The evolution of the human brain has always been shrouded in mystery. This is because the organ tripled in size over the course of nearly seven million years, a pace of evolution that is unheard of in the natural world. Most of this growth occurred in the past two million years, during which time the brain doubled in size; although there was another major increase in volume, too, which took place between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago. The modern human brain is three times larger than the brains of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on March 1, 2021.
If you’re a writer, no matter what type, part of the rewarding nature of the craft lies in the potential to improve and take your writing in novel directions. There are always new skills that you can pick up, new ways you can write, and new lessons to learn. By reading the works of other writers and even listening to their writing advice, as well as practising your own writing, you can take your work in different directions. Sometimes, however, you might feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your writing. This might take the form of writer’s block…
It is fair to say that much of antinatalist thought is underpinned by a rejectionist philosophy, a nay-saying attitude toward life, a pessimism about the state of human life and the world at large. The line between such pessimism and antinatalism seems logical: if you believe existence is — overall — a bad deal, an unlucky hand, then it makes sense to view procreation as morally bankrupt. Why create more suffering when doing so is both unnecessary and preventable? However, I would like to challenge the commonplace notion that antinatalism has to be pessimistic, nihilistic, and misanthropic; a moral position only fit for the curmudgeonly.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on February 22, 2021.
I have long been fascinated by the artistic drive to create imaginary languages. Countless numbers of them exist. And some of them have made their way into public consciousness since they have been integrated into the fictional worlds and universes portrayed in popular books and television shows. These fictional languages include Elvish in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Alienese in Futurama, Na’vi in Avatar, Dothraki in Game of Thrones, Klingon in Star Trek (this language was created by the linguist Marc Okrand), and the Atlantean language in Atlantis: The Lost Empire (this one was also formulated by Okrand).
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on February 10, 2021.
The biopsychosocial model is one of the main approaches in psychiatry. The psychiatrist George Engel formulated this model in 1977, in a paper titled The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine, published in the journal Science. He did not, however, propose this new model exclusively for psychiatry (which focuses on the treatment of mental disorders) but as a way to understand all medical conditions. Engel repudiated the mainstream biomedical model that sought to understand medical conditions — including psychiatric disorders — only in terms of biological factors (e.g. mental disorders are brain disorders or symptoms of imbalanced brain chemistry), and consequently should be treated solely through medical means.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on February 3, 2021.
The aphoristic style of writing — which involves terse observations, opinions, and statements of wisdom — has existed for millennia. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates coined the term in his aptly named work Aphorisms; the word is derived from ancient Greek and denotes ‘delimitation’, ‘definition’, and ‘distinction’. An aphorism refers to any pithy statement that expresses a general truth. These sorts of statements are punchy, philosophical, and memorable.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on February 1, 2021.
All writers from time to time will look back — or think back — to something they’ve written and feel some regret. Whether writing for many years as a hobby or professionally, there will likely be a progression in how one writes — there will be a maturing of outlook and opinions, changes in style, and improvements in skill. Reading back something you wrote many years ago can bring into focus these changes, which, on the one hand, can satisfactorily signal progress, but on the other hand, past written material can remind you of old aspects of yourself that you’d rather file away in a locked memory cabinet.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on January 20, 2021.
Anti-psychiatry is a loose social movement that first emerged in the 1960s in Europe and the US, and it began as an ideological response to the treatment of mental illness in asylums at the time. Those supporting the movement were concerned about the poor conditions of many of these asylums, as well as the abusive and inhumane treatment that patients were subject to. In addition, anti-psychiatrists believed that the process of institutionalising patients in asylums, in general, would not aid their recovery but frustrate it. Anti-psychiatrists also argued that conditions like schizophrenia could not be real diseases because they did not involve any obvious brain changes, nor could they be detected by a physical test. Then there was the issue of psychiatry pathologising minority groups, such as homosexuals.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on January 12, 2021.
In 1898, Harper’s Magazine published an essay by Mark Twain titled Concerning the Jews, in which the author responds to a letter from a lawyer who asks Twain to explain why antisemitism is so rampant in society and why Jewish people throughout history have born the brunt of so much hatred and hostility. Twain essentially argues that the main reason why antisemitism exists is because of Jewish success, and the envy, resentment, and anger this engenders among non-Jews. In his view, religious prejudice is a minor cause of antisemitism, and ignorance and fanaticism cannot fully account for the level of anti-Jewish bigotry that exists.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on January 6, 2021.
Ageism, a form of prejudice and discrimination based on age, was originally formulated by the psychiatrist Robert Neil Butler in 1969 to refer specifically to prejudicial attitudes toward older people, old age, and the ageing process; discrimination against older people; and the stereotyping of older people. Nowadays, ageism applies as a general term for prejudices about — and discrimination against — people based on age, so children, adolescents, and young people can feel the brunt of it as well. However, ageism is particularly pronounced among older people and this is why Butler originally devised ageism to refer to discrimination against seniors.
Originally published at https://www.samwoolfe.com on January 5, 2021.