Neuroanthropology Now on Facebook

Neuroanthropology now comes in two forms on Facebook!

The Blog – With Extra Content

If you want to follow everything that we’re doing on the Neuroanthropology PLOS blog, and you also want short, fun posts that Greg and I have specifically written for Facebook, then head over to the Neuroanthropology Blog Facebook Page. I just stuck the great photo featured here up on Facebook – just a sample!

Neuroanthropology Interest Group

An active interest group – with lots of shared links and discussion – is growing quickly on Facebook. Here you can share and discover news stories and journal articles, and engage with like-minded people who want to explore the intersection of neuroscience and anthropology.

So two choices for more Neuroanthropology:

Link to Neuroanthropology Blog on Facebook

Link to Facebook Interest Group

Neuroanthropology.net at 1,000,000

Neuroanthropology.net just broke through the 1,000,000 visits mark! We’ve done that in three years. Our very post came in December 2007.

Even though Greg and I have moved over to Neuroanthropology PLoS, this site has continued to generate impressive traffic since September 1st. Here are some of the posts that got us over the top:

We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough?
-Greg dissects the excellent study by Henrich et al. that took psychologists to task for basing claims about universal psychology using samples of college students

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile
-Absolutely incredible comments on this post, as readers continue to debate pedophilia, the people who have done it, and the children and families who have suffered from it

Forever at War: Veterans’ Everyday Battles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
-Veterans suffering from PTSD share what it’s like to have PTSD, and what they want other vets and the broader public to know about PTSD

Life without language
-Author Susan Schaller’s work with a profoundly deaf immigrant who grew up without sign language, and an exploration of what it is like to live without language

The new linguistic relativism: Guy Deutscher in the NYTimes
-Does language shape how you think? A re-examination of language and thought

Edge: Getting at the Neuroanthropology of Morality
-The new scientists of morality are actually doing neuroanthropology, and not evolutionary psychology

The dog-human connection in evolution
-Dogs made us more human

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 1,000,000 onsite visits in three years, plus all the other people who’ve read this site through Google reader or other rss feeds. When we started, we never expected to have such success with this site. So thank you!

And now we’re doing the same great stuff over on Neuroanthropology on PLoS. Here are five of our top posts since September 1st:

Anthropology, Science, and Public Understanding
-The American Anthropological Association dropped the word “science” from the mission statement included in the association’s long-term plan, and the media and blogosphere erupted. Here’s the post that kicked off Neuroanthropology’s extensive coverage of the controversy

An Interview with Mark Changizi: Culture Harnessing the Brain
-Cognitive scientist Mark Changizi gives us his inside view of how culture and brain evolved together, with an inside glimpse into his forthcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man

Food for thought: Cooking in human evolution
-Did cooking make us human, giving us the necessary energy to have super brains?

Anthropology, Science, and the AAA Long-Range Plan: What Really Happened
-The New York Times portrayed anthropologists as split into warring tribes over the word “science.” Here’s what actually happened with the AAA controversy

The Culture of Poverty Debate
-The controversial Culture of Poverty idea has made a comeback. Here’s coverage of the good and bad about the media reports and research on the renewed look at the links between culture and poverty

The Wilberforce Award: The population puzzle part 2

Our Neuroanthropology blog has moved to PLoS Blogs, and if you are interested in the topic of sustainable population growth, you may be interested in The Culture of Poverty Debate, The Culture of Poverty Debate continued, and Culture of Poverty: Analysis and Policy.

Attention to the Population Puzzle has been gaining attention with blogs written by: Rachel in Melbourne, Himalayan Sun, EconNewsAustralia, Simon Butler, Thomas Parkes, North Canberra Community Council, Jeremy Williams, Steve Austin, Population Media Center, Sharon Ede, The Australian, 2UE, and more… If there is a team of people ready to constructively and ethically address this problem, then count me in.

So far, over 1,200 people have read my post about The Wilberforce Award, but that’s not enough. It concerns me that only 550 or so people are fans of the facebook group “Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award“, and that almost 4000 people are fans of a group called “What’s with the sudden overpopulation of wannabe ‘rappers’ ??!!” We need action and education. Or maybe we just need a rapper to bring lyrics about overpopulation to the world stage. Maybe someone like Matt Chamberlin, or… um… maybe not…  I think I’m more partial to someone like Imogen Heap spreading the message with inspiring music and splendid visuals… But Matt’s video clip is a comic and engaging way to raise awareness nonetheless.

Talking about popular music and population growth reminds me of my favourite Indonesian singer, Rhoma Irama  the king of Dangdut music—a popular style of music in Indonesia. When I was doing my fieldwork in Indonesia during 2007-2009, people would laugh when I told them that I liked the music of Rhoma Irama. They laughed even harder when I tried to sing any of his songs. Rhoma Irama was a huge star in Indonesia during the 70s and 80s. In 2007, locals didn’t expect a foreigner in his twenties to enjoy Dangdut music, let alone Rhoma Irama. But talking about Rhoma Irama’s music was a quick and easy way for me to find common points of interest with people in the places I was working. In 1977, Rhoma Irama released a song called “135million” that was about the number of people living in Indonesia and their many ethnic origins. The song still enjoys popularity, but people often joke that the lyrics need to be constantly changed. And really, every year, the lyrics need to be changed. By 1980, the population of Indonesia had grown to 147.5million and today the population is approaching 235million. When you have lived in the shanty towns of Indonesia, the overcrowded villages of the highland regions, and the poverty-ridden cities of the coast, you see first-hand the effects of rapid and unsustainable population growth. (Interested in Indonesia and the developing world? Read more about Globalisation and Ethics in Indonesia, and Globalisation, Ethics and Wellbeing).

Three websites that I highly recommend to everyone interested in birth rate, life expectancy, and population growth is the new Public Data Explorer available through Google;  Gapminder for an amazing array of publicly accessible data; and Poodwaddle World Clock for an engaging site with the most up to date statistics of our times (pun intended). Mixing design, statistics, and experience in global development, Hans Rosling delivers a fantastic presentation on global health for the TEDtalks available through YouTube. I urge you to watch it, you will not be disappointed.

At Macquarie University, I have been teaching for a subject on Human Evolution and Diversity. One of the rooms we use is an experimental education facility where one wall is entirely covered with whiteboad paint. That means that you can use the entire wall as a giant whiteboard. In the final tutorial of the year, I drew a line starting at a power-socket in the bottom left-hand corner of the wall, continued along the skirting board at the base of the wall, and then abruptly curved upwards at the right end of the wall. With the students, we plotted dates, important developments in medicine and technology, and population figures. Starting somewhere around 7million people pre-agriculture some 20,000 years ago, students were amazed to see just how suddenly population has soared since 1500AD (only recently) and peaked at 7billion people at the top right hand corner of the room.  Their faces grew from excitement at the beginning of the tutorial, to astonishment at the end of the tutorial. One of the most interesting discussions was about whether or not we owe China carbon-credits for the one-child policy. After vibrant discussions in all of my tutorial classes, there was a firm consensus that a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary and multi-sector effort was required to successfully implement steps to a sustainable future. Next year, we will continue a study group about sustainable populations for interested students. Our first venture will be to update the information contained in the chapter on “Mining Australia” in Jared Diamond’s illuminating book, “Collapse”.

For those of you who are interested, I have written an article looking at Population growth, urbanisation & pollution in the developing world, which has been published by the postgraduate journal, NEO: Journal for Higher Degree Research Students in the Social Sciences and Humanities, Volume 3, 2010. This article is in English and French and has received fantastic support and feedback from my friends and colleagues in the Amicale des Centres Internationaux Francophones. Merci a vous tous! One of the ideas I raise in this article is the cheap production and distribution of the contraceptive pill to women who wish to use it. Now that the pill is off-patent, it means that we could turn this idea into a reality. And, in light of recent research highlighing the enormous health benefits the pill offers women, this idea becomes even more of an ethical imperative. Contrary to popular and misplaced belief, the pill has actually been proven to have a raft of health benefits. See this TVNZ special for more.

Dick Smith’s million dollar prize is for a solution at home, in Australia. How can we organise our economy, be more strategic about skilled migration, and simultaneously accomodate for an aging population? I recommend following the developments of the Population Puzzle on facebook and Dick Smith’s website. And of course, stay tuned to our neuroanthropology blog for more. As soon as I finish my PhD on cultural evolution, I plan to turn my attention to the question of a sustainable future for the country I call home.
 
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Your Great x 2360 Grandpa was a Neanderthal!

Is your Dad the descendent of a Neanderthal? Visit our PLoS website to find out more. 

Recent evidence has shown that a small percentage of human DNA is Neanderthal. This Neanderthal DNA entered the human gene pool between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago.

While human DNA may contain traces of Neanderthal ancestors, mitochondrial DNA from Neanderthals has not been found in humans. Mitochondrial DNA comes uniquely from your mother. Is it plausible that male Neanderthals were able to mate with female humans, but that the reciprocal cross was unable to occur?

Analyses of the Y chromosome suggest that we share a common male ancestor 59,000 years ago. Could this male ancestor have possibly been Neanderthal?

If our common male ancestor is neanderthal, and considering that the Y chromosome is transmitted uniquely through the paternal line, could it mean that men are more closely related to Neanderthals than women? Have men and women truly come from two different species?

Visit the full post on our PLoS website for the full explanation of this intriguing hypothesis.

Deacon featured on PLoS Neuroanthropology

Neuroanthropology has moved to PLoS Neuroanthropology.

Our recent feature was Terrence Deacon’s article on the evolution of language in PNAS (May, 2010). You may like to read our in-depth post. Here’s a teaser:

Deacon (2010) puts forward an argument that language was not exclusively the product of the interorganismic processes of natural and sexual selection. Interorganismic processes include differential reproduction, divergence, drift, recombination and environment-correlated preservation (niche complementation). Deacon hypothesises that language evolved from the space for innovation afforded by the relaxation of selective pressures and the recruitment of intraorganismic evolution-like processes. Intraorganismic processes include redundancy, degeneracy, epigenetic accommodation, and synergy-correlated preservation (redistribution and complexification).

To read our more in-depth summary visit PLoS Neuroanthropology. And you can also check below the fold for a video of Deacon lecturing, as well as links to other coverage of Deacon’s work.

Continue reading

Neuroanthropology Is Moving to PLoS Blogs

Neuroanthropology is moving! We’re joining a new Public Library of Science project: PLoS Blogs. We’ll be part of a new cluster of eleven science blogs at PLoS.

You can now find us at PLoS Neuroanthropology. Please update your subscriptions, come over and comment (or complain), and let us know what you think.

We are tremendously excited about this opportunity for many more reasons than we have space to articulate. Here we’ll touch on some of the main ones.

The Network

We are thrilled to be part of an initiative that combines serious scholars and serious writers together. That first. As a group, we share interests in science and medicine, in the public uses and misuses of knowledge, and in promoting awareness of ideas and research in a broad fashion.

This amazing new network of people includes writers we’ve followed, others we’ve admired from afar, and some new names with impressive track records. A Pulitzer Prize winner, the former editor-in-chief of Scientific American, professors at Duke and North Carolina Central University, a range of award-wining science journalists, and some top-quality science bloggers with rigorous science backgrounds – that is a great group of people. We are particularly excited to learn from the writers how to better practice this craft, and to engage with people with such an array of interests.

Anthropology within the Public Library of Science

One of the things that has us most excited, that really clinched our decision to make the move to PLoS, is that we hope we might act as a voice for anthropology in a scholarly and public forum built around science and medicine. Anthropology offers powerful insights from cross-cultural research and sophisticated integrative theory that deserve a much wider audience, one we hope to help grow here at PLoS Blogs.

As research becomes increasingly international and interdisciplinary, researchers in all fields need to confront the complexities of worldwide variation and of cultural biases, including our own. Anthropology has done this work for over a century now, and is in a wonderful position to offer the fruits of these intellectual efforts, including hard won wisdom from our own field’s mistakes, to the work of science and medicine represented at PLoS.

PLoS and Blogs

As a non-profit, ad-free adventure, PLoS Blogs also suits what we’ve done long-term at Neuroanthropology. We’ve debated that topic several times, whether to go for ad revenue, whether to join a network that might pay us. We’ve always decided no. We didn’t start doing this for money, we haven’t kept at it for money. We do it because we enjoy writing and we like sharing our ideas with a broad public.

PLoS itself has taken bloggers seriously for quite some time. It offers bloggers access to preprint versions of articles on the same terms as journalists and organizations. The PLoS team has used its own weblogs – PLoS.org, everyONE and Speaking of Medicine – to highlight scholarly content in an accessible format. As Brian Mossop, PLoS Community Manager (and many thanks for the thrill of that initial call!), says, PLoS Blogs will open up “the discussion, and debate, on science and medicine.”

Although online discussions are no longer new to academia, many of us are searching for ways to better integrate online discussion with serious scholarship to increase the quality of the former and the vitality of the latter. We want PLoS blogs, and Neuroanthropology in particular, to be a place where readers can reliably turn to find a broad engagement with new research at the intersection of brain and culture.

The Principles behind PLoS

PLoS’s Core Principles – Open Access, Excellence, Integrity, Breadth, Cooperation, Community Engagement, Internationalism, and Science as a Public Resource – resonate deeply with us.

The Principles capture how we want science to be: open, international, and public. These values resonate with the ethics of anthropology, where integrity, breadth, and community engagement are core guiding principles for our research with people around the world. These values also correspond well with our home institutions, University of South Florida and Macquarie University, where top-notch science, interdisciplinary cooperation, public education, and community contribution are all fundamental to how these universities strive to conduct themselves.

What PLoS Does

There are also some selfish reasons to be part of PLoS. The Public Library of Science is a serious and powerful voice for open-access scholarship and education. We want Neuroanthropology to be a part of that.

PLoS One, the flagship interdisciplinary journal of PLoS, is soon to become the world’s largest journal, given how it is doubling in size every year.

The PLoS family extends to 1200 academic editors. In 2010 PLoS will publish roughly 8,000 articles, providing about 10% of new articles added to PubMedCentral and 1% of new articles added to PubMed.

At a time when scholars are widely discussing the potential of open access, PLoS is leading the charge to make new research accessible to scholars everywhere. To paraphrase a well-worn hacker’s aphorism: science wants to be free. We’d like to be part of letting it loose.

2.3 million page views per month. That’s what the PLoS sites average as a whole. If that’s not enough, PLoS emails Table of Content alerts to 100,000 readers on different weekly and monthly intervals. Its Twitter stream has 4300 followers; its Facebook group, 7000 fans. We’re both thrilled and humbled to be able to join such a vibrant community and will do everything in our power to return the trust.

Even though PLoS has been an innovator in the creation of the new Article Level Metrics Program, we know deans like their traditional journal impact factors right now. And here PLoS is strong. PLoS Biology has the highest impact factor in Biology, according to the Journal Citation Reports. PLoS Medicine is ranked sixth in Medicine, just after the major medical journals in the United States and Britain like the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet.

Those are serious numbers in the impact game. The point is not simply that PLoS is successful, but that it’s changing the rules of that game. They’ve created this success using the power of online and open access and creating networks of scholars to ensure high quality.

PLoS Blogs and the Future

PLoS has revolutionized open-access, peer-reviewed scientific publishing since its founding in 2003. It opened up the world of academic publishing, making new research widely accessible regardless of whether a reader had access to a leading research library. We hope, and even believe, that blogs can go through a corresponding transformation, albeit in a different direction. Science blogging has different challenges and potentials for success.

Blogs have become an important channel for the popularization of science, often at an intermediate depth, between the level of the expert specialist and the most unfamiliar public or general readership. Because science blogs are so nimble, writers can respond quickly, posing questions, offering critiques, seeking connection and writing in open-ended fashion. We can comment as science stories unfold, responding both to the research and to popular versions, helping to highlight why findings are particularly interesting or exposing when someone’s over-reaching from the results.

For anthropologists, and for those interested in brain-culture relations, blogs are especially important because they provide a forum for synthetic work, a place where theorists and scientific analysts can try to draw conclusions from diverse sources and types of data. Although it may sound dry, the informal format can allow us to speculate and float ideas that might not yet be substantial enough to support a more traditional academic paper or book.

Finally, science blogs are fun, hopefully for the reader as much as the writer, as the rules for academic writing are relaxed and we can exercise our (sometimes warped) senses of humor. At Neuroanthropology, we like to think that anthropologists are particularly well suited for the role of online entertainment: nothing is quite as entertaining as the range of human oddity, including our own.

Recent controversies in the realm of for-profit science blogs and concerns about the business models for online publication suggest that, as with open-access publishing, a not-for-profit organization, founded on principles of community responsibility and accessibility, might offer the best way to bring together diverse talents.

We hope that PLoS can do for science blogging what it has done for academic journals, encouraging innovation and cooperation, offering an alternative model for supporting science, by people who are passionate about research.

Wednesday Round Up #118

Those of you looking for our weekly round up, you can now find it at PLoS Neuroanthropology – Wednesday Round Up #118.

That’s right – we’ve moved over to PLoS Blogs! Well, for the most part. Greg and I will be doing our main blogging over there now. More in just a bit about the move.

Here’s the link to our main Neuroanthropology page there. Please update your subscriptions. We really look forward to having you over there. This is a very exciting move for all of us.