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Nigel Barber
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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 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/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

The Triumph of the (Internet) Commons

(1) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 4:40 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 | 10:46 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 | 12:59 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 | 9:56 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 | 8:29 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 | 12:04 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 | 10:24 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 | 5:17 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 | 7:44 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 | 2:26 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 | 12:05 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 | 6:07 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 | 6:33 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 | 5:14 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 | 12:03 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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Reasons for the Surge in Births to Single Women

(15) Comments | Posted August 29, 2013 | 1:23 PM

Throughout Europe, births to single mothers more than doubled between 1990 and 2010 (from 17.4 to 38.3 percent). Imagine if it were to increase at the same rate for the next two decades! Such rapid changes are very unusual historically. They cry out for explanation from social...

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Can We Distinguish Between a Religion and a Con Game?

(21) Comments | Posted August 16, 2013 | 3:37 PM

The human propensity to believe the improbable keeps church doors open. It is also the reason that confidence tricksters live well. Perhaps prophets are merely con men who specialize in the spiritual. There are two ways to test out this idea. First, are mainstream religions founded by con...

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Obama and Why Hollowing Out the Middle Class Is Damaging

(34) Comments | Posted August 9, 2013 | 5:50 PM

In his ongoing series of speeches on the economy, President Obama lays heavy emphasis on the problem of inequality. With the shrinking of the middle class, the population gets split into rich and poor. Moving up the ladder gets increasingly difficult. Why is that such a big deal?

Dawning popular...

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'Atheism to Replace Religion by 2041': A Clarification

(444) Comments | Posted August 2, 2013 | 9:49 PM

This story was recently taken up by the Guardian Express and the International Business Times, whose writers were responding to a prediction in my book Why Atheism Will Replace Religion. Unfortunately these writers got the story wrong in various ways. I want to correct some of their errors...

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Can Atheism Really Replace Religion?

(549) Comments | Posted May 30, 2013 | 4:02 PM

My blogs on this topic generated millions of hits and plenty of skepticism. Resistance to overwhelming scientific evidence for the decline in religion is nothing new. Objections come from religious people and some atheists who argue that there will always be weak people, unlike them, who need religion....

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