May 14, 2015

America’s Changing Religious LandscapeAmerica’s Changing Religious Landscape
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. (Pew Research Center)

How Might Feeling Invisible Affect Our Moral Thinking?
Arvid Guterstam: I personally don’t think invisibility will affect our moral nature. But it’s an open question that we now can test by using this illusion, and I’m excited to see the results. (SABQ)

New Dimensions in Testimony Project
The project’s first subject was Pinchas Gutter, a Holocaust survivor, who was asked to tell his story, then was asked hundreds of follow-up questions. A computer cataloged and analyzed his responses, and when the story is complete, viewers can simply ask their own questions and a suitable answer will be selected and played back by the lifelike hologram. This allows not just for stories to be experienced as if the teller is physically there, complete with gestures and expressions, but also for those hearing it to further investigate in a natural way. (Devin Coldewey, TODAY)


April 28, 2015

James St John, CC BYEven Setting Evolution Aside, Basic Geology Disproves Creationism
David Montgomery: In the ongoing conflict between science and creationism, evolution is usually a main point of contention. The idea that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor is a major problem for creationists. As a geologist, though, I think that the rocks beneath our feet offer even better arguments against creationism. For the creationist model doesn’t square with what you can see for yourself. And this has been known since before Darwin wrote a word about evolution. (The Conversation)

Ethical Debate Over Editing the Genomes of Human Embryos
In the wake of the first ever report that scientists have edited the genomes of human embryos, experts cannot agree on whether the work was ethical. (Sara Reardon, Nature)

More on the Conflict Over Observatories at Mauna Kea
In Hawaii, a battle is going on over the future of a mountaintop. Native Hawaiians say it’s sacred ground, while astronomers say it’s the best place in the world to build a massive, 18-story telescope. This is not simply a story of religion versus science. Activists consider the construction of a giant telescope on the island of Hawaii to be a desecration of their sacred land. (Molly Solomon, Morning Edition, NPR)

New Reality Show Will Look at Generosity and Values
If somebody gave you $100,000, would you keep all the money for yourself, or share it with another needy family? That’s the setup for The Briefcase, a new reality show coming to CBS. And if you think that premise is tricky, wait until you hear the twist. “We’re testing the human spirit,” says executive producer Dave Broome (NBC’s The Biggest Loser). “These days, with paychecks shrinking, we wanted to tackle human values in a way in a big and loud way.” (James Hibberd, Entertainment Weekly)

Q&A
Frederic Lenoir

Frederic Lenoir’s Happiness: A Philosopher’s Guide was a best seller when it was released in France last fall, and this month, it’s been published here, in English, courtesy of Melville House. Lenoir, a magazine editor, France Culture radio host, and professor at the elite L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, spoke on the phone from Paris about American culture’s contentment problem, happiness science, and The Bachelor. (David Marchese, Science of Us, New York Magazine)


April 22, 2015

religiousness and mental healthReligiousness and Mental Health
Is being a believer beneficial to one’s mental health? That’s the conclusion of much psychological research, which points to both the social support of belonging to a congregation, and the stress-reducing qualities of knowing that a larger force is looking out for you. But a newly published study challenges those beliefs. Analyzing answers provided by a large and diverse group of participants, it finds “secular and religious adherents have similar levels of mental health.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Why I Teach Evolution to Muslim Students
Rana Dajani: I teach evolution to university students in Jordan. Almost all of them are hostile to the idea at first. Their schoolteachers are likely to have ignored or glossed over it. Still, most students are willing to discuss evolution, and by the end of the course, the majority accept the idea. If Muslim students can challenge ideas on such a controversial academic topic, then they can also approach other aspects of their lives by questioning—and not just blindly accepting—the status quo. These tools and attitudes are crucial to the development of their personalities and to becoming responsible citizens. (Nature)

Creationism in Louisiana Public School Science Classes
Zack Kopplin: I have evidence that religion, not science, is what’s being taught systematically in some Louisiana school systems. I have obtained emails from creationist teachers and school administrators, as well as a letter signed by more than 20 current and former Louisiana science teachers in Ouachita Parish in which they say they challenge evolution in the classroom without legal “tension or fear” because of pro-creationism policies. (Slate)


April 17, 2015

spiritual-childChildren, Spirituality, and Happiness
Lisa Miller: A new study just published online in the Journal of Religion and Health by my lab at Columbia University shows that happiness and the character traits of grit and persistence go “hand in hand” with a deeper inner asset: spirituality, which this study measured as a deep spiritual connection with a sense of a sacred world. More generally my research of more than 20 years on adolescence, depression and spirituality shows more specifically how putting a priority on performance stunts development of a child’s inner life and the single most powerful protection against depression and suffering, the spiritual self. (TIME)

Vatican Climate Change Workshop
Called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity,” the event will feature scientists and world religious leaders, aiming to build a global movement toward curbing climate change, according to the online program. Speakers will have “a special focus on the most vulnerable, to elevate the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical,” according to the program. (Rachel Zoll, Associated Press)

The Future of World Religions
The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. (Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life)

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