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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Field Notes

Confusing Belief and Reason Has Led to "Bad Science and Inept Religion"
Karen Armstrong: The extraordinary and eccentric emphasis on "belief" in Christianity today is an accident of history that has distorted our understanding of religious truth. We call religious people "believers," as though acceptance of a set of doctrines was their principal activity, and before undertaking the religious life many feel obliged to satisfy themselves about the metaphysical claims of the church, which cannot be proven rationally since they lie beyond the reach of empirical sense data. (guardian.co.uk)

Why We Should Divorce Morality From Religion
Jeff Schweitzer: What we now call morality is really a suite of behaviors favored by natural selection in an animal weak alone but strong in numbers. We need to re-discover and appeal to this inner good derived from our biology and evolutionary history rather than to the myth of an invisible man in the sky with magical powers as a sound basis for our moral guidance. (The Huffington Post)

Another (But Pretty Much the Same) Culture Battle Heats Up in Texas
The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms. The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history. (Stephanie Simon, The Wall Street Journal)

Paying Attention to the Pope's "Charity in Truth"
Daniel Indiviglio: Although I am not crazy about some of the assertions made in this document, by-in-large, I think it's pretty good. It really urges individuals and businesses to think more deeply about how the decisions they make affect the world. The Church would like them to think about more than just themselves and more than just the short term. (The Atlantic)

The Age of Wonder

William Herschel, the German-born, star-gazing musician who effectively doubled the size of the solar system with a single discovery in 1781, was not regarded as a scientist. That word had not been coined during most of the era that will now be known, thanks to Richard Holmes’s amazingly ambitious, buoyant new fusion of history, art, science, philosophy and biography, as “The Age of Wonder.” And Mr. Holmes’s excitement at fusing long-familiar events and personages into something startlingly new is not unlike the exuberance of the age that animates his groundbreaking book. (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)