Weekend Coffee: March 17
There's a heap of news I didn't get to write about in greater depth this week, but all these stories deserve at least a look:
• Remember the Anglican church, that blandly, Britishly polite bastion of modern liberal Christianity? So it turns out that they're officially against same-sex marriage. In a hilarious piece whining that they should get to vote on the rights of other human beings, Anglican homophobes also argue there should be no such thing as civil marriage in the U.K., that marriage should be an exclusively religious institution, and that the church should have the sole right to decide who's allowed to get one.
Also on that note, Rowan Williams, the relatively liberal archbishop of Canterbury, is retiring. The current favorite to succeed him is the archbishop of York, John Sentamu. Guess what his position on marriage equality is!
• An editorial about unbelievable court decisions in three states which held that churches aren't liable for failing to supervise known child molesters working as priests. I share the hope that the Supreme Court, as eager as it is to accommodate religion, will still find this one a bridge too far.
• U.S. Senator James Inhofe says that global warming can't be real because God wouldn't allow the climate to change. Again: a U.S. Senator, expressing the same viewpoint as a Jack Chick cartoon tract.
• Why did accidental burnings of the Koran by U.S. troops in Afghanistan spark riots and violence, whereas the mass murder of innocent civilians by an unstable soldier didn't? This article explores the topic, and while there are various cultural factors, one that clearly stands out is the extreme and unwarranted importance attributed to religion. Consider this quote:
"How can you compare the dishonoring of the Holy Koran with the martyrdom of innocent civilians?" said an incredulous Mullah Khaliq Dad, a member of the council of religious leaders who investigated the Koran burnings...
...by which he meant that burning a copy of the Koran is far worse.
• The Catholic church has decided to stop going so easy on victims of clergy sex abuse, pressuring the survivors' group SNAP with an absurdly broad subpoena apparently intended to burden and intimidate them.
• Big surprise: the church was also a major pressure source in the Komen Foundation's disastrous decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood.
• And one more entry in the religious war on women, this one even more brazen and unbelievable than any previous effort (which, by now, takes some doing): a proposed law in Arizona would allow employers to ask their female employees why they're taking birth control pills, and fire them if it's not for medical reasons. At this rate, it won't be long before the Republican party is proposing Egypt-style virginity tests.
• But I'll leave you with some encouraging news: A Barna survey finds that the number of women who attend church weekly has dropped by an astonishing 20 percent in the last 20 years. The number of women who attend Sunday school or volunteer at church has dropped by a third. Could it be that women are starting to realize they don't have to support an institution that treats them as permanent second-class citizens?
Research in plant neurobiology shows that plants have senses, intelligence and emotions.
- The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
- Plants were found to have 15-20 senses, including many like humans.
- Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.
- A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
- The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
- The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
Since the idea of locality is dead, space itself may not be an aloof vacuum: Something welds things together, even at great distances.
- Realists believe that there is an exactly understandable way the world is — one that describes processes independent of our intervention. Anti-realists, however, believe realism is too ambitious — too hard. They believe we pragmatically describe our interactions with nature — not truths that are independent of us.
- In nature, properties of Particle B may be depend on what we choose to measure or manipulate with Particle A, even at great distances.
- In quantum mechanics, there is no explanation for this. "It just comes out that way," says Smolin. Realists struggle with this because it would imply certain things can travel faster than light, which still seems improbable.