- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Buddhist brains

“Wander down the halls of some neurobiology departments these days and you may catch a few decidedly nonscientific terms floating by in conversations there. Researchers reared in the hard materialism of western science may well be chatting about Franciscan nuns, the Dalai Lama, the soul or enduring happiness.

“These scholars are part of a small but growing group of metaphysically minded investigators exploring the connections between the brain and spirituality. … [They] are breaking the bounds of accepted scientific tradition, raising taboo topics such as whether the mind exists beyondthe body or whether basic scientific knowledge must be linked to human values….

“This summer 125 scientists and Tibetan Buddhist leaders will gather to discuss some of these concerns at a weeklong symposium in a renovated monastery overlooking the Hudson River… The change in attitude, says [one researcher] is a substantial one from when he started his career and scientists dared not talk about spirituality and values, or meet with religious leaders like the Dalai Lama. [He said], ‘I think that 30 years ago, you do this and your career is at an end.’”

— Richard Monastersky in “Religion on the Brain” in the May 26 issue of the Chronicle of

Higher Education

Ugly churches

“It tends to be the case that Catholics especially produce really good art, Protestants less so and evangelicals often hardly hit the map. There are some historical and theological reasons for that, obviously. The last pope, John Paul II, wrote a call to the arts community calling artists to use their gifts for the church….

“I think that evangelical churches have put such an emphasis on soul-winning that they’ve ended up with a bottom line, like a profit-and-loss statement: ‘How many souls did we win this year?’ No one is arguing that we should not do evangelism. But when that’s the primary category, everything that is not in some direct way ‘measurable’ then becomes suspect. ‘Why should we invest our time or money and energy in those things, since we can’t quantify the results in terms of numbers or converts?’ To which I say, When God created the world, He made both trees that bear fruit and trees that are good to look at. Why? He made the earth extravagantly beautiful, and it didn’t have to be that way. God said it was good that way.

“We seem to assume someone wrote a rule somewhere that churches have to be ugly, with fluorescent white lights and plain white walls. But we don’t realize that we are communicating theological things with the way we design our churches.”

— David Boyd in “Truth and Beauty” in the spring issue of Cutting Edge

Soccer and sex

“The games of the FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup are about to open in Germany, and the contest is shaping up to be about more than soccer. Politics, for example, with suggestions that the games may serve as a way to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Considering the tournament’s slogan, ‘A Time to Make Friends,’ that may be difficult.

“But there is one aspect of the spectacle … that is firmly under way. That is the extraordinary increase in prostitution and sex trafficking to meet the demands of 3 million World Cup fans. Prostitution and pimping, sad to say, are legal in Germany. In 2001, Germany’s official position became that prostitution should no longer be seen as immoral.”

— Manon McKinnon, writing on “Germany Gets Its Kicks,” Tuesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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