November 12 - 18, 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 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.

This is a briefer than usual recap of Infidel news, as I will attend the American Humanist Association board meeting this coming weekend. Let's begin with a vintage Sam Harris column in Newsweek, available on the MSNBC site:

Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for. Consequently, we are living in a world in which millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales.

Read the full Article Here...

From the Boston Globe, Brandeis University chemistry professor Irv Epstein dons a wizard's cap to entice students into studying science, and to attract "underrepresented" students, in an attempt to bring social justice to his classroom. By the way, Epstein recently received a million-dollar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to continue his efforts.

Epstein hopes this effort will help remedy the dearth of "underrepresented" students -- meaning non-Asian minorities -- in the sciences. "In introductory science courses, you see a sea of white faces," says Epstein. "And it gets whiter and whiter as you go on."

But he's motivated by more than questions of social justice. "There are dire strategic and economic implications," he says. "We're relying on human subsidy from other countries to fill the gaps in our ranks of scientists. But now it's becoming more attractive for students from China or India to go back rather than stay here. If we don't start producing domestic scientists, we're in trouble."

Click here for the full article...

From The New York Times, the neuroscience of speaking in tongues, research in progress:

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior.

Clicke here to read this New York Times Article...

I just found this wonderful site, with photos, blurbs, and lyrics of musicians or bands that lean toward atheism, agnosticism, or freethought. The "famous" (or infamous?) include Bjork (who knew?), The Dead Kennedys, Ani DiFranco, Barry Manilow (an avowed humanist), Mark Knopfler, and Randy Newman (of course). Among the "lesser known" is the group Dr. Stephen Baird and the Opossums of Truth, with songs about DNA, Darwin, and school prayer.

Find this complete article here...

The Talk of Lawrence