Author: Jacob McMillan

Czech Ambassador speaks on human rights at UVU

UVU’s God and Human Rights Conference kicked off with a thought-provoking speech from Martin Palous, Czech Ambassador to the United Nations, last Wednesday in LI120. Sponsored by UVU’s peace and justice studies program, in collaboration with the religious studies and honors programs, the symposium featured a day-long barrage of speakers representing all sides of the philosophical spectrum. The theme of this conference was “Are Faith or Foundations Necessary?” Each speaker explored the question of whether human rights are necessarily rooted in belief in God or in a natural order of things. President Holland explained that the idea originated by a visit to the United Nations, where he first met the Czech Ambassador. “By the end of the visit, I had extended an invitation to Palous to come and visit UVU.” Palous read extensively from the writings of Jan Pato?ka, whom he called “the most important Czech philosopher of the 20th century,” particularly from his Charter 77 manifesto. A native citizen of Prague who was personally acquainted with Pato?ka in his lifetime, Palous used these ideas to postulate that human rights are rooted in plurality, rather than any religious or natural foundation. The Czech philosophers who came together to form Charter 77, he said, “discovered the binding power of acting together.” He argued that the basis for these rights were “not so much connected with rights themselves, but the duty...

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Spoon: best band of the 21st century in Salt Lake

With the release of their seventh full-length album, “Transference,” earlier this year, the Austin, Texas band Spoon cemented their status as the band of the decade. That’s seven great albums in a row over the last 15 years, hewing close to their signature sound while embracing growth and experimentation. And they’re not just consistent, they’re also relevant. They’re as responsible as anyone else for the “indie” craze which currently dominates the culture; basically, if you’ve seen a movie trailer in the last ten years, you’ve heard them. Upbeat tracks like “The Way We Get By,” “Sister Jack” and “The Underdog” are embedded in the nation’s consciousness. It’s one thing to be an unstoppable force in the studio, but to truly claim the crown, you need to put on one hell of a live show to back it up. And that’s just what they did at Salt Lake’s In The Venue on Wednesday, April 7. Micachu and the Shapes took the stage first at 8:15 p.m. Their set could best be described as one big question mark. Deerhunter was next, and as good a warm-up band as I’ve seen. Relying heavily on steady drumbeats and walls of deafening guitar noise, they managed to hold the attention while still ratcheting up anticipation. At 10:30 pm the boys from Spoon finally came out to cheers and applause. Wasting no time, they immediately...

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Hard Times exhibit shows artistic side of recession

The best art can find meaning and beauty in even the most abject suffering. That is the motivation behind Springville Museum of Art’s new Hard Times exhibition, which held its opening reception on Wednesday, March 24 and will be running until April 25 at the museum. “I’ve seen people come into the gallery actually crying after seeing some of these paintings,” said Traci Fieldsted, exhibit curator . It is indeed difficult to remain unmoved by the artwork on display. Framed against dark red walls and painted mostly in a realist style, the collection takes an unblinking look at images from everyday life, from the mundane to the desperate. The paintings were culled from an eclectic group of artists all over the United States, ranging from locals like Justin Taylor to veterans of the Civil Rights demonstrations, Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman. Fieldsted credited the idea behind an exhibition focusing on life during a recession to sponsor Jim Dabakis. “If we had an art show about the economy today,” Fieldsted said, “In the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, what would the artists leave for generations, what would be the artwork that would speak to these times?” The answer to that question, it turns out, is people. Whether it’s the anonymous frazzled lady carrying a trash bag, the homeless man falling asleep in the snow, or even the artist’s...

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Why zombies are our friends

It’s hard to believe now, but zombies used to be scary. Before finding mainstream acceptance in video games and horror-comedies, these now-lovable walking corpses once served as a potent allegory for a society that has lost its soul, devolving into hordes of brain-dead flesh munchers. In the original “Dead Trilogy” by George A. Romero — especially 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead” — a zombie plague created a world so bleak that your only options were getting eaten, getting killed by one of your fellow survivors or suicide. These films simultaneously captured the paranoia of the times and confronted the moral question of whether humanity is worth saving. But in 2010, the undead elicit more cheers of joy than gasps of terror. Somewhere along the way zombies went from being nightmarish abominations to objects of delightful humor, beginning with 2003’s “Shaun of the Dead.” Admittedly, it is a funny concept — in a tastelessly slapstick kind of way. Take a human and remove every element that makes them human — language, reason, the ability not to snack on other peoples’ brains — then line them up in a shooting gallery. For those who enjoy seeing endless crowds of other people massacred with impunity, zombies became an ingenious way to indulge that desire. But more ingenious still is the end-of-the-world scenario that accompanies zombie infection. The best parts of films...

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Religious beliefs are not fixed, argues professor

UVU Associate Professor of philosophy Dennis Potter took on the so-called new atheists in a Philosophy Colloquium in LA 112 on March 10, arguing against their stated reasons for the persistence of religion. Reading from his paper, “What’s Wrong With the New Atheism?” which was prompted by a disagreement with a colleague, Potter criticized prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris for their tendency to hold religion to the same standard of verification as science. “The new atheists assert that scientific beliefs do conflict with religious beliefs, and since the former are very well confirmed, the latter must be rejected,” Potter said. “But then this raises a problem. If religion is irrational, then why do people believe it? The new atheists’ answer is that religious people are irrational. I want to argue that religious belief has indefinite meaning, and this fact better explains the continuing existence of religion.” Drawing on the philosophies of Frega, Russell and Vickenstein, Potter challenged the very notion that ideas such as belief in religion could be accurately defined. “Their [the new atheists’] understanding of why religious belief sticks around is wrong,” he said. “It sticks around because religious belief is by its very nature, indeterminate.” Following the presentation, Potter took questions from the audience, which afforded him the opportunity to put his arguments into more accessible terms. He explained that...

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