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Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

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The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

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The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

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Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

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Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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Moving Beyond Political Correctness

Oct 24, 2012
Originally published on October 24, 2012 5:01 pm

I grew up in Greenwich Village, not that far from the campus of New York University. Back in the 1970s campus demonstrations were pretty common, but I remember one in particular. I was walking by myself toward Washington Square Park and I came upon what was a small but very energetic and frightening protest. I think what made the encounter scary for me was that the students were objecting to the presence on campus of a "Nazi," who, apparently, was coming to give a lecture. Or maybe what I found disturbing was that I found it hard to believe the protesters. In any case, an angry crowd, accusatory rhetoric, and the possible presence of Nazis in my neighborhood conspired to make a strong impression on me.

I later learned that the "Nazi" was none other than E.O. Wilson — the eminent ant specialist — who was coming to campus to discuss his then-new book Sociobiology. The main idea of this landmark book is that society has a biological basis and that human behavior can be investigated biologically.

It is hard to put ourselves back in the mind set of those would think it is politically objectionable even to raise questions about the biological foundation of behavior and society. Back in the '70s, to suggest that there could be biological reasons for our preferences, our behaviors, our manner of living seemed, to lots of people, to be the moral equivalent of politically crude racial theories.

Whatever one makes of this, by the mid-'90s, I think thanks largely to the work of Stephen Jay Gould, a sort of progressive consensus emerged according to which biology was good and fine but only so long as it halts at the borders of culture. The latter sphere is a domain of meaning and politics that just will not admit of biological incursion.

I haven't found in Gould a compelling argument for the insistence that biology gets no traction with culture, although there can be no doubt that the history, even the recent history, of sociobiology is littered with examples of the way we tend to bumble when we try to do science about ourselves.

To give a cartoon example: It is easy to come up with an adaptationist story about why men are more promiscuous than women. Men maximize spreading their genes by having sex with as many partners as possible. Not women, who devote all their resources to a single pregnancy and then to the task of raising an infant; women need the help and support of a mate if they are to manage this. Men have no corresponding need. Men want to be free, as a matter of their biology, while women want to trap them — a tidy story, to be sure. But is there any truth in it? It's striking how explanations of this character seem to succeed in telling us, and in some sense justifying, what we think we already know (e.g., that men are more promiscuous. Are they?).

Gould did provide good reason to rethink the nature of explanation by adaptation in biological theory. Gould (together with Richard Lewontin) rejected the idea that one can take a "trait by trait" view of the animal, asking of each trait, viewed in isolation, what is its adaptive value.

Gould wondered: Why is the giraffe's neck so long? Maybe because its legs are so long and the animal needs a long neck to swing itself up into a standing position! This is an adaptationist explanation, to be sure, but one that comes into focus when you keep clearly in mind that animals are organized wholes. Still other traits, Gould reasoned, may be present not because they confer increased fitness, but because they are features required by an organism's basic plan.

Gould's aim was not to reject explanation by adaptation — something he does not succeed in doing anyway, as Dennett (in Darwin's Dangerous Idea) rightly noticed — but rather to articulate constraints on what makes an adaptationist account a good one. In doing this he offered a nonreductive, holistic conception of evolutionary biology as, in effect, a branch of history, one whose explanations are distinctively narrative.

Neither Gould's nonreductive picture, nor his, as it might now seem, politically correct attempt to draw a line in the sand at that point where nature meets culture, are currently in fashion. Sociobiology never recovered from having been tarred by the brush of racism. It didn't disappear though. It just changed its name to Evolutionary Psychology; it seems to thrive.

Wilson was derided in 1975 for daring to think that we might try to extend the explanatory reach of science into the heart of culture. It is dismaying, but also somehow amusing, to notice that Thomas Nagel has been attacked — accused of pandering to creationists, intelligent designers, and other pseudo-scientific critics of evolutionary theory — simply for articulating what was, in fact, the progressive consensus back then, namely, the idea that there are limits beyond which science cannot go.

It was wrong to think culture was a no-go area for science back in the '70s. It is simpleminded to think that biology has the resources now in hand to explain us to ourselves.


You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

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