An interesting blog, Chasing Down Emma, devoted to scholarship about Emma Hardinge Brittan, the nineteenth century Spiritualist medium and author of Modern American Spiritualism (1870), who developed the seven principles which still characterize the belief system of spiritualism today: The Fatherhood of God, The Brotherhood of Man, The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels, The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul, Personal Responsibility, Compensation and Retribution Hereafter For All the Good and Evil Deeds Done On Earth, Eternal Progress Open To Every Human Soul. Here's a link to a companion archive on Mrs. Britten. While the archive has a link to the blog, the reverse doesn't seem to be true.
From what I know about Mrs. Britten, she was a spirited sort. I can't readily discern who runs the archive and blog, but I'll bet he or she is having a lot of fun chasing Emma down.
For those who think law professors have no discernible sense of humor, I suggest a perusal of Kyle Graham's holiday torts exam. I'm not responsible for injuries suffered by readers falling off chairs, cracking ribs (or smiles). I disclaim any duty toward you. For readers who think the idea of more lawyers is the essence of intentional infliction of emotional distress, why are you reading this post? Begone, before I drop a house on you. Negligently, of course. Happy Non-Denominational Gift Giving Holidays To All.
I had never considered that any similarities between vampires and business organizations existed. Vampires and lawyers, yes. Many unkind comments there, including remarks about the undead, bloodsucking, and working at night when nobody can see you. Thomas E. Rutledge sees an analogy between Dracula's kin and business organizations, however, and makes his case in a new article.
The law of business organizations has much in common with vampires; there are numerous characteristics that may or may not be embodied in a particular form, each of which should be understood to be a construct.
The Scientist reports that according to a new Royal Society study, the emerging discipline of law and neuroscience may not be the magic technology that detects lies, at least not as far as the courtroom is concerned. fMRI scans seem to assist in identifying deceptive people. But figuring out whether someone is telling "the truth" if that person believes he is being truthful, has always been a problem, since such witnesses are credible. Their testimony simply differs from the facts. Thus, if the witness believes he is recounting actual events, even his version differs from what happened, and fMRI scans don't seem to help much, if at all, in identifying that witness.
As far as neuroscience in court goes, the study notes that many lawyers and judges have no training in the science on which neuroscience is based and do not understand its applications and limitations. Undergraduates do not learn how law and neuroscience applies in society. Lawyers and scientists do not have a systematic or official way to work together to discuss research in the field. More information, including links to a press briefing and the report in pdf, e-reader, and Kindle versions, is available here.
The Royal Society study seems to confirm what other studies have been suggesting for a while. See this blog's index term "neuroscience" for more posts.
From today's New York Times, Eric Weiner's opinion piece on the Nones, those who aren't atheists, but aren't quite religious. They're undecided.They're still seeking. They're Seekers (my term, not his). Mr. Weiner offers his explanation of why, and what the Nones are looking for. He suggests it's rationalism, humor, a view of the world and their place in it that shows them how to find answers that reconcile the big questions with the little ones. And, he says, they don't like all the anger in the public square that we get now over the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. After 275 years, is the age of the Enlighenment having a Renaissance?
Does deception have a tell? Better said, can you tell if someone has deceit on his mind? We're talking the guy in the next cubicle, not David Blaine. According to the authors of recently published papers in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics, and the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, maybe.
Says the Chronicle of Higher Education,
[M]aybe the answer is in his face. A 2009 paper tried to determine whether we know someone has Machiavellian tendencies just by looking at him. Researchers showed participants pictures of the faces of people who had taken the Mach-IV. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, they found that participants’ amygdalas, which process emotion, were activated more when they viewed the faces of high Machs. They also lit up when they viewed people who scored high on psychopathy measures, though not on faces of people who scored high on narcissism (incidentally, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism make up what psychologists ominously call “the dark triad”). From the paper:
"This indicates facial geometry contains accurate and reliable signals that reflect an individual’s trustworthiness and the neurology associated with threat detection is sensitive to these features."
Again, there are reasons to be skeptical. I haven’t come across follow-ups to this study (let me know if I’ve missed them) and there are scientists who think this kind of light-it-up brain-scan research is hooey.
Both of these studies depend on the widely used Mach-IV measure, which asks participants to agree or disagree with 20 statements like “All in all, it is better to be humble and honest than to be important and dishonest” and “Most people who get ahead in the world lead clean, moral lives” and “The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear.” You have to wonder whether a true high Mach would really answer those questions honestly.
So, who's on first, here? People who believe one can, essentially, read minds by looking at faces (after analyzing brains)? Or people who believe they can fool people who ask questions by dishonestly answering those questions? PSYCH-OUT! Read the entire Chronicle article here. Read The Prince here. (I have always thought The Prince was just a little satirical, but maybe that's just me).
So, if you don't know what to get your favorite lawyer/magician for the holidays (and you've already gotten him or her a disappearing Bill of Rights mug from the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild, and nothing else from that website appeals, and you gave him or her a copy of the Law and Magic book for his/her birthday), take a look at The Bill of Rights Security Edition. It's a copy of the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, nicely printed on metal. You can buy 3 for $11 or 5 for $16. Great stocking stuffers. I saw them at the Penn & Teller shop the last time I took in the show.
During the performance P&T do a bit on the likelihood that the TSA will actually confiscate the metalized Bill of Rights if you try to take it through security; if you believe them, you will want to invest in more than one. Check out t-shirts and other paraphernalia here.
If your taste runs more to the artistic, might I recommend Alan Gerson's wonderful work? An attorney who now creates art full time, he makes wonderful "lawyer" watercolors out of terms of art as well as amazing paintings. His work is on the cover of the Law and Magic book and he created several "law and magic" watercolors that hang on my walls at home.
Finally, three seasons of Merlin the series are now out on DVD. The show, featuring a retelling of the King Arthur legend through the eyes of his pal, wizardly Merlin as a young man, is fairly entertaining. It stars Colin Morgan, Bradley James, and Anthony Head.