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Friday, June 26, 2009

Field Notes

New York to Pay Women Who Give Their Eggs for Stem Cell Research
Proponents say compensating women for their eggs is necessary for research, and point out that women who give their eggs for fertility purposes are already paid. Others worry that the practice will commodify the human body and lead to the exploitation of women in financial need. (Libby Nelson, The New York Times)

More Pushback on Evolutionary Psychology
David Brooks: The allure of evolutionary psychology is that it organizes all behavior into one eternal theory, impervious to the serendipity of time and place. But there’s no escaping context. That’s worth remembering next time somebody tells you we are hardwired to do this or that. (The New York Times)

Hunting for Genes Associated With Happiness
Prof. Yoram Barak of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine is engaged in the "attempt to find the happiness gene, the genetic component of happiness," which may be 50 percent responsible for an optimistic outlook. (National Science Foundation, U.S. News & World Report)
•TWITTER BUZZ: @toddkashdan where to begin on the silliness of scientists trying to find a #happiness gene (single genes don't cut it)

Delegitimized Prayer Studies Tell Us Something About Scientists Who Conducted Them
Wendy Cadge: These studies may be seen as cultural artifacts illustrating how researchers’ understandings of prayer were influenced by their contexts. From single Protestant-based prayers in the 1960s, to some more recent attempts to combine Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and other prayers, researchers’ approaches to prayer reflect changing American religious demographics, evolving ideas about the relationship between religion and medical science, and the development of the clinical trial as a central biomedical research tool in this period. (Religion Dispatches)

The Atheism of Science
Lawrence Krauss: J.B.S. Haldane, an evolutionary biologist and a founder of population genetics, understood that science is by necessity an atheistic discipline. As Haldane so aptly described it, one cannot proceed with the process of scientific discovery if one assumes a "god, angel, or devil" will interfere with one's experiments. God is, of necessity, irrelevant in science. (The Wall Street Journal)