Fox and grapes

From Aesop’s fables:

The Fox and the Grape

A hungry fox saw some fine bunches of grapes hanging from a vine that was trained along a high trellis, and did his best to reach them by jumping as high as he could into the air. But it was all in vain, for they were just out of reach: so he gave up trying, and walked away with an air of dignity and unconcern, remarking, I thought those grapes were ripe, but I see now they are quite sour.

Babies know right from wrong?

So it seems babies do know what’s better for them:

Psychologists say babies know right from wrong even at six months

The research was carried out by a team led by Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University in Connecticut in the US, and used the ability to differentiate between unhelpful and helpful behavior as their indicator of moral judgement. The results contradict the theories of Sigmund Freud and others, who thought human beings start out as “amoral animals”, or a moral blank state…

In one experiment babies between six and ten months old were repeatedly shown a puppet show featuring wooden shapes with eyes. A red ball attempts to climb a hill and is aided at times by a yellow triangle that helps it up the hill by getting behind it and pushing. At other times the red ball is forced back down the hill by a blue square. After watching the puppet show at least six times the babies were asked to choose a character. An overwhelming majority (over 80%) chose the helpful figure. Prof. Bloom said it was not a subtle statistical trend as “just about all the babies reached for the good guy.”

In another experiment the babies were shown a toy dog puppet attempting to open a box, with a friendly teddy bear helping the dog, and an unfriendly teddy thwarting his efforts by sitting on him. After watching at least half a dozen times the babies were given the opportunity to choose one of the teddy bears. The majority chose the helpful teddy.

Bloom said there is mounting scientific evidence that this may not be true and that “some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.” (Source: Psysorg)

Interesting results although I don’t think this is a good experiment to find out whether babies know how to choose right from wrong.

Why we believe in God

Andy Thomson gives his talk titled ‘Why We Believe in Gods’ at the American Atheist 2009 convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Why We Believe in Gods – Andy Thomson – American Atheists 09

Also, if you’re interested, Christopher Hitchens schools a Muslim on free speech.

Having a sister makes you happier and more optimistic

That probably explains why I wasn’t as happy as I should be. Turns out, having a sister makes you happier and more optimistic.

Having a sister makes you happier and more optimistic, say psychologists

Growing up with at least one girl in the family also makes people more able to cope with their problems, according to the study.

Daughters tie loved ones closer together and encourage them to communicate their emotions more effectively, the researchers believe.

Prof Tony Cassidy, from the University of Ulster, who carried out the study with researchers from De Montfort University in Leicester, said that having a sister helped to promote good mental health.

He said: “Sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families. However, brothers seem to have the alternative effect. Emotional expression is fundamental to good psychological health and having sisters promotes this in families.”

Girls who had sisters also tended to be more independent and keen on achievement, according to the findings. (Source: Telegraph)

I have a brother.

It’s Christmas time of the year again

I went to church yesterday evening. The turnout rate was pretty decent but I was expecting more people, I guess the economy has sorta recovered. Christmas is the time where Christians tend to bring their non-Christian friends to church. That day the sermon would roughly be the same. Slightly more welcoming to new visitors. It would defer from the heavier sermon topics such as the collective histories of the middle eastern empires. Which, by the way, does have its interesting bit if not for the rather bias interpretations of Christian “adversaries”.

Christmas’ sermons are typically about the gift, the one true God and savior. It’s quite the same year after year. And in a way, it’s perhaps the most proven formula. Today’s religion is a lot of complicated. It doesn’t work well when you place fear in people.

A Christian often says to a non-Christian that God is the savior and how He created the world. There’d be a little dispute and so on. But the topic always go on to the non-Christian saying he or she would have to think about it or maybe it’s not the time. To which a couple of Christians would state that you shouldn’t wait. And if you’re a non-Christian, you should not ask why you shouldn’t wait because the answer is typical of what a Prudential insurance agent would tell you (i.e. what if something happen and so on). This may work on some people; it doesn’t work on all people.

Today religion has revolved, it’s rather need-based to some. I’ve got a feeling Christians spend quite a bit of time proselytizing. The new way of convincing people to be a Christian is to be extremely welcoming to our new friend, to care for him and her. I often “study” this method of religion spreading. It works rather well I think. People may need emotional support and sharing (during Sundays) is quite a good way.

And since it’s easiest to bring a non-Christian to church on Christmas, sermon speakers would deliver milder topics. But what happens when you bring your friend to church next Sunday? It likely would revert to History 101.

Why we have the urge to commit suicide

It’s a rather interesting article. You can view New York Times take on why we have the urge to end it all.

Some interesting notes on jumper-type suiciders:

  • With regards to jumping on a suicide attempt, there’s “high degree of impulsivity associated with that method”.
  • For generations, the people of Britain heated their homes and fueled their stoves with coal gas. This released very high levels of carbon monoxide. “Sticking one’s head in the oven” became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation’s total.
  • By the early 1970s, the government phase out coal gas in favor of the much cleaner natural gas. During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since.
  • In a moment of deep despair or rage or sadness, they turned to what was easy and quick and deadly – “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen,” as one psychologist described it – and that instrument allowed little time for second thoughts. Remove it, and the process slowed down; it allowed time for the dark passion to pass.
  • Many who choose to jump seem to be drawn by a set of environmental cues that, together, offer three crucial ingredients: ease, speed and the certainty of death.
  • “At the risk of stating the obvious,” Seiden said, “people who attempt suicide aren’t thinking clearly. They might have a Plan A, but there’s no Plan B. They get fixated. They don’t say, ‘Well, I can’t jump, so now I’m going to go shoot myself.’ And that fixation extends to whatever method they’ve chosen. They decide they’re going to jump off a particular spot on a particular bridge, or maybe they decide that when they get there, but if they discover the bridge is closed for renovations or the railing is higher than they thought, most of them don’t look around for another place to do it. They just retreat.”
  • A man was grabbed after passers-by noticed him pacing and growing increasingly despondent. The reason? He had picked out a spot on the western promenade that he wanted to jump from, but separated by six lanes of traffic, he was afraid of getting hit by a car on his way there.
  • Once someone attempts a suicide and survive, they are unlikely to have another impulse toward suicide.

And… On an unrelated note, New York Times has this short paragraph on Scott Anderson, the writer of the article. It says, “Scott Anderson is a frequent contributor to the magazine. His last article was about the war in Lebanon in 2006.” How is an article after 2 years considered frequent.