Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Ethics of Exhibition: Romancing the Scrolls by Robert Dworkin

In recent years, history, science, and religion have had a series of increasingly embarrassing encounters. An especially significant, if rarely analyzed, example of this phenomenon is the inaccurate treatment of the current state of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship in traveling exhibitions being presented all over the United States and elsewhere.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Talking to Ourselves by Susan Jacoby

Americans are increasingly close-minded
and unwilling to listen to opposing views.

As dumbness has been defined downward in American public life during the last two decades, one of the most important and frequently overlooked culprits is the public's increasing reluctance to give a fair hearing -- or any hearing at all -- to opposing points of view.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Festina Lente by Conrad H Roth

I concluded my last post with some rather compressed comments on humour; the laughter of Palaeologus, I wrote, 'is a laughter at that which breaks away from common sense, from judgement, from taste, and from the organic'. These items were not picked at random. They are, in fact, according to Gadamer, in his largely unreadable Truth and Method, the four central concepts of humanism. The humanist, as opposed to the scientist, is not concerned with method: instead he engages in a collective endeavour, guided by tradition and authority, taste and common sense. This post is about the relation of humanism, under this aspect, to the problem of humour, exemplified in the mocking of pedantry.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Belief in Belief by Christopher Hitchens

A question that interests me very much (and always has) is this: I know that I do not believe in either any god or any religion, and I can give my reasons in a manner that the other side can at least understand, but can the same be said for those who claim that they do believe? A shorter way of putting this is to ask whether our antagonists in this ancient argument truly mean what they appear to say.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Virtuous Species: The Biological Origins of Human Morality: An Interview with Frans de Waal

Human morality springs from evolutionary foundations that were handed down from our pre-human ancestors and can still be seen today in our primate cousins, says noted zoologist Frans de Waal. But these foundations use compassion and caring as well as competition to achieve their evolutionary ends, giving us a more free and flexible vision of human nature, he says in this exclusive interview with Science & Spirit.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Is an Islamic Reformation Possible? Towards a Vatican II of Islam by Ibn Warraq

1. What is a Reformation?
Defined from the UDHR 1948 perspective

Since there is no Pope or even, in principle, an organized clergy in Islam, how would we ever know if an Islamic Reformation had taken place? One person’s reformation will be another person’s decadence. My perspective will be from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which many Muslims still do not accept—indeed several Muslim countries got together in 1981 and issued their own Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, where individual freedoms are denied. Muslims were particularly horrified by Article 18 of the UN Declaration which guarantees the right for anyone to change her or his religion. I think those who do accept the United Nations Declaration would agree that a de facto reformation had taken place in Islamic societies, as for example in Pakistan or Egypt, if the tenor of its major articles were respected, especially the rights of women and non-Muslims, and freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and religion, including the right to change one’s religion, and the right not to believe in any deity; if no person is subjected to cruel punishments such as mutilation of limbs for theft or stoning to death for adultery; if copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am not a Muslim are freely available...

Why We Need a New Jesus by Deepak Chopra

Searching for the real Jesus has been a growth industry and an obsession for several decades now. We read about “discovering” the tomb of Joseph and Mary the way medieval pilgrims heard that the head of John the Baptist had just surfaced in a French cathedral. The difference is that modern Christians want scientific, historical proof that Jesus walked the earth, and for many believers such proof supports their conviction that the New Testament is literally true in every detail.