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History

“Fake History” is More Dangerous Than “Fake News” by William Jeynes.

Donald Trump and others have complained a great deal about the pervasiveness of “fake news.” What is less commonly spoken about is that for decades professors have also taught a good deal of “fake history.” Fake history promotes false narratives, twists the facts, or omits certain key facts altogether. And it is this fake history that has established the foundation for fake news.

There are three respects in which the spread of fake history has been particularly dangerous and served as the foundation for attempts to spread fake news. First, some historians and political thinkers present extreme leftists as heroes worthy of emulation. Second, these same people too often twist history in order to present victims as oppressors and oppressors as victims. Third, these individuals often conveniently omit key statements by the nation’s founders and other historical figures.

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Civil War

The Cold Civil War by Angelo M. Codevilla.

As the Ancients remind us, the statesman’s primary concern must be the good of his own nation. In revolutionary times especially, thoughts, words, and deeds about international affairs must be subordinated to internal needs. That is the primary meaning of “America First.” But because “America First” has an equally compelling meaning internationally, it also implies taking seriously what the United States might do for itself vis-à-vis foreign nations—beyond simply using them as weapons in domestic battles, as so many politicians and commentators do today in what passes for discussion of Russia policy.

America is in the throes of revolution. The 2016 election and its aftermath reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country. During the Civil War, President Lincoln observed that all sides “pray[ed] to the same God.” They revered, though in clashing ways, the same founders and principles. None doubted that those on the other side were responsible human beings. Today, none of that holds. Our ruling class and their clients broadly view Biblical religion as the foundation of all that is wrong with the world. According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.”

The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal.

On the other side, some two thirds of regular Americans chafe at insults from on high and believe that “the system” is rigged against them and, hence, illegitimate—that elected and appointed officials, plus the courts, business leaders, and educators are leading the country in the wrong direction. The non-elites blame the elites for corruptly ruling us against our will, for impoverishing us, for getting us into wars and losing them. Many demand payback—with interest.

So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return. Instead, we have a cold civil war. Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot. In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse.

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Less

The Many Reasons That People Are Having Less Sex by Simon Copland.

The average sex life appears to be dwindling – and it may reflect some troubling anxieties at the heart of modern society.

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Combat

Life and Combat for Republicans at Berkeley by Thomas Fuller.

On this famously liberal campus, it is easy to dismiss Berkeley Republicans as an oxymoron. Being a Republican at the University of California, Berkeley, is hard, conservative students say, a crucible of ideological combat. Some said they had been mocked, spat on and punched.

Founded in the 1960s, the Berkeley College Republicans have remained a small and tightknit club, today numbering a few dozen active members. But Republican alumni have gone on to prominent jobs: Michael Anton is a senior national security official in the Trump administration. Alex Marlow is editor in chief of Breitbart News. Claire Chiara, a graduating senior and past president of the Berkeley College Republicans, was one of the youngest delegates to the Republican National Convention last year.

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Pixar

How Pixar Lost Its Way by Christopher Orr.

For 15 years, the animation studio was the best on the planet. Then Disney bought it.

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Threat?

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Wants Us to Heed the Threat of ‘Fundamentalism’ by S.D. Kelly.

It’s no coincidence that The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu original series based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name, is being released now, more than 30 years after the book’s publication. Capitalizing upon a the parallels between its fictional American dystopia and the distress that many people feel at the current state of American politics, The Handmaid’s Tale has been celebrated as a timely entry into the conversation about where we are headed as a nation. In particular, the show makes an uncomfortable connection between the contemporary political language of a “war on women”, as heard in the last several presidential election cycles, and the actual war on women in The Handmaid’s Tale, where women are enslaved, mutilated, raped, beaten, and killed. If the show insists on offering a glimpse into a possible future, then it also owes us a blueprint for how to keep this future from happening.

The villains of The Handmaid’s Tale are fundamentalist Christians who, after a violent revolution, run a totalitarian theocratic republic called Gilead in place of the secular state—an echo of the Islamic Republic established in Iran after the 1979 Revolution, around the time when Atwood penned her novel. The highest function of women in this fearful new world is to bear children. Infertility and infant mortality rates, however, are through the roof, so when a member of the pious ruling class cannot have a child, the state sends her a “handmaid” to conceive in her place.

The handmaid system provides sexual surrogacy, the depiction of which, once seen, will not soon be forgotten—especially as it is set against a track of “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the show’s most heavy-handed moment. The whole scenario is reminiscent of the story of Hagar in the Old Testament, in which Sarah arranges to have her husband sleep with her handmaid Hagar as an unauthorized workaround in fulfilling God’s promise that Sarah and Abraham would have a child.

Of course, for a theocratic state run by biblical literalists, emulating Sarah’s example is a mighty strange interpretation, since, as any kid in Sunday School knows, Sarah’s circumvention of God’s plan didn’t exactly turn out well for everyone involved. And unfortunately, that confusion is just one of the many narrative elements that make little sense in The Handmaid’s Tale. Much of this incoherence is the result of utilizing fundamentalist Christianity as the basic framework for this particular dystopia without demonstrating any understanding of what fundamentalist Christianity is actually about.

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Weekend

It Took a Century to Create the Weekend—and Only a Decade to Undo It by Katrina Onstad.

We made up the weekend the same way we made up the week. The earth actually does rotate around the sun once a year, taking about 365.25 days. The sun truly rises and sets over twenty-four hours. But the week is man-made, arbitrary, a substance not found in nature. That seven-day cycle in which we mark our meetings, mind birthdays, and overstuff our iCals—buffered on both ends by those promise-filled 48 hours of freedom—only holds us in place because we invented it.

We abuse time, make it our enemy. We try to contain and control it, or, at the very least, outrun it. Your new-model, even faster phone; your finger on the “Close” button in the elevator; your same-day delivery. We shave minutes down to nano-seconds, mechanizing and digitizing our hours and days, paring them toward efficiency, that buzzword of corporate America.

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A Third

About a Third of FDA-Approved Drugs Go on to Have Major Safety Issues by Beth Mole.

Amid calls for faster reviews, researchers look for ways to catch dangerous drugs.

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Arguments

Five Rational Arguments Why God (Very Probably) Exists by Robert H. Nelson.

The question of whether a God exists is heating up in the 21st century. According to a Pew survey, the percentage of Americans having no religious affiliation reached 23 percent in 2014. Among such “nones,” 33 percent said that they do not believe in God – an 11 percent increase since only 2007.

Such trends have ironically been taking place even as the rational probabilities for the existence of a supernatural God have been rising. In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably,” I explore five rational reasons why it is very probable that such a God exists.

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Battleground

A New Battleground Over Political Correctness: Duke Divinity School by Anemona Hartocollis.

The email read like one that could easily be circulating at any American college in 2017: a professor at Duke Divinity School urged her colleagues to attend a two-day session on how to recognize and combat racism.

The diversity program “provides foundational training in understanding historical and institutional racism,” said the Feb. 6 email by Anathea Portier-Young, an associate professor of the Old Testament, who called it “transformative, powerful and life-changing.”

But to Paul Griffiths, a professor of Catholic theology, the March course was something else: akin to the retraining of intellectuals by “bureaucrats and apparatchiks” in totalitarian societies, he wrote in an email to his fellow professors that afternoon.

“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Professor Griffiths wrote in sharp keystrokes. “Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.”

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Disruption

CT reviews The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond by Geoffrey R. Treloar.

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Scientist

What Does It Mean to Be a ‘Catholic Scientist’? by William E. Carroll.

Any reference to “Catholic scientists” might appear to mean scientists who happen to be Catholics, just as one would speak of politicians, economists, or writers who happen to be Catholics. The phrase “happen to be” suggests a merely accidental pairing, as though each half of the phrase “Catholic scientists” is true but there is no whole — no real unity or single identity. A culture in which religious belief is generally relegated to the sphere of private practice encourages such a view. So we are told that we ought not to mix religion with essentially secular activity — like science.

But we are not very consistent in this view. We often hear arguments about the need to take action about global warming, or to support various new medical techniques, or to encourage or prevent human reproduction. In these and many other cases, it is obvious that we cannot exclude ethical questions from scientific and technological practices. And since ethics involves both reason and faith, we implicitly grant an important role to religious belief in certain scientific activity. We tend, however, only to legitimize those religious arguments concerning such activity when they support what we already have decided needs to be done — for example, reduce our carbon footprint or encourage embryonic stem cell research.

What would it mean to be a Catholic scientist — as distinct from a scientist who happens to be Catholic? This is a question central to the new Society of Catholic Scientists, which had its inaugural meeting in Chicago in April 2017. The founding president of the society is Stephen Barr, a professor of physics at the University of Delaware who frequently writes for popular audiences, including the books Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (2003) and The Believing Scientist: Essays on Science and Religion (2016). The society proposes to offer a witness “to the harmony between the vocation of scientists and the life of faith.” What such a harmony entails is not, however, a scientific question; it is a question for theology. And, like all theological questions, it necessarily involves philosophical analysis.

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Unexamined

Even Prominent Conservatives Have Socialism Hiding Inside Their Heads by Robert Tracinski.

It turns out the problem isn’t the socialism in our economics. It’s the unexamined collectivist assumptions inside our heads.

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Minds

The Evolution of Minds by William Carroll.

Significant advances in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences have led many who are already committed to a materialist philosophy to offer sweeping accounts of the origin and development of life, from bacteria to the human mind and consciousness.

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Revolution

The Quantum Thermodynamics Revolution by Natalie Wolchover.

As physicists extend the 19th-century laws of thermodynamics to the quantum realm, they’re rewriting the relationships among energy, entropy and information.

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Landslide

What Happened in France? by Bruce Bawer.

How could Marine Le Pen have lost in a landslide?

Why, after the Brits chose Brexit, and Americans chose Trump, did the Dutch fail Wilders, and the French fail Le Pen?

How could a country that has been hit by several major terrorist attacks in recent years, and that has undergone a more profound social transformation owing to Islamic immigration, vote for business as usual?

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Tears

The Waterworks by Thomas Dixon.

Tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of incontinence or of ecstasy. Crying must mean something – but what?

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Egypt

Egypt and the End of the Secular Middle East by Philip Jenkins.

Last month, ISIS terrorists tried to attack the ancient monastery of St. Catherine’s, in Egypt’s Sinai desert. That fact might not sound too surprising, until we recall that St. Catherine’s has in its possession a decree of protection issued by the Prophet Muhammad himself and supposedly valid until the end of the world. If any place in the world should be immune from Islamist terrorism, it is this religious house. Following so closely on the hideous massacre of over 40 worshipers at their Palm Sunday services in Egyptian cities, this event indicates just how lethally perilous life has become for the country’s nine million or so Coptic Christians.

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Consciousness

A Theory of Consciousness Can Help Build a Theory of Everything by George Musser.

Neuroscience is weighing in on physics’ biggest questions.

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Haters?

Are Microbiologists Climate-Denying Science Haters? by Alex Berezow.

Recently, I gave a seminar on “fake news” to professors and grad students at a large public university. Early in my talk, I polled the audience: “How many of you believe climate change is the world’s #1 threat?”

Silence. Not a single person raised his or her hand.

Was I speaking in front of a group of science deniers? The College Republicans? Some fringe libertarian club? No, it was a room full of microbiologists.

How could so many incredibly intelligent people overwhelmingly reject what THE SCIENCE says about climate change? Well, they don’t. They just don’t see it as big of a threat to the world as other things. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of them felt that antibiotic resistance and pandemic disease were the biggest global threats. One person thought geopolitical instability was the biggest concern.

I told them that I believed poverty was the world’s biggest threat. The reason is poverty is the underlying condition that causes so much misery in the world. Consider that 1.3 billion people don’t have electricity. And then consider how the lack of that basic necessity — what the rest of us take completely for granted — hinders their ability to develop economically and to succeed, let alone to have access to adequate healthcare. If we fix poverty, we could stop easily preventable health problems, such as infectious disease and malnutrition.

Was I booed out of the room? No, the audience understood why I believed what I did. But woe unto you who try to have a similar conversation with climate warriors.

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