Three-Parent IVF, Fire in Space, and a History of Religious Liberty in America
What is three-parent IVF, and is there a problem with it? Brendan Foht explains.
A short history of religious liberty: “An overlooked landmark in the rise of religious liberty in America is the National Conference of Christians and Jews, founded in 1927. In 1933, three of the group’s leaders, a Protestant minister, Catholic priest, and Jewish rabbi, embarked on a 38-city tour to promote interfaith understanding. Their journey was covered by Time magazine, and their endeavor inspired a host of similar tours by other trios throughout the 1930s . . . The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 played an important role in increasing religious diversity in the United States. As of 2017, America had ‘3,727 synagogues; 2,100 mosques; 810 Hindu temples; 290 Sikh gurdwaras; 2,340 Buddhist centers; 150 Baha’i temples; 60 Afro-Caribbean churches; and 90 Jain worship centers.’ Fortunately, by the late twentieth century most Americans had embraced a robust understanding of religious liberty, so the ability of these diverse believers to practice their faiths has been reasonably well protected.”
Frances Wilson reviews Leslie Jamison’s latest collection of essays, Make It Scream, Make It Burn: “Because she is a woman who writes essays, Jamison has been compared with Joan Didion, Janet Malcolm and Susan Sontag, but she is the antithesis of her predecessors. A recovered alcoholic, Jamison speaks the lingo of sharing, gratitude and moral righteousness (in her acknowledgements she thanks those friends ‘who simply helped me survive my own life’). She trades in platitudes, believes that scepticism contains an ‘ethical failure’, and ‘has doubts about doubt’. As an ‘expression of kinship and curiosity’ with the world, she has the words ‘Nothing human is alien to me’ tattooed on her arm. She thus carries her heart on her sleeve: there is no experience she can’t relate to; her belief system is ‘tolerant enough to hold everything as equally valid’. If Didion, Malcolm and Sontag are caviar from a live fish, Jamison is a side serving of kale.”
An historian argues that Byzantines thought of themselves as Roman. His argument is unconvincing: “Kaldellis is a prolific and provocative historian. He has already claimed counter-intuitively that Byzantium was a republic, not an empire, and he does not like the standard elision between Byzantium and Orthodox Christianity. In this book he vigorously defends his views and pushes them still further, taking swipes at other Byzantinists as he goes. Of course there is mileage in the idea that claiming to be Roman meant something to the Byzantines, even if perhaps only to the small educated elite who wrote about such things . . . But Byzantine identity was not a simple matter of feeling Roman. Christians, for example, had used ethnic vocabulary and claimed an ethnic identity for themselves since before Constantine’s day, and Byzantines sometimes referred to themselves simply as Christians. Understandably, the Latins labelled them as Graikoi. The ethnic diversity often claimed for Byzantium is another of Kaldellis’s targets. And his strong emphasis on Romanness is useful for him since it downplays the stress laid by the Byzantines on their religious identity, something he wishes to minimize. But most historians now see identity as fluid and identities as multiple, and the Byzantines played it in more than one direction.”
Stephen Schmalhofer revisits the life of an old-school professor in old-school times: “Yale University in the first half of the twentieth century is a lost world even to alumni who attended just a few decades later. New Haven grammar-school children freely roller-skated on college sidewalks while Dalmatians rode on town fire engines. Administrators resisted the new technology on campus—the radio. One Sunday morning a college master’s wife grabbed the wrong bottle from her sideboard and the Episcopalian students in Dwight Chapel received Manhattans instead of wine at communion. A professor’s child reported that her class was asked to contribute fifteen cents towards membership dues in the Atom Bomb Society. The child had misheard the name of the Audubon Society. Through this world walked Yale’s midcentury Latinist Clarence Whittlesey Mendell (1883–1970). He knew half of New Haven. He was scrupulously fair and honest. He loved laughing, but you had to earn a smile. He was, by nature, a cheerful pragmatist who welcomed new challenges. His office preserved an atmosphere of unhurried composure. He lectured on Latin literature and Athenian drama in a gray suit but never wore the same necktie twice.”
Essay of the Day:
“A fire on the International Space Station, high above Earth and far from help, could be catastrophic, even deadly.” So why have astronauts been burning things in space for years? Marina Koren explains in The Atlantic:
“They do it in the name of science, at the careful instruction of researchers back on the ground. The experiments unfold in small facilities inside the station, safe from other equipment, the crew, and their precious supply of breathable air.
“To study combustion on the ISS, and before that, the Space Shuttles, astronauts have set fire to a variety of materials and observed how this distinctly earthly phenomenon unfolds in microgravity. And they love doing it.
“‘They get very excited,’ Paul Ferkul, a scientist at the Universities Space Research Association in Ohio, told me recently. ‘They’re all very glad to burn stuff.’
“Researchers usually guide astronauts in real time as they feed samples into a special chamber and watch them burn. ‘The astronauts really enjoying doing it because it is so hands on,’ Ferkul said. ‘This is one [experiment] where they can see the results immediately and really feel like they’re doing current research.’
“The results are pretty bonkers. In space, a flame is shaped like a sphere instead of a teardrop, and it doesn’t flicker. It just hovers, a small, ghostly orb, until it goes out. Such orbs are called ‘flame balls,’ a term that is both extremely accurate and delightfully deranged. ‘It’s kind of mesmerizing to see this burning without gravity present,’ Ferkul said.”
Photo: Alaskan glacier
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