Rejoinder to Gary Guttings Doubts about the Behavioral Sciences

Gary Gutting, Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame published an opinion piece this week on the New York Times Opinionater pages. In it, he asserts that “we need to develop a much better sense of the severely limited reliability of social scientific results” and that “Given the limited predictive success and the lack of consensus in social sciences, their conclusions can seldom be primary guides to setting policy. At best, they can supplement the general knowledge, practical experience, good sense and critical intelligence that we can only hope our political leaders will have.” Dr. Gutting is woefully uninformed about the effectiveness of…

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Materialism, Nurturance, and Global Warming

I have been writing a lot about the fact that behavioral scientists have made a great deal of progress on how to prevent virtually all of the most common and costly problems of human behavior, including depression, crime, and academic failure. In essence, we have figured out how to help families, schools, and to some extent communities, become less coercive and more nurturing. More loving societies are realistically within our grasp. But the progress is threatened by global warming.  Here are the predicted consequences of a 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, as enumerated by the National Academy of Sciences.…

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Strategies for Reducing Family Poverty

Lane County has begun an unprecedented effort to address the problem of poverty. Public and private organizations are coming together and putting in place efforts to improve the economic self-sufficiency of Lane County’s citizens and to see to it that children living in poverty get the evidence-based programs that will help them develop the skills needed to escape from poverty. Poverty is a big problem.  The U.S. has the highest rate of child poverty of any economically developed nation. More than 20 percent of those under 18 are living in poverty. Older people have much lower rates.  Here in Lane County we…

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Holiday Greetings

Every year at this time, I find myself wanting to enjoy the warmth and love that people so often show at this time of year.  And I find myself wondering why we can’t have it more often throughout the year.  We need to build a culture where every day most everyone tries to put a little love and warmth in their life and the lives of those around them. It doesn’t have to cost anything and it can be healthier for us than a brand new car! One of the things that often puts a bit of love in my…

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“Why should I praise, compliment kids or students for things they should be doing anyway?”

My experience is that when someone says that or asks that, they—themselves—are feeling terribly un-praised and under appreciated for what they do in life.   The comment really means, “I am unappreciated, so why should I appreciate others?” I don’t attack people for this blinded comment about themselves, nor do I try to argue back from the mountains of evidence showing that all living humans need this. The comment arises from a wound, and the wound needs a healing. How can one do that? Here are two examples: I’ve modeled for PAX Partner Coaches (people who help implement the PAX Good Behavior…

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The Value of Government

My dear brother-in-law has inspired me to elaborate on the efficacy of government. When I read Milton and Rose Friedman’s “Free to Choose” sometime in the eighties, I became convinced that free markets have an important function for society in that they evolve efficient and innovative products and services; better products and services get selected by buyers who are trying to maximize their own benefit and sellers who are motivated to maximize their economic gain.  Over time new and more efficient products and services evolve. Societies which have adopted free market principles have seen considerable improvements in their economic wellbeing.…

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Benefits of the Mindful Pursuit of Values

Recent research in clinical psychology reveals three basic principles thathave relevance for all of us.  The first is that rather than trying to control troublesome thoughts and feelings it works better to accept them and not struggle with them. In dealing with most problems of human behavior we are hampered by thoughts and feelings that get in the way of change.  If you have ever tried to quit smoking, you may have found that cravings and difficulty concentrating drove you back to smoking.  If you have been depressed, your efforts to get moving (a well-established antidote to depression) might have been undermined by…

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My Brother’s Keeper: The Vital Role of Prevention Science

We were pleased to hear about the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative. It addresses a very significant need in society.  As President Obama indicated, young men of color are particularly at risk for a wide variety of problems. There are many factors that influence the statistics, primary of which is their high rate of poverty, harsher living conditions, institutional racism, stressful family dynamics and lack of opportunities.  The consequences for the nation are substantial.  Economist Ted Miller estimated the cost of the most common problems for all youth, such as violence, drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, poor academic achievement, high school dropouts and…

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How Can A Nurturing Environment Reduce Bias, Prejudice and Conflict Between Groups?

The classic experiment that shows this happened in the 1950s, the Robbers Cave study (Sherif, Harvey, Hood, Sherif, & White, 1988).  An excellent 3-minute video summarizes how this classic experiment worked, which you can view at http://bit.ly/robbers-cave.  Now that study happened more than 60 years ago with some middle-class boys in state park by the name of Robbers Cave in Oklahoma.  The experiment happened in three stages: Stage one: The boys were randomly assigned to two groups, and never knew about the other group for a week. During the first week, each “team” (self named as the Rattlers or the Eagles),…

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Freaky Evonomic Calculations Drive America’s Border Problems

Drugs, violence, and lots of scangry (scared+angry) people pretty much summarizes the “bad” in America’s border problems. The “solutions” on the daily shout-casts on TV and the Internet are unlikely to work, because they don’t conform to what I’d call freaky evonomics, which is the bastard child of freakonomics and evolutionary science. Now, before you roll your eyes and scream that I’ve taken leave of all sensibility, read some of the data assembled—even if you think evolution is the invention of the devil. So why are all the really poor people in the U.S. and Central American making lots of babies…

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