November 5 - 11, 2006

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.


You would think that with the upcoming midterm election that this would be a dull news week for Infidels. But there are stories, good and bad, for our perusal, two of which concern women: one is a secularist in Turkey; the other is an Episcopal bishop with a feminist conception of "god."

From The New York Times, an article on Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, a citizen of Turkey and an expert on the ancient Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia. She was charged with insulting religion, in her writings, for which she could have been imprisoned for more than 11 years. Cig is 92 years old.

The trial against Cig was initiated by an Islamic-oriented lawyer who was offended by her recently published political book, ''My Reactions as a Citizen,'' in which she says that the earliest examples of head scarves date back to Sumerian times, when veils were worn by priestesses who helped young men learn about sex.

Pro-secular groups came to the trial in a show of support for the archaeologist, who was born in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. She retired in 1972 and has written 13 books.

The groups cheered and applauded her as she left the courthouse. Cig thanked her supporters and urged them to ''continue her work'' in promoting secularism.

An avowed secularist, Cig gained public attention when she wrote to Emine Erdogan, the wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging her to take off her head scarf and set an example to women in this predominantly Muslim country that is governed by strict secular laws. More and more women are veiling themselves in a show of religious piety.

Read the full article here...


From the Miami Herald, a report on the first female Episcopal "Presiding" Bishop and the potential mutiny she faces, as her appointment and opinions upset the orthodox.

As the first woman to serve as presiding bishop since the Episcopal Church approved women priests 30 years ago, Katharine Jefferts Schori is already facing a mutiny.

Jefferts Schori, who will be installed this weekend at the National Cathedral in Washington, starts her nine-year term during one of the most trying periods in the church's history. Rifts over church teachings on gays threaten to divide the 2.4 million-member denomination.

About 10 Episcopal dioceses -- including the diocese of Central Florida -- have rejected her authority, arguing her support for same-sex blessings and the ordination of gay clergy runs counter to biblical morality. In her first sermon following her election at the church's general convention in June, Jefferts Schori angered the church's conservative wing by referring to ``Mother Jesus.''

Read the full article here...


Regarding Faith and U.S. Foreign Aid, from the Boston Globe [first in a four-part series]:

The US government has given $10.9 million to Food for the Hungry, a faith-based development organization, to reach deep into the arid mountains of northern Kenya to provide training in hygiene, childhood illnesses, and clean water. The group has brought all that, and something else that increasingly accompanies US-funded aid programs: regular church service and prayer.

President Bush has almost doubled the percentage of US foreign-aid dollars going to faith-based groups such as Food for the Hungry, according to a Globe survey of government data. And in seeking to help such groups obtain more contracts, Bush has systematically eliminated or weakened rules designed to enforce the separation of church and state.

Click here to read the Globe article..


Young Scientist of the Year honored, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Right now, I'm more or less in shock," said Nolan Kamitaki, 14 [of Hawaii]."I was just happy to be in the national competition. I didn't expect this at all."

He entered with a project analyzing the affect arsenic in local soils has had on Big Island school children. He also competed against 40 finalists in a series of challenges at the National Institutes of Health.

Read the article here...


Also from the SF Chronicle, report on the discovery of a long-sealed cave in Sequoia National Park, home to spectacular formations and geological information.

Millions of crystals along its walls shimmer like diamonds. Translucent mineral "curtains" hang from the ceiling. Flowstones that resemble spilled paint dot the floor. A lake that might be 20 feet deep fills one of the cave's five known rooms, and passages leading into darkness suggest there is still much more to see.

The discovery has excited geologists and cave explorers nationwide because although caves are discovered with almost mundane regularity -- 17 of the 240 caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks have been found since 2003 -- it is rare to find one so grand. The cave, named Ursa Minor, has been called one of the most significant finds in a generation.

"There are things in this cave that could really open windows into our knowledge of geologic history and the formation of caves throughout the West," said Joel Despain, the parks' cave manager. "We're just beginning to understand the scientific ramifications of this."

Click here for full article...


From the Houston Chronicle. You might recall the uproar over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, published in a Danish newspaper. Now the retaliation: The winner of the "Holocaust Cartoon" was announced in Iran. The good news is that the majority of Iranians seem indifferent.

The organizers of the exhibit — meant as a response to the Danish cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad that enraged many Muslims — awarded Abdollah Derkaoui $12,000 Wednesday for his work depicting an Israeli crane piling large cement blocks on Israel's security wall and gradually obscuring Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. A picture of Auschwitz appears on the wall.

[...] "Palestinians have been victim of a deceptive history by Zionists," Iranian Culture Minister Hossein Saffar Harandi was quoted today as saying by the conservative daily Kayhan. "The cartoonists expressed their hate against oppressors and their love toward (Palestinian) victims in their works."

The contest generated little coverage in the Iranian press and many ordinary Iranians expressed little interest, or criticized the exhibit as unnecessarily provocative.

Read the article here...


How spiritual are university scientists? Various surveys have suggested that most are agnostic or atheist in their views, but now a survey published in the Chronicle of Higher Education casts another light:

A survey of scientists at elite universities shows that most consider themselves "spiritual," and many say that their faith influences their interactions with students and colleagues.

More than 1,600 professors of natural and social sciences answered questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs. The findings belie the stereotype that all scientists are atheists, according to Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study's author and an assistant professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Particularly surprising to Ms. Ecklund was the finding that 66 percent of natural scientists think of themselves as spiritual (as do 69 percent of social scientists). Some said their spirituality came from a "vague feeling that there is something outside myself," while others said their spirituality was connected to an "other-centered worldview." Even among scientists who are atheists, 22 percent say they consider themselves spiritual.

Read the article here...


How spiritual are university scientists? Various surveys have suggested that most are agnostic or atheist in their views, but now a survey published in the Chronicle of Higher Education casts another light:

A survey of scientists at elite universities shows that most consider themselves "spiritual," and many say that their faith influences their interactions with students and colleagues.

More than 1,600 professors of natural and social sciences answered questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs. The findings belie the stereotype that all scientists are atheists, according to Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study's author and an assistant professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Particularly surprising to Ms. Ecklund was the finding that 66 percent of natural scientists think of themselves as spiritual (as do 69 percent of social scientists). Some said their spirituality came from a "vague feeling that there is something outside myself," while others said their spirituality was connected to an "other-centered worldview." Even among scientists who are atheists, 22 percent say they consider themselves spiritual.

Click here to read this article...

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