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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“If you take a broad look at the social science curriculum of the last few decades, it becomes a little more clear why modern graduates are so unmoored. The last generation or two of undergraduates have largely been taught by a cohort of social scientists busily doing penance for the racism and Eurocentrism of their predecessors, albeit in different ways. Many anthropologists took to the navel gazing of postmodernism and swore off attempts at rationality and science, which were disparaged as weapons of cultural imperialism.

“Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners – with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world's population.”

– From “We Aren't the World” at psmag.com

A quiz

What is the second-most plentiful substance in the human body, second only to water?

Wisdom of the ages

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville

Current wisdom

“You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland — and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives.” – “Tonight” host Jay Leno joking on Monday's show as speculation swirled that the network is taking steps to replace him with Jimmy Fallon next year and move the show from Burbank, Calif., to New York.

Quiz answer

Protein, which is about 18 to 20 percent of the body by weight.

Snob words

insouciance (in-SOO-see-uhns), n. – the quality of being insouciant; lack of care or concern; indifference, as in: “The editorial writer knew the councilman was angry and was not fooled by his feigned insouciance.”

Today in history

On this date in 1929, the first telephone was installed in the White House; presidential attention spans have been getting shorter ever since.

Now you know

As of 2008, Harry Potter books had sold over 400 million copies and been translated into 67 languages.