US suicide rate increases – The U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, led by an even greater rise among middle-aged white people, particularly women, according to federal data released Friday.
Why Physics is not a discipline – “Have you heard the one about the biologist, the physicist, and the mathematician? They’re all sitting in a cafe watching people come and go from a house across the street. Two people enter, and then some time later, three emerge. The physicist says, ‘The measurement wasn’t accurate.’ The biologist says, ‘They have reproduced.’ The mathematician says, ‘If now exactly one person enters the house then it will be empty again.'”
“Hilarious, no? You can find plenty of jokes like this—many invoke the notion of a spherical cow—but I’ve yet to find one that makes me laugh. Still, that’s not what they’re for. They’re designed to show us that these academic disciplines look at the world in very different, perhaps incompatible ways.”
Christopher Hitchens, from dove to hawk – “When Christopher Hitchens died in December 2011 it was literally front-page news, in the New York Times, and in the Guardian which, with a kind of media solipsism, devoted scores of column inches to him over many pages. Three days after the death of this journalist and pamphleteer (as Hitchens liked to call himself), that paper found considerably less space to mark the death of Václav Havel, a man who had changed the course of European history.”
Harvard’s Eugenics Era – When academics embraced scientific racism, immigration restrictions, and the suppression of ‘the unfit’ – particularly at Harvard.
“There are also forward-looking reasons to revisit this dark moment in the University’s past. Biotechnical science has advanced to the brink of a new era of genetic possibilities. In the next few years, the headlines will be full of stories about gene-editing technology, genetic “solutions” for a variety of human afflictions and frailties, and even “designer babies.” Given that Harvard affiliates, again, will play a large role in all of these, it is important to contemplate how wrong so many people tied to the University got it the first time—and to think hard about how, this time, to get it right.”
Conversion and Its Discontents – Susan Jacoby is a heroine of free thought, formally so designated by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which in 2004 awarded her its “Free Thought Heroine Award”…yet she has proven to be “a paradoxically effective religion teacher…”
“Atheists as self-conscious and purposeful about their irreligion as she are a small minority in America and a tiny minority in the world at large, but her improbable strength is that she makes the subject of religion, a subject she can never be done talking about, contagiously interesting.”
“The Texas senator’s message was lifted from an old playbook. For nearly 400 years Americans have been conflating the message of the Bible with the fate of the country. Ever since the Puritan John Winthrop said that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a ‘city on a hill’ Americans have seen themselves as God’s chosen people—a new Israel with a special destiny.”
The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches – Why subtle cynicism doesn’t look like Jesus.
“I thought I was simply a critical thinker, full of constructive insights. My husband and I shared a “gift for reflection” and spun many conversations around what we considered to be compelling observations about what the Church and other people were doing wrong and what they could do better. Never mind the fact that our tips were not actually being presented to those we believed would benefit from them. At least we saw the problems, right?”