On the social scientific study of religion

I’d like to give a “shout-out” to University of Washington political scientist (and Baylor ISR Distinguished Senior Fellow) Tony Gill for his “Research on Religion” podcast series. Research on Religion (AKA “RoR”; see http://www.researchonreligion.org/) is a weekly podcast series which is devoted to the social scientific study of religion.

Since I commute regularly from my home in Austin, TX to my Baylor University office (which is located 1-1/2 hours away in Waco, TX), this gives me plenty of time to listen to podcasts. By far and away, my favorite podcast series is (not surprisingly) Econtalk (located at http://www.econtalk.org/). Both EconTalk and RoR follow a similar format, in that there is a new, roughly 1 hour long podcast every week that features an interview between the program host (Russ Roberts on EconTalk and Tony Gill on RoR) and a guest who has typically published a book or article on an important/relevant/timely topic.

Anyway, the direct iTunes link for RoR is http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/research-on-religion/id401047404. The direct iTunes link for EconTalk is http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/econtalk/id135066958.

Assorted Links (10/13/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Christien Meindertsma: How pig parts make the world turn | Video on TED.com


“TED Talks Christien Meindertsma, author of “Pig 05049” looks at the astonishing afterlife of the ordinary pig, parts of which make their way into at least 185 non-pork products, from bullets to artificial hearts.”

Google to map inflation using web data


“Data could provide an alternative to official statistics.”

Higher Taxes Mean I’ll Work Less


“A personal case study looks at some of the ways higher taxes may affect the earnings of high-income taxpayers.”

Review & Outlook: The 2010 Spending Record


“The Wall Street Journal on the 21.4% federal spending increase in two years.”

Boehner’s ‘Plan B’ for ObamaCare


“In the Wall Street Journal, Main Street columnist William McGurn writes that congressional hearings can be used to sell market-friendly fixes.”

Europe the Intolerant


“In the Wall Street Journal, James Kirchick writes that the continent’s progressive image is a fabrication of the American liberal mind.”

NFL vs. ‘TV Everywhere’


“In The Wall Street Journal, Business World columnist Holman Jenkins, Jr. says that TV’s fight to preserve its power in the face of digital ubiquity may be a lost cause.”

Book Review: Roosevelt’s Purge


“Jonathan Karl reviews Susan Dunn’s Roosevelt’s Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party.”

Irwin on France’s role in the Great Depression


“In the latest EconTalk, Doug Irwin argues that France played a much larger role than previously thought in causing the Great Depression. We talk about how the gold standard worked and how French monetary policy forced deflation on the rest of the world.”

The Decline of Cursing


“Bad words, once glorious, have been emptied of meaning by common use, argues Jan Morris in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.”

The Weekend Interview with Scott Rasmussen: America’s Insurgent Pollster


“In the Wall Street Journal, OpinionJournal columnist John Fund interviews Scott Rasmussen, who says that understanding the tea party is essential to predicting what the country’s political scene will look like.”

Paul Johnson – The Quest For God – The ReAL Book Review


I really like Gerard Reed’s book reviews; here’s one about British historian Paul Johnson’s new book entitled “The Quest for God”. I first became aware of Paul Johnson more than 20 years ago, when I became deeply influenced by Paul Johnson’s essay entitled “The Heartless Lovers of Humankind” (see http://www.fortfreedom.org/h11.htm).

The Fed Compounds Its Mistakes


“In The Wall Street Journal, Carnegie-Mellon University economist Allan H. Meltzer says the Federal Reserve shouldn’t deliberately use inflation to reduce unemployment.”

Diamond, Mortensen, Pissarides Share 2010 Nobel Economic Prize


“Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on the efficiency of recruitment and wage formation as well as labor-market regulation.”

Four Lions: The Absurdity of Terror


“In the British film Four Lions, five Muslim men from Sheffield, England—four from immigrant families along with an English convert—seek to break out of their ho-hum average-ness by doing something which they think will launch them into hero status in their community.They plot a terrorist attack in the name of “jihad” in the U.K. In this farcical film, black satire meets terror-jihad and it is a match made almost in heaven. The would-be jihadists, however, end their lives only in tragedy, not in paradise.”

The MBA Oath


“At a time when capitalism, free markets, corporate greed, (WallStreet 2), bankers’ bonuses, is making headlines, here is the MBA Oath. The oath is a voluntary pledge for graduating MBAs and current MBAs to “create value responsibly and ethically’.”

Joe Queenan on Jimmy Carter’s Addiction to Writing Books


“The American people wanted Jimmy Carter out of office in the worst way, and to this day they are paying the price. If we had to do it all over again, I think a lot of people would vote to amend the Constitution and allow presidents to run for five, six—as many terms as they wanted. That wouldn’t leave them much spare time to write books.”

Faith and Science Symposium

My good friend Larry Linenschmidt has organized the “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” Symposium, which is scheduled to take place October 26–28 in Austin, TX.  Larry is executive director for the Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and he has succeeded in putting together a very impressive roster of speakers, including (among others) my Baylor colleague Walter Bradley!

For more information about the Symposium, visit the website at vibrantdance.org.  In closing, here’s Larry himself describing the Symposium in his own words: 

Assorted Links (7/2/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Scientists Discover Keys to Long Life – WSJ.com


“By analyzing the DNA of the world’s oldest people, Boston University scientists said Thursday they have discovered a genetic signature of longevity. They expect soon to offer a test that could let people learn whether they have the constitution to live to a very old age.”

Charles Krauthammer – Terror — and candor in describing the Islamist ideology behind it


“The administration’s refusal to identify terrorists reflects a dangerous cowardice.”

Brad Greenberg: How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire and Why They Should Add the Gospel Back


“In The Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship column, Brad Greenberg says that over the past century, Protestant mission workers have moved from spreading the Gospel to do doing good works, and says that they should be doing both.”

Paul H. Rubin: Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow? – WSJ.com


“In the Wall Street Journal, Paul Rubin writes that there are obvious actions to speed up the Gulf oil spill, but the government oddly resists taking them.”

Kim Strassel: The Obama Trade Games – WSJ.com


“In the Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel writes that free trade is making a convenient comeback in the Obama administration.”

E.J. McMahon: The Empire State’s Stimulus Addiction – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, E.J. McMahon writes that New York will never get its budget under control as long as Washington feeds its spending habit.”

Daily Kos Founder Says Polling Data Was Faked – The Numbers Guy – WSJ


“In an unusually public rift, a prominent left-wing political Web site is renouncing polling it had commissioned and published and is suing its former pollster.”

Short-term insurance buyers in Massachusetts


“Further evidence on how consumers in the real world “game” insurance mandates – this is a cautionary tale for Obamacare, given that ObamaCare is in essence a nationwide implementation of RomneyCare…”

Keynes vs. Alesina. Alesina Who? – BusinessWeek


“Economist Alberto Alesina argues that austerity triggers growth.”

The Problem With Food Aid – Freakonomics Blog – NYTimes.com


“Planet Money and Frontline report on the distorting effects of foreign food aid on local food economies, particularly in Haiti. People don’t buy rice when they can get it for free.”

It Depends on What the Definition of ‘Austerity’ Is


“Paul Krugman says we are in a ‘new era of austerity.’ When will government spending be enough? … In the last ten years, the private sector has, on average, grown 1.2 percent annually, while the government has, on average, grown 3.5 percent annually.”

John B. Taylor: The Dodd-Frank Financial Fiasco – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Stanford University economist John B. Taylor says the Congressional financial reform bill all but guarantees bailouts as far as the eye can see, while failing to address real problems like Fan and Fred and our outdated bankruptcy code.”

No Way to Help Small Business


“The need of many small businesses to raise money has led to several proposals to give small businesses more access to credit. Will they work?”

Menace to Mobility


“Comparing the administration’s new transportation plan to a Soviet ‘five-year plan’ would be unfair to the Soviets.”

Assorted Links (6/29/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Allan Meltzer: Why Obamanomics Has Failed – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Carnegie Mellon University economist Allan H. Meltzer says the Obama administration’s policies have introduced uncertainty about future taxes and regulations. This inhibits investment and job growth.”

If You Have to Be Wrong, How Can You Admit It More Easily? – Freakonomics Blog – NYTimes.com


“Making admissions of error easier.”

Cash for Clunkers: A Retrospective


“Top-down industrial policy carried out through the sheer force of incentives is welcomed by behavioralist Washington.”

The Unemployment Insurance Crisis


“As of this summer, unemployment insurance trust funds in 30 states were insolvent.”

Fred Barnes: King of Pork—and Proud of It – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes writes that the late Robert Byrd made the most of his time in the Senate.”

Rupert Darwall: Britain Tries Fiscal Austerity – WSJ.com


“Rupert Darwall writes in The Wall Street Journal that Keynesianism goes out of fashion in London.”

Randy Barnett: The Supreme Court’s Gun Showdown – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Randy Barnett writes that thanks to five Justices, the right to keep and bear arms is now protected from state interference. And thanks to Clarence Thomas, an important clause in the Constitution has risen from the grave.”

Bill Wilson’s Gospel – NYTimes.com


“The story of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us about human nature and the kinds of social programs that do and don’t work.”

Congressional Budget Office – Distribution of Federal Taxes


“The federal tax system is progressive–that is, average tax rates generally rise with income. Households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution (with average income of $18,400, under a broad definition of income) paid 4.0 percent of their income in federal taxes. The middle quintile, with average income of $64,500, paid 14.3 percent of that income in taxes, and the highest quintile, with average income of $264,700, paid 25.1 percent.”

Is Academic Freedom Worth Its Price? – Project Syndicate


“In these hard economic times, when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, there is a nagging sense that universities are luxuries. In fact, universities may be the most consistently high-performing products of long-term capital investment.”

Review & Outlook: Kagan’s Commerce Clause – WSJ.com


“The Wall Street Journal says that Senators should ask Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan if Congress can compel Americans to do anything?”

Drilling for Better Information – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Information Age columnist Gordon Crovitz says that the financial crisis and BP share a common attribute: regulatory failure.”

Fouad Ajami: Petraeus, Obama and the War in Afghanistan – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami says that there is a mismatch between the general’s Afghan mission and the president’s summons to his countrymen.”

Review & Outlook: Triumph of the Regulators – WSJ.com


“The Wall Street Journal says that the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill doubles down on the same system that failed.”

Russ Roberts: Hayek: An Economist’s Comeback – WSJ.com


“In The Wall Street Journal, Russell Roberts of George Mason University comments on the revival of interest in the Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek.”

How Christianity Created Capitalism


“It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.”

Indiana ironing-board factory faces stiff competition from Chinese companies


This article provides an interesting case study which clearly illustrates various dysfunctional aspects of trade protectionism in the real world; in particular, how tariffs shield US companies from having to compete and innovate in terms of the goods and services that they produce and the business models that they employ.