Discrimination Against Atheists

Usually when we think of discrimination we think of discrimination against African-Americans, women, homosexuals, or anyone of many minority groups. We never think of discrimination against atheists though, which is a problem because they absolutely are discriminated against.

Recently YouTube changed their censorship policies so that you could not have the word “atheist” in your username because YouTube does not want anything “offensive or controversial” on their website. “Offensive or controversial” does not apply to having “Jewish” or “Christian” in your name.

Both our Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have both endorsed the teaching of the Bible as history in public schools. I thought that separation of church and state was mandated by our constitution?

Congress has no open atheists. There has only been one openly atheist congressman in history, Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who retired in 2013. The closest we have now is Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) who identifies as “non-religious,” but he says he believes in God. Atheists make up 3% of the US population but 0% of the U.S. Congress. Christians, on the other hand, make up 91% of the U.S. Congress but only 70% of the U.S. population and Jews make up 6.7% of the U.S. Congress and only 1.9% of the U.S. population.

The inaugural ceremony does not technically exclude atheists, but also anyone who is not Christian, which is 30% of the population. Whoever is being sworn in must put their hand on a Bible and is sworn in by a priest. Also at the Presidential inauguration, a Christian band will typically perform.

It was not until 1954 that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was added at the climax of the Cold War when America was trying to defend itself from “atheistic Communism.” It was added to it because Religion, mostly Christianity was and is now looked at as an “American value.”

This discrimination is undeniable. You cannot simply say “atheists just don’t want to run for office” because there are still 10,075,000 American atheists, so there are definitely plenty who have political aspirations and a few people in Congress who are atheist but not open about it. If Congress had actually been an accurate reflection of America, there would be about 16 atheists in Congress. YouTube’s censorship policy is irrefutably discrimination. Saying “they still have other websites” is not at all valid because there are no video websites nearly as popular as YouTube.

This discrimination is in other areas too. I’m sure you’ve all seen the clips on Real Time with Bill Maher of Bill Maher saying “Islam is not a religion of peace” or “All religions are stupid and dangerous” which he gets in much trouble for, but you never hear about Sean Hannity getting in trouble for saying something like “Atheism has been a bane on society.” Don’t get me wrong though, I totally believe that people have a right to get upset with Bill Maher for making fun of their religion, but I also think that atheists have that same right to get mad at Sean Hannity for saying bigoted things towards atheists.

Discrimination against atheists and discrimination as a whole is an evil and must be fought against. We must build a society where any sort of religious belief is accepted and respected. I encourage anyone reading this to pay more attention to this problem and try to take steps towards fixing it.

Artificial Womb Helps Raise Premature Sheep — Humans May be Next

Recently, scientists at the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported that they had successfully raised eight prematurely born lambs in an artificial womb for 28 days. But how did they do it? Actually, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

The system uses a circulatory system, a closed fluid environment, and the fetus’ own heart to pump blood, to support a stable development. Blood pumped by the fetus’ heart is circulated through an oxygenator and back to the fetus, similar to the gas exchange across a placenta. A very specially made fluid mimicking amniotic fluid fills the womb, and is continuously exchanged, similar to how it is in the uterus. The fluid provides insulation, protects the fetus from infection, and helps maintain temperature, pressure, and light. The fluid is also very important in lung development.

The system worked very well. After four weeks in the artificial womb, all the lambs showed normal statistics in circulation, blood pressure, metabolic processing, growth, lung development, and brain development. Seeing these positive results raises a question: Will this technology be able to be used for premature human babies?

The hope is that it will eventually be used for humans, but it won’t be soon. Scientists still need to scale down the system to the size of a human fetus and find a good fluid to mimic human amniotic fluid, as well as refine the system to have the results compare to current neonatal intensive care treatments. Other treatment options for premature birth also discovered with sheep models, such as steroid injections used to help accelerate lung development, took over 20 years to get into clinical practice. When it does finally get implemented, though, the plan is to use it to get babies to 25 weeks, when there is about an 80% life expectancy, which is much higher than the near zero at and before 22 weeks. All of this will hopefully meet the unmet need of extreme prematurity.

A Friendly Rivalry – By Zach Mirsky

Over the span of being here for three years, I’ve learned Village School has the best traditions out of any school I’ve attended. Out of my top 3: the canoe trip (which was ruined — thanks Jared Gomberg and Sam Director); IHOP and Bowling and the Pizza Taste Testing, which is my favorite. The pizza trip consists of being dropped off by the Brooklyn Bridge. Next, the plan is to walk through Manhattan and hopefully get to the original ice cream factory in Chinatown, and then back over to DUMBO. But the best part of the whole trip is the pizza taste testing two rival pizza places named Grimaldi’s and the other one named Julianas.
But perhaps, besides tasting both of these legendary pizza joints, the most interesting part of the contest is the backstory behind the rivalry and why it all started. The founder of Grimaldi’s pizza, Patsy Grimaldi, was taught to make pizza when he was 10 by his uncle, Patsy Lancieri, who owned a pizza joint in Italian Harlem in 1941. Decades later, Grimaldi decided that he was going to open up his own pizzeria in Manhattan.
Before he even opened, he found out that those coal fired ovens he would use were illegal in New York. Grimaldi knew that using a coal fired oven was the best way to cook a pizza. All things considered, Grimaldi opened up a pizza shop in Brooklyn, New York under his own name called, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in 1990.
In 1998, Grimaldi retired and sold his name and franchise, excluding the locations in Hoboken, to a man by the name of Frank Ciolli. In 2011, Ciolli’s lease was declined a renewal, so he renovated an old bank and moved a block away from the original location, now landing on 1 Front Street in Brooklyn.
Very shortly after the initial move, Patsy Grimaldi made a triumphant return from retirement at age 80. After months of constant bickering, complaints to the state and a lawsuit or two, Patsy Grimaldi was able to open a new pizzeria. Since Grimaldi already sold his name to Frank Ciolli, he had to change the name of his restaurant. Now we have Juliana’s, named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mom.
The victory? Patsy Grimaldi got the original location where his old pizzeria used to be, 19 Old Fulton Street.
The trip was a success. We ended up not having enough time to go through the fringes of Chinatown, and crossing the Manhattan Bridge, due to heavy traffic on the way to Brooklyn. Plus, the Brooklyn Bridge is much more enjoyable to cross. The students and teachers both seemed to like Juliana’s pizza better than Grimaldi’s. Going on this trip once again confirmed why it is my favorite trip. It is sad that this was my last time doing this trip with Village.

Album Review: Dear Evan Hansen

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You’d initially think the answer is yes, but what if I asked you to search for a deeper meaning? What if the tree represented a person? Does it matter whether it makes a sound or not if no one’s there to hear it?

That’s the premise of the new Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, it tells the story of Evan Hansen, a high school senior with social anxiety disorder who gets himself involved in a tragedy that he has no right to be part of. When his classmate, Connor Murphy, kills himself, Evan lies to Connor’s family about having been his friend. His lie leads him to develop a close relationship with the Murphys (especially their daughter, Zoe, who he has a crush on), achieve popularity, and feel loved and self-confident for the first time in his life… until everything comes crashing down before him, forcing him to fix the mess he’s made.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

The songs are remarkable. The orchestra consists of guitar, strings, drums, and piano, giving the soundtrack a contemporary feel. The heartwarming ballad “If I Could Tell Her” seems like it is just that, but it’s actually pretty manipulative–Evan essentially uses Connor’s death to admit his feelings for Zoe. He tells her all the things he loves about her, but claims that Connor was the one who said them. Still, it’s a sweet song, and it gives us insight on both who Zoe is as a person and just how infatuated Evan is with her. The Act 1 finale “You Will Be Found” is a soaring anthem for anyone who has ever felt alone or unloved. It tells us that there is always a way to find light if you are stuck in darkness. All you need to do is ask for help, and someone will hear you and reach out. Then there’s “Good for You,” in which Evan finally gets admonished for everything that has happened, primarily by his mother, Heidi. Heidi lashes out at Evan for rejecting her to spend time with the Murphys. As a single mother, she has worked so hard to support herself and her son, and she deserves more than for him to make her feel like she’s not good enough. Meanwhile, Evan starts to realize that his lie has spiraled out of control, and he wonders frantically how he can fix the situation, fearing there is no solution. Other great songs include “For Forever,” in which Evan tells a false account of a day he and Connor spent together; “Requiem,” in which we see each of the Murphys individually react to Connor’s death; “Only Us,” a love song between Evan and Zoe; and “Words Fail,” in which Evan finally confesses the truth.

But the true standout of the album is “Waving Through a Window,” which takes place at the beginning of the show. In it, Evan reflects on how he’s spent his life watching from the background, always observing and never experiencing. He never speaks up lest he get noticed and judged by others. But now, he starts to realize that because he never gets noticed, very few people know he even exists. Evan broke his arm by falling out of a tree before the events of the show (hence its logo of an arm in a cast), but what we don’t know yet is that the fall was actually a suicide attempt. The fact that no one want to sign his cast only worsens his loneliness. “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?” he sings, and repeats, until he escalates to, “Did I even make a sound? It’s like I never made a sound, will I ever make a sound?” To question whether you matter to people is one of the most depressing things one can experience, and this is a question that has been circling around in Evan’s mind for months at least. It’s heartbreaking and honest, but also hopeful. The musical truly understands what it’s like inside the minds of people who feel lost and unseen, and so it reaches out to them and reminds them that they are not alone and that they matter.

The amazing thing about the show’s soundtrack is how much you can empathize with the characters. What Evan does is definitely wrong, but he isn’t portrayed as a completely bad person; rather, he’s shown as a teen who longs for understanding and connection and who finds himself in a situation he feels he can’t get out of. He still isn’t excused from what he’s done, but one can understand why he does it: he doesn’t want Connor’s family to know how isolated their son was, and he’s never gotten this kind of attention and affection from anyone before. Ben Platt, who plays Evan, perfectly captures the character’s inner turmoil and yearning for being heard. His performance feels authentic; oftentimes it seems like he’s not playing Evan, but he’s being Evan. And Rachel Bay Jones, who plays his mother, has incredible range. She displays so much strength in her performance that it’s a pity she’s not in more songs. The entire cast is superbly talented; though it only consists of eight people, everyone fits their role perfectly and together they make a great ensemble.

My one complaint about the soundtrack is that there’s a lot of information that it leaves out. If someone listens to the musical but can’t afford Broadway tickets, there’s a lot that they will miss out on. Nowhere in the album does it mention that Evan tried to kill himself, and it leaves out several other important plot points as well. While the soundtrack is 57 minutes in total, the full show lasts two and a half hours, so we miss out on more than half of the show’s content, which is unfortunate. But the content that we do get to listen to via the album is quite memorable and there’s no doubt it’ll get stuck in your head.

Dear Evan Hansen is a perfect starting point for people who are interested in listening to Broadway soundtracks but don’t know where to start. It doesn’t have as many songs as most other musicals, the music is catchy, and it’s incredibly relatable. If you’ve ever felt like an outsider longing to fit in, this is a great musical for you.

Rating: 9/10