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Soonish?

Apocalypse Soonish Redux by Kevin D. Williamson.

Last autumn, I argued in National Review (“Apocalypse Soonish”) that the real intellectual achievement of the climate-change alarmists has been to improve on the marketing model of the traditional fundamentalist-wacko/UFO-cult/Mayan-calendar-lunatic operation by eliminating its greatest weakness: the expiration date. When your UFO cult predicts that the world will unquestionably come to an end on December 21, 1954, then you start to look sort of silly by Christmas.

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Rape

I Wish I’d Never Reported My Rape by Kendall Anderson.

He pinned me down on the bed and pressed a pillow on my face. But when I went to the police, I was called a suspect.

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Ending

Europe’s Austerity Moment Is Ending by Matt Schiavenza.

Voting in Sunday’s much-watched Greek elections has ended, and exit polls suggest that the far-left Syriza party has captured nearly 40 percent of the vote. While this may not be enough to ensure a parliamentary majority in Greece’s electoral system, it’s now clear that Alexis Tsipras, a fiery 40-year-old once considered too radical for national politics, will lead the next Greek government. Tsipras has promised to end Greece’s “austerity program,” a series of spending cuts and tax hikes designed to reduce the country’s enormous bailout debt, which equals 175 percent of its GDP. Freed from this burden, Tsipras argues, the Greek government will implement policies to generate economic growth.

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Causes

Why Islam Is More Violent Than Christianity: An Atheist’s Guide by Robert Tracinski.

As an atheist, I have no god in this fight, so to speak. I don’t think the differences between religions make one more valid than another. But as the Charlie Hedbo attack reminds us, there is a big practical difference between them. In fact, the best argument against the equivalence of Christianity and Islam is that no one acts even remotely as if this were true. We feel free to criticize and offend Christians without a second thought—thanks, guys, for being so cool about that—but antagonizing Muslims takes courage. More courage than a lot of secular types in the West can usually muster.

So it’s a matter of some practical urgency to figure out: what is the difference? What are its root causes?

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Resist

Resist or Accommodate Evil: There is No “Third Way” by Jeffery J. Ventrella.

When conscience flirts with the idea of accommodating an unjust law, it must politely, yet firmly, reject the sirens of seduction.

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Case?

No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God by Lawrence M. Krauss.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

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Francis

Francis & Political Illusion by Maureen Mullarkey.

Francis serves an environmentalist mindset that, unlike the traditional ethos of conservation, views man as a parasite (Western man in Francis’ marxisant variant) and understands wealth in pre-modern terms as a zero-sum game. It discards the West’s great discovery—realization that wealth can be created. The endgame is transfer of wealth from productive nations to unproductive ones.

More at FT.

Related: Criticizing Pope Francis by R. R. Reno.

I’ve lost count of the emails from readers and friends upset by Maureen Mullarkey’s sharply worded posting on Pope Francis on her blog, which we host. Is First Things turning into an organ for anti-Francis polemics? Are we flirting with sede vacantism?

More at FT.

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Borg

The Death of Marcus Borg, Christian Panentheist by Mark Tooley.

He specialized in deconstructing traditional Christian beliefs about God, Christ, and the Bible.

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Gone Fishing

Leaving this morning for a wine tasting trip to Santa Ynez Valley. No new postings until Sunday.

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Entitlement

American Exceptionalism and the Entitlement State by Nicholas Eberstadt.

If social policy were medicine, and countries were the patients, the United States today would be a post-surgical charge under observation after an ambitious and previously untested transplant operation. Surgeons have grafted a foreign organ—the European welfare state—into the American body. The transplanted organ has thrived—in fact, it has grown immensely. The condition of the patient, however, is another question altogether. The patient’s vital signs have not responded entirely positively to this social surgery; in fact, by some important metrics, the patient’s post-operative behavior appears to be impaired. And, like many other transplant patients, this one seems to have effected a disturbing change in mood, even personality, as a consequence of the operation.

The modern welfare state has a distinctly European pedigree. Naturally enough, the architecture of the welfare state was designed and developed with European realities in mind, the most important of which were European beliefs about poverty. Thanks to their history of Old World feudalism, with its centuries of rigid class barriers and attendant lack of opportunity for mobility based on merit, Europeans held a powerful, continentally pervasive belief that ordinary people who found themselves in poverty or need were effectively stuck in it—and, no less important, that they were stuck through no fault of their own, but rather by an accident of birth. (Whether this belief was entirely accurate is another story, though beside the point: This was what people perceived and believed, and at the end of the day those perceptions shaped the formation and development of Europe’s welfare states.) The state provision of old-age pensions, unemployment benefits, and health services—along with official family support and other household-income guarantees—served a multiplicity of purposes for European political economies, not the least of which was to assuage voters’ discontent with the perceived shortcomings of their countries’ social structures through a highly visible and explicitly political mechanism for broadly based and compensatory income redistribution.

But America’s historical experience has been rather different from Europe’s, and from the earliest days of the great American experiment, people in the United States exhibited strikingly different views from their trans-Atlantic cousins on the questions of poverty and social welfare. These differences were noted both by Americans themselves and by foreign visitors, not least among them Alexis de Tocqueville, whose conception of American exceptionalism was heavily influenced by the distinctive American worldview on such matters. Because America had no feudal past and no lingering aristocracy, poverty was not viewed as the result of an unalterable accident of birth but instead as a temporary challenge that could be overcome with determination and character—with enterprise, hard work, and grit. Rightly or wrongly, Americans viewed themselves as masters of their own fate, intensely proud because they were self-reliant.

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Consciousness

Why Can’t the World’s Greatest Minds Solve the Mystery of Consciousness? by Oliver Burkeman.

Philosophers and scientists have been at war for decades over the question of what makes human beings more than complex robots.

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News

CT reviews Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N. T. Wright.

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Lying

The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews The Devil Wins: A History of Lying from the Garden of Eden to the Enlightenment by Dallas G. Denery II.

Related: You can read the Introduction here. (pdf)

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Civil War

Civil War Brewing for the Cultural Left by Allum Bokhari.

It has often been remarked that the right won the economic arguments of the twentieth century, while the left won the culture war. Although Thatcher and Reagan succeeded in their quest to overturn the postwar economic consensus and undermine the USSR, the left consistently triumphed over social conservatives in political debates on society and culture.

Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, the left successfully positioned itself as the guardian of liberty and reason against a dogmatic and authoritarian “moral majority”. Moderates and liberals could not understand why the right wanted to deny gay people the right to marry, or women the right to an abortion. Nor could they understand the conservative quest to pull the theory of evolution from primary schools, or the regular campaigns by conservative moral crusaders against filth, blasphemy and even Satanism (1, 2) in popular culture. Against such opponents, it was relatively easy for the left to position itself as the defenders of academic inquiry, artistic expression and personal freedom.

But the sands are beginning to shift. The coalition of moderate liberals, sceptical intellectuals, and radical progressives that once stood together against the conservative “moral majority” is beginning to fracture. In the absence of a compelling external opponent, the internal tensions of this coalition are becoming more visible. While it is too soon to say if the revolution is about to consume itself, a number of serious divisions have emerged on the cultural left. And they are becoming increasingly bitter.

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Crisis

The European Union, Nationalism and the Crisis of Europe by George Friedman.

European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank’s forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week.

The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing.

The United States did this in 2008. In addition to government debt, the Federal Reserve also bought corporate debt. The hyperinflation that some had feared would result from the move never materialized, and the U.S. economy hit a 5 percent growth rate in the third quarter of last year. The Europeans chose not to pursue this route, and as a result, the European economy is, at best, languishing. Now the Europeans will begin such a program — several years after the Americans did — in the hopes of moving things forward again.

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Closing

NCR reviews of The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis by Robert R. Reilly.

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Redefining

Redefining Mental Illness by T. M. Luhrmann.

Two months ago, the British Psychological Society released a remarkable document entitled “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.” Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.”

The report says that there is no strict dividing line between psychosis and normal experience: “Some people find it useful to think of themselves as having an illness. Others prefer to think of their problems as, for example, an aspect of their personality which sometimes gets them into trouble but which they would not want to be without.”

The report adds that antipsychotic medications are sometimes helpful, but that “there is no evidence that it corrects an underlying biological abnormality.” It then warns about the risk of taking these drugs for years.

More at the NYT.

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Weird II

Peter Enns reviews The Biblical Cosmos: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Weird and Wonderful World of the Bible by Robin A. Parry.

Look inside the book here.

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Weird

Making Christianity Weird Again by Rod Dreher.

This Wichita conference I’ve been at over the weekend was on the theme of wonder in Christianity. I had several important conversations about Millennials and the Christian faith, and the strong consensus — I’m talking about among college professors who teach them — is that even in Christian colleges, undergraduates come almost entirely ignorant of the Christian faith.

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Reconsidering

Reconsidering Locke and the Origins of Modernity by David Azerrad.

In a new book, Steven Forde offers a compelling portrait of a “non-Lockean” Locke who is neither morally corrosive nor oblivious to the tension between individual rights and the common good and whose philosophy develops in response to the new empirical science that shattered the classical and medieval worldviews.

More at PD.