- "Beyond Belief", by Chris Lehmann — a review of a couple of new books that document "conservative religious thinkers and their intellectual crusades". The review itself is absolutely fascinating for those who, like me, aren't well-versed in this history. The books themselves sound quite interesting, too.
- "What Is NASA for?" by Charles Seife — this essay neatly encapsulates why NASA lost its way after we reached the Moon. It's not all the agency's fault, but that doesn't mean it's not the agency's problem to fix.
- "Silence Inc." by David H. Gans — or, as the page header puts it, "Hobby Lobby contraception mandate challenge: Why have corporations refused to take its side?" Most of corporate America, it turns out, is extremely wary of the idea of corporations being granted First Amendment freedom of worship, and this piece explains why. (Back in December I explained at some length why I think extending such a First Amendment right to corporations is such a terrible idea, and why it's a mere side effect of the even worse idea of treating corporations as people.)
- "Answers for Creationists" by Phil Plait — a kind of FAQ with which to refute some of creationists' allegedly most trenchant questions. I love having a handy reference to such information. Bookmark it for yourselves and let's beat back the nonsense spouted by the uninformed.
- "God vs. the Government" by Dahlia Lithwick — this is about the legal challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns, against the Affordable Care Act's mandate for compliant insurance plans to cover contraception. Many people who have only glossed the headlines (I sheepishly raise my hand) think this is an absurd flap over whether the nuns should have to sign a form. That's not what it means to the nuns, according to their lawyers. It's a far thornier problem for them, one that touches at the heart of what it means to have freedom of conscience and how far one can take freedom of worship. Even if you disagree with them, it's worth pondering their argument.
- "Homophobia Is a Real Fear ... but of What, Exactly?" by Zach Howe — this is a piece that really opened my eyes, and I'm embarrassed I had not seen its truth for myself. I and many others assumed homophobia stems from a fear of being assaulted by homosexuals (or, cynically, that it stems from a fear that you're homosexual yourself). Howe more than plausibly argues that homophobia is a completely rational response to a totally messed-up standard for male behavior.
- "What Americans Don't Know About Science" by Eleanor Barkhorn — I don't normally mention pieces like this because, well, what they say is so bloody obvious if you've been conscious for any part of the last thirty years. However, this one mentions how a little tweak changes the results for a couple of the poll questions that provide the fodder for the article. What that tweak says about us Americans is something of a mixed blessing. Not as many of us as I feared are ignorant of what the scientific community thinks, but a great many more of us than I hoped don't care what the scientific community thinks about matters which the scientific community is better informed on than the rest of us. In short, a lot of us believe what we want to believe, not what the best evidence tells us. That, my friends, should make you nervous: it doesn't bode well for the policy decisions we might make as a nation.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Links before I sleep, 2014/02/15
Some thought-provoking pieces I don't have time or energy to give their full due, but which are definitely worth passing along: