NEROSCIENCE – COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY: “The Biology of Our Best and Worst Selves” / TED Talk / Robert Sapolsky ☮

How can humans be so compassionate and altruistic — and also so brutal and violent? To understand why we do what we do, neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky looks at extreme context, examining actions on timescales from seconds to millions of years before they occurred. In this fascinating talk, he shares his cutting edge research into the biology that drives our worst and best behaviors.

PSYCHOLOGY – ANALYTICAL: “New Study Reveals Which People Fear Death the Least” / big think ☮

Socrates warned against fearing death. He thought it irrational—the fear of death causes you to believe you’re wiser than you actually are. “No body knows death; no body can tell, but it may be the greatest benefit of mankind; and yet men are afraid of it, as if they knew certainly that it were the greatest of evils,” he concluded. His real aim may have been the religious who expressed faith in an afterlife with utmost certainty, a trend still going strong today. 

No mere mortal knows what occurs after death, yet that hasn’t stopped many from speculating. Though Socrates expressed unkind words toward the religious, turns out those who strongly believe in religion fear death less than the less religiously inclined—until you get to atheism, that is. A new study published in Religion, Brain & Behavior discovered a U-shaped curve toward contemplating death, with the most religious and atheists enjoying the least fear of mortality.

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WESTERN PHILOSOPHY – ETHICS: “Cornel West: The Difference Between Justice and Revenge” ☮

Institutions—governmental, religious, financial, even revolution itself—have a way of turning stale and sour. “Thank God for the history of the heretics and the blasphemers. That’s my crowd,” says Dr. Cornell West. Quoting from some of history and literature’s greatest thinkers and doers, West presents a poetic lecture on the role of hope in America’s past and its future, and how to make your voice matter. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. For more from Dr. Cornell West, head to http://www.cornelwest.com.

SOCIAL HISTORY: “It’s Time We Have a Holiday to Honor Those Who Try to Stop Wars Too” / Vox ☮

Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs, who went to jail for opposing World War I. (Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day often get equated, but there is an essential distinction between the two. Veteran’s Day honors all who have served the American military in wars. Memorial Day honors those who’ve perished. It’s an annual reminder that wars have grave human costs, which must be both recognized and minimized.

Those costs are not inevitable. We ought to also set aside time to remember those throughout American history who have tried hardest to reduce them, to prevent unnecessary loss of life both American and foreign: war resisters.

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