Thirty Three Things (v. 2)
1. It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming
When people protest the notion that God should care about sports, they tend to be (1) atheists or agnostics who doubt God's existence in the first place and find the notion of God caring about sports particularly ridiculous, (2) de facto Deists who believe that God created the order of things and then sits back to watch it all unwind, (3) people of faith who believe that God guides history (through natural or supernatural means) in the broadest sense but does not get involved in the sordid details, or (4) just people of faith who really haven't thought it through.
7. Weird News of the Week: Italian mayor bans death
If nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes, then the mayor of a town north of Naples, Italy, had better ban taxes -- because he's already banned death.
Giulio Cesare Fava resides over a hamlet of 4,000 citizens, and told them about a week and a half ago that it is "Forbidden for residents to go beyond the boundaries of earthly life and to go into to the afterlife because the cemetery is running out of room." An expansion had been planned but, to again quote the mayor, "There are no more riches available."
So far two residents have defied the order, to no legal consequence.
Are diseases genetic? That's the simplified and distorted mantra we hear every day in the media -- that scientists have just discovered the gene causing this or that disease.
The truth is that genes only very rarely cause diseases. An illuminating new study in the journal Science Translational Medicine helps clarify what geneticists have been trying to explain to us for years: genes influence, but they don't determine.
Analysts fear the price of the spice is on the brink of explosion amid concerns of a shortage of the commodity.
The combination of poor harvests in two of the world's main producing countries and opportunists stockpiling supplies is already causing a surge on commodity markets.
12. Image of the Week: "5,000 Books Pour Out of a Building in Spain"
The point is that questions, even tough questions, can be answered. And when they are answered, the questioner grows in his knowledge and understanding. Don't worry whether the Bible can stand up to your questions. It is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.
Doubts are another thing altogether. A doubt cannot be answered in principle. How do these doubts afflict us, and how should we respond? A doubt begins with words sucsh as "what if . . ." "What is Christ is not God?" "What if the Bible is not inspired?" Doubts are counterfeit questions. They have a surface resemblance to questions but are far removed from them in one major respect: they have no answers and never will.
The National Weather Service on Monday plans to begin a new initiative in Kansas and Missouri designed to make people in Tornado Alley sit up and take notice when potentially devastating twisters are headed their way. Under the new system, tornado warnings will be accompanied by stark language like, "mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors," according to the National Weather Service.
Or even: "This storm is not survivable." "We call this 'impact-based warning," Dan Hawblitzel, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, said on Sunday.
16. Animal of the Week: Hypnodog
Some critics of apocalypse enthusiasts accuse them of taking pleasure in the prospect of the damnation of unbelievers. Many no doubt do, but I think this idea is misleading. When I was part of that Late, Great mindset and culture, I didn't know anybody who relished the thought of sinners falling into the hands of the Antichrist, and suffering horribly. Surely some did, but not as many as you may think. To reiterate, the consolation offered by the Late, Great vision was rather this: 1) it offered an explanation for hard-to-understand, scary events in the world; 2) it assured you that none of this was random, that as chaotic as things seemed, God was actually in control, and things were unfolding according to His plan; and 3) as awful as things were getting, God was going to rapture His people off the planet before the worst happened.
If this sounds like the most ridiculous stuff you've ever heard, I would suggest that you ask yourself if you have ever felt terrified, vulnerable, and close to being overwhelmed by chaos.
Pennies are more of a burden than a help to us. This year, the U.S. Mint will churn out 4.3 billion of them, more than twice the annual output of all other coins combined. Because the penny costs more than a cent to produce, the Treasury loses more than $100 million per year on the coin's production. Production is up in part because of hoarding, and in part because more and more people are throwing them in jars or drawers and never taking them out again. Few people now bother to pick up a penny when they see it on the street. It's simply not worth the effort.
Having wrestled with the best way to choose a new leader, the Church of England has decided to use the social networking site Twitter. It will also seek the views of people of all faiths and none, from the Chief Rabbi to Professor Richard Dawkins.
For the first time in history, the long and usually private process will begin with a widespread public consultation, to be finished by the end of May.
The Crown Nominations Commission, which must present the Prime Minister with two possible successors to Dr Rowan Williams, will also ask for contributions from "senior figures in other faiths, the secular world and the life of the nation".
22. HistoricalLOL of the Week
A century ago Robert Falcon Scott and his men perished on their return from the South Pole. But what did they eat as they explored one of the harshest places on earth - and did their diet contribute to their deaths?
Cities are famous for being incubators of creativity and ideas, fueled by diversity and constant exposure to people unlike ourselves. But two new studies on friendship and people's cellphone habits complicate that picture by offering hints that the bigger our pond, the smaller we may make our world.
(Via: Alan Jacobs)
26. The United States has a long history of inadvertently (and sometimes not so inadvertently) training future coup plotters around the world.
There was a time when mothers gave their babies opium, people bought hallucinogens at the local bar, and anxious patriots sent hypodermic needles and cocaine to soldiers as a present. It was called The Great Binge, and it's probably wrong to feel sad that it's over.
Today we have Bayer Aspirin. It relieves headaches. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, they had Bayer Heroin. It was most often a cough syrup, though it probably took care of headaches as well. Heroin was not a slang term developed for a drug, but an actual brand name claimed by the drug company. (They have since allowed their proprietary claim on the name to lapse.) This, and many other drugs were used for everyday maladies like dry throats, menstrual cramps, and babies who cried too long. The period between 1870 and 1918 was called The Great Binge --- and people shoved everything into their bodies that they could.
28. How-To of the Week: Train Your Brain and Boost Your Memory Like a USA Memory Champion
Sleeping householders are going to be woken up in the middle of the night to discover someone breaking into their house - only to discover it is the police.
Police in Shoebury, Essex, have been going round testing doors and windows of houses to check if they have been left unlocked - and if they find an easy way in they will wake up the household to warn them their house is insecure.
The new police campaign is aimed at warning people of the dangers of late-night break ins - but predictably, those who have been woken have not been happy so far.
I discovered, to my surprise, an entire body of literature devoted to the question of whether or not there ever was a real man, Jesus.
I was surprised because I am trained as a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity, and for thirty years I have written extensively on the historical Jesus, the Gospels, the early Christian movement, and the history of the church's first three hundred years. Like all New Testament scholars, I have read thousands of books and articles in English and other European languages on Jesus, the New Testament, and early Christianity. But I was almost completely unaware---as are most of my colleagues in the field---of this body of skeptical literature.
I should say at the outset that none of this literature is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world). Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools, none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed. But a whole body of literature out there, some of it highly intelligent and well informed, makes this case.
32. Study of the Week: Narcissism Mixed With Religion Breeds Hypocrisy
33. Shadow Sword Fight