If You’re an Atheist Politician, Don’t Call Yourself an Atheist. It Freaks Religious People Out. – Barney Frank
As religiosity plays a major role in American society, Barney Frank advises other atheist politicians not to draw too much attention to the word "atheist" because it is too often perceived as a repudiation of religion (and, therefore, American values).
Barney Frank served as a Massachusetts congressman for 32 years before retiring in 2013. While in Washington, Frank served as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee and was a major leader in the Democratic Party. In 1987 he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay. Frank has also served as a Massachusetts State Representative and an assistant to the Mayor of Boston. He has taught at several Boston area universities.
Barney Frank: Well, the problem with atheism politically starts with the phrase. I have advised people who are themselves non-believers, not to use the word atheist; it has a harshness to it. It is a repudiation, not necessarily literally, but it comes across as a repudiation of religion and religion is very important to many people. It's a source of good feelings for many of them. It is not always, unfortunately, a motive for good behavior. I have noted that in the international situations religion is sadly more often a cause for people to shoot each other than to help each other. When you get splits within two countries or even within countries where it's Catholics versus Protestants, Jews versus Muslims, Buddhists versus Muslims as it has been in Myanmar, Hindus versus Muslims, there's a very sad extent of that. But religion is important to people. It has a history of being seen as a source of good behavior. America's history has given religiosity a greater role than some other places.
And from the politician's standpoint the question is why pick a fight that doesn't have to be waged? I never expressed the fact that I was not a believer in any theistic approach because it was never relevant. I did fight very hard throughout my 40 years in elected office to prevent rules and laws that put nonbelievers at a disadvantage. I've fought very hard against the establishment of religion, against people being forced to subscribe to religious views to get certain benefits, et cetera. But beyond that it didn't come up. In my own case there was another reason why I didn't talk about it; I'm Jewish. Obviously there's a strong terrible history of persecution of Jews. Judaism is a religion, but it is also an ethnicity. And for many of us who are Jewish in America today it is the ethnicity more than or even to the exclusion of religion that identifies us. But for me to have, when I was a public official I was the first Jewish person to be elected to the Congress in the United States since 1884. It would've looked as, or to some people it could have been distorted to be a kind of I'm separating myself from the Jews and I wouldn't want to do that. Even today, as secular as I am, when the high holy days of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah come up, I am not going to be seen in public doing things that other Jews won't do for religious reasons. I don't observe them myself in a religious way, but I would not want my behavior to be used to embarrass or discomfort anybody who does religiously follow them.
As religiosity plays a major role in American society, Barney Frank advises other atheist politicians not to draw too much attention to the word "atheist" because it is too often perceived as a repudiation of religion (and, therefore, of American values). Frank's reasoning for this course of action stems from a simple guiding principle? Why pick a fight you don't need to wage? Nothing's stopping a non-believing politician from legislating in a way that protects the rights and interests of non-believers. But in this current state of society, there are few benefits for coming out and being overt about one's atheism.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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