Category Archives: culture

Princeton Students Debate Limits of Free Expression – FIRE

‘Last Monday, the Princeton faculty voted to approve a statement on free expression to be published in the university’s “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” document, which governs student conduct on campus. Math professor Sergiu Klainerman, who was born and raised in communist Romania, brought the motion. He told The Daily Princetonian that he appreciated the need for free speech in part due to his experience living under a dictatorship:

‘“I learned how easy it is to pervert seemingly good intentions into a repressive system in which free speech is banned,” Klainerman said. “No other impression was more powerful to me than the sense of freedom I experienced during my first weeks and months in U.S.”’

via Princeton Students Debate Limits of Free Expression – FIRE


For the calendar: from U2, ‘Moment Of Surrender’

Excerpt for Good Friday:

… I was speeding on the subway

Through the stations of the cross

Every eye looking every other way

Counting down ’til the pentecost


At the moment of surrender

Of vision of over visibility…

via U2 > Discography > Lyrics > Moment Of Surrender, from No Line on the Horizon, 2009

Penn Jillette on Indiana RFRA: ‘You’re Not Being Forced to Have Gay Sex’ – Hit & Run :

In the following excerpt, Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of, makes a principled point that seems lost on progressives:

“The doctrinaire libertarian position runs in the other direction: For the most part, rights to voluntary association trump claims a person or group might make on your business or service. However you feel about that, Penn [Jillette] hits on an inarguable truth too:

I mean, the free market should be able to take care of this faster than anything.

“That much is not open for debate in at least two important ways. First, in all the accounts I’ve read about businesses turning away customers who wanted something related to a same-sex wedding, the businesses expressly and without issue served gay customers in other contexts. So they were not refusing to serve gays per se. Second, in each instance, there were plenty of other businesses to which customers could turn for service. The market has indeed generated businesses that are very happy to cater to gay and lesbian couples.”

(via Penn Jillette on Indiana RFRA: “You’re Not Being Forced to Have Gay Sex” – Hit & Run :

That being said, yesterday I also reblogged Jonathan Rauch’s piece at, which commended Utah’s version of RFRA over Indiana’s version.



‘The war against humanities at Britain’s universities | Education | The Guardian’

Plenty to consider in the article, but here are especially worthwhile points from interviewed historian Dame Marina Warner:

“Academics used to have a great deal of autonomy, now quite the opposite. And if you look at some of the most successful companies in the world, Microsoft or Google for instance, they have very flat structures. And that’s much more successful. People feel – jargon word – empowered, they feel in charge of their destinies in ways that makes them productive and expressive and inspired, if they’re not being leant on and breathed down on all the time by people in authority who often do not have legitimate title to that authority, people who are just brought in and appointed without any proper screening structures….Ethically, universities should not have these toppling hierarchies, they should be examples of good conduct in society…”

via The war against humanities at Britain’s universities | Education | The Guardian.

via The war against humanities at Britain’s universities | Education | The Guardian.

‘Researchers Uncover Ancient Mask Of Pagan God Pan In Northern Israel’ — Huffington Post

“Although Pan hails from Greco-Roman pagan traditions, ancient worship of the god — called Faunus in Roman tradition — has been documented in Israel. Paneas, also called Banias, is now a nature reserve and archaeological site near the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi in the Golan Heights. The city was located within the region known as the ‘Panion,’ named after the deity, and housed shrines and temples in his honor.”

via Researchers Uncover Ancient Mask Of Pagan God Pan In Northern Israel

The neurobiology of religion: from ‘The friendly atheists next door’ –

From The friendly atheists next door –

“Todd Stiefel told me about a lecture on the neurobiology of religion that he’d heard at an American Atheists convention several years ago. It was delivered by Dr. Andy Thomson, a psychiatrist who lives in Virginia and has studied the components of religious belief.

“Thomson has become famous among atheists for an exercise that seems to demonstrate how worship services work – why even lapsing Catholics like Harry sometimes felt that ‘Sunday morning high’ after church.

“In his experiment, Thomson asks members of the crowd to pinch themselves, hard, to gauge their pain threshold, and then to put their arms around each other and sing a few verses of ‘Amazing Grace.’

“Stiefel, who participated in the exercise, says the crowd couldn’t keep a straight face. Atheists singing ‘Amazing Grace’!?! But afterward, he said, he felt bonded to this unlikely choir, and when he pinched himself again, his pain threshold had increased.

“The experiment demonstrates the power of communal rituals, Thomson told me in an interview. Joining hands and singing together floods our brain with soothing endorphins, which boost our sense of trust and cooperation.

“It’s similar to how fans bond at the ballpark, and why after singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ and standing for ‘the wave,’ we often feel good, even if our team loses.”

via The friendly atheists next door –

‘Priest arrested for exorcism on anorexic girl’ – The Local

Some people still believe the body is like a puppet for an immaterial soul. Some people believe the physical body is subject to invisible forces. But in some well-documented cases, the culprits in real-world problems can be found in the real-world body and more specifically in the brain.

I know next to nothing about anorexia, but the following story seems outrageous. From The Local: Spain’s News in English:

“A judge in Burgos has called for the arrest of exorcist, Jesús Hernández Sahagún, along with the girl’s priest after she went through 13 exorcisms while still a minor.

“Sahagún, the official exorcist of Valladolid, is facing charges of gender violence, causing injury and mistreatment according to local newspaper, Diario de Burgos, and has been asked to make a statement on the events.

“The events date back to 2012, when the girl began to suffer from anorexia. According to El País, her religious parents became convinced she was possessed by the devil and decided to have their child exorcised.

“She was tied up and had crucifixes positioned over her head, according to El País.

“The girl subsequently attempted suicide and an investigation was launched after her aunts and uncles filed a complaint.”

via Priest arrested for exorcism on anorexic girl – The Local