Field of Science

Links - Jan 11, 2011

Freshwater officially fired. Remember that Creationist middle-school science teacher who got suspended for burning crosses into his students' arms? Yeah, that was in my state. And the board of education finally got to fire him... after spending $900k on a required hearing, even though they knew it was the right thing to do from the beginning. I swear, Ohio is one of the stupidest states when it comes to education. (Have I told you that our education funding practices are unconstitutional? They are. Everyone knows it, but bills to change it never get passed.)

Just Dial 911? The Myth of Police Protection. Nothing in this article is news to me, but I think it is something everyone needs to know. One of my major disagreements with true liberalism is the stance that guns are somehow evil and nobody should ever own one, ever. I am very pro-gun, in that I believe responsible citizens who can prove that they know how to use them (and know how to handle themselves with one) should be allowed to carry concealed weapons with them almost anywhere they please. I think training, education, and purchasing power should be widely available. Most of this stems from my (admittedly probably youthfully-naive) feminism, in that women should only rely on themselves for protection, and one of the best ways to do that is to own a gun and know how to use it.

There has been a lot of talk about the new PNAS paper on oxytocin and in-group favoritism. One thing I think that is very important to keep in mind is that biologically, the self-selected in-group is not inherently based on anything like race, religion, or culture. We ascribe ourselves to these groups because of our global society, but historically, unless you lived along a trade route, I doubt most people would come in much contact with people who didn't look very similar to themselves. In-group then would be more likely to be related to familial or tribal association. I think it is very easy to simplify this phenomenon by saying that oxytocin makes us more likely to be racist or whatever, but that's only in people who already have a predisposition towards such things. It all depends on how we, as individuals, define our in-group demographic. Is my in-group my family, people from Ohio, white people, ex-pat Appalachians, women, scientists, people who have an inexplicable penchant for colored socks, Buckeye fans, cat lovers, people who speak English, ex-lesbians, or American citizens? Another important question is does the in-group define the out-group, or vice-versa?

Now would probably also be a good time to formally welcome Emily to Field of Science. I noticed that she blogs a lot about autism, an issue in which I have a lot of personal investment as the one person who is closest to me genetically in the entire world is also autistic.

I added a bit about porn and happily-ever-afters as distinct but very similar societal problems in the comments to my last post.

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