Author: Sam

How parents need to figure out how to talk to their kids without involving religion

Emily Freeman, a writer in Montana, grew up unaffiliated to a religion — culturally Jewish on her father’s side, a smattering of churchgoing on her mother’s. She and her husband Nathan Freeman talked about not identifying as religious — but they didn’t really discuss how it would affect their parenting. “I think we put it in the big basket of things that we figured we had so much time to think about,” Emily joked. But then they had kids, and the kids came home from their grandfather’s house talking about Bible stories. Nathan acknowledges that this came from a good place, and his father was acting in concern. “He feels like these lessons encapsulate a blueprint for how to move through life. And so of course, why wouldn’t we want our children to have those lessons alongside them as they travel through the world?” But while Nathan and Emily wanted their kids to learn about love and compassion, they didn’t want them to hear Bible stories. When the boys were so young, the certainty of those stories …

The cognitive science of religion

The cognitive science of religion (CSR) is a scientific approach to the study of religion that combines methods and theory from cognitive, developmental and evolutionary psychology with the sorts of questions that animate anthropologists and historians of religion. Specifically, CSR explores causal explanations of religious phenomena (thoughts, ideas, practices and experiences) across peoples and populations. It asks ‘How does ordinary human psychology inform and constrain religious expression?’ Four current prominent topics in CSR are introduced here: teleological reasoning about the natural world; children’s acquisition of God concepts; ‘minimal counterintuitiveness theory’; and religion and prosociality. Why is religion so common around the world? Why do some religious ideas and practices out-compete others? Why do religious practices take on common characteristics across cultures, and how deeply imbedded in human history and nature is religion? The cognitive science of religion (CSR) tackles questions such as these, attempting to understand the reasons for initial acquisition, recurrence, and continued transmission of religious concepts and behaviour. Psychologists – particularly scientific psychologists – have the training and tools to address such issues, …

How different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others

How different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others

Impact studies have revealed how different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others. One irony, as many have pointed out, is that a lot of these regions voted for Brexit. Another irony, which is less talked about, is that these are also regions that benefit a great deal from EU regional policy. The UK is an unevenly developed state. Some territories (such as London) are much more well off than others (such as the northeast of England) as a result of decades of investment (or under-investment) in their economies. Others benefit from varying levels of devolution, which gives them a relatively greater autonomy to tailor policy to their own needs, and stronger political representation within Britain and the EU. Over recent decades, when the UK government has fallen short in terms of regional policy to address the needs of less economically favoured regions, the EU has provided much-needed support. So the key question now is what will happen to the regions which have relied on this in the event of any Brexit? So far this remains …

The flaw in Press Review announced by Theresa May

There are two ways of looking at the new Press Review announced by Theresa May, the UK prime minister: a genuine attempt to inject some badly needed funds into the failing business model of journalism, or another backhander to the mainstream corporate press to keep them sweet. Depressingly, history suggests the latter. The prime minister was effusive about the importance of journalism as a “huge force for good” – and anyone who has seen Spielberg’s The Post could scarcely disagree. That film encapsulated everything noble about great reporting and the vital importance of a free and independent press to a healthy democracy. May chose to highlight the crisis in local journalism – where the journalism may be less dramatic than that portrayed by Tom Hanks et al, but is just as vital: the leaders of local institutions such as hospitals, police forces, local courts or local councils can be equally susceptible to corruption or incompetence and also require the kind of scrutiny which keeps them accountable to local people. At a more mundane level, communities …

Why Democratic governments regularly supply weapons to oppressive regimes

Democratic governments regularly supply weapons to what are sometimes called “outlaw states” – oppressive regimes that violate the basic rights of their own citizens, or aggressive regimes that wrongfully threaten the security of outsiders. Sometimes democratic governments sell the weapons themselves; sometimes they issue export licenses to private arms firms within their jurisdiction. Both practices are frequently condemned on moral grounds. But how might governments who help to arm outlaw states try to defend themselves? What arguments could they appeal to in an attempt to justify their actions? Politicians sometimes claim that their acts make no difference to the degree of suffering inflicted by the regimes that they arm – that if they didn’t sell weapons to the regimes in question, some other government would. For example, when it was revealed in 2014 that Hong Kong’s riot police had used British-made tear gas against unarmed pro-democracy protesters, then foreign secretary Philip Hammond remarked: “CS gas is available from large numbers of sources around the world. To be frank, I think that is a rather immaterial …

Does Gender Matter?

When I was 14 years old, I had an unusually talented maths teacher. One day after school, I excitedly pointed him out to my mother. To my amazement, she looked at him with shock and said with disgust: “You never told me that he was black”. I looked over at my teacher and, for the first time, realized that he was an African-American. I had somehow never noticed his skin colour before, only his spectacular teaching ability. I would like to think that my parents’ sincere efforts to teach me prejudice were unsuccessful. I don’t know why this lesson takes for some and not for others. But now that I am 51, as a female-to-male transgendered person, I still wonder about it, particularly when I hear male gym teachers telling young boys “not to be like girls” in that same derogatory tone. HYPOTHESIS TESTING Last year, Harvard University president Larry Summers suggested that differences in innate aptitude rather than discrimination were more likely to be to blame for the failure of women to advance in …

How fast can humans run?

How fast can humans run? The fastest person clocked on our planet today is the Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt, who ran the 100 meter sprint at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in a world record of 9.58 seconds, which works out to be about 37.6 kilometers per hour or 23.4 miles per hour. For a brief period during that sprint, Bolt reached an astounding 12.3 meters per second (27.51 mph or 44.28 kph).nd (27.51 mph or 44.28 kph). As a physical activity, running is qualitatively different from walking. In running, a person’s legs flex and the muscles are forcibly stretched and then contracted during acceleration. The potential gravitational energy and the kinetic energy available in a person’s body changes as the center of mass in the body changes. That is thought to be because of the alternating release and absorption of energy in the muscles. What Makes an Elite Runner? Scholars believe that the fastest runners, the elite sprinters, are those who run economically, meaning that they use a low amount of energy per unit …

Oman is turning to Twitter to help govern

Research conducted by the Dubai School of Government into the Arab Spring of 2010-11 found that mass protests on the ground were often preceded by revolutionary conversations online, and that social media such as Twitter played a central role in shaping the political events. Having studied changes in internet traffic and social media use, they concluded that social media during the Arab Spring played a critical role in “mobilisation, empowerment, shaping opinions, and influencing change”. In some cases, such as in Dubai, the government used social media to engage citizens and encourage participation in institutional rather than revolutionary change. In other cases, such as in Egypt, governments blocked access to websites used by protesters, or even shut down access to the entire internet. Following the Arab Spring, citizens of the Persian Gulf state of Oman became aware of Twitter’s potential and decided to adopt it as a platform for addressing social problems, rather than instigating revolutions. For example, unemployment for young people even with degrees is a problem in Oman, as it is in other …

Introduction to Holography skepticsociety.co.uk

Introduction to Holography

If you’re carrying money, a drivers license, or credit cards, you’re carrying around holograms. The dove hologram on a Visa card may be the most familiar. The rainbow-colored bird changes colors and appears to move as you tilt the card. Unlike a bird in a traditional photograph, a holographic bird is a three-dimensional image. Holograms are formed by interference of light beams from a laser. HOW LASERS MAKE HOLOGRAMS Holograms are made using lasers because laser light is “coherent.” What this means is that all of the photons of laser light have exactly the same frequency and phase difference. Splitting a laser beam produces two beams that are the same color as each other (monochromatic). In contrast, regular white light consists of many different frequencies of light. When white light is diffracted, the frequencies split to form a rainbow of colors. In conventional photography, the light reflected off an object strikes a strip of film that contains a chemical (i.e., silver bromide) that reacts to light. This produces a two-dimensional representation of the subject. A …

Re-evaluating present human rights for the future

Since the mid-20th century many have grown used to the idea of having human rights and how these can be used when those people feel they are being threatened. In particular, despite having a heritage stemming back further, contemporary understanding of these rights was largely formed in 1948. That’s when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) was created. This milestone document sought to facilitate a new world order following the devastation of World War II. It declared all humans to be born free and equal. It committed states to protect rights such as those to life, to be free from torture, to work, and to an adequate standard of living. These promises have since been cemented in international treaties, including the 1966 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in regional instruments like the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR). More recently, however, states have started to think again. In the US, the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency have involved openly flouting international human rights commitments, most …