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The Three Fausts

We live in an age of science and technology. To say this means more than acknowledging the benefits we have derived from their accomplishments. Science and technology now claim authority in ethics, metaphysics, and theology. We give to science privilege in settling age-old questions of right and . . . . Continue Reading »

Is Vice More Interesting than Virtue?

Since at least the age of Milton, whose Satan in Paradise Lost allegedly outmatches the other characters in depth and dynamism, artistic depictions of evil have often been associated with power and interest. So it’s not surprising that many critics approached director Kenneth Branagh’s rococo new version of Disney’s Cinderella on the stepmother’s side. “Bad always sizzles more than good,” Manohla Dargis proclaimed in the New York Times. Other critics noted with genuine puzzlement that the title character manages to be compelling in spite of her moral goodness. Where is the dramatic appeal, they wondered, in a conventionally virtuous character? Continue Reading »

Maury's Silent Majority

Maury’s struggling to stay in character. Normally he’s the picture of paternal stability: amused but not belittling, hortatory but not pedantic, firm but not overbearing. This is why they seek him out in their most difficult moments, this parade of wounded people from cash-poor neighborhoods across the country. They flock to his sound stage in Stamford, Connecticut hoping to find the sort of judge, the sort of social worker, the sort of counselor—and yes, the sort of father—that they haven’t encountered elsewhere. Maury Povich gives a fair hearing. But even Maury is occasionally worn thin by the monotony of human weakness, and today is one such day. Continue Reading »

An Exercise in Begging the Question

The world was a dark and gloomy place until the Enlightenment came along, after which people began to think for themselves and break free from the shackles of religious authority. So we are told, once again, in The Moral Arc, a book by journalist Michael Shermer. For him, the Enlightenment did not merely accelerate humanity’s moral progress, but rather it reversed the moral regress characteristic of pre-Enlightenment human history. Since then, science and reason have been guiding humanity on a path toward justice, truth, and freedom. Continue Reading »

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