A few recent items of interest from Ezra Klein’s Vox website, beginning with this post by Alan Levinovitz about religious literacy:
Christians, in general, are ignorant about their own tradition. Half of Protestants can’t identify Martin Luther; half of Catholics don’t understand the doctrine of transubstantiation. This is something I see reflected in my students: I teach students who, despite being practicing Christians, don’t know that Jesus harshly criticizes divorce and never speaks about homosexuality, or that the “Old Testament” was originally the Hebrew Bible, a collection of diverse texts compiled over time by ancient Israelites. For many believers it is the classroom, not church, that provides their first opportunity to reflect on the long history of Christian debate over whether Genesis should be taken literally, or the potential problems with having multiple translations of a divine revelation.
If we don’t even know much about our own faith tradition (and, by and large, we don’t), then how likely is it that we know anything about other faith traditions, and how likely is it we can understand or respect those traditions?
As someone who believes that privately owned automobiles have been one of the most disruptive social forces in modern history, I’m always interested in articles that document the impacts of our car culture. At Vox, David Roberts reports on “how cars degrade cities”:
Cities need to start thinking about themselves as places to be, to live and work and play and socialize and collaborate, not as infrastructure designed to facilitate automobile travel. It’s not a huge imposition to ask regional travelers to go around cities rather than through them.
What growing cities can do is ensure that their residents have a range of pleasant, reliable transport choices, walkable communities that minimize the need for auto travel, and a range of public and private spaces devoted to human-scale, human-speed activities — for collaboration and innovation and all that, yes, but also just for the casual, spontaneous social contact from which communities are built.
Roberts concludes by stating what should be obvious (but which any urban pedestrian can tell you is not): “Cities are for people, not cars.”
And finally from Vox, Brian Resnick notes the “replication problem” in psychology and other social sciences, as well as the fact that students in those fields are not being informed on the issue:
The past few years have not been kind to social psychology. Many psychological theories have been debunked or diminished in rigorous replication attempts. Psychologists are now realizing it's more likely that false positives will make it through to publication than inconclusive results. And they’ve realized that experimental methods commonly used just a few years ago aren’t rigorous enough. Many topics in psychology are opening up to debate.
But troublingly, the textbooks have not been updated accordingly.
I’m sure it’s not easy to tell students that their chosen field is experiencing something of a crisis in its credibility, but it’s probably a good idea nonetheless.