Indiana and gays and religion

Really liked Amy Davidson on the matter

The Indiana law is the product of a G.O.P. search for a respectable way to oppose same-sex marriage and to rally the base around it. There are two problems with this plan, however. First, not everyone in the party, even in its most conservative precincts, wants to make gay marriage an issue, even a stealth one—or opposes gay marriage to begin with. As the unhappy reaction in Indiana shows, plenty of Republicans find the anti-marriage position embarrassing, as do some business interests that are normally aligned with the party. Second, the law is not an empty rhetorical device but one that has been made strangely powerful, in ways that haven’t yet been fully tested, by the Supreme Court decision last year in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. That ruling allowed the Christian owners of a chain of craft stores to use the federal version of the RFRA to ignore parts of the Affordable Care Act. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, argued strongly that the majority was turning that RFRA into a protean tool for all sorts of evasions. As Jeffrey Toobin has noted, she was proved right even before the Indiana controversy…

As Pence put it, “RFRA only provides a mechanism to address claims, not a license for private parties to deny services.” Perhaps it is more accurate, then, to call it a mechanism to discriminate, rather than a license. What it certainly will do is give some people more confidence to discriminate. But is that what Indiana really wants? And is that what the G.O.P.’s 2016 candidates should be looking for?

Mostly, though, I wanted to post this Toles cartoon:

Religion and science knowlege

So, I’ve been doing a little bit of research on scientific literacy for my current research on GMO foods.  I came across this really interesting paper which basically shows that the more religious you are, the less you know about science.  Importantly, that’s with about all the controls you would want (i.e., you can’t really prove causation, but this is not some spurious relationship).  Here’s the abstract:

Objective

This study examines how commitment to sectarian Protestant religious groups and fundamentalist beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible influence basic scientific literacy.

Methods

I analyze data from the 2006 General Social Survey (N = 1,780), which included a 13-point examination of scientific facts and reasoning. Ordinary least squares regression models are estimated to determine the impact of religious affiliations and beliefs net of other control variables such as race, gender, education, income, region, and rural residence.

Results

Analyses show that sectarian Protestants, Catholics, and people with fundamentalist beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible have significantly lower levels of scientific literacy when compared with secular Americans. Religious differences are identifiable in multivariate analyses controlling for other demographic factors. [emphasis mine]

Conclusions

Religion plays a sizeable role in the low levels of scientific literacy found in the United States, and the negative impact of religious factors is more substantial than gender, race, or income.

And the key table:

science

 

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m bummed that Catholic is a significant predictor, but at least it’s smaller than Protestant.  And it’s clear that fundamentalist views (i.e., “bible is the literal word of God”) are no friend to scientific literacy.

Will the world end with a bang?

Enjoyed this recent update from Roper polls in which they asked what would be the most likely scenario for the end of the world.  The winner?  Nuclear war.

most fear will bring end to humanity

I do like that that rapture ties global warming and beats out an asteroid.  Given the choices myself, I think I’d go with deadly virus.

Quick hits

1) While everybody has been complaining about the silliness of the dress being black/blue or gold/white, the truth is, this really is a fascinating case of the ambiguities of human color perception.  David Pogue’s take was my favorite.  And a good one in Wired, too.

The really crazy part for me is that on Friday morning this was totally white and I could not even imagine how it could be blue.  Then Friday afternoon when I showed my kids, it was blue.  Friday night, it was white again.  As of this later Friday night writing, it’s back to blue again.  Try as I might, I cannot see it as the dingy white I did just two hours ago.  Argh!  Crazy and awesome.

2) Not generally a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but she’s exactly right to question Jeb’s decision-making in relying on all his brother’s worst advisers.  Paul Wolfowitz– seriously?!

3) Our nation’s way over-reliance on solitary confinement truly is a national shame.

4) Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members is literally one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.  I read it in a day (can’t remember the last time I did that) and laughed out loud a bunch while I was reading it.

5) Really liked this take on David Carr’s death and the stigma of lung cancer.

6) I so hate the twitter guardians of decency who seem to take such pleasure in ruining lives.  Absolute worst part of the Lindsey Stone case was how the morons basically had no sense of humor or context.  Horrible and pathetic.

7) How twin studies show that whether you believe in God or not, is significantly genetic.

8) Enjoyed this story on Dianne Rehm’s advocacy in the Right to Die movement.

9) I think Scott Walker’s moronic comments that he’s ready to face down ISIS because he faced down public employee unions mostly just show that he’s not ready for primetime (of which we’ve had ample evidence of late).  Plus, there’s something about the set of his eyes that just seems wrong to me.

10) Will Saletan on how Obama should more forthrightly call out Republicans.  Not going to happen, but it’s nice to think about:

Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.

11) Found this NYT story utterly fascinating about two French babies switched at birth and how they stayed with their non-biological families when the error was learned many years later.

12) St Louis is a great example of what goes wrong when a metropolitan area has too many local governments.

13) I’ve only watched three episodes of House of Cards and that’s all it will likely ever be.  As Alyssa Rosenberg writes, it insults our intelligence.  Also, from what I’ve seen it has basically no sense of humor (which is decidedly not the case from other great dramas of recent times).

14) If the Supreme Court actually makes the transparently political and nakedly partisan decision to strike down Obamacare subsidies, this could actually put Republicans in a real jam.

15) Our system of elected judges is truly one of the worst parts of the American system of government.  Easy pickings, of course, for John Oliver.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The justification for stripping this professor from tenure over a blog posting (scary!!) is pretty pathetic.

2) It would be nice if Supreme Court Justices actually had some real world experience.  Somehow, John Roberts has never even been pulled over while driving!

3) Jon Chait with a handy reminder that Mitt Romney predicted we would face economic doom if Obama were re-elected.

4) The NYT headline, “Jails Have Become Warehouses for the Poor, Ill and Addicted, a Report Says.”  Only problem is the need to qualify with “report says.”  Sadly, this is just reality.  And the modern debtors prison part is especially distressing.

5) New Yorker’s Sarah Larson with one of the better takes on Jon Stewart stepping down.

6) Are you “gluten sensitive”?  Chances are pretty good it’s in your head.  Emily Oster in 538:

If you don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy and are experiencing distressing gastrointestinal symptoms after eating gluten — lack of satisfaction with your stool consistency, for example — there is something like a 1 in 30 chance that the gluten is potentially responsible. If you cut out gluten and it makes you feel better, great. Although it may all be in your head.

If you are cutting out gluten for any other reason, all that will happen is you’ll feel the same, but without the pleasure of bread that tastes like bread.

7) Frank Bruni on the value of a liberal arts education.  Personally, I’m still not sold on Shakespeare.

8) I’ve always been blaming my genes for the extreme picky eating of my kids.  In truth, it’s also clearly some pretty sub-optimal parenting in this regard.

9) Really  enjoyed Will Saletan’s takedown of those who argue Christianity never does any wrong.

10) Wow– the twitter police are just nuts!  Scariest part– the tweet that basically ruined Justine Sacco’s life was so obviously meant ironically, but the twitter police are apparently willfully obtuse.

11) Parents stop reading to their kids too soon.  David is 15 and we’re still going strong.  Often my favorite time with my kids each day– why end this before it’s absolutely necessary.

12) Fall and rise of US inequality in two charts.

13) Michael Tomasky on the need for raising the gas tax, and the greater need for actually leveling with the American people:

The second, broader point is this. Someday, some Democrat who wishes to take the reins of this great nation is going to have to level with the people and say look, you say in poll after poll that you want certain things—the preservation of Social Security without benefit cuts, more assistance for higher education, better day care, paid family leave. Fine. I want to give you those things. But they aren’t free. And the rich, even though they’re rich, only have so much to contribute. The top marginal tax rate just isn’t going to get much higher, and the corporate tax rate if anything should be lowered (although as loopholes are simultaneously closed). So you’re going to have to pay a little.

14) Meaningful tax reform just isn’t going anywhere in today’s Congress.

15) Investing in energy efficiency really pays off.  We should do more of it.

16) John Judis on the Republicans’ emerging advantage with white, middle class voters.  Well worth reading, here’s the conclusion:

In the wake of the dramatic gains Republicans have made during Obama’s presidency, I now read the history of the last 80 years much differently. The period of New Deal Democratic ascendancy from 1933 to about 1968 may well prove to have been what historians Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore have called the “long exception” in American politics. It was a period when Americans, panicked about the Depression, put on hold their historic aversion to aggressive government economic intervention, when the middle and bottom of the American economic pyramid united against the top, and when labor unions could claim the loyalty of a third of American workers. That era suffered fatal fissures in 1968 and finally came to a close with Reagan’s landslide in 1980.

It now appears that, in some form, the Republican era which began in 1980 is still with us. Reagan Republicanism—rooted in the long-standing American distrust of government, but perhaps with its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges sanded off for a national audience—is still the default position of many of those Americans who regularly go to the polls. It can be effectively challenged when Republicans become identified with economic mismanagement or with military defeat. But after the memory of such disasters has faded, the GOP coalition has reemerged—surprisingly intact and ready for battle.

Mega quick hits (part I)

1) Fascinating NYT Magazine piece on kids with Prader-Willi syndrome.  It basically turns off your brains ability to feel stated from food.  The sufferers perceive as if they are always starving.

2) Lawrence Krauss says, no, astrobiology has not made the case for God (I did not realize people were arguing that it has– but they are wrong).

3) Stop playing too long, boring games with your kids and play these instead, says 538.  I’m going to order Pocket Hive and glad to see our family favorite, Carcassonne, made the list of top games.

4) Really nice Op-Ed from Zephyr Teachout on big money corruption in US politics:

Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.

5) Maybe putting it a little strongly, but I really liked this piece entitled, “If you don’t understand poverty, you’re a sociopath.”

6) The Vatican has stopped releasing doves because they have been getting killed by other birds upon release.

7) The A-10 is an awesomely effective plane and super-affordable to use compared to others.  But it’s old technology and the Air Force wants to replace it with the astronomically more expensive F-35.

8) The social pressure people place on their peers to drink is so absurd.  Here John Ore shares all the strategies he uses to deal with this when he takes January off from drinking.  People just shouldn’t care so much whether their friends are drinking or not.  But they do.  As a mostly non-drinker– simply don’t like the taste of most alcohol and I really don’t need a drug for a social lubricant– this drives me crazy.

9) Five useful pieces of advice for raising nicer kids.  Definitely need to use this more on at least one of my progeny.

10) “Giant snow penis demolished at Texas Tech.”  The headline says it all– though there’s a nice video at the link.

11) I keep reading articles on why I should turn down my heat.  Sorry, hate being cold.  Actually much prefer being hot.  I suffered through graduate school freezing through the winters to save money, but have since rewarded my professor self with not freezing through the winter (much easier in NC than OH, too).

12) A universal flu vaccine may be coming down the pipe in a few years.  That would be awesome.

13) This profile of a Boston marathon bombing survivor trying to decide whether to amputate her one remaining (and very painful) leg or not was a tremendous read.  Long, but totally worth it.

14) Did cutting unemployment benefits lead to more people getting jobs.  Some economists think so.

15) I did not realize that there was such a controversy raging over “American Sniper” until quite recently.  I gotta say, this piece hoisting Chris Kyle by the petard of his own words, makes a good case.

16) Haven’t been hearing much about Russia lately, but it’s economy is in big, big trouble.

17) Some research shows that registering young people to vote before they turn 18 is actually a really effective way to increase turnout among 18-year olds.  Naturally, NC Republicans did away with our law that used to do just this.

18) Enjoyed this “medical mystery” account.  Kind of amazing the ultimate source of this retired nurse’s very serious medical problems.  (Sorry, not going to give it away– quite an interesting surprise).

19) The moment when the purpose of college went to simply getting a job– we have Ronald Reagan to thank.

20) For the moment, this oh-so-disturbing New Yorker article on how the Albuquerque PD just love to shoot people and get away with it is ungated.  Read it while you can.

It’s all women’s fault!

Love this post from Alexandra Petri on how Cardinal Leo Burke (formerly the highest ranking official in the US Catholic Church until the Pope had the good sense to knock him down a peg) is just utterly clueless when it comes to gender and society:

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is right.

Women are scary. Women are terrifying. They come into churches and bring cooties with them, and there is no ritual for casting out cooties. Demons, yes. Cooties, no. They come into boardrooms and take seats. They serve the altar — and they are good at it.

These are all alarming facts to consider…

He notes near the very beginning of the interview that “the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.”

Yes. That is what has happened. When I look at men, the first word that springs to mind is “marginalized.” (The second word is “Cumberbatch.”) Men can barely hold every single Catholic priesthood and they are a mere 100 percent of presidents and 80 percent of Congress. They are struggling on the fringes, barely able to bring home their $1.29 on a woman’s dollar. They are forced to spend paternity leaves being creatively stifled and drinking. Their lot, in short, is not a happy one. “Marginalized” sums it up nicely.

Burke observed: “The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”

Well, sure. Women are wonderful. Only, if they’re involved, everything is RUINED. Other than that, they are great and it is wonderful that they are participating.

Burke noted: “The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural.” [emphasis mine]

Really?!  That last bit just gets me for its obtuseness.  You think just maybe all the reports of priests sexually abusing boys might have had just a little bit more to do with boys not being altar servers.

“I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations. It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys. If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically.”

Of course, if it were only possible for these girls who were very good at altar service to grow into women who could experience their own vocations — no, of course, that would be silly, because they are girls, ew.

Again, seriously?  I’ve been to many a Catholic Mass.  There are no “manly virtues” in holding up a book for the priest to read from, etc.  Goodness.  Petri continues:

These are the words of someone who is afraid.

These are the words of someone who is petrified of women, who thinks that any gain or advance made by a woman comes at the cost of a place for a man. That it is impossible that having women involved in a thing might be good for everyone. That “feminization” means “making worse and weaker.” That manliness and womanliness exist in opposition, not in tandem, and that gains for one can only be losses for the other.

Women are scary if you think, as he genuinely seems to, that this is a zero-sum game.

If you think that once women come into places and do things, there won’t be room for men to come into those places and do things any more, you are scared that the power you have is undeserved. Or you would not be so desperate to keep the door closed.

Agreed.  What is telling and disturbing is that a man with such retrograde and just plain silly views rose to the very highest levels of the Catholic Church.  This, sadly, is the church and legacy of JPII.  Here’s to Pope Francis (who to be clear, has come out against women in the priesthood) changing that.

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