Wednesday's News & Ideas

  • In the face of pandemic, remember: We're Easter people.
  • Just war? Or justifiable war?
  • Now you see it. Now you don't.

A Christian's lament over the Pew torture pollAssociated Baptist Press: In a letter to Jesus, David Gushee asks if the real problem behind Pew “torture poll” is that churches are already empty?

Pope arriving at time when Christians are leavingAssociated Press: When Pope Benedict XVI comes to the Holy Land next week, he will greet a community of believers whose numbers are gradually eroding.

The Christian response to a pandemicDaily Episcopalian: As fear of swine flu grips the world, the Rev. Canon Daniel J. Webster offers historic examples of where the church is led in the face of fear, illness or even death.

When is war justifiable?Washington Post, On Faith blog: Council on Foreign Relations president says just war theory is too subjective and confining for today's real-world threats and instead suggests “justifiable war.”

The Spark

Magic and the brain: Teller reveals the neuroscience of illusionFor Teller, the non-speaking half of the illusionist duo Penn & Teller, magic is more than entertainment. Teller, (his full legal name) wants his tricks to reveal the everyday fraud of perception so that people become aware of the tension between what is and what seems to be. Our brains don't see everything—the world is too big, too full of stimuli, he says in an article in Wired magazine (Yes, he can talk). So the brain takes shortcuts, constructing a picture of reality with relatively simple algorithms for what things are supposed to look like. Magicians capitalize on those rules. "Every time you perform a magic trick, you're engaging in experimental psychology," Teller says. "If the audience asks, 'How the hell did he do that?' then the experiment was successful. I've exploited the efficiencies of your mind."