April 1999 Notebook Entries
Notebook entry, April 30, 1999
As part of the avalanche of media attention and bantering back and forth about the Columbine High shooting, a excellent National Public Radio piece about Jon Katz and his web site Slashdot. The radio report by Kathryn Chalk reported on Mr. Katz's web site as a depository and community for the nerds, eggheads, and young intellectuals. Mr. Katz was inundated with newsgroup posting about young "outcasts" being beat upon, criticized even more harshly after the shootings at Littleton. I intend to contact Mr. Katz and suggest gathering evidence for further studies. The web site address is: Slashdot: http://slashdot.org You may have to join and give your name and create a password. Very valuable information hidden here in terms of group selection and group socialization norm studies.
Notebook entry, April 25, 1999
While watching The Century, a historical film documentary hosted by Peter Jennings that had been showing on our local cable company, my wife Diana made an excellent observation about two societies within two particular countries covering the timeline of W.W.II. While this historical backdrop was being retold, the events of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado that occurred on April 20th began flooding the local and national newswires. Diana's observation occurred when a synthesis formed between the local news and historical perspectives merged. The synthesis seemed to have been crafted when morality and cultural failing were being bantered about for the causes of the high school tragedy. She quickly wrote the observation into a series of questions:
What two cultures stressed discipline and repression of emotions from early childhood to adulthood?
What two cultures rewarded unquestioning loyalty to leaders they considered "gods."
What two cultures ruthlessly discouraged individual thought and action?
What two cultures committed the worst war crimes of the 20th century?
Did Germany and Japan not teach us anything about human nature and human development?
Diana concluded her remarks with: We need to let children be children and not force them into molds or into heavy competition too early in life. I add: here, here.
I will have something to add about the shootings at Columbine High, but will wait until the dust settles and harse emotions have given way to solid reflection and study. My comments will focus on "bullying," group selection, and group socialization formation.
Notebook entry, April 20, 1999
It's been a busy week in the magazine section, and I am afraid that I am getting behind in my reading. I'm making note of them for myself so that I can put them in the queue for reading. Fortune magazine, May 10, 1999 issue -- "Addicted To Sex." It seems that highly-paid and aggressive type A males executives have a hard time keeping their pants on. (How come they did not come to Bill Clinton's defense about this?) and that companies send their CEO's to some far away desert resort for the "cure." (Wouldn't it be cheaper to just cut it off?)
Newsweek, April 26, 1999. Cover story, "Who were the first Americans?" Right now, the hottest debate flying about in the bone digging sciences. There is now strong evidence to suggest that the first Americans came to this continent via boat and not just by land bridge through Siberia.
Atlantic Monthly, May 1999 issue. Francis Fukuyama, professor at George Mason University and his article: "The Great Disruption: Human Nature & the Reconstitution of Social Order." I have not read it yet....once again, I place it in the queue.
Notebook entry, April 18, 1999
A newswire story by The Associated Press out of Lisbon, Portugal reports that experts studying the remains of a 25,000 year-old child's skeleton found on the Iberian Peninsula believe that it represents evidence that today's humans evolved from mating with the Neanderthals. The director of the Portuguese Archaeological Institute thinks that their hybrid offspring evolved into the anatomically modern man. Quoting the director, Joao Zilhao, "There are two theories about what happened. Some say the Neanderthal population was wiped out somehow, while anatomically modern man went on to evolve. But another view says there was an intermingling of the two, and the interpretation of this skeleton is that in fact there was significant hybridization." Chris Stringer, an expert on Neanderthal man at the museum of Natural History in London is quoted as saying: "The Iberian Peninsula is an area where there was a significant overlap in time and space between Neanderthal and modern man. They could have coexisted for as long as 10,000 years."
Notebook entry, April 15, 1999
Interesting little piece in the April 19, 1999 issue of Newsweek on the "science of marriage." It features Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist at the U. of Washington and his experiments in closely watching couples go through debates about their marriage while wired to the teeth to record impulses. The objective is to quantify "joy," "contempt," and "tension" by wiring these couples and observing body language and facial expressions. This is done by breaking down every second of interaction to create a statistical pattern of "good" and "bad" movement. Every movement, including a roll of the eyes, muscle movement under the skin, and every fidget is recorded. Even recording movements of the subjects while in their chairs is recorded on a pad on which the chair sets. The whole process provides a multidimensional view of the relationship. Nice work, Doc.
Notebook entry, April 8, 1999
Evolution's Voyage's lone female writer chimes in with her rebuttal of the recent attacks on evolutionary psychology by feminists Angier and Ehreneich in her latest essay/muse. Quite frankly, she wonders what all the excitement is about. Even with her knowledge of reading all these science journals, Jennifer reports that she does not feel like the "inferior sex." Find out what she has to say. Because she knows the truth, her head is on straight and as such, she talks straight to you. Click here to read her new piece: The Evolutionary Perspective of Women, Sex, and Monogamy: Setting the Record Straight.
Notebook entry, April 6, 1999
Interesting little article in Time magazine, April 5, 99 issue, p. 52 by Frederic Golden out of LaJolla California. Scientists report in the latest issue of the journal Psychophysiology that they have developed a computer system that has learned to read changing facial expressions and may one day be able to draw conclusions about the emotions that hide behind the muscle movements. The work was a continuation of Paul Ekman's work in the 1970s at the University of California, San Francisco.
The only problem that I can see with developing new software could be that the scientists who program the software to detect these hidden emotions could be even more deficient in their concept of "criminal type" liars than the MIT professors who made "subtle, but substantive" discriminations against female faculty members or the physicians who were tested for discrimination in study published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine, (see my notebook entry of March 23, 1999 and March 3, 99, 2nd item).