CULTURE

THE BOOK OF REVELATION: PROPHECY AND POLITICS EDGE MASTER CLASS 2011

[7.17.11]

Why is religion still alive? Why are people still engaged in old folk takes and mythological stories — even those without rational and ethical foundations.

ELAINE PAGELS is a Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion, Princeton University; Author The Gnostic GospelsBeyond Belief; and Revelation (forthcoming, January 2012).

Elaine Pagels's Edge Bio Page


In July, Edge held its annual Master Class in Napa, California on the theme: "The Science of Human Nature".  In the six week period that began September 12th, we are publishing the complete video, audio, and texts:  Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman on the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thinking; Harvard mathematical biologist Martin Nowak on the evolution of cooperation; Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker on the history of violence; UC-Santa Barbara evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides on the architecture of motivation; UC-Santa Barbara neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga on neuroscience and the law; and Princeton religious historian Elaine Pagels on The Book of Revelation.

For publication schedule and details, go to Edge Master Class 2011: The Science of Human Nature.



THE BOOK OF REVELATION

[ELAINE PAGELS:] The Book of Revelation is the strangest book in the Bible. It's the most controversial. It doesn't have any stories, moral teaching. It only has visions, dreams and nightmares. Not many people say they understand it, but for 2000 years, this book has been wildly popular. Why would anyone bother with a book that rationalists love to hate, I was thinking that from Epicurus to Richard Dawkins. Many people assume what I learned from my father, who converted from Presbyterianism to Darwin and became a biologist, that religion was nothing but a compensation for ignorance, and would soon die off. In fact, I thought I heard Steve imply this yesterday when you included in modernity, science, but not religion.

What's New In Human Nature? Edge Master Class 2011

[7.15.11]

Steven Pinker, Martin Nowak, Leda Cosmides, Michael Gazzaniga, Elaine Pagels, Daniel Kahneman


"We'd certainly be better off if everyone sampled the fabulous Edge symposium, which, like the best in science, is modest and daring all at once." — David Brooks, New York Times column

Spring Mountain Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa, CA  
Friday July 15 to Sunday, July 17th


STEVEN PINKER

What may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history is that violence has gone down, by dramatic degrees, and in many dimensions all over the world and in many spheres of behavior: genocide, war, human sacrifice, torture, slavery, and the treatment of racial minorities, women, children, and animals.

Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology; Harvard University. Author, The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Better Angels Of Our Nature: How Violence Has Declined 


MARTIN NOWAK

Why has cooperation, not competition, always been the key to the evolution of complexity?

Mathematical Biologist, Game Theorist; Professor of Biology and Mathematics, Director, Center for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University; Author, SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed.

MP3 AUDIO DOWNLOAD


LEDA COSMIDES

Recent research concerning the welfare of others, etc. affects not only how to think about certain emotions, but also overturns how most models of reciprocity and exchange, with implications about how people think about modern markets, political systems, and societies. What are these new approaches to human motivation?

 

LEDA COSMIDES is a Professor of Psychology and Co-director (with John Tooby) of Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara

MP3 AUDIO DOWNLOAD


MICHAEL GAZZANIGA 

Asking the fundamental question of modern life. In an enlightened world of scientific understandings of first causes, we must ask: are we free, morally responsible agents or are we just along for the ride?

Neuroscientist; Professor of Psychology & Director, SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara; Human: Who's In Charge?

MP3 AUDIO DOWNLOAD


ELAINE PAGELS


Why is religion still alive? Why are people stil engaged in old folk takes and mythological stories — even those without rational and ethical foundations

Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion, Princeton University; Author The Gnostic GospelsBeyond Belief; and Revelation

 

MP3 AUDIO DOWNLOAD


DANIEL KAHNEMAN 

Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Princeton University; Recipient, the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences; Author, Thinking Fast and Slow

MP3 AUDIO DOWNLOAD


"Open-minded, free ranging, intellectually playful ... an unadorned pleasure in curiosity, a collective expression of wonder at the living and inanimate world ... an ongoing and thrilling colloquium."— Ian McEwan in The Telegraph

 

EDGIES:


Stewart Brand
, Biologist, Long Now Foundation; Author, Whole Earth Discipline


John Brockman, Publisher & Editor, Edge; CEO, Brockman, Inc; Author, The Third Culture

Max Brockman
Max Brockman
, Literary Agent, Brockman, Inc;  Editor,  Future Science: Essays From The Cutting Edge


George Dyson
, Science Historian; Author, Darwin Among the Machines


J
ennifer Jacquet, Fisheries Scientist, Postdoctoral Fellow, UBC


Jaron Lanier
Computer Scientist, Musician; Author, You Are Not A Gadget


Salar Kamangar, CEO of You Tube and Google's ninth employee,  is former VP of Google's web applications.

Katinka Matson
Katinka Matson, Cofounder, Edge; President, Brockman, Inc.; Artist, katinkamatson.com

Sean Parker
Sean Parker, The Founders Fund; CoFounder, Napster & CoFounder & Founding President, Facebook

Nicholas Pritzker
Nicholas Pritzker, Hyatt Development Corporation

John Tooby
John Tooby, 
Founder, Field of Evolutionary Psychology; Co-Director, UC Santa Barbara's Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Anne Treisman
Anne Treisman, Research Psychologist, Princeton


PRESS ATTENDEES:

Benedict Carey
Benedict Carey
, Journalist, New York Times

 
Jim Giles
News Correspondent, New Scientist


Greg Miller
,
 News Correspondent, Science

 
Lucy Odling-See
, News Correspondent, Nature


Eva Wisten
, Journalist, Dagens Industri


 

Is Shame Necessary?

[7.13.11]

Balancing group and self-interest has never been easy, yet human societies display a high level of cooperation. To attain that level, specialized traits had to evolve, including such emotions as shame.

THE REALITY CLUB: W. Daniel Hillis, Armand Leroi, Jennifer Jacquet

INTRODUCTION
By 
George Dyson

I first heard from Jennifer Jacquet in July 2006 when she invited me to speak about Russian-American sea-otter hunting to the weekly seminar of the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia. To the usual request for a title and abstract, "at your convenience" she added "though if you do it by Saturday I could hang the poster before I leave for Africa." I did.

The UBC Fisheries Centre, perpetuating a misnomer that goes back to whales being classed as fish, has a strong interest in marine mammal conservation. Whereas the prevailing view of the Russian colonization of the North Pacific in the 18th and 19th centuries is one of unmitigated destruction of marine mammal populations, the truth is—and the data were convincing, even to Jacquet—that the Russian-American Company administrators were, when faced with a plummeting sea-otter population, the first to put marine-mammal conservation regulations and practices into effect.

I next met Jacquet when she began showing up in Bellingham twice a week to refill hand-soap dispensers in one of our local cafes—gathering data on whether the consumption of soap, as an indicator of hand-washing behavior, was affected by the presence of pictures with eyes on the wall of the washroom, or not. Jacquet was—and is—a member of the Sea Around Us Project, founded by Daniel Pauly, who coined the phrase "Shifting Baselines" to describe the tendency to shift the baseline catch data as one marine species is commercially extinguished and we move on to the next. Jacquet made an important contribution by showing how the re-naming of formerly "trash" species is a key element in explaining how we are over-consuming species as well as biomass.

Jacquet is now raising the alarm—a timely one—that the baselines are shifting for shame. Why be ashamed of pocketing a few illicit thousands here and there when billions are being pocketed, shamelessly, on the news every night? Why be ashamed of personal misbehavior when the misbehavior of celebrities is the new norm? What does shame mean when you have three thousand friends? These are questions we need to answer, and understanding the behavior of reef fish is a good place to start.

— George Dyson

JENNIFER JACQUET graduated with a master’s degree in environmental economics from Cornell University in 2004 and earned a PhD in 2009 from the University of British Columbia, where she now holds a postdoctoral fellowship. As part of the Sea Around Us Project, a joint collaboration between the university and the Pew Charitable Trusts, she researches market-based conservation initiatives related to seafood and other natural resources. With colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and UBC’s Mathematics Department, she is currently conducting a series of games and experiments to study the effects of honor and shame on cooperation, which was the theme for her contribution to the 2010 Edge-Serpentine Gallery "Maps of the 21st Century" at the Royal Geographical Society on London:

Deception: REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
BY NAME RECONFIGURATION

Jean Jaurès apparently once said, "Quand les hommes ne peuvent changer les choses, ils changent les mots." By mapping old names to new ones, this piece hopes to capture the spirit of that quote as well as some of my research on shame and reputation.

GEORGE DYSON, an historian among futurists, is the author of Project Orion, Darwin Among the Machines, and Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (forthcoming).

Excerpted from Future Science: Essays From The Cutting EdgeEdited by Max Brockman (Vintage Books, 2011]

REALITY CLUB: W. Daniel Hillis, Armand Leroi , Jennifer Jacquet


IS SHAME NECESSARY?

[JENNIFER JACQUET:]  Financial executives received almost $20 billion in bonuses in 2008 amid a serious financial crisis and a $245 billion government bailout. In 2008, more than 3 million American homes went into foreclosure because of mortgage blunders those same executives helped facilitate. Citigroup proposed to buy a $50 million corporate jet in early 2009, shortly after receiving $45 billion in taxpayer funds. Days later, President Barack Obama took note in an Oval Office interview. About the jet, he said, "They should know better." And the bonuses, he said, were "shameful."

What is shame's purpose? Is shame still necessary? These are questions I'm asking myself. After all, it's not just bankers we have to worry about. Most social dilemmas exhibit a similar tension between individual and group interests. Energy, food, and water shortages, climate disruption, declining fisheries, increasing resistance to antibiotics, the threat of nuclear warfare—all can be characterized as tragedies of the commons, in which the choices of individuals conflict with the greater good.

 

Preface

of Future Science
[7.7.11]

"This opacity [endemic in academic journals] was the impetus for the first essay collection in this series, What’s Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science. Essays seemed to be an ideal and appropriate way for representatives of this group of scientists to communicate their ideas. The title of the new collection is different, but the organization is the same. Future Science features essays from nineteen young scientists from a variety of fi elds, writing about what they’re working on and what excites them the most. To come up with the list of contributors, I fielded recommendations from top scientists on the rising stars in their various disciplines. "

MAX BROCKMAN is Vice President of Brockman, Inc. an international literary agency, and editor of What's Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science andFuture Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge. He also works with the Edge Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that publishes edge.org.

Excerpted from Future Science: Essays From The Cutting Edge, Edited by Max Brockman (Vintage Books, 2011)


Why Rejection Hurts

[7.6.11]

The experience of social pain, while temporarily distressing and hurtful, is an evolutionary adaptation that promotes social bonding and, ultimately, survival.

NAOMI I. EISENBERGER has a BS in psychobiology and a PhD in social psychology (2005) from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is an assistant professor in UCLA's Social Psychology program, director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, and codirector of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. Her research focuses on using behavioral, physiological, and neuroimaging techniques to understand how the human need for social connection has left its mark on our minds, brains, and bodies.

Naomi I. Eisenberger's Edge Bio Page

Excerpted from Future Science: Essays From The Cutting Edge, Edited by Max Brockman (Vintage Books, 2011)


WHY REJECTION HURTS

[NAOMI I. EISENBERGER:] “That hurt my feelings.” “My heart was broken.” If you listen closely to the ways in which people describe their experiences of social rejection, you will notice an interesting pattern: we use words representing physical pain to describe these psychologically distressing events. In fact, in the English language we have few means of expressing rejection-related feelings other than with words typically reserved for physical pain. Moreover, using such words to describe experiences of social rejection or exclusion is common to many languages and not unique to English.1

Why do we use words connoting physical pain to describe experiences of social rejection? Is feeling socially estranged truly comparable to feeling physical pain, or are these words to be regarded simply as figures of speech? My laboratory’s research has suggested that the “pain” of social rejection (“social pain”) may be more than just a figure of speech. Through a series of studies, my colleagues and I have shown that socially painful experiences, such as exclusion or rejection, are processed by some of the same neural regions that process physical pain. Here I review the evidence that led us to the notion that physical and social pain processes overlap and the studies that directly test this overlap. I will explore some of the potentially surprising consequences of such an overlap as well as what this shared neural circuitry means for our experience and understanding of social pain. 

Future Science

Essays From The Cutting Edge
[7.3.11]

ORDER NOW!

"A fascinating and very readable summary of the latest thinking on human behaviour." — The Economist

"Cool and thought-provoking material. ... so hip." — Washington Post

"This remarkable collection of fluent and fascinating essays reminds me that there is almost nothing as spine-tinglingly exciting as glimpsing a new nugget of knowledge for the first time. These young scientists give us a treasure trove of precious new insights." — Matt Ridley, Author, The Rational Optimist

"I would have killed for books like this when I was a student!" — Brian Eno, Composer; Recording Artist; Producer: U2, Cold Play, Talking Heads, Paul Simon

"Future Science shares with the world a delightful secret that we academics have been keeping — that despite all the hysteria about how electronic media are dumbing down the next generation, a tidal wave of talent has been flooding into science, making their elders feel like the dumb ones..... It has a wealth of new and exciting ideas, and will help shake up our notions regarding the age, sex, color, and topic clichés of the current public perception of science." — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard; Author, The Language Instinct


Eighteen original essays by:

Kevin P. Hand: "On the Coming Age of Ocean Exploration" Felix Warneken: "Children's Helping Hands" William McEwan: "Molecular Cut and Paste" Anthony Aguirre: "Next Step Infinity" Daniela Kaufer and Darlene Francis: "Nurture, Nature, and the Stress That Is Life" Jon Kleinberg: "What Can Huge Data Sets Teach Us About Society and Ourselves?" Coren Apicella: "On the Universality of Attractiveness" Laurie R. Santos: "To Err Is Primate" Samuel M. McLure: "Our Brains Know Why We Do What We Do" Jennifer Jacquet: "Is Shame Necessary?"  Kirsten Bomblies: "Plant Immunity in a Changing World" Asif A. Ghazanfar: "The Emergence of Human Audiovisual Communication" Naomi I. Eisenberger: "Why Rejection Hurts" Joshua Knobe: "Finding the Mind in the Body" Fiery Cushman: "Should the Law Depend on Luck?" Liane Young: "How We Read People's Moral Minds" Daniel Haun: "How Odd I Am!" Joan Y. Chiao: "Where Does Human Diversity Come From?"

Click Here for Annotated Table of Contents

Future Science

Essays From the Cutting Edge
[7.1.11]

Edited by Max Brockman

JUST PUBLISHED —  AVAILABLE IN BOOKSTORES AND ONLINE — ORDER NOW!

amazon.com | bn.com | amazon.co.uk (available October)

 

"A fascinating and very readable summary of the latest thinking on human behaviour." — The Economist

"Cool and thought-provoking material. ... so hip." — Washington Post

"This remarkable collection of fluent and fascinating essays reminds me that there is almost nothing as spine-tinglingly exciting as glimpsing a new nugget of knowledge for the first time. These young scientists give us a treasure trove of precious new insights." — Matt Ridley, Author, The Rational Optimist

"I would have killed for books like this when I was a student!" — Brian Eno, Composer; Recording Artist; Producer: U2, Cold Play, Talking Heads, Paul Simon

"Future Science shares with the world a delightful secret that we academics have been keeping — that despite all the hysteria about how electronic media are dumbing down the next generation, a tidal wave of talent has been flooding into science, making their elders feel like the dumb ones..... It has a wealth of new and exciting ideas, and will help shake up our notions regarding the age, sex, color, and topic clichés of the current public perception of science." — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard; Author, The Language Instinct


Eighteen original essays by:

Kevin P. Hand: "On the Coming Age of Ocean Exploration" Felix Warneken: "Children's Helping Hands" William McEwan: "Molecular Cut and Paste" Anthony Aguirre: "Next Step Infinity" Daniela Kaufer and Darlene Francis: "Nurture, Nature, and the Stress That Is Life" Jon Kleinberg: "What Can Huge Data Sets Teach Us About Society and Ourselves?" Coren Apicella: "On the Universality of Attractiveness" Laurie R. Santos: "To Err Is Primate" Samuel M. McLure: "Our Brains Know Why We Do What We Do" Jennifer Jacquet: "Is Shame Necessary?"  Kirsten Bomblies: "Plant Immunity in a Changing World" Asif A. Ghazanfar: "The Emergence of Human Audiovisual Communication" Naomi I. Eisenberger: "Why Rejection Hurts" Joshua Knobe: "Finding the Mind in the Body" Fiery Cushman: "Should the Law Depend on Luck?" Liane Young: "How We Read People's Moral Minds" Daniel Haun: "How Odd I Am!" Joan Y. Chiao: "Where Does Human Diversity Come From?"

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads II

[6.6.11]

Why would Ai Weiwei consider it so "interesting" or " funny" to make such a piece. This animal circle, or animal house, is full of contradictions: it is neither a parody, it is not ironic, not in the least cynical nor is it an iconoclastic gesture. It is all at once, it is a house of contradictions, just like China. 

 

Introduction

An important piece of cultural news, and a reason to visit London, is the recent appointment of the highly regarded, energetic, and intellectually curious Belgian Curator Chris Dercon as the new Director of the Tate Modern. Dercon brings his vision to the Tate after a distinguished tenure as Director of Munich's Haus de Kunst, which included Ai Weiwei's site-specific work, "Remembering 2009" for the façade of the building. 

A few weeks after the edge.org feature on the New York exhibit of Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,  Dercon presided over the London opening of the exhibit  with the following comments on his friend and colleague at Somerset House on May 11th.

— John Brockman

CHRIS DERCON is the Director of the Tate Modern in London. Previously he had been Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich from 2003 to 2011, and before that he had a leading role in the development and direction of other major international cultural institutions: P.S.1 in New York, Witte de With Centre of Contemporary Art in Rotterdam and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.


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