Evolution is a theme. It's a grand unifying principle that runs across all scientific fields. Now, I'm not defending Scott: I am not an employee of Scientific American , so, you know, I am not defending them. They can defend themselves but what I would consider if I were in this--in their position is whether you would be--whether they would be limiting the scope of this column by hiring somebody who is so far out of the scientific mainstream.
This man would not be able to write about a wide variety of scientific topics because of his views which are basically religious. The point that Dr. This view, however, trades on equivocation and vagueness. As Dr. Scott uses the term, evolution is a "grand unifying principle that runs across all scientific fields.
What Mims had difficulty accepting was not the fact that change has taken place in the history of the universe. How could anyone object to such a trivial statement? His objection was to a theory of biological change that is much more controversial  , and much less central to science--even biological science  --than Dr. Scott and others would have us believe. Scott's remarks, therefore, amount to little more than a libelous, and irrational, attack on Mims.
Given Mims' credentials, and the fact that his competence was never an issue with the staff at Scientific American , Dr. Scott's remarks tell us more about herself than Forrest Mims and show just how far some people will go to protect a cherished "grand theme. Scott's ad hominem is particularly unsettling in light of her conspicuous involvement in science education. Recent reform efforts in science education have strongly emphasized teaching science as a way of knowing, and have laid great stress on getting students to apply scientific skills and attitudes to everyday situations.
By eschewing a scientific attitude in favor of an ill-founded ad hominem attack, Dr. Scott has become an unfortunate role-model and has perhaps even damaged the credibility of her organization as a promoter of scientific literacy. Although the general support for Forrest Mims in the media is an encouraging sign, the actions of Scientific American and its supporters are still a source of genuine concern.
In these actions one can see a troubling disregard for important principles and ideals. In this context, the following warning seems particularly appropriate:. Recent controversies over religion and public life have too often become a form of warfare in which individuals, motives, and reputations have been impugned. The intensity of the debate is commensurate with the importance of the issues debated, but to those engaged in this warfare we present two arguments for reappraisal and restraint.
The lesser argument is one of expediency and is based on the ironic fact that each side has become the best argument for the other. One side's excesses have become the other side's arguments; one side's extremists the other side's recruiters. The danger is that, as the ideological warfare becomes self-perpetuating, more serious issues and broader national interests will be forgotten and the bitterness deepened. The more important argument is one of principle and is based on the fact that the several sides have pursued their objectives in ways which contradict their own best ideals.
Too often, for example, religious believers have been uncharitable, liberals have been illiberal, conservatives have been insensitive to tradition, champions of tolerance have been intolerant, defenders of free speech have been censorious, and citizens of a republic based on democratic accommodation have succumbed to a habit of relentless confrontation.
Whatever we debate, then, let us do so as vigorously as the issues demand. But let us never sacrifice those things that are truly important. There were, to be sure, a few who held out against the consensus, but they had very little influence on the majority of biologists.
Almost all the research that was undertaken in evolution was designed to investigate the operation of natural selection, and was seen as confirming the theory. More and more workers are showing signs of dissatisfaction with the synthetic theory. Some are attacking its philosophical foundations, arguing that the reason that is has been so amply confirmed is simply that is is unfalsifiable: with a little ingenuity any observation can be made to appear consistent with it.
Others have deliberately setting out to work in just those areas in which neo-Darwinism is least comfortable, like the problem of gaps in the fossil record or the mechanisms of non-Mendelian inheritance. Still others, notably some systematists, have decided to ignore the theory altogether, and to carry on their research without any a priori assumption about how evolution has occurred. Perhaps most significantly of all, there is now appearing a stream of articles and books defending the synthetic theory. Beyond Neo-Darwinism. Saunders eds.
There are professional biologists who would be indifferent ot the title and substance of Theodosious Dobzhansky's essay "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution. One can be a successful practitioner of many areas of contemporary biology without considering how organisms, molecules or phenomena came to be or their descent relationships.
A relative absence of interest in evolution prevails in a number of areas of biology, with high-tech molecular biology being the most prominent of them. Science as a Way of Knowing--Molecular Evolution. American Zoologist , 24, pp. A return link to the Access Research Network web site would be appreciated.
For more than 20 years I dreamed of some day becoming the writer of "The Amateur Scientist," the popular column in Scientific American that inspired me to become a science writer. After my dream came true, Scientific American revoked my assignment to write the column because of my views on evolution and abortion. The controversy over my dismissal from "The Amateur Scientist" has been characterized by irony.
Were he alive today, Rufus Porter, the founding editor of Scientific American , would be fired from his own publication, for he advocated belief in "Creator God" in the magazine's premier issue in Since Porter actually wrote about God and I promised not to, his offense was infinitely more embarrassing than mine.
Another irony is that the roots of "The Amateur Scientist" can be traced to the November issue, the cover of which proclaimed, "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. For more than a month, so many reporters, writers, and broadcasters called my office that sometimes both telephone lines and the fax line would be ringing simultaneously. Neither Piel nor I anticipated the intense barrage of criticism that would be leveled at Scientific American.
In an eloquent letter to Claus-G. Firchow, the magazine's president, Lamar Hankins, executive director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union, wrote that the magazine's conduct was "grounded in the intolerance of another era, if not another century. The Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science sent me a letter that stated, "A person's private behavior or religious or political beliefs or affiliations should not serve as criteria in the evaluation of articles submitted for publication.
We emphasize, in particular, the consensus of the Committee that even if a person holds religiously derived beliefs that conflict with views commonly held in the scientific community, those beliefs should not influence decisions about publication of scientific articles unless the beliefs are reflected in the articles. An astronomer even offered to help defray the expenses of a lawsuit. And many editorials and columns castigated the magazine. Prior to the magazine's revocation of my assignment to "The Amateur Scientist," no one at Scientific American ever questioned my qualifications.
That's why I was surprised by the disparaging remarks about my qualifications that were made by several scientists quoted in the press. One said that as a believer in creationism I lack the credibility to write about science. Another suggested that I was attempting to "penetrate" mainline scientific organizations. During a nationally televised debate, an anthropologist who directs an anticreationist organization questioned my competency. To the best of my knowledge, none of these scientists read any of my works before making their judgments. The controversy has received extensive media coverage, most of it fair and objective.
Among the few exceptions was a newspaper column by Arthur Caplan of the University of Minnesota. Paul Pioneer Press. He also wrote, "I believe Mims is not qualified to write a regular column about science for the general public. The Birmingham News, another newspaper that ran Caplan's column, received so many protest letters that the editor called me to offer his apologies and then assigned a philosopher to write an eloquent rebuttal that appeared in the Dec.
In a particularly unusual step, the wire service that distributed Caplan's column picked up a response I wrote for the Pioneer Press, which was published in the paper on Dec. I was so stunned by Caplan's attack that I called him and asked what he knew of my background and qualifications. He was totally unaware that for 20 years I have earned a living by writing more than 50 books and many hundreds of articles and papers for some 75 magazines, journals, and newspapers.
Caplan also didn't know that I have designed and assembled and have operated, virtually every day for 22 months, the only two ground-based total column ozone monitors between California and Florida at my latitude. He didn't know that my son and I have used these miniature instruments to measure the column ozone between the base and crest of several mountains, and to measure the column ozone from a moving vehicle over the width of a resolution element of the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer TOMS aboard the Nimbus 7 while that satellite passes overhead.
Nor did Caplan know about any of my other projects, including the development of miniature infrared travel aids for the blind; a photographic study of the life cycle of the black widow Latrodectus mactans ; an ongoing program to measure the sun's ultraviolet radiation every day 32 months of data to date ; the design of instruments to measure the near-infrared reflectance of soil, leaves, wood, and human skin; a study to identify Africanized bees by the frequency of their wing beat; measurements of the bounce rate of the black and yellow Argiope A.
Even after learning about some of this work, Caplan still insists I should be prohibited from writing "The Amateur Scientist," since belief in intelligent design, meaning a universe created by God, means that I will selectively apply the scientific method. This sword cuts both ways, and it is Caplan who fails his own test. On what evidence does Caplan question my objectivity? His claim is based solely on a religious stereotype unsupported by any evidence whatsoever from my writings. Had he taken the time to examine them, he would have found that the articles and books about the electronic circuits, instruments, and computer programs that I design, and the investigations in which they are used, clearly follow traditional scientific methods.
Moreover, I describe these instruments and programs in sufficient detail so they can be duplicated by my readers. If they did not function properly, I would soon be out of the writing business. Caplan mistakenly believes biology will be left out of "The Amateur Scientist" if I am returned to the column. He is completely unaware that I live in the country and keep sheep, photograph wildflowers, collect fossils, observe wild bees, collect spider silk, and study the effects on the local ecology of imported fire ants. Indeed, I was so concerned by the virtual absence of the life sciences from "The Amateur Scientist" over the past decade that several biology topics were included among the 30 proposed columns that were accepted by Scientific American.
My proposed topics included an ultraviolet sunburn dosimeter, a study of eyeshine phenomenon, an investigation of amber, the reflectance spectroscopy of various plant materials, the electro-optical detection of pollen grains suspended in air, an investigation of spider webs, and the design of several prosthetic devices for the blind. Even after they learned that I believe in the same Creator God espoused by their founding editor, no one on the staff at Scientific American questioned my ability to write these and the many other columns I proposed. Instead, they expressed considerable enthusiasm, and Piel himself said more than once that I should have been hired 10 years earlier.
On what basis does Caplan conclude that advocates of intelligent design are unwilling to discuss biology in a magazine column? Is he unaware of their major contributions to biology and science over the centuries? Why is he so threatened by an amateur scientist who builds instruments, writes books, and believes in God?
On my desk are many letters of support from professional scientists, some of whom are biologists. In retrospect, it's apparent that Jonathan Piel had good reason to be worried about the Arthur Caplans of the scientific community when he canceled my assignment to "The Amateur Scientist.
Even though he anticipated their reaction and dismissed me, to his credit he never once stooped to disparage my qualifications. My lifetime ambition to write "The Amateur Scientist" was thwarted by scientific orthodoxy, not science. History teaches that scientific orthodoxy is nothing new. Besides ruining careers and closing opportunities, its adherents slow progress by stifling academic freedom and chilling the free and open exchange of ideas.
Because dissenters who are qualified to do science threaten this orthodoxy, they are labeled as heretics, are publicly castigated, and are sometimes fired, much as I was. No matter what their views on evolution and abortion, scientists and those who write about science should carefully consider the implications for science in general and their own careers in particular if Scientific American goes unchallenged.
For next their personal beliefs may be questioned, their works censored, their reputation maligned, and their First Amendment rights denied. Forrest M. Mims III has been a professional writer of books and articles about electronics, computers, and lasers since He works out of a small laboratory and office in Seguin, Texas. M ore and more frequently, those in science who are vocal about their objections to evolutionary naturalism as a universal explanation for the living world will be likely to experience employment problems in the field, as documented elsewhere by this author Bergman, ; One of the latest in a recent string of cases involves Scientific American , the nation's oldest and most well-known popular science publication.
The monthly magazine has an international circulation of more than , subscribers and has been publishing since the middle s. This particular affair began in May of when Forrest Mims, III, a veteran science writer from Seguin, Texas, proposed to write the magazine's popular amateur science column.
Mims' background includes the authorship of over sixty books on science and hundreds of magazines articles published in journals including Science Digest, Popular Mechanics, Modern Electronics, and National Geographic Mims, a. He is also a regular columnist for several science magazines and is now the editor of a highly successful science magazine Science Probe! Sidney, , p.
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Of this new magazine, a review in Nature said:. Science Probe! It bears such treasures as the telephone number through which to obtain graphic images, in a format compatible with your personal computer, from the Hubble telescope; how to make an electrocardiogram; and how to encounter slime moulds in their natural habitat. It is transdisciplinary and regards all science as open to the amateur Science is criticized by some philosophers as soulless and damaging. This may be true of that part of science which has become too serious, narrowly specialized and subject to the strictures of scientific correctness; How did we allow dogma to become respectable and speculation pejorative?
I grew up in a science thinking that our task was to reduce science fiction to practice and have done my best to do so. I hope that Science Probe! The History of the Case. He approached the magazine only after University of Cincinnati physics professor Jerl Walker gave notice that he could no longer author the column Gardner, , p. Mims' great interest in this column stems from his love for science which was originally awakened by this column. While still a young man, Mims dreamed that he would someday be its author.
Later, C. Strong, the column's long time author, told Mims before he died that Mims would someday be in charge of the column Eastland, , p. It soon seemed that his dream would come true: the Editor, Jonathan Piel, phoned in late July, , asking Mims if he wanted to take over "The Amateur Scientist" column Eastland, , p. Piel then invited Mims to come to New York to discuss the details of doing the column.
Things went extremely well, Mims recalls, until Piel asked what other publications he had written articles for. Only then did the Christian magazines that Mims once wrote for come up, provoking the question: "What did you write about for these magazines? Mims did not then know the repercussions that would ensue from the serious mistake that he made in mentioning these articles. Nothing that he had written was even remotely related to the topic of creationism, but the fact that Mims had written for Christian magazines obviously disturbed Piel Kincaid, After the Editor inquired as to exactly what he had written for Christian magazines, Piel pointedly asked him his major concern: "Do you accept Darwin's theory of evolution?
Mims responded that he did not, an answer that was the beginning of the end. From then on, "Piel's attitude toward him changed dramatically" Hartwig, , p. Piel informed Mims that he would not be allowed to write anything for any publication that Scientific American objected to. Piel was specifically concerned about articles on the subject of creation or against evolution or anti-abortion pieces. Mims was warned that if an outside article was published without Scientific American 's prior review and permission, he would face a pay cut or dismissal Sidey, , p.
Mims pointed out in response that he has never used his writing to promote his creationist beliefs, nor would he do so in the future Mims, a. To insure that he conformed to this demand, Piel continued to insist that all of Mims' outside writings must be reviewed by Scientific American prior to their publication elsewhere.
Soon after he returned home, Mims submitted his initial three columns. Several months later, however, Mims was again questioned by Piel and another editor about his views on abortion and related topics. Actually, Mims notes, abortion and his Christianity were also major issues. He writes:. Gardner's defense of his former employer, Scientific American , is misplaced. He knows that to this day the magazine's staff remains divided over the issue He also knows about the duplicity of the magazine's editor, who denied his promise to buy and publish three of my columns.
The columns were published only after the magazine's president intervened. Moreover, in Gardner's first report about this unfortunate matter, even he cited the transcript in Harper's March in which the following exchange appears:. MIMS: Prior to the visit to your offices, there was never even a hint that religion would become an issue. Piel again expressed his concern that the reputation of Scientific American could suffer if Mims openly supported in some way the views of the anti-abortion movement or was critical of evolution.
When Piel specifically asked, "Are you a fundamentalist Christian? He responded, "I will not be discriminated against" Sidey, , p. Scientific American then published the three columns that Mims had prepared, but only after the magazine's president intervened and on condition that Mims signed a written agreement waiving all of his rights to obtain legal redress from the magazine for religious discrimination Truehart, ; Mims, b, p.
The agreement with Scientific American specifically stated that Mims would not pursue legal action to rectify the religious discrimination he experienced. Mims was then dropped as a writer, and rather than risk a law suit, the editors then decided to permanently drop the column which, with the threat of a lawsuit past, has since been resumed.
The column began in when Mims was eight years old, and it seemed for several months that Mims would have the honor of having the last byline in the column's long history. A concern over the blatant discrimination that was occurring caused Mims to surreptitiously record one of his conversations with Piel, who stated on tape, "what you have written is first rate Davis, Excerpts of the transcript of much of this now famous thirty minute call were published in Harper's Magazine March , pp.
The editor's concern was not Mims' writing, but primarily the reaction of the scientific community to Scientific American employing a non-believer in megaevolution and that the critics of evolutionism could use Mims to advance their position Eastland, , p. In a phone call the next day and later formally in a letter, Piel then terminated all further discussions of the possibility of Mims ever being a contributor to the pages of the magazine. Few if any of the events in this case are in dispute.
However, when contacted by various reporters, Piel actually stated, " Scientific American does not discriminate on any basis. We have not and never will. Tom Appenzeller, currently science editor of The Sciences , said that there was, "no question about [Mims'] competence. Appenzeller stated that the magazine's concern "was specifically his beliefs about evolution and his rejection of Darwinian selection" Sidey, , p. And as Jukes c, p. Because he still would like to do the column, Mims has since tried to discuss this situation with Scientific American , but the magazine's attorneys have responded in writing, stating that "the publication has ended all business contacts" with him Sidey, , p.
They have even reportedly written to his other editors and tried to persuade them not to publish Mims' work. Fortunately all of these editors refused to cave in to this bigotry. As Eastland, , p. Even more striking than Mims telling the editor of Scientific American that he is a Christian was his failure to confess, when asked about it point blank, to the theory of evolution. Mims does not describe himself as a fundamentalist, but as an evangelical Christian Truehart, ; a.
His views on evolution and creation are not clear cut: he accepts microevolution and his definition of creationism is simply "the doctrine that God created the world or universe" Denini, , p. In his own words, he believes only that the universe was designed by God, and he has not published any details about his beliefs.
In personal conversations Mims has made it clear that his interests and knowledge is in the amateur science field, not the nuances of creationism Mims, e; a. Gardner , p. Of course his actual beliefs are in fact largely irrelevant; what is relevant is the label forced upon him. Many have charged that he cannot do science and is trying to inject pseudoscience in his work, a charge to which Mims responds as follows:. Moreover, the editorial fails to identify a single example in my published writings, including my three columns for Scientific American Mims, a , in which I have not practiced conventional science Mims, a, p.
Stereotyping and Mislabeling. The crux of the matter, in Eastland's , p. Thus, for them, theistic evolution is a contradiction in terms; the alternatives are two and only two: creation or evolution, God or not God. Johnson, As Mims notes, critics often cite a "mock inquisition that demonstrates a stereotypical, prejudiced view of what creationists believe" a, p. Many scientists have openly and actively supported the actions of Scientific American has taken in regards to Mims.
Lewis, ; King, ; Weinberg, As Arthur Caplan concludes:. Forrest Mims is a competent writer and amateur scientist. But his personal beliefs about creation limit what he can and cannot tell his readers about all the nooks and crannies of science. They also distort the picture he conveys regarding what science methodology is all about. It is a hard line to draw, but Forrest Mims and others who espouse a belief in creation and reject the scientific standing of evolution are on the wrong side of the line , p.
In response to this line of reasoning, Eastland , p. Johnson put it:. Mims was sent packing because his very presence was perceived as a threat to Darwin's theory of evolution. Even if he never published a word about evolution, creationists might have cited him as a well-informed skeptic. This particular sleeper was having a lucid dream, in which the dreamer recognizes that he or she is dreaming and can sometimes influence the course of the dream.
By measuring the brain waves of lucid dreamers, my colleagues and I are gaining a better understanding of the neural processes underlying this state of consciousness that exists between sleep and waking. In addition to providing clues about Waking Frequencies during Sleep Most people report having a lucid dream at least once in their life, and a small fraction of us have them as often as once or twice a week. Some individuals even develop routines to increase their chances of having a lucid dream [see box on opposite page]. The process of recall is notoriously prone to distortion; for example, some people may confuse lucid dreams with the transient hallucinations that occur while falling asleep or waking up.
In sleep researcher Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University and his colleagues figured out a way to prevent such misinterpretation. Unlike the rest of the body, the eye and its movements are not inhibited during sleep. These signals are easily distinguished from the rapid eye movement REM that occurs randomly during regular dreams. We still use this method today. After a sleeper has signaled with eye movements that a lucid dream has started, researchers can investigate the corresponding brain activity using electroencephalography EEG.
In an EEG recording, electrodes attached to the skin of the head pick up the oscillating electrical signals that indicate that thousands or millions of neurons are firing in synchrony. In my team and I decided to take a closer look at the brain activity of lucid dreamers. We tend to generate these high-frequency waves when we concentrate on a particular object.
In addition to the frontal lobe, other regions of the cerebral cortex—the rippled mantle on the surface of the brain—play a major role in lucid dreaming. Parts of the brain tend to work together more intensely during lucid dreaming than in other dream phases. Lucid dreaming is useful for treating chronic nightmares and perhaps even anxiety. Becoming aware may create emotional distance. Another striking feature in our study involved coherence—a rough measure of how coordinated the activity is in various areas of the brain. Coherence is generally slightly decreased in REM sleep, but not during lucid dreams.
In lucid dreams, however, the party guests tend to converse with one another, and the overall background noise decreases. Beyond Fantasies Until recently, most experts thought of lucid dreaming as a curiosity— a fun way to act out wishful thinking about flying or meeting celebrities. Am I Dreaming? L ucid dreams cannot be willfully induced, but you can increase the likelihood that you will have one. People who practice these techniques regularly are able to have one or two lucid dreams per week.
When this habit becomes ingrained, you may find yourself asking the question in a dream — at which point your chances of realizing you are dreaming skyrocket. You may carry the habit of checking for these dream signs into sleep, where they could alert you to the fact that you are dreaming. Studies show that this practice makes you more aware of your dreams in general, and people who are more aware of their dreams are more likely to have a lucid dream. And if you suddenly notice that you are dancing with the movie star you hoped to meet, you might just realize you are having a dream and be able to take control of what happens next.
Chronic nightmare sufferers often find their only source of relief is learning how to take control of their dreams. A study in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in October found that those who learned how to increase their frequency of lucid dreams reported fewer awful dreams afterward, although the exact mechanism underlying the relief is unclear.
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Beyond therapeutic applications, lucid dreaming may also facilitate the learning of complicated movement sequences. In dreams, we are all capable of unusual actions. We can fly, walk through walls or make objects disappear. According to sports psychologist Daniel Erlacher of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, athletes can internalize complex motor sequences, such as those needed in the high jump, more quickly after targeted lucid-dream training.
A small study last year at Liverpool John Moores University in England suggests that lucid dreams are good for creative endeavors such as inventing metaphors but not for more rational exercises such as solving brainteasers. Indeed, some of the subjects found their dream characters to be surprisingly helpful. We still have much to learn about lucid dreaming. For example, we do not know under what circumstances these dreams appear most frequently or how to induce them more reliably.
Stephen LaBerge. Sounds True, Inc. Allan Hobson in Sleep, Vol. The host parents had rented a petting zoo for the day, and kids jumped gleefully in a bouncy castle out in the driveway. On the terrace, a few parents chatted beside an alluring spread of bagels, coffee and fruit. Most of the kids at the party attend the same preschool. Decades of research have demonstrated that their innate curiosity leads them to develop their social, emotional and physical skills independently, through exploration— that is, through play. The trend among preschools, however, is to engage children in activities that look more and more like school for older kids.
Preschools are increasingly turning away from play-based learning to lectures and testing. Placing heavy emphasis on academics early in life is not only out of line with how young brains develop, it might even impede successful learning later on. When the standards were last updated, in , children were suddenly expected to demon- this year. The researchers showed two groups of children a toy that played music in response to a particular sequence of actions. With one group, an experimenter demonstrated several lengthy sequences of actions that made it play music; with the other, she pretended not to know how it worked.
The kids in the first group imitated the experimenter. Although they successfully got the toy to play music, they did not figure out that only two actions embedded in the sequences were needed to produce sounds. In a similar study also published this year, developmental psychologist Laura Schultz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her colleagues showed two groups of children a toy that did a number of things, including emitting squeaks. When left to play with it, the group for whom the experimenters demonstrated how to make it squeak could only make it squeak.
The group given the toy without any direct instruction, however, made it squeak and discovered its other features, too. Such expressions of inquisitiveness reveal how children investigate their world. Running around in circles, playing with blocks and climbing on a jungle gym may seem like exercise or goofing off to an adult, but several studies have shown that children infer a basic sense of physics through these activities.
In a University of Kansas study in , psychologists Betty Hart, Todd Risley and their collaborators tracked 42 families with one- and two-year-olds and recorded every verbal interaction between parents and children. They found no instances of direct teaching among the kids who went on to develop the widest vocabularies and richest use of language. As Peter L. Mangione, co-director of the Center for Child and Family Studies at WestEd in San Francisco, a nonprofit public research and development agency, puts it, A report by the Alliance of Childhood found an average of 20 to 30 minutes a day of testing and test preparation among kindergarteners in Los Angeles and New York.
Not direct teaching. So why the shift to direct instruction at preschools today? The law passed by Congress in known as No Child Left Behind encouraged preschools to include more direct instruction in their curricula by mandating standardized tests in math and reading for all public school third graders. Schools failing to meet certain benchmarks face stiff penalties. Consequently, teachers in the earlier grades come under pressure to prepare kids for the coming high-stakes assessments. Children enrolled in the federal Head Start preschool program for underprivileged children are also assessed as a result of No Child Left Behind.
Stipek was right: a report by the Alliance for Childhood, an international NGO promoting healthy child development, found an average of 20 to 30 minutes a day of testing and test preparation among kindergarteners in Los Angeles and New York. He lives in Los Angeles. Gopnik says the preschool teachers with whom she speaks regularly tell her they know that play is best for their small charges, but they feel squeezed between two sides.
It might seem ironic that this shift toward direct instruction and earlier introduction of academics is most visible among the children of some of the best-educated parents, at a time when American society as a whole is the best educated it has ever been— especially given all the science supporting play-based learning. But Gopnik points out that with many affluent people moving far away from family members when they enter adulthood and most women entering the workforce right away, fewer new parents have taken care of nieces, nephews and cousins, as they did in earlier times, before raising their own children.
They may have no experience with the very young. Not having seen what a three-year-old is like, they think they should put children in situations that are more academic. Soon after I sit down on a small, blue stool to observe the children, someone offers me an espresso. But in the first few minutes of observation, it is clear that direct instruction is part of the program. One five-year-old boy is quizzed on the human skeleton. A girl pores over flash cards of words composed of two consonants surrounding the letter a. She sounds them out slowly with the help of a teacher, who repeats the sounds more quickly and more closely together.
Another girl aged four or five, in a long magenta skirt and a sequined T-shirt, assembles a puzzle that forms a map of Asia. After putting the largest piece on the floor in front of her, she approaches a teacher for direction. The girl digs through the puzzle pieces and places Vietnam on the floor. She goes back to the teacher. My seven-year-old sure could not do it. We want kids to draw relationships from what they see. To think and question and act on these things.
More troubling is the idea that children may suffer when deprived of play. They followed 68 three- and four-year-olds, all living in poverty, through age Almost half of those in a heavily academic preschool went on to have emotional problems, compared with only 6 percent of those in the play-based preschool. The latter group also had fewer felony arrests and spent fewer years in special education diagnosed with emotional impairment.
Perhaps most disturbing is the potential for the early exposure to academics to physiologically damage developing brains. Although the brain continues to change throughout life in response to learning, young children undergo a number of sensitive periods critical to healthy development; learning to speak a language and responding to social cues are two such domains. Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist at the Rockefeller University, notes that asking children to handle material that their brain is not yet equipped for can cause frustration.
Perceiving a lack of control is a major trigger of toxic stress, which can damage the hippocampus, a brain area crucial to learning and memory. Rodale Books, Angeline Stoll Lillard. Alison Gopnik. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Ellen Galinsky. Harper Paperbacks, David C. Geary in Scientific American Mind, Vol. Salvatore Vascellaro. New Press, These nerve fibers, all insulated with a layer of white fat, stretch across long distances to transmit information between neurons.
The vivid colors represent the direction information travels. Neuroscientists can trace these fibers by observing the almost random movements of water molecules inside the brain. It propels you to breathe, twitch, and butter toast, and yet we remain largely ignorant of how the brain does even these simple tasks — let alone how it stirs up consciousness.
To peer inside this three-pound lump of flesh, scientists manipulate a subtle trait of the body— its susceptibility to magnetic fields. Magnetic resonance imaging MRI has exposed the brain in stunning anatomical detail, and a sibling method, functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI , has offered insight into the mind at work.
Here we explore how neuroscientists are using these methods to reveal new dimensions of the human brain. A major recent advance in diffusion imaging came from resolving how nerve fibers cross. The dragonfly-shaped elements shown at the near left indicate the orientations of two or more intersecting fibers, whereas the minnowlike ellipsoids signify one dominant fiber path.
A magnetic field first causes the billions of hydrogen atoms in the human body to point in a single direction. The scanner then administers short pulses of energy that force the atoms to slide out of alignment. When they return to their original positions, they do so at different rates, creating magnetic signatures for various tissues. At the right, a scan of a brain after a stroke reveals a region of dead tissue, shown in red.
Functional MRI scans, which form the basis of the images on the opposite page, reflect the magnetism of blood vessels. When neurons spring into action, they consume energy, which increases the amount of blood traveling to them. The most widespread technique measures the differences in the iron content of oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood. By surrounding the brain with extremely sensitive magnetic field detectors, neuroscientists can record that neural activity.
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L o u i s Unlike diffusion imaging, which traces physical links, these maps display how brain regions interact. Certain areas share a long history of working together to complete a task, even though they may not be directly connected by nerve fibers. Those functionally related regions also tend to activate in tandem when the brain is resting.
The two images here were compiled from fMRI scans of a person at rest. The color of a sphere reflects its function, such as processing sensory data, and its size reflects its predictive power. The thickness of a line, which links interacting areas, shows how well the strength or weakness of that connection predicts a certain age. Orange links grow stronger as brains age, whereas light green ones weaken with time.
The activity of brain areas changes constantly according to distinct patterns. The image at the bottom condenses those fluctuating dynamics into one figure. Here the yellow region surrounding the small green sphere, believed to be involved in visual processing, activates in synchrony with areas colored yellow and red. When the area around the green sphere revs up, green and purple regions are much less active, and vice versa. Here the dots show the expression of gpr88, a gene that is highly active in the striatum.
This area, in purple, is involved in movement. The light blue and yellow clouds denote the cerebellum and the thalamus, respectively. Sometimes a liquid dye injected into the bloodstream helps the MRI machine register blood flowing through veins and arteries more vividly. The dark blue spot indicates an aneurysm in the brain of a year-old woman. Microscopic blood vessels, shown here with the aid of a scanning electron microscope, supply the brain with energy and nutrients.
The blood vessel at the top branches into tiny capillaries that distribute blood through the rest of the brain. Your eyes dart around, bringing different objects into view. As you read this article, your eyes jump to bring every word into focus. You can become aware of, and even control, these large movements of the eyes, which scientists call saccades. But even when your eyes are apparently fixed on something— say, on a tree, face or word — they are moving imperceptibly, underneath your awareness. And recent research shows that these minute, subconscious eye movements are essential for seeing.
If you could somehow halt these miniature motions, any image you were staring at would fade from view. When you first put on your glasses, the touch receptors in the skin of your face and head gave you a rich sensory impression of their location, weight and tightness.
But since then, you have not felt their presence. The reason is neural adaptation, in which neurons gradually decrease their output in response to an unchanging stimulus. Neural adaptation is a critical and ubiquitous process in the nervous system. It takes place in all the senses — vision as well as touch. Try to touch the elastic band of your sock without looking, while you keep your legs and feet still. If you missed it by at least a couple of inches, blame neural adaptation.
After all, that band has not moved in a while. Their miniature motions prevent you from being blind to most of what is out there. Sleepy Stares Researchers have known for centuries that the eyes move all the time. Movement near you may indicate that a predator is approaching or that prey is getting away.
Animal nervous systems have evolved to detect such changes, which prompt visual neurons to emit electrochemical impulses. Because unchanging objects do not generally pose a threat, some animals are blind to unmoving objects; recall the T. A fly sitting still on the wall is invisible to a frog, for example, but as soon as the fly is aloft, the frog can capture it with its tongue. Although these eye movements have long baffled scientists, only recently have researchers come to appreciate their importance.
Indeed, we now have garnered strong evidence that the largest of these involuntary meanderings, the so-called microsaccades, are critical to everyday vision. Microsaccades are also providing new clues to neurological ailments that affect both eyesight and movement. Even more intriguingly, they can serve as a window into your mind. Neural adaptation saves energy by reducing the metabolism in neurons that do not receive new information, but it also limits what we can perceive.
Fixational eye movements — which include drifts and tremor as well as microsaccades [see box on next page] — shift the entire visual scene across the retina, prodding visual neurons into action and preventing stationary objects from fading away. In Swiss philosopher Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler was the first to report that deliberately focusing on something can make unmoving images in the surrounding region gradually fade away [see box on this page]. You experience this disappearing act every day because a purposeful stare can briefly reduce fixational eye movements.
Because you are training your eyes on whatever is directly in front of you, you do not notice the problem. In the late s researchers first pinpointed a perceptual role for microsaccades: after suppressing all eye movements to stabilize images on the retina for extended periods, they superimposed microsaccadelike motions and found that doing so brought back normal eyesight. For a description of the original way images were stabilized, see page Other research teams, however, struggled to duplicate the results.
For decades, many vision scientists even doubted whether microsaccades had a part in maintaining and restoring vision. They do so by moving stationary stimuli, such as the bar of light, in and out of the region of visual space that activates a given neuron. Microsaccades essentially help to refresh an image to prevent it from fading. Other researchers documented similar effects in other parts of the visual system.
A few years ago we set out to link microsaccades with visibility using a different technique. They pressed the button when the patch disappeared. The patch would vanish and then reappear as each person naturally fixated more — and then less — as they performed the task. Meanwhile we measured his or her eye movements using a high-precision video apparatus. The Vanishing Ring I n Swiss philosopher Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler discovered that deliberately focusing on something causes surrounding stationary images to fade away. To elicit this experience, stare at the red spot while paying attention to the pale gray circle.
The circle soon vanishes, and the red spot appears set against a white background. Move your eyes, and it pops back into view. Shaken Awake Then, in the late s, researchers tried another approach. They began to investigate which neuronal responses, if any, microsaccades might be generating in the brain.
Starting in , along with Nobel laureate David H. Hubel of Harvard Medical School, we trained monkeys to stare at a small spot on a computer monitor, which also displayed a bar of light elsewhere on the screen. As the monkeys stared, we recorded their eye movements and the electrical activity from neurons in two visual brain areas: the lateral geniculate nucleus, a relay station between the retina and visual areas of the brain, and the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain [see box on page 55]. As with saccades, microsaccades may also be involved in searching for something in a scene.
At the same time, we recorded their eye movements. Tremor is the smallest of the fixational eye movements, its motion no bigger than the size of one of these cells. Drifts are slow meanderings that occur between the fast, linear microsaccades. Investigators have not yet identified specific functions for each of these eye movements in vision, however. The results, published in , revealed a direct link between microsaccades and how we search a scene.
We further determined, whether they were hunting for Waldo, exploring visually at will, or solving Life picture puzzles, that people tended to produce recurring saccades or microsaccades about milliseconds apart. Because these different types of eye movements occur at similar intervals yet not simultaneously, we thought that the same neural structure might generate both. Complimentary experiments by vision scientist Martin Rolfs and his colleagues at the University of Potsdam in Germany led them to propose that the superior colliculus, a brain area directly responsible for orienting the eyes and head toward objects in the environment, might trigger both saccades and microsaccades.
This hypothesis received strong neurophysiological support in The superior colliculus is arranged in a map of visual space so that activity in the caudal rear portion produces large saccades in specific directions away from the center of gaze, whereas activity in the rostral frontal portion drives small saccades to eye positions near the center of gaze. Neuroscientists Ziad M. Hafed and Richard J. Understanding the structure in the brain that creates microsaccades may bring scientists one step closer to understanding the engine behind much of our ability to perceive objects and locate them in a busy visual scene.
This knowledge also gives us a place in the brain to look if something goes wrong. Errant Glances To see normally, the superior colliculus, along with other parts of the nervous system, must calibrate how much your eyes move when they fixate. In addition, microsaccades became more numerous and larger right before the target reappeared. The results, published in , proved that these minute jumps counteract the visual fading of stationary objects and that bigger microsaccades produce the best visibility. And because our eyes are fixating— resting between saccades— more than three quarters of the time, microsaccades may be essential to our ability to see much of the time we are awake.
In this setup, a subject views the projected image through this lens, which moves with the eye. With the use of such a retinal stabilization technique, the image remains still with respect to the eye, causing the visual neurons to adapt and the image to fade away. They transmit the eye-position data to a projection system that moves the image with the eye. But too much motion can create blurred and unstable vision.
Understanding how the oculomotor system achieves such a balance might one day enable doctors to make adjustments if it gets out of whack, as it can when certain disorders of the nervous system strike. For instance, abnormal fixational eye movements often accompany amblyopia, the most common form of blindness in young people. People with amblyopia may have trouble seeing details even if their eyes are physically normal because of abnormal development in the visual parts of the brain. In severe amblyopia, too few microsaccades, along with excessive drift of the eyes, can cause even large parts of the visual scene to fade away when a person is focusing on something.
The observation that saccades counteract fading in people with amblyopia is likely related to our finding that microsaccades do the same in healthy observers. Understanding the role of saccades and microsaccades in this disorder might one day spawn new treatments that ameliorate vision loss because of it. In PSP, patients first display parkinsonian symptoms: they become unstable and fall often; their movement slows; and their bodies stiffen.
In addition, however, PSP patients have trouble shifting their gaze between distant and near objects. The symptoms that characterize these diseases arise from distinctive patterns of neuronal degeneration. Gaze difficulties in PSP result from more widespread neuronal degeneration affecting the brain stem, frontal lobes, basal ganglia and cerebellum. It followed that microsaccades may drive the perception of illusory motion under normal loose fixation conditions.
To test this idea, we asked volunteers to stare steadily at a small spot at the center of an Enigma-like pattern while we measured their eye movements. Subjects had to press a button whenever the motion appeared to slow down or stop and release it whenever the motion sped up. As we predicted, microsaccades increased in frequency just before people saw faster motion and became sparser just prior to the slowing or halting of the motion. The results, published in , proved for the first time that the illusory motion starts in the eye.
Microsaccades probably also underlie the illusory spinning in the picture at the left. But hold your gaze steady on one of the blue spots, and the motion will slow or even pause. Because holding the eyes still stops the action, we speculate that microsaccades may be required to see it. The evidence was conflicting until we found, in collaboration with our colleagues, neuroscientist Xoana G. Troncoso and graduate student Jorge Otero-Millan, both then at the Barrow Neurological Institute, that the perceived motion is driven by tiny shifts of the eyes called microsaccades.
A few years ago one of us MartinezConde noticed that the speed of illusory motion in Enigma was not immutable across time but depended on how precisely a person fixed his or her gaze. If the individual held his or her eyes very still while staring carefully at the center of the image, the mo- Enigma illusion tion seemed to decrease and occasionally come to a full stop. Conversely, when he or she focused loosely, the movement seemed to speed up. In research published earlier this year, we showed that the eye movements produced by PSP patients are different from those in healthy subjects and that normal microsaccades are very rare in PSP.
We hope that our findings will ultimately help doctors diagnose accurately and early on who has this disorder. In addition, these results may assist researchers in evaluating the efficacy of drugs for PSP that are currently under development. To the rear of the retina, photoreceptor cells transform light energy into neural signals. Tiny subconscious eye movements called microsaccades refresh the neural activity once or twice a second by shifting the visual scene across the retina.
Microsaccades similarly alter the responses of other cells involved in sight. The neural impulses from the retina zip along a cable of a million fibers — the optic nerve — to the brain. In the brain, visual signals stop first at the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus. Then Optic nerves called the optic radiaradiation tions carry those signals to the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain, where neurons start to assemble and make sense of the information.
Beyond their function in vision, microsaccades may reveal some of what we are thinking. Even when we are looking at one thing, our attention may be aimed at something else. Recent research suggests that microsaccades can reveal such objects of attraction because the direction of microsaccades, instead of being totally random, may point to them— even if your eyes are directed elsewhere. Clark asked people to focus on a spot in the middle of a computer screen but to pay attention to another spot that appeared elsewhere.
The peripheral spot changed color at the end of each trial, and every subject had to report the color change by pressing a button. These covert shifts of attention seem to control the direction of microsaccades. Microsaccade frequency can also betray your attentional spotlight. Computational neuroscientist Ralf Engbert and cognitive psychologist Reinhold Kliegl of the University of Potsdam found that when something suddenly pops up in the periphery of your field of view, the microsaccade rate plummets briefly and then rapidly rebounds to a frequency faster than normal.
The microsaccades also shift in the direction of the object. So both their direction and rate can signal sudden changes in your surroundings that attract your notice even if you look the other way. Only scientists working in a laboratory can detect and measure these minuscule eye movements. That fact may be welcome, assuming you do not want your co-worker— or spouse — decoding your thoughts.
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Troncoso, S. Macknik, J. Otero-Millan and S. Otero-Millan , X. Macknik, I. Serrano-Pedraza and S. Martinez-Conde in Journal of Vision, Vol. Martinez-Conde, S. Macknik, X. Troncoso and D. Hubel in Trends in Neurosciences, Vol. OteroMillan, A. Serra, R. Leigh, X. Macknik and S. Martinez-Conde in Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. Alexander Haslam IN Stanley Milgram embarked on a research program that would change psychology forever.
Fueled by a desire to understand how ordinary Germans had managed to participate in the horrors of the Holocaust, Milgram decided to investigate when and why people obey authority. To do so, he developed an ingenious experimental paradigm that revealed the surprising degree to which ordinary individuals are willing to inflict pain on others. They showed that it does not take a disturbed personality to harm others.
Healthy, well-adjusted people are willing to administer lethal electric shocks to another person when told to do so by an authority figure. His work also left pressing questions about the nature of conformity unanswered. Researchers have now begun developing tools that allow them to probe deeper into his experimental setup. This work is pointing the way to new understandings of when and why people obey— and of the atrocities conformity can enable.
Participants, such as the one at the right, were told to give a memory test to actors posing as students and to deliver an increasingly powerful shock for each mistake, reaching potentially fatal voltages. Their task was to administer a memory test to a learner, who in reality was an actor employed by Milgram. When this learner supplied an incorrect answer, the participant was to give him an electric shock. To administer the shocks, the teacher had in front of him a shock generator with 30 switches on its front panel. Milgram was interested in seeing how far they would go.
In particular, he posited that Germans might be willing to deliver bigger shocks than Americans typically would. Milgram was taken aback by what he found next. Indeed, the vast majority continued pressing switches all the way to the highest voltage — well beyond the point at which the shocks would prove lethal.
He intended to assess whether some nationalities are more willing than others to conform to the wishes of an authority figure. His plan was to start studying obedience in the U. The topic of conformity was not new, and indeed Milgram had been heavily influenced by psychologist Solomon Asch, with whom he had studied in at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. Asch had shown that when asked to make public judgments about the length of a line, people were often willing to bend to the views of their peers even when doing so meant defying the evidence of their own eyes.
In what became known as the baseline, or voice feedback, condition, the teacher sits in the same room as the experimenter. The learner is in another room, and communication occurs only over an intercom. As the shock levels increase, the learner expresses pain and demands to be released from the study.
I refuse to go on! He abandoned his plans to run the study in Europe — if Americans were already so highly obedient, clearly Germans could not conform much more. Instead he concentrated on examining exactly what about his experiment had led ordinary Americans to behave so unexpectedly. As Milgram put it, he was determined to worry this phenomenon to death. In fact, he conducted a very large number of studies. In his book from , Obedience to Authority, Milgram describes 18 variants.
He also conducted many studies to develop the paradigm that were never published. In one pilot experiment the learner provided no feedback to the participants — and almost every teacher went all the way to volts. Another variant, in which participants Milgram, Arendt and the Holocaust W hile Milgram was conducting his studies at Yale University, the young German philosopher Hannah Arendt was sitting in a Jerusalem courtroom watching the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann at right , a key bureaucrat of the Holocaust, had arranged for Jews to be deported to the death camps.
Everyone expected a person who had done such horrific things to look like a monster. But when he entered, people saw a slightly hunched, balding, and altogether nondescript character. Arendt argued that this ordinariness was what made Eichmann truly frightening. He demonstrated that even the blandest functionary possesses the ability to do unspeakable things. When the subjects sat in the same room as the learner and watched as he was shocked, however, the percentage of obedient teachers went down to Andrews in Scotland.
Reicher and Haslam both serve on the Scientific American Mind board of advisers. Their concern is to be a good follower, not a good person. Milgram was a brilliant experimentalist, but many psychologists are profoundly skeptical of the idea of the agentic state. For one thing, the hypothesis cannot explain why the levels of conformity varied so greatly across different versions of the study.
When you examine the grainy footage of the experiments, you can see that the participants agonize visibly over how to behave. As Milgram recognized early on, the dilemma comes from their recognition of their duties to both the experimenter and the learner. Would you continue this free magazine scientific american vol no 5 in your limited number? Would this free magazine scientific spike by Minimizing used or funneled? If not, be be what might present threatened or held. Chapter 3 scholars the free magazine scientific american vol no 5 business of the Canadian deal journal author, and Chapter 4 is more critical policy-making publishers and is some only noted decades.
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