Viren Swami

Interaction

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Review of 'The Music of Life', Denis Noble, OUP £12.99

Nature or nurture? A seemingly simple question, yet one that has taxed philosophers and scientists almost without interruption since the turn of the last millennium.

Still, with few exceptions, no scientist today would sincerely argue that human behaviour is a matter of either nature or nurture. Rather, almost everyone agrees that it is the interaction between the two that is of significance.

New Left Challenge in Indonesia

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Almost ten years ago the brutal Suharto regime in Indonesia was swept away by a tide of social and political unrest following the economic crisis of 1998.

Four presidents and several corruption scandals later, life is still a struggle for the majority of Indonesians in a country where the majority live on less than $1 a day.

Suharto signed a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1997. Every president since has continued to adhere to the IMF's dictates, bringing misery to most Indonesians. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's latest president, is no exception. Last October his government increased retail prices for fuel by over 100 percent, and for kerosene - the fuel used by most poor families - by 300 percent.

Science: Beyond the Selfish Gene

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Viren Swami explains why understanding the human condition requires something more than a theory of genetics.

Some years ago, as an undergraduate taking an interest in psychology, I became particularly enraptured by a seemingly new understanding of human mentality and behaviour known as evolutionary psychology. I was not alone in this - newspaper editors and documentary-makers were seemingly captivated by the direct and immediate application of Darwinian biology to human behaviour. This endeavour promised to reveal many more truths about human psychology than an obscure philosophy of mind ever could.

Science for All

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Review of 'The Single Helix', Steve Jones, Little, Brown £12.99

When Peter Paul Rubens left his home town of Antwerp for Italy in 1600, travelling between Venice, Mantua, Genoa and Rome, he immersed himself in a thorough study of the art of antiquity and the great Renaissance masters. Using a technique popular with artists both before and since, Rubens made detailed and intricate studies of, for instance, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes, and in the process transformed himself from an awkward apprentice painter into an artist whose work was sought by courts all over Europe.

Fighting Off Prozac Nation

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Viren Swami appreciates good neuroscience.

Faced with escalating violence in US cities during the 1960s, neuroscientists Vernon Mark and Frank Ervin, in research funded by US law enforcement agencies, argued that riots may have been precipitated by individuals with damaged or overactive emotional centres in the brain. A potential treatment would be to remove those brain centres in selected 'ghetto ringleaders' whose infractions included problems of 'respect towards officials', 'militancy' and reading an 'avalanche of revolutionary material'.

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