Economic libertarians and Christian evangelicals, united by their common enemy, are strange bedfellows in today's Republican party, just as the two Georges - the archconservative Wallace and the uberliberal McGovern - found themselves in the same Democratic Party in 1972.
Commerce, trade and exchange make other people more valuable alive than dead, and mean that people try to anticipate what the other guy needs and wants. It engages the mechanisms of reciprocal altruism, as the evolutionary biologists call it, as opposed to raw dominance.
When time permits, I try to see interesting people in the cities I visit. In Seattle, I met Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, who is shy in personality but flamboyant in his philanthropy.
If the myth of pure evil is that evil is committed with the intention of causing harm and an absence of moral considerations, then it applies to very few acts of so-called 'pure evil' because most evildoers believe what they are doing is forgivable or justifiable.
Though as a psychologist I like to think that nothing human is foreign to me, I admit to having been repeatedly flabbergasted by the insouciance, and sometimes relish, with which our ancestors carried out and witnessed unspeakable cruelties.
My worst boss was a departmental chair who never learned to appreciate new developments in the field. He had contempt for students and younger researchers, and he saw the job of running the department as a nuisance.
Though knowledge itself increasingly ignores boundaries between fields, professors are apt to organize their pedagogy around the methods and history of their academic subculture rather than some coherent topic in the world.
When people talk, they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role playing, sidestep, shilly-shally and engage in all manner of vagueness and innuendo. We do this and expect others to do it, yet at the same time we profess to long for the plain truth, for people to say what they mean, simple as that. Such hypocrisy is a human universal.
Regardless of its causes, thoughtlessly blaming the present is a weakness which, even if it is never outlawed, ought to be resisted. Though commonly flaunted as a sign of sophistication, it can be an opportunity for one-upmanship and an excuse for misanthropy, especially against the young.
There's a misconception that survival of the fittest means survival of the most aggressive. The adjective 'Darwinian' used to refer to ruthless competition; you used to read that in business journals. But that's not what Darwinian means to a biologist; it's whatever leads to reproductive success.
I don't think there was a thunderclap or a divine spark that suddenly made one species smart. You can see, in our ancestors, there was a gradual expansion of the brain; there was an expansion of the complexity of tools.
The reason I'm not a neurobiologist but a cognitive psychologist is that I think looking at brain tissue is often the wrong level of analysis. You have to look at a higher level of organization.
If crime is going down, you shouldn't be increasing resources for crime prevention. Or you should be taking note of what has worked and concentrate the crime-prevention methods on policies that have a track record of success.
'Capitalism' is a dirty word for many intellectuals, but there are a number of studies showing that open economies and free trade are negatively correlated with genocide and war.
One of the things that people complain about is loneliness, disconnectedness. If you live in a society where your life is rarely threatened and most of your relationships are more on an economic exchange basis, then this could leave people feeling less connected.
Language is a window into human nature, but it is also a fistula, an open wound through which we're exposed to an infectious world.
Heritability pertains to the entirety of the genome, not to a single gene.
In any dispute, each side thinks it's in the right and the other side is demons.
As every student in Philosophy 101 learns, nothing can force me to believe that anyone except me is conscious. This power to deny that other people have feelings is not just an academic exercise but an all-too-common vice, as we see in the long history of human cruelty.
By exploring the political and moral colorings of discoveries about what makes us tick, we can have a more honest science and a less fearful intellectual milieu.
There is no society ever discovered in the remotest corner of the world that has not had something that we would consider the arts. Visual arts - decoration of surfaces and bodies - appears to be a human universal.
Photography is a demanding action sport. The light can change so quickly. I often find myself sprinting so that I can catch the perfect light falling on a photogenic subject.
All our behaviours are a result of neurophysiological activity in the brain. There is no reason to believe there is any magic going on.
Anything that makes it easier to imagine trading places with someone else increases your moral consideration for that other person.
Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual.
My politics were pretty anarchistic until 1969 when the Montreal police went on strike. Within hours, mayhem and rioting broke out and the Mounties had to be called in to restore order. It instilled in me that one's convictions can be subjected to empirical test.
Why are empirical questions about how the mind works so weighted down with political and moral and emotional baggage?
The great appeal of the doctrine that the mind is a blank slate is the simple mathematical fact that zero equals zero.
The brain is not a bag of traits. It's startlingly complex. There are few or no single genes with a consistent effect on the mind.
People know there is a difference between what you do and what you accept. There is a difference between me knowing that people swear, me hearing people swear and me swearing, and everyone accepting that this is something you can do as much as you like.
Evolution is an indispensable component of any satisfying explanation of our psychology.
But the newest research is showing that many properties of the brain are genetically organized, and don't depend on information coming in from the senses.
Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature.
Racism, because it favors color over talent, is bad for business.
We're living in primate heaven. We're warm, dry, we're not hungry, we don't have fleas and ticks and infections. So why are we so miserable?
It's misleading to essentialize an entire society as if it were a single mind.
I think that if you were to probe a lot of people's religious opinions, they would not be as religious as the numbers would suggest.
You can't hear a word and just hear it as raw sound; it always evokes an associated meaning and emotion in the brain.
Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else's thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person's vantage point.
Why is it surprising that scientists might have long hair and wear cowboy boots? In fields like neuroscience, where the events you are recording are so minute, I suspect scientists cultivate a boring, reliable image. A scientist with a reputation for flamboyance might be suspect.
The human capacity for compassion is not a reflex that is triggered automatically by the presence of another living thing.
Obviously no language is innate. Take any kid from any race, bring them up in any culture and they will learn the language equally quickly. So no particular language is in the genes. But what might be in the genes is the ability to acquire language.
If you give people literacy, bad ideas can be attacked and experiments tried, and lessons will accumulate.
For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment that we can savor - and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible.
Everyone's pedigree merges into everyone else's pedigree. So if you go back far enough, everyone is related.
I think students should know something about religion as a historical phenomenon, in the same way that they should know something about socialism and humanism and the other great ideas that have shaped political philosophies and therefore the course of human events.
We can make fun of hockey fans, but someone who enjoys Homer is indulging the same kind of vicarious bloodlust.