November 24, 2009 |
Today, a century and a half after Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," the overwhelming majority of scientists in the United States accept Darwinian evolution as the basis for understanding how life on Earth developed. But although evolutionary theory is often portrayed as antithetical to religion, it has not destroyed the religious faith of the scientific community. According to a survey of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51%)
June 13, 2013 |
Any day now, the Supreme Court will announce its decision in the Fisher vs. University of Texas case, which could invalidate the use of race-conscious policies in college admissions. Some Asian American groups, such as the 80-20 Education Foundation, have been among the most vocal and visible in opposing what's broadly termed affirmative action. They believe getting rid of race considerations will work to the advantage of Asian Americans, who on average have held more extracurricular leadership positions and have higher test scores and grade-point averages than whites, yet have the lowest acceptance rate to elite private universities.
August 22, 2013 |
Contrary to stereotypes, there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy. Indeed, surveys of welfare recipients consistently show their desire for a job. But there is also evidence that many are reluctant to accept available employment opportunities. Despite work requirements included in the 1996 welfare reform, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says less than 42% of adult welfare recipients participate in work activities nationwide. Why the contradiction? Perhaps it's because, while poor people are not lazy, they are not stupid either.
September 22, 2013 |
It's easy to grasp that in a national park, balance must be maintained between predators and prey, lest the ecosystem crash. But when we're talking about our own species, it gets harder. The notion that there are limits to how much humanity this parkland called Earth can bear doesn't sit easy with us. The "nature" part of human nature includes making more copies of ourselves, to ensure our genetic and cultural survival. As that instinct comes in handy for building mighty nations and dominant religions, we've set about filling the Earth, rarely worrying that it might one day overfill.
October 20, 2013 |
We're quietly approaching the 100th anniversary of the modern cigarette, but don't expect much in the way of fanfare. Cigarette sales have been falling since 1981, when 630 billion were smoked in the United States. Now we smoke only about 300 billion in any given year, mostly in the style of the "American blend" introduced by Camels. Camels were first sold in October 1913. Only 1 million were sold that first year, but this quickly grew to 425 million in 1914 and to 6.5 billion two years later.
June 14, 2013 |
Six months ago today, on Dec. 14, Americans reacted with horror to the slaughter of 20 children and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Suddenly, gun safety legislation was front and center everywhere, including Washington. Then in April, a recalcitrant Senate succumbed to pressure from gun manufacturers and the NRA's leadership and failed to pass even the most modest measure, a bill to extend background checks to gun shows and Internet sales. The president was angry, the families of victims frustrated, and the moment for gun control seemed lost.
October 25, 2013 |
Give women the vote and what outrageous thing happens next? In Saudi Arabia, they start demanding the keys to the car. Thus a relative handful of brave Saudi women will slip behind the wheel Saturday for a "Day of Female Driving. " Saudi Arabia is the only nation that bars women from driving. Not that there's an actual law against them doing so. But the government won't issue them licenses. There are, however, women with licenses obtained in other countries; they will be the driving force, if you will, of the Saturday demonstration.
October 18, 2013 |
There's a phrase that has haunted America for decades, one fraught with failure: "Breaking the cycle of poverty. " Despite the ongoing efforts of government and a host of private foundations, income inequality continues to grow and the poor are ever more likely to remain poor. Many factors favor the rich getting richer while the poor stagnate. The wealthy benefit from economies of scale, as the best prices and lowest interest rates are more readily available to those who least need them.
November 19, 2013 |
In Britain to promote her film "The Butler," Oprah Winfrey gave an interview to the BBC last week. Not surprisingly, she promoted her movie about race relations in the White House with comments about race relations and the White House. The BBC's Will Gompertz asked: "Has it ever crossed your mind that some of the treatment of Obama and the challenges he's faced and some of the reporting he's received is because he's an African American?" Now there's a fresh take. Either Gompertz has been handcuffed to a radiator in someone's windowless basement for the last five years or, more likely, he was riffing off the suggested questions Winfrey's PR team handed out to interviewers.
September 20, 2013 |
Five years ago, this week, the world of finance and economics changed forever. At least that's the story. It started with a sad milestone in Wall Street history: the fall of the House of Lehman. Between Sept. 13 and Sept. 20, 2008, Lehman Bros., the legendary 158-year-old Wall Street firm, wobbled, stumbled and finally ceased to exist. In the conventional narrative, the failure of Lehman and the equally storied trading outfit Bear Stearns was part of an epic, once-in-a-generation meltdown in which global financial markets collapsed simultaneously in ways that nobody could have possibly foreseen.