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Exist?

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by Dennis Bonnette.

Pure myth! That is today’s typical view of a literal Adam and Eve. Yet, contrary to current skepticism, a real Adam and Eve remain credible—both in terms of Catholic doctrine and sound natural science.

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Good?

Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis by Brian J. Grim, Greg Clark, and Robert Edward Snyder.

Against a global backdrop of steadily rising religious restrictions and hostilities, we expand the religious economies theory by articulating how religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes. Most important, we expand on previous empirical work on the social impact of denying religious freedom, first by examining and finding a positive relationship between
global economic competitiveness and religious freedom as exemplified by low government restrictions on religion and low social hostilities involving religion. Second, going beyond correlational relationship, we empirically test and find the tandem effects of religious restrictions and hostilities to be detrimental to economic growth while controlling for other theoretical, economic, political, social, and demographic factors. We conclude that religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes, as is suggested by the religious economies theory.

More here. (pdf)

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Stuck

The Medieval Mentality of Modern Science by Tom Siegfried.

In many ways, today’s scientists are stuck in the Middle Ages.

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Taylor

Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose.

Why was it once virtually impossible not to believe in God, while today many of us find this not only easy, but inescapable?” The question is Charles Taylor’s, and his nine-hundred-page answer has arguably been the academic event of the decade. Seven years after its publication, A Secular Age has done more than reignite the debate over secularization and its religious roots. It offers to change the very terms in which Christians profess belief.

One of the world’s leading philosophers, Taylor is known for the expansive breadth of his interests in a discipline whose research programs have shriveled in scope. He has written commandingly on German romanticism, ethics, hermeneutics, and the philosophies of mind and action, and has done so in a relaxed style that draws smoothly on literature and history.

Taylor has done little to disguise his religiosity, something that also sets him apart from the philosophical establishment. He describes himself as a “believer” and “person of faith” and without affecting embarrassment. A professed Catholic, he has made occasional sorties into the Church’s intellectual life, quietly signaling his sympathies for liberal movements in theology. Following the publication of Sources of the Self in 1989, a book that credited ­Augustine with inventing inner selfhood, Taylor’s writings took a soft theological turn. A Secular Age is the kind of work readers probably should have seen coming.

More at FT.

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Psychosis

Albany Psychosis by E. Fuller Torrey.

The story of Gregory Seifert represents everything wrong with New York’s mental health system. Last year, while touring the Erie County Holding Center—better known as the Buffalo Jail—I observed him quietly hallucinating in his cell, probably communicating with his superiors at the CIA, where he claimed to work. Police had arrested him 14 months earlier for cutting down three wooden power poles with a chainsaw, terminating power to 6,800 homes in suburban Buffalo in the dead of winter. Like most individuals with chronic paranoid schizophrenia, he doubtless had a logical (in his mind) reason for his actions: perhaps his voices told him that cutting off power would prevent a tsunami from Lake Erie from sweeping over Buffalo. When the police questioned him, though, Seifert denied everything. “I know this sounds weird,” he said, “but my cloned twin did it.”

More at CJ.

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Red Herring

The Red Herring ‘Gay Gene,’ And How Sexuality Is More Than Just Genetics by Chris Weller.

Just recently, the largest twin study to date examining genes’ influence on homosexuality was published in the journal Psychological Medicine. The study involved 409 pairs of homosexual brothers. Genome-wide analyses showed strong evidence, the researchers claimed, that two chromosomes, X and chromosome 8, mediated homosexuality based on the genes they shared.

For some experts, particularly those involved with the work, the findings had “landmark” written all over them. But for those less optimistic, the study was flimsy and statistically mediocre, if outright insignificant. Even Dr. Alan Sanders, a behavioral genetics researcher at NorthShore University HealthSystem Research Institute and the study’s lead author, said the evidence “is not proof, but it’s a pretty good indication” that genes wield some influence on sexuality.

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Evil

The Truth about Evil by John Gray. See here.

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Future

The Strange Religious Future by Ross Douthat.

I had the privilege of being part of a Fordham University event last night on the future of religion, responding (along with a rather more distinguished fellow panelist) to remarks by the religion journalist and academic Molly Worthen on the roots of institutional faith’s present-day developed-world decline. There was, I think, some basic agreement among all of the panelists about some of the patterns and shifts we’re experiencing right now (the decline of institutional authority, the working out of the sexual revolution, the rise of the so-called “nones”), and then a number of interesting things were said about the possible unknowns that might either accelerate or redirect current trends: There was discussion of how institutional-cum-orthodox forms of faith might experience some sort of revival, of how spiritual-but-not-religious forms of faith might represent the vanguard of an entirely new era of religious understanding, and of how religious forces outside the developed world (Islam, Pentecostalism, Chinese Christianity) might matter more to the West itself than a Western-centric vision allows.

All of us were trying, I think, to escape a little bit from the tyranny of extrapolation — the tendency to assume that today’s trends will necessarily be tomorrow’s, and that history happens in a relatively linear and Whiggish fashion. But reflecting on the discussion afterward, it seems worth dwelling a little more the importance of the unexpected in religious history, the ways in which various forms of rupture and reversal can make punditry look foolish.

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Self

The Self is Moral by Nina Strohminger.

We tend to think that our memories determine our identity, but it’s moral character that really makes us who we are.

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Time

A Time to Rend by R. R. Reno.

It’s time to make a clear distinction between the government-enforced legal regime of marriage and the biblical covenant of marriage. In the past, the state recognized marriage, giving it legal forms to reinforce its historic norms. Now the courts have redefined rather than recognized marriage, making it an institution entirely under the state’s control. That’s why it’s now time to stop speaking of civil marriage and instead talk about government marriage—calling it what it is.

As the legal reality of marriage changes, we must also act. If the churches continue as if nothing has changed, the message is that for all our strong words nothing really decisive is at stake. It’s now time, then, to think long and hard about what we need to do—or refuse to do.

I can’t see how a priest or pastor can in good conscience sign a marriage license for “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.” Perhaps he should strike those absurdities and write “Husband” and “Wife.” Failing that he should simply refuse the government’s delegation of legal power, referring the couple to the courthouse after the wedding for the state to confect in its bureaucratic way the amorphous and ill-defined civil union that our regime continues to call “marriage.”

Getting out of the government marriage business is exactly what Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz now urge. They’ve formulated a pastoral pledge. It requires ordained ministers to renounce their long-established role as agents of the state with the legal power to sign marriage certificates. I find their reasoning convincing. Easy divorce, pre-nuptial agreements, a general tolerance of cohabitation, the contraceptive mentality—this degrades and obscures the meaning of marriage. But redefining marriage so that male-female complementarity is irrelevant? That’s a fundamental contradiction of the most fundamental meaning of marriage.

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Everything Redux

The New York Review of Books reviews This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.

Related: Previous review linked here.

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Empire

Philip Jenkins reviews In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire by Robert G. Hoyland.

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Forever?

The Forever Professors by Laurie Fendrich.

Academics who don’t retire are greedy, selfish, and bad for students.

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Winter

Obama in Winter by David Brooks.

They say failure can be a good teacher, but, so far, the Obama administration is opting out of the course. The post-midterm period has been one of the most bizarre of the Obama presidency. President Obama has racked up some impressive foreign-policy accomplishments, but, domestically and politically, things are off the rails.

Usually presidents use midterm defeats as a chance to rethink and refocus. That’s what Obama did four years ago. Voters like to feel the president is listening to them.

But Obama’s done no public rethinking. In his post-election news conference, the president tried to reframe the defeat by saying the turnout was low, as if it was the Republicans’ fault that the Democrats could only mobilize their core base. Throughout that conference, the president seemed to detach himself from his own party, as if the Democrats who lost their jobs because of him were a bunch of far-off victims of some ethereal malaise.

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Testimony

How a French Atheist Becomes a Theologian by Guillaume Bignon.

If French atheists rarely become evangelical Christians, how much rarer it is for one to become an evangelical Christian theologian. So what happened? One might argue that with 66 million French people, I’m just a fluke, an anomaly. I am inclined to see it as the work of a God who says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Rom. 9:15). Hearing the facts may help you decide for yourself.

More at CT.

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Beyond Fair

New CBO Study Shows That ‘the Rich’ Don’t Just Pay Their ‘Fair Share,’ They Pay Almost Everybody’s Share by Mark J. Perry.

The CBO study released this week provides ample evidence that the richest Americans are paying their “fair share” of federal taxes. In fact, the richest 20% of Americans by income aren’t just paying a share of federal taxes that would be considered “fair” — it goes way beyond “fair” — they’re shouldering almost 100% of the entire federal tax burden of transfer payments and all other non-financed government spending. What’s probably not so fair is that the bottom 60% isn’t just getting off with a small tax burden or no tax burden – the bottom 60% are net recipients of transfer payments from the top 20% to the tune of about $10,000 per household in 2011. So maybe what the CBO report shows is that we should be asking whether or not the bottom 60% are paying their fair share when they’re not paying anything – they’re net recipients of transfer payments that come from “the richest” 20% of American households. When the top 20% of US households are financing almost 100% of the transfer payments to the bottom 60% and financing almost the entire non-financed operating budget of the federal government, I’d say “the rich” are paying beyond their fair share of the total tax burden, and we might want to start asking if the bottom 60% of “net recipient” households are really paying their fair share.

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Money

Can Money Buy You Happiness? by Andrew Blackman.

It’s an age-old question: Can money buy happiness?

Over the past few years, new research has given us a much deeper understanding of the relationship between what we earn and how we feel. Economists have been scrutinizing the links between income and happiness across nations, and psychologists have probed individuals to find out what really makes us tick when it comes to cash.

The results, at first glance, may seem a bit obvious: Yes, people with higher incomes are, broadly speaking, happier than those who struggle to get by.

But dig a little deeper into the findings, and they get a lot more surprising—and a lot more useful.

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Failure

Welcome to the Failure Age! by Adam Davidson.

When you pull off Highway 101 and head into Sunnyvale, Calif., the first thing you notice is how boring innovation looks up close. This small Silicon Valley city, which abuts both Cupertino, the home of Apple, and Mountain View, the site of the Googleplex, is where Lockheed built the Poseidon nuclear missile. It’s where the forebear of NASA did some of its most important research and where a prototype for Pong debuted at a neighborhood bar. Countless ambitious start-ups — with names like Qvivr, Schoolfy, eCloset.me and PeerPal — appear in Sunnyvale every year. Aesthetically, though, the city is one enormous glass-and-stucco office park after another. Its dominant architectural feature, the five-story headquarters of Yahoo, a few minutes from Innovation Way, looks about as futuristic as a suburban hospital.

As an industry becomes more dynamic, its architecture, by necessity, often becomes less inspiring. These squat buildings have thick outer walls that allow for a minimal number of internal support beams, creating versatile open-floor plans for any kind of company — one processing silicon into solar-power arrays, say, or a start-up monitoring weed elimination in industrial agriculture. In Sunnyvale, companies generally don’t stay the same size. They expand quickly or go out of business, and then the office has to be ready for the next tenant. These buildings need to be the business equivalent of dorms: spaces designed to house important and tumultuous periods of people’s lives before being cleaned out and prepped for the next occupant.

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Fraud?

Is ‘The Lost Gospel’ Book a Fraud? by Nico Hines.

Mary Magdalene was a “co-Messiah” whose marriage and vigorous sex life with Jesus should be celebrated at the heart of Christianity, according to the authors of a new book who claim to have discovered a lost gospel.

A sixth-century manuscript translated from the ancient language of Syriac for the first time is credited with finally explaining what Jesus was up to in the decades before he appeared in the Bible as an adult. The book claims that Jesus’s sexuality was whitewashed from history by prudish early Christians, who also downplayed the importance of Mary Magdelene, his wife and the mother of his two children.

“She’s not just Mrs. Jesus, she is a co-deity, a co-redeemer, she’s called ‘Daughter of God’ as he’s called ‘Son of God,’” said Simcha Jacobovici, one of the authors of Lost Gospel, which was launched at the British Library in London on Wednesday. “We think of Christianity as sexless, this [Gospel] says that sex is sacred.”

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Myths

Myths about Israel and Zionism by Gerald R. McDermott.

Debates about Israel and Palestine often assume a historical narrative that is at odds with historical realities.

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