At Patheos (August 26, 2011), religion scholar Douglas Groothuis writes, in “Michele Bachmann and Dominionism Paranoia: Once again the popular media demonstrate how woefully poor is their understanding of American evangelicals”:
In the August 15 issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza asserts that Bachmann has been ideologically shaped by "exotic" thinkers of the dominionist stripe who pose a threat to our secular political institutions. The piece—and much of the subsequent media reaction—is a calamity of confusion, conflation, and obfuscation.
We noticed. Say on.
Among other things, Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of the Reconstructionists (later called “Dominionists”) was not a theocrat. He aimed at convincing the public to replace current legal structure with Biblical law. Odd, yes. Violent, no. Groothuis estimates that Rushdoony fans are an “infinitesimal fraction” of Christian conservatives, which sounds about right to journalists who wrote for the Christian media in the 1990s, when the idea first surfaced.
More scandalously, Lizza claimed in his hit piece that apologist Francis Schaeffer, - a genuine influence on Bachman, along with philosopher Nancy Pearcey - argued for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe vs. Wade isn't reversed," in A Christian Manifesto (1981)." Actually, Schaeffer, like Rushdoony, never advocated violence.
In "Religion and Disease: Deadly epidemics can have a profound impact on people’s choice of religion" (The Scientist , August 25, 2011), Cristina Luiggi reports on a study of the role of religion in epidemics:
In an attempt to study this in a modern setting, Hughes and colleagues surveyed religious attitudes among the people of Malawi, where AIDS has become the leading cause of death among adults. They found that 30 percent of people who described themselves as Christians visited the sick, in contrast to 7 percent of Muslims They also found that in the last 5 years, about 400 of the 3000 respondents changed religions, mostly to Christianity, “where the promise of receiving care is greater and the stigma of having AIDS is less,” Hughes explained to ScienceNOW. The researchers presented their data at the 13th Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology earlier this week.
Of course, there's always the influence of Jesus's judgement on the saved:
Some have begun to question the role of mindfulness in health maintenance, with even PZ Myers getting in on the act:
I've read some of these studies, and am unimpressed. Most of them assess subjective phenomena ("chronic pain" is notoriously amenable to suggestion, for instance), ...
Yes, precisely, PZ. Thanks for making the point. Mindfulness can improve the effectiveness of pain relief without increases in harmful drugs, which may be in conflict with other medically necessary drugs. Here are some studies on the subject.
In “Mindful medical practice: just another fad?” (Canadian Family Physician, 2009 August), Tom A. Hutchinson and Patricia L. Dobkin tackled the problems, observing the following:
In “Can Religion or Spirituality Help Ward Off Depression?” (World of Psychology August 25, 2011), a somewhat skeptical John M. Grohol reports,
The new longitudinal research out of Columbia University wanted to followup on previous research demonstrating this correlation between spirituality or religiosity and a reduced risk for depression.
The researchers continued to followup on a set of subjects they had used in the previous study, following them from the 10-year mark (when the older research had ended) to the 20-year mark. The subjects in the study were 114 adult offspring of both depressed parents and parents who had no depression.
At the 20-year mark, had there been an episode of major depression? Only one quarter of the people who said religion or spirituality was important had experienced major depression. Time spent at religious services didn’t affect this outcome.
The really interesting find was that
At Mercatornet (August 23, 2011), we are invited to consider whether getting more women involved in floor trading would prevent future collapses. Trouble is,
So now we come to the key question: Is the floor trade world a natural outcome of human behaviour, into which some men and a much smaller proportion of women fit? Yes, probably.
My financial advisor tells me that the market is run by two principle human motives: Greed and fear. Bubbles and their subsequent collapses happen when greed overrides fear. Later, fear restores order and the market starts to recover. Which is to say that crazy markets and their corrections are caused by human nature. It’s hard to change the fundamental reality that a stock market is about people making decisions, wise or foolish.
An Italian proverb puts it like this: Three women and a goose make a market. All the rest follows.
Or so David Shiga tells us in "Evidence for Mars floods all dried up?" (New Scientist, 22 August 2011):
Kelin Whipple of Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe agrees that lava probably carved the huge channels, such as Kasei Valles (shown). He says the study calls into question the case for huge volumes of water – and possibly an ocean – on ancient Mars.
New evidence suggests that our ancestors have been cooking and processing food as far back as 1.9 million years ago. This could explain why humans have small teeth, as we don't need to spend our time chewing as much as animals.
The scientists found that chimpanzees spend 10 times more time chewing compared to humans.
Bovines spend almost all their waking hours eating grasses.
Cooking softens and processes food to make eating much easier and reduce chewing time. Had our ancestors not cooked, we'd be eating nearly half of the day instead of just 5 percent that we spend today.
The theory goes, cooking freed our ancestors up for more creative activities than chewing. Like talking without your mouth full. It makes sense in principle, but here's the hitch:
"There isn't a lot of good evidence for fire. That's kind of controversial," Organ said. "That's one of the holes in this cooking hypothesis. If those species right then were cooking you should find evidence for hearths and fire pits."
To put their theory on the table, so to speak, they need to definitely establish that people used fire in those days.
Note: Technologically primitive peoples have also made use of hot springs and naturally occurring fire. If a natural fire has started and is burning out, it is easy to grasp the principle of keeping a bit of it going, even if one doesn't know how to start a fire. Also some methods of preparing food can make it easier to digest without cooking - chopping vegetable matter into small bits, for example, as well as pounding grains. We shall see.
See also: Stone tools found from two million years ago – and Michael Cremo is still wrong?
Trickling down through pop science media: The Large Hadron Collider has not found "the God particle," the Higgs boson.
From The Australian (August 23, 2011),
INTERNATIONAL scientists searching to solve the greatest riddle in all of physics say that signs are fading of the elusive Higgs-Boson particle, which is believed to give objects mass.
Just last month, physicists announced at a European conference that a big atom-smasher experiment had shown tantalising hints of the Higgs-Boson, as the search to identify the particle enters the final stretch with results expected late next year.
Sometimes described as the "God particle" because it is such a mystery yet such a potent force of nature, the Higgs-Boson - if it exists - represents the final piece of the Standard Model of physics.
"At this moment we don't see any evidence for the Higgs in the lower mass region where it is likely to be," said physicist Howard Gordon, deputy US ATLAS operations program manager.
At Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists, Andrew Wilson (the other is Sabrina Golonka) reflect on, "Mirror Neurons, or, What's the Matter with Neuroscience?" (August 9, 2011), noting,
... there's no such thing as theory-free observations - all data comes from this experiment rather than that experiment, and even simply reporting a result is laden with theoretical assumptions, even when these aren't explicitly identified.
One thinks immediately of all the cunningly designed experiments to "demonstrate" that humans are really selfish and that chimpanzees are really altruistic. The researchers' evidently have an emotional need to use science to demonstrate that their materialist worldview is ... science, and must be accepted by all, irrespective of the usual, normal evidence.