This would probably be something better suited for the linklog, but the sheer incidence of really interesting articles in the Guardian’s combined Life/Online supplement today bears extended comment. Sometimes each section has a bit of an off-week, but not today! At least three articles that are worth extended perusal.
First off there’s a fascinating and even-handed article on how people experience religious feeling and sentiment: Religion may be a survival mechanism. So are we born to believe?. Now obviously by implying that there’s anything to do with survival and evolution going on in the constructuion of human beings, this article is going to alienate some religious people. But beyond the potentially disconcerting concept of applying the concept of scientific research to religious sentiment, there’s little else here to offend people with strong spiritual beliefs. The article can be read in two ways – either as a rationalist debunking and explanation of religion or as an examination of what happens biologically when someone genuinely experiences the presence of God. As a confirmed and long-standing atheist, I choose to read it as an interesting explanation of why people choose to believe such counter-intuitive things – but there’s something here for everyone, and I applaud Ian Semple for writing it so elegantly:
Newberg has been criticised for his investigations into the essence of spiritual experience – the most vehement attacks coming from atheists. “Some people want me to say whether God is there or not, but these experiments can’t answer that. If I scan a nun and she has the experience of being in the presence of God, I can tell you what’s going on in her brain, but I can’t tell you whether or not God is there,” he says. Religious groups point out that there is more to religion than extreme experiences. It is a criticism Newberg acknowledges. “The problem is, the people who have these experiences are so much easier to study,” he says.
Another fascinating article is in real Lakoffian territory – so it’s great to see him name-checked in the article a couple of times. It’s about a fairly isolated people who have completely different metaphors for time – believing the past to lie ahead of them and the future to be behind:
The Aymara word for past is transcribed as nayra , which literally means eye, sight or front. The word for future is q”ipa , which translates as behind or the back. The Jesuits undoubtedly noticed this oddity in the 16th century, when they ventured up into the mountains to spread the word. More recently, linguistic anthropologists have puzzled over what it means. In 1975, Andrew Miracle and Juan de Dios Yapita Moya, both at the University of Florida, observed that q”ip¸ru , the Aymara word for tomorrow, combines q”ipa and uru , the word for day, to produce a literal meaning of “some day behind one’s back”.
And finally and on more familiar weblog-like territory, there’s an article on Posting for Profit – running weblogs for cash – by Bobbie Johnson:
In fact, for all but a select few, this city of gold will always prove elusive. Instead, it seems the real way to make money from weblogs is not from producing the final product, but in delivering services to bloggers eager to live the dream.
Take Evan Williams, one of the founders of Blogger.com, the pioneering personal publishing firm whose easy-to-use software helped put weblogs on the map. Six years ago, he was starting up a small software firm with a handful of friends. In 2003, the company was bought by search giant Google in an undisclosed big-money deal. Last year, he decided to leave the Mountain View firm, safe in the knowledge he had trousered enough to give him ample time to decide on his next step.
Obviously there’s stuff in the article that I’m not totally sure I agree with – I’m hoping that the main motivation for people to start a weblog is not a financial one, although I could be wrong about that. To be fair – one of the main reasons I like it (other than it’s mention of Jason’s attempts to go pro) is that he incorporated the phrase “he had trousered enough [money]”, which is frankly glorious. But even if that had been excised, there’s enough here of interest and intrigue about the emerging financial aspects of webloggia to open a few people’s eyes. Awesome stuff. Bring on next week’s issue…