“We may be born with an urge to help”

Nicholas Wade in the NY Times looks at some of the recent research in the possibility that altruism is innate.  There is a definite consensus building that this is so.  There are some problems with some of the research – I heard from one primate researcher than another is idealizing his chimps – but hey!  I think back to the days of listening to decision theorists explain why this can’t be so.

Poor economists, though.  Not only are we irremediably irrational, but we might also be willing to spend energy and  other resources without expecting a return.  

On the other hand, one might worry about how science reaches a consensus, given the lastest stir about climatologists located at the University of East Anglia.  Since ‘normal science’ has always been rough on dissenters and their supposed anomalies, it isn’t clear how unusually unscientific the climatologists have been, but it is very unfortunate that they chose to describe themselves as bad boy conspirators. 

Rush Limbaugh is maintaining that all science is now discredited by this episode, which is an example of why for now he is worse that Sarah  Palin, imho.

More evidence of failings

We’re all familiar with the facts about the inadequacies of police response in many cases of reported rape. Today’s news brings another report of such inadequacy: a woman in Cambridgeshire’s report was forgotten in a pile of papers on a desk. No crime was recorded, no investigator was sent to speak to her. By the time anyone bothered what may have been crucial CCTV evidence was destroyed. It seems her mental health problems compounded police complacency:

campaigners said research suggested a higher proportion of rapes reported by victims with mental illness ended up being “no-crimed”. “This case reflects a concerning attitude among police to rape itself and to women with mental health problems,” said Ceri Goddard, Fawcett Society chief executive.

Interestingly, the woman was able to make a claim against the police that their failure to record the crime was a breach of her human rights (although this resulted in an out of court settlement).