October 11, 2018

Have you seen the film The Greatest Showman? The movie is quite good in many ways–especially the soundtrack–although it is not particularly historically accurate. Since it stars Hugh Jackson and Zac Efron, I like to think of it as “What if Wolverine and that kid from High School Musical started a circus!” One of the reasons I was interested in seeing the film is that it is inspired by the life of P. T. Barnum (1810-1891), who was a prominent Universalist. Indeed,… Read more

October 3, 2018

The Genderbread Person is a playful but serious graphic attempt to visualize the four broad spectrums of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction. One of the most important aspects of this chart is that the four different attributes are on non-intersecting lines. In other words, where an individual identifies on one line does not tell you how they identify on another line. That also means that people express gender and sexuality through many different possible combinations. To… Read more

September 25, 2018

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, who has spent nearly two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. If you are looking for a quick introduction, her two TED Talks are amazing. Over the past few years, she has written three bestselling books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. She has distilled the core themes to the following: Be you. All of you. Be all in. Fall. Get up. Try again…. Read more

September 20, 2018

In response to the word Kabbalah, many people have a vague notion that it  relates to a mysterious branch of the Jewish tradition. Others may add that it involves reading arcane texts. If you dig deeper, three additional themes include: That what we humans sometimes refer to with the letters G-d is infinite—and the Kabbalah concerns our finite attempts to perceive aspects of what is ultimately beyond us. In the often male-dominated world of religion, Kabbalah also famously includes the… Read more

September 12, 2018

What is a billion? What is a trillion? If you have an intuitive grasp of math, you may have a fairly good sense of what those numbers mean. For the rest of us, including myself, the scale of numbers at this level can be difficult to comprehend. Another way of talking about a billion is that it is “one thousand million.” Another way of talking about a trillion is that it is a “one million million.” (Does that clear it… Read more

June 15, 2018

Donald Hoffman is a professor of Cognitive Science at the University of  California, Irvine. A few years ago,The Atlantic magazine interview with him titled, “The Case Against Reality,” explored the astounding fact of human consciousness: that our species is awake and aware of our surroundings. I invite you to read just one paragraph from that interview: Not only are [many neuroscientists and philosophers of mind] ignoring the progress in fundamental physics, they are often explicit about it. They’ll say openly… Read more

June 8, 2018

The first time I remember reflecting on the meaning of utopia was when I was assigned to read Thomas More’s classic sixteenth-century book with that title. In More’s conception, utopia was spelled with the Greek prefix “οὐ” (“not”). That prefix was attached to the root word τόπος (“place”)—which together meant “no place.” I remember thinking, “That’s kind of great.” He admits up front that u-topia is nowhere. No place is “perfect” for everyone or for all conceivable times and situations…. Read more

May 17, 2018

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is best known as the author of the 1868 novel Little Women. The second of four daughters born to Abigail and Bronson Alcott, she was born on November 29, 1832, which also happened to be her father’s 33rd birthday. Bronson was a brilliant and innovative educational reformer—although he had a tragic flaw of being financially irresponsible. Louisa’s story has often been told in a way that links her success to his influence. However, in recent years, as… Read more

May 1, 2018

The number of human beings on this planet has septupled (increased sevenfold) in a mere two centuries, from approximately 1 billion people alive in 1800 to more than 7.6 billion people today. Although there are indications that world population may peak at approximately 10 billion, should we accept 10 billion people as the “new normal?” We also need to pay attention not only to the number of people alive at any given time, but also to related demographic trends. For… Read more

April 19, 2018

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Artificial Intelligence in the near future in a post titled “Immigrants Aren’t Coming for Your  Job, Robots Are.” Next week, I’ll be writing on “Malthus, Earth Day, & Global Population” to wrestle with the implications that the number of human beings here on planet Earth has septupled (increased sevenfold) in a mere two centuries, from approximately 1 billion people alive in 1800 to more than 7.6 billion people today. Today my focus is… Read more

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