Stories that have grabbed my attention over the last day or so.
Curing Religious Feelings
It’s all about the brain. One day we should be able to use fMRI tools (or their descendants) to identify psychopaths before they hurt someone and offer to cure them. Can we also use neuroscientific tools to help cure religious fundamentalists? I’m not sure they would willingly submit to be cured and we can’t ethically force them. Would you stop believing in imaginary gods and monsters if you could?
An Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience has suggested that one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness.
Kathleen Taylor, who describes herself as a “science writer affiliated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics,” made the suggestion during a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. In response to a question about the future of neuroscience, Taylor said that “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” The Times of London notes. (source)
Women Are Horny After All
I didn’t need journalist Daniel Bergner to write a book to tell me that my wife has a massive sex drive. She reminds me every day! He’s written the book anyway – “What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire”. According to the research he did for the book, many popular ideas about women’s sexuality is wrong, wrong, wrong. For example, they aren’t made for monogamy any more than men are. And women become physically aroused to a much wider array of visual stimuli than men, even though they deny it. Read the interview. (source)
Nazis On Meth!
No, that’s not the title of the sequel to Iron Sky, it’s the story about meth was invented by a German in 1938 and then distributed by the millions to Nazi soldiers. Makes me wonder what impact that might have had on their early successes – and their eventual downfall? We know Der Fuhrer didn’t partake of alcohol or cigarettes, but did he use meth?
…the Wehrmacht, Germany’s World War II army, distributed millions of the tablets to soldiers on the front, who soon dubbed the stimulant “Panzerschokolade” (“tank chocolate”). British newspapers reported that German soldiers were using a “miracle pill.” (source)
We saw The Great Gatsby in 3D last night. It wasn’t the complete disaster I expected from the bad reviews and the stories about its troubled production, but I didn’t like it. I’m generally not a fan of Baz Luhrmann. I loved Strictly Ballroom, but all of his films since Romeo + Juliet have been too over-the-top for my tastes. I don’t mind CG effects if they are required – sure, go ahead and use them in The Avengers if you must. I just think character-driven stories don’t need them. We also saw Joe Wright recent adaptation of Anna Karenina a few months ago and I’m sure it also used CG, but it was used much more carefully, enhancing the story rather than over-powering it. That’s my two cents, anyway. Chrissy, on the other hand, loved it.
(he was Q in the latest Bond film), although he might be too big now. Cumberbatch is definitely too big – and he turned it down four years ago anyhow. It will probably be someone totally unknown. If I could choose, it would be Stephen Merchant.
Yeah the last season has been pretty dreary. It’s had a few cool moment (John Hurt) but nowhere near as cool as the first season of Eleven or the first couple of seasons of Ten.
How does the CEO of Evernote use Evernote?
Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, shares how he organises his personal install of Evernote.
As of the time of this answer, I have about 9,000 notes in my Evernote account divided among 45 notebooks. However, the majority of these notes are in my single, default notebook. (source)
A little disappointing to those of us who obsess over getting the right combination of Notebooks & Tags. At least he has more notes than I do (6617).
Mr Deity (aka Brian Dalton) has a laugh at the expense of the Book Of Mormon in the latest episode of Mr Deity. Close to his heart – he’s a former Mormon (or FoMo) himself as you would already know if you listened to my interview with him back in 2007.
Seriously though – my dear Mormons – your book is so far removed from historical fact – how do you take it seriously?
I’ve been wondering lately about why we are so deeply affected by stories about religious martyrs.
I’m guessing it goes back to worshipping bronze age gods and deciding to sacrifice a prized calf or first-born daughter in return for a bountiful crop or success in the battlefield. The person willing to sacrifice their child (or themselves) was doing it for the good of the tribe and we learned to treat them as holy figures. Fast forward a few thousand years and people still go weak for the idea of “he died for our sins”. It seems to have a very powerful effect on their Paleomammalian brain.
I was thinking about the Mormons yesterday and postulating that one of the reasons their particular cult survived was because Joseph Smith was assassinated and martyred. Religious types like nothing more than a martyr.
Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs, who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God. Countless children have been unlucky enough to be born in so dark an age, when ignorance and fantasy were indistinguishable from knowledge and where the drumbeat of religious fanaticism kept perfect time with every human heart. In fact, almost no culture has been exempt from this evil: the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Olmecs, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Teutons, Celts, Druids, Vikings, Gauls, Hindus, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Maoris, Melanesias, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Balinese, Australian aborigines, Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, and innumerable other societies ritually murdered their fellow human beings because they believed that invisible gods and goddesses, having an appetite for human flesh, could be so propitiated. Many of their victims were of the same opinion, in fact, and went willingly to slaughter, fully convinced that their deaths would transform the weather, or cure the king of his venereal disease, or in some other way spare their fellows the wrath of the Unseen.
The Ca$holics of course take it a step further. They literally believe (well, they are supposed to) that they are eating the actual flesh of Jesus when they take communion. Holy Cannibalism, Batman! It’s a wonder there aren’t religions devoted to Hannibal Lecter. Oh no, wait, he’s the eatER, not the eatEE.
So anyway, I’m interested in understanding more about the evolutionary reasons for our fascination with blood sacrifice. If anyone knows anything about it, please educate me. Oh and I’ve started a Branch on the topic, too.
My guest today is Brad Heitmann. Brad lives in Utah, has a background in investment banking and start-up strategy and loves history. Today, however, he joins me to talk about his religion – The Church Of Latter Day Saints aka Mormons. To all those people asking me for years “when are you going to a show about Mormons” – you can now shut the hell up.
Brad and I discuss the life of the founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith – I especially wanted to focus on his trial for being a conman (he was found guilty), his polygamy and the reasons behind his eventual murder. We also discuss the methods by which we search for Truth.
I’d like to thank Brad for having the balls to come on the show. He was a good sport and I hope he takes me up on my offer to come back soon. You can follow him on Twitter @bradheitmann
If you’re interested in the Mormon religion, here’s a few links I recommend: