Tania Lombrozo

Today's Christian children don't independently invent Santa Claus from thin (albeit tinsel-laced) air: They learn about Santa from their parents, their peers and their culture.

But what leads them to eventually reject the reality of Santa, as they typically do by age 8 or 9? Is it what they're eventually told (or overhear)? Or do they reason their way out of belief?

Tomorrow evening marks the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish "Festival of Lights" and an eight-day-long excuse to eat fried potato pancakes known as latkes.

We classify people in all sorts of ways.

Some categories are based on a person's beliefs: A theist, for instance, is a person who believes in one or more gods. Some categories are based on behavior: A vegetarian, for example, is a person who doesn't eat animals. And some categories seem to straddle beliefs and behavior: Being politically conservative could be defined in terms of beliefs, but also in terms of corresponding behaviors, such as voting for conservative political candidates or donating one's time or money to conservative causes.

Since 1982, Gallup has been tracking the American public's views on human origins, providing three mutually exclusive options from which to choose. According to the most recent poll, 42 percent of Americans endorse the idea that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years or so, 31 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with God guiding the process, and 19 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with no role for God at all.

Here's a common image of science: Sometimes science gets things wrong, but the scientific process is self-correcting.

In a video released today at Edge.org, psychologist Simone Schnall raises interesting questions about the role of replication in social psychology and about what counts as "admissible evidence" in science.

"Pink is clearly freighted with sociocultural significance. And much of it isn't pretty."

So writes philosopher Liz Camp in a blog post titled "The Socio-Aesthetics of Pink." In the post, Camp discloses her 2-year-old daughter's deep love of pink, exploring why she herself is so irked by the little one's palette-based passion. The post is part parental reflections, part hard-core philosophy and part cultural commentary.

Twice a year, most Americans do a truly bizarre thing. In coordinated fashion, we change our clocks an hour ahead or behind and proceed as if the new time tells us what we should be doing: when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to work.

Earth, of course, spins and rotates on its merry course, unperturbed by our temporal machinations. If we used to wake after sunrise, we might now wake before morning light. If we used to drive home with the setting sun, we might now drive home in darkness.

If you followed tech news last month, you heard a lot about Apple's new iMac with Retina 5K display. And if you came across advertisements on television or online, you undoubtedly saw the display in action.

Or did you?

The trouble is, you can never really appreciate 5120 x 2880 pixel resolution on, say, a 3840 x 2160 pixel display. You can't represent something in higher resolution than your own resolution permits.

Consider the following two statements of "belief":

Devon believes that humans evolved from earlier primates over 100,000 years ago.

Devon believes that humans were created less than 10,000 years ago.

These claims are clearly at odds. Since they can't both be true, Devon holds contradictory beliefs. Right?

Maybe not.

Hardly a week goes by without some brain imaging study making the rounds in science news.

In the 1960s — well before Spike Jonze's Samantha — MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum introduced the world to Eliza, a psychotherapist (of sorts) who interacted with people through a text interface. She's still around today.

As a (mostly vegan) vegetarian for ethical reasons, I've encountered all sorts of responses to arguments for animal welfare. Here's one that I've heard surprisingly often, nabbed from a comment to a recent article arguing that atheists should be vegan:

In a recent Washington Post piece, Diana Liverman, a professor at the University of Arizona, explains how she used to teach her undergraduates about climate change — and why she stopped.

In a 2006 article for the Los Angeles Times, Sam Harris identified 10 myths about atheism, among them the idea that "atheists are closed to spiritual experience."

Harris explained: "There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly."

In a commentary published earlier this month in Nature, Harvard professor Sarah S. Richardson and six co-authors caution scientists, journalists and the public against drawing hasty conclusions from findings concerning epigenetic effects on human development.

Not long ago, Caren Walker, a PhD student at the University of California at Berkeley, was hiking in Tilden Park with her brother Michael when they came upon what looked like wild carrots.

"Yum, yum, yum!" exclaimed Michael (with perhaps greater eloquence, but no less enthusiasm). "These will make a tasty soup!"

The most basic formula in first-order logic is P(x): one predicate, one variable.

It's also the most basic unit of communication — we say something (the predicate) about something (the variable). Delicious chocolate. Chocolate is delicious. Or, if you want to get fancy, you can throw in more formal machinery to specify that I believe chocolate is delicious, or that chocolate is only delicious when it's dark.

Last week, the satirical "news" source The Onion reported that the field of psychology was disbanding as researchers realized they had been studying the mind with nothing but itself.

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