Blog Archives

Jesse Bering on Religion and Suicide

June 12, 2018
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Jesse Bering on Religion and Suicide

In the wake of the high-profile suicides of chef and author Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, the media has turned an unusual amount of attention to the problem. But several insightful articles, including one penned by Jesse Bering, author of Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves, are now attempting to dissect the media response itself, exposing both popular misconceptions about the phenomenon as well as at least one outright attempt to appropriate it in the name of furthering an ideological agenda. In a recent post for the Skeptic blog Bering responds to a piece written by Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in which Donohue argues that if Bourdain had been a religious man, he wouldn’t have taken his own life. Bering writes: Among the more obnoxious things I’ve read in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death is that if only he had been a man of faith, he wouldn’t have taken his own life. Consider the almost sneering commentary offered by Bill Donohue . . .  in a syndicated piece written less than a day after the rogue chef’s body was found hanging by the belt of his bathrobe in a Strasbourg hotel room. . . . . .

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Spiders are friends!

May 22, 2018
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Spiders are friends!

SO as long as they just hang out in the basement or garage or whatever I’m completely fine with spiders. Hey, they make great listeners! And (as far as I know), with the exception of two easily identifiable species – the brown recluse, and the black widow – North American arachnids are pretty much harmless to humans, but an absolute scourge to other nuisance insects like flies and mosquitoes and whatnot. It can get kinda gross when they start laying eggs all over the place though. Still, awesome little critters – in moderation. Knowing something about them is essential to their appreciation though – the rap they get in popular culture, as well as people’s perhaps innate fear of them, makes the majority of folks probably more likely to swat one than make a pet out of it, (though as a compromise you could always just catch it and toss it in the garden), which is where Christopher M. Buddle and Eleanor Spicer Rice’s new book, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders, comes in. Here Eleanor Spicer-Rice, renown science writer and entomologist by training (entomologists btw study insects, not arachnids), teams up with arachnologist Christopher Buddle to uncover the hidden . . .

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Forrest Stuart awarded 2018 Gordon J. Laing Prize

May 4, 2018
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The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce that the 2018 Gordon J. Laing Prize has been awarded to sociologist Forrest Stuart for Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row. Stuart’s book offers a fascinating look at the interactions between the criminal justice system and the low income residents of L. A.’s Skid Row. The result of years of fieldwork – not only with Skid Row residents, but with the police charged with managing them – Stuart’s book reveals an alarming decrease in support for our poorest citizens, accompanied by an increase in spending on policing and prisons that only serves to exacerbate the problems endemic to the nation’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Touching on some of his inspirations for the book as well as the historical role the University’s Department of Sociology and the Press have played in developing and disseminating the unique style of ethnographic study at the heart of Stuart’s work, the acceptance speech was hailed by Stuart’s acquiring editor Doug Mitchell as “one of the best Laing Prize speeches in memory.” And luckily enough, someone even managed to capture it in it’s entirety on their iphone! Check it out below, or find out . . .

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Lilliana Mason and the “Age of Mega Identity Politics” on the Ezra Klein Show

May 4, 2018
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Lilliana Mason and the “Age of Mega Identity Politics” on the Ezra Klein Show

Lilliana Mason is assistant professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park and also the author of a new book that Vox co-founder Ezra Klein calls “one of the most important published this year.” Her new book Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity takes a timely look at the growing social gulf across racial, religious, and cultural lines which has recently come to sharply divide the two major political parties. Dissecting the minutiae of group identification – how we come to associate ourselves with a group; how that group identity can can overrule our ability to make political choices in our best own interests; and how this works to undermine democracy – Mason ties political science to social psychology to provide an unprecedented view of the current political landscape in the U.S. On the April 30th edition of his podcast, Klein engages Mason in a fascinating discussion of her new book. As Klein writes for Vox: “If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in.” Navigate to player.fm to stream or download the epidsode, “The age of ‘mega-identity’ politics”  or follow this . . .

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Book of Seeds featured on the Science Friday blog

April 20, 2018
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Book of Seeds featured on the Science Friday blog

So, maybe after you’re done listening to today’s show,head over to the Science Friday blog where the Science Friday team has collected a series of images taken from The Book of Seeds: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World to create a “yearbook of seeds” featuring all the coolest and most popular seeds in the class (spermatophyte I think?), posing awkwardly in front of cheesy ’80s backgrounds. With titles like “Biggest Beach Bum” (that one’s hilarious) or “Most Explosive,” as well as commentary by Kew botanist and editor of the book Paul Smith, it’s a humorous yet edifying segue into the weekend. Find out more about the book on the UCP website. . . .

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“Memoir of a City”–The David Garrard Lowe Collection at the AIC

April 12, 2018
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“Memoir of a City”–The David Garrard Lowe Collection at the AIC

Obvious to anyone who’s ever passed through the city, Chicago possesses one of the richest architectural heritages in the country, rivaled only perhaps by the oldest and largest of the metropolises on the eastern seaboard. This remains true despite a period in the later part of the twentieth century when many of its most distinctive buildings succumbed to neglect or the wrecking ball. Today, one of the last places to witness these lost architectural masterpieces is in the collection of renowned architectural historian David Garrard Lowe. Recently donated to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Archives, the collection is now on display weekdays through June 15, 2018. According to the Art Institute website, the exhibition highlights a selection of images, architectural plans, and other ephemera from the collection’s “approximately 1,100 objects dating from the 1880s to 1980s including residences, office buildings, hotels, schools, clubs, transportation, infrastructure, . . . in Chicago which have been greatly altered or are no longer extant.” Germaine to the Art Institute’s exhibition, Lowe’s 2010 book Lost Chicago also draws from his vast collection to showcase hundreds of rare photographs and prints which, accompanied by Lowe’s crisp and lively prose, . . .

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For anyone needing a little help remembering the last time the Cubs were this good

April 6, 2018
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For anyone needing a little help remembering the last time the Cubs were this good

Monday Tuesday is the 2018 season home opener for the Cubs, and still riding high on 2016’s Series win, fans are expecting another post-season winning team with a better-than-good chance of making it all the way. Today’s Cubs team has a deep roster of better than average players, and a coach that has been masterful at coordinating their varied talents, but of course this hasn’t really been the case for quite a while. There was a time though, a long, long time ago, when the Cubs of old looked a lot more like the team does now. Rather than a team chocked full of All-Star prospects though, a small cadre of elite players, Joe Tinker, shortstop; Johnny Evers, second baseman; and Frank Chance, first; came together in rough-and-tumble early twentieth-century Chicago to form the defensive core of the most formidable team in big league baseball. A team that would lead the Chicago Cubs to four National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1906 to 1910. In Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America David Rapp brings this storied episode in Chicago Cubs history back to life, situating these early glory-days of . . .

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Review: How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

March 26, 2018
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Review: How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

  It has generally been assumed that the process that could transform this: into this: was a drawn-out evolutionary slog, taking many generations of human-canid interaction to achieve. But as Tim Flannery notes in a recent review of several new titles on the subject for The New York Review of Books, Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut’s How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution offers a fascinating look at the groundbreaking discovery that revealed that the process of domestication, once thought to have taken thousands of years, could be compressed into decades: “Profound insights into how dogs evolved from wolves come from a remarkable, multidecade experiment on foxes that was carried out under the supervision of the Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev from the 1950s onward. … Belyaev’s experimental method was simple in the extreme. Out of the thousands of silver foxes held at a fur farm, he simply selected for ones that were calmer than normal in the presence of humans. After just a few generations of selective breeding, some offspring of these slightly tamer foxes started to seek out human company. Breeding these individuals produced foxes that showed changes . . .

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Why did Barbara Streisand clone her dog?

March 14, 2018
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Why did Barbara Streisand clone her dog?

Jessica Pierce has done a lot of thinking about animals and ethics. A bioethicist by training, her books on the subject include The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, coauthored with Marc Bekoff, and more recently Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. So who better to weigh in on the ethics of pet cloning – a topic which, as you likely know, has captured a bit of public attention recently due to the news of Barbara Streisand having cloned her coton de tulear (a breed that coincidentally looks a lot like this guy, or gal as the case may be <–). Pierce’s recent op-ed in the New York Times titled “You Love Dogs? Then Don’t Clone Them” argues that the cloning industry creates a canine underclass of egg donors and surrogate mothers whose welfare is overlooked in the rush to profit by reproducing facsimile copies of rich people’s dead pets. From the article: “Clones like Ms. Streisand’s dogs Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett don’t materialize out of thin air but require the help of a whole team of female dogs. The cloning process begins with . . .

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WSJ reviews Christopher Kemp’s “The Lost Species”

February 25, 2018
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WSJ reviews Christopher Kemp’s “The Lost Species”

Tales of expeditions to the farthest reaches of the globe by intrepid scientists and explorers in search of undiscovered species that inhabit it have always captivated the public’s imagination. Take, for example, the apparent popularity of the David Attenborough-themed raves currently taking the UK by storm, featuring episodes of Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II set to samples of the 90-year-old biologist’s narration (as well as some of today’s hottest dance tracks). But while the BBC’s premier nature documentaries might make the work of today’s biologists seem like a neverending jungle adventure, as a recent Wall Street Journal review of Christopher Kemp’s new book The Lost Species points out, in recent years some of the most fascinating new biological discoveries were actually made by researchers working behind the scenes, sorting through vast collections of zoological specimens stored in the the drawers and cavernous basements of natural history museums. As Kemp’s book explains, for decades after their collection, specimens housed in museum archives can remain incorrectly categorized, or not categorized at all–not only due to the sheer size of some of these collections, but also the complex detective work that must go into proper taxonomic classification. David MacNeal writes for . . .

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