AHR, I’m glad it helped! I’m familiar with group blogs – I was even on one for awhile. But the blog section of this site is just me me me going on and on and on.
bananabrain, I’m the only bugger around here, and I closed the comments. A.C. has a blog too.
(Looks like I forgot to write the monthly process where last month’s Letters column is closed and a new one opened–oops! Sorry for closing that up mid-conversation, by making the new monthly post by hand this month.)
No problem Josh – that happens anyway. (And it happened with Notes and Comment every month on the old site.) When the clock ticks – the conversation must move or die.
I love the concept of your site but may I be bold enough to question the origin of your name?
To me, immediately, it is a reference to a very famous lead editorial in The Times about Mick Jagger and Keith Richards back in the sisties. I’m sure that’s what it would mean to anyone this side of the pond
Here it is (from Wikipedia):
William Rees-Mogg, as editor of The Times newspaper, used the “on a wheel” version of the quotation as the heading (set in capital letters) for an editorial on 1 July 1967 about the “Redlands” court case, which had resulted in prison sentences for Rolling Stones members Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The editorial, highly critical of the court’s decision, is thought to have contributed to the success of Jagger’s and Richards’ appeal against the sentences. It concluded “If we are going to make any case a symbol of the conflict between the sound traditional values of Britain and the new hedonism, then we must be sure that the sound traditional values include those of tolerance and equity. It should be the particular quality of British justice to ensure that Mr. Jagger is treated exactly the same as anyone else, no better and no worse. There must remain a suspicion in this case that Mr. Jagger received a more severe sentence than would have been thought proper for any purely anonymous young man
Sure you can.
The phrase is originally Alexander Pope’s. I’ve been meaning to say that on the About page for a long time – but I’ve been meaning to re-do the About page entirely for a long time. I must get to that…
I had read some of your writing elsewhere, and I feel like a kid in a candy store here. It’s wonderful and I like a lot of your views.
I am enjoying sifting through some of the things I’ve missed out on, and can’t wait for your future posts.
The Burka issue is sticking in my craw. Jerry Coyne and Russel Blackford are sure that wearing the burqa is a religious freedom issue, so women should wear it if they want to. I feel it is a women’s rights issue. I believe that women who defend wearing the burka as a feminist statement are merely rationalizing a position they have been forced into by men. I agree with your statements to Newstatesman (21 July 2009): “Given the reality of what happens to women who try not to wear it in Afghanistan, I think it’s simply grotesque to think it can be any kind of feminist symbol.”
So the burka issue is being framed two ways. Is it a religious clothing/freedom issue, or is it a gender equality issue? I would love to hear you expand on this issiue if you believe the time is right.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this news bulletin:
Larry Moran has discovered a brilliant gem of prose by David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute. I won’t spoil your enjoyment by telling you what it is, but trust me, it’s a beauty.
You may be tempted to quit reading when you encounter pathetic cliches such as “the donkey-like braying of a … Jerry Coyne,” but please continue. He’s just softening you up for the knockout punch. In the very same sentence he’ll have you howling with laughter and wondering with amazement whether such skill with words might not be the long-sought evidence of the existence of God.
None of the usual writing awards seem adequate to recognize an achievement of this magnitude, so I guess Mr Klinghoffer will just have to bask in the warm glow of his readers’ admiration and feel the quiet satisfaction of a job well done.
Kimmy Kardashian rocks! That face… those breasts…. MMMMMMmmmmmm yummmy yum yum!!!
It just doesn’t get much better.
Dear Ophelia (if I may),
I attach something from http://www.scienceandreligion.com that strikes me as incredibly dubious. It is apologetics dressed up as science. I thought you might like to see it.
People’s moral behavior is affected by all sorts of things—mood, anonymity, empathy, hormones, even whether they’re in a clean or dirty location. In recent years, psychological researchers have accrued more and more evidence to support what many have long suspected: that morality is affected by religion. However, the evidence is painting a much more nuanced picture than the simplistic assertion that religion makes people act better.
For one thing, research has consistently shown, for decades now, that when you observe people’s moral behavior, religious people and nonreligious people act very similarly. That is, being religious—on its own—doesn’t seem to make people less likely to cheat, or more likely to be generous to a stranger. One way that religion can increase these types of behavior is if people are compelled to think about it in the moment they are making their moral decision. Research shows that if religious thoughts are implicitly aroused in people’s unconscious, they will be less dishonest and more charitable.
New research with my collaborator Ara Norenzayan has suggested that there is another nuance to the religion-morality relationship: the types of religious beliefs that are held. Specifically, it appears that believing in a vengeful, punishing God is more likely to relate to moral behavior than believing in a loving, forgiving God. In a study we ran with students at the University of British Columbia, those who, days before, had indicated that their view of God skewed more toward the angry, wrathful type were less likely to cheat on a math test than those whose image of God was softer and more comforting. And this difference remained after we statistically controlled for other variables, such as the participants’ sex, ethnicity, personality, and type of religion, which may have accounted for the difference.
This is just one study, done with university students and focused on just one type of moral behavior—cheating. As such, we should be careful not to read too much into the findings. However, other research seems to corroborate that there may be something particularly useful, from a moral perspective, in the institution of supernatural punishment. A few years ago, Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary, a pair of economists at Harvard University, published a study looking at how religion affects the GDP of developing countries. The strongest relationship they found was for belief in hell. It turns out that the greater the rate of belief in hell in a society, the stronger their economy (again this analysis controlled for relevant variables).
But why? Well, if supernatural punishment increases adherence to moral norms, and economic success rests on minimizing corruption and maximizing honest trade, then it makes sense that these types of religious beliefs could have a large scale impact. Indeed, we and others have argued that religious beliefs—and in particular those regarding omniscient, punitive supernatural agents that police our moral behavior—may have been instrumental in producing the level of cooperation required for early societies to grow beyond small groups where everybody knew each other.
None of this means, of course, that people who don’t believe in “mean Gods” can’t be moral. Moral behavior, as I mentioned, is influenced by any number of things, and largely nonreligious societies have found many secular ways to ensure that people follow rules. But if we wanted to isolate what type of God-belief is more likely to encourage moral behavior, the empirical research is converging on an answer: the scary one.
Azim Shariff is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.
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