Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Two Good Articles

Two articles I feel I should report. The first is from Nature, Scriptural violence can foster aggression. A study found that when scriptural violence is condoned by the deity, it tends to make people act more violently.

The article pussyfoots around a couple of implications, both that religion is inherently violent and that this work has very limited applications. Plenty of other studies have shown that depictions of violence tend to increase aggression, but people never seem to note that the effects are pretty damn temporary. Some people with axes to grind try to use similar research with videogames to say that they should be banned, despite pretty ample evidence that videogames are rarely (if ever) actual motivators for crimes, and absolutely no indication of a connection between the proliferation of videogames and crime (crime has been dropping steadily for quite a while, right in line with the rise of videogames, but I won't claim a connection between the two, just note that it would be damn hard for videogames (or any violent media) to cause violence on any measurable scale).

I suspect that the same is true of this study, that religious language can make people feel aggressive, but temporarily. Everyone knows that religion can be used to inspire people to violence, but pretty much anything can. This research is an interesting beginning, but it needs quite a bit more work.

The second article is from the NY Times, What’s So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing. It's about the science and evolution of laughter. And for the record, that muffin joke is my favorite stupid joke. I think it's hilarious.

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