Century Marks

Century Marks

Choosing ignorance

Over the past 20 years the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes has dropped by 31 percent, deaths from fire by 38 percent and deaths from drowning by 52 percent. These advances came as a result of interventions based on research.  In 1996, pro-gun members of Congress were able to sharply reduce the funding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received for research on injury and death from firearms. Two years later, Congress curtailed research on the subject at all agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Insti­tutes of Health. Since 1997 at least 470,000 people in the United States have died from gunshot wounds, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide (JAMA, February 13).

Bad math

James Wagner, president of Emory University,  created a fire­storm of protest when he suggested in Emory Magazine that the three-fifths compromise in the U.S. Constitu­tion is a model for resolving disagreements and working for the common good in a university. The three-fifths compromise was worked out between northern and slaveholding southern states as way to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. Three-fifths of a state’s  slave population was counted for purposes of representing a state’s population. Wagner subsequently issued an apology, saying he should have said that slavery is repulsive and inhuman (InsideHigherEd.com, February 13).

Not an issue

Except for white evangelical Protestants, Americans generally don’t see a couple’s differing religious beliefs as a significant stumbling block for a relationship or marriage, according to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. The bigger problem is an unsatisfying sex life. Of those surveyed, 54 percent said an unsatisfying sex life is a major problem for a relationship or marriage, while only 29 percent cited a couple’s differing religious beliefs as a major factor. Only among white evangelicals did a majority (56 percent) see religious difference as a major obstacle. (Fifty-seven percent of white evangelicals agreed that a bad sex life is a major problem.) Only 19 percent of Catholics consider differing religious beliefs a big concern for a couple (RNS).

Future of religion

Rowan Williams, who recently stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury, engaged in a debate last month at Cambridge University with the atheist author Richard Dawkins. Responding to the statement, “Religion has no place in the 21st century,” Williams said that religion has always been about community building, compassion and inclusion. Dawkins, who calls himself a cultural Anglican, said religion is a cop-out, and he pointed to the appalling treatment of women in Islam. Dawkins’s argument lost in a 324–136 vote (Independent, February 1).

Marriage flicks

When Jeanine Basinger decided to write a book about the portrayal of marriage in movies, she discovered that Hollywood isn’t much interested in marriage. Few movies treat the subject, and those that do are marketed as movies about love or romance. One movie executive said that you can’t get an audience interested in a man and a woman being faithfully married. Basinger identified another problem: “Marriage took time, and movies had no time to give to it. . . . Novels could be written about marriages, and plays could crystallize their tensions into significant scenes of dialogues; but . . . what were movies to do in 90 minutes?” (I Do and I Don’t, excerpted in Salon, February 3).