“‘We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found” – The New York Times

This is really exciting!

“Archaeologists have found more than 40 vessels in the Black Sea, some more than a millennium old, shedding light on early empires and trade routes.”

Source: ‘We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found – The New York Times

“The Very Great Alexander von Humboldt” by Nathaniel Rich | The New York Review of Books

“The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is all around us. Yet he is invisible. “Alexander von Humboldt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world,” writes Andrea Wulf in her thrilling new biography. “It is almost as though his ideas have become so manifest that the man behind them has disappeared.” Wulf’s book is as much a history of those ideas as it is of the man. The man may be lost but his ideas have never been more alive.”

Nathaniel Rich reviews two books on nature. The first (The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf) reminds us of Humboldt’s profound influence in science, culture, politics, and literature. His energy and curiosity took him across the New World including Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. He met dignitaries such Thomas Jefferson, and as pointed out by Rich “exerted a profound influence on Goethe (with whom he had a deep friendship), Charles Lyell, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jules Verne, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Flaubert, Pushkin, Emerson, Poe, Whitman, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound, Erich Fried, Justus Liebig, James Lovelock, and Rachel Carson.” Even more significantly, Humboldt’s ideas had a significant impact on Charles Darwin, so much so that the “crowning paragraph of Origin of Species is a nearly verbatim plagiarism of a passage in Personal Narrative.”

Clearly impressed by the research and skill Wulf put into her new book, Rich conveys an enthusiasm in his review that disappears once he turns to Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.  For the full review go to The New York Review of Books.

“Our Brain Dislikes Disorder.  That Explains a Lot.” | History News Network

“We abhor disorder and uncertainty.” We’ve known this for a long time, but what we haven’t figured out is how to get people to be rational in the face of disorder and uncertainty. The problem is that it is so much easier to react in ways that are emotionally and psychologically gratifying. But this shouldn’t deter us from trying to change people’s responses to fear. We would all be better off as a result!

Source: History News Network | Our Brain Dislikes Disorder.  That Explains a Lot.

Jonathan Zimmerman: Thanks to right-wing deniers, schools still sow seeds of doubt over climate change | Dallas Morning News

97 percent of climate scientists agree that human behavior is warming the earth. That’s not question or a controversy; it’s a fact. And surely we need to teach students the difference. Indeed, they can’t participate constructively in the real controversies of our time — about climate change, and everything else — unless they learn to distinguish fact from opinion, and knowledge from belief.” So far we haven’t done a very good job at teaching our students these skills. Given the significant challenges we face in our modern world, and the overwhelming amount of information found on the Internet (much of which is garbage), it is essential that we teach our students the skills necessary to evaluate truth claims.

Source: Jonathan Zimmerman: Thanks to right-wing deniers, schools still sow seeds of doubt over climate change | Dallas Morning News

Propaganda and De-humanization: “The Brain with David Eagleman” PBS

The study of history is the study of human nature. However, it’s not the only way to understand human behavior. Science can also illuminate the mysteries of human behavior. Scientists may approach the problem in a different way, but they are also trying to understand human beings. So, I was thrilled when David Eagleman turned to the subject of ethnic/religious conflict in the third program in a series on the brain.  And he used the War in Bosnia (something I’ve spent years studying) to illustrate the problem.

What have scientists found? That when people are confronted with people in our out group (however defined) our brains react as if they were objects, not human beings. The ability to empathize with those in their out group had been lost. How does this de-humanization happen? Usually, through propaganda.

I’ve spent years studying religious/ethnic conflict to come to the same conclusion. He also proposed the same solution: educate students to detect propaganda. In other words, we need to educate students to be good B.S. detectors and independent thinkers. This is one of the reasons why the humanities are so important, particularly philosophy and history.

Here’s the link to the website for the PBS program:  The Brain with David Eagleman

“Before the bubonic plague wrecked Europe, it was way less contagious”

New Research: “They found the DNA of Yersinia pestis bacteria in seven individuals, the oldest of which walked the earth around 2794 B.C. Until now, the earliest known DNA sample of this bacteria dated to the sixth century Plague of Justinian.” Very cool!

Read the entire article here: Before the bubonic plague wrecked Europe, it was way less contagious

“The Vital Fact that’s Been Lost in the Debate Over Those Planned Parenthood Videos” | History News Network

Johanna Schoen reviews the history of fetal tissue research in order to inform “[t]hose who want to defend Planned Parenthood and a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive choices” so that they can give it “a full-throated defense. “

Read the entire article here: History News Network | The Vital Fact that’s Been Lost in the Debate Over Those Planned Parenthood Videos