I am impatient with people like Richard Dawkins who try to disprove the existence of God with science. Science can never prove or disprove the existence of God. If God exists, God surely exists outside of rational thought and outside the physical universe.

Speaking about science and religion at the Jewish Theological Seminary on October 16, 2013, Alan Lightman – one of the greatest science writers and storytellers of our time, and the very first person to receive dual appointments in science and the humanities at MIT – offers a “working definition of God” as “a being that lives outside the lines of time and space and is not restricted by the laws of the physical universe,” a definition that automatically negates any effort to prove or disprove the existence of God via physical laws. 

Lightman added that “science and religion share a sense of wonder.”

Complement with Carl Sagan on science and spiritualityIsaac Asimov on religion vs. humanism, and Albert Einstein on whether scientists pray.

(via explore-blog)
criminalwisdom:

The Guantanamo Bay Force Feeding Program
The Obama administration is coming under increased pressure from politicians and the medical establishment to stop force feeding hunger-striking inmates at Guantanamo Bay. The military calls it a “lifesaving procedure.” The UN has called it “torture” and a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine called it “aggravated assault.”
(Source: nationalpost)

criminalwisdom:

The Guantanamo Bay Force Feeding Program

The Obama administration is coming under increased pressure from politicians and the medical establishment to stop force feeding hunger-striking inmates at Guantanamo Bay. The military calls it a “lifesaving procedure.” The UN has called it “torture” and a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine called it “aggravated assault.”

(Source: nationalpost)

explore-blog:

“Violence is never, EVER a choice that the man should make.”

Patrick Stewart’s infinitely moving account of how his childhood experience shaped his work on ending domestic violence against women, articulately arguing that this is not a “women’s problem” but, rather, its eradication is up to men. Amidst the epidemic of sexual assault on women in the military, Stewart points out the life-warping manifestations of PTSD across the spectrum of violence.

Please consider supporting Refuge, Stewart’s UK charity against domestic violence, and Joyful Heart Foundation, who do remarkable work to end sexual and domestic violence in the U.S.

(The Dish)

(via explore-blog)

Sociological Avenger Guest Blog Post…by ME!

I hopped on to my professor’s blog, http://sociologicalavenger.com/, and wrote a guest post on gun violence in South Dakota. Take a peek at what I had to say and check out Dr. Jantzer’s blog as well!

Guns and the violence associated with them have passed in and out of the news and social media spotlight once again since the December 14th school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. We’ve had our distractions since then, what with the bombing on the Boston Marathon, but even following that event, my newsfeed was full of my more conservative friends boasting things like, “Guns don’t kill people, whackjobs with bombs do.” Crazy statements that weren’t exactly logical but received multiple retweets and favorites anyway.

            Nothing about the aftermath of the Newtown massacre seemed logical to me. There was a public outcry for change and it appeared that gun control would finally win over the majority. Instead, the debate headed in the opposite direction. Many states passed laws that were pro-gun. South Dakota, for example, passed a law that would allow school employees to bring guns into classrooms. 

            Behind this new legislation are a few ideas that are common in right-wing ideology including cliché’s such as “guns don’t kill people—people kill people,” and  “more good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys,” or “carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer,” just to name a few. The majority of evidence, however, points to the contrary. (Check out this article by Mother Jones for a brief examination of 10 Pro-Gun Myths:http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/pro-gun-myths-fact-check). I will review this evidence and propose that it is not just one factor that contributes to gun violence, but many. I am not alone in this argument. However, the abnormally low rate of firearm-related fatalities in South Dakota has not been explored in much detail. What sets South Dakota apart from Wyoming, a state that is demographically similar in terms of both population and geography, and has comparable legislation involving gun control?

            Check this out, as I was researching the topic I found this map put together by a group of researchers from Boston (the entire paper is available freely online here: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390). 

 image

This map shows you that states with a higher legislative strength score typically have a lower gun mortality rate. Wyoming, indeed, fits this mold. South Dakota, on the other hand, has the lowest possible legislative strength score while maintaining a low gun mortality rate. Both states have incredibly high rates of gun ownership. Wyoming is first in the nation with 62.8% of households owning a gun while South Dakota is not far behind at fourth with 59.9%.

Simply owning a gun has been linked to higher rates of homicide, accidental death, and suicide. In 2010, 16,259 people were victims of homicide and 68% of those involved firearms. In that same year, 51% of 38,364 suicides were by firearms. According to the Firearm and Injury Center at Penn, it is estimated that for every two firearm deaths there are five nonfatal firearm injuries.  This results in medical costs of $112 million and $599 million, respectively, not including the work loss costs, estimated at $40.5 billion. Loss of life and financial costs are enormous burdens placed on this country by firearms.

In addition to strength of gun legislation and rates of gun ownership, other factors have been found to contribute to fatal gun violence. Contrary to popular belief, however, population density, mental illness, stress levels, substance abuse, and unemployment don’t appear to have anything to do with it. Gun violence is associated with hither levels of poverty and lower levels of college graduates and happiness. Though mental health itself does not appear to contribute to rates of gun violence, access to mental health resources and treatment and mental health utilization does. These factors keep the depression status and suicide rates low. It is here that South Dakota thrives. A 2007 report released by Mental Health America has South Dakota as the healthiest state in terms of depression status (http://www.nmha.org/files/Ranking_Americas_Mental_Health.pdf).

Now what do we do? Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach. The first of which would be to increase access to higher education. Through needs-based scholarships, children born into poverty may be able to attend college, therefore decreasing their chances of living in a life of poverty or committing suicide. Scholarships for students going into mental health fields would be especially important as this could eventually increase the mental health resources made available in the state. The small amount of post-secondary schools in Wyoming could present a problem. Increasing tuition reciprocity programs with other states would allow students from Wyoming to attend schools out-of-state for the same tuition that in-state students pay. This increases their options and their chances of getting in to a good institution. By decreasing firearm-related incidents, more money could be spent in these scholarship and other post-secondary education programs as money would not be spent on medical and work loss costs associated with firearm incidents.

            Finally, as Fleegler and colleagues discovered in their 2013 study of gun legislation and gun violence, increasing the strength of gun-related legislation through implementing background checks for all gun purchases, not just those from federally licensed dealers would be a step towards decreasing the prevalence of gun ownership. This would be the most important step toward reducing firearm-related homicides and suicides. However, to suggest that increasing the strength of gun legislation would be an automatic solution, especially in a state in which guns and hunting are a big part of life and state economy, would be a mistake. I suggest that we continue to examine the differences between South Dakota and Wyoming associated with gun-related fatalities in order to provide us with a more thorough solution in the future. The sooner a solution comes to pass and is accepted nation-wide, the sooner thousands and thousands of lives lost annually in firearm-related fatalities may be saved.

(via staff)

explore-blog:

Simple, stirring cover by Boston magazine design director Brian Struble using actual running shoes worn in last week’s Boston marathon.

explore-blog:

Simple, stirring cover by Boston magazine design director Brian Struble using actual running shoes worn in last week’s Boston marathon.

(via explore-blog)

tylerknott:

Is it what we see or how we see it? Where we are or how we are? I have a distinct feeling that if we love How we are and choose wisely How we see all the life around us, suddenly where we are will seem precisely right, and what we see will never stop astonishing us. 

Follow me @TylerKnott on Instagram and Twitter.

tylerknott:

Is it what we see or how we see it? Where we are or how we are? I have a distinct feeling that if we love How we are and choose wisely How we see all the life around us, suddenly where we are will seem precisely right, and what we see will never stop astonishing us.

Follow me @TylerKnott on Instagram and Twitter.

This video has been circling the web the last few days. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time to watch it now. 

Friends! It finally happened! My work was published in the South Dakota State University literary magazine, Oakwood. My essay was the final piece in the magazine, which, according to my creative writing professor, is a good thing. Something about the editors wanting it to be the last thing the people read, the last word of the magazine, what people remembered. That’s kinda cool. 
So, I thought I’d share it with you all.

The Top Shelf
            Sixth grade seems so long ago now when I look back from the wise old age of twenty (only a month away from that ever elusive twenty-first birthday). Things have changed so much these past ten years but there’s a part of me that has always been there and always will be: my competitive nature.
            In Middle-of-Nowhere, South Dakota, my elementary school participated in the AR reading program, a curriculum that awarded points to students when they read a book and took a computer test to prove it. A score of seven out of ten was enough to earn points toward prizes that waited on glass shelves in a locked cabinet just outside the principle’s office. Every day I arrived by school bus number seven and walked into the lobby. There, on my left, were those beautiful shelves, of which I could only physically reach level two at my height. Even at age eleven I knew that the mind was capable of reaching much more than an outstretched arm ever could and so I picked up Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It was worth a whopping ninety points, the most of all the books in Mrs. Tornow’s library.
            I had overheard one of the boys in my class talking about the legendary Gone With the Wind one day in class. He knew it was worth ninety points while the other books were worth twenty-five at the most. He also knew it was composed of over 1000 pages of small font written many years ago. His solution was to take the quiz over and over again, without reading the book, determined he would somehow get lucky and guess all ten questions correctly. He never did.
            Motivated by his failure and my desire to reach the top level of those glass shelves before anyone else in my class, I checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and set to work. One day the massive book was sitting out on top of my desk and Dylan, the boy I’d heard talking about the book earlier, looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “You’re actually gonna read that?”
            My goodness was I shy and socially awkward around boys back then. I would be the only girl to play two-hand-touch football with them every day at recess and yet I couldn’t say a word to them. One day, I had even caught the football and did a reverse spin move around a boy a grade above me into the sandpit that marked our endzone. All the boys oohed, partially to praise me and partially to make fun of the older boy. I could play sports with them and not be the least bit intimidated but when they spoke to me, all I could manage was a blush before I had to look away.

            My response to Dylan that day was nothing more than a blush and when I picked up my book and turned to walk away I probably tripped over the desk behind me. I don’t remember but that seems typical of 11-year-old me.
-

Part One
Chapter I

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
-

            Since I first read that line I have worked so hard to come up with a character like Scarlett O’Hara. I fell in love with her in sixth grade with that one simple sentence. It was honest and pure. In one line I understood how flawed a person can be and still be adored for all that he or she was. It was so painstakingly obvious how much Margaret Mitchell loved Scarlett as well. No wonder she couldn’t put her away until 1021 pages had passed.
            It’s terribly cliché for me to say that I desperately longed to be Scarlett O’Hara of Tara but it’s true and I’m sure you guessed that as soon as I told you how awkward I felt, and was, in sixth grade. Yet I had no desire to be a “lady.” Sure, I wanted to be considered beautiful but with each pimple that blossomed on my face I felt it couldn’t be. But maybe, like Scarlett, I could trick people into thinking I was beautiful. I wanted to walk into a room and have all eyes drawn to me. I wanted my antics to be loveable and my laugh to heal a broken heart.
            Was I so explicitly aware of this at eleven years old? I don’t know. But I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t FEEL this, even though I may not have been able to express my desire to be charming. Margaret Mitchell expressed it for me the very first sentence of Gone With the Wind.
            To this day, Gone With the Wind is the only book I have ever read twice. It isn’t that other books aren’t worthy of a re-reading, I have a number of books on my shelves that I look forward to reading again some day. What keeps me from them is my list of books that I want to read for the first time. Of course, my “to-read” list grows longer and longer with each passing day, making those “re-reads” less and less likely to take place. Somehow, Gone With the Wind beat the odds and made it to the top of the “to-read” list. And I loved it. Again.
            As I read about Scarlett’s journey through the confederacy in the midst of the American Civil War, I saw myself in the corner of Mr. O’Connell’s sixth grade classroom beside the bookshelves full of stories for the sixth grade reader. Certainly, Gone With the Wind would not have been found there, but I’ve always been able to read and comprehend well above my grade level, perhaps another result of my competitive nature.
            When I sat down at the computer in the elementary library after finishing page 1021, I was terribly nervous. How could I possibly answer ten questions about such a gargantuan book? How could the beauty and power of Gone With the Wind be summed up in ten simple questions? As I took the test, a few of my classmates gathered around, trying to see if I would earn the coveted ninety AR points.
            After I clicked on the “Submit Answer” button for the final question and was waiting for the verdict, Dylan sauntered up behind me, making me even more nervous than I already was. Finally, a new screen appeared on the computer: “You answered 10 out of 10 questions correctly and earned 90 points.”
            No way,” Dylan said. “Wanna take that test for me, Kelsey?”
            I entered a state of complete inner turmoil. I desperately wanted Dylan to like me, to think I was cool, but knew that taking the test for him would be cheating, something that was inconceivable to me at eleven years old.
            “No,” I told him, and for the first time I was able to manage a smile when I was face to face with a boy. To my surprise, he smiled back at me, and I was Scarlett O’Hara and Dylan was Rhett Butler and he was falling for me while I played hard to get and at the middle school dance he would ask me to dance with him while the other boys, like the Tarleton twins, would look on and wish it was they and not the detestable Rhett who had secured a dance with me.
            That didn’t happen.
            But I WAS the first of my class to claim a prize from the top glass shelf, a green candleholder in the shape of a flower that the principle herself handed to me.
            I had forgotten about that candleholder until now. I assume it was replaced on my dresser by a trophy won at one basketball competition or another. Maybe I threw it away or maybe it’s in storage in my closet somewhere. At one point I must have looked at the candle acquiring dust on my clothes dresser and said to myself, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Friends! It finally happened! My work was published in the South Dakota State University literary magazine, Oakwood. My essay was the final piece in the magazine, which, according to my creative writing professor, is a good thing. Something about the editors wanting it to be the last thing the people read, the last word of the magazine, what people remembered. That’s kinda cool. 

So, I thought I’d share it with you all.


The Top Shelf

            Sixth grade seems so long ago now when I look back from the wise old age of twenty (only a month away from that ever elusive twenty-first birthday). Things have changed so much these past ten years but there’s a part of me that has always been there and always will be: my competitive nature.

            In Middle-of-Nowhere, South Dakota, my elementary school participated in the AR reading program, a curriculum that awarded points to students when they read a book and took a computer test to prove it. A score of seven out of ten was enough to earn points toward prizes that waited on glass shelves in a locked cabinet just outside the principle’s office. Every day I arrived by school bus number seven and walked into the lobby. There, on my left, were those beautiful shelves, of which I could only physically reach level two at my height. Even at age eleven I knew that the mind was capable of reaching much more than an outstretched arm ever could and so I picked up Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It was worth a whopping ninety points, the most of all the books in Mrs. Tornow’s library.

            I had overheard one of the boys in my class talking about the legendary Gone With the Wind one day in class. He knew it was worth ninety points while the other books were worth twenty-five at the most. He also knew it was composed of over 1000 pages of small font written many years ago. His solution was to take the quiz over and over again, without reading the book, determined he would somehow get lucky and guess all ten questions correctly. He never did.

            Motivated by his failure and my desire to reach the top level of those glass shelves before anyone else in my class, I checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and set to work. One day the massive book was sitting out on top of my desk and Dylan, the boy I’d heard talking about the book earlier, looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “You’re actually gonna read that?”

            My goodness was I shy and socially awkward around boys back then. I would be the only girl to play two-hand-touch football with them every day at recess and yet I couldn’t say a word to them. One day, I had even caught the football and did a reverse spin move around a boy a grade above me into the sandpit that marked our endzone. All the boys oohed, partially to praise me and partially to make fun of the older boy. I could play sports with them and not be the least bit intimidated but when they spoke to me, all I could manage was a blush before I had to look away.

            My response to Dylan that day was nothing more than a blush and when I picked up my book and turned to walk away I probably tripped over the desk behind me. I don’t remember but that seems typical of 11-year-old me.

-

Part One

Chapter I

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

-

            Since I first read that line I have worked so hard to come up with a character like Scarlett O’Hara. I fell in love with her in sixth grade with that one simple sentence. It was honest and pure. In one line I understood how flawed a person can be and still be adored for all that he or she was. It was so painstakingly obvious how much Margaret Mitchell loved Scarlett as well. No wonder she couldn’t put her away until 1021 pages had passed.

            It’s terribly cliché for me to say that I desperately longed to be Scarlett O’Hara of Tara but it’s true and I’m sure you guessed that as soon as I told you how awkward I felt, and was, in sixth grade. Yet I had no desire to be a “lady.” Sure, I wanted to be considered beautiful but with each pimple that blossomed on my face I felt it couldn’t be. But maybe, like Scarlett, I could trick people into thinking I was beautiful. I wanted to walk into a room and have all eyes drawn to me. I wanted my antics to be loveable and my laugh to heal a broken heart.

            Was I so explicitly aware of this at eleven years old? I don’t know. But I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t FEEL this, even though I may not have been able to express my desire to be charming. Margaret Mitchell expressed it for me the very first sentence of Gone With the Wind.

            To this day, Gone With the Wind is the only book I have ever read twice. It isn’t that other books aren’t worthy of a re-reading, I have a number of books on my shelves that I look forward to reading again some day. What keeps me from them is my list of books that I want to read for the first time. Of course, my “to-read” list grows longer and longer with each passing day, making those “re-reads” less and less likely to take place. Somehow, Gone With the Wind beat the odds and made it to the top of the “to-read” list. And I loved it. Again.

            As I read about Scarlett’s journey through the confederacy in the midst of the American Civil War, I saw myself in the corner of Mr. O’Connell’s sixth grade classroom beside the bookshelves full of stories for the sixth grade reader. Certainly, Gone With the Wind would not have been found there, but I’ve always been able to read and comprehend well above my grade level, perhaps another result of my competitive nature.

            When I sat down at the computer in the elementary library after finishing page 1021, I was terribly nervous. How could I possibly answer ten questions about such a gargantuan book? How could the beauty and power of Gone With the Wind be summed up in ten simple questions? As I took the test, a few of my classmates gathered around, trying to see if I would earn the coveted ninety AR points.

            After I clicked on the “Submit Answer” button for the final question and was waiting for the verdict, Dylan sauntered up behind me, making me even more nervous than I already was. Finally, a new screen appeared on the computer: “You answered 10 out of 10 questions correctly and earned 90 points.”

            No way,” Dylan said. “Wanna take that test for me, Kelsey?”

            I entered a state of complete inner turmoil. I desperately wanted Dylan to like me, to think I was cool, but knew that taking the test for him would be cheating, something that was inconceivable to me at eleven years old.

            “No,” I told him, and for the first time I was able to manage a smile when I was face to face with a boy. To my surprise, he smiled back at me, and I was Scarlett O’Hara and Dylan was Rhett Butler and he was falling for me while I played hard to get and at the middle school dance he would ask me to dance with him while the other boys, like the Tarleton twins, would look on and wish it was they and not the detestable Rhett who had secured a dance with me.

            That didn’t happen.

            But I WAS the first of my class to claim a prize from the top glass shelf, a green candleholder in the shape of a flower that the principle herself handed to me.

            I had forgotten about that candleholder until now. I assume it was replaced on my dresser by a trophy won at one basketball competition or another. Maybe I threw it away or maybe it’s in storage in my closet somewhere. At one point I must have looked at the candle acquiring dust on my clothes dresser and said to myself, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

explore-blog:

20th century deaths, visualized

explore-blog:

20th century deaths, visualized

(via explore-blog)

I don't know that I believe in luck. Most of us deserve so much more than that.

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