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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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It used to be so simple. Girl met boy. Gametes were transferred through plumbing optimised by millions of years of evolution. Then, nine months later, part of that plumbing presented the finished product to the world. Now things are becoming a lot more complicated. A report published on February 14th by America’s National Academy of Sciences gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques so precise that genetic diseases like haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop. The idea of human cloning triggered a furore when, 20 years ago this week, Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world (see article); much fuss about nothing, some would say, looking back. But other technological advances are making cloning humans steadily more feasible.
Some are horrified at the prospect of people “playing God” with reproduction. Others, whose lives are blighted by childlessness or genetic disease, argue passionately for the right to alleviate suffering. Either way, the science is coming and society will have to work out what it thinks.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Science & Technology Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
More American employees are working remotely, and they’re doing so for longer periods of time, according to a Gallup survey released on Wednesday.
Last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults.
That represents a 4 percentage point increase since 2012, a shift that meets the demands of many job seekers.
“Gallup consistently has found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the polling agency wrote in a report on those and other workplace findings.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet History Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
A Church of England bishop has been forced to apologise to the archbishop of Canterbury after accidentally breaking ranks with his colleagues in a crucial vote on same-sex relationships.
Christopher Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry, said he was embarrassed after he pressed the wrong button on his electronic handset in the tense vote on a highly controversial bishops’ report at the C of E synod on Thursday.
The report was rejected after the House of Clergy narrowly voted against “taking note” of it, although it commanded overall support in the synod. The motion needed the backing of all three houses – bishops, clergy and laity.
Read it all from the Guardian.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Science & Technology Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
When you browse online for a new pair of shoes, pick a movie to stream on Netflix or apply for a car loan, an algorithm likely has its word to say on the outcome.
The complex mathematical formulas are playing a growing role in all walks of life: from detecting skin cancers to suggesting new Facebook friends, deciding who gets a job, how police resources are deployed, who gets insurance at what cost, or who is on a "no fly" list.
Algorithms are being used -- experimentally -- to write news articles from raw data, while Donald Trump's presidential campaign was helped by behavioral marketers who used an algorithm to locate the highest concentrations of "persuadable voters."
But while such automated tools can inject a measure of objectivity into erstwhile subjective decisions, fears are rising over the lack of transparency algorithms can entail, with pressure growing to apply standards of ethics or "accountability."
Read it all.
For moms like Stefany Rodriguez-Neely, Marianne Touger and Zakeia Smith, a sinister secret was lurking beneath the surface of their favorite spot online – a website so popular, that more than 100 million use it each day.
“I was clueless. I was like, really?!” Smith told 8 On Your Side. “’Cause I think, when I think Pinterest, or one of those other sites, I think it’s all about crafting and recipes.”
Touger had the same response.
“It never occurred to me, never occurred to me that it would be a problem with Pinterest,” she said.
Read it all.
Should teachers be able to use body cameras to record the disruptive behaviour of some pupils or, indeed, to celebrate the achievements of others? The question arises because of an experiment doing just that. A criminal justice academic at Portsmouth University, Tom Ellis, has revealed that teachers at two schools in England are using video cameras to record incidents and then play them back to the pupils concerned and to their parents. The practice is not widespread but it is legal. It may be a harbinger of things to come.
It is easy to see the possible utility of such cameras. Disruptive classroom behaviour is a constant problem that blights the education of children and the careers of teachers, and may be getting worse. In 2014 Ofsted released a report entitled Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms, which was based on the inspection reports of a sample of nearly 100 schools conducted in the first six months of that year.
Read it all (requires subscription).
There is growing concern about the impact of automation on employment - or in crude terms - the threat that robots will eat our jobs.
But if you want to see how important robotics and artificial intelligence can be to a business Ocado is a good place to start.
"Without it we simply couldn't do what we do at this scale," the online retailer's chief technology officer Paul Clarke told me. With margins in the supermarket business wafer thin, continually bearing down on costs and waste has been vital.
At its Hatfield distribution centre I got a glimpse of how far the process of automating the sorting of thousands of grocery orders has come. For now, you will struggle to spot a robot - unless you count a machine that inserts plastic shopping bags into crates - but software is doing a very complex job of sending the right goods in the right crates to the right human pickers.
Read it all (video recommended if you have the time).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
That should keep you busy,” an Amtrak conductor commented as he saw my already-worn copy of Saint Augustine’s City of God in front of me shortly after boarding in Baltimore for New York. Reading the 1,000-plus-page classic was not something I had planned for 2017, but something Twitter, of all things, drew me into.
Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, had the idea to conduct a 15-week seminar over Twitter on a book he was teaching this semester anyway. Of course, a classroom is one thing; social media, very much another. But sure enough, as I got myself to Twitter on that first Thursday night, a father announced he had put his kids to bed and was ready, a federal judge weighed in with his insights, and all sorts of people from varied backgrounds shared their favorite quotes from the first chapters of City of God, and made connections to politics and religion and culture today.
Now entering its fifth week, held from 8 to 10 (Eastern time) on Thursday nights, the discussion is led by Pecknold, who designates chapters and half-hour slots, all flagged by the hashtag #CivDei, which makes it easy for anyone who misses “class,” as I have already a week or two, to catch up at another hour.
Read it all.
Once upon a time, if you wanted to communicate with someone, you either spoke to them, sent them a letter (which could be delivered in either of the two postal deliveries every day!), or you phoned them. This could be from one of two places: either a phone box in the street, requiring loads of change, or the house phone in the hall—where everyone could hear you—and answered by the desired recipient’s parents, with whom you had to have an excruciatingly awkward conversation before being able to ask for the person you actually wanted to speak to. This probably sounds like the dark ages, but it was actually less than 35 years ago.’
So begins the latest Grove Youth booklet on Youth Ministry in a Digital Age by Liz Dumain, who works in the mission team in Birmingham Diocese. The booklet is a great exploration of the challenges and opportunities of reaching ‘digital natives’, those who were born with the internet technology that many of us have been learning to adapt to. Liz begins by noting the growth of internet use, how it differs for those who have known nothing else, and why it matters.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Until just moments before the arrest of the Indian cell, here last June, the Islamic State’s cyberplanners kept in near-constant touch with the men, according to the interrogation records of three of the eight suspects obtained by The New York Times.
As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. [Mohammed Ibrahim] Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.
In the most basic enabled attacks, Islamic State handlers acted as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence. In the Hyderabad plot, among the most involved found so far, the terrorist group reached deep into a country with strict gun laws in order to arrange for pistols and ammunition to be left in a bag swinging from the branches of a tree.
For the most part, the operatives who are conceiving and guiding such attacks are doing so from behind a wall of anonymity.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Science & Technology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
This is a wonderful story--make sure to watch him to see his motivation for doing it.
Massive collections of fake accounts are lying dormant on Twitter, suggests research.
The largest network ties together more than 350,000 accounts and further work suggests others may be even bigger.
UK researchers accidentally uncovered the lurking networks while probing Twitter to see how people use it.
Some of the accounts have been used to fake follower numbers, send spam and boost interest in trending topics.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Friday morning the 20th of January, the Mall in Washington, DC, was the sight of the much-publicized Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America. One week later on January 27, the Mall will once again be the sight of an important event to protest prayerfully a legal decision in the United States known as Roe v. Wade from January 22, 1973. This event on the Mall will receive far less coverage than the Inauguration but is every bit as important. This year, I will make the trip to be a part of the March for Life with the contingent from Anglicans for Life and bishops from the Anglican Church in North America.
I have long protested the act of protesting. In fact, I ironically responded to the request to be a part of a “March for Jesus” in the 90’s by saying “I do not march.” Well it turns out God has other plans. So why would I leave family and home in a busy week in January? Why would I go somewhere colder than Beaufort? Simply, why march? I want to offer three main reasons:
I am marching because I am convinced that the Bible requires me to speak up for the voiceless and defenseless in our culture. No one has less power in our world than the unborn.
I am marching because I believe that the Life issue is not political but scriptural. I believe it is intrinsic to our faith, not optional.
I am marching because I want to bear witness to these truths with other Brothers and Sisters as well as other co-belligerents. I want to feel the strength of the pro-life movement in this country. Most polls show this country at about 50% pro-life but that strength is not often represented in the media.
This Sunday, we will celebrate Sanctity of Life Sunday at St. Helena’s, and there will be a bulletin insert from Anglicans for Life. I will be teaching about the sanctity of human life from a biblical perspective during the Rector’s Forum. We also will have information about the Radiance Women’s Center here in Beaufort. My hope is that many of you will feel called to join me in starting an Anglicans for Life chapter here at St. Helena’s. I believe there is much for us to do in our church and in the community to uphold the cause of life.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
(The Rev) Shay Gaillard, rector, Saint Helena's, Beaufort, SC
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
"We are the pro-life generation,” the crowd chanted, voices building to an overwhelming crescendo with each repetition of the line. Packed onto the National Mall across the street from the White House Friday, the revelers deafened one another with their joyful shouts, tens of thousands gathered just across the street from President Donald Trump’s new home, smiling and laughing and breaking into spontaneous cheers.
Such was the scene at the 44th annual March for Life, first held here on January 22, 1974, one year to the day after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. In good weather and in bad — given Washington’s bitter Januaries, it’s usually the latter — crowds swarm the Mall every year to protest against the country’s abortion laws and to advocate for the protection of unborn life.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
We all know the stereotype: silly millennials, tethered to their phones, unable to accomplish the simplest tasks without scrolling their Instagram feeds, snapping their friends and/or tweeting inanely.
But a Nielsen report released last week shows that Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than are some of their older peers.
Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes a week for their younger counterparts. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on social media, with an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week on the networks.
Sean Casey, the president of Nielsen’s social division, said that the finding had initially surprised him, because “the going thought is that social is vastly owned by the younger generation.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Psychology Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
While the introduction of the Siri virtual assistant in 2011 gave Apple an early presence in AI for consumers, it has since lost ground to rivals such as Google and Amazon. Apple’s penchant for secrecy limited its efforts to improve AI offerings and hire the best talent. That’s because researchers in the field like to publish their findings, something Apple frowned upon in the past. That approach began to change late last year with the hiring of Carnegie Mellon Professor Russ Salakhutdinov and the publishing of its first public AI paper.
Read it all.
Fortune Magazine once dubbed [John] Arnold “one of the least-known billionaires in the US.” His profile in the public consciousness is almost nonexistent, and he rarely gives interviews. But among hedge funders and energy traders, Arnold is a legend. John D’Agostino, former head of strategy of the New York Mercantile Exchange, says that in Arnold’s heyday, people in the industry would discuss him in “hushed and reverent tones.” In 2006, Centaurus reportedly saw returns of over 300 percent; the next year Arnold became the youngest billionaire in the country. “If Arnold decided he wanted to beat hunger,” D’Agostino says, “I wouldn’t want to bet on hunger.”
For all the swagger of that description, Arnold himself has virtually none. He is universally described as quiet and introspective. At Enron, a company famous for its brash, testosterone-laced cowboy culture, the perennially boyish-looking trader was reportedly so soft-spoken that his colleagues had to gather in close to hear him at restaurants. “People would read into it, and they would say he’s just being cagey,” D’Agostino says. “And then, after a couple of years, people were like, oh, no, he’s actually like that.”
Read it all from Wired.
The process of autophagy (literally “self-eating”) is so vital to our survival that it was the focus of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine announced in October. Winner Yoshinori Ohsumi described the discovery of this complex process as a surprise. He watched as cells wrapped entire proteins and organelles in a protective membrane—and then shredded them to pieces with enzymes. It was the equivalent of watching a wrecking ball take down a skyscraper, reducing a majestic work of architecture into a pile of bricks.
The destruction seemed counterintuitive, even dangerous. The mantra of cellular biology up to that point had been that building proteins—not destroying them—was the key to health and survival. The controlled but nonetheless devastating demolition of these structures into which so much energy and resources had been poured was perplexing. Wouldn’t this starving cell prefer to have all of its organelles—just as a body would prefer to have all of its organs? Why, in the face of adversity, would a cell demolish something it had worked very hard to build?
As Ohsumi’s team investigated further, the metaphor used for three decades changed: Autophagy isn’t cellular self-cannibalism so much as it is cellular pruning. “Organisms never waste precious resources without good reason,” Ohsumi said, “and degradation is a process essential for the creation of new life.” At its core this process was one of destruction, but it was not reckless. A cell that was indiscriminately destroying pieces of itself was not going to last long, but one that could select old, broken, misshapen, or malignant proteins and recycle them into something new would flourish.
Read it all from CT.
In the last decade alone, physicians and researchers have begun looking deeply into the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health, well being, and mortality, and the data on the subject is overwhelming: a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one.
Most of this research is centered around geriatrics, as you might guess, where feelings of loneliness are powerfully predictive of mortality. A few years ago researchers at Brigham Young University conducted an influential meta-analysis of scientific literature on the subject, and found that social isolation increases your risk of death by an astounding ~30%, and some estimates have it as high as 60%!
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Health & Medicine Psychology Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The Church of England’s briefing paper was drawn up by its mission and public affairs council, led by Philip Fletcher, and its environment working group, chaired by the Bishop of Salisbury. It is being issued to environmental officers in every diocese and is intended to help to inform bishops and other leading clergy as the church is increasingly pressured by local campaigners to take a stand.
The document says fracking can be “a morally acceptable practice” if it forms part of a transition to a greener economy and is subject to robust regulation and planning procedures. “Having concluded that shale gas may be a useful component in transitioning to a low carbon economy, we are persuaded that a robust planning and regulatory regime could be constructed,” it says.
It also says it is “essential” that legitimate concerns of those who face disruption from fracking are heard and that “appropriate protections and compensation are in place”.
Read it all (subscription required).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Hayhoe is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where she teaches and conducts research as an atmospheric scientist and an associate professor of political science.
As a Texas-dwelling, evangelical Christian, atmospheric scientist, Hayhoe can often win the ears of many religious communities, receive invitations to address students at Christian colleges, or have conversations with mega-church-going Republican climate cynics she otherwise mightn’t meet or who wouldn’t listen.
Her faith and, now, her web series, has led many people to tell her they had believed or suspected that human-influenced climate change was a liberal hoax but that she has changed their minds, she said.
Read it all.
If the genetic basis of attributes like intelligence and musicality is too thinly spread and unclear to make selection practical, then tweaking by genetic manipulation certainly seems off the menu too. “I don’t think we are going to see superman or a split in the species any time soon,” says Greely, “because we just don’t know enough and are unlikely to for a long time – or maybe for ever.”
If this is all “designer babies” could mean even in principle – freedom from some specific but rare diseases, knowledge of rather trivial aspects of appearance, but only vague, probabilistic information about more general traits like health, attractiveness and intelligence – will people go for it in large enough numbers to sustain an industry?
[Bioethicist Henry] Greely suspects, even if it is used at first only to avoid serious genetic diseases, we need to start thinking hard about the options we might be faced with. “Choices will be made,” he says, “and if informed people do not participate in making those choices, ignorant people will make them.”
Read it all.
Designer babies: an ethical horror waiting to happen? https://t.co/bF8Mp2dGH6— Guardian Science (@guardianscience) January 8, 2017
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The technology allows for an inexpensive and portable breathlyser-style device, which costs as little as £24 and is able to screen for various diseases in a non-invasive way.
Lead author Professor Hossam Haick, said: "We found that just as we each have a unique fingerprint, each of the diseases we studied has an unique breath print, a 'signature' of chemical components.
"We have a device which can discriminate between them, which is elegant and affordable."
Read it all.
No one knew what was in the baggie. It was just a few tablespoons of crystalline powder seized back in April, clumped like snow that had partially melted and frozen again.
Emily Dye, a 27-year-old forensic chemist at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Testing and Research Laboratory, did not know if anyone had died from taking this powder, or how much it would take to kill you.
What she did know was this: New drugs were appearing in the lab every other week, things never before seen in this unmarked gray building in Sterling, Virginia. Increasingly, these new compounds were synthetic opioids designed to mimic fentanyl, a prescription painkiller up to 50 times stronger than heroin.
This, Dye realized, could be one of them.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Health & Medicine Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In summer 2013, I attended a conference on cybersecurity at Tel Aviv University. It was there that I learned for the first time that Stuxnet — the super-sophisticated computer virus that the US and Israel allegedly managed to insert into Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility in 2010, there to play havoc with the centrifuges — had come to be regarded in the world of cyber-warfare as a terrible mistake.
Several speakers at the conference made this assertion, branding as a failure what had been widely regarded in Israel as a dazzling success — a nonmilitary strike that had set the Iranian program back by a good few months, and had planted all kinds of uncertainty in the minds of their nuclear technicians.
On the sidelines of that conference, therefore, when I interviewed Richard A Clarke, the counterterrorism chief for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, I asked him whether he too thought Stuxnet had been, to put it mildly, counterproductive. Absolutely, Clarke made clear.
For one thing, “the attack code was supposed to die and not get out onto the internet,” he noted, but it did. “It got out, and ran around the world.” It couldn’t harm anything else, because it had been programmed only to strike at Iran’s centrifuges, but “nonetheless it tried to attack things and people therefore grabbed it and decompiled it, so it’s taught a lot of people how to attack,” said Clarke.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Globalization Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Try to come up w/ 10 and then read it all.
(You need first to take the time to read read the original document there.
“In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber,” said Flannery O’Connor. Her point was that sentimentality cannot restrain the darker forces in human nature. Which brings us to the Catholic bishops of eastern Canada.
They recently published a pastoral document indicating how, in their opinion, Catholics who commit suicide voluntarily, through doctor-assisted euthanasia (which is now legal there), should be treated by the Church....It is a masterpiece of Francis-speak. The document can be summed up like this: “Yes, euthanasia is strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church, but we know that some people are going to choose it anyway, so we intend to offer them all the sacraments to help them along the way, because who are we to judge?”
Here are some passages from the document. This is the opening paragraph:
In our Catholic tradition we often refer to the Church as our Mother. We perceive her as a mother who lovingly accompanies us throughout life, and who especially wishes to support and guide us when we are faced with difficult situations and decisions. It is from this perspective that we, the Bishops of the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly, wish to share with you this pastoral reflection on medical assistance in dying.Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Michael Lewis’s brilliant book celebrates Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Israeli-American psychologists who are our age’s apostles of doubt about human reason. The timing is fortunate, given that overconfident experts may have caused and then failed to predict such momentous events as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Mr. Kahneman and Tversky (who died in 1996) first started working together in 1969. They were well-matched. The Holocaust survivor Mr. Kahneman chronically doubted even himself. The brash Tversky targeted his doubts toward others, especially (as one acquaintance noted) “people who don’t know the difference between knowing and not knowing.” Testing people with quizzes in their laboratory, they found a host of “cognitive biases” afflicting rational thinking.
One bias they found is that we underestimate uncertainty. In hindsight bias, for example, test subjects misremembered their own predictions as being correct. As Tversky explained, “we find ourselves unable to predict what will happen; yet, after the fact we explain what did happen with a great deal of confidence. . . . It leads us to believe that there is a less uncertain world than there actually is.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Psychology Science & Technology Sports * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Israel * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In just five hours on Feb. 20, 1962, Mr. Glenn joined a select roster of Americans whose feats have seized the country’s imagination and come to embody a moment in its history, figures like Lewis and Clark, the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh.
To the America of the 1960s, Mr. Glenn was a clean-cut, good-natured, well-grounded Midwesterner, raised in Presbyterian rectitude, nurtured in patriotism and tested in war, who stepped forward to risk the unknown and succeeded spectacularly, lifting his country’s morale and restoring its self-confidence.
It was an anxious nation that watched and listened that February morning, as Mr. Glenn, 40 years old, a Marine Corps test pilot and one of the seven original American astronauts, climbed into Friendship 7, the tiny Mercury capsule atop an Atlas rocket rising from the concrete flats of Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Read it all from the NYT.
By all appearances, we’re in a golden age of innovation. Every month sees new advances in artificial intelligence, gene therapy, robotics and software apps. Research and development as a share of gross domestic product is near an all-time high. There are more scientists and engineers in the U.S. than ever before.
None of this has translated into meaningful advances in Americans’ standard of living.
Economies grow by equipping an expanding workforce with more capital such as equipment, software and buildings, then combining capital and labor more creatively. This last element, called “total factor productivity,” captures the contribution of innovation. Its growth peaked in the 1950s at 3.4% a year as prior breakthroughs such as electricity, aviation and antibiotics reached their maximum impact. It has steadily slowed since and averaged a pathetic 0.5% for the current decade.
Outside of personal technology, improvements in everyday life have been incremental, not revolutionary.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Health & Medicine Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Imagine a two-tiered society with elite citizens, genetically engineered to be smarter, healthier and to live longer, and an underclass of biologically run-of-the-mill humans. It sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel, but the world could be sleepwalking towards this scenario, according to one of Britain’s most celebrated writers.
Kazuo Ishiguro argues that the social changes unleashed by gene editing technologies, such as Crispr, could undermine core human values.
“We’re going into a territory where a lot of the ways in which we have organised our societies will suddenly look a bit redundant,” he said. “In liberal democracies, we have this idea that human beings are basically equal in some very fundamental way. We’re coming close to the point where we can, objectively in some sense, create people who are superior to others.”
Read it all from the Guardian.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Social media giants should block children from sharing explicit images to help to curb Britain’s “sexting” crisis, the health secretary has said.
Jeremy Hunt also heaped pressure on tech and mobile phone companies to tackle sexting among under-18s. Technology existed to allow social media platforms to block explicit images from young users automatically, following a request from their parents, he said.
It is the latest demand from a senior government figure for social media companies to take a greater role in confronting issues such as online porn, cyberbullying and extremism.
Giving evidence to the Commons health committee yesterday, Mr Hunt said the companies needed to show that they were willing to help to improve mental health among teenagers. He warned against an online culture of intimidation and sexual imagery.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology Sexuality Teens / Youth * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
In the summer of 2015, armed American drones over eastern Syria stalked Junaid Hussain, an influential hacker and recruiter for the Islamic State.
For weeks, Mr. Hussain was careful to keep his young stepson by his side, and the drones held their fire. But late one night, Mr. Hussain left an internet cafe alone, and minutes later a Hellfire missile killed him as he walked between two buildings in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State’s de facto capital.
Mr. Hussain, a 21-year-old from Birmingham, England, was a leader of a band of English-speaking computer specialists who had given a far-reaching megaphone to Islamic State propaganda and exhorted online followers to carry out attacks in the West. One by one, American and allied forces have killed the most important of roughly a dozen members of the cell, which the F.B.I. calls “the Legion,” as part of a secretive campaign that has largely silenced a powerful voice that led to a surge of counterterrorism activity across the United States in 2015 as young men and women came under the influence of its propaganda.
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Apple I Computer (1976) pic.twitter.com/8DmRsoR3LW— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPix) November 25, 2016
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I’m sure biography will survive all this, just as it has survived the telephone, the telegram, the postcard and countless other changes to the ways we communicate with one another. At the same time, though, the form seems likely to undergo a more radical transformation in the coming years than it has for several centuries. Among the main qualities and duties of contemporary biography is the way it measures the distance between a subject’s public and private selves – and if people don’t regularly take the measure of themselves in writing any more, that may no longer be possible.
In spite of this lack, perhaps the biographer of the future will be adequately equipped to represent the subject of the future. We construct our selves in language, and if we no longer speak to ourselves about our selves – if we no longer take the time to examine our lives and thoughts in writing – we will surely be different to the people of the past. If we’re always performing for an external audience, then the distance between our private and public selves will surely shrink. Biographers will have to rely increasingly on video footage and the accounts of witnesses, rather than on their subjects’ own words – but perhaps that’s fitting for this seemingly more superficial age.
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“You now have billions of people on the internet, and most of them are not that happy with the status quo,” said Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a research firm that forecasts global risks. “They think their local government is authoritarian. They think they’re on the wrong side of the establishment. They’re aggrieved by identity politics and a hollowed-out middle class.”
Many factors accounted for Mr. Trump’s win: middle-class economic anxiety in the industrial Midwest; an inchoate desire for some kind of change in the national direction; and some mix of latent racism, xenophobia and sexism across the electorate. But as even Mr. Trump acknowledged in an interview with “60 Minutes” aired Sunday, social media played a determining role in the race.
In the past, Mr. Bremmer said, the concerns of Mr. Trump’s supporters might have been ignored, and his candidacy would almost certainly have foundered. After all, he was universally written off by just about every mainstream pundit, and he faced disadvantages in money, organization and access to traditional political expertise. Yet by putting out a message that resonated with people online, Mr. Trump hacked through every established political order.
“Through this new technology, people are now empowered to express their grievances and to follow people they see as echoing their grievances,” Mr. Bremmer said. “If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t see Trump winning.”
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Parishes are being invited to visit AChristmasNearYou.org/upload from the 1st November and complete a simple form no later than 1st December to register their Christmas church services.
On the 1st of December http://www.AChristmasNearYou.org will be live for anyone to be able to find the nearest Christmas services to them (or search for services in a particular location). It will be able to filter by date, whether there will be carols and accessibility such as wheelchair access, sign language and parking and more. They'll also be able to find which Christmas services are serving mince pies or mulled wine! For smartphones, the website will be able to use geolocation to find where the person is and show which Christmas services are happening nearest to them.
To promote the website and accompanying Christmas social media campaign, there will be four videos on the theme of Christmas Joy. The videos star Gogglebox vicar Kate Bottley, comedian Paul Kerensa, Matt Woodcock and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons Rose Hudson Wilkin - each talking about a moment of Christmas Joy in their lives.
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Americans may know the basics of how Martin Luther was said to have nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, condemning the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences, but they probably don’t realize how Luther strategically used the media of his time: books, paintings, prints and music.
This monk in a town at the edge of Germany took on the Holy Roman emperor and the pope — then the most powerful men in Europe — 500 years ago, and won, dividing the church, setting in play “one of the most successful media campaigns in history” and altering Western society and culture, said John T. McQuillen, assistant curator of printed books and bindings at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.
That message and its resonance are being celebrated at three institutions in honor of the coming 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s action and the beginning of the Reformation. Each of the shows — in Manhattan, Atlanta and Minneapolis — is unique. Featured among them are hundreds of objects: liturgical vestments; illuminated manuscripts; satirical woodcuts; one of six existing single-sheet printed copies of the 95 theses; the pulpit where Luther last preached; personal belongings, like Luther’s traveling spoon and beer stein; and items from recent archaeological excavations in Germany, including household goods and toys linked to Luther’s childhood.
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The Church of Scotland is to launch a webchat service to help those looking for spiritual guidance but unwilling to come to church on a Sunday.
The initiative will go live in the new year and is the Kirk's latest effort to reach beyond its traditional audience as figures show a continued trend away from organised religion.
The digital congregation will be able to book an online chat with a minister but may have to wait up to three hours for a reply. A separate 24-hour chatline to discuss religious questions has also been set up.
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...rather astonishingly, almost a third of Democrats also said Mr Comey was wrong not to have indicted her first time around. That signals both the broader doubts many Democrats have about their nominee—and the acutely effective way in which this scandal has exacerbated them.
Case reports released by the FBI into its investigation suggest Mr Podesta is in fact right in his appraisal. They portray Mrs Clinton’s amateurish e-mail arrangements as largely a product of staggering naivety and extreme technophobia; they were designed to address her need to receive official and personal e-mails on a single Blackberry device, mainly because she did not know how to use a desktop computer. Nonetheless, the scandal, which first broke shortly after she launched her presidential campaign, has been deeply damaging to Mrs Clinton because of the way it seemed to chime with her pre-existing reputation for dishonesty.
That reputation appears to be substantially unwarranted—it is a product of decades of highly politicised scandals from which Mrs Clinton has emerged convicted of no crime. In the light of it, however, she needed to be far more candid about the nature of her e-mail errors than she appears to be capable of. For months Mrs Clinton denied having done anything wrong—before having a begrudging acknowledgement of her blunder, and more begrudging apology for it, wrung out of her by unrelenting negative coverage of the affair.
Absent some serious new evidence of wrongdoing from Mr Comey, Mrs Clinton’s e-mail error was in this sense mainly political. But it is nonetheless deadly serious.
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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In a world where we are surrounded 24/7 by all kinds of digital media from iPhones to electronic billboards, trying to figure out the maximum — or better yet optimal — amount of screen time that's good for kids has been a challenge.
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics set a simple and clear ceiling: no more than two hours parked in front of the TV for any child over the age of two. But at its annual meeting in San Francisco on Friday, the group, acknowledging that some online media exposure can be beneficial, announced that it has radically revised its thinking on the subject.
The first big change is in how it defines screen time in the first place. The AAP now says that its limits apply solely to time spent on entertainment and not on educational tasks such as practicing multiplication facts online or reading up on the history of Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner. The entertainment category itself is very broad and can include old-fashioned broadcast TV, streaming services like Netflix, video games consoles and being on social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. The new recommendations are also more specific to the age of the child and, as a whole, are more generous.
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It’s the film Her come true. Lonely men are developing feelings for — and talking dirty to — their virtual assistants.
Confronted with smart female-voiced chatbots such as Apple’s Siri, many men are resorting to breathless demands and four-letter words — mimicking the inappropriate behaviour of previous generations of businessmen to their real-life secretaries.
Ilya Eckstein, chief executive of Robin Labs, whose virtual assistant, Robin, was designed to give traffic advice and directions to drivers and truckers, told The Times that a good proportion of his customers’ interactions with the technology were “clearly sexually explicit”.
He said: “This happens because people are lonely and bored. It’s mostly teenagers and truckers who don’t have girlfriends. They really need an outlet — to be meeting people and having sex, but I’m not judging.
Read it all (subscription required) and there is also a Telegraph article there.
In 1996, 19-year-old Jennifer Ringley turned on a webcam that sat on top of the computer in her college dorm room. In that simple act, writes Aleks Krotoski, she changed the modern world.
It would be, at first glance, a perfectly innocent thing to do. But rather than use the cam to speak to friends and family back home in Harrisburg, Pennyslvania, she used it to do a most unusual thing: to broadcast herself live, to a globe of strangers, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
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The core theme to be explored is how the natural sciences and Christian theology might offer an enriched or deepened vision of reality, which transcends the limits placed on each. John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of the most acute observers of the tensions to emerge between science and religion during the Victorian age.
We shall explore Ruskin's concerns, set against the background of the Industrial Revolution, and ask how can we do science without losing sight of the beauty of nature? And in what ways might a religious reading of nature help meet at least some concerns?
Go through it all (audio or word document options in the links).
DDoS attacks are nothing new. But [Bruce] Schneier has pointed out that they could soon become increasingly problematic. “Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them,” he explained in a blog post. “These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they're used to seeing. They last longer. They're more sophisticated.”
In fact, Schneier pointed out last month that a new wave of attacks also seems to be more investigative than previous DDoS assaults. Many of the attacks appear to be testing servers rather than taking them offline, by gradually increasing barrages of requests at one part of the server to see what it can withstand, then moving on to another, and another. Schneier warned that “someone is learning how to take down the Internet.”
The Dyn attack was clearly more than a test, and its severity certainly fits with Schneier’s hypothesis that someone, somewhere is trying to learn how to cause widespread disruption.
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Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly warned of the dangers posed by out-of-control artificial intelligence (AI). But on Wednesday, as the professor opened the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) at the University of Cambridge, he remarked on its potential to bring positive change – if developed correctly.
"Success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation. But it could also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks," Dr. Hawking said at the launch, according to a University of Cambridge press release.
Representing a collaboration between the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of California, Berkeley, the CFI will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers, as well as tech leaders and policy makers, to ensure that societies can "make the best of the opportunities of artificial intelligence," as its website states.
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B&C co-chair Mark Noll helped start the publication in 1994, the same year his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was released.
“I’m quite depressed about the state of the world as is reflected in its closing,” said Noll, a history professor at Notre Dame University, who believes the magazine thrived because of Wilson’s vision and expertise.
“John’s singular ability in an age of polemics and partisanship and gotcha-journalism was to emphasis the long-term, to be thoughtful rather than reactive, to try to bring insight rather than onslaught,” Noll said.
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Britain’s shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture could leave as toxic a legacy for future generations as the pollution of the planet, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth has warned.
Today’s children are growing up in a culture with few if any real “heroes”, he said, while ideas of “nobility” and even “honour” are quietly disappearing.
The result could be as damaging to the nation’s “moral and imaginative ecology” as the destruction of the environment, he argued.
Britain is in danger of become a more “boring” and “mean-minded” place as a result, he added.
Read it all (another from the long line of should have already been posted material).
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The church is struggling to adjust to its new environment in the technological advances of the twenty-first century—we are no longer even in a postmodern age but something indescribably beyond even that. Most consider us to be living, in the West, in post-Christendom. This does not mean we are secular in the UK necessarily; we are simply ‘haunted,’ as Rowan Williams memorably put it, by the memory of Christianity. Along with all other large institutions the church seems to be losing its hold and authority. Into this we can insert the charge to all Christians, and particularly to the ordained in the Church of England, to ‘proclaim the gospel afresh in each generation.’
I am what might be described as an ‘early adopter’; I embraced with enthusiasm social media in all its forms when it emerged in the middle of the last decade. I have also always had a passion for evangelism and for finding new ways to share the faith that I hold so dear. This study seeks to understand something of the world in which we now live, where connection to the internet is seen by some to be a human right, and where it is an integral part of a lot of people’s lives and how this connects to our calling as Christians to become involved in the missio Dei, the mission of God, in the world.
This is an important task. Because of the fast pace of change, we must be careful not to sleepwalk into a new paradigm without taking the time to reflect theologically.
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Much could be said about the Redirect Method, but two things stand out to me. First, as a philosopher of religion, I find [Yasmin] Green’s point fascinating. Regardless how one mixes the faith-and-reason cocktail, a theopolitical agenda like ISIS’s is undeniably still dependent upon information. People enlist in groups like ISIS not simply out of blind hate or misdirected zeal, but because they find ISIS’s description of the world reasonable and compelling. Green’s wording is suggestive: in “arming individuals with more and better information,” Google is acting on the assumption that facts may be as fatal to ISIS’s success as bullets. Google’s experiment rests on a perspective shared by many professors of religion; in Kofi Annan’s words, “Education is peace-building by another name.”
Second, this program raises the question of precedent. Though I doubt many net neutrality advocates will rally in support of ISIS, there is reason to be leery of Google’s self-appointed mission to steer users away from certain ideological stances. Given that the dream of the Internet is a pure democracy of information and opinion, do we trust Google to be the gatekeeper of theopolitical correctness? It’s one thing if I search for “crayons” and Google—after receiving a payment from Crayola—directs me to Crayola’s website. But what about topics far more controversial than my coloring hobby? How comfortable are we with the leading search engine employing “targeted advertising campaigns” on disputed religious and political matters?
The dilemma is this: everyone is pro-information, but we tend to see only the information that supports our particular worldview.
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Is the human genome sacred? Does editing it violate the idea that we’re made in God’s image or, perhaps worse, allow us to “play God”?
It’s hard to imagine weightier questions. And so to address them, Ting Wu is starting small.
Last month, the geneticist was here in a conference room outside Baltimore, its pale green walls lined with mirrors, asking pastors from area black churches to consider helping her.
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Like other digital media enthusiasts, Mr. Huguenin talks about audio Bibles as an experience. “What we see time and again, globally, is when you play audio out loud, it draws a crowd,” he says. He describes the Proclaimer, a shoebox-sized, solar-powered audio Bible player produced by Faith Comes by Hearing and popular in places where electricity is not available. “They can’t be stuffed in a pocket and they’re obnoxiously loud,” he explains. “So inevitably, your neighbors are going to come over, or your family is going to gather.” According to Mr. Huguenin, reading the Bible out loud in a group creates a sense of accountability, because friends and family often remind each other of what they have heard.
But unlike virtual reality or biometrics, helping oral cultures produce their own audio Bibles is not about helping people have an experience that is new; rather, it is about allowing people to experience the Bible in a way that is already deeply familiar.
“That question rarely comes up outside of the U.S.,” says Mr. Huguenin when I ask if he thinks audio Bibles are somehow less authoritative or holy than printed Bibles.”It’s really easy for those in other countries to embrace the audio,” he explains. And even though we in the United States are most used to encountering Scripture as a book, “it’s important to recognize that both are God’s word.”
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The Hebrew Bible was revolutionary in its understanding not only of God but also of humanity. Finding God, singular and alone, the first monotheists discovered the infinite value of the human person. It is this insight—that every human is in God’s image regardless of color, culture or class—that must take precedence in human economies, societies and states.
Messrs. Barrat, Ford and Harari are paraphrasing for the 21st century what the book of Psalms had to say, millennia ago, about people who worship the work of their hands: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human’s hands.” When technology becomes idolatry it ceases to be life-enhancing and becomes soul-destroying. The moment humans value things, however intelligent, over people, they embark on the road to ruin.
The two dangers of the 21st century could not be less alike: super-intelligent computers and highly barbaric radical Islamists. They will be defeated only by an insistence on the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life. That is the message of Rosh Hashana—not only to Jews but to the world.
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In The Irish Times, expatriates described how the liberal abortion laws of their adopted homes made Ireland appear regressive in comparison, motivating them to hold their own demonstrations calling for repeal.
One woman, a television producer based in Vancouver, described how living in such a “progressive and liberal society as Canada has made it apparent to me how far Ireland has to go in terms of women’s rights and politics in general”.What was left unsaid – as has become routine in these discussions – is just how extreme the abortion laws are in some of the supposedly more civilised countries we are being asked to look up to.
In Canada, there are no legal restrictions on abortion whatsoever, allowing terminations up until birth for any reason that doctors are comfortable with.
Contrary to its liberal image, the country is apparently uninterested in transparency when it comes to this legal regime, refusing to collect statistics on the number of late-term abortions....
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Behind the closed doors of British intelligence, the era of Smiley’s People is giving way to a future of Smiley’s Facebook friends.
Digital disruption is sweeping through the world’s second-oldest profession — spying — and the UK is repurposing its intelligence services with a £1.5bn annual top-up for security available for the first time this year.
For the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, which supplies foreign intelligence, this translates into its biggest ever recruitment drive, with as many as 1,000 new staff over the next four years, a 40 per cent rise.
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It was the one-two punch of cellphones and email that first pulled clergy into the social-media age, followed by digital newsletters, Facebook pages and constantly changing congregational websites. Even in small churches, the work of the "church secretary" has evolved, from answering the office telephone and preparing an ink-on-paper newsletter to serving as an all-purpose online networker.
"The old boundaries are vanishing and, for pastors in some parts of the country, they're almost completely gone," said Vaters, reached by telephone. "That mobile phone is always with you. … Once your church passes 200 members you have to manage things in a different way. You just can't afford to be as accessible to all those church members all of the time."
So what happens today when a member of a congregation rings the pastor's cellphone? Vaters recently addressed that question in a post at Christianity Today's Pivot blog for small-church leaders. The blunt headline: "Why Most Pastors Aren't Answering Your Phone Calls."
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The world’s first child created using a controversial “three-parent” baby technique has been born in Mexico, it has been announced.
Limited details about the birth were revealed ahead of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's scientific congress in Salt Lake City next month, where it will be discussed more fully.
According to critics, the procedure is tantamount to genetic modification of humans or even “playing God”. But supporters say it allows women with a particular type of genetic disease to have healthy children who are related to them.
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STEIN: But Lanner's experiments are hugely controversial. Some people have moral objections to doing any kind of research on human embryos. But editing the DNA in embryos is even freaking out people who think that's OK.
MARCY DARNOVSKY: The production of genetically modified human embryos is actually quite dangerous.
STEIN: Marcy Darnovsky heads a genetic watchdog group called the Center for Genetics and Society.
DARNOVSKY: It's a step toward attempts to produce genetically modified human beings. This would be reason for the already grave concern.
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In 1924, an academic called Charles Greene described how the “California singing fish” would hum at night. Just why the plainfin midshipman is so vocal at night remained a mystery for nearly a century, until now.
For much of the year, you won’t hear these fish singing at all. The plainfin midshipman, named after the bioluminescent organs on its underside, which reminded early observers of uniform buttons, resides in the depths of the ocean during the fall and winter. During the spring and early summer, they move to coastal waters between Alaska and Baja California. There, the male fish “sing” to attract mates, a sound that can be heard by humans onshore.
But these vocalizations aren’t spontaneous, say Cornell University researchers Andrew Bass and Ni Feng in a new study in Current Biology. Instead, they’re controlled by the fish’s internal clocks. That’s why they happen exclusively at night. And the hormone that controls these clocks is the same one that regulates bird activity and human sleep patterns.
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Breathtaking--don't miss it.
Turn around in your seat at the crematorium in the Berkshire town of Thatcham and you will see a web-cam, fixed to a beam, following the proceedings. It enables anyone who could not make it to the service to follow from afar. The valley of the shadow of death is now being live-streamed.
Demand is growing. The crematorium gets one live-streaming request a week. Obitus, the company that hooked up the system, currently has cameras in 25 locations, charging £2,500 ($3,245) to install and manage the technology.
Forty years ago, “virtually every funeral was the same,” says Paul Allcock, president of the national funeral directors’ society—from the cortege to the Church of England rites. Nothing like the outdoorsy family that inquired this week about using a camper van as a hearse—typical, says Mr Allcock, of a customer base that is less religious, more diverse, and keen to personalise their departure.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK
I was, in other words, a very early adopter of what we might now call living-in-the-web. And as the years went by, I realized I was no longer alone. Facebook soon gave everyone the equivalent of their own blog and their own audience. More and more people got a smartphone — connecting them instantly to a deluge of febrile content, forcing them to cull and absorb and assimilate the online torrent as relentlessly as I had once. Twitter emerged as a form of instant blogging of microthoughts. Users were as addicted to the feedback as I had long been — and even more prolific. Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating. I remember when I decided to raise the ante on my blog in 2007 and update every half-hour or so, and my editor looked at me as if I were insane. But the insanity was now banality; the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone.
If the internet killed you, I used to joke, then I would be the first to find out. Years later, the joke was running thin. In the last year of my blogging life, my health began to give out. Four bronchial infections in 12 months had become progressively harder to kick. Vacations, such as they were, had become mere opportunities for sleep. My dreams were filled with the snippets of code I used each day to update the site. My friendships had atrophied as my time away from the web dwindled. My doctor, dispensing one more course of antibiotics, finally laid it on the line: “Did you really survive HIV to die of the web?
Read it all from New York Magazine.
“You seem pretty positive, what types of things bring you down?”....
“Show me (role play) how you would show a customer you’re willing to help them by only using your voice....”
“If you’re given a jar with a mix of fair and unfair coins, and you pull one out and flip it 3 times, and get the specific sequence heads heads tails, what are the chances that you pulled out a fair or an unfair coin?”
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I’ll be honest, this made me mad. Hansen oh-so-blithely presumes that he, simply by virtue of his job title, is entitled to special privileges on Facebook. But why, precisely, should that be the case? The entire premise of Facebook, indeed, the underpinning of the company’s success, is that it is a platform that can be used by every single person on earth. There are no gatekeepers, and certainly no outside editors. Demanding special treatment from Facebook because one controls a printing press is not only nonsensical it is downright antithetical to not just the premise of Facebook but the radical liberty afforded by the Internet. Hansen can write his open letter on aftenposten.no and I can say he’s being ridiculous on stratechery.com and there is not a damn thing anyone, including Mark Zuckerberg, can do about it.
Make no mistake, I recognize the threats Facebook poses to discourse and politics; I’ve written about them explicitly. There are very real concerns that people are not being exposed to news that makes them uncomfortable, and Hansen is right that the photo in question is an example of exactly why making people feel uncomfortable is so important.
But it should also not be forgotten that the prison of engagement-driving news that people are locking themselves in is one of their own making: no one is forced to rely on Facebook for news, just as Aftenposten isn’t required to post its news on Facebook. And on the flipside, the freedom and reach afforded by the Internet remain so significant that the editor-in-chief of a newspaper I had never previously read can force the CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world to accede to his demands by rousing worldwide outrage.
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Scientists have produced healthy offspring without fertilising an egg in a breakthrough that overturns the fundamental principles of embryology.
Bath University biologists bred baby mice by injecting sperm into a non-viable type of embryo called a parthenogenote. This has dividing cells that are fundamentally different from eggs and more like cells elsewhere in the body.
Tony Perry, senior author of the study, said the research could in principle open the way to a “speculative and fanciful” scenario in which sperm are made to fertilise adult cells derived from skin or other tissue. It could even allow two men to become the biological parents of a baby, without female involvement.
Read it all (or if necessary another link is there).
Update: A Telegraph article is there.
Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.
Read it all from the Onion.
Recently I had a surreally disquieting experience. Someone had randomly posted up a photograph of girls in school uniform on my school’s Old Girls’ Facebook page (this school used to be a convent boarding school but is now a girls’ Catholic day school). Above the photo was a caption referring to private schools having to face up to new transgender issues.
I added a one-line comment, saying I hoped that such schools would not give in to political correctness on this matter. There were instant strong objections to my remark. So I added a couple of paragraphs, explaining why Christians follow history, the Bible, biology and common sense on sex and gender and recommending a couple of books. This led to an irrational and angry response on the part of several commentators who demanded that the thread be closed immediately. It was.
I thought of this incident when reading Gabriele Kuby’s book, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom, recently republished from the German by Angelico Press. Her book, as its title suggests, carefully explains, with the aid of much research and citing many telling statistics, just why western society (it doesn’t apply to the rest of the world) has moved in recent decades from militant feminism to the destruction of marriage and now to an aggressive push for “gender ideology” and the right to “choose” your sex.
Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking History Marriage & Family Men Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology Women * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The following may be the most shocking number I give you today: in 2015, 22 percent of lower-skilled men aged 21–30 had not worked at all during the prior 12 months. Think about that for a second. Every time I see it, that number blows my mind. In 2000, the fraction of young, lower-skilled men that didn’t work at all during the prior year was a little under 10 percent. Men in their 20s historically are a group with a strong attachment to the labor force. The decline in employment rates for low-skilled men in their 20s was larger than it was for all other sex, age, and skill groups during this same time period.
You may have a few questions in the back of your mind. If they are not working, where do these young, low-skilled men live? Our basements! According to recent data, 51 percent of lower-skilled men in their 20s live with a parent or close relative. That number was only 35 percent in 2000. In 2014, 70 percent of lower-skilled men in their 20s without a job lived with a parent or close relative.
If they are not working, how do these young men eat? We—the parents and relatives—feed them. When they are in our basements, they come up for food from time to time and raid our refrigerators. I have no information on whether or not they are showering.
Are these young, nonworking, lower-skilled men who are living in their parents’ basements married? You may be surprised to hear this: they are not.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Labor Day is an appropriate moment to reflect on a quiet catastrophe: the collapse, over two generations, of work for American men. During the past half-century, work rates for U.S. males spiraled relentlessly downward. America is now home to a vast army of jobless men who are no longer even looking for work—roughly seven million of them age 25 to 54, the traditional prime of working life.
This is arguably a crisis, but it is hardly ever discussed in the public square. Received wisdom holds that the U.S. is at or near “full employment.” Most readers have probably heard this, perhaps from the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, who said in a speech last week that “it is a remarkable, and perhaps underappreciated, achievement that the economy has returned to near-full employment in a relatively short time after the Great Recession.”
Near-full employment? In 2015 the work rate (the ratio of employment to population) for American males age 25 to 54 was 84.4%. That’s slightly lower than it had been in 1940, 86.4%, at the tail end of the Great Depression. Benchmarked against 1965, when American men were at genuine full employment, the “male jobs deficit” in 2015 would be nearly 10 million, even after taking into account an older population and more adults in college.
Read it all from Nicholas Eberstadt.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Men Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Monday morning scene at Juanita Stanley’s apiary in Summerville, S.C., was ghastly and stunningly quiet: Everywhere one looked were clumps of honeybees, dead after a dousing on Sunday with the potent pesticide with which the local authorities had intended to kill mosquitoes.
“There was no need for a bee suit Monday morning to go down there, because there was no activity. It was silent,” Ms. Stanley said on Thursday. “Honestly, I just fell to the ground. I was crying, and I couldn’t quit crying, and I was throwing up.”
For Ms. Stanley and her business, the death toll easily exceeds two million bees, and Dorchester County officials are still tabulating how many more might have been killed when a day of aerial spraying, scheduled to combat mosquitoes that could be carrying viruses like Zika, went awry. The apparently inadvertent extermination, the county administrator said, happened after a county employee failed to notify Ms. Stanley’s business, which the administrator said should have been alerted about the spraying strategy. Some hobbyists were also caught by surprise.
Read it all.
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“All hands on deck” may become a thing of the past.
Ship designers, their operators and regulators are gearing up for a future in which cargo vessels sail the oceans with minimal or even no crew. Advances in automation and ample bandwidth even far offshore could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam.
Ship operators believe more automation will enable them to optimize ship use, including cutting fuel consumption. “The benefit of automation is as an enabler of further efficiency across the 630 vessels we operate,” said Palle Laursen, head of Maersk Line Ship Management, a unit of cargo-ship giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S.
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In retrospect, Facebook’s takeover of online media looks rather like a slow-motion coup. Before social media, web publishers could draw an audience one of two ways: through a dedicated readership visiting its home page or through search engines. By 2009, this had started to change. Facebook had more than 300 million users, primarily accessing the service through desktop browsers, and publishers soon learned that a widely shared link could produce substantial traffic. In 2010, Facebook released widgets that publishers could embed on their sites, reminding readers to share, and these tools were widely deployed. By late 2012, when Facebook passed a billion users, referrals from the social network were sending visitors to publishers’ websites at rates sometimes comparable to Google, the web’s previous de facto distribution hub. Publishers took note of what worked on Facebook and adjusted accordingly.
This was, for most news organizations, a boon. The flood of visitors aligned with two core goals of most media companies: to reach people and to make money. But as Facebook’s growth continued, its influence was intensified by broader trends in internet use, primarily the use of smartphones, on which Facebook became more deeply enmeshed with users’ daily routines. Soon, it became clear that Facebook wasn’t just a source of readership; it was, increasingly, where readers lived.
Facebook, from a publisher’s perspective, had seized the web’s means of distribution by popular demand. A new reality set in, as a social-media network became an intermediary between publishers and their audiences.
Read it all from the New York Times.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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Perhaps it doesn’t matter; more and more, the word just feels true, and we’re in an epidemic of diagnosis. But when the bore and the charmer both begin to look like a certain American politician, and the American politician reminds us of the worst of what’s online, which may be what the whole younger generation is like, and it begins to feel as if a new selfishness has taken the future hostage and your dinner companion is not just dull, your recently departed not just a fake, but the future itself is narcissism — it raises the question of what it is that we fear, exactly, when we say the word.
Read it all (my emphasis).
If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve probably downloaded a few apps, either games to waste some time or something a little more productive! There are apps for everything now, including a few that might be of use to your church. To save yourself sifting through the hundreds of thousands of apps on the market, I’ve selected a few for you which will help your church be creative, work together and save you time. All of them are work on both Apple and Android phones and are all free to use....
Slack is a fantastic tool for coordinating and collaborating as part of a team. The app (and the corresponding website) lets you have conversations on multiple topics with a particular group of people. For instance, as a church team you could have a conversation about planning for Christmas or ongoing building works. By having it all in one place, all those that need to know, can be in the know, ideas can be suggested to the group, links to resources can be shared and plans can be agreed (saving your inbox from email overload!) You can also send files to each other and more.
Read it all.
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But if [Erik] Hurst’s research is accurate (and profit margins from the video-game industry suggest that it is), then the issue becomes much bigger than video games themselves. The portrait that emerges of the young American male indicates an isolated, entertainment-absorbed existence, with only the most childlike social ties (such as with parents and “bros”) playing a meaningful role.
Young men, significantly more so than young women, are stuck in life. Research released in May from the Pew Center documented a historic demographic shift: American men aged 18-30 are now statistically more likely to be living with their parents than with a romantic partner. This trend is significant, for one simple reason: Twenty- and thirtysomething men who are living at home, working part-time or not at all, are unlikely to be preparing for marriage. Hurst’s research says that these men are single, unoccupied, and fine with that—because their happiness doesn’t depend on whether they are growing up and living life.
This prolonged delay of marriage and relational commitment often means a perpetual adolescence in other areas of life. Love and sex are arguably the best incentives for men to assert their adulthood. But in the comfort of their parents’ homes and their gaming systems, young men get to live out their fantasies without the frictions of reality.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Entertainment Men Pornography Science & Technology Sociology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Many churches broadcast their worship services – edited, usually, and distributed over the air or on cable. Now, more and more churches are taking advantage of streaming to present their services live, over the internet and available around the world. There are problems, such as how to include absent audiences in such rituals as communion or baptisms. But correspondent Dan Lothian reports from Dallas that many worshippers say watching a streamed service is a lot better than having no church service at all.
Read it all.
Pew Research Center’s new survey on human enhancement finds a broad wariness about the prospect of technologies aimed at making people smarter, stronger and healthier. Americans who are highly religious tend to be the most concerned about these possible developments, which include genetic engineering, cognitive augmentation and synthetic blood.
Fact Tank sat down with two experts on science and bioethics who have different views on human enhancement – Christian Brugger and Anders Sandberg – to explore what these new findings might mean. Brugger, who is a professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, believes that people are right to be concerned about the social impact of human enhancement. Sandberg, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, thinks that, on balance, human enhancement will improve and enrich our lives.
Read it all.
The more religious a person is, the more likely they are to oppose genetic engineering that could enhance minds and bodies, and help babies suffering from genetic diseases.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, many US adults oppose the application of breakthroughs in bio-engineering.
"In general, the most religious are the most wary about potential enhancements," says Pew.
Read it all from Christian Today.
Last week, I was browsing the internet for information about the tragic attack in Nice on Bastille Day, when I spotted a story that suggested disturbing new images were circulating of the Isis attacks on Paris inside the Bataclan theatre late last year. I was about to click “Search” — but then I had a second thought and stopped.
Until recently, I assumed that one of the great benefits of the internet was that it could give access to any information we wanted, any time we wanted. But, as the fight with Islamist extremism intensifies, I now realise that this privilege has turned into a curse. These days, the war is not only being waged on the battlefield; a second front has opened up in cyber space. And what makes this second — largely hidden — fight so insidious is that it involves all of us, sitting in our own homes in front of our computer screens or mobile phones.
Isis has taken the media game to a new level. In the past, terrorist and insurgent groups have often used the media to propagate their messages. What makes Isis unusual is that it is not only extraordinarily adept at mastering modern media platforms but that it has made this a strategic priority, to spread fear and attract new recruits. Its media outreach has been so effective that some US intelligence observers even suspect that Isis has studied western consumer giants to replicate their marketing tactics.
It seeks to build “audience engagement” and “reach”, creating memorable “content” that can be easily “shared”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Science & Technology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
Ahead of Monday’s Commons vote on Trident renewal, church leaders from a range of denominations have signalled their opposition to nuclear deterrents.
Speaking in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Chester said it was “not unreasonable at this time to contribute to our ongoing reflection upon why we have a nuclear deterrent at all’.
The Rt Rev Peter Forster went on: “In 1983 there was a report, The Church and the Bomb, in which it toyed with the hope that the UK might in fact unilaterally renounce its nuclear deterrent, but the Church rowed back from that and has never adopted that position, recognising that it was not equipped to reach such a conclusion in such a complex, political set of circumstances as surrounds this debate.
“Clearly today the UK is set upon ordering a new generation of submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, which will renew this country’s nuclear deterrent until 2060 or beyond. I simply express the hope that, during that period, ever greater efforts will be made to reduce the threat to our world from nuclear bombs and that we will continue to keep under review why we are making such significant decisions, which will have an impact into such a far-distant future—a future that will change in ways we cannot anticipate today.”
Read it all.
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Churches are being urged to climb aboard the Pokémon Go bandwagon, as the game soars in popularity across the UK.
Last week, just hours after the game became available in the UK, the Church of England’s digital media officer, Tallie Proud, published a blog on how churches could use the wildly successful app to evangelise gamers.
Pokémon Go is based on catching Pokémon, animated monsters that first became popular in the 1990s, using the GPS system on a smartphone or tablet, and then battling with them against other players.
Real-life locations and points of interest, including churches, have been designated by programmers as “PokéStops”, or “Gyms”, where gamers can collect resources and fight to establish their team’s control of the area.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Entertainment Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
Not long ago, my community lost a beloved young member because of his repeated trespassing onto a dangerous train trestle to take selfies. He posted them with the hashtag #liveauthentic. His last time there, he died while trying to outrun the train. (People take such extraordinary measures to get selfies that so-called “selfie-related deaths” are a global phenomenon. Wikipedia now keeps a tally.) For him and for many others, capturing an experience with a photo, video, tweet, or blog post can hold more importance than the actual experience and reflects a phenomenon that the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard called the hyperreal.
In his 1986 book, America, Baudrillard cited the election of a Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, to the presidency as evidence of the hyperreal. Hyperreality describes a postmodern, highly technological society in which the lines between the real and simulations of the real become hopelessly (although often purposely) blurred to the point that we can no longer distinguish between reality and imitations of reality. When someone believes that reality TV actually represents real life, or when Coca-Cola—which was originally a simulation of cocaine—gets labeled as “the real thing,” or when we really feel liked by the number of “likes” on Facebook, we’re dealing with the hyperreal.
For example, this month’s release of the mobile app Pokémon Go—a video game using “augmented reality” (blending virtual reality with our actual surroundings)— has police cautioning players to be more mindful of the real world. One girl was hit by a car while walking into traffic and two men fell off an ocean bluff while playing. More generally, cell phone use plays a factor in one in four car accidents. Texting by pedestrians has grown into such a significant public safety concern that cities, campuses, and companies are taking measures to curb emergency room visits and even deaths from those “distracted while walking.” (Full disclosure: I once sprained my ankle walking down a grassy bank while reading email on my Blackberry. I know of what I write.)
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The discerning citizen needs to be able to make an ethically informed choice as to what they spend their time and money on. If a game encourages players to collaborate and practice making empathetic choices, and connects people in mutually beneficial ways that may result in flourishing and a sense of community, then that's positive.
Adorno's point is that our mass culture reflects the society in which we live and its values. If we are looking to transform the banality of the everyday into something playful and imaginary, this may be a healthy form of catharsis. But if we're not happy and instead feel stressed and in desperate need of constant escape, then we need to look more deeply at what values our society is perpetuating.
Although Adorno's criticisms of mass produced cultural objects has been dismissed as reactionary, he makes a point worth noting. Adorno hopes that we will be critical as opposed to passive citizens and this goal is vitally important in today's media-infused society. In our fast-paced world of multi-media information sources, we require an updated mode of interaction whereby we can critically engage with these technologies. Transferable thinking skills, such as those honed by the study of philosophy, may be one good place to start.
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Couples who struggle to conceive a child are sometimes given the option of using a donated embryo. In the US this is commonly referred to as "embryo adoption", particularly at Christian clinics, where it is regarded as saving a life - and where the future parents may have to be married and heterosexual to be eligible for treatment.
When Jennifer and Aaron Wilson found they could not get pregnant, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.
The couple from North Carolina had the choice of starting in vitro fertilisation (IVF), in which mature eggs are fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. Or they could have tried to adopt a child already in need of a home.
Instead they applied to a specialist Christian fertility clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee - the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) - which promised to help them "adopt" an embryo.
Read it all.
Over the past week, tens of thousands of people have taken to roaming the streets, interacting with invisible beings that now inhabit our cities.
These fanatics speak in a special language, undertake hours of devotional activity, and together experience moments of great joy and great sorrow.
It is an obsession, many say, that has taken over their lives, and for which they will sacrifice their bodies. They understand the world in a way the uninitiated cannot.
What sounds like a sudden global religious conversion, is, of course, the launch of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game that has restarted the popular culture phenomenon of Pokémon. In many ways, however, Pokémon and religion are not so far apart.
Read it all.
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As technologies and methods advanced, workers in all industries became able to produce much more value in a shorter amount of time. You’d think this would lead to shorter workdays.
But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing....
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The Vatican does not track global or countrywide exorcism, but in my experience and according to the priests I meet, demand is rising. The United States is home to about 50 “stable” exorcists — those who have been designated by bishops to combat demonic activity on a semi-regular basis — up from just 12 a decade ago, according to the Rev. Vincent Lampert, an Indianapolis-based priest-exorcist who is active in the International Association of Exorcists. (He receives about 20 inquiries per week, double the number from when his bishop appointed him in 2005.) The Catholic Church has responded by offering greater resources for clergy members who wish to address the problem. In 2010, for instance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a meeting in Baltimore for interested clergy. In 2014, Pope Francis formally recognized the IAE, 400 of whom are to convene in Rome this October. Members believe in such strange cases because they are constantly called upon to help. (I served for a time as a scientific adviser on the group’s governing board.)''
Unfortunately, not all clergy involved in this complex field are as cautious as the priest who first approached me. In some circles there is a tendency to become overly preoccupied with putative demonic explanations and to see the devil everywhere. Fundamentalist misdiagnoses and absurd or even dangerous “treatments,” such as beating victims, have sometimes occurred, especially in developing countries. This is perhaps why exorcism has a negative connotation in some quarters. People with psychological problems should receive psychological treatment.
But I believe I’ve seen the real thing....
Read it all.
Church House Publishing has released an infographic to mark a new milestone in its Church of England apps programme, with over 200,000 first-time downloads.
The infographic reveals that many of those who download the apps are using them routinely as part of their prayer life. Use of the Daily Prayer app - shortlisted for App of the Year at the Premier Digital Awards - was up 300% in May 2016 compared to the previous year, with 12,500 monthly users - enough to fill St Paul's Cathedral five times over. App downloads now account for around one in five Church House Publishing products distributed by Anglican charity Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd under an agreement with The Archbishops' Council.
Thomas Allain-Chapman, Publishing Manager, said: "Apps like Reflections and Lectionary have moved from being novelties to being normal for our users. Their great appeal lies in allowing instant, fuss-free access to resources for prayer and Bible study worship wherever you are."
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From self-driving vehicles and semi-autonomous robots to intelligent algorithms and predictive analytic tools, machines are increasingly capable of performing a wide range of jobs that have long been human domains. A 2013 study by researchers at Oxford University posited that as many as 47% of all jobs in the United States are at risk of “computerization.” And many respondents in a recent Pew Research Center canvassing of technology experts predicted that advances in robotics and computing applications will result in a net displacement of jobs over the coming decades – with potentially profound implications for both workers and society as a whole.
The ultimate extent to which robots and algorithms intrude on the human workforce will depend on a host of factors, but many Americans expect that this shift will become reality over the next half-century. In a national survey by Pew Research Center conducted June 10-July 12, 2015, among 2,001 adults, fully 65% of Americans expect that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work currently done by humans.
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“Who thought we’d ever see Bible and spammers together in a sentence? At first blush, it sounds like a good idea, since God’s Word doesn’t return void. But . . . the overwhelming clutter of media today desensitizes people. Our challenge in a digital culture is to develop strategies for making sure the message cuts through and actually gets noticed.”
~Phil Cooke, author, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media
“When we throw biblical phrases to the winds, we invite people to supply their own context rather than the biblical one. Without the context of an imprisoned Paul, confident that God is able to use even his imprisonment to advance the gospel, the phrase ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ can become a claim to support pretty much anything one wants to do.”
~Frank Thielman, author, Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary
Read it all.
Europe's growing army of robot workers could be classed as "electronic persons" and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution.
Robots are being deployed in ever-greater numbers in factories and also taking on tasks such as personal care or surgery, raising fears over unemployment, wealth inequality and alienation.
Their growing intelligence, pervasiveness and autonomy requires rethinking everything from taxation to legal liability, a draft European Parliament motion, dated May 31, suggests.
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The all-conquering encyclopedia of the twenty-first century is, famously, the first such work to have been compiled entirely by uncredentialled volunteers. It is also the first reference work ever produced as a way of killing time during coffee breaks. Not the least of Wikipedia’s wonders is to have done away with the drudgery that used to be synonymous with the writing of reference works. An army of anonymous, tech-savvy people – mostly young, mostly men – have effortlessly assembled and organized a body of knowledge unparalleled in human history. “Effortlessly” in the literal sense of without significant effort: when you have 27,842,261 registered editors (not all of them active, it is true), plus an unknown number of anonymous contributors, the odd half-hour here and there soon adds up to a pretty big encyclopedia.
One of the most common gripes about Wikipedia is that it pays far more attention to Pokémon and Game of Thrones than it does to, say, sub-Saharan Africa or female novelists. Well, perhaps; the most widely repeated variants of “Wikipedia has more information on x than y” are in fact largely fictitious (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_has_more…). Given the manner of its compilation, the accursed thing really is a whole lot more reliable than it has any right to be. Like many university lecturers, I used to warn my own students off using Wikipedia (as pointless an injunction as telling them not to use Google, or not to leave their essay to the last minute). I finally gave up doing so about three years ago, after reading a paper by an expert on South Asian coinage in which the author described the Wikipedia entry on the Indo-Greek Kingdom (c.200 BC–AD 10) as the most reliable overview of Indo-Greek history to be found anywhere – quite true, though not necessarily as much of a compliment to Wikipedia as you might think.
As Lynch rightly notes, the problem with Wikipedia is not so much its reliability – which is, for most purposes, perfectly OK – as its increasing ubiquity as a source of information. “
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Some people receive constant reminders on their smartphones: birthdays, anniversaries, doctor’s appointments, social engagements. At work, their computers prompt them to meet deadlines, attend meetings and have lunch with the boss. Prodding here and pinging there, these pop-up interruptions can turn into noise to be ignored instead of helpful nudges.
Something similar is happening to doctors, nurses and pharmacists. And when they’re hit with too much information, the result can be a health hazard. The electronic patient records that the federal government has been pushing — in an effort to coordinate health care and reduce mistakes — come with a host of bells and whistles that may be doing the opposite in some cases.
What’s the problem? It’s called alert fatigue.
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The Church of England has today launched a search for its first Head of Digital Communications.
The advertisement for the new post states the Church is seeking someone to "take risks for the Gospel in exploring how digital engagement can lead to spiritual and numerical growth."
The job description for the new role suggests the postholder will be responsible for "leading a team developing and implementing digital evangelism, discipleship and digital communication strategies for the Church of England".
Commenting on the new post the Rev Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Church of England said: "We are looking for someone who is as confident and comfortable talking about Jesus as they are talking about the latest developments in tech and social media. As a digital evangelist they will utilise the best of digital to proclaim the Gospel.
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The revelation that the 29-year-old man who opened fire on Sunday in a gay nightclub had dedicated the killing to the Islamic State has prompted a now-familiar question: Was the killer truly acting under orders from the Islamic State, or just seeking publicity and the group’s approval for a personal act of hate?
For the terror planners of the Islamic State, the difference is mostly irrelevant.
Influencing distant attackers to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and then carry out mass murder has become a core part of the group’s propaganda over the past two years. It is a purposeful blurring of the line between operations that are planned and carried out by the terror group’s core fighters and those carried out by its sympathizers.
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I have some history with Mr. [Lawrence] Krauss. In an op-ed in 2014 for this newspaper called “Is Science Increasingly Leading Us to God?” I discussed the implications of a fine-tuned universe—and stirred up swirling dust-devils of atheist outrage. Mr. Krauss attacked the op-ed in the New Yorker magazine with an essay called “No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God,” dismissing the idea of a divinely ordered universe as sheer nonsense.
How awkward. None other than Christopher Hitchens himself had taken the fine-tuned-universe argument seriously. In the 2009 documentary “Collision,” about his encounters with evangelical theologian Douglas Wilson, Hitchens says: “At some point, certainly, we [atheists] are all asked which is the best argument you come up against from the other side. I think every one of us picks the fine-tuning one as the most intriguing,” adding that “you have to spend time thinking about it, working on it. It’s not . . . trivial.”
If atheist activists want to be taken seriously, they must be willing to engage the facts. The fact is that Mr. Taunton has simply said that Hitchens late in life was “not certain” of his atheism. Unable to tolerate this crack in the atheist facade, Mr. Taunton’s critics reacted hysterically. The response lent credence to what many of us suspect—that atheists really do fear some facts, and, more than that, fear where those facts might lead.
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A universal cancer vaccine is on the horizon after scientists discovered how to rewire immune cells to fight any type of disease.
The potential new therapy involves injecting tiny particles of genetic code into the body which travel to the immune cells and teach them to recognise specific cancers.
Although scientists have shown previously that is it is possible to engineer immune cells outside the body so they can spot cancer it is the first time it has happened inside cells.
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Bob Collymore, the CEO of Kenya's largest cell phone provider, Safaricom, says his company sought to solve the problem. While a majority of Kenyans don't have a bank account, eight in 10 have access to a cell phone. So in 2007, Safaricom started offering a way to use that cell phone to send and receive cash. They call it M-PESA: m stands for "mobile;" "pesa" is money in Swahili.
Bob Collymore: It is often referred to as Kenya's alternative currency. But safer and more secure.
Lesley Stahl: You're texting money?
Bob Collymore: You are effectively texting money.
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United Methodists have voted to require church boards and agencies to withdraw immediately from an organization that advocates for abortion on demand. Delegates from across the 12.1 million-member denomination adopted a proposal concluding affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) on a vote of 425 to 268 (61 percent to 39 percent) during their quadrennial General Conference meeting in Portland, Oregon.
Two United Methodist agencies, the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW) are coalition members of RCRC.
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