In top news this week, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And in other news:
• A paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that the HPV vaccine doesn't change girls' later sexual behavior.
• A new survey by the Pew Center finds that the percentage of Americans who consider religion "very important", though still far greater than in Europe, has declined by 9% in the last 9 years.
• And on a related note, the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture releases a survey showing that Latinos are becoming nonreligious at the same rate as Americans in general, contradicting stereotypes about extreme religiosity among them.
• One last statistical piece - the number of U.S. adults who are married has dropped to a record low. Defenders of "traditional marriage" take note: the decline has nothing to do with the availability of same-sex marriage, but rather is due to economic stress. If you want to protect marriage, maybe you should work on strengthening the social safety net instead.
• A report released by a Dutch commission finds that as many as 20,000 children were sexually abused in Catholic institutions since 1945.
• After Christopher Hitchens' death, the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat was trending on Twitter as people posted messages of sorrow and tribute. This provoked a flood of angry threats and vicious insanity from believers, which ironically would seem to confirm Hitchens' argument.
• I found out recently that transhumanism advocate Ray Kurzweil has a website which sells "anti-aging" vitamins, presumably in the hopes of staying alive until the Singularity. Michael Shermer sounds an appropriate note of skepticism about mega-vitamin therapy, which in this case seems to be driven more by Kurzweil's desire for immortality than by any actual scientific evidence of effectiveness.
• It made me happy to read this story about New York creating a new legal class of business, a "benefit corporation", which unlike traditional corporations isn't legally obligated to maximize profit regardless of the social or environmental costs.