Facebook thread illustrationFollowing up on my blog post from a few weeks ago, a couple of colleagues and I have published a formal response to the media frenzy covering the study that claimed a relationship between Facebook use and lower grades.

Back when the story broke about Aryn Karpinski’s research, most media outlets ran with the claims made in the original press release or even took it to a next step by suggesting a causal relationship between Facebook use and lower grades. Only a few outlets took care in reporting, among them the Chronicle of Higher Education. In the last few days, the BBC has had a piece considering the various perspectives.

By the way, this is the quickest turn-around I’ve ever experienced with an academic publication. Below the fold is a bit more describing how it came about. [click to continue…]

Politic religion, again

by John Quiggin on May 6, 2009

While the aesthetic defence of religion offered by Terry Eagleton might appeal to a small fraction of the intelligentsia, a far more common belief is that, regardless of truth value, religious belief makes people better citizens, and should therefore be encouraged.

Although this claim has various components, the most obvious social benefits of religious belief, and the biggest source of concern about the adverse consequences of unbelief, is the doctrine of an afterlife in which good actions will be rewarded and bad ones punished. Back in the 19th century, lots of people were really worried about this and, even in the 21st it’s a common theme in US discussions of religion.

But do we really need religion for this?

[click to continue…]