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John's Journal


11 November 1953
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It’s been said that people who are dying of a mysterious illness feel better if they can understand the cause of the illness, even if there’s nothing anyone can do to save them.
That pretty much sums up what my life has been about: trying to understand myself, other people, and the universe, even though there is not much I can do to change these things.

My father met my mother at the University of Michigan where he was finishing his PhD in physics and she, her bachelor’s degree in biology (although her true love was art and writing). I grew up learning about and developing a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of science. I wanted to be a scientist so I could contribute to the scientific understanding of the universe. We moved from Ann Arbor to State College PA in 1959 when my father accepted a position at Penn State University. With so many professors who expect educational excellence, the local school system was (and still is) challenging and stimulating. I loved it. I did not always earn top grades, but I loved learning.

I continued my education at Penn State, enrolling as a computer science major. I actually wanted to major in music (I played keyboards in a rock band at the time), but my father discouraged me from this because of the job prospects. I became disaffected during my assembler language course, which was unspeakably dull. My reading of popularized accounts of human ethology by Desmond Morris led me to switch my major to psychology before the end of my first year. The next year I added biology as a second major to create my own tailored version of an evolutionary psychology curriculum.

Then personal disaster struck. I had always been socially retarded when it came to dating and relationships. I had no idea how to make them work. When my first serious love affair ended in a short hospitalization for depression, I re-evaluated what I wanted to do with my life. I dropped all of my physics and chemistry courses and took a course in oriental philosophy and an independent study of the evolutionary basis of morality. I also began a most unfortunate journey into the world of esoteric psychologists, whom I thought might provide a shortcut to the profound knowledge I was seeking. Although I eventually got back on the track of studying psychology from an evolutionary perspective, I wasted uncounted hours on this garbage. Ah, well, even Newton wasted most of his life interpreting the book of Daniel. I also remain undeniably attracted to the possibility of the paranormal. I have floated the idea of establishing a group called Transcendentally Tempted Anonymous to fellow skeptics and atheists who have a vulnerability in this area.

My first and only academic position started in 1981 at the DuBois Campus of Penn State. I have moved up the ranks there, mostly publishing in the area of personality psychology because evolutionary psychology had not been recognized as a legitimate area of study. My research to continues to focus on personality today, and I am moving into the area of on-line personality testing and interpretation. I still have a strong interest in the evolutionary basis of the human condition, and hope to write more about morality, religion, and politics from an evolutionary perspective.
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