Tag Archives: New York Times

When a woman is not a ‘woman,’ according to men

This week’s Strange Days column takes on Meet the Press:

Earlier that morning, on Meet the Press, Carly Fiorina patiently tried to explain to two men that abortion isn’t the only issue women care about when it comes to a presidential election.

Fiorina is the former chief executive and chairman of Hewlett-Packard and now the Vice-Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, so she was advocating Mitt Romney for president. 

She was trying to explain to the usually sharp David Gregory, host of Meet the Press, and the famous Tom Friedman, author and columnist for the New York Times, that women vote on issues other than abortion.

Underlying Gregory’s questions and Friedman’s comments was a sexist assumption: “women” and the “women’s vote” equals the “pro-choice vote.” The class of people called “women” were those who are only concerned about reproductive issues — and don’t care about anything else.

Read all of “Women at the tables.”

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark explains Religious Freedom to New York Times

A letter to the editor from the New York Times website, a version of which appeared in today’s print edition:

Re “Bishops Sue Over Contraception Mandate” (news article, May 22):

The lawsuits by Catholic institutions are not about abortion, contraception, sterilization or other procedures. They are about ensuring that all religious organizations — no matter their particular faith — can publicly live out and express without editing or abridgment what their faiths teach. They are about ensuring that the institutions — and not government — determine what to believe and how to practice their beliefs.

They are about ensuring that any religious institution — not just Catholic institutions — may uphold its teaching and still serve all people in need, regardless of faith. Under the final rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the only way a Catholic hospital, school or social service agency can continue to stay Catholic is to limit care, services or education solely to Catholics.

The administration gives us three options: violate our beliefs, go out of business or serve only our members. “Are you hungry?” or “How do you feel?” must become “Sorry, Catholics only.” That is not acceptable.

The First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This administration has tossed aside this first of all freedoms for everyone, not just Catholics.

How ironic that this administration, which is violating our right to believe in the sanctity of life at all stages, recently offered asylum to a Chinese man persecuted by his government because he believes that certain practices are immoral.

(Most Rev.) JOHN J. MYERS
Archbishop of Newark
Newark, May 23, 2012

Director Ridley Scott and a question: What is justified, rational belief?

Director Ridley Scott’s new movie Prometheus is due June 8.

A fairly obvious cultural subtext emerges from this excerpt in today’s New York Times on Scott and Prometheus.

On the one hand, he said, he was inspired by the current quest to look for life beyond Earth, under the sands of Mars and in the oceans beneath the ice covering Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“I think, wow, this is a pretty useful basis for my film,” Mr. Scott recalled.

At the other end of the credibility scale is the pop archaeologist Erich von Daniken, who argued in books like his 1968 “Chariots of the Gods” that there was archaeological evidence in the form of things like the Nazca lines in Peru that we had received visitors from outer space. His claims gained no traction among professional archaeologists, but, Mr. Scott said, “to me it all made sense.”

In news conferences and in conversation Mr. Scott has evinced sympathy for the notion — popular in some circles, including the Vatican — that it is almost “mathematically impossible” for life on Earth to have gotten to where it is today without help.

“It is so enormously irrational that we can do this,” he went on, referring to our conversation — “two specs of atoms on a carbon ball.”

“Who pushed it along?” he asked. Have we been previsited by gods or aliens? “The fact that they’d be at least a billion years ahead of us in technology is daunting, and one might use the word God or gods or engineers of life in space.”

And would we want to meet them again? Mr. Scott’s countryman the cosmologist Stephen Hawking has suggested that we should be careful Out There. “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet,” Dr. Hawking said.

Mr. Scott agreed: “Hopefully they won’t visit.”

Let us consider: A belief that makes sense to an individual, yet that belief doesn’t gain the support of experts. Irrational? Alternative? Plausible? Crazy?


The good news about human willpower: a new book by John Tierney

Human willpower doesn’t have the best relationship with Christianity. Human will has been described as rebellion against God, and pastors throughout history have spoken of willpower’s inadequacy for obtaining salvation.

All that is true enough in Christian theology. However, much of what’s expected of me on a daily basis — care for my own health, care for my family, care for the necessary material blessings of this life, care for the duties of my job — require a willpower available to all people at all times through common grace. 

In this video interview with Reason magazine, New York Times science columnist John Tierney talks about the recently released book he wrote with psychologist Roy Baumeister (Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength). Tierney talks about changes in the self-help movement in recent decades and goes on to say that a child’s achievement later in life can be predicted based on his or her demonstrated — or parentally developed — willpower.  

Perhaps we could say the problem is not willpower, but what we hope and expect to accomplish with it.

 Related articles

David Brooks: What’s the big idea? | Books | The Guardian

…here Brooks quotes Hume with approval: “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.”

Why is a New York Times columnist such a big deal in England, a big enough deal to meet with the prime minister? For the answer, read: David Brooks: What’s the big idea? | Books | The Guardian.

Researcher notes that some people love their neighbors more than themselves

Below is the beginning of an article about an area of psychological research called “self-compassion.” Christianity, generally speaking, could address about the basis for self-compassion: redemption, grace, and mercy from the Creator.

From the New York Times:

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?

That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

This idea does seem at odds with the advice dispensed by many doctors and self-help books, which suggest that willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.

Read the entire article here.

A clue to the existence of Heaven?

From a New York Times interview with Brian Greene, physicist at Columbia University:

In your forthcoming book, “The Hidden Reality,” you ponder the possibility of a “multiverse” composed of many universes. But what kind of worlds are we talking about? Clumps of subatomic particles in space? Or universes with restaurants and museums?

Some might have museums and restaurants. Some might have copies of you and me having a conversation similar to this one. Yet other universes would be vastly different. They could involve a gigantic expansive space that might be filled with other forms of matter governed by other kinds of physical laws. In one such universe, when the apple is released by a tree, it might go up instead of down.