Monday, August 27, 2007

Readin' and Writin' and Repression

Stephen Law asks: "To what extent should schools encourage deference to authority on moral and religious matters?"

Commentary in The Sydney Morning Herald
Transsexual Harassment
To many of Dr. Bailey’s peers, his story is a morality play about the corrosive effects of political correctness on academic freedom.
In 2003, Dr. J. Michael Bailey published “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” a book intended to explain the biology of sexual orientation and gender to a general audience.
He argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies.
Days after the book appeared, Lynn Conway, a prominent computer scientist at the University of Michigan, sent out an e-mail message comparing Dr. Bailey’s views to Nazi propaganda. She and other transgender women found the tone of the book abusive, and the theory of motivation it presented to be a recipe for further discrimination.
Dr. Alice Dreger, an ethics scholar, is a longtime advocate for people born with ambiguous sexuality and has been strongly critical of sex researchers in the past. She said she had presumed that Dr. Bailey was guilty of scientific ethics violations.
But in her just-completed account, due to be published next year in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, the field’s premier journal, she concluded that the accusations against the psychologist were essentially groundless.
Some scientists say that it has become increasingly treacherous to discuss politically sensitive issues. They point to several recent cases, like that of Helmuth Nyborg, a Danish researcher who was fired in 2006 after he caused a furor in the press by reporting a slight difference in average I.Q. test scores between the sexes.
Pentagon Nearly Sends "Left Behind" To Soldiers In Iraq

Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.

What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.

The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up.

From the Los Angeles Times article by Michael L. Weinstein and Reza Aslan
Justice Is Served... Eventually
Mississippi: James Ford Seale, a 72-year-old ex-policeman and former Ku Klux Klansman, has been jailed for life over the 1964 abduction and killing of two black teenagers.
During the 1950s and 1960s, dozens of black people were killed by whites who wanted to retain racial segregation. Few of the crimes were solved, partly because some of the perpetrators were protected by state and local officials. The FBI is re-opening several cases from the civil rights era before suspects die.
Don't Tread On Me. Or Kick Me Into A Net. Or Lob Me Off Your Head.

Americans call them "soccer balls." The rest of the world calls them "footballs." Except in Afghanistan, where they are called "blasphemous." That is, when the balls in question are adorned with the Saudi flag -- which features a verse of the Koran.
BBC's Alastair Leithead reports

In other news, Afghanistan is trying to decide what to do with the other giant Buddhas they didn't destroy.
BBC's Charles Haviland reports

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Newfangled Coffeeshops Create Grande Tizzy In Ivory Tower
Professor Angles for Larry King's Job in What Just Might Be "The Worst Op-Ed Piece Ever Written"

"... Our professor seems to think he has encountered a brand-new cultural phenomenon: coffee places that are disturbingly different from the lunch counters of yesteryear. Well, I did a little Googling, and it turns out he's right! There are hosts of these coffee chain stores, including one with the improbable name Starbucks, infiltrating our cities."
Evil 101

"Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us—under the right circumstances."

The infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" was aborted in less than a week due to its character-imploding power. Along with Stanley Milgram's studies of obedience to authority—the "shock experiments"— the investigation is considered one of the most important pieces of research demonstrating a core tenet of social psychology: external situations can lead us to behave in ways that we would not, could not, predict.

American Scientist Online features details in Robert Levine's review of "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil," by Philip Zimbardo

Also, Discover Magazine Online has this excerpt
Free Speech For Me,
But Not For Thee
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, attacked last week at the launch of her book in southern India, faces up to two years in jail if found guilty on a charge of inciting religious tensions. The Guardian's Richard Lee reports
Meanwhile, a Muslim fundamentalist group has revived a long-standing fatwa on Nasrin, stating that she “has spoken against Islam and Prophet Muhammad and we will go to any extent to eliminate her.” An unlimited amount of money is offered to anyone who will kill her. The Hindustan Times' Rakeeb Hossain reports

"Resentments Rather Than Good Relations"

Staff at a UK hospital have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues.
India's Prosperity Enables Sex Selection
Increased consumer choice is one of the hallmarks of the new India. Tragically, it is being applied, with almost industrial efficiency, to depress the female birth rate.

Friday, August 17, 2007