Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sam Harris: The ‘Salon’ Interview

(Photo via the  Matthias Rhomberg)

"I consider Salon to be among the worst offenders of the new pseudo-journalism, and I have long maintained a personal boycott of the website. I ask my publishers to ignore any requests from its editors for interviews or for review copies of my books. And on the rare occasions that Salon publishes good work—the articles of Jeffrey Tayler stand out—I decline to forward the links on social media. My reason is simple: Despite the work of a few blameless writers, Salon has become a cesspool of lies and moral confusion."

-Sam Harris

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Can venting angrily on the Internet lead to heart disease? |

Can venting angrily on the Internet lead to heart disease? In this week’s eSkeptic, Carol Tavris discusses some research that points to a significant correlation between our negative language patterns (such as anger, hatred, and aggression) and health risks such as heart disease.

Dr. Carol Tavris is a social psychologist and coauthor, with Elliot Aronson, of Mistakes Were Made (but not by ME).

Trolling (illustration by Pat Linse)

The story that follows is prehistoric. It involves a once-famous columnist, a letter (the written kind), the U.S. post office, an apology, and a moral.

The columnist was Russell Baker, who had written an essay that I, in my self-righteous gadfly-in-training youth, regarded as a sarcastic dismissal of what was then called women’s liberation—the movement for mere improvements in education, work, family life, reproductive rights, and so forth. These issues were important to me, so I wrote him a letter, full of what I thought were equally sarcastic, witty put-downs. I failed to sleep on it overnight. I mailed it.

Baker returned my letter to me— edited. I’d irked him, and he had written all over the margins with sparky annoyance.

I replied, apologizing for my rude tone and explaining what I’d meant to say.

He replied warmly, and ended, “Could this be the beginning of a beautiful and civilized correspondence?”

Skeptic magazine 20.3 (cover) This column of “The Gadfly,” by Carol Tavris, appeared in Skeptic magazine 20.3 (2015). Order the print edition Order the digital edition At the time, researchers in many fields, from social psychology to epidemiology, were rapidly dismantling the “catharsis hypothesis,” held by millions of therapists, group leaders, teachers, and parents who believed that it was important for a person’s mental and physical health to ventilate their anger. (You can still buy bats and dolls to use for this reason in the privacy of your own home.) This belief stemmed from a misreading of Freud, who thought that aggressive energy builds up in us like steam in a teapot, and will boil right over in disastrous ways if not “let out.” However, they missed part 2 of Freud’s argument, which was that the “letting out” part should be sublimated into constructive activities, such as creating art. Freud would have been horrified by the many therapists who were handing out bataca bats to violent teenagers and to quarreling married couples with instructions to pound away…

Monday, November 16, 2015

Still Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon | Sam Harris

Daniel Pierce Wright (Getty Images)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris reflects on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Deep In The Amazon, An Unseen Battle Over The Most Valuable Trees | NPR

Elizeu Berçacola leads this group of rubber tappers who fight to prevent illegal logging.

In this part of the Amazon rain forest, they call it "the war over wood." It has front lines.
One of them is here, in Machadinho d'Oeste in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.

The self-described "Guardians of the Forest" defending the land don't look like fighters, at least when we first meet them. But they are pitting themselves against criminal logging gangs that have infiltrated their protected reserves.

In their everyday life, they are rubber tappers. They take us on a trail that leads to their rubber trees, which grow wild on the reserves where they live. These trees are native to the Amazon region, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental defender.

Tappers milk the trees for their sap by cutting them and collecting what comes out in small metal buckets. It's what natural rubber is made from, and it's completely sustainable. As long as the trees live, they can be used this way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Poll Finds Americans, Especially Millennials, Moving Away From Religion | NPR

A woman prays at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The shift away from religion among Americans has taken place in a relatively short period of time.

Religion is apparently weakening in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, pray daily and attend church regularly is declining.

Among the findings:
  • The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped 8 percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made.
  • The percentage of adults who describe themselves as "religiously affiliated" has shrunk 6 points since 2007, from 83 percent to 77 percent.
  • The shares of the U.S. adult population who consider religion "very important" to them, pray daily and attend services at least once a month have declined between 3 and 4 percentage points over the past eight years
The shift is small but statistically significant, according to the authors, given that the changes have taken place in a relatively short period of time, and the survey sample is large enough (about 35,000 U.S. adults) to be considered reliable.

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