The Columbia Chronicle

After 25 years, slam poetry still thriving in Chicago

By Brianna Wellen

September 6, 2011

When poet Marc Kelly Smith first thought to incorporate performance with poetry, purists of the art form saw the act as disgraceful. Typical poetry readings at the time consisted of a gathering of artists standing and politely reading their poems, according to Smith. Despite this accepted format and the pushback surrounding any attempts to change it, Smith stepped in and brought his own twist to the medium.“It seemed obvio...

Becoming the next Marilyn Monroe

By SpencerRoush

November 29, 2010

No one has yet reached such stardom as Hollywood glamour icon Marilyn Monroe. Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock can recall the famous scene where her billowing white dress flies up while she stands on a city subway grate in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”Though Monroe died almost 50 years ago, she continues to make headlines—trumping other entertainment news about current stars—to grace the cover of major magazines. Her priceless personal items and never-released images a...

Proposed video game law unconstitutional, unnecessary

By Luke Wilusz

November 15, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association on Nov. 2. The case is a dispute concerning a 2005 California bill that would make it illegal to sell certain violent video games to individuals under the age of 18. The U.S. District Court for Northern California and the U.S. Court of Appeals struck the law down on the basis of violating the First Amendment but th...

Heartless policies are inexcused

By SpencerRoush

November 8, 2010

Everyone handles tragedy differently. Some may lose their appetite and want to stay in bed for days, while others immerse themselves in work to try blocking out their loss. Reactions vary; it just depends on the person.After experiencing loss firsthand and seeing friends go through similar experiences, one thing is always the same: the vulnerability that person is susceptible to is emotional, physical and cognitive. This can make what would...

NU continues losing steam in second half

By Etheria Modacure

November 1, 2010

While attendance numbers have increased at Ryan Field from 25,547 attendees in its home opener to 41,115 against Michigan State, winning Big Ten games at home has become troubling for Northwestern University’s football team.The Wildcats have been unable to close out home games in their last two contests against Big Ten conference opponents. Northwestern has either been tied or leading at halftime against Purdue University an...

A turn to prayer

By The Columbia Chronicle

April 12, 2010

Wake up. Pray. Go to the hospital. Pray. Finish the day. Worship. Start all over again. For the past two summers, this was my life in Agbozume, Ghana. Once school ended, I packed my bags, got several shots and prepared for the most spiritual trips of my life.My trips to Ghana do not fit into the “religious mission trips” category. There was no denomination behind them at all. I traveled with 30 volunteers to work in a hospita...

God’s in the ether

By The Columbia Chronicle

November 2, 2009

My father died when I was 8 years old. Oddly, it wasn’t cancer that killed him. It was a blood clot formed by the post-op radiation treatment that ended his battle to stay out of thermal equilibrium with the universe.I didn’t know my dad as well as I would have liked because he had another family—another life. He left a void that was never really filled. What I remember most was my mother crying at night when she though...

Fact & Faith column truly a critical encounter

By TaylorGleason

October 19, 2009

Humanity survives on basic beliefs of what is good and what is bad. Everyone believes in something, whether they recognize it or not. For example, most people believe that it would be a bad idea to walk in front of a moving vehicle, even if they haven’t personally experienced the repercussions. When tragedy occurs, people get by on the emotional fumes that say, “Everything will be OK,” even if they aren’t sure it ...

How we believe what we believe

By The Columbia Chronicle

October 19, 2009

When fact and faith conflict, how do we move forward?  We usually don’t.A much-cited Oct. 2006 Time magazine poll showed that 64 percent of Americans would “hold on to what their religion teaches,” even in the face of scientific evidence.  In the 1980s, two Arizona State physics faculty showed that students didn’t learn from physics labs thatcontradicted their day-to-day experience. “As a rule, students held firm to mistaken beliefs, even when confronted with phenomena that contradicted those beliefs.” And we all have a friend who just knows the moon landings  were faked.One particularly troubling, but common belief is that pharmaceutical companies and public health officials are hiding the fact that vaccines cause autism, a conspiracy theory that many cling to,  despite mountains of data showing no connection between the two (and no convincing evidence to the contrary).But there are anecdotes, lots of them. You don’t have to look very hard to find empathetic stories from grief-wrought parents claiming that the MMR vaccine—or mercury, or formaldehyde, take your pick—changed their child.  Or, as Jenny McCarthy puts it, “The light left his eyes.”The fact that autism’s most visible signs occur in the same period when children receive the bulk of their life-saving vaccines becomes,  for these parents, evidence of cause rather than what scientists rightly call correlation.  This conspiracy theory survives the strongest kinds of repudiation.It turns out that Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who first published reports suggesting the link between autism and vaccines, faked data for his article, which he wrote on behalf of lawyers hoping to sue the vaccine manufacturers. When scientists removed the supposed cause of the epidemic, thimerosal, autism rates continued rising. Then conspiracists shifted their claims—it must be something else in the vaccines.  Even as preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough make a comeback and study after study fails to find any credible evidence of harm, anti-vaccination forces continue spreading the same misinformation.I’m interested in the way these beliefs endure. Why do we cling to faith in the face of controverting facts? Perhaps it’s because we often perceive faith as fact. Everyone has strong vested interests with the debate over vaccines. Most of the anti-vaccine advocates innocently, but wholeheartedly believe their arguments; we on the other side hold our views just as deeply. When humans strongly believe something, we no longer distinguish it from fact. We believe in both God and ice cream.But the secret at the heart of theEnlightenment was a shift in that faith,  away from faith in facts toward faith in method.  To “believe” in science is not to believe that the Earth is round, that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon or that we came from monkeys. It’s to believe in shared facts, verifiable evidence and the most convincing explanation of these.It’s strange to espouse a faith in a system that could shift worldviews overnight, but I take comfort in it. We’re a species who looked into the heavens, and by the shifting of the stars above, we came to better understand our place in the universe. Then we turned those telescopes inward to discover entire universes inside.We have only been able to do that because we understand that we interpret what we see, hear and experience, and that our interpretation can be wrong. We’re at our best when we put faith not in a specific view of the world, but in how we know which view to believe.Brendan Riley is an Assistant Professor of English who teaches writing, new media and popular culture courses. He has faith in facts.

Flying is believing

By The Columbia Chronicle

October 12, 2009

The battle between fact and faith is present in any human’s mind. Now and then, we all doubt faith because of fact and we may even deny the facts when they conflict with our faith. Both facts and faith are learned throughout our lives. There is no such thing as a “built in” conception of fact and faith. We learn our faith through our family and friends, while our knowledge of facts develops with life experience and ed...

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