Author: Crissie Brown

Morning Feature: Clueless, Part III – Finding Clues (Non-Cynical Saturday)

The Internet is awash in urban legends and outright lies. It’s also the best fact-checking tool in history, if you know how and where to look. (More) Clueless, Part III – Finding Clues (Non-Cynical Saturday) This week Morning Feature looked at cluelessness and its causes. Thursday we considered common ignorance. Yesterday we examined political ignorance. Today we conclude with how to open our own and others’ eyes. Banning Religious Broadcasting A friend invited me to visit his church during my first year of law school. My former church was less a religious body than a conservative political action group. They asked me to leave when I disputed their claim that protecting LGBTs in the county’s civil rights ordinance would force them to hire a gay pastor. The county ordinance specifically exempted churches. Not to worry, my friend said. His church didn’t talk about politics. I said okay. Good morning … please give a warm welcome … and before we start, did you know there’s a bill in Congress to ban religious broadcasting? I have a flyer right here. Please write to your congressman and senators…. I’d heard the story before. Many times. It began circulating in the mid-1970s, after the FCC rejected a petition to limit religious groups’ use of channels reserved for educational programming. The FCC rejected the petition on First Amendment grounds, and that should have been...

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Campus Chatter – May 28, 2011

Today in history, greetings, and social banter here. (More) A truce was called in the Battle of the Eclipse today (585 BCE). Also, John Muir organized the Sierra Club (1892), Alan Turing submitted On Computable Numbers for publication (1936), women in Greece achieved suffrage (1952), Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper returned to public display (1999), and the Mars Odyssey found signs of ice (2002). Good morning!...

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Morning Feature: Clueless, Part II – Political Ignorance

Saddam Hussein participated in 9/11. The U.S. was founded as a Christian nation. President Obama is a Muslim. How can we be so clueless? (More) Clueless, Part II – Political Ignorance This week Morning Feature looks at cluelessness and its causes. Yesterday we considered common ignorance. Today we examine political ignorance. Saturday we conclude with how to open our own and others’ eyes. A 2003 USA Today poll showed 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein participated in the 9/11 attacks. You could dismiss that as war hysteria, and a week later President Bush said there was no evidence of such a link. But a CBS News/New York Times poll revealed that one-third of Americans still believed it … six years later. A 2007 First Amendment Center poll found that 55% believe the Constitution established a Christian nation, while the First Amendment says the opposite: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” And a 2010 Pew Research poll showed that 18% believe President Obama is a Muslim … up from 12% in 2008. Yesterday we saw that we’re all subject to common ignorance, but politics seems to breed exceptional ignorance. Why? Actions and Factions One reason for political ignorance is, ironically, political action. Research in cognitive dissonance shows we are more likely to defend a belief once we have acted on it. We want to be good...

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Campus Chatter – May 27, 2011

Today in history, greetings, and social banter here. (More) Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg today (1703). Also, bubonic plague broke out in San Francisco (1907), New York City’s Chrysler Building opened (1930), as did the Golden Gate Bridge (1937), and the mine fire that would ultimately shut down Centralia, Pennsylvania began (1962). And Christopher Reeves was paralyzed after falling from a horse (1995). The Janitor Professor of Astrology did not consult Professor Plum or Ms. Scarlet in preparing this week’s Bippiescopes…. Gemini – This is a good weekend to clean the Dining Room. Unless Mr. Boddy is there. Cancer – Remember to water the plants in the Conservatory. Watch out for Scorpios. Leo – Don’t buy the Wrench at the hardware store. Or at least pay cash. Virgo – A place for everything, and everything in its place. Put that envelope in the Cellar. Libra – It’s time to catalog the books in the Library. The Rope won’t help. Scorpio – Relax in the Lounge this weekend. And sneak up on Cancers. Sagittarius – A Lead Pipe is a poor cue stick. Even in the Billiard Room. Capricorn – Remember to take breaks while you Study. Use the secret passage to the Kitchen. Aquarius – Polish that Candlestick this weekend. In case the lights go out. Pisces – The fitness balls are stored in the gym. Not the...

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Morning Feature: Clueless, Part I – Common Ignorance

Evolution is an unproven theory. The sun revolves around the earth. Expensive vodka is better. Why are so many of us so clueless? (More) Clueless, Part I – Common Ignorance This week Morning Feature looks at cluelessness and its causes. Today we consider common ignorance. Tomorrow we examine political ignorance. Saturday we conclude with how to open our own and others’ eyes. Most of us believe at least some false claims. Last year Newsweek offered a slide show titled “America the Ignorant,” based on responses to various polls. Among their findings: 25% of Americans reject evolution, and 20% believe the sun revolves around the earth. Slate‘s Alex Abramovich wrote that “if all vodkas tasted alike, there’d be no reason to favor a $30 bottle of Armadale over a $12 magnum of Fleischmann’s,” yet blind taste testers on the New York Times Dining section staff favored the cheaper Smirnoff label, and Bloomberg Businessweek found vodka drinkers could not identify their favorite brands in blind tests. Why are we so ignorant? Predictably Irrational It’s partly how our brains function. For example, in Predictably Irrational, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely writes that given a choice of: (1) a week in Paris (free breakfast); (2) a week in Rome (free breakfast); and (3) a week in Rome (no breakfast), most people choose #2: Rome with the free breakfasts. Dr. Ariely calls that the...

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