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Archive for February, 2010

Oh, hello Ancient Greek

The other day when I was reading a tutee’s paper, I saw the word “logos” and did a double take.  And then I realized she meant “logos” as in, the plural of the word “logo.”

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A question

Every time I read a newspaper or magazine article about evolutionary biology or psychology, I’m puzzled by its assumption that every human trait must exist because it was (or is) beneficial for survival.  This article about depression in the NYT, for instance, breezes over a psychiatrist’s assertion that depression must have some benefit because it’s so common.

The Origin of the Species is still pretty fresh in my mind, and I’m pretty sure Darwin would not have made a similar claim.  Obviously, he said that advantageous traits proliferate, and explicitly harmful traits kill off an organism and its descendants very quickly. There are, however, random traits that arise due to mutation or genetic drift which are neither beneficial nor harmful.  As long as they don’t explicitly hamper an organism’s survival, they won’t be selected against, and they’ll persist.

Depression is probably a bad example of this since it appears to be so obviously maladaptive (although the guy in that article would disagree).  But the assumption that every common aspect of human biology and behavior must be advantageous seems to betray a poor understanding of evolutionary theory.  Or maybe the field has changed a lot since Darwin, and I”m the one who’s confused.  Or maybe journalists are just bad at science reporting.

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I just discovered that Kate Winslet is going to reprise Joan Crawford’s role as Mildred Pierce in a TV miniseries.   Kate is obviously awesome, and Mildred Pierce is the shit, so this is wonderful news.

Will there be shoulder pads?  Who will play Veda? And, most importantly, who will play Eve Arden’s character?

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