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Newsweek and the Undead Freud

Mar 24th, 2006 | By Frederick Crews

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

Handling evidence in history: the case of Einstein’s wife

Mar 18th, 2006 | By Alberto A. Martínez

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

Mileva Marić: Einstein’s Wife

Mar 6th, 2006 | By Allen Esterson

It must have been around 1990 that I first read newspaper reports about the claims that Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić, had made substantial contributions to his early achievements in physics. The contentions seem not to have made much headway in the UK, and, after two popular biographies of Einstein published in 1993 rejected the claims, I presumed the story had ended up in the backwaters of speculative notions on great scientific figures. How wrong I was.

Towards the end of 2005 my attention was drawn to the fact that the claims had gained a new lease of life through the production of an Australian documentary “Einstein’s Wife”, which was broadcast in the United States in 2003 by Public Broadcasting … Read the rest

On the Occasion of 8th March, International Women’s Day

Mar 4th, 2006 | By Azar Majedi

8th March is a day of equality of women and men. It is a day when, once again, the progressive sections of society organise a struggle against discrimination and the lack of women’s rights in the world. 8th March is a reminder of the suppressive and unequal position of women everywhere. It is also a reminder of the protests against the inhumane situation of women. The Organisation for Women’s Liberation is at the forefront of this struggle and movement for unconditional and complete freedom of women and men in Iran.

We are celebrating 8th March at a time when the women’s liberation movement has become one of the strongest determining elements of the future changes in Iran. It has become … Read the rest

Sectarian Hijacking of Textbooks Blocked

Mar 3rd, 2006 | By The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate

SAN FRANCISCO: The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) applauds the
successful mobilization of the South Asian community in response to the
Hindutva [Hindu supremacist] attempts to inject their sectarian
political ideology into California school textbooks.

On Monday, February 27, 2006, people of diverse backgrounds, faiths and
ethnicities testified at a public hearing before a committee of the
California State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE held the hearing to
consider proposed changes to the new history-social science textbooks
for the 6th grade in public schools in California. Eight books, and the
associated teachers’ guides and students’ workbooks, were put forward by
different publishers last year, and released by the SBE for public
review and comment. Several Hindutva groups inserted … Read the rest


Mar 2nd, 2006 | By Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Namazie, Manji, Lévy, Nasreen, Ibn Warraq et al.


Together facing the new totalitarianism

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears … Read the rest

Victory over Hindu nationalists in California textbooks rewrite

Mar 1st, 2006 | By Friends of South Asia

Sacramento, California, March 1 2006 : The intense struggle over the content of Indian history in California textbooks ended Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. with the special committee of the California State Board of Education [SBE] voting unanimously to overturn a majority of contentious changes proposed by Hindu right-wing groups to California school textbooks. This decision is a victory for community organizations such as Friends of South Asia (FOSA), the Ambedkar Center for Peace and Justice, the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, and the Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), who have worked diligently to ensure that ahistorical and sectarian content proposed by Hindu right-wing groups is removed from California textbooks. Hundreds of South Asian scholars from across the United … Read the rest

‘Repressed Memory’ Challenge

Feb 27th, 2006 | By Harrison G. Pope, Jr. and James I. Hudson

$1000 reward to anyone who can produce a published case of “repressed memory” (in fiction or non-fiction) prior to 1800

Our research suggests that the concept of “repressed memory” or “dissociative amnesia” might be simply a romantic notion dating from the 1800s, rather than a scientifically valid phenomenon. To test this hypothesis, we are offering a reward of $1000 to the first person who can find a description of “repressed memory” in any written work, either nonfiction or fiction (novels, poems, dramas, epics, the Bible, essays, medical treatises, or any other sources), in English or in any work that has been translated into English, prior to 1800. We would argue that if “repressed memory” were a genuine natural phenomenon that … Read the rest

Letter to the New York Times

Feb 25th, 2006 | By Daniel Dennett

The New York Times has opted not to publish this letter from Daniel Dennett, so B&W is pleased to make it available. Judith Shulevitz’s review is here.

Thanks to Judith Shulevitz [“When Cosmologies Collide,” NYTBR January 22] for unwittingly exposing the serious flaw in Michael Ruse’s attempt to distinguish the science of evolution (of which he approves) from the more far-reaching implications of “evolutionism,” which he characterizes as “a metaphysical world picture.” Since she grants that those who expound “evolutionism” “may well be right” in the cosmological implications they see flowing from contemporary biology, she recommends teaching “evolutionism in religion class, along with creationism, deism and all the other cosmologies that float unexamined through our lives.” By the same … Read the rest

Sense and Sensibility

Feb 23rd, 2006 | By Paula Bourges-Waldegg

Distasteful, absurd, offensive, insulting, abusive, infamous, frivolous, grotesque, unfunny and plain stupid are some of the most common adjectives that have been used to describe the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper a few months ago. Sense and sensibility are apparently the main virtues that an editorial cartoonist should now possess. So it seems that newspapers all over the world will soon need to hire new more ad hoc cartoonists. Therefore I took the liberty of writing the following job posting to help them find the “ideal” candidate.

Well-reputed newspaper looking for sensitive and sensible cartoonists

General description:

Individuals with high moral and aesthetic standards who conform with generally held views of what is acceptable, and … Read the rest

Why Truth Does Matter

Feb 21st, 2006 | By Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom

From Why Truth Matters by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom, Continuum 2006, pp. 18-20.

But does it really matter? Is it worth bothering about? Academic fashions come and go. Dons and professors are always coming up with some New Big Thing, and then getting old and doddering off to the great library in the sky, while new dons and professors hatch new big things, some more and some less silly than others. Casaubon had his key to all mythologies, Derrida had his, someone will have a new one tomorrow; what of it.

Yes, is our answer; it does matter. It matters for various pragmatic, instrumental reasons. Meera Nanda discusses in Prophets Facing Backward the way Hindu fundamentalists in India have … Read the rest

Distortions Are Not Worth Debating

Feb 21st, 2006 | By Deborah Lipstadt

Deborah Lipstadt looks at the decision by the editors of the student newspaper of Northwestern University, The Daily Northwestern, to publish an article by Arthur Butz.

Things at Northwestern seem to be going from bad to worse. Electrical Engineering Professor Arthur Butz has, after many years of total obscurity in anything but the world of Holocaust deniers, once again grabbed headlines by praising Iranian President Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denial. Mr. Butz has as much expertise on the history of the Holocaust as I do on building bridges. But he has tenure and this means that, as long as he does not introduce this false information into his classroom, he cannot be fired.

But Butz is an old story. … Read the rest

Misdirected Outrage: The Strange Case of ‘Gay Muslims’

Feb 20th, 2006 | By Edmund Standing

Imagine, for a moment, a few implausible scenarios. Imagine if a group of ethnically Jewish German nationalists had petitioned Hitler, stating themselves to be National Socialists, but also Jewish, and demanding the right to make a presentation at the Nuremberg Rally about their experiences as Jewish Nazis. Would we expect Hitler to comply with their wishes? Of course not, because Nazism is thoroughly anti-Semitic, and the very idea of a Jewish Nazi is absurd. Now imagine if a group of men wanted the chance to make a presentation at a lesbian conference about their experiences of life as male lesbians. Would we expect them to be taken seriously? Clearly not. Again, the identity that they propose is self-contradictory and illogical. … Read the rest

Why Review a Book When You Can Sneer?

Feb 20th, 2006 | By Brian Leiter

The New York Times has done it again: they’ve enlisted an ignorant reviewer to review a philosophical book. The reviewer is Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor at The New Republic. The book is Daniel Dennett’s latest book, a “naturalistic” account of religious belief. Whatever Mr. Wieseltier knows about philosophy or science, he effectively conceals in this review. The sneering starts at the beginning:

The question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult

Read the rest

Freedom of speech is not for sale

Feb 11th, 2006 | By Mina Ahadi

The images of terrifying and agitated mobs attacking centres and embassies, burning them down and threatening people to murder and decapitations are the cruel face of political Islam.

Obviously governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other reactionary states together with Hamas and Islamic terrorist gangs are behind these demonstrations, which are all to familiar to us. They have no way other than killing, slaughtering, stoning to death and destroying to gain a share of power or to remain in power.

Wherever they are in the power, they eliminate anyone who thinks differently and won’t submit to their reactionary and inhumane sacred beliefs and wherever they are not, they intimidate in order to score points.

This time round, the publication … Read the rest

Silent but not Deadly

Feb 11th, 2006 | By Thomas R DeGregori

Silent but deadly is a phrase most often used to describe the effects of a quiet crepitation that is extremely potent in its olfactory impact. It could as well refer to the phobias of many concerning the deadly forces of modern life. These are the forces of modern life that allegedly pervade our environment and threaten our very existence. Vying for the top of the list are those all-pervasive chemical carcinogens that allegedly saturate our food and every other aspect of our environment. Competing
for phobic primacy is all that deadly radiation emanating from nuclear power plants. When old phobias begin to lose some of their power to frighten, there are people skilled at heightening our sensitivities to newly emerging … Read the rest

Hindutva, California Textbooks and a Smear Campaign

Feb 3rd, 2006 | By Steve Farmer

Last week this article in the Indian magazine Frontline reported that the Hindu Right’s attempts to rewrite California school textbooks on India and Hinduism were meeting with strong resistance from renowned historians and scholars in the U.S. and abroad. Steve Farmer is one of those scholars; he reported on that resistance and the smear campaign against another of them, Michael Witzel, on a listserve last December, and gave B&W permission to publish a slightly updated version. There is recent news here.

Part I: The California Textbook Issue

The smear campaign aimed against Michael Witzel is meant in retaliation for
the critical role he has played since early November – in
collaboration now with hundreds of Indian and Western researchers … Read the rest

Defend striking bus workers of Tehran!

Feb 1st, 2006 | By Bahram Soroush

Hundreds of striking bus workers of the state-owned Vahed bus company are still in detention in Tehran today, 30th January, following the vicious attack by thousands of members of the security forces on their strike last Saturday.

The exact number of the detainees is still unknown. Anywhere from 500 to 700 workers may have been arrested – according to union officials speaking on foreign-based radio stations. Further arrests have been reported today, with pressure being put on the detained workers to sign pledges to give up their fight or risk losing their jobs. In a statement issued today, the bus workers’ union has called for a stoppage on 3rd February.

The arrests started on Friday 27th January, the eve of … Read the rest

Faith is a Moral Failing

Jan 29th, 2006 | By George M Felis

Let’s be brutally honest. To describe FAITH as a “failure of reason” is a half-truth at best.

There are those who assert that their religious convictions are grounded in reason and evidence alone. But I’ve never actually met such a rare creature myself. Even the most cunning Jesuitical sophistry seeking to rationally justify religion does not entirely leave out faith as a component. And not faith in the sense of “hope” or “confidence” or any other wishy-washy alternate definition. By “faith” in this context, I mean (and honest believers also mean) believing something because one chooses to believe it, without regard to the absence of evidence/reasons to believe. (Sometimes, faith even entails believing something without regard to the presence of … Read the rest

When Theology Met Postmodernism

Jan 26th, 2006 | By Edmund Standing

Obscurity and vagueness of expression is always and everywhere a very bad sign: for in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it derives from vagueness of thought, which in turn comes from an original incongruity and inconsistency in the thought itself, and thus from its falsity … Those who put together difficult, obscure, involved, ambiguous discourses do not really know what they want to say: they have no more than a vague consciousness of it which is only struggling towards a thought: often, however, they also want to conceal from themselves and others that they actually have nothing to say.

Arthur Schopenhauer

While the narrative and interpretation are my own, all the block quotes in the essay that follows are … Read the rest