Cocktail Chatter

Prehistoric Art, Scary Monkey Bars, and the Best States for Equal Pay

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Meeting with President Carter. Lijek stands second from right to left.
Mark Lijek and others rescued from Iran meet with President Carter.

White House photo.

Lascaux’s Picassos: What prehistoric art tells us about the evolution of the human brain,” by Katy Waldman. Cave paintings are more than just impressive feats of the Paleolithic imagination; they could also represent the dawn of human cognition. Waldman explains the link between abstract reasoning and the masterpieces of prehistory.

Thomas Jefferson Was Not a Monster: Debunking a major new biography of our third president,” by Annette Gordon-Reed. Henry Wiencek’s new biography of a beloved Founding Father is a thinly disguised character assassination built on fallacies, distortions, and willful misinterpretations. Gordon-Reed deconstructs and analyzes several of its most outrageous lies in her review.

I Was Rescued From Iran: It wasn’t like the movie,” by Mark Lijek. One of the six Americans held hostage in Iran fact-checks Argo, the Ben Affleck film that narrates his story. Read an alternate account of how Lijek and his companions arrived at the Canadian ambassador’s house and meet real-life players who never show up on-screen.

 “Her Year of Living Biblically: An evangelical blogger spent 12 months following the Bible. Then she wrote a book about it. Now some Christian bookstores won’t sell it,” by Ruth Graham. Evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans’ book on biblical womanhood chronicles her year spent living the letter of the law, including the Bible’s commandments about menstruating women and wifely submission. But one word in the book is causing problems with booksellers:  vagina. Ruth Graham reports on Evans’ battle with Lifeway, the biggest Christian bookstore chain.

Map Shows the Worst State for Women to Make Money: Gender income inequality by state and county,” by Chris Kirk. A new map shows the best states for pay equality. Where are women best off?  Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina are good bets.

What Are You So Scared of? Saber-Toothed Cats, Snakes, and Carnivorous Kangaroos. The evolutionary legacy of having been prey,” by Rob Dunn. Being the prey of large carnivores helped humans develop their fight-or-flight instinct. But now that we’re on top of the food chain, we still have anxiety. And it’s causing us harm. Rob Dunn traces the evolution of anxiety.

Monkey Bars Are a Menace: They broke my daughter’s arm. Why are they still around?” by Dan Kois. Monkey bars may not look dangerous—but that’s exactly what makes them so insidious. Kois, still recovering from his daughter’s monkey bar catastrophe, questions the safety of monkey bars and their continued ubiquity in an age of safety consciousness.

When Candidates Attack: Obama won Tuesday night’s slugfest, but Romney will live to fight another day,” by John Dickerson. Sure, Obama won the second debate. But does it matter? Dickerson examines the brawl of words between the candidates, as well as Barack Obama’s weak response to Romney’s Benghazi accusations and its possible repercussions for the final debate. Plus, check out a list of all the rules the two candidates violated during the debate.

The TV Land Electorate: Are your favorite TV characters Democrats or Republicans?” by Holly AllenDavid HaglundKatie KilkennyChris Kirk, and Forrest Wickman. An interactive graphic displays the voting preferences of your favorite fictional friends, from President David Palmer of 24 (Democrat) to The Simpsons’ Charles Burns (So very Republican).

 “Should We Screen Kids’ Brains and Genes To ID Future Criminals? Intervention might help save troubled kids. But the label could doom them,” by Gary Marchant. If you knew your child were genetically disposed to criminal behavior, what would you do? Gary Marchant explores the opportunities and risks of early intervention as part of a Future Tense project on the legal system and changes in neuroscience. RSVP here for the Oct. 22 conference, “My Brain Made Me Do It.”