On Being Blog
What’s the line between utter brilliance and incalculable madness? Maybe it’s not a line but a shifting spectrum. Live from the World Science Festival (8pm Eastern), leading researchers discuss new studies showing that people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia tend to possess higher creativity and intelligence.
We’ve got a producer on the ground scoping out the panelists — James Fallon, Kay Redfield Jamison, Susan McKeown, and Elyn Saks — as potential guests for On Being. Watch the live video stream and share your suggestions on whom you’d like to hear on our program.
A smug atheist reading of [Richard] Florida’s number-crunching would be that people who go to church a lot are less likely than people who don’t to move up the economic ladder. But a more accurate reading, I think, would be that people who who go to church a lot are more likely to move up. It’s the people who bend your ear about how much they love Jesus who are less likely to move up (and who are also less likely to attend church regularly). The irony is that it’s these zealots who want to claim an exclusive right to call themselves Christian.
—Timothy Noah, from his post “Religion and Mobility” on The New Republic site.
You might want to read Richard Florida’s piece on The Atlantic Cities first and then follow it up with Noah’s reaction. Both are well worth reading and may lead you down all types of paths depending on your experiences and where you live, or have lived.
Photo by Pedro Figueiredo/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0
Moving beyond the debate of whether Facebook or other Internet use causes depression, researchers at Missouri University Institute of Science and Technology found that students who show signs of depression clearly have different patterns of Internet use. These students are more likely to share large files, send email, and chat online. Also, they are more likely to switch from application to application in a random manner, which is thought to reflect a difficulty with concentrating, and is one marker of depression.
Researchers hope this data can be used someday to help diagnose mental disorders by unobtrusively monitoring and analyzing the Internet behavior of a wider population. It may even alert the user when their usage starts to reflect a depressive pattern.
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Today the 2012 World Science Festival kicks off in venues across New York City. Two memories that jump out at me from past events are Bobby McFerrin’s demonstration of the universality of the pentatonic scale and string theorist Jim Gates’ story about encountering “God” on an Icelandic mountaintop.
And, in attendance will be our former senior producer Colleen Scheck will be doing a bit of moonlighting forOn Being. During the next several days, she and Peter Clowney will be scouting potential voices for future interviews with Krista and blogging + tweeting some of the highlights and provocative ideas.
Here are the events they’ll be attending. If you have any suggestions or ideas about what to think about or ask, please drop us a line in the comments section:
THUR, MAY 31
8:00pm – 10:00pm “The Creator: Alan Turing & the Future of Thinking Machines”
8:00pm – 9:30pm “Madness Redefined: Creativity, Intelligence and the Dark Side of the Mind”
FRI, JUN 1
9:00am – 10:00am “Pioneers in Science: Featuring Elaine Fuchs”
7:30pm – 9:00pm “The Elusive Neutrino and the Nature of the Cosmos”
8:00pm “Quantum Biology and the Hidden Nature of Nature”
SAT, JUN 2
1:00pm – 2:00pm “On the Shoulders of Giants: A Special Address by Edward O. Wilson”
1:00 – 2:30pm “Internet Everywhere”
3:30pm – 5:00pm “Exoplanets : The Search for New Worlds”
3:30pm – 4:30pm “Einstein, Time, and the Coldest Stuff in the Universe
6:00pm – 7:30pm “Why We Prevailed: Evolution and the Battle for Dominance”
8:00pm “Why We Tell Stories: The Science of Narrative”
8:00pm – 9:30pm “Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics”
Last week, Egyptians went to the polls to participate in the first presidential election since Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011. Going forward, the new president, who will be elected in the second phase of elections in June, should look to examples from other countries that have undergone successful democratic transitions.
When asked what leader outside their own country they most admired, a recent poll from the University of Maryland found that 63 percent of Egyptians answered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicating that Egyptians may be interested in learning from Turkey. Turkey can serve as a relevant model because it has successfully dealt with three key challenges facing Egypt — the relationship of the army to a civilian government, economic growth and fostering positive international relations.
In terms of the first of these issues, Egypt is currently struggling with what role the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) should play in the new government, and how much power it should hold. While the situations of Egypt and Turkey are different, Turkey provides a useful model when it comes to checking the army’s power through the rule of law, rather than violence.
Turkey’s ability to curtail the army’s influence has generally been judged to be a success. The army in Turkey appointed itself the guardian of Turkish secularism and has ousted four governments since 1960 when military leaders said that the government was failing to uphold secular values.
However, when a plot was disclosed that army generals were attempting to topple current Prime Minister Erdoğan’s government in 2008, everyone (including members of the army) was held accountable to the law. The police are investigating the case, detaining suspects, including army officials such as former Chief of General Staff General İlker Başbuğ, while the courts and Parliament monitor the process to ensure fairness.
Even in this time of transition, Egypt has demonstrated the importance of upholding the rule of law. The Administrative Court’s recent decision to suspend the newly formed constituent assembly because of the lack of diversity demonstrates that there are indeed checks and balances in Egypt’s system.
The country can build on this foundation going forward.
The second key challenge is the economy. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), an Islamic political party, has managed to maintain power primarily through its economic policies, rather than religious ideology. Although the Reuters news agency calls it “Islamic-leaning” and media often focus on this aspect of its identity, AKP leaders insist that the party should be judged by policies and not ideology.
This approach has proved to be a recipe for economic development. Rather than focusing on creating an Islamic state — like the Al Nour party in Egypt, which calls for Islamic law to serve as the guiding principles for political, social and economic issues — AKP leaders’ main focus has been raising standards of living.
This interest is not altruistic, but based on practical political goals. The AKP is aware that people will only re-elect the party if it can prove its value. This decision will not be made based on religious arguments, but economic achievement. Turkey’s GDP grew 9 percent in 2010, suggestive of this model’s success.
Egypt, whose GDP increased by approximately 1 percent in the past year, can adopt the same attitude. Some leaders, such as Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater, have made strides in this direction by emphasising the need to increase private investment in development. What is needed now is to move past rhetoric and implement such proposals.
When it comes to the third challenge, fostering positive international relations, Egypt can learn by following Turkey’s lead on “middle ground” policies. Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, but is also a leading member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, evidence of its “middle ground” policy between Europe and the Middle East.
Egypt is well-situated to take similar actions. Geographically, Egypt’s Suez Canal links Africa and Asia, making it ideally situated for exports. Egypt has the potential workforce for manufacturing, as one of the world’s youngest countries with two-thirds of its population under 30. Just as Turkey exports appliances to Europe, Egypt has enormous potential to reach African and Middle Eastern markets.
Egypt and Turkey share many things in common, and it would benefit Egypt to take the best lessons from its neighbor’s success story, creating its own.
Mustafa Abdelhalim is an award-winning journalist working for several newspapers and broadcasters such as Al-Ahram and the BBC.
A version of this article was published by the Common Ground News Service on May 29, 2012. Copyright permission is granted for publication.