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This Week in Science (Feb. 1 – 7)

February 7, 2016

This is a collection of the 10 best and most popular stories from science and technology over the past 7 days. Scroll down and click the individual images below to read the stories and follow the This Week in Science on Wakelet (here) to get these week... [MORE]

The Sheltering Campus: Why College Is Not Home

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: Ivanastar/iStock By A. Douglas Stone and Mary Schwab-Stone Erika Christakis used to teach a course at Yale titled “The Concept of the Problem Child,” a discussion of child development and socialization in a historical and modern context. The course was a seminar of 20 participants, and it was popular; she had planned extra sessions this semester to accommodate the hundreds of interested students. Then came the notorious email — subject: “Dressing Yourselves” — that she sent to students in the residence hall where she and her husband serve as masters. In it, she criticized a detailed memo from administrators advising sensitivity in choice of Halloween costumes and activities. The essential point in the email: The university’s memo infantilized the students. The term, in developmental psychology, refers to a parenting approach that uses a level of assistance and control more appropriate for much younger children; ultimately, such behavior can hinder capacities to develop independence and resilience. Despite Ms. Christakis’s nuanced argument, an open letter denounced her views as degrading to marginalized people and garnered nearly a thousand signatures, and a video of students confronting and verbally assaulting her husband went viral. We helped organize an open letter of our own, defending Ms. Christakis’s contribution to campus discourse; it was signed by 88 current or retired Yale faculty members. But as a result of the harsh reaction she experienced, she announced in December that she would no longer teach at Yale, eliminating an important educational option for undergraduates. While this dramatic incident raised concerns about free speech and civil debate on campus, it is also worth analyzing it from a developmental perspective. After all, universities are the settings for the transition to adulthood for a large segment of American youth. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

India’s Government Is Becoming Increasingly Antiscience

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: Al Jazeera English By Apoorva Mandavilli Three murders, a suicide and a rash of political appointments at universities have thrown Indian academia into an uproar against the conservative (right-wing) government. Prominent artists, writers, historians and scientists are speaking out against an intensifying climate of religious intolerance and political interference in academic affairs. “What’s going on in this country is really dangerous,” says Rajat Tandon, a number theorist at Hyderabad Central University. Tandon is one of more than 100 prominent scientists, including many heads of institutions, who signed a statement protesting “the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.” The statement cites the murder of three noted rationalists — men who had dedicated their lives to countering superstition and championed scientific thought — and what they see as the government’s silent complicity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2014 general elections in India in a landslide victory. The BJP and Modi, in particular, are aligned with the extremist right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. (This unholy alliance is comparable to the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but the RSS is a paramilitary group with more violent overtones than the Tea Party has shown so far.) Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers. “The present government is deviating from the path of democracy, taking the country on the path to what I’d call a Hindu religious autocracy,” says Pushpa Mittra Bhargava , who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

The Mormon Church is Opposing a Medical Marijuana Bill That Could Help Thousands of Ailing Patients

February 6, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, Utah State Senator Mark B. Madsen proposed a bill -- S.B. 73, the Medical Cannabis Act -- that would allow the use of medical marijuana for patients suffering from ALS, Alzheimer's, Crohn's, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, chronic pain, etc.There's no shortage of stories of patients whose lives have improved considerably because the marijuana eased their pain, prevented muscle spasms, stopped nausea, etc. Even beyond the arguments for legalizing pot, medical marijuana should be a no-brainer.shutterstock_244198942So, of course, Madsen's bill is in danger of being derailed by the Mormon Church:
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Sick and Tired of ‘God Bless America’

February 5, 2016

Photo credit: Credit Alec Soth/Magnum Photos By Susan Jacoby The population of nonreligious Americans — including atheists, agnostics and those who call themselves “nothing in particular” — stands at an all-time high this election year. Americans who say religion is not important in their lives and who do not belong to a religious group, according to the Pew Research Center, have risen in numbers from an estimated 21 million in 2008 to more than 36 million now. Despite the extraordinary swiftness and magnitude of this shift, our political campaigns are still conducted as if all potential voters were among the faithful. The presumption is that candidates have everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing their obsequious attitude toward orthodox religion and ignoring the growing population of those who make up a more secular America. Ted Cruz won in Iowa by expanding Republican voter turnout among the evangelical base. Donald J. Trump placed second after promising “to protect Christians” from enemies foreign and domestic. The third-place finisher Marco Rubio’s line “I don’t think you can go to church too often” might well have been the campaign mantra. Mr. Rubio was first christened a Roman Catholic, baptized again at the age of 8 into the Mormon Church, and now attends a Southern Baptist megachurch with his wife on Saturdays and Catholic Mass on Sundays. Democrats are only a trifle more secular in their appeals. Hillary Clinton repeatedly refers to her Methodist upbringing, and even Bernie Sanders — a cultural Jew not known to belong to a synagogue — squirms when asked whether he believes in God. When Jimmy Kimmel posed the question, Mr. Sanders replied in a fog of words at odds with his usual blunt style: “I am who I am. And what I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together.” He once referred to a “belief in God” that requires him to follow the Golden Rule — a quote his supporters seem to trot out whenever someone suggests he’s an atheist or agnostic. The question is not why nonreligious Americans vote for these candidates — there is no one on the ballot who full-throatedly endorses nonreligious humanism — but why candidates themselves ignore the growing group of secular voters. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]
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