Sunday, April 21, 2024

The curious joy of being wrong – intellectual humility means being open to new information and willing to change your mind

  Mark Twain apocryphally said, “I’m in favor of progress; it’s change I don’t like.” This quote pithily underscores the human tendency to desire growth while also harboring strong resistance to the hard work that comes with it. I can certainly resonate with this sentiment.

  I was raised in a conservative evangelical home. Like many who grew up in a similar environment, I learned a set of religious beliefs that framed how I understood myself and the world around me. I was taught that God is loving and powerful, and God’s faithful followers are protected. I was taught that the world is fair and that God is good. The world seemed simple and predictable – and most of all, safe.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

We’ve been here before: AI promised humanlike machines – in 1958

  A room-size computer equipped with a new type of circuitry, the Perceptron, was introduced to the world in 1958 in a brief news story buried deep in The New York Times. The story cited the U.S. Navy as saying that the Perceptron would lead to machines that “will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence.”

  More than six decades later, similar claims are being made about current artificial intelligence. So, what’s changed in the intervening years? In some ways, not much.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Lead from old paint and pipes is still a harmful and deadly hazard in millions of US homes

  Lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes severe health effects such as neurological damage, organ failure, and death.

  Widely used in products such as paint and gasoline until the late 1970s, lead continues to contaminate environments and harm the health of people around the world.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Why rural white Americans’ resentment is a threat to democracy

  Rural white voters have long enjoyed outsize power in American politics. They have inflated voting power in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the Electoral College.

  Although there is no uniform definition of “rural,” and even federal agencies cannot agree on a single standard, roughly 20% of Americans live in rural communities, according to the Census Bureau’s definition. And three-quarters of them – or approximately 15% of the U.S. population – are white.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Yes, efforts to eliminate DEI programs are rooted in racism

  Right-wing activists who have long criticized liberalism and “wokeness” in higher education and helped force the resignation of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first African American president, have now set their sights on ending the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs that these activists claim helped place figures like Gay in her job in the first place.

  Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who played a pivotal role in forcing Gay’s resignation, stated this view bluntly on X – formerly known as Twitter– following Gay’s ouster: “Today, we celebrate victory. Tomorrow, we get back to the fight. We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Patterson Test

  Before 2017, I would have struggled to pick out Jim Patterson in the Alabama House of Representatives.

  Patterson was a Meridianville Republican elected to the chamber in 2010. In his first term, he did what most freshman representatives do: handle local legislation and vote the party line. He sponsored tax exemption bills, too, and in his second term added education and retirement legislation to his docket.

  But Patterson didn’t stand out until he took on a big project.

Monday, April 15, 2024

College athletes still are not allowed to be paid by universities − here’s why

  Ever since July 1, 2021, student-athletes have been able to pursue endorsement deals. But when it comes to getting paid by the universities for which they play, the students have been shut down. Here, Cyntrice Thomas, a professor of sport management at the University of Florida, answers questions about the hurdles that stand in the way of college athletes being compensated for their athleticism.

What stands in the way of paying college sports players?

  NCAA rules are the main obstacle.

  Not long after it was formed in 1906, the NCAA prohibited schools from compensating student-athletes for their athletic ability. In 1948, the NCAA adopted the Sanity Code, which also prohibited athletic scholarships for students who couldn’t demonstrate financial need or economic hardship.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Fetal personhood rulings could nullify a pregnant patient’s wishes for end-of-life care

  The Alabama Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented decision in February 2024, holding that stored frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, were “minor children” under a state wrongful death law.

  The impact on the medical community was immediate and acute. Fearing newfound civil or criminal legal liability if embryos were now considered “persons” under Alabama law, IVF clinics had to make an overnight choice between providing patient care and risking that liability. As a result, multiple IVF clinics across the state immediately suspended IVF procedures. And the most direct impact, of course, was on patients.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

They want silence around Rosa Parks

  The Rosa Parks statue in Montgomery’s Court Square is not what you expect from a monument. That’s why I love it.

  There’s no pedestal. No stage. Nothing separating the viewer from Parks. It’s a life-sized and human-scaled depiction of a civil rights hero.

  This is no divinely ordained messenger walking in the sky above us. This is a woman going home after a day at work – a dignified, respected citizen with a long track record of activism. She has a plan for the bus ride ahead.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Absorbing half of Mexico altered American culture

  Proponents of America’s system of immigration controls lament what they say are “invaders” crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and entering the United States. Many of them say that this “invasion” is a conspiracy to alter the culture of the United States in a Hispanic direction.

  Ironically, very few, if any, of these anti-invaders ever condemn what the U.S. government did with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. That treaty did more to change the culture of the United States in a Mexican direction than immigrant “invaders” could ever hope to do.