Religious experience & magic mushrooms


Representatives of the world’s major religions–well, not ALL of the world’s major religions–are being given the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” in a scientific study of religious experience.

The Johns Hopkins and New York University study has enlisted two dozen participants, including Catholic and Orthodox priests, Presbyterian ministers, Jewish rabbis, and Zen Buddhists.  No Muslims or Hindus have agreed to participate.  There is no mention of evangelicals or other conservative groups, such as confessional Lutherans.

Preliminary findings indicate that the psychedelic drugs make the subjects appreciate their own traditions more, but also make them more universalistic in appreciating the mystical dimension of other religions.

Notice the assumptions:  Religion has to do with inner experiences rather than objective truths.  Religion has to do with non-rational mysticism–the sort that can be duplicated by psychedelic drugs–rather than doctrine, worship, and a relationship with God and other people.  Also non-factors are morality, sin, forgiveness, salvation. . . .

This mindset turns religion into just another way of getting high.  It isn’t just that drugs become religious.  Religion becomes a drug.

[Read more…]

Trump’s presidency after six months

Donald_Trump_(25218642186) (1)

President Trump will have been in office for six months, as of January 20, so observers are assessing how he’s doing so far.

His popularity is at record lows; the claims of a Russian connection will not die; he hasn’t passed any of his legislative agenda (taxes, the wall, health care, infrastructure).

But he has put a young and brilliant conservative justice on the Supreme Court.  And his other judicial appointments are getting good marks from conservatives.  That is an important legacy that could last for decades and have a major impact on the direction of the country.

After the jump, a relatively objective analysis.  It makes the point that his biggest problem is that while the president makes mistakes, he doesn’t seem to be learning from them.  His lack of discipline, the dysfunction of his staff, and his constant tweeting keep causing him trouble and prevent him from achieving his agenda.  And he hasn’t done anything to make it better!

Other problems, of course, are the constant leaking and the hostile media coverage.  But the leaking, again, has to do with his staff.  Also a Republican-controlled Congress in disarray.

Yes, six months is early in his term.  He has three and a half years to turn things around.

Do you think he can and will?  Do you agree with those who think his presidency is a disaster that will get worse?  Or do you think he is doing all right?

[Read more…]

The U.S. doctor will go to U.K. for Charlie Gard

doctor, lab, laboratory, medical, medicine, chemistry, test tube

If the baby can’t go to the doctor, let the doctor come to the baby.  Here is the latest development in the case of Charlie Gard, the baby with a horrendous disease whom British judges won’t allow to come to America for experimental treatment, violating his parents’ wishes, so that he can “die with dignity”:  The American doctor who offered to treat him, at the judge’s invitation, will fly to the UK to assess the child’s condition.

If there is a chance the experimental treatment might help, there are indications that the judge may change his ruling.

The doctor is no crackpot, as has sometimes been implied.  He is with the Columbia University Medical Center.

Details after the jump. [Read more…]

The Reputation of Churches


Studies show that, despite everything, churches still have a good reputation in the United States.
Churches score #3 in the most-trusted-institution category.  This is behind the military and the police.  But far ahead of colleges, labor unions, banks, Congress, and the media (which rates last).
There are, however, variations according to religion and political affiliation.
The two studies are linked after the jump.  (The Gallup study includes Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court [ranked highest among governmental agencies], big business, public schools, and others.  That is more than the Pew study, which focuses on the different ratings given by different groups.)

[Read more…]

Discrimination in footnotes

women-149577_640Two geographers have written an academic article arguing that scholars should not cite research by so many experts who are “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered [meaning someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were born with].

To footnote such people contributes to the “system of oppression” known as “heteromasculinism.”

It is true that in the academic world it helps a scholar’s career the more often he or she is cited by other scholarship.  These authors say that scholars should promote the work of women, gays, racial minorities, and trangendered individuals by quoting them and citing them in footnotes.

Here is my question:  How are we supposed to know?

Scholarly articles don’t give the sexual preference of their authors.  Or their race or preferred gender identity.  The APA stylesheet, in an effort presumably to prevent discrimination against women, already forbids the use of first names.  Instead, you give the person’s initials.

A field like geography, in which the authors of this article are working, involves objective research about objective places.  Say a graduate student is writing a dissertation about glaciers in Antarctica.  What if not enough transgendered geographers have been publishing on that topic?What if mostly white men have been spending time in that cold terrain and gathering the most relevant research?

Is the research topic now to be less important now than the private lives of the researchers?  Should style sheets now include identity markers?  And what would those look like in a bibliography?

Jones-Smith, E. G. [black, female, lesbian, transgendered] (2016).  Glacier formations of the South Pole.  Journal of Geography, 9: 224-257.

Rosenberg, S. L. [Jewish, male, cisgendered] (2017).  Glaciers today.  NY: Columbia University Press.

Maybe there should be an asterisk with that second reference, or a notation:  Do not use.  Actually, the publishers shouldn’t even print or peer review a book or a study by a white male scholar, since no one should refer to it, lest they contribute to “heteromasculinism.”

[Read more…]

The new Doctor Who is a woman


The latest regeneration of Doctor Who is a woman, played by Jodie Whittaker.

The actress is best known for her role as Beth Latimer on Broadchurch (a really good mystery, especially the first season).  She played the bereaved mother, co-starring with David Tennant, a former Doctor Who.

In the series, the character of the time-and-space traveling Time Lord regenerates every time he dies.  That is, every time the actor playing Doctor Who quits the show or is replaced.  This will be the 13th Doctor.

Whovians [what you call Doctor Who fans], do you mind the character being played by a woman?

Obviously, gender politics is a factor with BBC, but can this work in terms of the ongoing story?

[Read more…]