Caveman instincts may explain our belief in gods and ghosts

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times.

It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology. First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event. If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful. A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

The survivors who had this tendency to more readily ascribe agency to an event passed their genes down the generations, increasingly hard-wiring this way of making snap decisions into the brain. This is not something that people need to learn. It occurs quickly and automatically.

The second trait is about how we view others. While living together in a tribe would have had many advantages for survival in prehistoric times, getting along with everyone would not always have been easy. Comprehending others’ behaviour requires you to understand their thoughts and beliefs, especially where these may be incorrect due to someone not knowing the full facts of a situation.

This is known as “theory of mind”. This idea says that we automatically assume that there are reasons behind others’ behaviour which we try to work out in order to better understand why they behave the way they do. Not having this ability has been proposed to underlie developmental disorders such as autism.

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How drunk do you have to be to try for sex with an ATM machine?

A man was arrested Friday night after he tried to have sex with an ATM and a picnic table at a local bar, according to an arrest report from the Murfreesboro [Tennessee] Police Department.

Lonnie J. Hutton, 49, of Old Lascassas Pike was charged with public intoxication around 9:30 Friday night following an incident at The Boro Bar & Grille, Officer Michael Rickard reported.

“Mr. Hutton entered the bar and walked to the ATM. Once at the ATM, Mr. Hutton pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his genitals, Mr. Hutton then attempted to have sexual intercourse with the ATM,” Rickard said.

The suspect then walked around the bar wearing no pants while he thrust his hips in the air, witnesses told the officer.

Bar staff then escorted Hutton outside, Rickard said.

“Once outside Mr. Hutton again exposed himself and (attempted to) engaged in sexual intercourse with the wooden picnic table,” Rickard said.

The officer said Hutton appeared intoxicated and smelled of alcohol.

Hutton was transported to the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center where he is being held on $250 bond. He is scheduled to appear July 1 in General Sessions Court.

Har!

Fear of science, bigotry, motivate voters against Common Core standards

Sitting in the headquarters of the Wyoming Liberty Group, Susan Gore, founder of the conservative think tank, said new national science standards for schools were a form of “coercion,” adding, “I don’t think government should have anything to do with education.”

Ms. Gore, a daughter of the founder of the company that makes Gore-Tex waterproof fabric, was speaking here weeks after the Republican-controlled Legislature made Wyoming, where coal and oil are king, the first state to reject the standards, which include lessons on human impact on global warming. The pushback came despite a unanimous vote by a group of Wyoming science educators urging acceptance. Wyoming was the first state to say no, but likely not the last. A House committee in Oklahoma last week voted to reject the standards, also in part because of concerns about how climate change would be taught…

The standards “handle global warming as settled science,” State Representative Matt Teeters, a Republican from Lingle, told The Casper Star-Tribune. “There’s all kind of social implications involved in that, that I don’t think would be good for Wyoming.”

Although oil companies like Exxon and Chevron have publicly supported the Next Generation standards, Mr. Teeters told The Star-Tribune that such teaching could wreck the economy of Wyoming, the country’s largest energy exporter. Mr. Teeters, who declined requests to elaborate, was joined in his objections by Ron Micheli, chairman of the State Board of Education, who called the standards “very prejudiced, in my opinion, against fossil fuel development.”

Meanwhile in Floriduh…

Common Core may not be a well-intentioned set of improved educational standards, as supporters would have you believe, but instead a trojan horse designed to turn every schoolchild in Florida, if not America, gay.

This ominous warning came at an anti-Common Core event in March courtesy of Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant (R). Speaking at the “Operation Education Conference” in Orlando, Van Zant warned that officials implementing Common Core in Florida are “promoting as hard as they can any youth that is interested in the LGBT agenda.”

Their aim, Van Zant warned, was to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.” He then apologized to the crowd for having to be the bearer of bad news. “I really hate to bring you that news,” the Florida Republican said, “but you need to know…”

Even for a Republican Party prone to hysteria, Common Core has sent grassroots conservatives into an accelerated tailspin. Right Wing Watch has a roundup of some of the most exaggerated reactions, including an Alabama Tea Party leader saying a vote for Common Core will damn lawmakers to hell, the American Family Association warning that children won’t “survive” Common Core, Eagle Forum saying it will promote homosexuality, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calling it “socialism,” and WorldNetDaily saying it will turn America into Nazi Germany.

The leader of this backlash is Glenn Beck, who believes the educational standards, which have been adopted in 44 states, are “evil” and designed to “train us to be a serf state” under the rule of China and Islam.

I guess I could put up a poll and ask readers to decide whether these folks are ignorant or stupid; but, I think it would be reasonable to include variations on the theme for the sake of accuracy – demented, deluded, vicious, gullible, etc..

Thanks, Mike

Don’t throw out sprouting garlic — it has heart-healthy antioxidants

“Sprouted” garlic — old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots emerging from the cloves — is considered to be past its prime and usually ends up in the garbage can. But scientists are reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that this type of garlic has even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than its fresher counterparts.

Jong-Sang Kim and colleagues note that people have used garlic for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Today, people still celebrate its healthful benefits. Eating garlic or taking garlic supplements is touted as a natural way to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease risk. It even may boost the immune system and help fight cancer. But those benefits are for fresh, raw garlic.

Sprouted garlic has received much less attention. When seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. Kim’s group reasoned that the same thing might be happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic. Other studies have shown that sprouted beans and grains have increased antioxidant activity, so the team set out to see if the same is true for garlic.

They found that garlic sprouted for five days had higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting that it also makes different substances. Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage. “Therefore, sprouting may be a useful way to improve the antioxidant potential of garlic,” they conclude.

Our Celtic cousins in Basque country often take individual sprouted garlic cloves and replant them. When they’ve developed to comparable to a decent green onion they brush them with a wee bit of olive oil, char the outside on a hot grill and serve them with more oil seasoned with crushed garlic, red chiles, whatever your heart desires.

Yes, they are delicious. Served occasionally here at Lot 4.

Thanks, Mike