A Pragmatic Faith

In my first post for this blog I talked about pragmatism in politics. Research suggests that pragmatism is better than ideology at producing the mindset needed to make good decisions. Can we apply the same principle to religious faith?

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On Discrimination and "Protected Classes"

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback can't seem to stay away from controversy these days. Following a contentious reelection campaign, and in the midst of a polarizing budget battle, Brownback has issued an executive order allowing discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The order rescinds a 2007 order by Brownback's predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius.

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"I'm Not a Scientist"

Five years ago this week a massive snowstorm shut down Washington, D.C. for several days. The family of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe built an igloo on the National Mall and labeled it "Al Gore's new home" in a mocking tribute to Gore's efforts to publicize the seriousness of global warming. Inhofe told reporters he thought the igloo was "really humorous".

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Olbers' Paradox

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble,” Mark Twain once said. “It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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Carrying the Lady

A retelling of a Buddhist parable

Two monks were on the road from their monastery to town. At a certain place a river crossed the road, and a recent storm had washed away the bridge. As the monks approached the river they saw a lady in a long gown standing on the bank. "I must get to my sister's wedding," she said, "but if I step into the river I'll ruin this gown. Can you help me, please?"

The younger monk declined, for theirs was a strict sect that forbade its members from having any physical contact with the opposite sex.

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Can We Find a Middle Ground on Measles Vaccination?

One side says mandatory vaccination is the best way to protect children from deadly diseases. The other side says vaccinations often cause the diseases they are supposed to prevent, and can sometimes even trigger autism. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has tried to strike a middle ground by calling for balance between public health concerns and parental choice. But is a middle ground even possible?

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A Brief History of Vaccination

The practice of inoculation--exposing a person to a mild case of an illness to build up an immunity--is possibly a thousand years old. Some evidence exists that 11th century Chinese physicians may have prevented the spread of smallpox by exposing people to pus from the sores of smallpox victims. There was a slight risk of actually giving a person smallpox through this form of inoculation, but it was a smaller risk than the much greater exposure they could get during an epidemic.

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Does Rooftop Solar Kill Jobs and Hurt the Poor?

To hear some people talk, the growing popularity of solar energy is tantamount to a war on coal

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Hedgehogs and Foxes

More than a half century ago, philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote a little essay he called The Hedgehog and the Fox. The title is based on a line from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows only one big thing." Berlin used this as an analogy for how different writers and thinkers approach the world. Plato and Dante, for example, were hedgehogs, always keeping within one overarching framework. William Shakespeare, on the other hand, was a fox, exploring many ideas and themes throughout his writing career.

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