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Meanderings, 18 November 2023
When this week’s edition of Meanderings, which I have been doing for more than fifteen years, comes to you from San Antonio, Texas, one of our top two or three locations for the annual academic meetings. Alternating between San Diego and San Antonio would be our preference.
Summary: A novel study uncovers our physiological response to misused grammar. Researchers identified a direct link between grammatical errors and a change in Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
When confronted with bad grammar, subjects’ HRVs indicated increased stress levels.
This novel discovery highlights the deep-seated connection between our linguistic environment and physiological reactions.
Bad grammar leads to a statistically significant reduction in HRV, indicating stress.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS), responsible for ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’ functions, also reacts to cognitive demands such as linguistic irregularities.
HRV offers a new metric to assess implicit linguistic knowledge, useful for evaluating individuals who can’t verbally express their opinions.
Source: University of Birmingham
[SMcK: an editor friend wrote this about this article: “All I can say is yikes! There are some books that I copyedit that must definitely trigger that. And at times I do feel stress and wonder if my heart rate increases, but on the rare occasions when I wear my Fitbit while editing, it doesn’t register an increase, but lower HRV must be what’s happening (my Fitbit is older and only measures HRV at night).”
Deeply entrenched conflicts are dividing the world – and many people's social circles.
The violence in Israel and Gaza is triggering often overheated discussions among friends, family and strangers. This comes on top of other, increasingly sharp, rifts in the U.S., including fights over gun control, policing, abortion and other social and political issues.
Scientists who study the intersection of conflict and human behavior say it's essential to understand the biology behind some of these toxic interactions. Becoming aware of our ingrained impulses, they say, can help us learn to diffuse combustible situations.
And some rare, but noteworthy people who have mastered this lesson — including Nelson Mandela and U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm — have changed history.
Olga Klimecki, a neurology researcher and lecturer at the University of Jena in Germany, says brain scans show how powerfully social identity can shape our emotional response to situations. …
For example, if someone sees a comrade in pain — a fellow member of one's group — the brain will react with empathy. "My brain would simulate the suffering of the other person by reactivating how I feel when I am feeling bad," Klimecki explains.
But, instead, if it is an adversary experiencing pain, not only is the same empathetic region of the brain not as active, she says, "we also sometimes see more activation related to schadenfreude or malicious joy."
We empathize, in other words, based on our social affiliations, which might be based on race, ethnicity, religion or politics.
And that's not all; conflict literally dampens our brain's ability to feel love. Klimecki says studies show couples who just argued have less activity in regions of the brain that sense attachment and fondness.
I forgot to post this when it happened so here it is:
PHOENIX -- Calling it a "true team moment," Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo had nothing but praise for outfielder/designated hitter Tommy Pham after the veteran offered to give up his final at-bat in Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday in order for teammate Jace Peterson to get a turn at the plate versus the Texas Rangers.
"He came to me and he said, 'I need to you get my boy an [at-bat],'" Lovullo recalled on Sunday. "And I said, 'Are you sure? 100 percent sure?'"
Pham was. And so with the Diamondbacks leading 7-1 in the ninth inning, Peterson pinch hit for Pham, who already had four hits in the game. The reserve infielder grounded into a force out, but Peterson can now boast he had an at-bat in a World Series contest.
"He's that kind of guy," Peterson said of Pham. "He's a great teammate, a great player. He did an awesome thing that a friend would do. I really can't say enough about it."
Adding to the story is the fact that no player has ever gone 5-for-5 in a World Series game. Pham turned down the chance to be the first.
"We're boys," Pham said. "I wanted to do this for him."
Peterson didn't know about the possible accomplishment for Pham or else he might have felt differently about the gesture.
The Five Solas [solae, right?], a conjunctive approach:
Though not used as a collection of slogans during the Protestant Reformation itself, these five solas emerged later in church history as a summary of the fundamental divergences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism during the day. When understood contextually, these solas can be affirmed while also qualifying them with other important scriptural truths related to each specific subject matter. This is what might be called a conjunctive approach to theology, one that is readily recognized in the life and writings of John Wesley.
Sola Scriptura; by Scripture alone
Sola Fide; by faith alone
Sola Gratia; by grace alone
Solo Christus; through Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria; glory to God alone
[An example:] The first sola of the Protestant Reformation, one most people have heard before, is Sola Scriptura. The Bible alone is our highest authority. By this, of course, we mean that Scripture is our highest authority in the sense that it is the highest norm or standard that we have. It trumps every other standard in Christian life. And so whether we’re talking about our own experience, or the experience of others, if it contradicts Scripture, then we have to be open to correction by Scripture.
Still, Scripture is never alone, because we read scripture in the light of tradition, whether it be the tradition of the church catholic or in light of the broader Wesleyan tradition. And we read it also in terms of reason and experience. Albert Outler, a 20th century Methodist theologian, is the one who coined the phrase, “the quadrilateral”—a play on four. He suggested that in theological discourse, we have four sources—Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. But not all of the sources are equal. It’s a quadrilateral, not an equal-lateral. And so Scripture trumps reason, experience, as well as tradition. It is the highest authority, the highest standard or norm in the Christian life. This is what the Reformers meant by Sola Scriptura.
One thing that I’ve always appreciated about doing data work is that the results constantly challenge the tidy boxes that I want to put people in. There’s a term in psychology called a heuristic - it’s just a mental shortcut that people use to help them understand the world without spending a whole lot of mental energy.
We use them all the time in the political world. It’s hard for most folks to think about really complex issues like free trade or the Israel-Palestine conflict, so they listen to someone they trust on those issues and just parrot those positions. I think we all do this, at one point or another. Most of us don’t even realize it’s happening. …
I think abortion is one of the issues that has become this weird Rorschach test for the political world. If you favor abortion with very few (or no restrictions) that must mean you are a far leftist who supports someone like Bernie Sanders. If you want to make abortion completely illegal, then you are a Republican who votes for Donald Trump. That’s the heuristic, at least.
Let’s blow that up a little, though. Views of abortion certainly track with things like political partisanship but it’s not a perfect correlation. The political landscape of the United States is just a lot muddier than that. …
Who is the most likely to support a total ban on abortion? Strong Republicans at 50%. Okay, that clearly tracks with the predominant thinking on abortion. But then you take a look at the bars that are slightly less red and realize that things aren’t so cut and dry. For instance, just over a quarter of “not strong Republicans” and “lean Republicans” are in favor of a total ban on abortion. That’s no different than the share of Independents. The real outlier here are strong Republicans - they are much different than moderate Republicans on this.
For Democrats, the share that wants to ban abortion completely is lower. That’s apparent in this data. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a very small portion. In fact, 18% of strong Democrats are in favor of a total ban. That compares to 15% of “not strong Democrats” and 12% of “lean Democrats.” Again, less support than the GOP, but it’s not like zero Democrats favor a ban on abortion. …
In fact, the group that is easily the most likely to support a total ban on abortion is Hispanics, by a significant margin - at nearly one third. The next closest group is Black respondents at 28% and whites are even further behind at 24%. One of the biggest narratives that emerged from the 2020 Presidential Election was how the Democrats lost ground in heavily Hispanic areas like South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley. I think that abortion played a key role in that erosion of support.