Stories that have grabbed my attention over the last day or so.
Curing Religious Feelings
It’s all about the brain. One day we should be able to use fMRI tools (or their descendants) to identify psychopaths before they hurt someone and offer to cure them. Can we also use neuroscientific tools to help cure religious fundamentalists? I’m not sure they would willingly submit to be cured and we can’t ethically force them. Would you stop believing in imaginary gods and monsters if you could?
An Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience has suggested that one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness.
Kathleen Taylor, who describes herself as a “science writer affiliated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics,” made the suggestion during a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. In response to a question about the future of neuroscience, Taylor said that “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” The Times of London notes. (source)
Women Are Horny After All
I didn’t need journalist Daniel Bergner to write a book to tell me that my wife has a massive sex drive. She reminds me every day! He’s written the book anyway – “What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire”. According to the research he did for the book, many popular ideas about women’s sexuality is wrong, wrong, wrong. For example, they aren’t made for monogamy any more than men are. And women become physically aroused to a much wider array of visual stimuli than men, even though they deny it. Read the interview. (source)
Nazis On Meth!
No, that’s not the title of the sequel to Iron Sky, it’s the story about meth was invented by a German in 1938 and then distributed by the millions to Nazi soldiers. Makes me wonder what impact that might have had on their early successes – and their eventual downfall? We know Der Fuhrer didn’t partake of alcohol or cigarettes, but did he use meth?
…the Wehrmacht, Germany’s World War II army, distributed millions of the tablets to soldiers on the front, who soon dubbed the stimulant “Panzerschokolade” (“tank chocolate”). British newspapers reported that German soldiers were using a “miracle pill.” (source)
We saw The Great Gatsby in 3D last night. It wasn’t the complete disaster I expected from the bad reviews and the stories about its troubled production, but I didn’t like it. I’m generally not a fan of Baz Luhrmann. I loved Strictly Ballroom, but all of his films since Romeo + Juliet have been too over-the-top for my tastes. I don’t mind CG effects if they are required – sure, go ahead and use them in The Avengers if you must. I just think character-driven stories don’t need them. We also saw Joe Wright recent adaptation of Anna Karenina a few months ago and I’m sure it also used CG, but it was used much more carefully, enhancing the story rather than over-powering it. That’s my two cents, anyway. Chrissy, on the other hand, loved it.
Who Is The New Doctor Going To Be?
(he was Q in the latest Bond film), although he might be too big now. Cumberbatch is definitely too big – and he turned it down four years ago anyhow. It will probably be someone totally unknown. If I could choose, it would be Stephen Merchant.
Yeah the last season has been pretty dreary. It’s had a few cool moment (John Hurt) but nowhere near as cool as the first season of Eleven or the first couple of seasons of Ten.
How does the CEO of Evernote use Evernote?
Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, shares how he organises his personal install of Evernote.
As of the time of this answer, I have about 9,000 notes in my Evernote account divided among 45 notebooks. However, the majority of these notes are in my single, default notebook. (source)
A little disappointing to those of us who obsess over getting the right combination of Notebooks & Tags. At least he has more notes than I do (6617).
I totally endorse this rant by Penn Jillette. Sure, what Mormons (and Scientologists) believe sounds batshit crazy to most of us. But is it really any crazier than what mainstream Christians, Jews or Muslims believe? Hell no. “Just more modern, not more crazy”, as Penn says.
I’m as confused as Penn is about how otherwise intelligent-sounding people can just spout crazy stuff and act like it’s totally normal. It’s especially scary when you hear it from politicians, the people who are supposedly running the country. Surely there should be a sanity test that you have to pass before you can be elected to public office.
George Pell is in denial, as usual. Of course we cannot trust the Catholic Church to investigate its own misdoings because covering up their crimes is part of the culture of the organisation.
Paul Kennedy nails it:
So what will change?
Who will stand up for these children, raped and then tortured by silence and denial?
Do not expect the Catholic Church hierarchy to alter its time-honoured global policies.
As I discussed with Dr. Wayne Chamley from Broken Rites back in 2009, if any other organisation had systematically covered up child rape for decades, the government would throw the book at it. Why does the Catholic Church get special treatment from Australian politicians? Are they *that* scared of losing the Catholic vote? We need a Royal Commission like Ireland.
I can’t believe I missed the entire 4th season of Mr. Deity! What was I doing in 2010?
In case you missed it too, here’s the first episode. The rest are on the Mr. Deity YouTube channel. If you haven’t heard of the series before, it’s one of the funniest and most insightful takes on religion that I’ve ever seen.
I did an interview with Mr. Deity himself back in 2009, but it looks like the mp3 file has gone missing during one of my server crashes / moves. If anyone has a copy, please let me know!
The 2011 Census results are out and of course the first section I opened up pertained to our religiosity as a nation.
First the good news:
The number of people reporting ‘No Religion’ also increased strongly, from 15% of the population in 2001 to 22% in 2011. This is most evident amongst younger people, with 28% of people aged 15-34 reporting they had no religious affiliation.
Three cheers for young people!
The Christians are continuing to lose ground steadily too:
There has been a long-term decrease in affiliation to Christianity from 96% in 1911 to 61% in 2011. In the past decade, the proportion of the population reporting an affiliation to a Christian religion decreased from 68% in 2001 to 61% in 2011.
If Christianity continues to lose 10% of its membership every decade, we will see it wiped out altogether in 50 years. The ACL’s days are numbered.
Unfortunately, the “no religion” answer doesn’t really give an accurate indication as to whether or not these people believe in other fluffy concepts like astrology, spirit guides or anything else that doesn’t fit neatly into traditional religions, so it’s hard to get a handle on whether or not we’re really getting smarter and more scientific, or if we’re just drifting away from monotheism.