Calorie Labels Are Dieting by Another Name

If we measure calories of fast food, can we reduce the prevalence of obesity? No, because the underlying cause of obesity has surprisingly little to do with diet. Helping people to eat less through food labeling is well intentioned but ignores the science of weight gain.

Why Is Religion So Weak in Maine?

Recent research has clearly shown that religion is much more important in poorer countries. The same principle is true of states as I report in a paper to be published in Cross-Cultural Research. Yet, Maine stands out as a poor state where religion is relatively unimportant. Why?

Conservatives Feel World is Dark and Unsafe

In the current election campaign, Republicans are organizing their message around a theme of fear. That is hardly surprising given scientific evidence that the brains of conservatives are more strongly reactive to threats. For that reason, the campaign strategy is more likely to resonate with their own base than it is to bring in new voters.

Is Narcissism All Bad?

Our social lives are being transformed by electronic networks. We no longer operate as autonomous individuals so much as elements in social networks. That social hothouse may encourage narcissism as a defensive strategy.

Is Religion Fiction?

If Jesus never lived, it would be another shocking example of religious fakery.

The Four Pillars of Creativity

Everyone has untapped potential in some creative field. Yet, some individuals have far more of it than others, e. g., Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, or Steve Jobs. Apart from “creative” genes there are at least three key environmental factors that affect creative accomplishments.

Are Religious People More Spiritual Than Atheists?

Organized religion is easy to define as group participation in beliefs and rituals. There is usually a priest, a place, and a prayer (1). Spirituality is trickier. It is often defined in terms of its opposites: anti materialism, lack of concern with worldly success, out-of-body sensations, and weakening of the ego.

I Text Therefore I Am

The digital revolution has altered not just what we do but who we are. Electronic interconnection is a key feature of the modern community and we are diminished if deprived of

Unequal Societies Are More Religious

The Sermon on the Mount may be the most radically egalitarian document around. Throwing the money changers out of the temple also put the rich in their place. Ditto for the camel passing through the eye of the needle. Yet, Christianity fosters inequality in practice. It reconciles the poor to their misery: It is their opium.

People to Function Like Cells In a Vast Technological Brain

Digital technology fosters intimate connection across vast distances and facilitates global cooperation. Ultimately, the global community will function like a single brain that connects most people and their electronic device

The Commons Comes to Life on the Internet

Many social scientists believe that communities are bad at sharing in commons systems where access to a shared resource is free. Garret Hardin called this the Tragedy of the Commons (TOC, 1). In reality, commons systems work very well and survive for centuries. Now the Commons is thriving on the Internet.

You've Got Bottle!

My East London informants equated “bottle” with courage, strength under pressure. They suggested a very crude derivation of the expression: the bottle retains whatever bodily fluids might issue in a time of fear. A person with bottle is immune to the anxiety that cripples ordinary individuals. In clinical speak, they are resilient.

Should We Unplug Artificial Intelligence?

In a recent post, I suggested that artificial sexual experiences in the future will rival, or surpass, the real thing. The fear of enslavement by intelligent machines and the fear of machines that are smarter than us is a staple of science fiction following Isaac Asimov's lead. Now one celebrity scientist, Stephen Hawking, is scared. Should the rest of us be?

The Kindness Cure

Modern Darwinism conspires with Machiavellian politics and competition-based economics to paint a very cynical picture of human nature. Such theories have their uses but modern psychology suggests that they are wrong about people. We are learning that humans do best when they care for others rather than looking out for themselves.

Freedom From Religion as a Civil Right

The separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution is more honored in the breach than in the observance. It seems that those who want to escape from organized religion must fight for that freedom against those in power who would foist religion upon them at every turn. The religious pledge of allegiance recited daily in schools is clearly unconstitutional.

Sex on the Internet: How Far Can It Go

Pornographers are noteworthy for their skill in adapting new technologies. The Internet was no exception and pornographic sites were the first big money spinners in cyber space. Now, the Internet is a more mainstream way of meeting new romantic partners, and even conducting relationships. What do new technologies hold in store for our sex lives?

Why Anxiety Gnaws

For sentient beings, life means approaching pleasure and avoiding pain. Pain may be physical, or psychological. If psychological, it is perceived as unease, or anxiety. Our vulnerability to anxiety is the biggest threat to our well-being. Escaping from anxiety is a powerful motivator. Why do we suffer so much from anxiety?

The Market for Religion is Shrinking

There is a market for religion just as there is a market for material goods. The primary function of religion is to help people feel better about their lives. Competing feel-good products include psychotherapy, anti-anxiety drugs, and entertainment. As the number of competitors grows in developed countries, religion declines in importance.

Why Are Educated People More Likely to Be Atheists?

The more education a person receives, the more likely they are to become atheists. Non belief also increases with intelligence and income. Residents of more educated countries see religion as less important in their daily lives.

Blaming Parents for Their Children's Failings

Whether it is crime, drug abuse, academic failure, or poor social mobility, there is a strong temptation to blame the parents. It is indeed true that most social problems are linked to bad parent-child relationships. Yet, parents are not nearly so much in control of that relationship as moralists assume.

Are Single Mothers as Good as Married Ones?

Children of single mothers have much worse outcomes in the U.S. than children of married parents. Yet, countries with the highest levels of single parenthood have low crime and high social mobility. That is the parenting paradox. How can it be explained?

Does racism make people older?

A new study asked whether racism accelerates aging for African-American men. The study measured age-related shortening in the ends of chromosomes (or telomeres). Surprisingly, the study found that experiences of racial discrimination were not related to biological aging.

Why Low Status Hurts

Hunter-gatherer societies had minimal status distinctions and that is how most people would want to live. When there are sharp status divisions, we must constantly strive to get up the ladder, or to stay there, which can be stressful.

Why the U.S. Attracts Talent

This country attracts more than its fair share of bright scholars, entrepreneurs, and artists despite our horrible scores on academic ability. Why do so many bright people opt to join a nation of dunces?! The most intriguing explanation is that they are attracted to talent already here

Sell Marriage, Invest in Singles!

If marriage were an investable asset, now would be a great time to sell. The stock of marriage has declined for decades and its future looks even worse. By every available measure, matrimonial unions are shrinking in importance. A future without marriage would be a profound change—not necessarily for the worse.

Why a Dog Means So Much (for Mel)

The close relationship between humans and dogs is something of an evolutionary mystery. Is the dog a slave, or a parasite? Have we adapted them to our purposes, or have they exploited us for free food and shelter? Either way, we are so close it can hurt.

A Society Without Marriage?

The Mosuo people of south west China do not marry and fathers do not live with, or support, children. Do the Mosuo anticipate a global future where no one marries?

Why Is Mississippi More Religious Than New Hampshire?

New Hampshire is the least religious state in the union and Mississippi is the most religious according to Gallup data. A minority of New Hampshire residents see religion as being important in their daily lives (46 percent) in contrast to a large majority of Mississippians (85 percent). How can such huge differences be explained?

Is Religion Any Use?

Rival religions expend a great deal of effort in magnifying minor differences between them. Yet, the major world religions fulfill similar functions and endorse analogous codes of conduct. They may also provide similar emotional and practical advantages.

Who Deserves Our Respect?

Most of us sometimes feel under appreciated by colleagues, friends and family members Yet, it is by no means clear who deserves respect, or why. A lot of respect is badly misplaced in powerful people, in the rich, and even in talented people.