Must science be testable?

Source: Aeon.co

Author:Massimo Pigliucci

emphasis mine

The general theory of relativity is sound science; ‘theories’ of psychoanalysis, as well as Marxist accounts of the unfolding of historical events, are pseudoscience. This was the conclusion reached a number of decades ago by Karl Popper, one of the most influential philosophers of science. Popper was interested in what he called the ‘demarcation problem’, or how to make sense of the difference between science and non-science, and in particular science and pseudoscience. He thought long and hard about it and proposed a simple criterion: falsifiability. For a notion to be considered scientific it would have to be shown that, at the least in principle, it could be demonstrated to be false, if it were, in fact false.

Popper was impressed by Einstein’s theory because it had recently been spectacularly confirmed during the 1919 total eclipse of the Sun, so he proposed it as a paradigmatic example of good science. Here is how in Conjectures and Refutations (1963) he differentiated among Einstein on one side, and Freud, Adler and Marx on the other:

Einstein’s theory of gravitation clearly satisfied the criterion of falsifiability. Even if our measuring instruments at the time did not allow us to pronounce on the results of the tests with complete assurance, there was clearly a possibility of refuting the theory.

The Marxist theory of history, in spite of the serious efforts of some of its founders and followers, ultimately adopted [a] soothsaying practice. In some of its earlier formulations … their predictions were testable, and in fact falsified. Yet instead of accepting the refutations the followers of Marx re-interpreted both the theory and the evidence in order to make them agree. In this way they rescued the theory from refutation … They thus gave a ‘conventionalist twist’ to the theory; and by this stratagem they destroyed its much advertised claim to scientific status.

The two psycho-analytic theories were in a different class. They were simply non-testable, irrefutable. There was no conceivable human behaviour which could contradict them … I personally do not doubt that much of what they say is of considerable importance, and may well play its part one day in a psychological science which is testable. But it does mean that those ‘clinical observations’ which analysts naively believe confirm their theory cannot do this any more than the daily confirmations which astrologers find in their practice.

As it turns out, Popper’s high regard for the crucial experiment of 1919 may have been a bit optimistic: when we look at the historical details we discover that the earlier formulation of Einstein’s theory actually contained a mathematical error that predicted twice as much bending of light by large gravitational masses like the Sun – the very thing that was tested during the eclipse. And if the theory had been tested in 1914 (as was originally planned), it would have been (apparently) falsified. Moreover, there were some significant errors in the 1919 observations, and one of the leading astronomers who conducted the test, Arthur Eddington, may actually have cherry picked his data to make them look like the cleanest possible confirmation of Einstein. Life, and science, are complicated.

This is all good and well, but why should something written near the beginning of last century by a philosopher – however prominent – be of interest today? Well, you might have heard of string theory. It’s something that the fundamental physics community has been playing around with for a few decades now, in their pursuit of what Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg grandly called ‘a theory of everything’. It isn’t really a theory of everything, and in fact, technically, string theory isn’t even a theory, not if by that name one means mature conceptual constructions, such as the theory of evolution, or that of continental drift. In fact, string theory is better described as a general framework – the most mathematically sophisticated one available at the moment – to resolve a fundamental problem in modern physics: general relativity and quantum mechanics are highly successful scientific theories, and yet, when they are applied to certain problems, like the physics of black holes, or that of the singularity that gave origin to the universe, they give us sharply contrasting predictions.

Physicists agree that this means that either theory, or both, are therefore wrong or incomplete. String theory is one attempt at reconciling the two by subsuming both into a broader theoretical framework. There is only one problem: while some in the fundamental physics community confidently argue that string theory is not only a very promising scientific theory, but pretty much ‘the only game in town,’ others scornfully respond that it isn’t even science, since it doesn’t make contact with the empirical evidence: vibrating superstrings, multiple, folded, dimensions of space-time and other features of the theory are impossible to test experimentally, and they are the mathematical equivalent of metaphysical speculation. And metaphysics isn’t a complimentary word in the lingo of scientists. Surprisingly, the ongoing, increasingly public and acerbic diatribe often centres on the ideas of one Karl Popper. What, exactly, is going on?

I had a front row seat at one round of such, shall we say, frank discussions last year, when I was invited to Munich to participate in a workshop on the status of fundamental physics, and particularly on what some refer to as ‘the string wars’. The organiser, Richard Dawid, of the University of Stockholm, is a philosopher of science with a strong background in theoretical physics. He is also a proponent of a highly speculative, if innovative, type of epistemology that supports the efforts of string theorists and aims at shielding them from the accusation of engaging in flights of mathematical fancy decoupled from any real science. My role there was to make sure that participants – an eclectic mix of scientists and philosophers, with a Nobel winner thrown in the mix – were clear on something I teach in my introductory course in philosophy of science: what exactly Popper said and why, since some of those physicists had hurled accusations at their critical colleagues, loudly advocating the ejection of the very idea of falsification from scientific practice.

In the months preceding the workshop, a number of high profile players in the field had been using all sorts of means – from manifesto-type articles in the prestigious Nature magazine to Twitter – to pursue a no-holds-barred public relations campaign to wrestle, or retain, control of the soul of contemporary fundamental physics. Let me give you a taste of the exchange, to set the mood: ‘The fear is that it would become difficult to separate such ‘science’ from New Age thinking, or science fiction,’ said George Ellis, chastising the pro-string party; to which Sabine Hossenfelder added: ‘Post-empirical science is an oxymoron.’ Peter Galison made crystal clear what the stakes are when he wrote: ‘This is a debate about the nature of physical knowledge.’ On the other side, however, cosmologist Sean Carroll tweeted:

My real problem with the falsifiability police is: we don’t get to demand ahead of time what kind of theory correctly describes the world,’ adding ‘[Falsifiability is] just a simple motto that non-philosophically-trained scientists have latched onto.’ Finally (but there is more, much more, out there), Leonard Susskind mockingly introduced the neologism ‘Popperazzi’ to label an extremely naive (in his view) way of thinking about how science works.

This surprisingly blunt – and very public – talk from prestigious academics is what happens when scientists help themselves to, or conversely categorically reject, philosophical notions that they plainly have not given sufficient thought to. In this case, it was Popper’s philosophy of science and its application to the demarcation problem. What makes this particularly ironic for someone like me, who started his academic career as a scientist (evolutionary biology) and eventually moved to philosophy after a constructive midlife crisis, is that a good number of scientists nowadays – and especially physicists – don’t seem to hold philosophy in particularly high regard. Just in the last few years Stephen Hawking has declared philosophy dead, Lawrence Krauss has quipped that philosophy reminds him of that old Woody Allen joke, ‘those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym,’ and science popularisers Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye have both wondered loudly why any young man would decide to ‘waste’ his time studying philosophy in college.

Loud debates on social media and in the popular science outlets define how much of the public perceives physics.

This is a rather novel, and by no means universal, attitude among physicists. Compare the above contemptuousness with what Einstein himself wrote to his friend Robert Thorton in 1944 on the same subject: ‘I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today – and even professional scientists – seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is – in my opinion – the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.’ By Einstein’s standard then, there are a lot of artisans but comparatively few seekers of truth among contemporary physicists!

To put things in perspective, of course, Einstein’s opinion of philosophy may not have been representative even then, and certainly modern string theorists are a small group within the physics community, and string theorists on Twitter are an ever smaller, possibly more voluble subset within that group. The philosophical noise they make is likely not representative of what physicists in general think and say, but it matters all the same precisely because they are so prominent; those loud debates on social media and in the popular science outlets define how much of the public perceives physics, and even how many physicists perceive the big issues of their field.

That said, the publicly visible portion of the physics community nowadays seems split between people who are openly dismissive of philosophy and those who think they got the pertinent philosophy right but their ideological opponents haven’t. At stake isn’t just the usually tiny academic pie, but public appreciation of and respect for both the humanities and the sciences, not to mention millions of dollars in research grants (for the physicists, not the philosophers). Time, therefore, to take a more serious look at the meaning of Popper’s philosophy and why it is still very much relevant to science, when properly understood.

As we have seen, Popper’s message is deceptively simple, and – when repackaged in a tweet – has in fact deceived many a smart commentator in underestimating the sophistication of the underlying philosophy. If one were to turn that philosophy into a bumper sticker slogan it would read something like: ‘If it ain’t falsifiable, it ain’t science, stop wasting your time and money.’

But good philosophy doesn’t lend itself to bumper sticker summaries, so one cannot stop there and pretend that there is nothing more to say. Popper himself changed his mind throughout his career about a number of issues related to falsification and demarcation, as any thoughtful thinker would do when exposed to criticisms and counterexamples from his colleagues. For instance, he initially rejected any role for verification in establishing scientific theories, thinking that it was far too easy to ‘verify’ a notion if one were actively looking for confirmatory evidence. Sure enough, modern psychologists have a name for this tendency, common to laypeople as well as scientists: confirmation bias.

Nonetheless, later on Popper conceded that verification – especially of very daring and novel predictions – is part of a sound scientific approach. After all, the reason Einstein became a scientific celebrity overnight after the 1919 total eclipse is precisely because astronomers had verified the predictions of his theory all over the planet and found them in satisfactory agreement with the empirical data. For Popper this did not mean that the theory of general relativity was ‘true,’ but only that it survived to fight another day. Indeed, nowadays we don’t think the theory is true, because of the above mentioned conflicts, in certain domains, with quantum mechanics. But it has withstood a very good number of high stakes challenges over the intervening century, and its most recent confirmation came just a few months ago, with the first detection of gravitational waves.

Scientific hypotheses need to be tested repeatedly and under a variety of conditions before we can be reasonably confident of the results.

Popper also changed his mind about the potential, at the least, for a viable Marxist theory of history (and about the status of the Darwinian theory of evolution, concerning which he was initially skeptical, thinking – erroneously – that the idea was based on a tautology). He conceded that even the best scientific theories are often somewhat shielded from falsification because of their connection to ancillary hypotheses and background assumptions. When one tests Einstein’s theory using telescopes and photographic plates directed at the Sun, one is really simultaneously putting to the test the focal theory, plus the theory of optics that goes into designing the telescopes, plus the assumptions behind the mathematical calculations needed to analyse the data, plus a lot of other things that scientists simply take for granted and assume to be true in the background, while their attention is trained on the main theory. But if something goes wrong and there is a mismatch between the theory of interest and the pertinent observations, this isn’t enough to immediately rule out the theory, since a failure in one of the ancillary assumptions might be to blame instead. That is why scientific hypotheses need to be tested repeatedly and under a variety of conditions before we can be reasonably confident of the results.

Popper’s initial work pretty much single-handedly put the demarcation problem on the map, prompting philosophers to work on the development of a philosophically sound account of both what science is and is not. That lasted until 1983, when Larry Laudan published a highly influential paper entitled ‘The demise of the demarcation problem,’ in which he argued that demarcation projects were actually a waste of time for philosophers, since – among other reasons – it is unlikely to the highest degree that anyone will ever be able to come up with small sets of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions to define ‘science,’ ‘pseudoscience’ and the like. And without such sets, Laudan argued, the quest for any principled distinction between those activities is hopelessly Quixotic.

‘Necessary and jointly sufficient’ is logical-philosophical jargon, but it is important to see what Laudan meant. He thought that Popper and others had been trying to provide precise definitions of science and pseudoscience, similar to the definitions used in elementary geometry: a triangle, for instance, is whatever geometrical figure has the internal sum of its angles equal to 180 degrees. Having that property is both necessary (because without it the figure in question is not a triangle) and sufficient (because that’s all we need to know in order to confirm that we are, indeed, dealing with a triangle). Laudan argued – correctly – that no such solution is ever going to be found to the demarcation problem, simply because concepts like ‘science’ and ‘pseudoscience’ are complex, multidimensional, and inherently fuzzy, not admitting of sharp boundaries. In a sense, physicists complaining about ‘the Popperazzi’ are making the same charge as Laudan: Popper’s criterion of falsification appears to be far too blunt an instrument not only to discriminate between science and pseudoscience (which ought to be relatively easy), but a fortiori to separate sound from unsound science within an advanced field like theoretical physics.

Yet Popper wasn’t quite as naive as Laudan, Carroll, Susskind, and others make him out to be. Nor is the demarcation problem quite as hopeless as all that. Which is why a number of authors – including myself and my longtime collaborator, Maarten Boudry – have more recently maintained that Laudan was too quick to dismiss the demarcation problem, and that perhaps Twitter isn’t the best place for nuanced discussions in the philosophy of science.

The idea is that there are pathways forward in the study of demarcation that become available if one abandons the requirement for necessary and jointly sufficient conditions, which was never strictly enforced even by Popper. What, then, is the alternative? To treat science, pseudoscience, etc. as Wittgensteinian ‘family resemblance’ concepts instead. Ludwig Wittgenstein was another highly influential 20th century philosopher, who hailed, like Popper himself, from Vienna, though the two could not have been more different in terms of socio-economic background, temperament, and philosophical interests. (If you want to know just how different, check out the delightful Wittgenstein’s Poker (2001) by journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow.)

Wittgenstein never wrote about philosophy of science, let alone fundamental physics (or even Marxist theories of history). But he was very much interested in language, its logic, and its uses. He pointed out that there are many concepts that we seem to be able to use effectively, and that yet are not amenable to the sort of clear definition that Laudan was looking for. His favorite example was the deceptively simple concept of ‘game.’ If you try to arrive at a definition of games of the kind that works for triangles, your effort will be endlessly frustrated (try it out, it makes for a nice parlour, ahem, game). Wittgenstein wrote: ‘How should we explain to someone what a game is? I imagine that we should describe games to him, and we might add: ‘This and similar things are called games.’ And do we know any more about it ourselves? Is it only other people whom we cannot tell exactly what a game is? […] But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn […] We can draw a boundary for a special purpose. Does it take that to make the concept usable? Not at all!’

The point is that in a lot of cases we don’t discover pre-existing boundaries, as if games and scientific disciplines were Platonic ideal forms that existed in a timeless metaphysical dimension. We make up boundaries for specific purposes and then we test whether the boundaries are actually useful for whatever purposes we drew them. In the case of the distinction between science and pseudoscience, we think there are important differences, so we try to draw tentative borders in order to highlight them. Surely one would give up too much, as either a scientist or a philosopher, if one were to reject the strongly intuitive idea that there is something fundamentally different between, say, astrology and astronomy. The question is where, approximately, the difference lies?  But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn […] We can draw a boundary for a special purpose. Does it take that to make the concept usable? Not at all!’

Rather than laying into each other in the crude terms, scientists should work together not just to forge a better science, but to counter true pseudoscience.

Similarly, many of the participants in the Munich workshop, and the ‘string wars’ more generally, did feel that there is an important distinction between fundamental physics as it is commonly conceived and what string theorists are proposing. Richard Dawid objects to the (admittedly easily derisible) term ‘post-empirical science,’ preferring instead ‘non-empirical theory assessment’, but whatever one calls it, he is aware that he and his fellow travellers are proposing a major departure from the way we have done science since the time of Galileo. True, the Italian physicist himself largely engaged in theoretical arguments and thought experiments (he likely never did drop balls from the leaning tower of Pisa), but his ideas were certainly falsifiable and have been, over and over, subjected to experimental tests (most spectacularly by David Scott on the Apollo 15 Moon landing).

The broader question then is: are we on the verge of developing a whole new science, or is this going to be regarded by future historians as a temporary stalling of scientific progress? Alternatively, is it possible that fundamental physics is reaching an end not because we’ve figured out everything we wanted to figure out, but because we have come to the limits of what our brains and technologies can possibly do? These are serious questions that ought to be of interest not just to scientists and philosophers, but to the public at large (the very same public that funds research in fundamental physics, among other things).

What is weird about the string wars and the concomitant use and misuse of philosophy of science is that both scientists and philosophers have bigger targets to jointly address for the sake of society, if only they could stop squabbling and focus on what their joint intellectual forces may accomplish. Rather than laying into each other in the crude terms sketched above, they should work together not just to forge a better science, but to counter true pseudoscience: homeopaths and psychics, just to mention a couple of obvious examples, keep making tons of money by fooling people, and damaging their physical and mental health. Those are worthy targets of critical analysis and discourse, and it is the moral responsibility of a public intellectual or academic – be they a scientist or a philosopher – to do their best to improve as much as possible the very same society that affords them the luxury of discussing esoteric points of epistemology or fundamental physics.

 

See: https://aeon.co/essays/the-string-theory-wars-show-us-how-science-needs-philosophy?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=eba5a1d6e4-Daily_Newsletter_10_August_20168_10_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-eba5a1d6e4-68915721

Sit Down and Shut Up: Pulling Mindfulness Up By Its (Buddhist) Roots

Source: Religion Dispatches

Author: Max Zahn

Emphasis Mine

Wisdom 2.0?” meditation teacher Kenneth Folk has famously pondered. “That’s a networking opportunity with a light dressing of Buddhism.”

If mindfulness has gone corporate, then Wisdom 2.0 is its annual shareholder meeting. The yearly conference hosts tech royalty alongside media mavens like Arianna Huffington and Russell Simmons. Eyes may close for a meditation session, but a different ritual, perhaps even older, is perpetually enacted: see and be seen.

A couple of years ago, in a headline-making action, protesters leapt on the conference stage and unfurled a banner demanding an “eviction-free San Francisco.” The protestors were talking about physical displacement, but I’d argue that a kind of spiritual gentrification was also getting underway at Wisdom 2.0. As the recent glut of best-selling books, trend pieces, and celebrity testimonials attest, the mindfulness industry shows no sign of a slowdown. Apple has even built a mindfulness tool—reminding users to “breathe”—for its newest Apple Watch.

The rise of corporate mindfulness has rendered Buddhism far whiter and wealthier than it has ever been. For some immigrant Asian Buddhists and other politically engaged practitioners, the trend is reminiscent of the divorce of yoga from its religious roots. Viewed this way, the adoption of Buddhist practices into executive suites and government offices seems like a textbook case of cultural appropriation.

Proponents of mindfulness, of course, don’t see it this way. They claim that mindfulness is simply the tradition’s newest iteration. But as mindfulness saturates the culture, it has become the public face of Buddhism for many Americans.

What, if anything, gets lost in translation? And to whom does it matter?

The roots of mindfulness

Any conversation about the appropriation of Buddhist practices is difficult, because as the tradition spread—from the Indian subcontinent, and across the globe—it always adapted to host cultures. Buddhism absorbed Chinese religion when it spread to China, Tibetan religion in Tibet, and so on.

But mindfulness—what we think of as “meditation,” as opposed to prayer or ceremonial observance, for example—does have deep roots in the tradition. The Pali word sati, which can be translated as mindfulness, is frequently used in Buddhist scripture. (The noun comes from the verb sarati, meaning “to remember,” and alternative translations for sati include “remembrance” or even “collectedness.”)

Sati is just one part of a much larger set of practices and traditions. Specifically, it’s the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is itself one part of the body of teachings known as Buddhist dharma, or religious doctrine. And dharma is just one of what are called Buddhism’s three jewels; the other two are the Buddha and the sangha, or monastic community.

As such, mindfulness makes up a small segment of the immense ethical, philosophical, institutional and ritual latticework that constitutes the totality of Buddhist practices, which themselves vary widely from place to place and era to era.

The modern emphasis on mindfulness and meditation is a fairly recent phenomenon. Historian Eric Braun notes that lay meditation did not begin in earnest until an early-twentieth-century anti-colonial movement among Theravada Buddhists in Burma. Before then, meditation teachings remained the province of monks and nuns. The monastic setting ensured that meditation practices took place in a community of aspirants abiding by a common code of conduct and observing a shared set of rituals. While deemed necessary for liberation, meditation practices like mindfulness were not sufficient. The accompanying rules and relationships were just as important.

Modern-day mindfulness takes this twentieth-century shift to lay meditation one step further, sanctioning meditation as a technique developed in the midst of worldly life. In previous generations, mindfulness “was surrounded by lots of other things,” said Mushim Ikeda, a Buddhist teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. “We’ve taken out one thing and we’re applying it to reduce stress, to increase performance.”

Bodhi to Brooklyn

Once extracted from this communal context, mindfulness becomes a catch-all (and a cure-all). Want to relieve stress, get more sleep, perform better at work, have better sex, and actually pay attention to that elaborate breakup story your friend is telling you? Just meditate. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques, pioneered by medical professor and former Buddhist practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn, have spread from hospitals to offices to the halls of Capitol Hill.

But these practices can diverge, at times in very deep ways, from traditional understandings of sati.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, an American Buddhist monk who deploys encyclopedic knowledge of the sutras in his cultural commentary, has pointed out crucial differences between traditional and modern (Western) mindfulness. “The Buddha himself defined sati as the ability to remember,” he writes, whereas contemporary teaching vivifies the breath as something continually discovered anew. The traditional focus on remembrance draws upon a practitioner’s experience in cultivating the technique. But for modern-day meditators, instructed in the benefit of practicing just five minutes per day, this appeal to long-cultivated expertise means little.

The aims of contemporary mindfulness are very different, too. “The way mindfulness is practiced, it’s not necessarily Buddhism,” said Reverend Toshikazu Kenjitsu Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York. “It’s used to improve business. So the purpose is fundamentally different.”

Do these differences matter? Things change. In fact, there may be no better two-word summary of Buddhist thought and history than that. “Buddhism has gone through many, many transformations from India to China to Japan,” said David McMahan, a scholar of Buddhism at Franklin and Marshall College. McMahan’s 2008 book, The Making of Buddhist Modernism, analyzes how Buddhism changed as it took hold in the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “Now it’s changing again,” he said.

This change, though, comes within a context of colonial expansion and widespread cultural theft, argued Katie Loncke, the co-director of the Bay Area’s Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), a social justice-oriented organization. “In the legacy of colonialism in which the U.S. was founded and still very much find ourselves, it’s not surprising that we see repeated patterns of cultural appropriation,” she said. “Even within these very cherished contemplative practices.”

When it comes to contemporary mindfulness, this appropriation aligns with the dominant neoliberal mode of economic, social, and political life. Instead of challenging the status quo, mindfulness merely enables the ensuing preoccupation with social climbing and career advancement.

In other words, mindfulness is a technique that asks Americans to quite literally sit down and shut up.

Zen Buddhist teacher David Loy and management professor Ron Purser call this form of the technique “McMindfulness.” “Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will, and delusion,” they write, “it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots.”

McMahan, however, warns against the idealization of a mythic, pristine form of the religion. “I would be cautious about contrasting mindfulness with some kind of absolutely pure, past Buddhism in which there was no conception or concern with material well-being or financial reward,” he said.

A divided community

It’s important to keep in mind that this conversation is unfolding within a divided American Buddhist community. Specific numbers are hard to pin down, and estimates vary widely, but roughly three-quarters of American Buddhists are Asian. The remainder are predominantly white converts. Practitioners in the Asian diaspora typically join communities that are aligned with sects popular in their origin countries.

Convert Buddhists, on the other hand, tend to congregate at meditation-oriented Buddhist centers founded in the United States, such as the Insight Meditation Society or those of the Shambhala Buddhist community.

The secularized mindfulness technique foregrounds this overwhelmingly white set of practitioners, even though they are probably a minority of American practitioners. “So much of the Asian diasporic and Asian-American face of Buddhism has been erased and dismissed from the mainstream versions of the dharma in the U.S.,” said the BPF’s Katie Loncke. The outsized visibility of white celebrities and CEOs practicing mindfulness highlights the longstanding tension between the immigrant Asian Buddhist community and the convert one. (There are exceptions, most notably Chade-Meng Tan, the Singapore-born founder of Google’s in-house meditation program, whom I interviewed for RD earlier this year).

This split within American Buddhism raises the question of who owns and defines those practices going forward. In his 2014 book, Mindful America, scholar Jeff Wilson holds the media partially accountable: “The vast majority of information about mindfulness is disseminated by white people, in media venues controlled by white people, for the primary consumption of white people.”

Loncke agrees, pointing to “glossy Buddhist magazine versions of the dharma.” She notes a recent cover of the Buddhist* magazine Lion’s Roar, which featured a photo of Buddhist teachers, many of whom teach mindfulness and three of whom are Asian, below a headline calling them “The New Face of Buddhism.” The cover’s spotlight on a fresh set of predominantly non-Asian, convert Buddhist teachers seemed to overlook—or worse yet, intentionally downplay—the enduring role of Asian immigrant teachers.

“It’s an unfortunate element of the pressures of U.S. marketing to sell things by announcing them new or fresh or interesting,” added Loncke. Marketers and practitioners gravitate toward this newness, rather than “doing the sometimes tedious work of giving credit where credit is due.”

Loncke and other mindfulness critics belong to an engaged Buddhist movement that itself is open to criticism for the appropriation of Buddhism, hitching the tradition to a progressive political agenda. “There’s nothing necessarily inherent in the Buddhist tradition that would lend itself to leftist politics,” said McMahan. “I’m sympathetic to engaged Buddhism,” he added. “But that’s more about me and my politics than it is about Buddhism.” The Buddha wasn’t mindfully coding apps—but he wasn’t scrawling lefty placards, either.

Loncke acknowledges that concerns over cultural appropriation in engaged Buddhism are “hella real,” adding that “it’s not very helpful” when practitioners “look back to the life of the Buddha or his teachings for . . . guidelines about what policy choices to make.” Such appeals risk the same willful neglect of the tradition’s origins that engaged Buddhists often counsel against. Both a corporate mindfulness practitioner and an engaged Buddhist run the risk of cherry-picking from the tradition.

Perhaps the corrective for appropriation, in either case, is proper citation. That’s what Ikeda, the East Bay Meditation Center teacher, wants, demanding of Western Buddhists “not only awareness” of source cultures “but attribution and acknowledgment.”

Such attribution comes sparingly from teachers of corporate mindfulness, many of whom stress the secular nature of the practice. Kabat-Zinn, for instance, chooses not to identify as a Buddhist despite his decades of experience as a student of the tradition. A 24-page instructional manual on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction—released in 2014 by Kabat-Zinn’s Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society—does not mention Buddhism once. The manual does, however, include a regimen of carefully referenced “hatha yoga.” Even when they do invoke Buddhism’s longstanding traditions, mindfulness advocates often do so as a superficial means of establishing credibility for the practice.

Engaged Buddhists, meanwhile, tend to link broad Buddhist notions like nonviolence (ahimsa) or generosity (dana) to contemporary political issues. Ikeda warned against such “cherry-picking through Buddhist sources” or “finding nuggets of things and saying ‘aha, this supports my point.’” She contrasted this approach with a “logical and thoughtful evolution” of the religion, which she says engaged Buddhism can provide.

Media coverage of mindfulness has increased dramatically in the past few years, along with a new wave of criticism. But quantity isn’t quality. And the quality of this conversation depends on the depth of its analysis and the diversity of its voices, with special attention paid to the least powerful and well-represented among them.

Then again, I’m a white dude living in Brooklyn who has concerns about cultural appropriation. And Chade-Meng Tan, one of the foremost advocates of corporate mindfulness, is an immigrant from Singapore. The axes of ethnicity, power, and critique get muddled. The future of American Buddhism depends on a collective willingness to investigate them, respectfully.

Awkward moments will certainly result. They comprise, perhaps, the challenge for which all this mindfulness has been preparing us.

 

*Due to an editorial error, this article originally stated that Lion’s Roar is a Shambhala Buddhist magazine, rather than an independent publication covering a range of Buddhist traditions. 

Max Zahn is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York.

 

See:http://religiondispatches.org/sit-down-and-shut-up-pulling-mindfulness-up-by-its-buddhist-roots/?utm_source=Religion+Dispatches+Newsletter&utm_campaign=0da1ae855e-RD_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_742d86f519-0da1ae855e-42427517

Belief in supernatural beings is totally natural – and false

Source: Aeon

Author: Stephen Law

Emphasis Mine

Human beings are remarkably prone to supernatural beliefs and, in particular, to beliefs in invisible agents – beings that, like us, act on the basis of their beliefs and desires, but that, unlike us, aren’t usually visible to the naked eye. Belief in the existence of such person-like entities is ubiquitous. As Steven Pinker notes in ‘The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion’ (2004), in all human cultures people believe that illness and calamity ‘are caused and alleviated by a variety of invisible person-like entities: spirits, ghosts, saints, evils, demons, cherubim or Jesus, devils and gods’. In the United States, for example, a 2013 Harris Poll found that around 42 per cent believe in ghosts, 64 per cent in survival of the soul after death, 68 per cent in heaven, and 74 per cent in God.

Why are we drawn to such beliefs? The answer cannot be simply that they are true. Clearly, most aren’t. We know many beliefs are false because they contradict other similar beliefs. Take god-type beliefs. Some believe there’s one god; others (such as the Manicheans) that there are two gods; others: pantheons of gods. People also hold dramatically differing beliefs about the characteristics of these divine beings, ascribing to them incompatible attributes and actions. But it’s not just disagreement between believers that reveals many of these beliefs to be false. Science has also demonstrated that many of these beliefs are false: for example, diseases are produced not by demonic beings but by entirely natural causes. And of course, supposed evidence for such beings – sightings of ghosts, fairies, angels, gods and their miraculous activities – is regularly debunked by investigators.

When people are asked to justify their belief in such invisible beings, they often appeal to two things. First, to testimony: to reports of sightings, miraculous events supposedly caused by such beings, and so on. Any New Age bookshop will be able to provide numerous testimonies regarding invisible agency that might seem hard to account for naturalistically in terms of hallucination, self-deception, misidentified natural phenomena, trickery, and so on. Second, many will also claim a subjective sense of presence: they ‘just know’ their dead Auntie is in the room with them, or that they have a guardian angel, by means of some sort of extra sense: a spirit sense. The Delphic oracle believed she received communications from the god Apollo while perched on her tripod. Many contemporary religious folk believe they can sense divinity by means of some sort of sensus divinitatis or god-sense.

If there really are no good grounds for believing such beings exist, however, why do people believe in them? There’s much scientific speculation about that but, as yet, no definitive answer.

One obvious advantage of positing invisible agents is that they can account for what might otherwise be baffling. I could swear I left my keys on the table, but there they are under the sofa. How on Earth did that happen? If I believe in gremlins – invisible beings living in my house that have the desire to cause mischief and the power to do so – then the mystery is immediately solved. Invisible agents provide quick, convenient explanations for events that might otherwise strike us as deeply mysterious and, in so far as these beings can be appeased or persuaded, belief in them can also create the illusion of control, which can be comforting in an otherwise uncertain and dangerous world.

Scientists working in the cognitive science of religion have offered other explanations, including the hyperactive agency-detecting device (HADD). This tendency explains why a rustle in the bushes in the dark prompts the instinctive thought: ‘There’s someone there!’ We seem to have evolved to be extremely quick to ascribe agency – the capacity for intention and action – even to inanimate objects. In our ancestral environment, this tendency is not particularly costly in terms of survival and reproduction, but a failure to detect agents that are there can be very costly. Fail to detect a sabre-toothed cat, and it’ll likely take you out of the gene pool. The evolution of a HADD can account for the human tendency to believe in the presence of agents even when none can actually be observed. Hence the human belief in invisible person-like beings, such as spirits or gods. There are also forms of supernatural belief that don’t fit the ‘invisible person-like being’ mould, but merely posit occult forces – eg, feng shui, supernaturally understood – but the HADD doesn’t account for such beliefs.

In fact, I doubt that any single mechanism accounts for the human tendency to hold such supernatural beliefs. Certainly nothing as crude as ‘wishful thinking’ really does the job. What is believed is not always to the liking of the believer; sometimes, as in the case of night visits by demonic beings, it’s absolutely terrifying. In any case, the appeal to wishful thinking just postpones the mystery, as we then require an explanation for why humans are so attracted to believing in invisible beings.

Whatever the correct explanation for the peculiar human tendency to believe falsely in invisible person-like beings, the fact that we’re so prone to false positive beliefs, particularly when those beliefs are grounded in some combination of testimony and subjective experience, should provide caution to anyone who holds a belief in invisible agency on that basis.

Suppose I see a snake on the ground before me. Under most circumstances, it’s then reasonable for me to believe there is indeed a snake there. However, once presented with evidence that I’d been given a drug to cause vivid snake hallucinations, it’s no longer reasonable for me to believe I’ve seen a snake. I might still be seeing a real snake but, given the new evidence, I can no longer reasonably suppose that I am.

Similarly, if we possess good evidence that humans are very prone to false belief in invisible beings when those beliefs are based on subjective experience, then I should be wary of such beliefs. And that, in turn, gives me good grounds for doubting that my dead uncle, or an angel, or god, really is currently revealing himself to me, if my only basis for belief is my subjective impression that this is so. Under such circumstances, those who insist ‘I just know!’ aren’t being reasonable.

See: https://aeon.co/ideas/belief-in-supernatural-beings-is-totally-natural-and-false?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=15c70c8060-Saturday_newsletter_16_July_20167_14_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-15c70c8060-68915721

Lawrence Krauss: ‘All Scientists Should Be Atheists’

kraussscience1Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

“Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.” – Lawrence Krauss.

In an essay for The New Yorker titled All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists Lawrence Krauss makes a powerful argument for science and against the urge to protect religious superstition from scrutiny.

The essay, published last September, begins with a discussion concerning conservative culture warrior Kim Davis using her Christian religious beliefs to deny wedding licenses to gays and lesbians in Kentucky. Commenting on the controversy, Krauss notes:

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals.

Krauss dismisses the demand that many make for respecting religious superstitions by noting the obvious:

The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another.

Krauss is correct. What is a sacred commandment or belief for one is another’s moral abomination. One need only be reminded of the sexism and misogyny woven into the fabric of all three of the Abrahamic religions to understand why many would find the supposedly sacred to be morally repugnant. The refusal by Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians is another example, and there are of course many more.

Krauss goes on to move from a discussion of Davis to a discussion of science, opining:

In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise.

Krauss observes that science is inherently dangerous to religion because scientific understanding often draws people away from religion:

Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion.

Yet the uncomfortable fact that science often has the effect of exposing religious superstitions as irrational and ultimately untenable beliefs about the world means that the culture of science often panders to the faithful by sugar coating the truth about the natural world:

Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preexisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine.

Krauss rejects the misleading fabrication that science and religious dogma are compatible, at one point declaring:

Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.

In concluding, Krauss sees a direct link “between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life.” Arguing that honesty should take priority over religious dogma, Krauss says “we owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass” to those “that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered ‘sacred.’”

Bottom line: Krauss is right, all scientists, and all thinking people, should be atheists.

Lawrence Krauss is a physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is also the author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/07/lawrence-krauss-all-scientists-should-be-atheists/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_071416UTC010701_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=51829285&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=961932578&spReportId=OTYxOTMyNTc4S0

The Privileged Cruelty of Religious Right Sex Rules

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Source:valerietarico.com

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

Sexual intimacy and pleasure are some of humanity’s most cherished experiences. The so-called “best things in life” include natural beauty, fine dining, the arts, thrilling adventures, creative pursuits and community service. But love and orgasms are among the few peak experiences that are equally available to rich and poor, equally sweet to those whose lives are going according to plan and to many whose dreams are in pieces. (N.B.: in 20th century America African Americans utilized human sexuality to compensate for what was denied them elsewhere.)

Religious conservatives think that these treasured dimensions of the human experience should be available to only a privileged few people whose lives fit their model: male-dominated, monogamous, heterosexual pairs who have pledged love and contractual marriage for life. Some true believers—especially those in thrall to the Protestant Quiverfull Movement or the Vatican—would further limit sexual privileges even within hetero state-licensed, church-sanctified marriages to only couples who are open to intimacy producing a pregnancy and a child. Take your pick: it’s either reproductive roulette or no sex—although you might be able to game God by tracking female fertility and then bumping like bunnies during the low risk times of the month.

Why Christianity is Obsessed with Sex

To be clear, I’m not saying that Christianity’s sex rules are only a function of patriarchal Christian privilege. During the Iron Age, from whence Christianity’s sex rules got handed down, society was organized around kin groups, and the endlessly-warmongering clans of the Ancient Near East were more at risk of extinction than overpopulation. Legally-enforced monogamy created lines of inheritance and social obligation, clarifying how neighbors should be treated and who could be enslaved.

Also, hetero sex necessarily carried the risk of pregnancy, which made it adaptive to welcome resultant pregnancies. Children do best in stable, nurturing families and communities, and in the Ancient Near East, “No marriage? No sex!” may have served to protect the well-being of mothers and children as well as the social power of patriarchal men. But in today’s mobile, pluralistic societies with modern contraceptive options and social safety nets, God’s self-appointed sex police have little credible excuse save their own compelling need to bully and boss and stay on top.

It should come as no surprise that Church authorities want an exclusive license to grant “legitimate” sexual privileges. Over the centuries, religious authorities have sought to own and define virtually all of the experiences that touch us deeply: the birth of a new person (christening, bris), art (iconography), music (chanting and hymns), eating, morality, mind altering substances, community, coming of age, family formation, and even our dying process. In each case religious authorities seek to legitimize some forms of the experience and denigrate those that don’t fit their model. Powerful people and institutions want to control valued assets so they can leverage those assets to get more power. And controlling sex is powerful!

The Egotism and Cruelty of God’s Self-Appointed Messengers

Religious authorities like Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Evangelist Franklin Graham or Religious Right icon Pat Robertson quote the Bible and talk as if their self-righteous sex rules came straight from God, which of course is hooey. Set aside for the moment the fact that declaring oneself a spokesman for God is stupefyingly egotistical. Anyone who claims to know the mind of God is simultaneously making a rather bold claim about the superior infallibility of his own mind. The same can be said for anyone who boldly declares that the Bible is literally perfect and that he knows what God was trying to say.

But beyond egotism, telling people they can’t have sex based on Iron Age rules collected in the Bible or medieval rules pontificated by some kiss-my-ring Pope is just plain mean. It’s cruel and selfish and heartless, because the sex rules that served Hebrew patriarchs 2500 years ago and that helped the Vatican breed more tithing members 500 years ago deny sex to a whole lot of people who would otherwise find sexual pleasure and intimacy precious.

No Sex for the Weary

Who would men like Dolan, Graham and Robertson (or their predecessors like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, or Martin Luther) exclude from the privilege of sexual intimacy? Most of humanity—including, probably, you and a lot of people you love. The list is limitless:

  • College students who face long years of study before being ready for partnership and parenthood.
  • Parents who want to commit their finite emotional resources to the children they already have.
  • Young singles whose bodies are at peak libido, but who aren’t ready to form families.
  • Queer folk.
  • Those who, whether married or not, want to commit their lives to some form of calling that isn’t parenthood.
  • People who perceive balance within the web of life as moral or spiritual imperative, whose conscience guides them to limit childbearing for the sake of other species and future generations.
  • Poor people who want to get a step ahead instead of (or before) having a child.
  • People who are saving up for marriage.
  • Cohabiting couples who don’t buy into the traditional marriage contract.
  • Empty nesters who are rediscovering why they like each other.
  • Travelers whose mobile lifestyle makes it impossible to offer a child a stable nurturing community and whose opportunities for intimacy flit past.
  • Unmarried soldiers.
  • Loners and eccentrics whose personal qualities or desire for solitude make partnership and/or parenthood a poor fit.
  • Puppy lovers.
  • Elderly widows and widowers for whom remarriage doesn’t make sense.
  • Famine-plagued women whose hungry bodies can ill sustain the risks of pregnancy or demands of incubating a healthy child.
  • The ill or those at risk of illness, who must navigate love in the time of chemo or love in the time of Zika.
  • War zone civilians and refugees who may not know whether they’ll survive or how, but know there is comfort in each other’s arms.

I could go on but I suspect there’s no need. Under what set of delusions is the world a better place because people like these are denied the pleasures of intimate touch, or the respite of a sexual interlude, or the acute pleasure of orgasm?

What The Sex Police Really Want

Wait a minute, a reader might say. Don’t overgeneralize. A minority of lay Christians believe that married couples must give up sex if they don’t want a(nother) baby —even if that is the official word from the pulpit for Catholics and some Protestants. So, this fight is really about people who want sex without marriage.

True. Well, partly true.

It goes without saying that conservative Christians want above all to deny sexual intimacy and pleasure to people who are single—especially girls and women. That is because the Bible’s Iron Age Sex Rules were meant, first and foremost, to ensure that females, who were economic assets belonging to men, produced purebred offspring of known paternity, who were also economic assets belonging to men. The Bible sanctions many forms of marriage and sexual slavery but all converge on one point: they guarantee that a man can know which offspring are his. That is why, after the slaughter of the Midianites in the book of Numbers, only virgins can be kept as war booty. It is why, in the Torah’s legal code, a rapist can be forced to buy and keep the damaged goods.

The Old Testament prescribes death for dozens of infractions (you yourself probably belong on death row). But when it comes to sex, the death penalty is for females who voluntarily give it up (or who don’t scream loud enough when they are being raped). The meanest, sickest part of this archaic and morally warping worldview is the idea that, for women, sex itself should be a death penalty—or at least a roll of the dice. It’s simply divine justice that sex should sooner or later lead to the pain and potential mortality of childbirth, because that’s the punishment God pronounced on uppity Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16 NRSV.

There you have it. Female sexual pleasure and intimacy without the risk of labor pain and death is cheating God—as well as the male who rules over her.

Control at Any Price

The ways in which God’s Self-Appointed Sex Police try to obstruct intimacy and orgasms are legion. Denying young people information about their bodies, promoting sex negativity, fostering a cult of virginity, spreading lies about masturbation—and above all shaming, shaming, shaming anyone who might dare to have sex without their approval. But the surest way the sex police can stop single females from cheating their way out of Eve’s curse is by making sex risky, which is why the religious right is obsessed with denying women access to birth control and abortion.

Globally, today 215 million desperate women want modern contraception and are unable to get it, thanks in part to American Religious Right politicians who explicitly excluded fertility management services from international HIV prevention. Church induced hang-ups about sex mean that reproductive empowerment gets left out of conversations where it is fundamental to wellbeing: family prosperity, early childhood development, mental health—even education of girls and career advancement of women.

At home, the U.S. squandered almost two decades and 1.5 billion dollars on abstinence-only “sex ed” that was an abject failure. Over the last three quarters of a century, conservative Christian obstruction of sexual literacy and family planning programs has driven humanity to the verge of collapse and has devastated families, condemning desperately poor people—like those who trusted Mother Teresa (who in turn trusted the Pope)—to lives of even deeper desperation.

Righteous men with access to the halls of power thwart sexual agency and then make criminals of women who abort the resulting ill-conceived pregnancies—all for the sake of maintaining their own authority and that of their institutions. And if the campaign to stop single women from having sex makes things hard for some married folks—the refugee couple, for example; or the poor parents trying to take care of the kids they already have; or those facing the prospect of a Zika baby with calcified and deformed brain structuresso be it.

The Small and Large of It

Think of the suffering as collateral damage— a form of collateral damage that is relatively benign by the standards of ecclesiastical history.

During the peak of Christianity’s political power, the Dark Ages, the Vatican launched a crusade against a sect of French Christians, the Cathars, who the Pope had declared heretics. When the crusaders arrived and began their slaughter, local people fled into churches, and sorting out who counted as a real Christian got confusing. So an inquiry was sent to the abbot, asking who should be killed and who spared. He replied by messenger: “Kill them all, God will know his own.”

By contrast with medieval butchery, collateral damage in the form of intimacy denied, or lives burdened with shame and stigma, or unwanted children born into the world with the odds stacked against them, seems minor.

But that is the only standard by which denying people sexual intimacy and pleasure is trivial. As I said, these are among humanity’s most treasured experiences. There are few freedoms that we value more than being able to form the love bonds and families of our choosing. In Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—and even among immigrant Muslims in the West—young people risk and lose their lives for love.

Going for Broke

Religious authorities fight to maintain monopoly control over sexual privileges precisely because these privileges are so valuable—so to the heart of who we are as human beings. Sexual pleasure sweeps over us; it can bring us to our knees. Sexual intimacy allows us to transcend the boundaries of time and space, body and psyche—to lose the self in the other.

If these seem like religious terms, they are. It is no accident that vocalizations during carnal ecstasy sounds a lot like prayer or that erotic music often has religious overtones: Take me to church; I’ll worship like a dog. . . . In your temple of love . . . halleluja (Hozier; Rod Stewart; Leonard Cohen). Or vice versa: You hold my hand and hold my heart; I give it away now, I am on my knees offering all I am (Parachute Band).

The Church hierarchy’s determination to define and control “legitimate” sex may be cruel and transparently self-serving. But it is smart. Sex endlessly attracts and compels us, making sexual guilt the perfect currency for institutions trafficking in sin and salvation. When religious authorities hold exclusive power to forgive sexual transgressions and then dole out (or deny) sexual privileges, they can redirect sublimated love and loyalty and yearning and passion into the kind of peak experiences that religion itself has on offer—experiences like spiritual ecstasy, selfless service, or mystical union with the Divine—all scripted and doled out by the very same religious institutions and authorities, of course.

But God’s self-appointed spokesmen are losing their grip. If their proclamations seem crazier and their political maneuvers seem transparently cruel—as in recent bullying of transgender kidsthat is because they are desperate. People are noticing that the cage door is open and that the world outside offers a rainbow of possibilities.

Sex and love that are not controlled by the Church compete with the Church. If individuals who are young and elderly, stable and transitioning, queer and straight, partnered and single, parenting and childfree, claim the right to pleasure themselves and each other and to form intimate bonds based on no authority save their own mutual consent and delight, the Church is screwed.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

See:https://valerietarico.com/2016/05/27/the-privileged-cruelty-of-religious-right-sex-rules/

Women Are Fleeing the Church, and It’s Not Hard to Understand Why

Source: AlterNet

Author:Patrica Miller/Religion Dispatches

Emphasis Mine

new Pew Research Center analysis of General Social Survey data confirms a long-simmering trend in U.S. religious observance: While attendance at religious services has declined for all Americans, it has declined more among women than men.

In the early 1970s, 36 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported attending church services weekly, a ten-point gap that reflected the long-standing trend of women being more religiously committed than men.

The gap reached its widest point in 1982, when it hit 13 percent, but then it began to shrink. By 2012, 22 percent of men reported attending church weekly, as did 28 percent of women, reflecting a “worship gap” of only six percent, an historic low.

Pew’s David McClendon gives several possible reasons for women’s declining levels of religiosity as measured by church attendance. One is the increase in the number of women in the workforce, which could theoretically decrease their leisure time and force them to cut back on activities like church. But as McClendon himself notes, “the fastest increase in women’s full-time employment” actually “occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which time the gender gap on religious service attendance actually widened somewhat.”

If women aren’t too busy with work to go to church, maybe it’s because they’re becoming too well educated. Higher rates of educational attainment are correlated to less church going, except McClendon notes that both more educated and less educated women are going to church less.

Finally, McClendon notes that the growth of the “nones” appears to having contributed to women’s declining church attendance, as “the rate of growth in the unaffiliated has been slightly more rapid for women than men,” which has “helped narrow the gender gap in weekly attendance.”

But it seems likely that more women becoming unaffiliated is part and parcel of the same trend of more women staying away from church. It still doesn’t explain why this is happening.

What McClendon overlooks is that the years that women’s church attendance began to decline are the very years when religious leaders in the Catholic Church and the evangelical movement fused religion with the culture wars, with overall attendance for women taking it’s first steep drop in the 1980s.

This drop in church attendance for women coincided with the period when the Catholic bishops began making abortion a litmus test for Catholic politicians, as in the 1984 election when Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was attacked for being pro-choice.

And Pew’s own numbers appear to back this up. According to Pew, women are slightly more likely than men to say that churches should keep out of politics (55 percent vs. 53 percent), and overall 60 percent of Catholics say church should keep out of politics.

Women’s church attendance did recover somewhat in the early 1990s, but then began a long slide in the mid-1990s that continued to 2012, when the GSS data end. While the GSS numbers don’t break out attendance by religion, church attendance for both men and women appears to have bottomed out around the time the sex scandals broke in the Catholic Church in 2001. Other studies have a found “a significant decline in religious participation as a result of the scandals,” and it’s possible this decline was large enough to affect overall church attendance.

But while both men’s and woman’s attendance recovered somewhat after the early 2000s, women’s attendance dropped noticeably between about 2004 and 2012, while men’s remained fairly stable. This period saw evangelicals taking an increasingly hard line about traditional “Catholic” issues like birth control, which may have alienated some women.

And in 2004, the Catholic Church released a controversial document by soon-to-be Pope Benedict that was critical of feminism and said women’s characteristics were “Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.” The following years of Benedict’s papacy were particularly unwelcoming to progressive women in the church.

If McClendon is right and the trend of growing disaffiliation correlates to women’s decline in attendance, it’s also worth noting that Catholics make up the largest portion of the nones exiting a religion. Almost one-third (28 percent) of nones are former Catholics, which is the single largest share of any religious group.

Why have women stopped going to church? It isn’t because they’re too busy or too well educated. Maybe they stopped going when conservative politics took over the pulpit.

Patricia Miller is the author of Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church.

See:http://www.alternet.org/belief/women-are-fleeing-church?akid=14323.123424.W5XUWf&rd=1&src=newsletter1057755&t=24

Church More Dangerous For Kids Than Transgender Bathrooms

got it?
got it?

Source:Patheos.com

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

A child is more likely to be molested at church than a transgender-friendly bathroom.

As the transgender bathroom hysteria rages across the nation, it is important to remember where the real danger is for children. And despite the hysteria, a church is much more dangerous for a child than a public bathroom.

Earlier this week a gay Alabama lawmaker discusses the fact that church is a greater threat to children than transgender-friendly bathrooms. In a touching op-ed post, state representative Patricia Todd discussed the difficulties of being transgender, and the myths surrounding the transgender community.

As for “the bathroom issue” Todd notes:

No evidence has been uncovered showing that fears of transgender persons and “the bathroom issue” are warranted. Several states, school districts and corporations have adopted their own policies affirming transgender people’s right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and have not reported problems.

As for the plight of transgender people, Todd reports:

In a study from UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 70% of transgender people said they had experienced verbal harassment in a situation involving gender-segregated bathrooms, while nearly 10% reported physical assault.

As for the safety of children, Todd observes:

Most child predators are male (The National Center for Victims of Crime) and The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute notes that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women.

In other words, the real danger to children is not strangers in a public bathroom, but people they know, and are taught to trust.

Indeed, anyone who pays attention to the news recognizes that youth pastors are often associated with the sexual abuse of children, and of course there is always the despicable, ongoing, and never-ending sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church.

American News X reports in 2014 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out with a report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The report indicates that from 1950-2013, 17,259 victims made accusations and 6,427 clerics had been counted as “not implausibly” or “credibly” accused. In addition, it should be noted that these numbers do not account for underreporting, or include the unusually large number victims who came forward in 2003 in the wake of the Boston Globe‘s eye-opening report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church by their Spotlight team.

American News X also reports evangelical leaders have grown concerned enough about sexual abuse in their ranks that they have launched the “Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment” (GRACE) to train, educate and help faith communities prevent the rampant child sexual abuse in America’s churches.

A presentation titled “Offenders Within The Church: Who Are They And How Do They Operate?” gives an ominous indication of the grave threat facing children in American churches, including the fact that reported child abuse accusations against US protestant churches average 70 per week (GRACE also acknowledges that the actual number is probably much higher due to under-reporting.)

In fact, GRACE even has a name for this phenomenon that contributes to sexual abuse in churches: The Five Exploitations:

  1. Exploitation of “religious cover”: Child molesters’ apparent embrace of religious practices and doctrine gives them access to children while providing cover for their behavior.
  2. Exploitation of faith: “The victim’s own analysis of religious doctrine may result in confusion and silence.”
  3. Exploitation of power: Children are taught to submit to authority “from the earliest age.”
  4. Exploitation of needs: Churches are always in need of volunteers and don’t always have the resources to thoroughly vet everyone. On top of that, churchgoers often come in need of support and spiritual solace.
  5. Exploitation of trust: Churches foster a trusting environment, especially for families with children, and children are taught to trust in God and those whom they see as His representatives.

As for the big myth that transgender people using public bathrooms pose some sort of threat, a report issued by Media Matters cites experts from twelve states – including law enforcement officials, state human rights workers, and sexual assault victims advocates – who debunk the myth that transgender non-discrimination laws have any relation to incidents of sexual assault or harassment in public restrooms.

Bottom line: Children are much more likely to be molested at church than in a transgender-friendly bathroom.

 

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/05/church-more-dangerous-for-kids-than-transgender-bathrooms/?

How Limiting Women’s Access to Birth Control and Abortions Hurts the Economy

Source: AlterNet

Author: Michele Gilman/the Conversation

Emphasis Mine

Reproductive health isn’t just about abortions, despite all the attention they get. It’s also about access to family planning services, contraception, sex education and much else.

Such access lets women control the timing and size of their families so they have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready and can finish their education and advance in the workplace. After all, having children is expensive, costing US$9,000 to $25,000 a year.

And that’s why providing women with a full range of reproductive health options is good for the economy at the same time as being essential to the financial security of women and their families. Doing the opposite threatens not only the physical health of women but their economic well-being too.

The Supreme Court acknowledged as much in 1992, stating in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey:

The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.

However, it seems that state and federal legislators, certain politicians running for president as well as some conservative Supreme Court justices have forgotten the meaning of this sweeping language.

As a consequence, the right to control their reproductive health has become increasingly illusory for many women, particularly the poor.

The Economics of Contraception

With some conservative politicians dead set on limiting access to abortion, you’d assume that they would be for policies that help women avoid unintended pregnancies. But conservative attacks on birth control are escalating, even though 99 percent of sexually active women have used some form such as an intrauterine device (IUD), patch or pill at least once.

In addition to its widely recognized health and autonomy benefits for women, contraception directly boosts the economy. In fact, research shows access to the pill is responsible for a third of women’s wage gains since the 1960s.

And this benefit extends to their kids. Children born to mothers with access to family planning benefit from a 20 to 30 percent increase in their own incomes over their lifetimes, as well as boosting college completion rates.

Not surprisingly, in a survey, 77 percent of women who used birth control reported that it allowed them to better care for themselves and their families, while large majorities also reported that birth control allowed them to support themselves financially (71 percent), stay in school (64 percent) and help them get and keep a job (64 percent).

Still, there is a class divide in contraception access, as evidenced by disparities in the 2011 rate of unintended pregnancies. While the overall rate fell to 45 percent (from 51 percent in 2008), the figure for women living at or below the poverty line was five times that of women at the highest income level (although also decreasing).

One reason for this disparity is the cost of birth control, particularly for the most effective, long-lasting forms. For instance, it typically costs over $1,000 for an IUD and the procedure to insert it, amounting to one month’s full-time pay for a minimum wage worker.

These costs are significant, given that the average American woman wants two children and will thus need contraception for at least three decades of her life. Unfortunately, publicly funded family planning meets only 54 percent of the need, and these funding streams are under constant attack by conservatives.

Not surprisingly, health insurance makes a difference, and women with coverage are much more likely to use contraceptive care. The Affordable Care Act is responsible for part of the drop in unintended pregnancies—it expanded contraception coverage to around 55 million women with private insurance coverage.

Yet this coverage is also at risk for millions of employees and their dependents who work for employers claiming a religious objection. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court concluded that a for-profit company cannot only profess religious beliefs but also impose those beliefs on their employees by denying them certain forms of contraception. The Obama administration has issued regulations allowing religious employers to opt out of offering contraceptive coverage. Affected employees are then covered directly by their insurers.

This is not enough for some. In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in which several religious nonprofits assert that even the act of seeking an accommodation from the law burdens their religious consciences.

These religious groups argue in part that women can get their birth control from other sources, such as federally funded family planning centers. Yet at the same time, conservatives are on a mission to slash that funding, particularly for Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health care to almost five million people a year.

This makes no economic sense. Publicly funded family planning programs help women avoid about two million unintended pregnancies a year and save the government billions of dollars in health care costs. The net savings to government are $13.6 billion. For every $1 invested in these services, the government saves $7.09.

Sex Education and the Economic Ladder

Another key to reproductive health—and one that isn’t discussed enough—is sexual education for teenagers.

For years, the public has spent over $2 billion on abstinence-only programs, which not only fail to reduce teen birth rates but also reinforce gender stereotypes and are rife with misinformation. Low-income minority teens are particularly subject to these programs.

Teens without knowledge about their sexual healtare more likely to get pregnant and less likely to work, spiraling them to the bottom of the economic ladder.

President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget would eliminate federal funding for abstinence-only sex education and instead fund only comprehensive sexual education, which is age-appropriate and medically accurate. However, Congress has rejected the president’s prior proposed cuts and the same result is likely for 2017.

Access to Abortion

Then there’s the issue of abortion. Let’s start with the cost.

Half of women who obtain an abortion pay more than one-third of their monthly income for the procedure.

Costs rise significantly the longer a woman must wait, either because state law requires it or she needs to save up the money—or both. Studies show that women who cannot access abortion are three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who obtained abortions.

In addition to the financial burden, many states are enacting laws designed to limit abortion access. These laws hit low-income women particularly hard. From 2011 to 2015, 31 states have enacted 288 such laws, including waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions.

Moreover, 24 states have enacted so-called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), which medical experts say go far beyond what is needed for patient safety and impose needless requirements on doctors and abortion facilities, such as requiring facilities to have the same hallway dimensions as a hospital.

In March, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a Texas TRAP lawWhole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If the court upholds the law, the entire state of Texas will be left with only 10 abortion providers.

lower federal appeals court stated in the Texas case that travel distances of more than 150 miles one way are not an “undue burden” and are thus constitutional. This, I would argue, shows a complete lack of understanding regarding the difficulties that poverty—especially rural poverty—imposes. Traveling long distances adds additional costs to an already expensive medical procedure.

The court’s decision is expected in June. Observers fear that the court could split 4-4, which would leave the Texas law intact.

The Hyde Amendment

Another way in which U.S. policy on abortions exacerbates economic inequality, especially for women of color, is through the ban on federal funding—which some aspiring politicians seem to have forgotten is still in place.

It has been so since the 1976 enactment of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. The Affordable Care Act does many wonderful things for women’s health, but it also extends the Hyde Amendment through its expansion of Medicaid, and it allows states to ban abortion coverage in their private exchanges.

Denying poor women coverage under Medicaid contributes to the unintended birth rates that are seven times higher for poor women than high-income women.

Economic and Reproductive Health

Politicians cannot promise to grow the economy and simultaneously limit access to abortion, birth control and sexual education. Our nation’s economic health and women’s reproductive health are linked.

And as Hillary Clinton correctly noted recently, it’s an issue that deserves more attention in the presidential campaign—and hasn’t received enough.

Michele Gilman is a venable Professor of Law, University of Baltimore and is affiliated with the ACLU of Maryland and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/gender/how-limiting-womens-access-birth-control-and-abortions-hurts-economy?akid=14217.123424.vApA3m&rd=1&src=newsletter1055746&t=18

Does the beauty and effectiveness of math in understanding the world prove anything?

Source: why evolution is true

Author: whyeveloutionistrue

Emphasis Mine

One of the disadvantages of shopping for food early Sunday morning is that Krista Tippett’s “On Being” program is on National Public Radio at 7 a.m. And, of course, I have to listen, cursing to myself for an entire hour. Why do I do it, you ask? I could say that I need to keep my finger on the pulse of America, and that’s one reason, but it also serves as an Orwellian Sixty Minutes of Hate. (“Hate” is too strong; I think that Tippett and her followers are pitiable, though she’s very well compensated.)

Today’s show, actually, wasn’t so bad (I heard only about 40 minutes), as it featured a man who resisted all attempts to couch his thoughts as woo: Frank Wilczek, an MIT professor who, along with David Gross and H. D. Politzer, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for work on the strong interaction.  Tippett being Tippett, the topic, of course, wasn’t really physics per se but, as you can see from the show’s title (“Why is the World So Beautiful?“), the “spiritual.” Wilczek has also written several popular books (I haven’t read them), one with the unfortunate title of A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design. I doubt that it’s teleological or osculates faith, but I wouldn’t have used the word “design”, which of course implies a Designer.

At any rate, Wilczek tackled an interesting topic: the beauty of mathematics and how well “beautiful and simple equations” describe the structure of the cosmos through physical laws. Why are such simple and “beautiful” theories so useful in describing the laws of physics? The wonder that Wilczek evinced resembled that expressed by Eugene Wigner in his famous 1960 paper, “The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences.” Here’s a quote from that paper:

It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them. The observation which comes closest to an explanation for the mathematical concepts’ cropping up in physics which I know is Einstein’s statement that the only physical theories which we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones.

I doubt that most physicists would consider this a “miracle” (Wilczek didn’t come close to using that word); and, as I discuss in Faith versus Fact, there are anthropic reasons for the laws of physics being constant rather than variable (our bodies wouldn’t function, and no organism could evolve, if the laws varied wildly), as well as for mathematics being able to describe the laws of physics.

This leaves two questions: why are the laws of physics described with such simple—and, to physicists, beautiful—equations? And why, as Wilczek maintained, has beauty served physicists so well as a guide to truth? In fact, at one point Wilczek said that, when deriving an equation to explain physical phenomena, “It was so beautiful that I knew it had to be true.”

As a working (or ex-working) scientist, I recoil at such statements. To me, beauty cannot be evidence of truth, though it may be a guide to truth. If so, how does that work? But I even wonder how often mathematical beauty itself, which, after all, doesn’t come out of thin air but builds on previous equations known to describe reality, guides the search for truth completely independent of empiricism.  I’m not qualified to answer that question, nor the questions of whether even more beautiful equations could be wrong, or whether it’s all that surprising that the effectiveness of math in describing physics is “unreasonable.”

Of course Tippett tried to turn all this toward spirituality, and at one point asked Wilczek if this beauty was evidence for Something Bigger Out There that others have called God, but he batted away the question. The woman tries to force everything into her Procrustean Bed of Spirituality. But leaving that aside, I have three questions for readers to ponder, and—especially for readers with expertise in math and physics—to give their take in the comments:

  1. Aren’t there “ugly” theories that describe reality? What is a beautiful theory, anyway?
  2. Are there beautiful theories that physics has proposed that turned out to be wrong?
  3. Is it even worth pondering the question (if the proposition is true) about why physical reality is explained by such simple and “beautiful” equations? My own reaction would be “that’s just the way it is,” but clearly people like Tippett want to go “deeper.”

*********

By the way, at the end of the show, Tippett announced the major donors to the show, and the first of these was—surprise!—the John Templeton Foundation (JTF). I hadn’t heard that before, and the JTF isn’t listed among the “funding partners” on the show’s main page:

See:https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/does-the-beauty-and-effectiveness-of-math-in-understanding-the-world-prove-anything/

Is Penis Worship at the Root of the Bogus Notion of Fetal Personhood?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

I’m slow sometimes, but after years of writing about abortion rights it finally occurred to me that “life begins at conception” is one more version of a multimillennial infatuation with the penis as symbol and proof that manliness is next to godliness.

On the surface, conservative Evangelical and Catholic insistence that life begins at conception appears to be aimed at elevating the status of fetus over woman. But just beneath the surface, what it elevates is the status of the penis—and anyone who has one.

What creates the wonder of a new person? Forget about the maturation of germ cells, and the nine-month labor of a woman’s body, and painstaking parental nurture. It’s a sperm, a penile projectile shot forth by the ultimate organ of demi-divinity. Sperm penetrates egg, and voila! A person! A new soul! All the extraordinary and unique value we accord to human life is created instantaneously.

Three Millennia of Penis Worship

Once noticed, the pattern is inescapable. Our ancestors thought that the penis was literally divine. Dharmic cultures worshiped it by whacking stalactites and stalagmites out of caves and air-roots off of trees and carving phallic shapes out of granite by the thousands. Abrahamic cultures took the opposite approach and insisted the penis was so precious and powerful that it couldn’t be seen, even in art, and had to be chiseled off of statues or at least covered with fig leaves.

They also insisted that a man’s magic wand could permanently transform a female from one kind of being to another, from a prized “virgin” into a worthless “whore.” In medieval Catholicism’s recipe for sexual hangups, the prior touch of a penis (or lack thereof) became the most defining aspect of a woman’s identity, economic value and moral virtue. Penis penetrates female, and voila! No longer a whole person! The same magic wand that made her valuable could also do the reverse.

Same Old, Same Old

Fundamentalists who are anchored to the Iron Age by sacred texts and patriarchal traditions still hold to this archaic view, though they may use updated terms like “licked lollypop” or “chewed gum”—and some do offer second chances through “born-again virginity.”

But at least in the West, millennials finally are catching on to how ridiculous the whole virginity thing is. As one Facebook meme put it recently, “I don’t believe in virginity. Why? Because nobody’s penis is important enough to change any part of my identity.”

The idea that a penis can permanently change a woman’s value and the idea that a penis can instantaneously create a new soul both derive from the idea that men uniquely, were made in the image of God and that the penis (circumcised, of course) is the supreme symbol of man’s divinely anointed headship. And once they are packaged together, the idea that life-begins-at-conception starts sounding as transparently male-aggrandizing and silly as the idea of virginity.

No, You Didn’t Build That

Yes, the occasional sperm does end up inside an egg rather than a towel. And yes, sperm-penetrates-egg is a necessary—if insufficientstep in person formation. But the incredible process of making a new person begins long before conception and continues long after. To the trained eye, conception is no more or less magnificent—or critical—than the creation of the egg or the sperm itself, or of the many stages of transformation that come after.

In the subconscious of a patriarchal male or religious institution intent on preserving privilege, the claim that a penis can create a new person—or better yet, a new soul, almost ex nihilo—may flow naturally and logically from man’s god-like qualities and “rightful” dominance. But from an outside vantage the men making such claims seem rather like puffed-up architects who scribble partial plans and then claim they build buildings. Nice fantasy, but in the real world both buildings and people get made one step at a time. Construction is slow and hard and takes teamwork.

Everything’s a Project

In the case of forming a new person, two bodies produce germ cells that independently hold half of a biological blueprint. If each half works well enough and they meet, then a woman’s body starts the structural engineering to determine whether the design actually works. For very good reasons, the answer usually is no; the engineering team rejects the project and dumps it into the porcelain circular file. Most embryonic humans get booted out so fast that nobody even knows they existed. If and when engineering gives the preliminary go-ahead, a woman’s whole body gears up to start building a person. Her circulatory system pumps up blood flow. Her bones and teeth transfer calcium to the construction site. Her digestive system demands enough food for two.

Not only is the process slow and costly—like any construction project, it’s dangerous. Eight hundred American women die every year from pregnancy. Around the world, it’s that many every day. Most of us survive the project, but we do endure nausea and swollen ankles and fatigue, and irreversible wear and tear. When we women choose to incubate a child, which we often do quite gladly, we do so knowing our bodies and lives will never again be the same.

So, patriarchs, love your orgasms all you like, but don’t fall for the weirdly puffed-up idea that they make babies. Penis power is solely limited to fertilizing eggs. And a fertilized egg is a fertilized egg—no less, no more.

Real Fatherhood

Silly-willy worship aside, many men deserve real credit for making children, because they take on the actual parenthood project in a deep and devoted way. Wanting to be good parents of healthy children, they wear condoms till the time is right, put their lives in order, bring home prenatal vitamins and make peanut butter sandwiches in the middle of the night.

When pregnancy ends, they endure labor vicariously (yes, vicarious pain hurts), anxiously awaiting the slimy little creature that will spill out in a puddle of blood. Labor over, they gingerly hold a sweet-smelling, flannel-wrapped burrito and look into eyes that are seeing the world for the first time and fall in love.

Back in the home they have helped to create, they wipe spit-up off shirts and go to work bleary-eyed when illness strikes and a child can’t sleep. In better times, they get down on the rug and play pretend and read stories even though maybe—just once in a while—they’d rather be playing video games or reading the Times. They understand that making something as wonderfully complex as a fully fledged, thriving person takes everything a parent can give for decades, and they give it.

Name It

Conception worship is willy worship. It diminishes fatherhood by trivializing the many other parts of themselves that men can and do bring to the process of creating a new person—heart and mind, labor and love. And it diminishes all of motherhood.

So, if you’re one of the guys who either is or intends to be a real father—please call out posers who think themselves endowed with some divine instrument that can turn an egg into a precious little person. And if you would, while you’re at it, you could do us women a favor by calling out the equally ludicrous conceit that the touch of a penis turns a female from one kind of being into another. Men don’t have magic wands in their pants—just body parts, and exaggerating the power of your dick just makes you one.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington, and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at valerietarico.com.

See:http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/penis-worship-root-bogus-notion-fetal-personhood?akid=14206.123424.iljA1A&rd=1&src=newsletter1055467&t=8