January 15, 2015

© 2015 Microsoft CorporationHow Secular Family Values Stack Up
Phil Zuckerman: My own ongoing research among secular Americans—as well as that of a handful of other social scientists who have only recently turned their gaze on secular culture—confirms that nonreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of “questioning everything” and, far above all, empathy. (Los Angeles Times)

Pope Francis Is Expected to Issue an Encyclical on Climate Change
Its message will be spread to congregations around the world by Catholic clergy, mobilizing grassroots pressure for action ahead of the key UN climate summit in December in Paris. The encyclical may be published as early as March, and may be couched in terms of the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, which teaches that we have responsibilities to our fellow humans. It will be the first encyclical to address concerns about a global environmental issue, and will provide “important orientation” to all Catholics to support action on climate change, says Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences in Vatican City. (Andy Coghlan, New Scientist)

The Global Catholic Climate Movement
Catholic environmental groups from around the world on Wednesday announced a new global network to battle climate change just as many Catholic conservatives are sharply criticizing Pope Francis’ campaign to put environmental protection high on the church’s agenda. “We are certain that anthropogenic (human-made) climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate,” the new Global Catholic Climate Movement says in its mission statement. “Climate change is about our responsibility as God’s children and people of faith to care for human life, especially future generations, by caring for all of God’s wondrous creation,” the statement continues. (David Gibson, Religion News Service)

Can the Smell of Lavender Promote Interpersonal Trust?
“Lavender has this effect because of its calming property,” said study co-author Lorenza Colzato, cognitive psychologist and assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, in an email. “This hypothesis is supported by the fact that, from an anatomical point of view, the olfactory nerve is connected to the medial prefrontal cortex a brain region that ‘controls’ the way we trust others.” (Mandy Oaklander, TIME)

Another “Academic Freedom” Act in Missouri
Missouri’s House Bill 486, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2015, would confer “academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution” to teachers. If enacted, the bill would in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased, and discourage responsible educational authorities from intervening. The bill specifically cites “the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution” as controversial. (National Center for Science Education)

Category: Field Notes

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