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The Perils of Obedience
Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the person dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, with defiance or submission, to the commands of others. For many people, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct.
The dilemma inherent in submission to authority is ancient, as old as the story of Abraham, and the question of whether one should obey when commands conflict with conscience has been argued by Plato, dramatized in Antigone, and treated to philosophic analysis in almost every historical epoch. Conservative philosophers argue that the very fabric of society is threatened by disobedience, while humanists stress the primacy of the individual conscience.
The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation. Source
One of the foremost researchers of neuroplasticity, Michael Merzenich's work has shown that the brain retains its ability to alter itself well into adulthood -- suggesting that brains with injuries or disease might be able to recover function, even later in life. He has also explored the way the senses are mapped in regions of the brain and the way sensations teach the brain to recognize new patterns.and his talk
Merzenich wants to bring the powerful plasticity of the brain into practical use through technologies and methods that harness it to improve learning. He founded Scientific Learning Corporation, which markets and distributes educational software for children based on models of brain plasticity. He is co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Posit Science, which creates "brain training" software also based on his research.
Merzenich is professor emeritus of neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.