"Year in Pictures" - http://nyti.ms/1PelRyG. There are some hauntingly beautiful images curated in this year's NY Times list. A few in particular stood out to me this Christmas season. A nurse cares for a baby during the Ebola crisis in Liberia, echoing madonna and child. Another captures a man lighting menorah candles in a window. In so many ways the photos capture beauty and light amidst dark times. For a more lighthearted take on the winter holidays PBS Newshour posted a montage of Santa photos here: http://to.pbs.org/1Oyv2uS
"Cal State San Bernardino Class on Islamic World Grapples with Students' Questions about Shooting" - http://lat.ms/1P8bo5L. I'm often asked what university studies of religion can do in response to such violence. The San Bernadino case provides sobering evidence that the perpetrator actually studied Islam at the regional university. The difficulty is that studies of religion depends on a context of reasonable reflection, cognitive empathy and a willingness to take perspectives other than one's own. Sadly, educators have little more to say to the insanity of violent extremism than to mourn and call for peaceful restraint. Nonetheless, our imperative after such events remains to help those wishing to think more constructively about such matters. It seems to me that this is precisely what Professor Doueiri is providing in his classes. Moreover, this is what motivates the American Academy of Religion to provide two responses against both anti-muslim rhetoric as well as recent changes to campus concealed gun carry laws.
"Critique and Communication: Philosophy's Missions - a Conversation with Jürgen Habermas," Eurozine - http://bit.ly/1OazFb2. An insightful interview that provides a concise summary of Habermas's conception of the philosophical task today. An open set of questions arises from the integrative capacity of his account of hermeneutics. Moreover, part of the difficulty arises from his oversimplified opposition between religious and philosophical systems of thought.
"Judging a Book by its Cover," - http://medievalbooks.nl/2015/11/11/judging-a-book-by-its-cover/. This is an interesting article on the later medieval development of the codex book. So much of what we think of the book today (its titled covers, page numbers, paragraphs, spaces between words, and various other navigation aids) took hundreds of years to develop and become commonplace in libraries and scriptoriums. My own work looks back to the rise of the early codex itself, which occurred before these useful features. This raises a question concerning why Christians adopted the codex so rigorously, given its relative uselessness as an information technology in the second century.
William Cavanaugh and Russell Blackford, "Putting Religion in its Place: The Secular State and Human Flourishing - A Debate" - http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/06/24/4031567.htm. I just came across this exchange between Russell Blackford, based at Newcastle, and William Cavanaugh based in Chicago. Both are incisive and generous in their responses to each other, and both of their recent books are well worth reading. A few years ago Blackford kindly presented at our university's Religion in Political Life seminar series on the release of Freedom of Religion and the Secular State. I find Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religious Violence, quite useful for generating discussion in courses on processes of secularization and religious violence. In any case, it is always good to see civility and a bit of humor between thinkers of different positions.
Malcolm Gladwell, "The Engineer's Lament" - http://www.newyorker.com/?p=3039159.
Gladwell goes on to note public misunderstanding of the crassness of engineering solutions to human problems. The joke also reminds me of a Non Sequitur cartoon from some years ago.
"Why Scientists and Scholars Can't Get Their Facts Straight" - http://theatln.tc/1KF3GiZ
"The ongoing dispute over the authenticity of a scrap of papyrus from the ancient world highlights a larger question of how history is established."