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Tikkun Intern -- Sarah Ackley
Sarah Ackley
Sarah, a former print and web editorial intern at Tikkun, is an aspiring science writer living in Berkeley, CA.



Keeping Science and Technology in Check

Jul2

by: on July 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

There’s no denying that science and technology have drastically changed our way of life in the last 250 years. Moreover, to many it seems that the wheels of science and technology are spinning out of control and there’s no way to slam on the brakes. When it comes to issues as disparate as global warming and government surveillance, our ethics and values are not always reflected in our use of science and technology.

So how do we keep science and technology in check? How do we use them as tools rather than allow them to have power over us and our way of life? I think most at Tikkun would agree that our values and ethics, whether religiously, spiritually, or otherwise derived, need and ought to play the major role in determining how science and technology are used. But how do we create such a dynamic?

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After the Attack on Rabbi Lerner’s Home: What You Can Do to Help

May10

by: on May 10th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Many people have expressed their concern for Rabbi Lerner after the recent vandalism of his home and have wondered if there’s anything they can do to help. Tikkun has released a statement asking readers to contact the media and ask them to publicize this incident in meaningful and thoughtful ways.

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Does Symbolic Change Matter? The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall

Apr23

by: on April 23rd, 2010 | 5 Comments »

Aerial view of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Photo courtesy of mlkmemorialnews.org.

In the arena of social change, I am continually confronted with the question of to what extent symbolic change matters. Sometimes when we seek change that is partially or largely symbolic, we loose sight of the broader issue. For example, legalizing gay marriage doesn’t ensure equality for GLBT individuals and families, nor does a Supreme Court mandate to desegregate schools ensure that everyone has access to educational opportunities. Symbolic change has the potential to fundamentally change the ways in which we think and talk about social issues and it can empower us to keep working. At the same time, it can make us complacent because we feel good about having accomplished really very little.

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Defining a Border Between Science and Religion

Mar23

by: on March 23rd, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Implicit in any conversation about scientism, or its sibling religionism,¹ is an assumption of where the border between science and religion lies. Before I discuss these border crossings (in subsequent blog posts), I would like to propose a precise definition of where this border lies and its ideological consequences.

Fortunately, the work of defining the respective roles of science and religion has already been done, and quite eloquently so, by Stephen Jay Gould, the late evolutionary biologist, in his book Rocks of Ages (1999) and in an online essay here. Professor Gould puts forward a model he calls non-overlapping magisteria, or NOMA, for the relationship that science and religion have had for much of their shared history, he argues, and ought to continue to have now. Science and religion, he posits, are non-overlapping domains of teaching authority, or magisteria. The magisterium of science encompasses “the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory),” whereas the magisterium of religion “extends over questions of moral meaning and value.”

Essential to NOMA is the notion that science and religion ought to act as entirely separate domains – a difficult idea for some to accept, yet essential for any discussion of scientism and religionism.

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Scientism Makes for Bad Science and Big Money: Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a Case Study

Jan27

by: on January 27th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

Complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, which includes herbal medicine, chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine, sits at the awkward intersection of medicine, spirituality, and tradition.

Often touted for being antiestablishment, CAM is increasingly finding its way into the mainstream, through doctors’ offices, insurance companies, supplements, and the media. There’s even a division of the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), devoted entirely to CAM. Established in the early 90s, NCCAM’s mission is to determine which CAM therapies are effective and why. Medical schools, funded by NCCAM and private philanthropists, are now offering classes in and have their own research facilities devoted to CAM.

And while the recent popularization of CAM warrants analysis and criticism, this isn’t meant to be a post about whether CAM is good or bad, works or doesn’t; my aim is to gain a greater understanding of who (besides you, perhaps) benefits from the use of CAM and how our current fascination with CAM plays out in today’s market-driven world. For many of us, CAM has been instrumental in the healing process: whether because the treatments in and of themselves are more effective than a placebo; because of the placebo effect, or some other effect related to the mind-body connection; or whether time itself allowed healing to take place. While remaining agnostic to the role of CAM, my goal here is to understand how CAM is being distorted through the very process by which it is becoming “mainstreamed.”

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The “God Particle”

Jan10

by: on January 10th, 2010 | 10 Comments »

This is the first post in a series about science and spirituality that Dave Belden introduced here.

The so-called “God particle” and the search for it at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, has spurred a lot of hubbub.

There are many reasons for this, I’m sure. To name but a couple, the LHC is the largest modern science experiment, costing billions of dollars, and, in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, antimatter is developed at the site of the LHC in order to destroy the Vatican.

But I think a good deal of the hubbub has to do with the name “God particle” itself. Here a particularly ridiculous YouTube video claims that the particle was so-named to promote atheism and that the LHC heralds the end of the world. Others seem to take the name of the particle a bit too literally, claiming it won’t be found since God is immaterial. It’s funny because non-scientists so rarely pay so much attention to the ins and outs of particle physics.

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