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Nigel Barber
Born in Ireland, Nigel Barber received his Ph.D. in Biopsychology from Hunter College, CUNY, and taught psychology at Bemidji State University and Birmingham Southern College. A prolific cross-national researcher, Barber accounts for societal differences in sexual and reproductive behavior, and crime, using an innovative evolutionary approach. His blog at Psychology Today is The Human Beast Books include Why Parents Matter, The Science of Romance, Encyclopedia of Ethics in Science and Technology, Kindness in a Cruel World, and The Myth of Culture: Why We Need a Genuine Natural Science of Societies. He recently returned to Alabama from Maine accompanied by wife Trudy and son David. Interests include politics, finance, organic gardening, and woodwork.

Entries by Nigel Barber

Why Religion Is so Weak in Maine

(3) Comments | Posted November 13, 2014 | 10:01 AM

Recent research has clearly shown that religion is much more important in poorer countries. The same principle is true of states as I report in a paper to be published in Cross-Cultural Research. Yet, Maine stands out as a poor state where religion is relatively unimportant....

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Can Republicans Scare Democrats Into Voting for Them

(1) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 11:49 AM

In the current election campaign, Republicans are organizing their message around a theme of fear. That is hardly surprising given scientific evidence that the brains of conservatives are more strongly reactive to threats. For that reason, the campaign strategy is more likely to resonate with their own base...

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If Jesus Never Existed, Religion May Be Fiction

(2422) Comments | Posted September 25, 2014 | 6:29 PM

As someone raised in a Christian country, I learned that there was a historical Jesus. Now historical analysis finds no clear evidence that Jesus existed. If not, Christianity was fabricated, just like Mormonism and other religions. Why do people choose to believe religious fictions?

Given the depth of religious...

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Four Key Ingredients in the Recipe for Creativity

(2) Comments | Posted September 20, 2014 | 1:24 AM

Everyone has untapped potential in some creative field. Yet some individuals -- Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs -- have far more of it than others. Apart from genes, there are at least three key environmental factors that affect creative accomplishments.

Genes and Personality

A large number of...

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Religious People More Spiritual than Atheists?

(1) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 3:05 PM

Organized religion is easy to define as group participation in beliefs and rituals. There is usually a priest, a place, and a prayer. Spirituality is trickier. It is often defined in terms of its opposites: anti materialism, lack of concern with worldly success, out-of-body sensations, and weakening of...

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The Triumph of the (Internet) Commons

(1) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 5:40 PM

Many social scientists believe that communities are bad at sharing in commons systems where access to a shared resource is free. Garret Hardin called this the tragedy of the commons (TOC) in a famous Science article. In reality, commons systems work very well and survive for centuries. Now the commons...

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Must We Worry About Artificial Intelligence?

(0) Comments | Posted May 21, 2014 | 11:46 AM

In a recent post, I suggested that artificial sexual experiences in the future will rival, or surpass, the real thing. The fear of enslavement by intelligent machines and the fear of machines that are smarter than us is a staple of science fiction following Isaac Asimov's lead. Now...

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Freedom From Religion as a Civil Right

(83) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 1:59 PM

The separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution is more honored in the breach than in the observance. Those who want to escape from organized religion must fight for that freedom against those in power who would foist religious views upon them at every turn. The religious pledge...

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Religion Can't Compete With Entertainment

(30) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 10:56 PM

There is a market for religion just as there is a market for material goods. The primary function of religion is to help people feel better about their lives. Competing feel-good products include psychotherapy, anti-anxiety drugs, and entertainment. As the number of competitors grows in developed countries, religion declines in...

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Why Believe in God but Not Santa Claus?

(31) Comments | Posted February 21, 2014 | 9:29 PM

The more education a person receives, the more likely that person is to become an atheist. Nonbelief also increases with intelligence and income. Residents of more-educated countries see religion as less important in their daily lives.

Why are highly educated people more likely to be atheists?...

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Blaming Parents for Their Children's Failings

(0) Comments | Posted February 6, 2014 | 1:04 PM

Whether it is crime, drug abuse, academic failure, or poor social mobility, there is a strong temptation to blame the parents. It is indeed true that most social problems are linked to bad parent-child relationships. Yet, parents are not nearly so much in control of that relationship as moralists assume.

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The Bottom Line On Improving Social Mobility In The U.S.

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 11:24 AM

Children of single mothers have much worse outcomes in the U.S. than children of married parents. Yet, countries with the highest levels of single parenthood have low crime and high social mobility. That is the parenting paradox. How can it be explained?

This problem was recently highlighted in a debate...

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Does Racism Accelerate Aging?

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 6:17 PM

A new study asked whether racism accelerates aging for African-American men. The study measured age-related shortening in the ends of chromosomes (or telomeres). Surprisingly, the study found that experiences of racial discrimination were not related to biological aging.

Telomeres get shorter with age, so their shortness is considered...

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Why Inequality Stings

(1) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 8:44 PM

Hunter-gatherer societies had minimal status distinctions, and that is how most people would want to live. When there are sharp status divisions, we must constantly strive to get up the ladder, or to stay there, which can be stressful.

The History of Status Divisions

One key reason that hunter-gatherers...

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Why the U.S. Attracts the World's Best and Brightest

(0) Comments | Posted December 17, 2013 | 3:26 PM

This country attracts more than its fair share of bright scholars, entrepreneurs and artists despite our horrible scores on academic ability. Why do so many bright people opt to join a nation of dunces?! The most intriguing explanation is that they are attracted to talent already here.

The U.S. has...

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Why a Dog Means So Much

(31) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 1:05 PM

This post is dedicated to Mel.

The close relationship between humans and dogs is something of an evolutionary mystery. Is the dog a slave, or a parasite? Have we adapted them to our purposes, or have they exploited us for free food and shelter? Either way, we are...

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Chinese Tribe Without Marriage Points to Future

(12) Comments | Posted November 22, 2013 | 7:07 PM

The Mosuo people of southwest China do not marry and fathers do not live with, or support, children. Do the Mosuo anticipate a global future where no one marries?

Whether the Mosuo have marriage depends upon what you mean by marriage. Their mating system is called "walking...

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Why Mississippi Is More Religious Than New Hampshire

(1) Comments | Posted October 30, 2013 | 7:33 PM

New Hampshire is the least religious state in the union and Mississippi is the most religious according to Gallup data. A minority of New Hampshire residents see religion as being important in their daily lives (46 percent) in contrast to a large majority of Mississippians (85 percent). How can such...

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Is Religion of any Practical Use?

(81) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 6:14 PM

Rival religions expend a great deal of effort in magnifying minor differences between them. Yet, the major world religions fulfill similar functions and endorse analogous codes of conduct. They may also provide similar emotional and practical advantages.

All religions are based on dualism, or the notion that there is a...

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Should We Care if Marriage Disappears?

(4) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 1:03 PM

Marriage seems to be on the way out in Europe but is slightly more resilient in this country -- at least for the middle class. What would it mean for our society if couples stopped marrying? Perhaps the decline in marriage is not so important as social scientists led us...

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