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Friday, June 12, 2009

Field Notes

Donations to Religious Charities Are Up
Religious organizations reported a 5.5-percent increase in donations last year, a marked contrast from the nationwide 2-percent decline in charitable giving, according to a study by Giving USA Foundation. (Lindsay Perna, Religion News Service)

New Texas Science Standards Pose Challenge For Textbook Authors
In March, the Texas school board approved new science standards that omit the requirement to teach students the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolutionary theory. But many scientists view the new version as more insidious than the previous one. (Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Science)

Questions and Controversy Surround Obama's Pick to Run Faith-Based Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services
Alexia Kelley, co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and considered by some to be a "dissident Catholic," is President Obama's pick to head the "faith office" at HHS, which raises the question—why do we need a "faith office" at HHS in the first place? (Jayne Lyn Stahl, The Huffington Post)

Laughter Clubs Help Some Cope and Heal
But none of the people are laughing at anything that’s particularly funny. And that’s the point. Psychologist Lynn Caesar says our bodies release a wash of beneficial chemicals when we laugh, the harder the better. She says it reduces stress, boosts our immune systems, and mellows us out—even when we fake it. (Andrea Shea, WBUR)

Science: A Four Thousand Year History

Patricia Fara argues, persuasively, that science is rarely an esoteric effort to attain pure knowledge, as envisaged by Bacon. Rather it stems from attempts to gain power through activities such as politics, magic, religion, trade, and war. The Babylonian astronomers were seeking political advantage. The main motive of many Islamic scholars and, indeed, Newton himself, was the better understanding of God. (The Economist)