Francis Schaeffer expert offers the facts on Michele Bachman, Francis Schaeffer, and “Dominionism.”

At Patheos (August 26, 2011), religion scholar Douglas Groothuis writes, in “Michele Bachmann and Dominionism Paranoia: Once again the popular media demonstrate how woefully poor is their understanding of American evangelicals”:

In the August 15 issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza asserts that Bachmann has been ideologically shaped by "exotic" thinkers of the dominionist stripe who pose a threat to our secular political institutions. The piece—and much of the subsequent media reaction—is a calamity of confusion, conflation, and obfuscation.

We noticed. Say on.

Among other things, Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of the Reconstructionists (later called “Dominionists”) was not a theocrat. He aimed at convincing the public to replace current legal structure with Biblical law. Odd, yes. Violent, no. Groothuis estimates that Rushdoony fans are an “infinitesimal fraction” of Christian conservatives, which sounds about right to journalists who wrote for the Christian media in the 1990s, when the idea first surfaced.

More scandalously, Lizza claimed in his hit piece that apologist Francis Schaeffer, – a genuine influence on Bachman, along with philosopher Nancy Pearcey – argued for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe vs. Wade isn't reversed," in A Christian Manifesto (1981)." Actually, Schaeffer, like Rushdoony, never advocated violence.

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Religion and disease: Epidemics play role in changing religion?

In "Religion and Disease: Deadly epidemics can have a profound impact on people’s choice of religion" (The Scientist , August 25, 2011), Cristina Luiggi reports on a study of the role of religion in epidemics:

In an attempt to study this in a modern setting, Hughes and colleagues surveyed religious attitudes among the people of Malawi, where AIDS has become the leading cause of death among adults. They found that 30 percent of people who described themselves as Christians visited the sick, in contrast to 7 percent of Muslims They also found that in the last 5 years, about 400 of the 3000 respondents changed religions, mostly to Christianity, “where the promise of receiving care is greater and the stigma of having AIDS is less,” Hughes explained to ScienceNOW. The researchers presented their data at the 13th Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology earlier this week.

Of course, there's always the influence of Jesus's judgement on the saved:

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Mindfulness in medicine a problem? – PZ Myers thinks so

Some have begun to question the role of mindfulness in health maintenance, with even PZ Myers getting in on the act:

I've read some of these studies, and am unimpressed. Most of them assess subjective phenomena ("chronic pain" is notoriously amenable to suggestion, for instance), …

Yes, precisely, PZ. Thanks for making the point. Mindfulness can improve the effectiveness of pain relief without increases in harmful drugs, which may be in conflict with other medically necessary drugs. Here are some studies on the subject.

In “Mindful medical practice: just another fad?” (Canadian Family Physician, 2009 August), Tom A. Hutchinson and Patricia L. Dobkin tackled the problems, observing the following:

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Study: Spirituality pays a key role in fighting depression

In “Can Religion or Spirituality Help Ward Off Depression?” (World of Psychology August 25, 2011), a somewhat skeptical John M. Grohol reports,

The new longitudinal research out of Columbia University wanted to followup on previous research demonstrating this correlation between spirituality or religiosity and a reduced risk for depression.

The researchers continued to followup on a set of subjects they had used in the previous study, following them from the 10-year mark (when the older research had ended) to the 20-year mark. The subjects in the study were 114 adult offspring of both depressed parents and parents who had no depression.

At the 20-year mark, had there been an episode of major depression? Only one quarter of the people who said religion or spirituality was important had experienced major depression. Time spent at religious services didn’t affect this outcome.

The really interesting find was that

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Women and markets

At Mercatornet (August 23, 2011), we are invited to consider whether getting more women involved in floor trading would prevent future collapses. Trouble is,

So now we come to the key question: Is the floor trade world a natural outcome of human behaviour, into which some men and a much smaller proportion of women fit? Yes, probably.

My financial advisor tells me that the market is run by two principle human motives: Greed and fear. Bubbles and their subsequent collapses happen when greed overrides fear. Later, fear restores order and the market starts to recover. Which is to say that crazy markets and their corrections are caused by human nature. It’s hard to change the fundamental reality that a stock market is about people making decisions, wise or foolish.

An Italian proverb puts it like this: Three women and a goose make a market. All the rest follows.

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Oops, that life-giving water on Mars is … lava!

Or so David Shiga tells us in "Evidence for Mars floods all dried up?" (New Scientist, 22 August 2011):

Kelin Whipple of Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe agrees that lava probably carved the huge channels, such as Kasei Valles (shown). He says the study calls into question the case for huge volumes of water – and possibly an ocean – on ancient Mars.

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