Posted in January 2013

Guns or the media: who is to blame for violence?


  According to Susan Linn, who teaches in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, more than 1,000 studies found “that exposure to media violence is a risk factor for aggression, lack of sympathy for victims and desensitization to violence.” Studies from the US and Japan show similar results regarding video-game violence. Children are especially vulnerable. And … Continue reading

Being happy isn’t the same as feeling happy


  Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” For him and most of his contemporaries, happiness referred not to an emotion but the long-term pattern of action, the sum of which was your moral character. It is the habits of virtue that are … Continue reading

A traditional head surgeon and Congress


In Kenya I witnessed a grisly operation. Without anesthesia or sterilized instruments, a man took a razorblade and cut into the scalp of a woman’s shaven head. She was seated on the ground, surrounded by her family. The omobari omotwe peeled back her skin. Using a chisel he then scraped the exposed skull for several … Continue reading

A humanist looks at death


  1. You barely understand what this life is. How can you talk about life after death? Therefore, live this life well.   2. Where does a wave on a lake go when the wind ceases to blow? Where does a cloud go when it has moved across the sky? That’s where life goes when … Continue reading

Did you see that gorilla in the room? Most don’t.


  Some things are too sensitive to be discussed. No wants to talk about the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room, as the saying goes. The ‘gorilla’ could be a problem that causes defensiveness or embarrassment or something so potent that to acknowledge its presence is dangerous to yourself or the group. So there is … Continue reading

Is fairness in the eye of the beholder?


  Complaining about talk about taxing the wealthy, Michael Bloomberg said, “This business of ‘Well, they can afford it; they should pay their fair share?’ Who are they to say ‘Somebody else’s fair share?’ ”   N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economist, doesn’t think there is an answer. “Fairness, like beauty,” he writes, “is in … Continue reading

Rats and human nature


Rats have a bad reputation. If you betray someone or inform upon associates, you are said to rat on them. A scab laborer is a rat. It turns out that rats may not be that ratty after all. In fact, rats display traits that humans like to think are distinctively human. In a University of … Continue reading