Paper Clippings The Blog of The Crossroads Cultural Center

Paper Clippings, more than a classical blog, is a service providing valuable reading material in order to help readers reach a judgment about current affairs. Comments and discussion are more than welcome.

Thursday
Nov172005

Narnia fever

The New Yorker has a long piece on C.S. Lewis. If anything, the article exemplifies the superficial understanding of Christianity common among educated Westerners: as a religious fantasy without any present reality. To some degree, the article makes one wonder whether Lewis himself struggled with the same temptation. On the contrary the real presence of God in the world through sacramental signs is completely obvious in the works of Tolkien, but that seems to be beyond the understanding of the New Yorker's critic.

Tuesday
Nov152005

It is dawning on people

Alan Wolfe is correct that the great paradox of contemporary education is that it rejects a priori any attempt at investigating issues of meaning, and thus ends up not being education at all. His answer, however, seems inadequate because it claims once again that one can teach a "neutral" method (in his case, "passionate dispassion") in a vacuum, i.e. separate from a specific tradition. Things are just the opposite: only the honest proposal of a tradition (to be verified in the pupil's experience) can lead to the development of critical thinking. There is no escaping from the inner logic of the Enlightenment (aka "liberalism"), which is doomed to self-destruct by cutting the branch on which it sits (the specific Classic-Judeo-Christian-Germanic tradition that generated it). The problem, though, is not just going back to some dead canon (the great books); what is required is a people where a living tradition is constantly regenerated.

Tuesday
Nov152005

The Death of Curiosity?

College students don't know who Jack Kerouac is. Big deal? Peter Zane says it is: "It's not that they don't know, it's that they don't care about what they don't know." It seems that the Renaissance ideal of the "divo" has reached it's logical endgame: "We are forced to become specialists, people who know more and more about less and less." But who is introducing young people to reality and the quest for knowledge? Do the professors who complain about the lack of curiosity convey curiosity themselves?

Monday
Nov142005

"Don't Be Evil"

Google knows a lot more about you than you know about Google. For example, did you know that founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page see Google (its motto: "Don't Be Evil") as a populist force for good that empowers individuals to find information fast about anything and everything? What is their measure of evil, what is good? And what about the "Googling Your Genes" program?
Fasten your seat bealts for a trip into Google's soul...

Sunday
Nov132005

Death in Jordan

One of the victims of last week's Al-quaeda bombing in Jordan was a Hollywood producer whose wish was "to bring the peaceful message of Islam to the Western world," according to his ex-wife. Her conclusion: "That was his point and it hasn't been well-made yet, has it?"

Saturday
Nov122005

Heading for trouble

It seems more and more likely that the greatest threats to peace in the next few years may come from Iran. This article gives an interesting insight on the world view of the new leadership. For the situation of the Christian community, read this. The last paragraph is touching because it shows how the human quest for the truth can encounter God's mercy even in the most adverse circumstances. If you want the extreme-apocalyptic reading of the situation coming from the Iranian opposition in exile, you can always resort to faithfreedom.org (warning: take with a big pinch of salt). Spengler thinks a war is coming.

Wednesday
Nov092005

Time for something new

This editorial by Levy is interesting because it points out that the radical problem in France is neither Islam per se nor poverty, but rather alienation and the lack of a unifying ideal that can make it worth for young people to partecipate in society. Since 1789, France has been a country unified by the nationalist ideology of "citizenship," which of course was parasithical to the lingering Christian idea of a people. Now that the last vestiges of cultural Christianity are fading away, what is left is either the gay nihilism of the elites or the ideological nihilism of Islamists.

Wednesday
Nov092005

CIA, Torture and Vice President Cheney

90 senators approved an amendment by Sen.John McCain which requires all agencies of the U.S. government to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international law, which prohibit torture. McCain knows something about the issue, having been himself for five years a victim of brutal torture by the North Vietnamese. So, why are CIA and Vice President Cheney fighting the amendment? In order to understand what's at stake, we propose you this Op-Ed by Jeffrey H.Smith, former general counsel of the CIA. (from the Washington Post).

Monday
Nov072005

Nine Justices, Five Catholics?

If Samuel A. Alito Jr. is confirmed to the Supreme Court, a majority of its nine justices for the first time will be Roman Catholics.
The Washington Post analyses the consequences...

Sunday
Nov062005

Behe vs. Darwin


Everything you wanted to know about Michael Behe, the biochemist who became the lead witness for Intelligent Design, is in this nice profile in the Los Angeles Times

Sunday
Nov062005

Belonging

This survey on the effects of divorce is interesting because it points out that children depend on their parents' marriage at least as much as they depend on them individually.

Thursday
Nov032005

Looking for infinity

Scientists and theologians will join for a discussion of the concept of infinity at a scholarly conference to be held at the Pontifical Lateran University next week. The conference is the first international gathering of a project entitled STOQ: science, technology, and the ontological quest.
The purpose of STOQ is “to create a new climate of dialogue within the Catholic Church,” encouraging scientists and theologians to share their insights.
At a news conference on the Vatican project, cardinal Paul Popard said the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

Thursday
Nov032005

Appointing Catholics

The New Republic has discovered why the US Supreme Court is being filled with Catholics: because evangelical protestants have gained political power but they lack cultural artillery. The question is: must this void necessarily be filled by the Catholic "neocons," who are philosophically very close to the evangelicals? Is there an original Catholic proposal to American culture?

Thursday
Nov032005

California will do it for you

In summary, we hold that there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents “to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs” and that the asserted right is not encompassed by any other fundamental right.

USA Court of Appeals
for the 9th Circuit, Pasadena CA, November 2 2005.

Tuesday
Nov012005

Radical despair

Theodore Dalrymple discusses the existential condition of suicide bombers. He wrote an impressive column about France three years ago. On Islam's inability to face modernity, you can also read the latest column by Spengler.