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Are Atheists or Believers Better Bloggers?
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Question: How has the Internet contributed to the growth of the atheist movement?
Matthew Nisbet: Well I have somewhat of a personal perspective on this. Right after finishing college in the early 1990s I worked at a place in my hometown of Buffalo, New York called the Center for Inquiry. They published two magazines that readers might be familiar with and that is Free Inquiry and Skeptical Enquirer magazines and for a long time the Center for Inquiry founded by philosopher Paul Kurtz who was a philosopher of… a leading thinker in the area of secular humanism about secular values they used a traditional model of… a traditional media model to disseminate information and to grow the secular humanist movement through traditional magazines, through a book publishing company that Paul Kurtz founded and through a lot of appearances in traditional media.
I left the organization in the late 1990s. I went to graduate school and one of the things that I observed over the last decade was that this traditional secular humanist movement, the Center for Inquiry, was slow to adapt to the online world. They were slow to have a state-of-the-art Web site. They were slow to launch blogs. They were slow to have access to their magazine content online.
Around that time authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, they were propelled into the public spotlight by traditional publishers finally deciding to publish hard-hitting critiques of religion, of prominent… in this case a prominent journalist and a prominent scientist and those books were taken up by the emerging atheist blogosphere and their impact was amplified and around several different leading bloggers—in particular PZ Myers—whole communities of discussion of likeminded atheists and agnostics and critics of religion grew up.
And what they did is they challenged, they started to challenge the authority of sort of the traditional atheist movement, the traditional secular humanist movement that was headquartered in longstanding organizations like the Center for Inquiry, and was really most of the communication took place in magazines and maybe in books from smaller publishers. And they started to set the agenda of what it meant to be an atheist, so that was very good for attracting more attention to atheism, to raising questions about the role of religion in society, but it also had a lot of negative consequences. These negative consequences to the atheist blogosphere are not unique. They are some of the same negative consequences that are sort of endemic to the political blogosphere and that is a lot of self-selection. That is a lot of echo chambers of kind of ever-escalating critiques—in some cases outright denigrating and stereotyping the religious public. And on issues such as the teaching of evolution in schools or how the public thinks about science the atheist movement has become sometimes synonymous with the position of the scientific community and I think in that process they might be doing more harm than good. They might actually… might be engaging in a lot of self-inflicted wounds, leaving the impression that you can’t value science, that you can’t have a scientific world and also be a person of faith and certainly that is a point that is open for debate.
Question: Do atheists make better use of the Internet than the religious?
Matthew Nisbet: I’m not sure. In part the new atheist movement is almost a social movement within the larger scientific community. Many of the people that are attracted to new atheist movement identify with science or are scientists themselves and certainly scientists have been online for a long time. In fact, many of the most prominent bloggers, new atheist bloggers, they came about… they came up and they kind of honed their skills in internet discussion groups, mostly around the debates about evolution. So they have that natural consistency and that natural… the pre-existing experience with using online organizing and reaching people online that maybe some of the religious organizations do not. The advantage that the religious organizations have though is they have real world communities. They have networks of interaction through mega-churches, through traditional churches and one of the things that I’ll be blogging and writing about and taking a look at, at the Age of Engagement is how are traditional religious organizations and movements now using the online world to foster the communities, to build their communities or is the online world actually taking away some of their followers and distracting people who otherwise might commit to that particular religious faith or even attend church on a weekly basis.
Recorded on July 28, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman
Atheists honed their online chops earlier than most religious bloggers, but church-goers have the advantage of large non-virtual communities that can be leveraged on the Internet.
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Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
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- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.