The Mindful Hack is a Web log of Denyse O'Leary, co-author of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (HarperOne August 2007). The Mindful Hack publishes information of interest on the relationship between the mind and the brain. O'Leary also publishes the Post-Darwinist, which keeps up with the intelligent design controversy.
Monday, November 26, 2007
How did religious affiliation become so important in politics, columnist asks
Peggy Noonan asks, in the Wall Street Journal, what’s with all this business of wanting to know all about an American political candidate’s religious affiliation (in what church he is formally listed as a member)?
She’s a pretty experienced hand, and according to her, that’s new.
In 1968 we were, as now, a religious country. But when we walked to the polls, we thought we were about to hire a president, not a Bible study teacher.
You can be touched by a candidate's faith, or interested in his apparent lack of it. It's never wholly unimportant, but you should never see a politician as a leader of faith, and we should not ask a man who made his rise in the grubby world of politics to act as if he is an exemplar of his faith, or an explainer or defender of it.
We have the emphasis wrong. It's out of kilter. And the result is a Mitt Romney being harassed on radio shows about the particulars of his faith, and Hillary Clinton -- a new-class yuppie attorney and board member -- announcing how important her Methodist faith is and how much she loves wearing her diamond cross. For all I know, for all you know, it is true. But there is about it an air of patronizing the rubes and boobs.
Yes, some people are worried about the fact that Mitt Romney, a US Republican candidate, is a Mormon. Whatever happened to asking where candidates stand on political issues and - this is really important - looking at their track record for following through on what they say they believe? (If he isn’t going to do much anyway, it doesn’t matter what he says or thinks or believes.)
Birth order: Is being “bossy” in your elder sister’s genes?
Does birth order make a difference in personality? Yes, according to some scientists and no according to others. A vicious paper war has been going on in this subject for years:
In a vitriolic exchange with Sulloway on the edge.org website, [Judith] Harris explains that the strategies children learn to use at home to get along with siblings are not the same as those they employ outside home and in later life.
[ ... ]
For his part, Sulloway is unapologetic. "Judith Harris does not really have a point," he says.
And so forth.
(Did you notice how much the exchange sounds like a fight between a brother and sister? I wonder ... )
As an eldest sister myself, I know the answer and will announce it to you right now, to save you younger siblings further trouble: Eldest Sister is always right and she always rules. As it happens, Eldest Sister does not have an opinion on this subject, so for once you are free to believe what you please.
British journalist blasts the anti-God “nutters”
Revealing that former British prime minister Tony Blair feared that he thought he would be labelled a “nutter” for believing in God, the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips weighs in on the anti-God crowd, charging that the shoe is on the other foot, “The real nutters are the fanatics who despise religious belief.” Granting that Islamic extremists who blow themselves and others to pieces are off the mental map, she argues, essentially, that the climate of intolerance that secularists create is a step in the same direction. For example, Richard Dawkins
... and his followers have created a climate of rampant intolerance towards religion, in which to acknowledge personal faith is to risk professional and social ostracism.
Yet the foundations of British society and Western civilisation rest upon the Bible and Christianity.
It is the concept of a rational creator that lies behind the rationalism of the West. The idea of equality - fundamental to Western liberalism - derives from the belief that all human beings were created in the image of God.
Of course, if all else fails, as Phillips notes, British Christians could try growing a backbone and standing up to the nonsense - as Oxford mathematician John Lennox recently did with his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, in which he shows that science is burying militant materialist atheism.
AntiMatters reviews The Spiritual Brain
Here’s AntiMatters’ review of The Spiritual Brain, by managing editor Ulrich J Mohrhoff.
AntiMatters is a journal published by Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondicherry, India:
AntiMatters is for those who are uncomfortable with (or unconvinced of) materialism, or who favor a non-materialistic world view. Such persons are oftentimes unaware of how much of what is claimed to have been scientifically established is actually spurious.The review quotes extensively from the book, and while Mohrhoff takes exception to some of our concepts, he obviously enjoyed reading the book and agrees with us in general.