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Wendy Orent

Cultural Anthropologist and Author, Atlanta, Georgia

Wendy Orent is an Atlanta-based anthropologist specialising in health and disease. She is the author of Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease (2012).

Written by Wendy Orent



Recent Comments

Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true

Wendy Orent

I’m not a philosopher and don’t pretend to be. But this argument seems specious to me. And parts are fundamentally wrong. No, we evolutionists don’t believe in natural selection because of our “respect for the scientific method.” And no, only to the ill-informed is the idea of selection, adaptation, and evolution seem strange or hard to accept on its face. Once you understand the theory, you see that nothing else accounts for the evidence we see around us, from the rapid evolution of viruses, to the beaks on Galapagos finches, to human evolution and adaptation. But leave that aside. The obvious point, that consciousness inheres in all matter, is undemonstrable and unproven. And the author...

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Why schools should not teach general critical-thinking skills

Wendy Orent

Completely agree. It’s always seemed to me that the idea of “critical thinking” in vacuo  was slightly absurd. I remember objecting to a teaching assistant’s advice to criticize what we were learning in our evolutionary biology class when I was an undergraduate. I said, “How can we criticize what we don’t understand?” First you learn, you understand, and only then can you criticize. Otherwise your comments are just idle yak. You don’t have to take in ideas and accept them in any new field like you’re a blank slate. But you do need to lay a thorough groundwork in any subject before you should dare to critique anything about it. Critical thinking is a skill very much like book re...

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Dark books

Wendy Orent

Your soul can’t be corrupted unless you let it be. Readers aren’t blank slates, attentive voids to be filled with the words and the bewitching seductions of the novelist. You can be corrupted only if you’re corruptible: exposure to corruption can horrify and repel you as well as draw you in. The less exposed you are to ideas, the shallower your thinking, the more unsophisticated your mind, the more likely truly dark works are to have a hold over you. You are repelled by a book? Put it down!

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Bad thoughts can’t make you sick, that’s just magical thinking

Wendy Orent

I remember this line of argument being current in the ’70s, when the “cancer personality” - repressed, unhappy, distant - was widely invoked to explain, in particular, breast cancer. I was disgusted by that line of argument then, and I’m still disgusted. I think it’s a way that non-sufferers have of distancing themselves from cancer patients: “I’m not going to get cancer because I’m not that type of person.” We’re all afraid of cancer, and it would nice to consider ourselves immune, by virtue of our wonderfulness. We all seek control over our destinies, but that control is in short supply. You can do everything right - eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, socialize, be kind and chipper a...

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