November 19, 2012, 4:56 pm
Chicago — The taxi driver who dropped me off at McCormick Place, the convention center where the annual joint conference of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature is being held, asked if it was a meeting of religious people—like nuns and priests.
There are nuns and priests in attendance, for sure, along with Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, but it’s a gathering of religious scholars, not a revival meeting, and plenty of the people here don’t subscribe to any faith tradition; they just spend their lives studying them.
Naturally, there is a lot of talk about the Bible. Here is a sampling of the Bible-related presentation titles:
- “You Shall Not Boil a Kid in Its Mother’s Milk: The Dietary Law That Wasn’t”
- “The Divine Unsub: Television Procedurals and Biblical Sexual Violence”
- “‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’: Queering Wisdom in…
November 18, 2012, 9:29 pm
Chicago — In an interview the week after Barack Obama’s re-election, Cornel West said he was glad Mitt Romney hadn’t won, but he also expressed his displeasure with the president, calling him a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”
West, who is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and an emeritus professor in Princeton’s Center for African-American Studies, knows how to turn a loaded phrase, and here he was lambasting Obama for not doing enough to help poor people or, for that matter, to mention their plight during the campaign.
Nothing even close to that inflammatory was said at a session over the weekend on Obama and progressivism held here as part of the American Academy of Religion’s annual conference. In fact, most of the session was devoted to explanations of why the president had failed to live up to many of the…
November 7, 2012, 3:10 pm
Sam Wang did not eat a bug for breakfast.
Before Tuesday’s election, Wang, a Princeton neuroscientist and part-time election forecaster, promised to consume an insect if either Pennsylvania or Minnesota ended up going for Mitt Romney. If Ohio turned red, he pledged to eat “a really big bug.” (If you missed it, here’s Tuesday’s story about the rise of the poll quants.)
But he was right about those states and everything else. Wang was 50 for 50. (As I write this, Florida’s results are still being tallied. Wang had it in Obama’s column, but he also called the state a coin toss, correctly predicting that it would be the tightest race.) His prediction of the percentage of the popular vote going to each candidate was dead on: Obama 51.1, Romney 48.9. Oh, and he was also 10 for 10 in U.S. Senate races.
The poster boy for election forecasting, Nate Silver, who had been ridiculed by some…
October 1, 2012, 3:01 pm
Research misconduct, rather than error, is the leading cause of retractions in scientific journals, with the problem especially pronounced in more prestigious publications, a comprehensive analysis has concluded.
The analysis, described on Monday in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges previous findings that attributed most retractions to mistakes or inadvertent failures in equipment or supplies.
The PNAS finding came from a comprehensive review of more than 2,000 published retractions, including detailed investigations into the public explanations given by the retracting authors and their journals.
The project was intended to explore the types of errors that typically lead to retractions, said one author of the PNAS paper, Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“And what we …
September 6, 2012, 4:25 pm
Harris Cooper (Duke University)
When Harris Cooper was asked to help start a new psychology journal, he said yes, but with a few conditions. He wanted to design not just a new journal, but a different kind of journal, one that attempted to fix the problems that the field of psychology has been struggling with, like high-profile researchers who commit fraud (see Stapel and Smeesters), and papers that attract a lot of attention yet can’t be replicated (see Bem).
He wanted to build the perfect journal, or as close to it as possible.
The result is Archives of Scientific Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association and edited by Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, and Gary R. VandenBos, executive director of APA’s publications office. It really is remarkable and could be…
September 4, 2012, 2:43 pm
Stanford University researchers scored hundreds of newspaper and broadcast reports on Tuesday with a study suggesting that expensive organic foods are no better for consumers than those produced through conventional farming methods.
The findings were compiled by a team led by Dena M. Bravata, a senior affiliate in Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, an instructor in the Stanford medical school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines, as evidence that the high cost of organics simply isn’t justified.
Their study may help affirm suspicions that organic foods are “a marketing tool that gulls people into overpaying,” The New York Times said, in one of many such reports describing the Stanford study as casting doubt on the wisdom of buying organic.
“It’s hard not to notice the press on it,” John P. Reganold, a professor of soil science at…
August 21, 2012, 1:24 pm
The Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)
When human beings are startled, we raise our shoulders and close our eyes. Our blood vessels constrict, and our pulse quickens. The startle response is a well-documented phenomenon; one of the first studies to examine it was published in 1939, and there’s even an entire book on the subject.
An involuntary reaction to, say, a very loud noise is thought to be deeply primitive and impossible to overcome. Try to stifle it, and you will almost certainly fail.
Unless, perhaps, you’re a Buddhist monk with 40 years of experience in meditation like Matthieu Ricard. Born in France, a son of the philosopher Jean-François Revel, Ricard has a doctorate in cell genetics and serves as the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama.
Researchers decided …
August 15, 2012, 2:01 pm
Robert D. Putnam (© 2012 Bowling Alone)
Robert D. Putnam’s research is being used to make the case that diversity is bad—and he’s not happy about it.
The Harvard sociologist, best known for his book Bowling Alone, filed a supporting brief in the lawsuit over race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the brief, Putnam objects to how his research is characterized in another brief, by Abigail Thernstrom, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Stephan Thernstrom, a Harvard historian, among others (the two Thernstroms, in case you were wondering, are married).
In the Thernstrom brief, a 2007 paper by Putnam, titled “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” is cited as evidence that …