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The Fallibilities of Choice and Competition

Mill’s blacksmith example serves his argument well. But his argument for the sovereignty of free choice and competition in matters of social organization and production fails to account for the poor choices and biased competitive environments that often produce less than ideal results. In fact, socioeconomic prejudice remains as a potent and pernicious social ill long after the worst of codified sexism has been remediated, and the illness has been fueled as much by market forces and competition as by the inaction of government to meaningfully intervene in the disparities of wealth and opportunity that define a still openly classist society. Continue reading


CVS Modulates Moral Judgments

Few things feel more intuitive than our sense of right and wrong. How do agency, valence, and processing levels of moral stimuli influence this sense, and are the circuits involved lateralized in one or the other cerebral hemispheres? To address these questions, I used caloric vestibular stimulation (CVS) treatments followed by the Explicit Moral Judgment Test (EMJT) to probe the biological circuitry of moral judgments. Subjects’ moral evaluations were modulated by CVS treatments across agency, valence, and processing variables, providing evidence for the lateralization of newly identified moral modules concerned with positive-subtraction and self-positive processing. Continue reading

Burke was right: man is a religious animal

Burke’s arguments for why England, or any state, should keep its “church establishment” strongly foreshadows a great deal of modern science’s conclusions as to why religion exists in the first place, i.e., utility in the stability of social identity and political order. Burke’s only failure comes from the assumption that morality – that great social lubricant – is the exclusive domain of religion, and that moral behavior is derived from it. Continue reading

Attention, Performance, and Memory

Summary of several chapters from Eysenck and Keane’s Cognitive Psychology, sixth edition (2010) Contrary to early interpretations of shadowing task results, it now appears that unattended stimuli receive considerable processing before being blocked by attentional filters. Theorists continue to debate the relative position of the attentional bottleneck, either early in the auditory processing circuit or … Continue reading

Quatrain to the Organs

Though I’ve observed dozens of surgeries and autopsies in the past, I am always astonished at the scale of our internal organs. In my imagination, the body is a TARDISian vessel, where the brain, heart, and digestive system, along with all the organs, are of an immense size, rightly proportional to their grand complexity. But … Continue reading

The Value of Eyewitness Accounts

To my favorite teenage person, Youth is often accompanied by a sense of infallibility, an overzealous confidence in the quality and quantity of one’s knowledge base, and a gross underestimation of one’s ignorance. Few things are as well positioned to tame such conceit as scientific tests of the accuracy of our everyday memory. But demonstrating … Continue reading

Of Sovereignty, Legislature, and the State of Nature

Though contemporaries and countrymen (“Thomas Hobbes – Wikipedia”; “John Locke – Wikipedia”), Locke and Hobbes arrived at very different opinions regarding the proper position of legislative, or sovereign, power – whether it should be bounded within the limits of the commonwealth, or left to rule from without. For Hobbes, the sovereign must be exempt from … Continue reading

An Overview of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology, simply stated, is the study of the nervous system’s information processing. It includes the circuitry that performs such processing, as well as the behaviors following from it. As Neisser first defined it, “cognition refers to all the processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used” (Neisser, 1967, … Continue reading

Atomic Absorption Analysis of Three Dietary Supplements

Whether called alternative, traditional, natural, integrative, or complementary medicine, this largely dietary supplement-based multi-billion dollar industry is associated with claims of extreme efficacy based more on anecdote than evidence. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that long-term vitamin supplementation may actually be harmful. We wondered whether an industry known for exaggerated claims and pseudo-scientific products was similarly sloppy with its measurements and manufacture.

We chose to take three well known multivitamin supplement brands (One Source, Now, and Equate) to task by measuring the amount of iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper in each using atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) to confirm or expose each brand’s reported values. Of the tools available, AAS was chosen because of its superior accuracy in metal analyte analysis. Continue reading

Medicine’s Dilemma of Delivery

I believe in the right to health care, so the decision to participate in a system that insufficiently and inconsistently protects that right – that forces some to choose between needed care and financial ruin and leaves others without even that choice – was, for me, a difficult one. In deliberation, I was reminded that while all endeavors naturally inherit our human imperfections, they can also benefit from our determined, concerted efforts to improve their outcomes. I have observed firsthand, in the clinic and operating room, the awesome, fundamental good routinely delivered to patients in need, and it is something I deeply want to contribute to. The process of making the delivery of that good more humane, accessible, and efficient is, at least in part, dependent on the abilities of we physicians-in-training to see medicine for what it is now, and what it could be, with our vision and hard work, in the future. Continue reading

Amnesia, That Unremembered Country

I found myself, quite unexpectedly, staring down a hospital corridor, its white floor and ceiling and beige walls, now in recollection, bleached at their edges as if glimpsed through a thin cloud’s brief eclipse. Nurses and technicians walked purposefully past on unguessed errands, progressing, with each step, further into the frayed perimeter of my awareness. … Continue reading

Significance of the Sociological and Political Consequences of Japan’s Historically Ambivalent Relationship with the United States

Between 1868 and 2005, Japan and the United States sustained a tumultuous and complex relationship – one which, though ever-changing, repeatedly defined Japan’s course while contributing to her social and political upheavals.

Japan: Seeds of the Empire

Introduction The 15th century saw the waning of the Ashikaga Shogunate, followed by a Warring States period whose violence dominated most of the 16th century. Japan finally emerged from this era of turmoil through the conquests and reforms of the three great unifiers. The Tokugawa period (1600 – 1868 CE) ushered in a lasting age … Continue reading