Weekend Coffee: October 7

Some links gathered over the week for you to peruse:


Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK's opposition Labour party, is a nonbeliever. He says he doesn't hold religious faith, but rather a faith in human progress. This column by Fraser Nelson admits that this may be a smart move in increasingly secular Britain, which is no longer a Christian country "but... still a country of compassion and principles".

• A UK judge rules that parents have "no sacred right" over the education of their children, ruling against an ultra-Orthodox father who wanted his children to have only religious schooling.

A New York City investment banker with terminal brain cancer wins the right to die, over opposition from religious parents (one of them a pastor) who told her that turning off life support would be committing suicide and would send her to hell, and who tried to have her declared legally incompetent when she persisted.

• A Republican member of the House Science Committee, Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, hates science and calls evolution and the Big Bang "lies from the pit of Hell".

• At least some theists understand that the way to respond to bad speech is with better speech.

• Welcome news: Saudi Arabia promises to curb the power of its notorious morality police, most infamous for forcing schoolgirls back into a burning building because they weren't wearing the appropriate Islamic dress to appear in public.

• Another day, another case in which the Catholic church allegedly helped an accused pedophile escape justice.

• It pained me to read this, but I'm glad it was written: a lengthy article laying out damning evidence that Thomas Jefferson actively condoned and perpetuated slavery on his Monticello estate when he realized how profitable it was for him. Coming from a man who wrote so powerfully about human liberty, and whose fiery denunciation of the slave trade nearly derailed American independence, this is a necessary reminder that even intellectual greats aren't immune from gross hypocrisy.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less