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Sam Harris writes  a thoughtful essay regarding how religion and science may deal with culture. It is an article that distills the theme of his new book, The Moral Landscape. He doesn’t make the usual argument that science and religion need to provide explanations for why we have morality. instead, he focuses on the outcomes of action, which will have a direct impact as to the viability of a single person, or a multitude of individuals. We can certain assess fear and anxiety, nutritional nourishment, shelter, the level of violence encountered by individuals, how much one works, and so on. We do, in general, have some idea of the circumstances under which the most individuals can maximize their positive outcomes (probably with some basic level of food and shelter with a  minimum of physical strife.) This is truly a subtle, but a significant, difference in explaining the commonalities of “morality” based on either religious or  biological first principles.

Anis Shivani has a few thoughts about critical reception of Ian McEwan’s new novel, Solar.

David Rothman, author and e-book advocate, writes about Philip Roth’s new novel, Nemesis.

Finally, Roger Ebert brought some attention to Krishna Shenoi’s appreciation about Superman and Christopher Reeve.

 

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Jaron Lanier wrote an editorial for the NYT about the digital classroom. He points out that education may not be discretized into blocks and efficiently transferred to the students. He fears that reducing knowledge into blocks, and then having students shuffle them around, gives the impression that new knowledge is simply recombining old bits (i.e. Remix Culture). Lanier feels that this is a problem of computer-aided educational tools: designers can limit the  learning by the nature of the “building blocks” the students can use. Further, the binary referendum of multiple choice testing gives an incentive for factory processes rather than hoping kids will absorb and then generalize the concept of “5+7”  to apply it in new contexts (like, “15+ 17”).  Matthew Bernius responds (hat tip: Paul Biba from Tele-read).

Margaret Atwood weighs in on e-books.

Jeffrey Trachtenberg has a piece in the WSJ about the publishing side of e-books, with regards to literary authors (lower prices for e-books – compared to hardcovers lead to smaller profits, coupled with a down-trend in book buying, puts the squeeze on author advances.)

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