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Monday, July 14, 2014

"Like every first-year undergraduate in philosophy, [Richard] Dawkins thinks he can put to rest the causal argument for God's existence. If God caused the world, then what caused God? Of course the great philosophers, Anselm and Aquinas particularly, are way ahead of him here. They know that the only way to stop the regression is by making God something that needs no cause. He must be a necessary being. This means that God is not part of the regular causal chain but in some sense orthogonal to it. He is what keeps the whole business going, past, present and future, and is the explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Also God is totally simple, and I don't see why complexity should not arise out of this, just as it does in mathematics and science from very simple premises." -- Michael Ruse, author of Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know read more


Monday, July 07, 2014

Mr. Kahan's study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren't willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

So what should we do? One implication of Mr. Kahan's study and other research in this field is that we need to try to break the association between identity and factual beliefs on high-profile issues – for instance, by making clear that you can believe in human-induced climate change and still be a conservative Republican like former Representative Bob Inglis or an evangelical Christian like the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Supreme Court has decided that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy in the personal information they carry on smartphones, ruling unanimously that police may not search such devices without a warrant from a magistrate. The decision is major victory for privacy advocates and the most surprising criminal law ruling handed down in years by the conservative-leaning high court. "Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience," said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. "With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans 'the privacies of life.'" These tiny devices "could just as easily be called cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps or newspapers," he said.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The main reason that Debo Adegbile is not currently the head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is Mumia Abu-Jamal. When Adegbile's nomination came before the Senate in March, he was rejected almost entirely because Adegbile once helped prepare a brief in defense of Abu-Jamal, convicted of murdering a police officer in 1982. In Arkansas, state Supreme Court candidate Tim Cullen faced the political wrath of a law enforcement advocacy group for his 2006 work on an appeal for a man convicted of possessing child pornography. In South Carolina this year, the Republican Governors Association ran the ad below, attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen for having "personally defended dangerous criminals" -- part of his job as a former defense attorney. read more


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New York Times: The surge of desperate young migrants across the southwest border has the Obama administration scrambling to respond. It was clearly ill-prepared for a problem that grew steadily for years before exploding this year, with more than 47,000 unaccompanied children caught at the border since October. ... State officials in Arizona were furious that immigration officials, apparently without better ideas, had dumped hundreds of migrants at a bus station in Phoenix, with no resources, to find their way. Civil-liberties groups have reported that children have told of being beaten, harassed, threatened and sexually abused in detention. Some children, interviewed by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigrant Justice Center, said they had no food or medical care and had been held in icebox-cold cells -- nicknamed hieleras, Spanish for freezers. read more


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