Our April 1st 2018 service was another smorgasbord of inter-related items beginning with some reflections on the Berlin blockade of 1948 that began with Soviet restrictions on travel to West Berlin that were put into effect on April 1st of that year. As we know, that turned into a complete blockade on June 24th after the UK, US and France introduced the German DeutscheMark, backed by Marshall Plan funding, as a new currency to help put postwar Germany on a sound economic basis. The western powers responded with the famous Berlin Airlift that went on for almost a year. The events of this time persuaded the rest of Europe that the USSR was a threat and this motivated the formation of NATO and the beginnings of the Cold War.
We enjoyed a Moment of Science concerning a report of MIT researchers in a recent issue of Science magazine. These scientists studied 126,000 items that circulated on the internet and found that false news spread farther and more extensively than true stories and, contrary to what many think, this happens because people – not robots – spread the fake news most avidly. They also found that fake news elicited a different set of emotional responses than truthful reports. Once again, it is shown that the best way of making sense of things is by careful gathering and analysis of evidence. And, it being Easter, it seemed appropriate to consider how these scientific facts shed light on the fake news - claimed to be "good news" - that is the basis of the most prevalent supernaturalist religion in America.
John Gauthier then presented the third in his series on “Logical Fallacies.” Previous segments had focused on the structure of arguments and formal errors in such arguments. This time he focused on informal errors in reasoning – what are called fallacies – and gave many examples. We can see these mistakes used commonly, especially the ad hominem and “straw man” varieties.
The rest of the service was devoted to the subject of how the phrase “Just Kidding” is used. We are used to humor entertaining us but we also know that some humor can be offensive. When it is offensive is it still humorous though? Given that humor is often used aggressively and as an instrument of establishing and maintaining social hierarchies, is that always a bad thing? Humor also reflects and is used to give shape to cultural bounds. So comfortably embedded in society and its culture, we are seldom aware of this. But it becomes clear when humor is compared across times and places and cultures. We viewed some videos on this general subject. And we laughed a lot too in addition to discussing these very interesting if also puzzling ideas.
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