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kottke.org posts about religion

Clickbaiting the 10 Commandments

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2014

Over at McSweeney’s, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won’t believe what God said to this man…

At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn’t Have Other Gods.

37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.

Creation clip from Noah

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2014

This was one of my favorite scenes the film…Russell Crowe’s Noah telling his children the creation story, which ends up being half supernatural and half evolution.

Worth watching for the special effects alone.

The new Ten Commandments

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2014

From God’s Twitter account, a new set of ten commandments:

1 Laugh.
2 Read.
3 Say please.
4 Floss.
5 Doubt.
6 Exercise.
7 Learn.
8 Don’t hate.
9 Cut the bullshit.
10 Chill.

Amen.

The Prayer of Saint Francis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2014

I am not a religious person, but Reverend Smith spoke a few lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis on an episode of Deadwood I watched recently and I can’t stop thinking about it. The prayer in full:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Reverend put it slightly differently:

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love, than to be loved…

Believer in eternal life or not, that’s a way of living life I can get behind.

The Bible’s anachronistic camel problem

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2014

There are too many camels in the Bible. Evidence suggests they were domesticated in Israel centuries after the events in Genesis took place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of “how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another.”

Update: Added “in Israel” to clarify the camel domestication timeline…they were domesticated much earlier in the Arabian Peninsula.

Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE.

(via @arbesman)

Scientific answers for creationists

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2014

The other day, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham about evolution and creationism. At the event, Matt Stopera asked self-identifying creationists to write question/notes to those who “believe” in evolution. Here’s one:

Creation is amazing

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy responded to each of the 22 notes/questions from the creationists. Here’s his answer to the comment above:

I agree; it is amazing! I’ve written about this many times. But we know that complexity can arise naturally through the laws of physics. It doesn’t take very complex rules to create huge diversity. Look at poker; a simple set of rules creates a game that has so many combinations it’s essentially infinite to human experience. We can figure out the rules of nature by studying the way processes follow them, and deduce what’s going on behind the scenes. And whenever we do, we see science.

This makes me think of Richard Feynman’s ode to the scientific beauty of a flower:

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Snowden and not Pope is Person of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2013

This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis their Person of the Year.

He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

On Monday, The New Yorker’s John Cassidy argued that Edward Snowden deserved the honor.

According to Time, its award, which will be bestowed on Wednesday, goes to the person who, in the opinion of the magazine’s editors, had the most influence on the news. By this metric, it’s no contest. In downloading thousands of files from the computers of the electronic spying agency and handing them over to journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman, Snowden unleashed a torrent of news stories that began in May, when the Guardian and the Washington Post published a series of articles about the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities. Seven months later, the gusher is still open. Just last week, we learned that the agency is tracking the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of cell phones, gathering nearly five billion records a day.

Agreed.

Trailer for Noah

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2013

Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) has made a movie called Noah, about Noah’s ark. It stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. Here’s the trailer:

Spoiler: Noah survives and lives to the age of 950. More spoilers in Genesis Chapter 6. (via devour)

The Jewish prisoner

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2013

In a piece published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, David Arenberg describes his experience as one of the very few Jews in the state prison in which he’s currently incarcerated.

I am always the last person to eat. It’s part of a compromise I worked out with the skinheads who run the western state prison complex where I am incarcerated. Under this compromise, I’m allowed to sit at the whites’ tables, but only after the “heads,” and then the “woods,” and then the “lames” have eaten. I am lower on the totem pole than all of them, the untouchable. I should feel lucky I’m allowed to eat at the whites’ tables at all.

Not that there’s anywhere else I could eat. The prison yard is broken down into five distinct racial categories and segregation is strictly enforced. There are the “woods” (short for peckerwoods) that encompass the whites, the “kinfolk” (blacks), the “Raza” (American-born people of Mexican descent), the “paisas” (Mexico-born Mexicans), and the “chiefs” (American Indians). Under the strict rules that govern interracial relations, different races are allowed to play on the same sports teams but not play individual games (e.g., chess) together; they may be in each others’ cubicles together if the situation warrants but not sit on each others’ beds or watch each others’ televisions. They may go to the same church services but not pray together. But if you accidentally break one of these rules, the consequences are usually pretty mild: you might get a talking to by one of the heads (who, of course, claims exemption from this rule himself), or at worst, a “chin check.”

Eating with another race, however, is a different story. It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. Violating this rule leads to harsh consequences. If you eat at the same table as another race, you’ll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray as another race, you’ll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item as another race, that is, after another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed. This is one area where even the heads don’t have any play.

Penn Jillette: Let’s end religion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2013

In response to “Is Atheism a Religion”, Penn Jillette answers with a resounding NO.

Religion is faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief without evidence cannot be shared. Faith is a feeling. Love is also a feeling, but love makes no universal claims. Love is pure. The lover reports on his or her feelings and needs nothing more. Faith claims knowledge of a world we share but without evidence we can share. Feeling love is beautiful. Feeling the earth is 6,000 years old is stupid.

Religion is often just tribalism: pride in a group one was born into, a group that is often believed to have “God” on its side. We don’t need to replace tribalism with anything other than love for all humanity. Let’s do that, okay?

(via @dens)

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year…and then almost never again

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2013

This year, the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving Day. Amazingly, this is the first second time it’s happened since President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863 and it is also the last time it’ll happen until the year 79,811. I’ll say that again: after this year, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Day won’t overlap for another 77,798 years.

The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29. The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday).

(via @hchamp)

Update: As noted above, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped once before, in 1888, because Thanksgiving used to fall on the last Thursday in November and not the fourth Thursday.

Lawrence Wright’s Scientology book

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2013

Here’s just one of the many odd revelations from Lawrence Wright’s book on Scientology that’s coming out this week:

John Travolta began taking Scientology courses before his audition for the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter, and fellow students pointed in the direction of ABC Studios to telepathically communicate: ‘We want John Travolta for the part.’ (He got the part.)

Thankfully, Horshack got the part the old-fashioned way. He raised his hand and said, oooooohhhhh! oooooohhhhh! oooooohhhhh!

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2012

When God said in the Bible “you shall have no other gods before me”, one of the gods he was referring to was Moloch, an Ammonite god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites who was associated with the sacrifice of children by his followers. In a short essay for The New York Review of Books, Gary Wills singles out the gun as America’s Moloch.

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains-“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily-sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Jehovah’s Witnesses to the deaf: no masturbation in da club

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2012

Some genius paired 50 Cent’s In Da Club with a video put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to encourage deaf people not to masturbate. This is probably inappropriate or deafist or whatever, but it also provided me with a much-needed tears-rolling-down face laugh the other day.

(via stellar)

Mrs. Jesus Christ

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2012

A small piece of papyrus with 4th-century writing has turned up recently and the text on it refers to Jesus’ wife.

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The article says the papyrus is “probably genuine” but I wouldn’t rule out a forgery financed by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code fortune. (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)

Rushdie: what it’s like to live under threat of death

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2012

In the New Yorker, Salman Rushdie describes how quickly his entire life changed after Iran’s Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s “execution”.

He unlocked the front door, went outside, got into the car, and was driven away. Although he did not know it then — so the moment of leaving his home did not feel unusually freighted with meaning — he would not return to that house, at 41 St. Peter’s Street, which had been his home for half a decade, until three years later, by which time it would no longer be his.

The article is excerpted from Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, which comes out next week. Joseph Anton was the name Rushdie adopted in hiding and, now that I think about it, explains why the NYer piece was written in the third person.

The view of Scientology from the inside

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 07, 2012

Tony Ortega has a long interview in the Village Voice with John Brousseau, who was a 32-year member of the Church of Scientology until he left in 2010.

In some ways, Brousseau’s tale is one of the most remarkable to come out of the secretive organization, and one that parallels so much of Scientology’s own development and controversies.

He and [Scientology leader David] Miscavige were brothers in law. They were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard’s personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.

Here’s part two of the interview.

The Bible’s book of Revelation explained

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2012

Adam Gopnik reviews Elaine Pagels’ book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, for the New Yorker. Like much of the Bible, Revelation is largely a reaction to what was happening in that part of the world at the time.

Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It’s essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back. All the imagery of the rapt and the raptured and the rest that the “Left Behind” books have made a staple for fundamentalist Christians represents contemporary people and events, and was well understood in those terms by the original audience. Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look. “When John says that ‘the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth,’ he revises Daniel’s vision to picture Rome as the worst empire of all,” Pagels writes. “When he says that the beast’s seven heads are ‘seven kings,’ John probably means the Roman emperors who ruled from the time of Augustus until his own time.” As for the creepy 666, the “number of the beast,” the original text adds, helpfully, “Let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person.” This almost certainly refers-by way of Gematria, the Jewish numerological system-to the contemporary Emperor Nero. Even John’s vision of a great mountain exploding is a topical reference to the recent eruption of Vesuvius, in C.E. 79. Revelation is a highly colored picture of the present, not a prophecy of the future.

You’ll have to read through the article to discover what early Christianity has to do with this ad for Prada perfume directed by Ridley Scott and starring Daria Werbowy:

Girls Gone Slightly Less Wholesome: Amish spring break

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2012

Pinecraft, Florida is a popular spring vacation destination for Amish and Mennonites, a place where they can let their hair down by using cellphones and electricity.

Walking around Pinecraft is like entering an idyllic time warp. White bungalows and honeybell orange trees line streets named after Amish families: Kaufman, Schrock, Yoder. The local Laundromat keeps lines outside to hang clothes to dry. (You have to bring your own pins.) And the techiest piece of equipment at the post office is a calculator. The Sarasota county government plans to designate the village, which spreads out over 178 acres, as a cultural heritage district.

Many travelers I spoke to jokingly call it the “Amish Las Vegas,” riffing off the clich’e that what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft. Cellphone and cameras, normally off-limits to Amish, occasionally make appearances, and almost everyone uses electricity in their rental homes. Three-wheeled bicycles, instead of horses and buggies, are ubiquitous.

“When you come down here, you can pitch religion a little bit and let loose,” said Amanda Yoder, 19, from Missouri. “What I’m wearing right now, I wouldn’t at home,” she said, gesturing at sunglasses with sparkly rhinestones and bikini strings peeking out of a tight black tank top. On the outskirts of the village, she boarded public bus No. 11 with six other sunburned teenagers. They were bound for Siesta Key, a quartz-sand beach about eight miles away.

On the occasion of your going into space

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2012

Scott Carpenter was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the second American to orbit the Earth. Just before he went into space, his father wrote this wonderful letter.

And I venture to predict that after all the huzzas have been uttered and the public acclaim is but a memory, you will derive the greatest satisfaction from the serene knowledge that you have discovered new truths. You can say to yourself: this I saw, this I experienced, this I know to be the truth. This experience is a precious thing; it is known to all researchers, in whatever field of endeavour, who have ventured into the unknown and have discovered new truths.

How Martin Luther’s message went viral

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2011

This is a fascinating article from The Economist about how Lutheranism spread through 16th century social networks & media.

The media environment that Luther had shown himself so adept at managing had much in common with today’s online ecosystem of blogs, social networks and discussion threads. It was a decentralised system whose participants took care of distribution, deciding collectively which messages to amplify through sharing and recommendation. Modern media theorists refer to participants in such systems as a “networked public”, rather than an “audience”, since they do more than just consume information. Luther would pass the text of a new pamphlet to a friendly printer (no money changed hands) and then wait for it to ripple through the network of printing centres across Germany.

Unlike larger books, which took weeks or months to produce, a pamphlet could be printed in a day or two. Copies of the initial edition, which cost about the same as a chicken, would first spread throughout the town where it was printed. Luther’s sympathisers recommended it to their friends. Booksellers promoted it and itinerant colporteurs hawked it. Travelling merchants, traders and preachers would then carry copies to other towns, and if they sparked sufficient interest, local printers would quickly produce their own editions, in batches of 1,000 or so, in the hope of cashing in on the buzz. A popular pamphlet would thus spread quickly without its author’s involvement.

And the bit on news ballads is especially interesting:

The news ballad, like the pamphlet, was a relatively new form of media. It set a poetic and often exaggerated description of contemporary events to a familiar tune so that it could be easily learned, sung and taught to others. News ballads were often “contrafacta” that deliberately mashed up a pious melody with secular or even profane lyrics. They were distributed in the form of printed lyric sheets, with a note to indicate which tune they should be sung to. Once learned they could spread even among the illiterate through the practice of communal singing.

Auto-tune the News anyone? And I thought this sounded an awful lot like Tom Standage (The Economist doesn’t use bylines)…turns out this article was adapted from a chapter of his upcoming book on the history of social media.

Exact nonsense

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2011

From Penn Jillette’s book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales:

There is no god and that’s the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

(via mlkshk)

Richard Feynman on beauty

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2011

Richard Feynman talking about the beauty of science and of the natural world over a bunch of video footage taken from NASA, Microcosmos, and BBC nature docs like Planet Earth? This is fantastically right up my alley.

Part two is Honours and part three is Curiosity. If I ever go on hallucinogenic walkabout in the desert, I’d want Richard Feynman to be my spirit animal. (via ★interesting)

Christopher Hitchens on capital punishment

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2011

From Lapham’s Quarterly, Christopher Hitchens on capital punishment in America.

Since then no country has been allowed to apply for membership or association with the European Union without, as a precondition, dismantling its apparatus of execution. This has led states like Turkey to forego what was once a sort of national staple. The United Nations condemns capital punishment-especially for those who have not yet reached adulthood-and the Vatican has come close to forbidding if not actually anathematizing the business. This leaves the United States of America as the only nation in what one might call the West, that does not just continue with the infliction of the death penalty but has in the recent past expanded its reach. More American states have restored it in theory and carried it out in practice, and the last time the Supreme Court heard argument on the question it was to determine whether capital punishment should be inflicted for a crime other than first-degree murder (the rape of a child being the suggested pretext for extension).

Hitchens, as you may have guessed, pins much of the blame on religion…after all, the US is the most (or only?) fundamentalist country in the West. (via ★interesting-links)

The New Yorker takes on Scientology

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 10, 2011

I’m still powering through it, but the Scientology article in the latest New Yorker is a great read. The article focuses on director and screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), who recently left the church after reaching the church’s highest level.

Saddam’s blood Koran

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2010

I always thought Kim Jong-il was the clear winner in the Craziest-Ass Dictator Competition, but this move from Saddam Hussein is bold indeed.

Over the course of two painstaking years in the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein had sat regularly with a nurse and an Islamic calligrapher; the former drawing 27 litres of his blood and the latter using it as a macabre ink to transcribe a Qur’an.

(thx, darren)

Faith and knowledge

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2010

The Pew Research Center recently ran a religious knowledge survey in the US and the results show that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than adherents of various Judeo-Christian religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

You can take a sample survey here. Woo, 15/15. (via mr)

Parting the Red Sea, a scientific explanation

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2010

Using computer modeling of a process called wind setdown, researchers have come up with a plausible scientific explanation of the Biblical parting of the Red Sea.

This animation shows how a strong east wind over the Nile Delta could have pushed water back into ancient waterways after blowing for about nine hours, exposing mud flats and possibly providing an overland escape route similar to the biblical account of the Red Sea parting.

Castro, Israel, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and dolphins

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg visited with Fidel Castro recently and has two posts on his Atlantic blog about his meetings with the former Cuban head of state: part one and part two.

After this first meeting, I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro’s invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. “Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him,” she said. “Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he’s really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn’t expect to have. And he’s revisiting history, and revisiting his own history.”

This is substantial reporting but I’ll admit my favorite line was:

I’ve never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

Because of Goldberg’s reportage on Castro’s remarks regarding anti-Semitism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (and strong critic of Israel) announced yesterday that he would meet with Venezuela’s Jewish leaders. Someone get Errol Morris down to Cuba to make a sequel to his film about Robert McNamara. The Fog of Cold War perhaps? (via @kbanderson)

The embryonic stem cell mess

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2010

The New Yorker has a long profile of Francis Collins, the ardent Christian whom Obama picked to head up the NIH, and the NIH’s role in embryonic stem cell research.

A year later, Obama’s appointment of Collins seemed an inspired choice. The President had found not only a man who reflected his own view of the harmony between science and faith but an evangelical Christian who hoped that the government’s expansion of embryonic-stem-cell research might bring the culture war over science to a quiet end. On August 23rd, however, Judge Royce C. Lamberth, of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, halted federal spending for embryonic-stem-cell research, putting hundreds of research projects in limbo and plunging the N.I.H. back into a newly contentious national debate.