How Not To Do What We Always Do

Donovan O. Schaefer reviews

Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression by Hector A. Garcia

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In The News: Poetry, Puritans, Politicians and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

No time for games

Thanks to our friendly fellow blogger The Sensuous Curmudgeon for drawing our attention this story: a story about the quest for truth. A story about history and modernity. A story about one of the greatest stories ever told – with a children’s board game. And a story about the people who hate that game.
In a Jan. 9 article entitled “Noah’s Ark Game Misses the Boat,” Institute for Creation Research (ICR) Science Writer – I’m sorry, “science writer” – Brian Thomas, M.S. (don’t miss the M.S.) blasts toy maker Ideal for their new Noah’s Ark Game (on sale at Wal-Mart!) for contributing to what is apparently a dearth of stories, toys and other representations which “parody” and create a “misleading impression” about the biblical Ark. Continue Reading →

A Man with a Conviction is a Hard Man to Change.

From Chris Mooney’s recent article at Mother Jones, “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science.”

A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger(PDF), in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.

Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens—including one, “Sananda,” who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ. The group was led by Dorothy Martin, a Dianetics devotee who transcribed the interstellar messages through automatic writing.

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Our Sense of Knowing Better

From Genevieve Yue’s “That Old Time Religion” at Reverse Shot:

In 1799, Étienne-Gaspard Robertson premiered the phantasmagoria, a moving magic lantern projection hidden behind a screen, to a crowded audience gathered at a Parisian convent. Though he tried to present himself as a scientist exposing the tricks of the trade (of both magicians and the Church) to foster superstitious belief, the wildly spectacular nature of his performance, with its ghoulishly materializing and receding figures, only confirmed his status as supernatural conjurer. Robertson’s entertainment was like all horror stories that begin in skepticism: thrill and fright trump our sense of knowing better. Time and again we see teenagers challenging each other to spend a night in a haunted house, sociologists investigating urban legends, or film students setting out into the forest to prove there isn’t anything out there. In these narratives of dare and debunking, science always loses, its certainty shaken in the presence of the unknown.

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Biggest Science-and-Religion Story of the Last Quarter-Century

Nathan Schneider, senior editor at Killing the Buddha, on his new article at The Nation, “God, Science, and Philanthropy”:

As I’ve worked on questions of religion and reason, both in the academy and as a journalist, the John Templeton Foundation has been around every turn. As I called, corresponded, and visited with many of the leading thinkers in the science-and-religion discussion, caution was the prevailing tone—some even joked that I should get them on the record saying something nice about the foundation. Those not applying for money now expect to do so in the future, if they haven’t taken a principled stand against it. It is probably for this reason that, in all the books and articles published on science and religion year after year, none addresses in any great depth what is really the biggest science-and-religion story of the last quarter-century: the Templeton Foundation itself.

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