May 11, 2018


Did the dystopian ‘Matrix’ movies predict the rise of Trump?

“Welcome to the desert of the real,” Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) ostentatiously tells Neo (Keanu Reeves) in an important scene not quite halfway through “The Matrix,” the groundbreaking 1999 science fiction film written and directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. (Who were then known, let us note, as Andy and Larry, the “Wachowski Brothers.”) Neo has of course taken the “red pill” and discovered that what he took to be reality is actually a computer simulation, used by a malignant machine intelligence to enslave the human race.

As most fans of the “Matrix” movies surely know, Morpheus’ expression has both a prehistory and a long-tail legacy. My point here, however, is that “The Matrix” and the currents of postmodern theory and dystopian sci-fi that informed it didn’t just predict the future but also seemingly shaped it.

We’re all lost in the desert of the real now. We all believe we took the red pill — but how can we be sure it wasn’t a placebo? Many of us, like the treacherous rebel played by Joe Pantoliano in the movie, long to climb back inside the Matrix, where we can live within the comforting illusions of yesteryear. But there’s no door that leads there, and no there on the other side of the nonexistent door.

That phrase comes from an extended metaphor in Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation,” an influential (if borderline unreadable) work of critical theory that was partly an inspiration for “The Matrix” and partly just a prop. Neo has a copy on his bookshelf early in the film, or at least he appears to: In a joke Baudrillard may or may not have appreciated, the book has actually been hollowed out and used to conceal a disk of illicit data. For that matter, it only exists inside the Matrix — it’s a fake book in a fake universe.

Male Theologian Tells Female Pastor To ‘Be Silent’ After Her Call To End Christian Misogyny

In her essay, Moore called for Christian men to hold each other accountable for the ways they treat women, “I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women.”

She wrote: “As a woman leader in the conservative Evangelical world, I learned early to show constant pronounced deference — not just proper respect which I was glad to show — to male leaders and when placed in situations to serve alongside them, to do so apologetically.”

Moore described the ways in which she showed deference; and they included ignoring men who made fun of her to her face during meetings, being ignored by male speakers at various conferences, and wearing flat shoes so she didn’t appear taller than any of the men.

Male theologian Seth Dunn responded to her essay with a character assassination, and he demanded  her silence. Dunn wrote: “Be silent. You are not a good Bible teacher.  You preach and write about yourself all the time as if you were a character in the Biblical story.  You’re not.  You are a character in the farcical and cruel story of the evangelical industrial complex. I read Believing God recently; it was one of the worst Christian books that I have ever read.  It pains me to know that so many women erroneously think that you are a good source for biblical teaching. You are not. Let me be clear, you aren’t a terrible Bible teacher because you are a woman, you are a terrible Bible teacher because you are not good at teaching the Bible. That you are a woman is irrelevant.”

He justified misogynistic behavior by suggesting she might have been ignored by male colleagues at conferences because they found her to be too alluring.

The Scandal Tearing Apart America's Largest Protestant Denomination

Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has weathered an onslaught of controversies, from renaming the denomination to repudiating the Confederate flag. But in the end, all it took to potentially rend the organization in two was a single quote about domestic violence from a solitary leader that most Americans have never even heard of.

Paige Patterson is the 75-year-old president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which claims to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the world. He is lionized among Baptists for his role in the “conservative resurgence,” which is what some call the movement to oust theological liberals beginning in the 1970s. But this week, his past legacy and present credibility were called into question when a 2000 audio recording surfaced in which Patterson said he has counseled physically abused women to avoid divorce and to focus instead on praying for their violent husbands, and to “be submissive in every way that you can.”

Domestic-violence advocates quickly and unsurprisingly condemned the remarks, but, and as The Washington Post reported, it sent “leaders scrambling to respond.”

. . .

It’s not difficult to denounce domestic violence, and it shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, America’s largest Protestant denomination now seems to be ethically schizophrenic when it comes to the topic.

Tutankhamun 'secret chamber' does not exist, researchers find

Previously, officials said they were "90% sure" of a hidden room behind the wall of the boy king's famous 3,000-year-old tomb.

One theory suggested it could have been the tomb of Queen Nefertiti - who some think was Tutankhamun's mother.

New research, however, has concluded the chamber simply is not there.

The search for the hidden tomb began when English archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, examining detailed scans of the chamber, discovered what looked like faint traces, or "ghosts", of doors beneath the plaster.

His 2015 paper The Burial of Nefertiti, he argued that the relatively small tomb had originally been designed for Queen Nefertiti - and her remains could possibly lie further within the tomb.

Scientists to grow 'mini-brains' using Neanderthal DNA

Scientists are preparing to create “miniature brains” that have been genetically engineered to contain Neanderthal DNA, in an unprecedented attempt to understand how humans differ from our closest relatives.

In the next few months the small blobs of tissue, known as brain organoids, will be grown from human stem cells that have been edited to contain “Neanderthalised” versions of several genes.

The lentil-sized organoids, which are incapable of thoughts or feelings, replicate some of the basic structures of an adult brain. They could demonstrate for the first time if there were meaningful differences between human and Neanderthal brain biology.

“Neanderthals are the closest relatives to everyday humans, so if we should define ourselves as a group or a species it is really them that we should compare ourselves to,” said Prof Svante Pääbo, director of the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where the experiments are being performed.

‘Switch’ for turning off fear found in brains of mice

Scientists have found a “switch” in the brains of mice that controls whether they respond to a threat with fear or courage.

When faced with a predator, most mice either freeze or hide, but a select few respond with aggression.

The researchers found that two clusters of cells located in the middle of the brain can send signals to different parts of the organ, stimulating one or other of the two opposite responses.

It is likely that similar brain circuitry is also found in humans, according to the Stanford University research team behind the study.

They suggest that methods to non-invasively control these clusters could therefore be used to help people with anxiety, phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts: Lava spurts from cracks in road as thousands flee homes

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has erupted, causing lava to spew out of cracks in the ground in residential areas and prompting thousands of people to flee.

The Pacific island state's governor signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island in the eruption's wake.

Local news footage showed streams of lava snaking through a forest and authorities reported "steam and lava emissions from a crack in Leilani Subdivision in the area of Mohala Street" following the blast.

Residents of that impacted area, some 1,700 people, were under mandatory evacuation after the burst from Kilauea, one of the most active volcanos in the world.

In addition to the obligatory evacuations, many areas fell under voluntary evacuation zones, affecting some 10,000 people, according to a local official.

Thousands of stolen artifacts forfeited by Hobby Lobby return to Iraq

Thousands of artifacts stolen from Iraq and smuggled out of the country have been returned to the Iraqi government, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

A press release from the Department of Justice stated that approximately 3,800 artifacts were returned to the residence of Iraq's ambassador at a repatriation ceremony on Wednesday. The return of the artifacts comes after arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit the artifacts as well as $3 million in civil penalties over the company's role in the smuggling scheme.

. . .

Hobby Lobby executives claim that they had no knowledge the artifacts were stolen and that they were acquired in the early stages of the chain's attempts to get antiquities from Iraq by legal means.

But prosecutors argued that the chain was warned by its own antiquities expert that dealing in Iraqi artifacts carried significant risk due to the likelihood of stolen artifacts entering the legal trade.

Brown widow male spiders prefer sex with older females likely to eat them afterwards

Male brown widow spiders seek to mate with older, less-fertile females that are 50 percent more likely to eat them after sex, according to Israeli researchers in a study published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The Volcani Center in Israel collected male and female brown widow spiders from central and southern Israel and then positioned the females to give the males the choice of which to approach - immature (sub-adult) or mature (old) females - while they observed the interactions. Immature females are able to mate, store sperm and produce eggs after the final molt to adult stage.

"We originally thought the males would prefer the sub-adult females, as they are more fertile and far less likely to cannibalize them, but we were surprised to discover that was not the case," the researchers said.

. . .

"Males don't seem to be behaving in their own self-interest and suffer a twofold cost - fewer offspring and no opportunity to mate with another female," the researchers say. "One possible explanation is that older females are manipulating the males by using strong signals to attract them, a hypothesis that remains to be tested."

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