Since it first appeared on his blogspace in 2002, the most frequently Googled article about me—depressingly—is a piece called “Celsus, Origen and Hoffmann” by a certain freelance Tadler named Roger Pearse. The irritable Mr. Pearse has become in the intervening years a watchful enemy of my work and a sort of unconsecrated bishop in the church of Anglo-Patristic Orthodoxy. So dutiful is his vigilance in this office (by day Mr. Pearse disguises himself as an unassuming computer programmer) that I have occasionally felt remorse at not giving him enough work to watch. This may seem petulance, I know. But I prefer to think of it as anger; and as Aristotle reminds us, “To be angry with the right man, to … Read the rest
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Anna was standing on a high bluff admiring the sunset – a particularly spectacular one full of gilded clouds – thinking blissfully of God and gratitude and the beauty of the world, when suddenly the sun seemed to swell and pulse, the sky turned every shade of purple and silver, there was ethereal music, and then an angel appeared next to her. “Beloved servant,” remarked the angel pleasantly, “for that thou art our dedicated and humble servant, and the first woman minister of thy parish, we have chosen thee to have an audience with the deity.”
Anna stared, coloured; the earth seemed to tilt and rock all around her; she planted her feet wide apart and hoped not to fall … Read the rest
Karen Armstrong has been described as “one of the world’s most provocative and inclusive thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world”. Armstrong’s efforts to be “inclusive” are certainly “provocative”, though generally for reasons that are less than edifying. In 1999, the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Los Angeles gave Armstrong an award for media “fairness”. What follows might cast light on how warranted that recognition is, and indeed on how the MPAC chooses to define fairness.
In one of her baffling Guardian columns, Armstrong argues that, “It is important to know who our enemies are… By making the disciplined effort to name our enemies correctly, we will learn more about them, and come one step nearer, … Read the rest
Dear Oriana Fallaci
As a veteran activist of women’s rights, for liberty and equality, as a first hand victim of political Islam, and a veteran fighter against it, as an atheist who is a staunch believer in a secular state and secular education system, as a woman who has fought against the hejab in any form and shape, as a secularist who has defended the latest French secular law to ban the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, as a campaigner for banning the veil for underage girls and banning religious schools, as a campaigner against honour killings, Sharia courts in Canada, Islamism and Islamic terrorism, as a staunch defender of unconditional freedom of expression and criticism … Read the rest
In March 2006 I submitted to the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service Ombudsman a complaint about the numerous errors and misconceptions that permeate the PBS Einstein’s Wife website material and associated Lesson Plans purporting to present evidence that Mileva Marić made substantive contributions to (or even co-authored) Einstein’s celebrated 1905 papers on special relativity, the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion. PBS is currently considering the complaint, based on my detailed analyses of the Australian Einstein’s Wife documentary
 and of the PBS website material. (See Mileva Marić 1
and Mileva Marić 2.)
Gerald Holton, who played a major role in the inaugurating of the Einstein Archive, is one of several physicists who have concluded on the basis of the documentary … Read the rest
What is the difference between science and pseudo-science? The criterion by which our current practices distinguish the two is falsifiability, but what is inherently valuable about falsifiable hypotheses? Presumably, the goal of science is the discovery of truth. If an unfalsifiable method predicted data more reliably than a falsifiable one, shouldn’t we adopt the unfalsifiable method? Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, is untroubled by this puzzle or myriad similar puzzles. Or perhaps he has solved them all. That would at least justify the oracular certainty with which he proclaims, in the first sentence of his choleric review of philosopher Daniel Dennett’s new book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (“The God Genome,” NYT, 2/19/06), … Read the rest
Brigham Young University is in the news at the moment because its philosophy department decided not to renew the contract of an adjunct instructor after he wrote a newspaper editorial in favour of same-sex marriage. The instructor received a letter from the chair of the philosophy department informing him of the decision shortly after his editorial ran in the Salt Lake Tribune. Inside Higher Ed reported, ‘Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokeswoman, said the choice not to rehire Nielsen came from the department, which has the authority to make personnel decisions on part-time faculty. “The department made the decision because of the opinion piece that had been written, and based on the fact that Mr. Nielsen publicly contradicted and opposed … Read the rest
On the day after Christmas, 2004, as everyone knows, a major earthquake and tsunami devastated coastal regions around the Indian Ocean, killing as many as 300,000 people outright and dooming countless others to misery, heartbreak, and early death. Thanks to video cameras and the satellite transmission of images, that event penetrated the world’s consciousness with an immediate force that amounted, psychologically, to a tsunami in its own right. The charitable contributions that then poured forth on an unprecedented scale expressed something more than empathy and generosity. They also bore an aspect of self-therapy—of an attempt, however symbolic, to mitigate the calamity’s impersonal randomness and thus to draw a curtain of decorum over a scene that appeared to proclaim too baldly, … Read the rest
Awaaz – South Asia Watch urges Asia House, London to re-open the exhibition of the work of renowned Indian artist, MF Husain. Awaaz condemns the forced closure of the exhibition following violence, harassment and intimidation by fundamentalists claiming to represent the views of British Hindus. The fundamentalists who vandalised the paintings reflect the authoritarian ideologies and tactics of militant Hindu Right groups in India.
In India, organisations such as the extremely violent Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations linked to the fascist-inspired Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) , have repeatedly attacked MF Husain and other artists, filmmakers, intellectuals and cultural practitioners. In 1998, Hindu Right groups attacked and ransacked Husain’s Bombay home, one of several such attacks on … Read the rest
Time to step back, back from the reviewers, the fuming bishops, the evangelicals struggling to keep pace with a history they never learned, back from the lawsuits, the dud movie that sent Francophiles and Paneuropists sniggering into the fragrant Cannes night. It’s time to blame the real culprits for this most recent outbreak of Malaria Americana: But who? The self-effacing New England prep school teacher with a knack for churning out a thousand words an hour? His co-conspirator wife, Blythe Newlon, said to be an art historian, though she has no degree in the subject and has never worked in the field? The 80,000 yahoos per week who buy the book and come away thinking “So, that’s the way … Read the rest
There are some historical stories that are so compelling that no amount of scholarly refutation seems to undermine them. One such is the familiar tale that early in Freud’s career as a psychotherapist most of his female patients told him they had been sexually abused in childhood, generally by their father. On 7 May 2006 New Zealand National Radio broadcast a programme devoted to Freud in which this story was taken as historical fact. Most of the programme was devoted to two interviews, one with Jeffrey Masson, the other with Eric Kandel, a professor of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University. As one would anticipate, Masson was asked about the events that made his name familiar to a wide … Read the rest
Since September 11, 2001 literally dozens of books have appeared asking the question (many attempting to answer it) ‘Is Religion Violent?’ In particular the authors and commentators ranging from Bernard Lewis in What Went Wrong? to Mark Juergensmeyer in Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence are asking whether the monotheistic religious traditions in general and Islam in particular are more prone to violence than, say, Buddhism, Shinto and Scientology. Almost all of these books–including one I recently edited, spaciously titled The Just War and Jihad – answer the question with an unhelpful, “It depends on what you mean by violence,” as if September 11th were not instruction enough, or “What do you … Read the rest
Productivity is an economic term that, like others, has more than one meaning. First, there is overall productivity, meaning the collective ability of a society to produce goods and services. Second, productivity is used to explain the distribution of incomes within a society, where productivity is taken to mean the relative contribution of each of the so-called factors of production, land, labor and capital, to the production process. These two aspects of productivity are inextricably linked in the U.S. mixed economic system.
Efforts to measure productivity in the second sense are chimeras. Productivity is the result of mixing machinery, human effort, and community knowledge. Productivity does not exist independently of any or all of these. If a woman uses a … Read the rest
Fresno, CA: Following hard on the heels of the commercial success of the Da
Vinci Code and forty three books about Mary Magdalene, news of the finished
translation of a gospel attributed to Judas Iscariot, known to history as the
betrayer of Jesus, received mixed reactions in the scholarly and religious
communities last week.
Vatican spokesman Archbishop Heiko Vitali wasted no time in dismissing the
discovery as yet another example of how scholars are willing to believe
“What do we know about Judas? That he was a liar. So even if this gospel came
from his hand–as I’m sure it did not–it would be just another big lie,” said
His sentiments were echoed by the head of … Read the rest
Charaka Samhita, the ancient textbook of Ayurveda (third or second centuries BCE), doesn’t mince words when it comes to the subject of quacks. Charaka, the legendary healer from India’s antiquity and the editor of the Samhita (compendium) that bears his name, calls them “imposters who wear the garb of physicians… [who] walk the earth like messengers of death.” These fake doctors are “unlearned in scriptures, experience and knowledge of curative operations…. but like to boast of their skills before the uneducated…” Wise patients, Charaka advises, “should always avoid those foolish men with a show of learning … they are like snakes subsisting on air.”
These words, written more than two thousand years ago, bring to mind those who like … Read the rest
Even as the intelligent design controversy rages on, California recently
witnessed a concerted push by a coalition of three Hindutva (Hindu
supremacist) groups – Hindu Education Foundation, Vedic Foundation and
the Hindu American Foundation – to doctor sixth grade social science
textbooks. Their strong ideological and organizational links with the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India makes them all the more
dangerous, for any success here would provide a much-needed fillip to
the RSS family of organizations in India . Fortunately, interventions
by a group of Indologists led by Professor Michael Witzel and strong
mobilizations by the South Asian community resulted in a resounding
defeat for the Hindutva groups.
As repeatedly pointed out by groups at the forefront of the … Read the rest
The ground on which a United Nations conference takes place is No Man’s Land, outside the legal jurisdiction of the surrounding country. Here, in a barren field on the outskirts of Tunis, it is No Man’s Land par excellence.
Buses shuttle laptops -and their requisite laps- from tightly guarded hotels to a gigantic, tightly-guarded, white plastic tent here. Tunisians aren’t allowed anywhere near either the hotels or the tent. In fact, they’ve been sent on holiday. All schools and government offices are shut. The gigolos that normally press their services on female visitors must take a break or face jail. The streets are empty of traffic.
Inside the tent, the laptops can put conference information on websites, so laptops across … Read the rest
The following was Maryam Namazie’s speech at a free speech march in Trafalgar Square in London on March 25, 2006.
- In Iran, Tehran bus workers demanding their rights have been arrested, including their wives and children, and some tortured.
- In Afghanistan, teachers defending the right of girls to an education are threatened with death.
- In Iraq, women’s rights activists are threatened for demanding equality and freedom.
- In Iran, journalists who published a satirical article comparing the advent of Khomeini to AIDS are languishing in prison…
- In Yemen, Mohammad Al Asadi, an editor, is facing execution for recounting how Mohammad approved of the killing of a woman who had insulted him.
The list is endless…
Too many more nameless, faceless human … Read the rest
Readers of the March 27, 2006, issue of Newsweek were greeted with the cover-story “news” that “Freud Is Not Dead.” Three items attempted to make that point in different ways. The author of the main article, Jerry Adler, consulted many people, including me, before writing his article. Readers of Butterflies and Wheels who took note of Newsweek’s spring offensive may be interested to see the e-mailed answers I gave to Mr. Adler’s questions, along with two subsequent assessments that I offered him after his piece was published. You will see, below, that I among others offered Newsweek reason to think clearly about the dubious nature of the editors’ attempted Freud revival.
The inconsecutive nature of my paragraphs reflects the … Read the rest
Here is a good story: a 26-year-old patent clerk, having
studied theoretical physics largely on his own,
publishes in a single year four extraordinary papers
that revolutionise physics. Most of us believe, for
many reasons, that this story is true. We say that in
1905 it actually happened that it is history.
Still, we know that it is unlikely that a single
person in a single year can be so successful in physics.
Accordingly, some people have formulated hypotheses
to explain Albert Einstein’s productivity. Recently, some have argued that he worked with a secret collaborator, his first wife Mileva Marić. It
would be an extraordinary story. Famous physicist
steals credit from his modest wife. Such a story, if
true, would … Read the rest