altruism - kin selection (27 Feb) - Work by researchers in Finland shows that worker ants do preferentially favour their own kin when caring for eggs and larvae. This also means the ants must have some way of recognise how related they are to an individual. New Scientist.


Genealogy (1 Mar) - Cultural traits are transmitted from one generation to the next in a process analogous to biological inheritance. Like biological traits, they are subject to mutation, genetic drift and extinction. One trait, a person's surname, is a close model for a non-recombining neutral allele. [more] Lavish but questionable promises have been made to those who want to trace their genetic ancestry. [more]


Social psychology (24 Feb) - Knowing many kinds of people in many social contexts improves one's chance of getting a good job, developing a range of cultural interests, feeling in control of one's life and feeling healthy. [more]


Psychiatry (22 Feb) - Should psychiatrists protect the public? A new risk reduction strategy, supporting criminal justice, could be effective. [more]


Human evolution (21 Feb) - A longstanding debate among scholars of human evolution centers on the number of hominid species that existed in the past. Whereas some paleoanthropologists favor a sleek family tree, others view the known fossil record of humans as indicative of a tangled bush. The latter view has gained popularity in recent years, but a new fossil from Tanzania suggests that a bit of pruning might be in order. Scientific American, BBC News Online.


Pain (20 Feb) - Inheriting a variation in a single gene can determine whether a person will be a wimp or a stoic when it comes to handling pain. [more] We all know people who can take pain or stress much better than we can, and others who cry out at the merest pinprick. We've heard stories of people who did heroic deeds despite horrible injuries, and stereotypes about women's supposedly sensitivity to pain that don't mesh with their ability to withstand childbirth's pain. [more]


Evolution (20 Feb) - Richard Abbott, a plant evolutionary biologist from St Andrews University, has discovered "evolution in action" after noticing a lone, strange-looking and uncatalogued plant in wasteland next to the York railway station car park. [more]


Human evolution (19 Feb) - A University of Melbourne-led study has finally got scientists to agree on the age of Mungo Man, Australia's oldest human remains, and the consensus is he is 22,000 years younger. Mungo Man's new age is 40,000 years. The research also boosted the age of Mungo Lady, the world's first recorded cremation, by 10,000 years putting her at the same age as Mungo Man. It is the first time scientists have reached a broad agreement on the ages of the Lake Mungo remains. Press Release, New York Times, BBC News Online.


Addiction (19 Feb) - Drug addicts may prefer some drugs over others, but their brains all have something in common. Whether it's uppers or downers, addictive drugs tweak the same addiction-related neurons, causing them to become more sensitive, say researchers at Stanford University Medical Center. [more]


Obsessions (18 Feb) - People with obsessions and compulsions experience considerable benefit from a combined treatment of drugs and behavioural therapy. Treatment with drugs alone is less effective. This is revealed in doctoral research by psychologist Nienke Tenney from Utrecht University. [more]


Mental disorders (18 Feb) - A study in this month's issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry argues that a common genetic root may link depression with 14 distinct psychiatric and physical disorders. [more]


Language development (17 Feb) - By listening to the talk around them, infants pick up sound patterns that help them understand the speech they hear, according to new research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But this research also shows that some patterns are easier to identify, suggesting that the development of human language may have been shaped by what infants could learn. [more]


PTSD (17 Feb) - The psychiatric disorder of greatest interest after disasters is PTSD. PTSD is very treatable, but only if those with symptoms seek help. In her studies, Carol North has learned that the people most vulnerable to PTSD and other psychiatric problems following a disaster are those with a history of psychiatric illness. [more]


Neuroimaging (17 Feb) - Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed computerized atlases and associated tools for visualizing and analyzing the brain. [more]


Sexual selection (16 Feb) - At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, leading researchers and theorists in the evolution of sexual behavior will gather to present the growing evidence that Darwin's idea of sexual selection requires sweeping revisions. [more]


False memories (16 Feb) - During a recent study of memory recall and the use of suggestive interviewing, UC Irvine cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus successfully planted false memories in volunteers of several study groups -- memories that included such unlikely events as kissing frogs, shaking hands with Bugs Bunny at Disneyland, and witnessing a demonic possession. Her success at planting these memories challenge the argument that suggestive interviewing may reliably prompt real memories instead of planting false ones. [more]


Human evolution (15 Feb) - By 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had evolved on the continent of Africa. For 50,000 years, they were confined there, and they behaved just like H. neanderthalensis then inhabiting parts of Europe and H. erectus living in Asia. Then their behavior changed dramatically - and anthropologists aren't entirely certain what happened. EurekAlert, The Guardian, BBC News Online.


Language (15 Feb) - In songbirds capable of vocal learning, or imitating the sounds they hear, new findings reveal a highly specialized pattern in the genetic expression of certain brain receptors. These same receptors for the neurotransmitter, glutamate, are also found in mammals, neurobiologist Erich D. Jarvis noted during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). EurekAlert, The Guardian.


Artificial worlds (14 Feb) - What do flocks of birds, traffic jams, fads, drinking games, forest fires and residential segregation have in common? The answer could come from a new computational research method called agent-based modeling. [more]


Revenge (14 Feb) - Probably the single most common motive mentioned by tribal warriors when asked why they go to war, is revenge, according to a Penn State anthropologist. "The impulse for revenge is far from being uniquely human," says Dr. Stephen Beckerman, associate professor of anthropology. [more]


Diet (14 Feb) - Biological differences in our sense of taste have such an influence on our diets that they may help determine which diseases we might be susceptible to, according new research by Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University. And, new insights into how diet has adapted to the course of human evolution have emerged from McGill University researcher Timothy Johns' observations of how indigenous peoples use plants for food and medicine. [more]


War (14 Feb) - With America and its allies poised to attack Iraq and the U.S. and North Korea locked in a showdown over nuclear weapons, diplomats and politicians would do well to remember that humans may have nuclear technology but still only possess stone-age brains. This is often a lethal combination, says University of Maine anthropologist Paul Roscoe. [more]


Culture (14 Feb) - It has something to do with appreciating art. It's often cited when people discuss why Americans work long hours. Now some scientists claim that orang-utans have culture based on evidence of "socially transmitted behaviors."   In other words, the meaning of culture may seem clear enough when used casually, at a cocktail party, but like a Seurat painting it becomes less distinct upon close examination. And a sure-fire way to provoke an academic bloodbath among a group of anthropologists is to make the definition of culture the focus of a conference. Melissa Brown, assistant professor of anthropological sciences, did just that a couple of weeks ago. [more]


Intelligence (13 Feb) - Human intelligence is like a mental juggling act in which the smartest performers use specific brain regions to resist distraction and keep attention focused on critical pieces of information, according to a new brain imaging study from Washington University in St. Louis. Some people seem to perform better than others in novel, mentally-demanding situations, but why?" asks Jeremy R. Gray, Ph.D., co-author of the study to be posted Feb. 18 in an advance online issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience. "Presumably, people are using their brains differently, but how?“ [more]


Schizophrenia (13 Feb) - In an about face, the British National Health Service recently adopted cognitive therapy as a valid and reimbursable treatment for schizophrenia, a disease of the mind that traditionally has been thought of as unresponsive to all but powerful drug therapies. [more]


Personality (13 Feb) - Researchers report an association between a dinucleotide repeat polymorphism of the estrogen receptor alpha gene and personality traits in women. [more]


Pheromones (13 Feb) - Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers are beginning to unravel how a mysterious sixth sense guides animal attraction. The scientists have made the first-ever recordings of patterns of brain activity in a mouse as it explores the sex and identity of a newly encountered animal. [more]


Intelligence (13 Feb) - General intelligence is a heritable trait that is a risk factor for both the onset of dementia and the rate of cognitive decline in community-dwelling older persons. Previous studies screening for quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that influence general intelligence in healthy individuals have identified four loci, two of which are located within the genes insulin-like growth factor 2 receptor (IGF2R) and the Msx1 homeobox. Here, the authors report the finding of another QTL associated with general intelligence that is located within exon 2 of the cathepsin D (CTSD) gene. [more]


Kissing (13 Feb) - Two thirds of us instinctively tilt our heads to the right when we kiss, reveals a new study timed to coincide with Valentine's Day. The 2:1 ratio matches our preference for using the right foot, eye and ear. The bias probably has its origins in our tendency to turn our heads to the right in the womb and for up to six months after birth, says the study's author, Onur Güntürkün. New Scientist, The Telegraph.


ADHD (12 Feb) - Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and their parents may benefit from group classes that teach behavioral and social skills as a supplement to their medical treatment, a new study of 100 children suggests. [more]


Aggression (11 Feb) - A new study by researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Georgia reveals that people with narcissistic personalities who experience social rejection are more aggressive than those who are not so self-absorbed, a finding that may help explain why some teens resort to violence while others do not. [more]


Development (11 Feb) - Adults who amuse infants with sleight-of-hand foolery -- a rolling ball that disappears, then reappears, for example -- should enjoy a childhood learning moment while it lasts. As early as 4 months, and certainly by 6 months, a Cornell University psychologist reports, those wide-open baby eyes have "wired" an important lesson into the developing brain: Fleeting images of an object that seems to disappear while traveling along what adults call a trajectory actually represent the same object. [more]


PTSD (11 Feb) - Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is easy to miss and difficult to live with. Despite being the fifth most common psychiatric disorder, it is correctly diagnosed less than 20% of the time. And, left untreated, its symptoms can last a lifetime. The good news is that effective treatments for PTSD do exist. Both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective, and therapy that combines the two shows particular promise. [more]


Artificial intelligence (10 Feb) - It's coming, but when? From Garry Kasparov to Michael Crichton, both fact and fiction are converging on a showdown between man and machine. But what does a leading artificial intelligence expert--the world's first computer science PhD--think about the future of machine intelligence? Will computers ever gain consciousness and take over the world? "Computer sentience is possible," said John Holland, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. "But for a number of reasons, I don't believe that we are anywhere near that stage right now." [more]

REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Darwinism - Roy Herbert reviews A Devil's Chaplain by Richard Dawkins. [review]

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Freedom - Mary Midgley reviews Freedom Evolves by Daniel C Dennett. [more] [review

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Biography - history - Adrian Barnett reviews In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace. A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History by Michael Shermer. [more] [review]

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Audio and Video

Human nature - Melvin Konner reviews The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker [more] [by Steven Pinker] and Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom by Paul H. Rubin. [more] [review]

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Darwinian Politics

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Animal cognition - Rob Loftis reviews Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart by Marc Bekoff. [more] [review]

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Emotions - Chris Lindsay reviews Understanding Emotions: Mind and Morals edited by Peter Goldie. [more] [review]

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Violence - Colin A. Holmes reviews Violence and Mental Disorder:  A Critical Aid to the Assessment and Management of Risk by Stephen Blumenthal and Tony Lavender. [more] [review]

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Introversion - April Chase reviews The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney. [more] [review]

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Mental disorders - Peter Zachar reviews Descriptions and Prescriptions: Values, Mental Disorders, and the DSMs edited by John Z. Sadler. [more] [review]

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Cities - Burhan Wazir reviews Dead Cities: A Natural History by Mike Davis. [more] [review]

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Emotion - Colin McGinn reviews Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain by Antonio Damasio. [more] [review]

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Genomics - history - Mark Pagel reviews In the Beginning Was the Worm by Andrew Brown. [review]

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Science - biography - Liesl Schillinger reviews The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses by Chandler Burr. [more] [review]

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History of science - Anthony Grafton reviews Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science-From the Babylonians by Dick Teresi. [more] [review] [more] [audio]

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Love - development - Carol Tarvis reviews Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection by Deborah Blum. [more] [review] Though the name 'Harry Harlow' isn't well known to most people, the images produced by his research are: the pictures in many psychology texts of captive monkeys seeking comfort from either metal or terry-cloth covered 'artificial mothers.' In this hour, Ira talks with Deborah Blum, author of "Love at Goon Park,' a new book about Harlow, and with primatologist Frans de Waal. [more] [audio]

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Religion - Ronald L. Numbers and Karen Steudel Numbers review Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson. [more] [review]

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Networks - Stephan Mertens reviews Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-László Barabási. [more] [review]

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Human nature - H. Allen Orr reviews The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. [more] [by Steven Pinker] [review] A review by Maura Pilotti [review]

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Freedom - Kenan Malik reviews Freedom Evolves by Daniel C. Dennett. [more] [review] A review by John Gray. [review] A review by Matt Ridley [review]

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Respect - Anthony Daniels reviews Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality by Richard Sennett. [more] [review]

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Genetics - Samantha Weinberg reviews In the Beginning Was the Worm by Andrew Brown [review

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