In On What Matters, philosopher Derek Parfit asks this question (according to reviewer Peter Singer): "If a massive asteroid hit Earth tomorrow, ending human history, would it have been a good thing that humans existed at all?" (TLS, May 20).
The priest and the gangster
Jun 22, 2011
A Catholic chaplain at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has been charged with passing messages for Frank Calabrese Sr., a Chicago mobster and convicted killer sentenced to life in prison. The chaplain also was recruited by Calabrese to search for a violin he had concealed in his home, supposedly a Stradivarius worth millions. The prosecutors say the priest was aware that he was violating prison rules by serving as Calabrese's go-between (UPI).
Jun 22, 2011
Over 7,000 charities are devoted to fighting cancer, but many of them are very small and some are quite inefficient. In 2009 the Children's Cancer Research Fund gave $2.7 million to the University of Minnesota, its sole beneficiary, for cancer research—but it spent $9.8 million to raise that money. A major reason for inefficient charities is that they aren't accountable. Before contributing to charities, check out their rating with an organization like Charity Navigator (Time, June 13).
Where’s the conflict?
Jun 21, 2011
A large-scale study of American college students shows that a vast majority don't see a conflict between science and religion. Nearly 70 percent of freshmen view science and religion as either independent of each other or as having a collaborative relationship. The rest, who do see a conflict, are divided almost evenly between those who favor the perspective of religion and those who favor science. Students were polled as freshmen and then as juniors to see if their views changed over time. Seventy percent of freshmen who favored religion over science had switched by the time they were juniors to seeing the fields as not being in conflict; 46 percent who favored science over religion as freshmen shifted to that nonconflictual view by their junior year (Huffpost Religion, May 25).
Death as preacher
Jun 20, 2011
Kava Schafer, a spiritual director and hospital chaplain, believes that cultivating an awareness of one's own death is a spiritual discipline. She quotes the prophet Muhammad, who said: "Consult your death. The only preacher you need is awareness of your death" (Presence, June).