Americans love the center, and are also fond of gridlock.
I recently ended a decade on the Board of Trustees of the Russell Sage Foundation, which funds research in various branches of social science and psychology that bear on issues like race, immigration, poverty, and inequality in all its forms. It was endowed in 1907 by Margaret Olivia Sage in memory of her husband Russell Sage, and she specified that she wanted her legacy to be used toward “the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States.” My farewell remarks were made at an annual dinner two days after the election, and it being a foundation with traditionally liberal concerns, many present were worried about the direction of the country. I said this:
A couple of years ago at this event I was seated next to Barbara Solow, a respected economic historian and at eighty-something a charming and lively dinner companion. We were in the depths of the economic crisis, two wars were not going well, and some people were saying they had never seen worse times. I asked Bobbi, a child of the Depression and a Radcliffe student during the war, how worried she was. Read more
Statesmen understand human nature. Why not psychologists and social scientists?
Most psychologists don’t like human nature, or at least not the idea of it. Clinicians, life coaches, and corporate motivators dislike it because it implies unchangeability. Anyone who took college psychology knows how to modify behavior, from direct instruction to manipulative advertising.
And then, what fool surveying the huge variety of human personalities, needs, and tastes would dream of trying to characterize all that as one thing? Well, some fool might, but not the philosophers, evolutionists, historians and political leaders who have long used the phrase. They’ve always meant something complex, varied, and big-but not limitless.
Barack Obama, for instance. Read more
Whatever we think of the choice for this years prize, the runners-up deserve some attention.
Since even Obama reacted with disbelief to the news, saying in effect what everyone else said—that it was based on expectations, not accomplishments—I thought I would look into other nominees who were in effect runners-up.
One was Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident and AIDS activist Read more
Because I was involved in health care reform in the ’90s–two books, four or five New York Times op-ed pieces, a couple of essays in Newsweek , and two testimonies before U.S. Senate committee—a lot of people ask me to help them separate fact from fiction in the current debate.
Tensions are high. When a congressman from South Carolina, long and widely known as a fool and a boor, yelled, “You lie!” Read more
Prof. Mari Fitzduff, who I’m honored to call a friend, set me thinking the other day when she commented on a proposed speech I wrote for President Obama to substitute for the one he gave in Cairo. But before I share our exchange, you need to know that Mari is the director of the Conflict and Coexistence Program at Brandeis University, where she moved after many years as director of INCORE, the International Conflict Research Institute in (as she always says it to avoid taking sides) “Derry/Londonderry,” Northern Ireland. In that role she played an important part in the years and years of mediation that finally brought a blessed end to that terrible conflict. Read more
A government in the nature of things, with intelligent (human) design
I could not make the inaugural, but I had to be in Washington on Friday, and I decided to make a pilgrimage. After walking halfway across the city (dragging a rolling bag all the way) I stood in a happy, multiracial crowd before the White House fence,
New evidence forces us to consider the role of genes in all behavior
Just over a quarter century ago, I wrote my first book, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit. In it I addressed the objections that many liberal scientists and others of that day had against behavioral genetics, some of which I shared.
Now I get it: This is their generation's March on Washington.
My son Adam Konner is a senior at the University of Michigan who, like so many other young people, has been working to elect Barack Obama.
Barack Obama, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rebirth of the dream.
At this writing, Barack Obama seems set to win the most important position in the nation and the world. In June, when he won the nomination, I wrote “The Long View,” about how, in anthropological perspective, history had been made.
Why aren’t the Democrats winning hands down? A brilliant young psychologist thinks it's all in the brain–ours.
Some of my Democratic friends reading my blogs or listening to my occasional rants are starting to wonder which side I’m on. The fact is I have always voted Democratic and will do so in this election, but I am increasingly frustrated with my party.