A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
Would The World Be Better Without Religion
It’s become a standard trope of the New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, et al) that religion is positively bad. On the other side of the debate are those who maintain that religion helps tame the wild beast.
Scott Lilienfeld and Rachel Ammirati, two researchers (and atheists) at Emory University in Georgia, went looking for what evidence there is to support each side, and published their findings in the Skeptical Inquirer.
We have become concerned by what appears to be unjustified dogmatism by both religious skeptics and believers in discussions concerning an exceedingly complex and multifaceted question. Therefore, we attempt to demonstrate that (a) scientific data bearing indirectly on the question have routinely been neglected by many individuals on both sides of the debate; (b) such data, although informative, do not permit anything approaching conclusive answers to the question of whether religion makes the world a better or worse place. At the same time, such data cast serious doubt on broad-brush contentions (e.g., Dawkins 2006) that religion is usually or always associated with a heightened risk of immoral behavior, including violence. Hence, we view our article as a modest call for greater epistemic humility on the part of ardent defenders of both positions.
‘Epistimic humility’. There’s something we should all believe and practise.
The Daily Beast passes on some odd statistics about books, plays and poems in one of their infuriatingly intriguing infographics. On Jane Austen:
At the short end of the scale is this six word story, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Culture, Sex and Liberty
Reason is an American libertarian website that advocates individual freedom and the marketplace. So it’s an interesting place to find a measured argument about “rape culture” – a term that has been causing contention and confusion in New Zealand as well as America. Elizabeth Nolan Brown argues:
The idea isn’t that “rape culture” directly causes rape, but that it makes people less likely to speak up if they have been assaulted, or less likely to speak out against someone they know has committed sexual assault. That it drives online threats and harassment. That it influences the way our police and the criminal justice system treat sexual assault allegations.
It’s not just about rape jokes, either, but sexual norms more broadly. We’ve come a long way, but there is still a very pervasive idea in American culture that men want sex (always, from whoever, however) for sex itself and women only use sex, withholding it and then doling it out in exchange for drinks or love or good behavior. That women say no because they want to be chased. That women should say no so they can be chased. That sex is not something two people do to have fun together but something we give or take from one another.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week
Emails from Wotif, Booking.com and Air New Zealand – I know where I’m going, I don’t need naff suggestions thanks very much.