9/25/2009 10:54:57 AM
Hardcore Christian creationism isn’t just for the U.S. Bible Belt. A creationism-based zoo outside Bristol, England, attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year with its mixture of furry animals and fuzzy science, reports New Humanist in its Sept.-Oct. 2009 issue. At Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in North Somerset, owner Anthony Bush perpetuates a unique interpretation of the earth’s history, which of course includes a global flood and a kindly man with a large boat who saves all the animals—but also branches into soundly unscientific territory concerning the non-evolution of humans.
New Humanist writer Paul Sims, on his visit to the zoo, found the creationist agenda to be more implicit than explicit in the place’s signage and materials. “Rather than providing the headlines, creationist propaganda … was more often than not inserted alongside established science,” he writes. “Unless you are actually looking for the creationism you might not even notice it.”
But I suspect Sims, in his humanist heart of hearts, is trying too hard to overlook the obvious. The magazine gives enough glimpses of Bush’s interpretive displays to establish the zoo as a wonderland of weird science:
One sign reads, “Eating meat was allowed after the flood. Before this most people might have been veggies.”
Another describes “30 reasons why apes are not related to man.”
And another boldly states, “All the people in the world come from Noah’s sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Caucasian from Japheth, Semitic from Shem, Negroid/Mongoloid/Redskin from Ham.”
The zoo has made the news a couple of times since the New Humanist article came out: The BBC covered the British Humanist Association’s objections to the zoo, and earlier this week one of the zoo’s tigers ascended a climbing tower and wouldn’t come down.
If the cat is that freaked out by life at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, imagine how it would do aboard Noah’s ark.
Source: New Humanist, BBC
9/24/2009 3:32:48 PM
Why are increasing numbers of Americans declaring themselves as having “no religion”? Don’t automatically assume that a new wave of godlessness is sweeping the land, writes Christopher McKnight Nichols in the Fall 2009 issue of Culture magazine. Nichols attributes the trend to three different factors, none of them having to do with humanism, paganism, socialism, or Satanism taking over:
“First, over the past few decades there has been a marked trend toward sharper polarization among religious outlooks.” Nichols cites the rise of evangelical Christian influence under the George W. Bush presidency, but also the more recent emergence of polemic “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris.
“Second, diverse changes on the geopolitical stage have had profound impacts on images of public religion.” Americans’ common enemy used to be the godless powers of Europe and Asia. Now we are chilled by the specter of Islamist extremists driven by a deep religiosity—and suddenly it’s not so clear whose side God is on. “No doubt there will be important consequences for American civic culture,” he writes, “now that affirming America’s godliness no longer servers to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them.’ ”
“Finally, alienation from organized religion is growing for other reasons.” While Nichols is hard pressed to speculate on these reasons, he notes that while fewer of us are calling ourselves “religious,” more of us are calling ourselves “spiritual,” indicating a growing acceptance that the two are not synonymous—and that “one can believe in God and yet have no religion.”
Source: Culture (article available in PDF)
Image by *BGP*, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/24/2009 10:30:50 AM
Psychologists are experimenting with mindfulness exercises to fight eating disorders, according to the Psychotherapy Networker. A treatment program known as the Enhancing Mindfulness for the Prevention of Weight Regain (empower) uses breathing and visualization exercises to help people better understand their thoughts, emotions, and associations with food.
“People who struggle with their emotions and thoughts often externalize their psychological battles,” according to the article, “by denying themselves nourishment to starve unwelcome feelings or overeating to smother them.” The exercises are designed to help people better understand those emotions and empower them to change their diets for the better.
Source: Psychotherapy Networker
9/18/2009 11:25:48 AM
Utne Reader has partnered with Link TV to present Global Spirit, an "internal travel series" covering the spiritual, mental, and physical practices that define us as human beings. Watch excerpts from the series here, or view entire episodes at the Link TV website.
This episode, The Spiritual Quest, explores the personal, spiritual journey with Karen Armstrong, best-selling author of A History of God, and Robert Thurman, the first American ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk.
9/17/2009 2:39:38 PM
Many of the most revered love stories involve people taking huge risks and enduring pain and suffering in the name of love. It makes for nice stories, but it’s not a blueprint for enduring love, according to renowned law and philosophy professor Martha Nussbaum in The New Republic. In a review of the new book A Vindication of Love, Nussbaum writes that people probably should take more risks, but love is not increased by the pain and suffering that lovers are forced to endure.
“It is certainly possible that in America in our own era we are seeing a rising tide of risk aversion,” Nussbaum writes. Students seem more calculating in matters of the heart than they were in the 1960s and 70s. In that sense, Nussbaum believes that, “one should be willing to incur risk for the sake of a deep and valuable love.” At the same time, a person shouldn’t move from risk-aversion directly into the grandiose, “crashingly obvious” expressions of love that are so often intertwined with expressions of pain and suffering. Nussbaum writes, “The idea that love is improved by suffering and loss is an adolescent view,” and one best left to Romeo and Juliet.
Source: The New Republic
9/9/2009 5:09:03 PM
Listening to a mortar attack in Iraq, Army journalist and avowed atheist Spencer Case felt the urge to kneel down and pray. Later, staring at the stars in the dead of night, he offered this prayer:
Dear God, I have come to the conclusion you probably don’t exist, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that any one view I hold may turn out to be mistaken, however unlikely the odds seem. So if you are there, if I am wrong, you know where to find me.
In an article for The Humanist, Case explores his impulse to pray, in spite of his nonbelief. He concludes that “every serious nonbeliever must take a good hard look at what he or she is walking away from.”
, licensed under
9/3/2009 4:37:33 PM
Humans are treating the natural world like a giant Ponzi scheme, according to David P. Barash in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He writes that a small number of investors are cashing in on the earth’s natural resources, constantly paid off by “more suckers, more growth, more GNP, based—as all Ponzi schemes are—on the fraud of ‘more and more,’ with no foreseeable reckoning, and thus, the promise of no comeuppance, neither legal nor economic nor ecologic. At least in the short run.”
Treating the environment this way is unsustainable, like all Ponzi schemes. According to Barash, people cannot continue to rely on the next technological advance to come to humanity’s rescue.
The problem is that the unsustainable, consumerist mindset can’t simply disappear. It needs to be replaced with something, Amitai Etzioni writes for Prospect. A mass dialogue is already underway “about the relationship between consumerism and human flourishing,” that could redefine humanity’s relationship to work, consumption, and the definition of the “good life.”
“We need a culture that extols sources of human flourishing besides acquisition,” Etzioni writes. He suggests people focus on communitarian pursuits, that value human relationships, and transcendental ones, like spirituality, art, and philosophy. Whatever people choose to focus on, Etzioni writes that society needs to value pursuits enrich people’s lives, rather than extract from the earth.
Chronicle of Higher Education
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