Christianity in America grudgingly moves in opposite directions

A series of Pew Research Center polls released last week shows how ideas about religious belief and morality are increasingly falling along racial and political lines. Fifty-six percent of Americans now say that belief in God isn’t a necessary component of morality, up from 49 percent in 2011. The uptick reflects the wider prevalence of the spiritually unaffiliated, or “nones,” as nearly a quarter of Americans identified as atheist or agnostic in 2011.

The change may be only a 7-point difference. But those differences manifest themselves almost exclusively along political lines.

Having resolved this discussion to the best information available in science and philosophy – at the time – I’ve been a philosophical materialist, a dialectician, an atheist since 1956. Every serious scientific publication I’ve read since has only strengthened that conviction.

While Republicans have roughly held steady in their attitudes — 50 percent say a belief in God is necessary for morality, while 47 percent say it is not — Democrats have shown the most change in their perspectives. Almost two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters now say belief in God is not part of being a good person, compared with 51 percent in 2011.

RTFA for more directions – and direction – the authors seem solid that this portion of their survey speaks most accurately to changes in the United States.

New Mexico’s Republican Governor wants science education to retreat to the Dark Ages

❝…In an attempt to make it easier for states to handle science education a bit better, a group of prestigious scientific societies banded together to make their own science education standards. The resulting Next Generation Science Standards were offered to the states free of charge, allowing them to be adopted in their entirety or modified to fit a state’s needs.

❝ Last week, it became apparent that New Mexico’s modification of the standards was a bit extreme, eliminating references to climate change, the age of the Earth, and evolution. And this week, some New Mexico legislators are blaming it on a misguided attempt to “politically sanitize” the science…The problems came to light earlier in September, when New Mexico’s Public Education department released a formal notice that it was seeking input on new science standards…Mother Jones decided to have a look at some of the changes, and they were rather striking.

❝ For example, a mention of “Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old geologic history” was chopped down to “Earth’s history,” neatly getting rid of the information about how old it is. A reference to the evolution of life was cut entirely. The clear rise in global temperatures was swapped out in favor of talk about temperature fluctuations. In short, the proposed new standards get rid of basic facts, specifically in areas that are politically or culturally contentious…for Republicans and other anti~science nutballs.

The one thing that was missing was why. This wasn’t a case of local politicians messing with science education as a part of their platform, as has happened in Texas and elsewhere…Two Democratic lawmakers have pointed the finger at the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez. The lawmakers, Bill McCamley and G. Andrés Romero…had been supporters of a bill that would see the Next Generation Science Standards adopted verbatim, a course that had been recommended by a panel of education experts organized by the state. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature but was vetoed by Martinez

You don’t have to be trapped by Know-Nothings in the American Confederacy to have children’s education threatened by bigots and superstitious fools. Martinez is governor by virtue of a Democrat Establishment throwing away easy electoral opportunities to satisfy a cabal more concerned with lineage in political power – than issues.

Father Drives 20,000 Miles From Nanjing, China to Seattle to Drop His Daughter Off at College

❝ After 108 days on the road, globetrotting father-daughter pair Huang Haitao and Huang Xinyi have finally arrived at their final destination: orientation.

Back in May, the duo set out on the ultimate adventure, road-tripping from their home in Nanjing in Eastern China to Xinyi’s college of choice, Seattle University…

❝ The decision to drive (flying over the Atlantic) the 18,642 miles from their home to her college came after Haitao promised to personally take his daughter to school if she were accepted into an American university. According to the Yangtze Evening News, the pair traveled through 26 countries, making stops in Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Switzerland, Austria, and many other new destinations. Once they reached the U.K., they boarded a plane to the U.S., shipping their car by boat overseas, and eventually picking up the road trip again on American soil. They drove along the historic Route 66 to Los Angeles before heading north to Seattle…

❝ For Xinyi’s father, the road trip was an important experience to share with his daughter before sending her off into adulthood.

“After she goes to college, there won’t really be many opportunities in future for me to spend so much time with her,” Mashable translated from the Yangtze Evening News. “She’ll have her own life, so the least I can do is send her onto the next chapter of her life.”

My kind of dad.

Dogs Who Live With Smokers Die Younger


How to kill your best friend

❝ Dogs are like small children. They tend to explore their environments by putting whatever they can find in their mouths, as well as sniffing about your carpet, your furniture, and your lap. It’s no surprise, then, that your canine friend can be harmed by toxic chemicals in your environment. New research confirms that dogs living in smoking homes are more likely to suffer from DNA damage and show signs of premature aging than those living in non-smoking homes.

❝ In people, the potential health risks of smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke are well documented. But to understand how environmental tobacco affects our pets, Natalie Hutchinson, a veterinary researcher at the University of Glasgow, recruited 42 dogs and their owners, approximately half of whom lived in smoking homes and half in non-smoking homes. Each of the dog owners completed a survey about their smoking habits, frequency, and whether they smoked indoors or stepped outside. Then researchers collected blood, hair samples, and cheek swabs from the dogs during a health checkup. They also offered free-of-charge neutering, and collected spare tissues for genetic analysis.

❝ A year later, Hutchinson followed up with 25 of the pet owners and conducted some more tests. She found that certain biological markers, such as the presence of nicotine in dogs’ hair, were much higher in dogs exposed to smoke at home and were related to the amount of smoking going on. “The fact that we found significant increases in various biomarkers over just a year’s worth of data is the most worrying part for me,” she says. “Dogs can live up to 10 to 15 years with us, which means they could be exposed to even more harmful effects over time.”

But dogs that came from smoking homes were already showing signs of DNA damage that could lead to shorter lives, Hutchinson says. Their telomeres, which cap and protect the ends of chromosomes, were much shorter compared to dogs from non-smoking homes. Telomeres not only protect DNA from oxidative stress, once they reach a critically short length, cells stop dividing and may even die, Hutchinson explains.

No surprise to me. Still, it’s nice to see the beginnings of scientific research validating what lots of folks know anecdotally.

Barnard College Replaces Manager of $286 Million Endowment — Moving to a socially responsible firm

❝ Barnard College is replacing its money manager, Investure LLC, with another firm that’s able to invest its $286 million endowment in more socially responsible companies.

Strategic Investment Group, based in Arlington, Virginia, will become the fund’s manager at the end of September, Barnard said Wednesday in a statement. Investure, run by Alice Handy in Charlottesville, Virginia, had overseen the school’s investment office since 2006. Barnard is at least the third client to depart Investure in the past three years.

❝ In March, Barnard’s board of trustees voted to divest from energy companies that deny climate change, saying the women’s college, which is affiliated with Columbia University in New York, will “distinguish between companies based on their behavior and willingness to transition to a cleaner economy.”…

❝ In 2014, Investure lost Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which decided to divest from fossil fuel companies. Rockefeller Brothers, which has an $816 million fund, hired a unit of Perella Weinberg that customizes portfolios.

Nice to see University admins with sufficient backbone to stand up for principle and science. Anyone think Congress might follow their lead?