Some thoughts on ecology, evolution and economics

Posts filed under Evolution

Empathy is a state of mind

Previously, I introduced Robert Sapolsky’s book Behave and the sections of our brain associated with certain thought patterns. The brain is relevant in how we prosecute criminals, vote for politicians and feel empathy for others. Again, nothing that shows up on a brain scanner excuses or explains our actions in these contexts but it does… (read more)

Foreign interference: Keeping governments out of Canadian elections

The likelihood of the Chinese government determining the outcome of a Canadian election or even an important policy decision is quite slim. However, the reporting by the Globe and Mail and other outlets this past year suggests that they are trying. The means for doing this involve political contributions, community connections, threats and social media… (read more)

Behave: Neurobiology in the real world

In his 2017 book, Behave, Robert Sapolsky takes us on a tour of the human brain and illuminates who we are as a species, as a community and as moral beings. He makes it clear that the morality of any behaviour, whether violent or gentle, is mostly a matter of context. Still, we all have… (read more)

Whither the news?

Information industries are facing re-organization.  This extends to a remarkable range of businesses that specialize in knowing things, whether it is travel agents, lawyers, doctors or academics.  More sophisticated coding and connectivity can process and communicate routine information inputs to make marketable products for consumers with less cost and human involvement.  Journalists have suffered acutely… (read more)

Freedom to tweet

Most people get their news from the internet. Censorship of the news is a serious threat to a free society.  Yet censorship on the internet is a complex affair.  In the United States, this revolves largely around section 230 in the Communications Decency Act.  This is the same section for which President Trump produced an… (read more)

Taking the measure of nature

The Système Internationale (or SI) offers a coherent and standard way of measuring nature. It is based on seven standard units for time, length, mass, electric current, temperature, brightness and amount of substance. This fussy, academic world has been roiled by passionate debate about the very idea of measurement. Rather than allowing units like the second (1.157… (read more)

Gene therapy

Siddartha Mukherjee is a compelling author and a respected authority on medical science. His latest book, The Gene, traces the history of genetics -the prediction of heredity. Gregor Mendel, the 19th century monk who launched the discipline, features prominently with his experiments on breeding peas . Connecting a particular trait to a piece of DNA is… (read more)

All of world history in 500 words

The Penguin History of the World tells the story of humankind. Of necessity, it is a selective telling of our species’ story. The focus is on civilized society – a term which the authors recognize as being difficult to pin down.  Rejecting typical criteria of civilization, such as writing, cities and monumental buildings, Roberts and… (read more)

Sober Second Thought

Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine led the Reform Party to power in 1848, bringing an end to the influence of appointed chambers of representatives  in Canada. The principle of elected, representative government has held sway ever since. And yet, there is one group of appointed individuals whose power, though slight, remains to be dealt with:… (read more)

The Meaning of Life

Today marks the first anniversary for this blog.  I would like to thank Miles Corak, who encouraged me to start.  Miles has an influential blog on economics.  My son Anthony arranged for the domain name and got me started in WordPress.  I would also like to thank you, my readers.  The Answer I have been… (read more)