Sociology is a Science

Letter To My Students

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I am a Teacher’s Assistant (“TA”) at a research university in Southern California

The credentials for this job are a BA

The credentials for this job are nothing

I’ve just graded 900 papers in less than one week

This, in addition to my (numerous) other responsibilities

It’s getting to be where ivory tower work feels like blue collar work; I’ve done both

The former, at best, a mind-freeing nudge

The latter, at best, the upholding of someone else’s paycheck with one’s own toil

Grunt work

I gave none of you the grades you deserved

I could not have without first,

Being idiosyncratically clear with exactly how I grade, why, and what this means to you. YOU.

Re-defining, re-contextualizing and re-framing issues, examples and concepts that for whatever developmental, socio-psychological or economic issue, you may have found unclear throughout the course

Been vastly, vastly more attentive (than I am quite likely capable of being) with regard to those who are learning English as a second language

I speak in layered ways at times; I’m utterly comfortable with the language of my birth, which is English

I spent four years ‘learning’ Spanish in school. Being white, I knew I didn’t really have to learn it.

I’m ashamed to say that, but that’s un-earned sociological privilege as I am now an institutional gatekeeper

And many of you, as a consequence, might not have done so well on your paper tonight

Or, maybe you just didn’t try. Didn’t give a shit about your writing or your typos or how well you explained readings.To these people, I proffer a solemn and fantastic FUCK YOU. There are so many of you I would probably literally kill if you were standing next to me while I was forced to read this absolute feces of the written word.

Honestly, though, many of you just got fucked

I just can’t pay attention to 900 pages and most of your peers don’t really give a damn

I failed you, and I very, very, easily could have helped you

You never came to office hours, or never asked me very considered questions in emails

Hell, I can tell you are smart because you write well or, if you write like shit, you sound great in office hours

I can SEE, in you, potential

There are those of you who are coming back to school after braving the military, raising children, or fighting a disease

I guarantee you’ll just float into mediocrity

I can do no other

60, 78,85,65,83,62,79,70,85,81,88 …

Sometimes, I’m just thoughtless as to what variables explain this variance

To you I’m really really

I’m sorry

A Short Theory of Gender Oppression

 

 

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written. A period of semi-insanity has kept me away, but drugs have fixed this. It’s true.

I’m currently writing on drugs. I hope this doesn’t become obvious.

I’ve been asked, for amusement’s sake, to produce an intriguing theory, for which evidence exists, and by which intrigue is produced. I was also asked to write something that appealed to the emotions, instead of the intellect. This is my answer to the former request:

I think I can explain gender oppression. Gender oppression is the social and political dominance of women. Both men and women can be guilty of it and its most classic form in the modern age is the female job applicant who is turned down at a law firm for the simple reason that, because she is a woman, she’d probably be “too soft, and tender-hearted to conduct a proper cross examination.” This is economic gender oppression because a woman is being denied work because of a stereotype about womens’ abilities.

Women have it MUCH better now, though, than they had it in agrarian (animal and farm-driven economies) or horticultural (farm-driven economies) societies. Women are generally treated as fully subordinate to males in the former (Iran is an industrializing agrarian society…enough said) and not always much better in the latter.

Women have it comparably better in foraging societies, like hunter-gather groups. In these types of societies, men generally do the hunting (because they are faster and stronger), and women tended to gather certain, select fruits and nuts and raise  the children.

On most nights, the men come up empty handed in their hunting trips.  Luckily, The fruit and nut and plant foraging, done largely by the women, provides a consistent and dependable staple of nourishment for the tribe. Meat is rare, but fruit and nuts plentiful; women are respected members of the tribal  economy at the foraging-group level, and their political power within the group (in terms of important decision making about where to set up camp, how to deal with difficult group members, theft, death) is parallel to and not quite super-ceded by men.

It is, of course, true, that MOST tribes of this kind that are known to anthropology and sociology are, ultimately, headed by a male leader. Males do hold the ultimate authority and tend to make the critical decision in cases of tribal disputes.

After all, men are 15% bigger on average than women and tend to have more of their body devoted to muscle mass (and while having, on average, less body fat). Men are, on average, taller and their voice, on average, deeper and more “booming” (more bass). It’s a fantasy to think that these factors wouldn’t give men an innate advantage in dominance in a primate species.

All of this aside, in most foraging societies, women have considerable authority and, oftentimes, elder females are given considerable say in tribal matters.

Why is this situation as it is? Why are women treated just about equally in small foraging societies?

I propose two reasons for this equity. First, women are depended on for the acquisition of  important (critical, even) resources — food and child nourishment.  This is what was discussed above. This is  the economic-social aspect.

The second reason women have equity in these societies is because of the density and small size of the groups. This reason is much more complicated than the (rather obvious) economic one.

Ready?

Ok.

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist and primatologist, estimates that the connective neural tissue comrpising our neocortex (in the frontal lobes of the brain) is only sufficiently  dense enough to process the inner social life of UP TO 150 people.

In other words, Dunbar has estimated a cognitive limit on the social processing of the human brain. We can’t imagine what it’s like to be more than 150 people at any one time. We can’t sympathize with more than this, we cant empathize, we cant even seriously contemplate the state of actors beyond this limit. This is known colloquially as “Dunbar’s number”. So, we can PROCESS 150 mental states. This is the human brain at its processing limit. It operates optimally around 1-30.

Interestingly, all of human evolution up to the VERY RECENT present took place in small communities of between 50-150 animals. Homo Erectus, our 1.8 million year old not-quite-human brothers and sisters lived in slightly smaller groups of roughly around this size. Their slightly smaller group size, indicated by the placement of fossils, is predicted by their probable neocortex size, which is determined by the cranial capacity of these fossils.

Anyway, so the human brain experiences diminishing returns in social processing past about 30 human beings. This was not a problem in foraging societies. Right? Because the foraging societies known to anthropology exist as roughly 30 people, in a community of about 150-300.

This is important because, once foraging tribes decide to start planting food and harvesting crops, they can settle in one place for a long time (hunting and gathering groups are nomadic, chasing plants and animals, etc.) This is horticultural society. Once they are settled in a single place (with farms), children are borne more often and more of them live. Crops are a dependable source of food (in a way hunting  alone is not), enabling many mouths to be fed, so long as seasons are predictable and soil is good.

Most importanlty, the communities are no longer  nomadic, chasing plants and animals. This means that women don’t have to limit the number of children they have, or commit infanticide, because they are worried that the group might have to embark on a long on-foot trek to some new area; children are HEAVY to carry and are very eager mouths to feed.

Raising children can now constitute a “full time job” for the first time in human history.

There is something else, though. This increase in child-birthing produces, to put it very simply, a lot of OTHER MEN. Yea, other guys.

You see, in a foraging society, the small number of people means that all of the men know each other. They have a rapport. They know of each others’ personalities. For better or worse, men in these foraging tribes feel as though they have a sense of the motives and personalities of the other men.

As tribes settled down and populations multiplied (ultimately leading to the present day), then, each individual man is likely to be forced to assume the awareness of a generally large number of unknown other men.

Unlike a foraging tribe, societies with populations beyond our cranial capacity’s limit produce the general problem of men having to assume the intentions of unknown other men.

This becomes important because men have a general evolutionary interest in the paternity of the children they raise. Evolution from the gene’s eye point of view suggests that men have an innate concern for the sexual fidelity of their desired romantic partners. This is largely because children take a lot of time and effort to raise, so its important from the genetic point of view that the father be raising HIS baby. Put simply, men want to know that their wife has THEIR baby (i.e., genes) in her, and not someone else’s.

When (literally) countless other men exist in a society, beyond the processing ability of the human mind to comprehend, men assume the worst when their daughters go through puberty. Far from initiating a formal, tribal right of passage, puberty in a mass society often engenders fears of vulnerability and male predatory violence. It’s a disgusting fact that much (but not most) of the interpersonal violence in the world is man on woman.

This, finally, is the socio-cognitive aspect. I told you it would take a while. Our brains are limited, and when the population density of a society increases beyond the brain’s capacity to properly process all of the social interactions, new strategies of controlling valuable resources (like women’s sexuality) arise. Female fertility is a valuable resource because of its genetic value. Where men feel they understand and have a rapport with (i.e., their cognitive capacities are sufficient to comprehend  the mental states of) other men, this valuable resource (female fertility) needn’t be “defended” in any vigorous sense (where these rapports are generally stable and positive as they must be in a small cooperative band of people).

Where men feel awash in strangers with unknown intentions (a consequence of increases in population density on account of societal economic changes), they become defensive and protective of female sexual resources.

So, to the person who asked me to write this, I do hope that makes you think. I find it to be a rather complete general theory of gender oppression, though specific cultural oppressions deserve special theories of culture and socio-biology.

Who said sociology was limited and lacked interdisciplinary scope? Who said sociology is inherently phobic to the biological? Who said the study of gender had to be engulfed in post-modern defecations and ethnographic banalities?

I was also asked by this person to write something else. Not something to tickle the mind. Something to tickle the emotions. I’m only putting this in writing to force myself to actually write it.

And now, the drugs are wearing off…

Sociology and Spirituality

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Tonight I ate dinner with the smartest people I’ve ever met.

I felt like a fat kid on Thanksgiving, just grateful to be a there

I don’t even remember what I ate because my mind was cumming.

An economist, a neuroscientist, a handful of sociologists, and earlier, a philosopher. I mean christ how could I be this lucky to sit there all day and hear these people. I should be laying pipe drunk on Pabst (you know) and cat-calling the highschool girls soccer team with my friend Biff from the county jail. But this? This was way beyond my reach.

I feel like I’m living on borrowed time.

But that”borrowed time” crap sounds spiritual, and I certainly presume that my reader understands that spirituality is a worthless concept.

Wait a second. I think I did have a spiritual experience tonight.

It started with a discussion of dreams. Freud reignited the modern mind with the unfalsifiable subconscious and, in the process, attempted to link dreams to all kinds of insane horse shit.

So, ever since, every “alternative medicine”/”healer”/”meth survivor”  has been coming up with the wildest theories on the origins and nature of dreams. THIS is what dreams are. No, THIS is what they are! No, THIS! And on and on in the way humans do.

Yet, at the dinner table tonight, surrounded by scientists at their peak, nobody asserted a single right answer. Literally everybody at that table was cement-truck-fuck confused about the nature and purpose of dreams.

It wasn’t too long, however, before the behavioral neuroscientist says, “Well, there’s five different theories, supported by overlapping lines of evidence from different fields,” and proceeds to explain the most fascinating possibilities I’ve ever imagined. As a person, but far more as a sociologist… A sociology of dreams anyone? Don’t doubt for a nanosecond that this isn’t possible.

Imagine  the most beautiful of natural mysteries atop a rainbow of possible explanaions, shining on the competition of passionate theoretical camps. These scientists were providing a range of paths where the dogmatist and the spiritualist assert only one.

Openness to evidence, and a willingness to hear the arguments of others had produced an incredible prism of potential explanations. In that moment, I think I saw how nature’s weirdest stuff (e.g., dreams) can become, in the arms of science, an elegant mosaic instead of a lamb guess.

It felt fucking spiritual.

Stick in the Mud

There are beaches forever calm with smooth banks.

The sandy canvas remains blank for long periods of time until someone finds something to draw with.

Sometimes a stick is found which, curiously, draws on its own. Residents comment on its imperfections; too slow and short, fat, ugly and old.

The contours it draws are not immediately recognized and some ask why it should draw at all.

It draws pictures of people and of events that seem out of place, offensive or inappropriate and troubling to think about.

Some people attack the drawing stick. Others degrade it.

Soon, people are fed up and the stick is left to draw alone.

It lies in the sand, unmotivated. The sea swallows it and moisturizes its dry bark.

The pictures are washed away and life continues for all as it was before.

Eternally calm.

Political Liberals and Threats to the Teaching of Evolution

Recently, the state of Tennessee passed legislation enabling public school teachers to “teach the controversy” surrounding the theory of evolution by natural selection. I have a citation below if you want to catch yourself up to speed on the issue before reading further.

Proponents of the bill claim that the theory of evolution has profound and fatal flaws that need to be discussed among school children. Evolution, proponents of the bill say, is “only a theory” that might well be taught alongside other “theories” of biological diversity such as the theory that an intelligent designer brought *poof* all animals into being in a miraculous act of “special creation”.

Political liberals in the West have inherited a pacifistic stance toward ideological diversity. Do you disagree with something I say as a liberal? If so, I must first recognize your freedom to disagree with me, and I then must be respectful of your disagreement, of your position, and make attempts to understand its nuances and complexities. To do any other would be intolerant and indecent. We liberals cherish diversity and the flourishing of opinions and perspectives.

Except we actually don’t.

Political liberals, as far as I know, have not moved en masse to understand the “nuances” of Klan ideology or flat-Earth defenders or the “merits” of Rush Limbaugh’s argument that Sandra Fluke (the noble and clear-eyed defender of women’s rights to their reproductive health) is a slut.

No, political liberals have the schizophrenic burden of silently, to themselves, acknowledging that such people are retarded, while openly pretending that diversity of opinion on matters of basic human decency is a good thing. Oh, and I chose the word retarded very, very carefully — the positions mentioned above are quite literally retarded in the sense that they retard human understanding about the world and about one another.

Controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution in the classroom has, for the above reasons, caught many liberals at an impasse. Liberals that understand their indebtedness to science want both to defend the teaching of evolution in science classrooms AND to maintain their love of ideological diversity.

Liberals cannot have their cake and eat it too. Ideological diversity is incompatible with decency when this diversity undermines decency. This is axiomatic.

The science behind the theory of evolution consists of thousands and thousands of fossils, most of which are indicative of common ancestors to living animals. The entire field of micro and macro biology, as well as our understanding of disease, human medicine and agriculture (and, for some clear-headed sociologists, society as well) are explicable only in evolutionary terms. Evolution is a fact because it has been tested and confirmed millions of times in direct and indirect ways. Entire academic disciplines are currently built on its shoulders.

Yet, science-advocating liberals feel a tug to let Christians “have a say” on the matter. News networks invite Christian anti-evolution apologists to “tell their side of the story”.

This is the liberal bias. This is the embarrassingly soft and mushy core to many liberals that allows them to have opinions and views and dedications while not actually caring to defend them in any serious way.

What liberals in the West must come to understand is that it is possible to “disagree” with the theory of evolution because of nothing more than flamboyant and magnificient ignorance — the other side doesn’t always have a  “story to tell,” or a  “position to defend.”

Sometimes the other side is just wildly and rather embarassingly wrong.

I suppose its possible to get the liberal to follow me this far, but I’m quite certain they won’t take the next needed step to exclusion.

Freedom of speech is a natural right. But freedom to state your opinion in media outlets and on tv programs and in classrooms is NOT a natural right. Speaking is your right, a platform on which to speak is not.

Liberals need to be more intolerant. Intolerance is the lifeblood of a vibrant democracy; it is the distinct feeling of having a position worth defending.

Not only should liberals forcefully marginalize the christian right’s views on education, we should no longer allow them air time of any kind, no longer allow their views to appear in mass media.

Before the tears begin to well in your confrontation-fearing liberal eyes, recognize that you would exclude in exactly the same ways, and for very good reasons, the views of racists and misogynists. If you had any conviction, that is.

When it comes to biology class, I am in favor, and only in favor, of the public dissemination of scientifically credible, fairly researched, non-religious views and opinions.

The theory of evolution by natural selection is the most defensible, verifiable account of bio-diversity known to man. The debate is over — it began with Darwin’s much-delayed publication in 1859 and ended with the Scopes Trial.

When will liberals stop allowing the Christian Right to pretend “Nuh Uh!” is a legitimate counterargument?

When will liberals admit to themselves that some people REALLY ARE stupid and dangerous to a fair and decent society?

When will liberals acknowledge the moral imperative of intolerance?

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The Legislation: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2012/03/teach-the-controversy-science-education-bills-advance-in-tennessee-oklahoma.ars?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss

Unwrapped

Class ideology is sociological jargon for a collection of symbols specific to a resource niche.

Humans are tribal mammals that rapidly adopt values held in common with others. These values create bonds and these values, because they bond us, because they are ours, become us.

Children born into richer resources niches often have greater access to quality institutions that disseminate education in society. This is due to the fact that “barriers” to quality education (price, geography) are easily overcome by those with greater access to valued resources.

Consequently, to an upper class kid, education seems accessible, obvious, clearly important. The notion of avoiding or not completing one’s education seems quite literally absurd. No reasonable reason exists, in the rich resource niche, to forego education.

Those unimpressed with the monotoned, pencil-necked professoriate are therefore lazy, undisciplined, immature, lacking.

My father was raised in a rich resource niche.

My mother was raised in a poor resource niche.

I learned from my father that education was the clear, warm, light down the shadowy road and to feel roundly ashamed to exist, even momentarily, in a state of self-imposed ignorance.

I didn’t need to believe that the uneducated were lazy and weak, though, the way my father had needed it. He hadn’t raise me in the same resource niche as the one he’d grown up in – upstate all-white New York. He’d never made any money and I was raised among the working class.

In effect, I needed to learn how to learn but I didn’t need his ideology, I didn’t need to feel superior.

I didn’t want to. The poor resource niche, in my world, had a name. Mom.

My father’s rich resource niche taught him to value education for its own sake and to denigrate those that did not. My mother’s poor resource niche taught her to value industriousness/practicality and to denigrate the hopelessly effeminate eggheads that did not.

So I internalized the “obvious” importance of education and, as a compromise, I ditched the classism of my father in favor of the blue-collar industriousness that says, forever steely-eyed, “You’ll kill me before you tire me.”

Reflection has taught me that one learns best about isolation by internalizing, to a deeper degree, the only apparent passions of others.

My mother and father didn’t recognize me because they didn’t recognize their ideas cloaked in the camoflauge of behavior. They didn’t recognize their ideas unwrapped from the mere shadows of prejudice.

The walk alone began. It does for us all, and we’ll all understand it to greater or lesser degrees.

Plenty of time until the finish line, two open tracks beside me. Both tracks paved with industriousness and elegance.

Alex

 

When my family bought you, you hugged me. This was the last time you hugged me, and it was the first time.

The family joke was that you saw us comin’. You were lonely, because you didn’t like to be around others. You wanted us to take you home. And we did.

You had blue eyes.

I remember hearing the name Sinatra a lot after we bought you. My 7th grade ears didn’t know who that was, but I knew it had to do somehow with your blue eyes.

I promised I’d take care of you, but I didn’t. Not entirely.

But we went on walks, didn’t we? Walks that lasted miles, miles wherein I tried desperately and unknowingly to clear the superficial cobwebs of an adolescent mind. I was alone, except for you, and you never talked, of course. Which was fine with me. I just remember your blue eyes and your red tongue.

Do you remember the beach, Alex, the beach in Santa Cruz?

Not the fancy ones near the boardwalk but the shitty ones on the way there? I never told you this, but I always went to these out-of-the-way beaches because other people made me anxious. I realize looking back, though, that this prevented you from having any other dogs to play with.

I swear, it didn’t seem like you cared.

After a couple hours chase in the beach’s salty water we’d stop to get In N Out on the way back home. A few french fries and at least a hundred cups of water which was never enough for you.

You got older and it got harder for you to walk because knee and hip joints in Labrador retrievers don’t hold out long. I don’t know why, and I don’t even know if this folk wisdom is true. Most folk wisdom is bullshit, but if this helps explain why you couldn’t go on walks anymore, why your sky eyes couldn’t watch the clouds pass in the local park’s warm, itchy grass, than it’ll help me regardless if its true.

I know I took long walks with you after it was hard for you to walk.

I’m sure I was talking to one girl or another, more focused on the conversation with her than the pain in your knees and whether or not you could keep up with us walking on the path or whether or not your spine and hips would become distended later in life because of callous aggravation.

You’re just a dog, and when you’re put to sleep, you’ll drift off. It won’t matter to you.

But, there’s some bit of me that wishes you did know about my regrets and about the depth of my affection. This doesn’t mean that I wish that you lived forever, I’d prefer you have the option to die when the burdens of life have become preponderant.

Yet it matters to me that you know that I didn’t give you the attention and the love that you should have had in your life. You got better than most, no doubt.

A dog’s life is, after all, a dog’s life.

So it’s possible that there were words you wanted to say to me before you went to sleep the other night on the bed you’ve had since I was in high school. It’s possible that you wanted to say something to me that could not be translated across species lines.

If so, friend, you are not alone.

 

Gifts From the Heart

I’m told I am not a good gift giver, but I find this assessment baseless.

Holidays are an important time of the year; gifts are an opportunity to share love, affection and wisdom. Nothing fills me with more pleasure than seeing the faces of friends and family light up like the Baghdad night sky during an airstrike.

If you are having a hard time buying for the ones YOU love, not to fear. The following is a list of gifts I’ve given this year.

To Ruthie, my 90 year old Great Aunt: A 12 pack of deodorant from Costco. Getting older means you smell more.

For my 8 year old cousin Gregory: “Malaria in Northern Sudan”. A wonderfully researched and educational coloring book I found at a garage sale (keep your eyes open for holiday deals!).

For my 65 year old mother:  a free subscription to the prestigious quarterly “Human Digestion”. Egg nog gives her enough gas to stun a mule.

For Brenda, the single mother of four who lives next door: birth control and a hobby.

For my ex-girlfriend Sally: lewd picture messages of my genitals wearing reindeer ears.

And for my peppy, sports-loving younger brother: A life-size poster of legendary college football coach Jerry Sandusky (you would NOT believe the sale)!

If any of these gift ideas inspired you, please, use them for yourself.

Christmas is the most magical time of year, a time of warmth, song, and the worship of a mildly psychotic, but rather kind and humble, Palestinian Jew that was tortured to death 2000 years ago for having magical powers.

Merry Christmas everyone and don’t drink so much that you accidentally fall asleep in the bathtub nude, save for a light blue hat that says “Life is About Choices,” and a welt on your ass.

A Proper Sociology of Music

There are numerous institutional domains in every society. The functionalists like to think that society is an organism and depends on institutions the way our body depends on kidneys, a liver, lungs and a heart. I’m a functionalist, and I’ll defend it.

Institutional domains are aggregates of human activity that we call ‘family’, ‘entertainment industry’, ‘government/polity’, ‘religion’, ‘economy’, ‘education’.

Different institutional domains have different sorts of music and different ways of playing that music. Consider families that have pianos and other instruments and encourage in their children certain forms of music.

Or what about governments and their trumpets and horns for leadership and presidents and prime ministers?

Or what about entertainment and the ‘pop’, ‘hip hop’ and ‘country’ (ew) music industries? How about churches and the constant choral singing, christian jazz/rock, and various worship tunes from all faiths?

See, ‘music’ is a subjective human term for what is a common natural trait found in just about every animal on earth – the ‘call’.

Animals have calls for all kinds of things. Certain calls signal sexual prowess or genetic fitness, others signal danger approaching, still others signal contentment and happiness.

What function does music serve in a society? Regardless of whether or not you like the music from the US, a nevertheless interesting question is just what these ‘calls’ are for. And don’t dare give the non-answer, “the ‘calls’ are just music and we like music. We like it. That’s why we listen to it.”

That’s not an answer. WHY do we like it? And WHY is music in one domain so VERY different than music in the others (in lyrical content, rhythm, marketing strategy).

What does it mean to be ‘addicted’ to a song, ‘inspired’ by a new tune, or ‘turned on’ by still another song?

What the hell are we listening to when we listen to the ‘calls’ of other humans?

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Check this out to see a study that sort of gets at what I’m talking about – http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP09390416.pdf

A Sociology of Curiosity

Why are children so curious and adults so disinterested? A lack of interest in life or in goal-setting implies a simple disorder: you’ve been stripped of your childishness.

See, I don’t think childishness is solely an insult. Children are more honest than adults and more curious. Children inspire us because we forget that they will lose many of their best qualities in their transition to adulthood.

It is an ignored question – why are children simultaneously moral barbarians and moral saints? What is the link between honesty, curiosity, morality and selfishness?

In other words, why is it that when children are socialized into group life they become, at the same time, more polite and more bored?

In exchange for courteousness and deference, we have sacrificed honesty and inquisitiveness at the altar of ‘maturity’. It’s simply more difficult to ‘get along’ with someone who has constantly shifting interests and a penchant for speaking their mind.

Curious people can be found in all walks of life. Curious religious people, for example, become bible study teachers, theologians or church workers. Curious people, in general, may be extreme sports fans, have some obsession with some hobby, be a scientist or be a consistently avid consumer of pop culture.

All that curiosity requires is a bizarre thirst for knowledge, articulable or not.

Curious people are qualitatively different than non-curious people, I’d say. But I don’t know what causes the one and not the other.

Curiosity is found among all races, both sexes, on every continent and in every school. Boredom and indifference are vastly more common, granted, but curious people, wherever they are found, are the movers and shakers of their generations.

Most unfortunate of all, curiosity can be lost. If children really are more curious than adults, on average (does anyone dispute this?), then the sociologist has the solemn burden of explaining how adults learn to be bored and uninterested.

There’s no doubt that poor schools, poor teachers, entertainment-oriented mass culture and ‘respect’ for religious explanations of reality all contribute to the anti-curious attitudes of many people.

Poor schools, though, are found more often in certain neighborhoods and not in others. So are churches. Poverty causes stress and anxiety, both of which decrease a child’s ability to sleep and learn. There are also plenty of middle-class kids, who, as well, just can’t seem to ‘get interested’ in anything.

Curiosity is the most valuable cognitive resource in this universe. If certain people are systematically made to feel bored, I want to know why.

I want to know why they lost their curiosity and I want to know who, or what, took it from them.