January 14 - 20, 2007

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.

Let's begin with more happy news for freethinkers from Edge Magazine (on-line) and its question to intellectual/cultural leaders: "What Are You Optimistic About? Why?" You can read answers from at least 160 respondents on topics like these:

"The use of proteins and other markers [will] permit the early detection and identification of cancer, hugely increasing the prospects of survival."
* "Young adults alive today will, on average, live to 120."

* "Eternal life may come within our reach once we understand enough about how our knowledge and mental processes work ... to duplicate that information -- and then [transfer it] into more robust machines."

* "Someone who is already alive will be the first person to make their permanent home off-Earth."

* "Within a generation ... we will be able to make self-replicating machines that ... absorb energy through solar cells, eat rock and use the energy and minerals to make copies of itself ... [as well as] toasters, refrigerators, and Lamborghinis."

Read the full article at Edge...

More good news! Lori Lipman Brown has made her case for the Secular Coalition to the Christian Science Monitor, saying that she supports tolerance for all points of view, religious and non-religious:

[S]even organizations of nontheists - including atheists, freethinkers, humanists, and agnostics - began the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), a lobby seeking to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States.

"In some parts of the country, children are ostracized if someone finds out their families are atheists," says Lori Lipman Brown, SCA director. "We need to educate the public that people who don't have a god belief can be good neighbors and friends and moral and ethical people."

They also intend to stand up vigorously for their rights. "Some people want to go back to a time when religion was imposed, such as official prayer in public schools," she adds. "For someone to say they can't practice their religion appropriately if all schoolchildren are not required to recite a public prayer is very disturbing."

The SCA intends to lobby the new Congress to override a presidential veto on stem-cell research and to repeal land-use legislation and other laws seen as "privileging one religion over other religions or over those who don't follow religion."

Read the full article here...

And more good press for atheism, this time from the Los Angeles Times weekly Magazine, via a short article by Sam Neil. It receives first billing. Second is a letter to the L.A. Times editor from Fred Edwords of the American Humanist Association, about Neil's article:

From Sam Neil:

True story: I was in the aisles of the bookstore looking over Dawkins' book ["The God Delusion"]when a man came up to me and recommended the Susskind book ["The Cosmic Landscape"], and between us passed a look of fellow travelers. He's an atheist too! Had we been early Christians we would have drawn the sign of the fish on the ground with our sandals.

What Wired magazine last month called the "new atheism"—I prefer to think of it as "atheist chic"—has a tripartite thrust: First, what might be thought of as the argument by cosmology of Sagan and Susskind. Second, the argument of evolutionary psychology—faith is a naturally selected faculty and neurophysiological phenomenon arising because it was, in pre-modern societies, advantageous; this hard-wired argument is advanced in Daniel C. Dennett's recent book "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon." Third, rationalist and textual refutations of the old cases familiar to anybody who took philosophy in college, such as Thomas Aquinas' dusty proofs. These refutations have taken on special urgency because, according to neuroscientist Sam Harris in his new book "Letter to a Christian Nation," religious fundamentalists tend to be crazy and dangerous and a lot of them would be very happy to blow up the world. I'm paraphrasing, but accurately.

Read Neil's article here...

From Fred Edwords:

I appreciated Dan Neil's column "Atheist Chic" (800 Words, Dec. 17). So I only offer one small critique. He wrote, "There are no atheists in foxholes or in Congress." We know why there aren't any in Congress: It's difficult for atheists, or even agnostics, to get elected to most public offices.

Read the rest of this here...

What do you think of the following column, from the San Francisco Chronicle, by Howard Smith, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, saying that his resolution for the new year is to seek less hostility between science and spirituality?

It is possible to appreciate both the insights of religion and the lessons of science. This year's precise, self-consistent cosmology certainly prompts one ethical reflection: science's intellectual openness and quantitative inquiry have been wonderfully productive. They are worthy of emulation. Here's another: newly uncovered puzzles (dark matter, cosmic acceleration) compel humility. We do not know it all. Cosmology and Kabbalah illustrate that science and religion, presupposed opposites, speak to the same mysteries. Their perspectives, while different, are not necessarily contradictory. Their moral imperatives can enrich and motivate both rational and righteous behavior.

My New Year's resolution? In 2007, I hope that science and religion can cooperate, not clash, to solve social problems. I hope we listen with tolerance to opposing opinions, and replace hostile, defensive rhetoric with thoughtful analyses. And, not least, we need to become better informed about our marvelous, blessed world.

Read the rest of the Chronicle article here...

Finally, the Vatican is finding that it can't avoid justice for American victims of clergy sexual abuse:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sex abuse victims can pursue damages from the Vatican in a lawsuit alleging top church officials failed to report known or suspected cases of child abuse, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II allows three men to pursue claims against the Vatican over allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The men alleged that the Vatican knew or suspected some of its priests or bishops were child molesters, but failed to warn the public or local authorities about them because of a policy prohibiting it.

Read the full article here...

Web www.theinfidels.org
The Talk of Lawrence