Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Why we are, as we are

Evolutionary theory is useful.  From The Economist, Dec 18th 2008:

Darwinism:Why we are, as we are

As the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On The Origin of Species” approaches, the moment has come to ask how Darwin’s insights can be used profitably by policymakers

Continue reading

September 15, 2010 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, evolution, evolutionary psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Do your balls hang low?

Do they wobble to and fro?  Hilarious follow-up to the Secrets of the Phallus, explaining all that’s hangin’…

From Scientific American, November 19, 2009:

Why do human testicles hang like that?

Continue reading

November 25, 2009 Posted by | anthropology, evolution, fun | , , | Leave a comment

Price paid for big muscles

Sounds like there are some disadvantages to having a highly muscled body.  Good reminder that there are trade-offs for everything.

From The Economist, August 27, 2009:

Sexual selection in humans

Mr Muscle

The price and privilege of beefcake
Continue reading

September 30, 2009 Posted by | evolution, health | , , | Leave a comment

Secrets of the Phallus: Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

Funniest scientific article I’ve ever read…. from Scientific American:

Bering in Mind –  April 27, 2009

Secrets of the Phallus: Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

Evolutionary psychologists decipher the “Rosetta stone” of human sexuality

By Jesse Bering

Continue reading

April 28, 2009 Posted by | evolution, fun | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creationism is here to stay

Sadly… the Scientific American article explains:

Bering in Mind –  March 19, 2009

Creationism Feels Right, but That Doesn’t Make it So

Psychological researchers suggest that evolutionary thinking is unnatural

By Jesse Bering

Continue reading

April 1, 2009 Posted by | behaviour, creationism, evolution | Leave a comment

Why Darwin Would Have Loved Botox

It seems that our brains evolved to identify emotions from watching a face.  The interesting part is that we accomplish this by mimicking the facial movements with our own muscles.  But when we use Botox to paralyze some of those facial muscles, this process is interrupted…

From Discover Magazine:

Why Darwin Would Have Loved Botox


All those wrinkle-causing winces, smirks, and sneers may have been the product of evolution.

Continue reading

November 27, 2008 Posted by | behaviour, brain, emotions, evolution | , , | Leave a comment

Dumb tricks your mind plays

Blame it on evolution — we’re not perfect! Some quotes from the article:

“Our brains have evolved to live in the moment…”

“Most pleasure springs from the ancestral, reflexive system…”

“Thinking of the brain’s pleasure system as a kluge…”


The mind plays tricks – very dumb tricks
A new book argues that evolution is far from perfect: What makes the human brain wonderful also makes it an error-prone mess

Continue reading

May 16, 2008 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, evolution, evolutionary psychology, neuroeconomics | , | Leave a comment

Is Our Happiness Preordained?

From Time magazine:

Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2008

Is Our Happiness Preordained?

Continue reading

March 31, 2008 Posted by | behaviour, evolution, evolutionary psychology, psychology | , | Leave a comment

Why We Love

Time magazine article on love and evolution. The part on pheromones may be inaccurate as it mentions women synchronizing their menstrual cylces, and I am pretty sure I’ve read a recent study debunking that. But it seems to be up to date on the MHC detection issue, with the surprising conclusion that our high divorce rate may be affected by women selecting their mates while on birth control pills and realizing their choice is wrong after they get off it (nomally women prefer men with opposite MHC to their own; but while pregnant or on the pill, they prefer like MHC).

And most importantly, the wise advice: do not pick your mate with elevated levels of adrenalin — that seems to make them more appealing than they really are.

Here is the story:

Why We Love

Continue reading

January 28, 2008 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, emotions, evolution | Leave a comment

Hunter-gatherers were savage

For me a key point was this statistics: “Constant warfare was necessary to keep population density down to one person per square mile. Farmers can live at 100 times that density.”

The way I see it is that there are too many people for this earth, and the rate of increase in population means we will have to come up with another miracle technology to be able to support more.  Unless of course a nice global epidemic reduces the population, there will be more wars to secure raw resources (there is a limited amount of water, farmland, energy, minerals), with religion/culture as the excuse to start them.

Birth control, anyone?

Noble or savage?

=========================================== Continue reading

January 1, 2008 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, evolution | 4 Comments