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Introducing Follies of the Wise

Jun 12th, 2006 | By Frederick Crews

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

Re-Open the M F Husain Exhibition

Jun 2nd, 2006 | By Awaaz-South Asia Watch

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) [1], 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

Death by Da Vincititis: Of Professorial Pimps and Humanist Harlots

May 22nd, 2006 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

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

A Seductive Story

May 15th, 2006 | By Allen Esterson

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

When the Devil Still Matters

May 8th, 2006 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

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[1] – 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

The Myth of Productivity and the Function of Consumerism: An Institutional Perspective

Apr 23rd, 2006 | By Jim Cornehls

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

The Gospel of Judas: Exclusive

Apr 18th, 2006 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

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
“proven heresies.”

“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

The State of Ayurveda: Examining the Evidence

Apr 9th, 2006 | By Meera Nanda

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

Move over ID, here comes Bhartiya Creationism

Apr 3rd, 2006 | By Ravi Ravishankar

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 [1]. 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

Letter from No Man’s Land

Apr 3rd, 2006 | By Niala Maharaj

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

Freedom of Expression: No Ifs Ands or Buts

Mar 26th, 2006 | By Maryam Namazie

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

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