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We are cruel. We always have been. The Internet did not make us so

We didn’t start the flame war. Scandalous satirical pamphlets were once cranked out by writers and sold at train stations, like so many primordial blog posts. Political cartoons have a long and vicious history. Incivility is our legacy, not our invention. It is part, but only part, of who we are. And have always been. –Tabatha Southey, The Globe and Mail.

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Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or…

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Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time

A very moving reflection by a dying man, who contemplates the meaning of the time he has left with his baby daughter. Time for me is double-edged: Every day brings me further from the low of my last cancer relapse, but every day also brings me closer to the next cancer recurrence — and eventually, death. Perhaps later than I think, but certainly sooner than I desire. There are, I…

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The secret life of a public library security guard

This made me think of a college friend who regularly Facebooks anecdotes about his job as a librarian, and a former student who produces a radio drama about a hard-boiled, square-jawed time-traveling librarian. Enter the library intoxicated and you’ll get a talking to — the warning — and be asked to leave for the day. Petrovich understands that “everybody gonna have booze and come in library.” But if drunkards try…

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Reflections on Flannery O’Connor’s “The River”

I’m teaching “The River” today in an “Introduction to Literary Study” course. Demonstrating that we know what to do if we ever encounter such a little boy in real life won’t help us to understand O’Connor’s literary accomplishment. From a Catholic perspective, the mysteries of God are beyond anyone’s understanding. Anyone who prays for God to help them win the ball game (“listen to my prayers, not the prayers of…

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We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.

A chemist celebrates the liberal arts. Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs. Leonardo’s curiosity and passion for painting, writing, engineering and biology helped him triumph in both art and science; his study of anatomy and dissections of corpses enabled his incredible drawings of the human figure. When introducing the iPad 2,…