January 3, 2013

I have a particular fondness for strong opinions, Best/Worst lists, and theology. You don’t often find all three in the same place but Fred Sander’s hits that trifecta in his post “Karl Bahrdt, Worst Theologian Ever.” (No, not Karl Barth, Karl Bahrdt.) A Lutheran preacher’s kid, Bahrdt started studying theology in 1757 in Leipzig, at age sixteen. He became famous for “pranks,” one of which included using Faust’s magic symbols to try to summon demons. . . . These shenanigans led somebody... Read more

January 3, 2013

Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton defines silence as “the complete absence of all audible mechanical vibrations, leaving only the sounds of nature at her most natural. Silence is the presence of everything, undisturbed.” This natural silence, though, is becoming increasingly rare—even in the most remote locations: [Hempton] says there are fewer than a dozen places of silence—areas “where natural silence reigns over many square miles”—remaining in America, and none in Europe. In his book, One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search... Read more

January 2, 2013

Novelist Michael Chabon wonders whether denying children the freedom to roam is stifling their imaginations: Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime... Read more

January 2, 2013

Justin E. H. Smith on words that can mean either one thing or its opposite: Antonyms, of course, are pairs of words that have meanings opposite to each other. Autoantonyms, in turn, are single words that themselves can mean either one thing or its opposite. This can happen either by convergence –e.g., the English verb ‘to cleave’ comes from two separate but similar Anglo-Saxon verbs, and today can mean either ‘to separate’ or ‘to latch on’– or it can happen through a cleavage,... Read more

January 2, 2013

When Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867, the press dubbed the expansionist effort “Seward’s Folly.” Since then the conventional wisdom has been that history vindicated Seward and his $7.2 million investment. But a paper by economist David Barker argues that the acquisition wasn’t necessarily beneficial for the lower forty-eight: Is it possible that the purchase of Alaska, with all of its oil, timber, and other natural resources, for 1.7 cents per acre was not... Read more

January 1, 2013

Jeffrey Wright uses wacky experiments to teach children about the universe, but it is his own personal story that teaches them the true meaning of life. (Via: 22 Words) Read more

January 1, 2013

In the journal Anamnesis, Wilfred McClay has an insightful analysis of urbanism and its relationship to conservatism. McClay notes that during World War II the British House of Common was destroyed by the German air force—and Winston Churchill had a very definite opinion about how it should be rebuilt: Churchill did not have a professional understanding of architecture. But he showed at the outset that he understood what was at stake better than a whole battalion of experts. “We shape... Read more

January 1, 2013

Maira Kalman posts a charming illustrated story about Ben Franklin and the nature of invention: I don’t think he was ever bored. He saw a dirty street and created a sanitation department. He saw a house on fire and created a fire department. He saw sick people and founded a hospital. He started our first lending library. He saw people needing an education and founded a university. He started the American Philosophical Society where men and women shared developments in science.... Read more

January 1, 2013

In an amusing post that pokes fun at both Twitter and applied moral philosophy, James Anderson offers eighteen arguments “Against All Tweets.” As an Aristotelian-Augustinian advocate of natural law, I was persuaded by a number of his conditional proofs. But being first-and-foremost a virtue ethicist, this was the one that convinced me: Virtue Ethics Argument (1) One ought always to act in good faith. (2) Therefore, if one Twitters, one ought always to Twitter in good faith. (3) One can... Read more

December 31, 2012

In the quirky British online journal spiked, Dolan Cummings—“co-founder of the radical humanist campaign group the Manifesto Club”—writes that we have forgotten that John Calvin is a key figure in the intellectual making of the modern world. He provides a fresh outsider’s perspective on the Reformer, but it’s this part about why Calvinism is seeing a resurgence among the young that I find most intriguing: One of the most successful and dynamic emerging churches in the US today is Mars Hill in Seattle, founded... Read more


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