Anthony Paul Smith has an interesting response (one that seems to be deeply influenced by Zizek’s remarks on those whom he dubs “liberal communists” here) to the Pope’s new encyclical.  An excerpt from Smith: Apparently any use of technology in relation to life, from birth control to abortion to in vitro to cloning, is a sign that human society is hubristic and thinks not only that it is able to master the mysteries of the universe but that there are… Read more

A couple clips of Rebecca Walker’s article on meeting Michael Jackson at 14, on experiencing life to his soundtrack, on gawking at his sordid personal implosion, and, finally, on responding to his death: Why Michael approached me in a room full of superstars after the show I will never know. Perhaps because I was the youngest in the room, and at 14 didn’t have a big name, a big career or a powerful company. I was a kid, easy, with… Read more

Researchers suggest that we are less inclined to behave morally when we feel like we have already just done so and more likely to behave morally when we feel like we have just failed to do so.  Click here for the account of the experiments from which this conclusion is drawn. Here’s the overall summation of the views of the researchers: If people feel too moral,” Sachdeva said, “they might not have sufficient incentive to engage in moral action because… Read more

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In a previous post, I raised some remarks from psychologist of morality Jonathan Haidt, in which he discussed his theory that moral thinking appeals to 5 essential modules hardwired into our brains by evolution.  In the interview I cited from a couple of years ago he only referred to 4 of the 5 modules but his later work has developed his account of the fifth one.  Haidt argues that whereas Western academics and other liberals seem to consider only questions… Read more

The recently deceased Robert S. McNamara, architect of the Vietnam War, once hit upon the harsh and unpleasantly outcome oriented way that in practice we judge actions of comparable type and from comparable motivation. “We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He —… Read more

David Weigel is baffled that such a meme persists: Scarborough’s quasi-co-host Mika Brzezinski followed this up by saying Palin represented “real Americans,” and that some people in “urban America” didn’t get it. This is fascinating. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) lost the presidency with 48.3 percent of the vote, and no one seriously suggested that they represented “real Americans” or anything else. As Ben Smith reported after the election, at least 79 percent of… Read more

Philosopher Simon Blackburn summarizes Karen Armstrong’s views on religion as more akin to art than science: the worst is the folly of intellectualising the practice. This makes it into a matter of belief, argument, and ultimately dogma. It debases religion into a matter of belief in a certain number of propositions, so that if you can recite those sincerely you are an adept, and if you can’t you fail. This is a perversion of anything valuable in religious practice, Armstrong… Read more

Sancte Pater has the skinny from Thomas Woods, Jr.: “The Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini, a student of the Jesuits Riccioloi and Grimaldi, used the observatory at the splendid Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna to lend support to Kepler’s model. “Here we see an important way in which the Church contributed to astronomy that is all but unknown today: Cathedrals in Bologna, Florence, Paris and Rome were designed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to function as world-class solar observatories…. Read more

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