Recently in Society Category

Anti-biotics and Pesticides

September 11, 2011

The organic-bandwagon (and "green" in general) can often seem like a holier-than-thou verbal assault to the average consumer who does not take production processes into account when making purchasing decisions. Moralizing and preaching from the crunchy-granola crowd is not appreciated. And yet there is a point to it all, and we granola eaters need to be armed not merely with facts but also empathy and moderation. That said, often times we are armed merely with anecdote and conjecture, not even fact. Two recent pieces of research present compelling additional facts behind American society's – and by extension, increasingly the world's – over-reliance on technology without consideration of the long term effects:

  1. Over-use of anti-biotics in children have been linked to increases in asthma, obestity, and various diseases; in response, we simply need to be much more careful about our use of anti-biotics, which are frequently employed as a placebo in viral cases. LA Times covarge, full essay is in Nature, whose August 25th podcast has a good briefing.
  2. Consumption of pesticide-tainted foods has now been found to be a risk-factor in development of ADHD; the clear response is to consume organic foods. MSNBC coverage

Backlash Against Women?

October 10, 2007

Interesting book review covering a new work by Susan Faludi on post-9/11 anti-feminism, partially comparing and contrasting with Bruce Springsteen's new album. The first reaction I had was: do her grim facts really paint the overall picture of the treatment in America? Most of the news coverage I read, see, or hear does not comport to her view of reality — but maybe I just don't pay enough attention to news outside the New York Times, NPR, and the local nightly news.

Relating Racism, Sexism, and the Penal System

October 1, 2007

I'm on a conference call about facilitating interfaith dialogues on the topic of non-violence in religion. I'm multi-tasking as I listen to the introductions; if you've been on many conference calls you'll probably understand the need for multi-tasking.

I wanted to write some useful introduction, but its just not there. So instead, I'll just point you to an interesting op-ed, Jena, O. J. and the Jailing of Black America, and share an extract:

Until we view this social calamity [black incarceration rates] in its entirety — by also acknowledging the central role of unstable relations among the sexes and within poor families, by placing a far higher priority on moral and social reform within troubled black communities, and by greatly expanding social services for infants and children — it will persist.

Evolutionary Link to Morality

September 20, 2007

Excellent article: Is ‘Do Unto Others’ Written Into Our Genes? (NY Times). Very interesting reading. They have a link to an interesting morality survey that is an essential part of the story. These questions are probably a little more difficult to answer "properly" (true-to-self) after having already read the article. Thus I went with my gut reaction on each. Here's how I scored, compared with "conservatives" and "liberals", in evaluating the authors' five categories of morality:

  • Harm: more important in my moral scheme than for either con or lib on average (lib almost as high)
  • Fairness: again higher, with more distance, but still closer to lib than con
  • Loyalty: much less important to me than con, but somewhat more than typical lib
  • Authority: I was pretty surprised by this one – much lower than either!
  • Purity: again I was surprised by this one. I value personal chastity and "godliness," but I try hard not to judge others based on different "purity" values (more likely to judge others based on the first couple of categories above, un-surprisingly). Was much lower than either. I'm surprised to see that libs have more value on purity than cons!

Wrapping Up the Belgium Trip

June 29, 2007

Last travel entry, written on the 16th and finally typed up on the 29th...

Back stateside now, sitting for a while in Philadelphia. One of America's oldest cities, it clearly has nothing on Antwerp. But then again, maybe age isn't everything. Maybe the Liberty Bell, Constitutional Conventions, and the other historical features make this place every bit the equal — in broad, non-aesthetic terms — of Brussels, Antwerp, or Amsterdam. Speaking of Antwerp, I finally had a good look at the old city yesterday.

Cultural Evolution, Feedback, Things to Ponder

May 10, 2007

The notion of cultural evolution is one I've been wanting to explore further in this space, particularly after reading Paul Ehrlich's Human Natures (hopefully one day soon I'll manage to write a review of this excellent work). If you're not familiar with the concept, the gist is this: Homo sapiens, as all other life forms, has evolved to its present state through a process of genetic evolution. This process is described by neo-Darwinian evolution theory. Unlike other creatures — or to be more precise, to an extent light-years beyond any other living being — H. sapiens has added a second component of social evolution. In this component, DNA and genes are not the sole drivers of human evolution. These are augmented by culture.

Where is God when disaster strikes?

January 26, 2006

Avrel Seale, a friend in Austin who writes for the UT alumni magazine, recently submitted an excellent article to the Austin American Statesman, Where is God when disaster strikes?. This makes me think first of the continuing low-level warfare and terrorism occurring in Darfur, as well as the little-noticed famine currently afflicting the people of Malawi. Avrel writes "[t]here is little doubt that, in general, disasters bring out the best in human nature." Thankfully there are ways for Americans to doing something about these two:

  • Join the Million Voices for Darfur campaign, which seeks a stronger response on Darfur from the American government;
  • Support groups like Doctors Without Borders doing relief work in both countries;
  • Donate to groups supplying food aid to the people of Malawi. The United Religions Initiative (URI) is now accepting donations through their website, destined for distribution by local URI chapters inside the country. Another favorite of mine is the UN World Food Program.

Avrel writes, "Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, while writing in the voice of God, said: 'My calamity is my providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance , but inwardly it is light and mercy.'" Working with organizations such as these is a tremendous means of reflecting that inward light back to the rest of humanity.

Lessons on Activism from the Life of Rosa Parks

November 5, 2005

"In short, Rosa Parks didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn’t single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain." So says Paul Loeb in his article The Real Rosa Parks. His description of the movement for racial justice in America, as exemplified by its leading lady, Rosa Parks, offers many lessons for other would-be movements, including the Interfaith Movement or even the "Baha'i movement."

Measuring Happiness

October 6, 2005

I've been without my iMac for almost a week now, which does not make me happy. The pleasure I derive from owning an Apple iMac has nothing to do with the money spent and everything to do with the quality of experience I receive. Similarly, I am far happier in my job now than I was at my last job in Austin — and this has everything to do with the kind and quality of work I do and the atmosphere it is in. The fact that moving from non-profit to for-profit raised my salary has little to no influence on my job satisfaction. And yet the government measures my "well-being" in purely economic terms — purely financial terms. What gives? Thankfully, some folks are working to measure the "softer" side of life.

White People's Burden

October 1, 2005

University of Texas professor Robert Jensen offers his analysis of the "white people's burden, saying in part, "That is the new White People's Burden, to understand that we are the problem, come to terms with what that really means, and act based on that understanding." He makes an interesting case, one that is completely lost on most of the commenters at this site. I suspect that many of the people responding so strongly against Jensen haven't had a good heart-to-heart with someone who has experienced racism and prejudice first-hand.

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