Sunday 15 July 2018

Do aliens really exist?

Aliens are out there, more likely than not. The Drake equation gives an idea of those odds. Of course, "alien life" may not just be narrowly defined as "intelligent alien life" and Jupiter's moon Europa may hold the answer of whether or not microbial alien life exists in our very solar system. If we find out it does, that would be very exciting (and would also make the movie "2010" rather prophetic...but I seriously doubt in the way portrayed by the movie at all with the energy discharges and such).
There's no evidence that intelligent extraterrestrials have visited Earth, but there are some tantalising videos on the internet that may or may not be real. The ones of particular interest are the ones that are no longer available, or have been replaced by obvious hoax videos.
Of course, there is the witness accounts from dozens of high-ranking military officials and military pilots from around the world, many of which testified at a global disclosure summit (I believe it was held in Canada in 2011, but I cannot locate the video footage or related articles online to substantiate that), among other reports given by a few commercial airline pilots and police officers over the years. These people may have seen "something", although I cannot say if what they saw were truly extraterrestrial vehicles or not, but they had nevertheless put themselves up for public scrutiny and some have even put their jobs on the line when the reports became public. The obvious question is whether these latter reports were publicity stunts or unintentionally leaked to the press.
It is worth mentioning that in 1952, several UFO's were reported flying in restricted air space over Washington, D.C. in a highly publicised string of sightings, which sent the U.S. government scrambling military fighters to intercept. Keep in mind that the U.S. was in sort of a "UFO hysteria" at that time, and these sort of reports could have helped the government put public opinion in their favor to bolster cold-war military funding.
With that in mind, intelligent extraterrestrial beings visiting our planet seems unlikely, simply for the fact that the nearest habitable planetary system is 13 light years away, jand we are just one planet with really nothing of interest, out in the middle of nowhere, among millions of others just in this sector of our galaxy (being conservative with that number). Our natural resources are sparse, our civilisation is volatile and dangerous and our technology is unimpressive. Nothing to see here...move along. 

Sunday 13 May 2018

Public speaking - some simple tips

One thing that I have learned about public speaking, or even just persuasive speaking, which I think falls into psychological.
When talking about something, you need to own your space. You can do this in many ways, but the best way to get people to listen to what you say is to own the space around you. Show confidence, show that you're comfortable. Convince others ‘I am so sure what I'm saying is awesome and true that I am not in the least bit nervous about this speech.’
Walking around is one way to do it. Use up all of the stage. Move. Lean down, stand up, walk to the front, walk to the back. Just be careful not to overdo it, otherwise it might seem more like fidgeting which will have the opposite effect.
Open yourself up. Spread your shoulders, lift your head, widen your stance. Uncrossed legs, relaxed stance, chin up, shoulders back. This is how you want to look.
Another small tip is to achieve the ‘I know what I'm talking about’ effect is to bring a drink with you. It shows you're calm, allows you to take a little rest, pauses show that you're thinking about what you're saying. Depending on the drink, it can also show confidence in of itself. I always take a crystal glass with me wherever I go and fill it with just spring water. Never use a bottle or a plastic/paper cup. A clear crystal glass projects a good professional outlook.

Saturday 28 April 2018

The Age of Earth and Adaptation of Life

For the first four billion years of Earth's history, our planet's continents would have been devoid of all life except microbes.

All of this changed with the origin of land plants from their pond scum relatives, greening the continents and creating habitats that animals would later invade.

The timing of this episode has previously relied on the oldest fossil plants which are about 420 million years old.

New research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that these events actually occurred a hundred million years earlier, changing perceptions of the evolution of the Earth's biosphere.

Plants are major contributors to the chemical weathering of continental rocks, a key process in the carbon cycle that regulates Earth's atmosphere and climate over millions of years.
The team used 'molecular clock' methodology, which combined evidence on the genetic differences between living species and fossil constraints on the age of their shared ancestors, to establish an evolutionary timescale that sees through the gaps in the fossil record.

Dr Jennifer Morris, from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and co-lead author on the study, explained: "The global spread of plants and their adaptations to life on land, led to an increase in continental weathering rates that ultimately resulted in a dramatic decrease the levels of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global cooling.

"Previous attempts to model these changes in the atmosphere have accepted the plant fossil record at face value -- our research shows that these fossil ages underestimate the origins of land plants, and so these models need to be revised."

Co-lead author Mark Puttick described the team's approach to produce the timescale. He said: "The fossil record is too sparse and incomplete to be a reliable guide to date the origin of land plants. Instead of relying on the fossil record alone, we used a 'molecular clock' approach to compare differences in the make-up of genes of living species -- these relative genetic differences were then converted into ages by using the fossil ages as a loose framework.

"Our results show the ancestor of land plants was alive in the middle Cambrian Period, which was similar to the age for the first known terrestrial animals."

One difficulty in the study is that the relationships between the earliest land plants are not known. Therefore the team, which also includes members from Cardiff University and the Natural History Museum, London, explored if different relationships changed the estimated origin time for land plants.

Leaders of the overall study, Professor Philip Donoghue and Harald Schneider added: "We used different assumptions on the relationships between land plants and found this did not impact the age of the earliest land plants.

"Any future attempts to model atmospheric changes in deep-time must incorporate the full range of uncertainties we have used here."

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Thursday 5 April 2018

The inner beauty

We all know the simple truth that a person's inner beauty is so much more important than their outer beauty, but over the years most people have been 'trained' to judge a person by their appearance and to focus on their own appearance as a means to be accepted by others.

It is such a shame that so many people feel inadequate because of the emphasis that is placed on looks, especially for the youngsters growing up with all the hype. 

If the mass media put as much attention and money into grooming our Spirits instead of our bodies we would live in a totally different world, in fact, all they would need to do is STOP putting the attention on physical beauty to make a big difference.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Bad Manager mistakes that make good people quite... !

It’s pretty incredible how often you hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people walking out the door.
Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.
The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part.
Organizations know how important it is to have motivated, engaged employees, but most fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen.
When they don’t, the bottom line suffers.
Research from the University of California found that motivated employees were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative than demotivated employees. They were also 87% less likely to quit, according to a Corporate Leadership Council study on over 50,000 people.
Gallup research shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager. So, let's take a look at some of the worst things that managers do that send good people packing.
They overwork people. Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.
If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.
They don’t recognize contributions and reward good work. It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.
They fail to develop people’s skills. When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” This is complete nonsense. Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.
Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.
They don’t care about their employees. More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your production yield.
They don’t honor their commitments. Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should everyone else?
They hire and promote the wrong people. Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top­­­­­­­, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave.
They don't let people pursue their passions. Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.
They fail to engage creativity. The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them hate their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.
They don't challenge people intellectually. Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.

Bringing It All Together

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you.
What other mistakes cause great employees to leave? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Sunday 14 January 2018

The World Health Organisation Identifies Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health Condition

Gaming Disorder

In 2018, the World Health Organisation plans to add “gaming disorder” – characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour – to its list of mental health conditions.
According to the beta draft site, the WHO’s 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines a number of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions, which are listed in a comprehensive, hierarchical fashion. It enables the sharing of health information between countries and facilitates the analysis of “health information for evidence-based decision-making.” The previous version of the ICD was approved in 1990 by the 43rd World Health Assembly. The current draft that lists “gaming disorder,” is not final, nor does it list prevention or treatment options. The beta draft site, updated daily, is also not approved by the WHO.
The WHO’s impending beta draft for the next ICD classifies gaming disorder as a pattern of behaviour with “impaired control over gaming,” in terms of its frequency, intensity, duration, and the capacity to quit. The disorder falls under the parent category of “Disorders due to addictive behaviours,” and is characterised by giving increased priority to gaming over other daily activities.
Applying to both online and offline video gaming, the condition is also defined by the “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” In order to be diagnosed, these behaviours must be evident over a period of at least 12 months, according to the draft.

A Matter of Contention

“The WHO designation is now generally in line with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)’s description of internet gaming disorder (IGD),” Nancy Petry, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, told Futurism. The main difference though, Petry said, is that the DSM-5 didn’t consider the data sufficient to classify IGD as a unique mental health condition. Rather, it’s categorised under “conditions for further study.”
The WHO’s decision highlights a schism among psychologists: some think the new designation is a welcome one, but others don’t see enough evidence to justify it.
Alexander Blaszczynski, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Sydney, Australia told Futurism he is concerned about “the absence of clear diagnostic criteria determining what constitutes a gaming disorder, and the validity of applying existing addiction criteria to a behaviour.” He noted that there is a range of behaviours now being identified as addictions — everything from salsa dancing, to smartphones, to in vitro fertilisation. “At what point does an activity transform from an entertainment to a disorder?” he said.
The controversy ultimately reflects some deeper philosophical debates that have dogged most areas of medicine for many years, Ronald Pies, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, told Futurism. “What should or should not count as “disease” or “disorder”? Do we require physiological, biochemical, or neurological “markers” of a putative disease entity in order to validate it, or is it sufficient to document substantial impairment and dysfunction in activities of daily living, responsibilities, etc., as the WHO criteria emphasise?”
Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida told Futurism that he does not support the WHO’s designation. “Basically I don’t think the research is there yet to support this as a diagnosis and there is considerable risk of harm due to a “junk diagnosis.”
He said research suggests what we’re calling “gaming disorder” isn’t really a solitary diagnosis. Ferguson said some people certainly overdo gaming, as others may “overdo” or develop addictions to myriad other activities like shopping, exercise, and sex. “But the data we have suggests that usually individuals have a preexisting mental health condition like depression or anxiety first, then use these activities as coping mechanisms.”
Pies said he shared many of Ferguson’s concerns, saying he was “more skeptical than not” of the designation. “While some recent neurophysiological studies suggest that IGD may be a discrete disorder, there is still no scientific consensus on this point. It is unclear whether IGD is truly a “stand alone” condition; whether it is mostly explained by other underlying conditions, such as anxious or depressive disorders; or whether it is merely a subtype of so-called “behavioural addictions”, which are themselves sources of scientific controversy,” Pies said.
Others, like Douglas Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, see this as a big step in the right direction. Gentile compared where we are with gaming “addiction” as “similar to where we were with alcoholism in the 1960s.” At that time, alcoholism was considered a moral failing — people thought ‘it’s your own damn fault,’” he told Futurism. “It took another 30 years for people to agree that a medical model for alcoholism makes sense and now people can get the help they need.”
Gentile doesn’t think our culture is ready to accept the medical model of video gaming, and still sees it as a moral failing — mostly by the children’s parents. “We have lots of people who could be helped, but aren’t being helped. If you walk into a doctor or psychiatrist’s office, they either won’t treat it or you have to pay out of pocket.”
Ferguson isn’t sure “why the WHO is so obsessed with gaming when a wide range of behaviours can be overdone.” Given that other potential addictions, like food or sex, have as much research as gaming, it seems likely that the WHO’s kneejerk reaction comes from a broader moral panic over video games and technology, he said.
But Gentile counters that the WHO’s acknowledgement that video gaming could be a problem “puts truth back on the table,” Gentile said. “We need to treat games with more respect. We play them because we want to be affected, but then say they have no effects.”

Access Is a Predictor Of Addiction

As our video game experience expands with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the argument gets even murkier. “One thing that we do know about addictions, generally, is that the number one predictor [for] if you’re going to become an addict is access,” said Gentile. “If you can’t get drugs, you can’t become addicted to them. Now that we’ve made gaming this ubiquitous — on phones, with gaming tech and VR tech in-house — we’ve made access open to everyone.”
Gentile isn’t certain that VR games are more addicting than their traditional counterparts. “We don’t know if greater immersion makes the games more addictive. To say that VR will be more addictive is making the argument that seeing things in three dimensions is more addictive than seeing them in two.” But he added that we we don’t have the scientific evidence to support that.
Scientists do tend to agree on one thing: that the designation will ensure researchers pay more attention to the problems that can arise from excessive gaming. “It is important that people with this condition receive help, and that research progresses in a manner consistent with state of the art science applied toward other mental health conditions,” said UCONN’s Nancy Petry.
Moreover, the WHO designation could help those diagnosed with video gaming disorder in another way: if they’re able to access treatment, it could be covered by insurance. However, Ronald Pies warned that “social goods” of this sort do not amount to a scientific justification for a disease category, and even among supporters of the diagnosis, there is no consensus regarding what the effective “treatment” would be.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Does the Google keep your life private?

Did you know that when you search on Google, they keep your search history forever? That means they know every search you’ve ever done on Google. That alone is pretty scary, but it’s just the shallow end of the very deep pool of data that they try to collect on people.
What most people don’t realize is that even if you don’t use any Google products directly, they’re still trying to track as much as they can about you. Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means they're also trying to track most everywhere you go on the internet, trying to slurp up your browsing history!
Most people also don’t know that Google runs most of the ads you see across the internet and in apps – you know those ones that follow you around everywhere? Yup, that’s Google, too. They aren’t really a search company anymore – they’re a tracking company. They are tracking as much as they can for these annoying and intrusive ads, including recording every time you see them, where you saw them, if you clicked on them, etc.
But even that’s not all…
If You Use Google Products
If you do use Google products, they try to track even more. In addition to tracking everything you’ve ever searched for on Google (e.g. “weird rash”), Google also tracks every video you’ve ever watched on YouTube. Many people actually don’t know that Google owns YouTube; now you know.
And if you use Android (yeah, Google owns that too), then Google is also usually tracking:
If you use Gmail, they of course also have all your e-mail messages. If you use Google Calendar, they know all your schedule. There’s a pattern here: For all Google products (Hangouts, Music, Drive, etc.), you can expect the same level of tracking: that is, pretty much anything they can track, they will.
Oh, and if you use Google Home, they also store a live recording of every command you’ve (or anyone else) has ever said to your device! Yes, you heard that right (err… they heard it) – you can check out all the recordings on your Google activity page.
Essentially, if you allow them to, they’ll track pretty close to, well, everything you do on the Internet. In fact, even if you tell them to stop tracking you, Google has been known to not really listen, for example with location history.
You Become the Product
Why does Google want all of your information anyway? Simple: as stated, Google isn’t a search company anymore, they’re a tracking company. All of these data points allow Google to build a pretty robust profile about you. In some ways, by keeping such close tabs on everything you do, they, at least in some ways, may know you better than you know yourself.
And Google uses your personal profile to sell ads, not only on their search engine, but also on over three million other websites and apps. Every time you visit one of these sites or apps, Google is following you around with hyper-targeted ads.
It’s exploitative. By allowing Google to collect all this info, you are allowing hundreds of thousands of advertisers to bid on serving you ads based on your sensitive personal data. Everyone involved is profiting from your information, except you. You are the product.
The Myth of “Nothing to Hide”
Some may argue that they have “nothing to hide,” so they are not concerned with the amount of information Google has collected and stored on them, but that argument is fundamentally flawed for many reasons.
Everyone has information they want to keep private: Do you close the door when you go to the bathroom? Privacy is about control over your personal information. You don’t want it in the hands of everyone, and certainly don’t want people profiting on it without your consent or participation.
In addition, privacy is essential to democratic institutions like voting and everyday situations such as getting medical care and performing financial transactions. Without it, there can be significant harms.
On an individual level, lack of privacy leads to putting you into a filter bubble, getting manipulated by ads, discrimination, fraud, and identity theft. On a societal level, it can lead to deepened polarisation and societal manipulation like we’ve unfortunately been seeing multiply in recent years.

Sunday 5 November 2017

Intrusive thoughts and Mind Control

Intrusive Thoughts Might Be Caused By a Shortage of a Certain Chemical

Scientists have linked a neurotransmitter known as GABA to unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These findings could have a major impact on our understanding of conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia

Most of us know the feeling of being unable to distract ourselves from a particular thought, however much we might want to. Now, scientists might have found the reason why.

In a study carried out at the University of Cambridge, participants were given pairs of words to associate with one another. The words were unrelated in order to ensure that pre-existing associations didn’t have any influence. Participants were then given a word and either a green or a red signal. If it was the former, they would try to recall the other half of the pairing, and if it was the latter, they would try to deliberately suppress the associated term from their mind.

While this test was being carried out, participants’ brains were monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique that monitors changes in blood flow, as well as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which tracks chemical changes.

Participants with the highest concentrations of a chemical known as Gaba in their hippocampus were best at suppressing the unwanted thoughts. Gaba is the brain’s primary inhibiting neurotransmitter, stifling the activities of other cells when it’s released.

“What’s exciting about this is that now we’re getting very specific,” said Professor Michael Anderson, who led the study, in an interview with the BBC. “Before, we could only say ‘this part of the brain acts on that part’, but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely to be important.”

A difficulty with or an inability to break free from intrusive and unwanted thoughts are a reality both for neurotypical people and also for those with various types of mental illness. Conditions ranging from obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to depression and schizophrenia all count this type of behaviour among their symptoms.

As such, there are hopes that these findings could offer further insight into the chemical basis of these disorders. At present, much of the research into treatment methods has centered around helping the prefrontal cortex to function normally. However, Anderson believes that figuring out a way to promote Gaba activity in the hippocampus could actually offer more positive results.

Monday 9 October 2017

Cure for Cancer! The Executioner Protein

Researchers Find “Executioner Protein” That Causes Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct Without Hurting Healthy Cells!

Scientists have discovered a way to use the "executioner protein" BAX to induce apoptosis in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. The treatment has so far been applied only to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells but may have broader uses.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists have induced cancer cells to commit suicide with a new compound that leaves healthy cells untouched. They deployed their novel treatment approach against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, which kill more than 10,000 Americans, and makes up about one-third of all new cases of leukemia, each year. Patients survive AML at a rate of only about 30 percent, making effective new treatments a hot commodity. And although the team has only tested the treatment on AML, it could have the potential to successfully attack other varieties of cancer cells.

“We’re hopeful that the targeted compounds we’re developing will prove more effective than current anti-cancer therapies by directly causing cancer cells to self-destruct,” associate professor of medicine and biochemistry and senior author Evripidis Gavathiotis said in a press release. “Ideally, our compounds would be combined with other treatments to kill cancer cells faster and more efficiently—and with fewer adverse effects, which are an all-too-common problem with standard chemotherapies.”

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists have induced cancer cells to commit suicide with a new compound that leaves healthy cells untouched. They deployed their novel treatment approach against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, which kill more than 10,000 Americans, and makes up about one-third of all new cases of leukemia, each year. Patients survive AML at a rate of only about 30 percent, making effective new treatments a hot commodity. And although the team has only tested the treatment on AML, it could have the potential to successfully attack other varieties of cancer cells.

“We’re hopeful that the targeted compounds we’re developing will prove more effective than current anti-cancer therapies by directly causing cancer cells to self-destruct,” associate professor of medicine and biochemistry and senior author Evripidis Gavathiotis said in a press release. “Ideally, our compounds would be combined with other treatments to kill cancer cells faster and more efficiently—and with fewer adverse effects, which are an all-too-common problem with standard chemotherapies.”

The new compound fights cancer by triggering apoptosis: a natural process the body uses to get rid of malfunctioning and unwanted cells. Apoptosis also takes place during embryonic development: trimming excess tissue from the growing embryo, for example. While certain existing chemotherapy drugs induce apoptosis indirectly by damaging the DNA in cancer cells, this treatment directly triggers the process intentionally by activating BAX, the “executioner protein.”

Pro-apoptopic proteins activate BAX in cells. Once BAX molecules go to work, they find the mitochondria of target cells and drill lethal holes into them, scuttling their ability to produce energy. Cancer cells resist BAX and this process by producing large quantities of “anti-apoptotic” proteins that suppress BAX and even the proteins that activate it. The process discovered by these researchers wakes BAX up again and sends it back to work.

“Our novel compound revives suppressed BAX molecules in cancer cells by binding with high affinity to BAX’s activation site,” Dr. Gavathiotis said in the release. “BAX can then swing into action, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed.”

In 2008, Dr. Gavathiotis was part of the team that first described the BAX’s activation site’s shape and structure. Since that time, he has been searching for small molecules to activate BAX and produce sufficient activity to overpower the natural resistance cancer cells mount to apoptosis. His team screened more than one million compounds and narrowed the field to 500, many of them synthesized by the team, and then evaluated them. These results reveal the outcome of that search.

BTSA1 (short for BAX Trigger Site Activator 1) was the best compound against several different human AML cell lines, including those found in high-risk AML patients. BTSA1 was also able to induce apoptosis in AML cells without affecting healthy stem cells. In AML mice treated with the compound, there was a significantly longer survival rate: 43 percent of the control group was alive and AML-free after 60 days. The BTSA1-treated mice also exhibited no signs of toxicity.

“BTSA1 activates BAX and causes apoptosis in AML cells while sparing healthy cells and tissues—probably because the cancer cells are primed for apoptosis,” Dr. Gavathiotis said in the release. Next the team plans to test BTSA1 on other types of cancer using animal models.

Monday 2 October 2017

Matters of Life and Death

 (This is an accepted Manuscript of a chapter published by Anna Strhan in Anthony Carroll and Richard Norman (eds) Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide, London and New York: Routledge, 2017 - Available in public domains but use only for Educational and Research purpose) 

In his 1909 essay ‘Bridge and Door’, the sociologist Georg Simmel describes the human being ‘as the connecting creature who must always separate and cannot connect without separating … And the human being is likewise the bordering creature who has no border’ (1994: 174).[1]We are beings who make sense of the world through our capacity to connect and to separate things, and Simmel argues that this guides all human activity, shaping our physical, symbolic, emotional and imagined spaces and leaving material marks in the world around us. Exploring the nature of modes of connection and separation is perhaps particularly pertinent to understanding the relations between ‘atheism’ and ‘religion’, or between ‘non-religion’ and ‘religion,’ as it is indexed in the very act of naming these as fields of exploration. In my writing ‘non-religion’, for example, what modes of uniting and disuniting shape my instinct to hyphenate the word (or not)? As the prefix ‘non’ carves out a space of separation from religion, it also draws attention to the doubled nature of lines of division: ‘the separation of objects, people or places is always shadowed by the idea – the “fantasy” or the danger – of their connection’ (Tonkiss 2005: 31). Drawing out deeper understanding of the (simultaneous) practices of connection and separation between religious and non-religious cultures can enable us to develop more nuanced understandings of the everyday realities of members of these groups, which move beyond common assumptions that their interrelations are necessarily antagonistic, and instead open up common grounds of human experience, as well as the lived experience of modes of difference.

Matters of life and death have often loomed large in oppositional modes of relationship between the religious and the non-religious. Religions are often stereotypically characterized by their critics as immortality cults, attempting to escape or deny the inevitability of death through focusing on a putative transcendent realm that is perceived to diminish the fullness of this life. The question of life is also a key source of tension, for example, in the culture wars clashes, as life has become caught between technocratic explorations (for example, of the human genome) and religious oppositions to abortion and stem cell research on the basis of ‘sanctity of life’ (Bennett 2010, Pyyhtinen 2012, Thacker 2010). Concepts of life reverberate throughout religious traditions. In Christianity, this is expressed in Jesus’s telling his followers, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14: 6) and ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10), while in Hinduism, Shakti represents the creative, all-pervading life force. The idea of life also resonates throughout non-religious cultures. Olli Pyyhtinen suggests that if in the Renaissance, the decisive form of reality was ‘mechanism’, for the modern era it has been the category ‘life’ (2012: 79). He notes that French vitalism, under the influence of Bergson, and German Lebensphilosophie were among the most influential philosophies in Europe in the early twentieth century, to the extent that Simmel wrote in 1916 that ‘the concept of life now seems to permeate a multitude of spheres and has begun to give, as it were, a more unified rhythm to their heartbeat’ (cited in Pyyhtinen 2012: 79). While these ideas languished under the taint of Nazism for much of the latter twentieth century, ideas of vitalism and philosophies of becoming, emphasizing the vibrancy of life, are firmly back, under the influence of Deleuze, and permeating a wide variety of disciplines (ibid.).[2]At the same time, a different inflection of life is given in the form of Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘bio-politics’ (1990) together with Giorgio Agamben’s (1998) concept of ‘bare life’. Agamben deployed the concept of ‘bare life’ to address the fact that biopolitical states can strip someone to bare or naked life, which produces bodies that can be killed with impunity. This approach to life has expressed (and perhaps intensified) the gloomy spirit of political diagnoses in the ‘post-9/11 era’ (Singh 2015: 55), as Agamben’s analysis has been used to try to articulate that which in life is irreducible to either social processes or living biological organisms. 

The concept of life – and life’s interrelation with death – are of course implicated both in metaphysical orientations and also in existential and ethical questions about what it means to life a good life, or a life filled with meaning, as opposed to bare life, and it is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide an exhaustive survey of how these ideas figure across religious and non-religious traditions. While questions of life and death might appear perennial concerns for religion, in what follows, I explore the particular contemporary significance of ideas of life and death within the moral landscapes of different religious and non-religious groups. I draw here on qualitative sociological research I have conducted, which is largely in the field of contemporary Christianities, with the hope that these ideas might find resonances beyond the contexts I address here. The chapter considers the significance of the idea of ‘life’ for an ‘open’ evangelical church, the Sunday Assembly, and the School of Life, and practices of reflecting on ‘death’ in Death Cafés, drawing this together with Simmel’s writing on life and its interrelations with death. I conclude by suggesting that attending to modes of practical engagement with ideas of ‘life’ and ‘death’ across these different religious and non-religious groups, rather than focusing solely on the propositional content of beliefs about life and death, opens up opportunities for reflection on common existential grounds of experience, moving beyond assumptions that relations between these groups are necessarily antagonistic.

What do we do when we ‘do life’?
I have been conducting ethnographic fieldwork with different kinds of evangelical[3]church in London since 2009, and through this, I have often been struck by both particular affinities and acts of distancing from non-religious and other religious groups that members of these churches engage in across different contexts. At an open evangelical[4]church where I carried out fieldwork from 2013-14, which I call ‘Riverside’, for example, one Sunday morning, the minister said to the congregation that some of them may have heard about ‘atheist churches that have started meeting to celebrate life together’. He said that one of these was having a harvest festival, and would be giving the food they collect to Riverside’s food bank, and so a member of the Riverside staff was visiting them that morning to collect the food ‘and to build links with them’. This incident not only reveals the friendly institutional relationships between atheist and open evangelical churches; the description of the atheist congregation as gathering together ‘to celebrate life’ also opens up a wider point of connection in relation to the contemporary significance of life for both. 

The Sunday Assembly is perhaps the most notable contemporary example of a network of ‘atheist churches’, which seeks to ‘replicate the “positive” aspects of regular churches’ – such as the sense of community belonging and rituals – but without the belief in God (Alexander 2014). The Sunday Assembly describes itself as ‘a secular congregation that celebrates life’ and as having ‘a mission to help everyone live life as fully as possible’. Its website sets out its ‘charter’, stating ‘We’re not here to tell you how to live your life—we’re here to help you be the best version of you you can be’, and its charter includes the ideas that it is: a ‘100% celebration of life. We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together’; ‘has no doctrine’; ‘is radically inclusive—this is a place of love that is open and accepting’; ‘has a community mission. Through our Action Heroes (you!), we will be a force for good’; and ‘we won’t tell you how to live, but will try to help you do it as well as you can.’

The ways in which ‘life’ figures here in many ways mirrors how members of both Riverside and the charismatic evangelical churches I have studied in London talk about life. These different congregations name their small group study and discussion meetings ‘life courses’, and ‘life groups’ is commonly used as a title for small group meetings across global evangelicalism. The leaders of Riverside describe the materials developed for use within the life courses, ‘Life Resources’, as intended ‘to enable you to become the best possible version of yourself’, resonating with the Sunday Assembly’s aims.[5]The Riverside leader who developed these resources introduced them to the congregation one Sunday morning. Her first slide posed the question, ‘how do I become the best version of me I can be?’, and she asked the congregation to consider who it was who looked at them in the mirror that morning, adding that when she looked in the mirror that morning, she had thought ‘when did I become so old?’ She repeated the question from the slide, and added ‘How do you become the best version of who you are and who you are created to be?’ She said that this question was what they were going to be focusing on that year in their services and small groups, and said ‘it’s something we need to be intentionalabout’. She said that when you learn to drive or swim, you initially have to be ‘really intentional about what you’re doing, and then it becomes second nature… It’s the same with being the best we can be. We need to practise it for it to become second nature to us.’ She said that we become like the people we follow, and added that when she was young, she had wanted to be like Kevin Keegan, and said that as a church community, ‘our intention is that we become like Jesus, so that the loving our enemies, forgiveness, love, joy, and tenderness that Jesus displayed become second nature to us.’ She said that over the coming year, ‘we’re going to take time to focus on being like Jesus. I’ve called it LIFE’. Her next slide had LIFE in bright yellow letters in the centre against a black background, together with other concepts that would form their focus over the course of the year. These concepts included: following, rhythm, belonging, giftedness, resources, ritual, wholeness, transform, image, inclusion, connection. She said that they were going to begin with the question of ‘following,’ and asked everyone to turn to the person next to them to ask ‘what footprints are you leaving behind you at the moment?’, and allowed some time for everyone to chat about that, before the service moved onto the Bible reading, and then the sermon that morning, which was on the theme of ‘bringing hope to local children and young people … so that they live well in this journey of life.’

Riverside’s elaboration of what ‘becoming the best possible version of yourself’ as a central aim of LIFE means includes, like the Sunday Assembly, a strong focus on ‘inclusivity’ and ‘community’. There is a particular emphasis on the inclusion within the church of those who have been socially excluded through categories such as race, sexuality, disability, or social class, and Riverside repeatedly emphasizes that their vision is to ‘build inclusive communities’, where ‘everyone has hope, feels they matter, and is given the opportunity to achieve their potential’. Members of both Riverside and charismatic evangelical churches I studied also frequently spoke about ‘doing life’ with each other. When I asked my informants what ‘doing life’ meant, they said it was about seeing faith as not just about being in church, or reading the Bible, but as something found in everyday moments of relationality, just hanging out with each other and doing very mundane things together, and implying a sense of ‘building community’ through these interactions. 

The idea of ‘doing life’, ‘life courses’ and ‘life resources’ that we see in these churches resonates not only with the Sunday Assembly, but also with another non-religious organization, the School of Life. This was set up in 2008 by the philosopher Alain de Botton and others with the aim of ‘putting learning and ideas back to where they should always have been – right in the middle of our lives’, and ‘runs courses in the important questions of everyday life’.[6]The School of Life runs a shop selling books, clothes, e.g. ‘The Philosopher’s Shoe’ and ‘The Philosopher’s Jumper,’ and a range of other items, such as ‘Philosophical Honey’ (priced at £20, which the website tells us ‘is food for the soul – connecting us with history and culture’, and is ‘sourced from the birthplaces of great Greek philosophers’),[7]a ‘Comfort Blanket,’ and a ‘Writing as Therapy Journal.’ 

The School runs courses (with costs from £20 for ‘Secular Sermons’ to £700 for week-long intensive courses) about ‘things we all care about: careers, relationships, politics, travels, families’ and describes itself as ‘a place to step back and think intelligently about central emotional concerns. You will never be cornered by dogma, but we will direct you towards a variety of ideas from the humanities ... that will exercise, stimulate and expand your mind.’[8]Riverside, the School of Life and the Sunday Assembly all present themselves as concerned primarily with away of life, not the way of life or the meaning of life: they offer a way of ‘doing life’ that seeks to find and acknowledge meaning in life. While religious groups are often presented by those outside them as offering authoritative moral teachings about life and death, at Riverside we can see a more subjunctive mode of address that resonates with the turn away from ‘dogma’ that we see at the School of Life and the Sunday Assembly. There is little stated emphasis on ‘inclusion’ at the School of Life (and the costs of their courses and products would be prohibitive for many, with the ‘Comfort Blanket’, for example, priced at £170), yet we can see the focus on reflexive self-awareness and intentionality that permeated Riverside’s life courses as also present in these School of Life courses. The promotional material on the class on ‘How to Manage Stress’, for example, states that through participating, ‘You’ll become accurate in pinpointing the causes of your anxiety. You’ll tame your unhelpful inner voices – and internalize better alternatives. And you’ll discover how to spend time worrying about the things that really matter, rather than those that don’t.’[9]

We might interpret the emphasis on reflexive self-awareness permeating these ideas of life as bound up with wider social processes of individualization. While both Riverside and the School of Life emphasize the communal nature of their Life courses and classes, there is also an emphasis on the individual’s responsibility to shape herself or himself in order to ‘become the best possible version’ of themselves. While Riverside does also place an emphasis on forms of political and civic engagement in order to ‘build more inclusive communities,’ such that this individual responsibility for transformation is also bound up with the communal and political, at the School of Life, the focus is much more squarely on learning individual techniques to ‘manage stress’ or to deal with ‘imposter syndrome.’ 

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues that with the retreat of formerly dominant ‘heteronomous’ modes of addressing suffering and mortality, there has been a rise of ‘autonomous’ means, which are self-contained and self-directed, and aim to engage resources within the self’s actual or potential possession (Bauman 1999: 42). We are unable to manage our recalcitrant existential fears in their ‘pure and unprocessed form’, and so we 

slice the great, overwhelming fear into smaller and manageable bits – recast the big issue we can do nothing about into a set of little ‘practical’ tasks we can hope to be able to fulfil. Nothing calms better the dread one cannot eradicate than worrying and ‘doing something’ about the trouble one can fight (p. 44). 

Whilst the School of Life is not necessarily focused on either ignoring or staving off existential angst, there is nevertheless a sense that individuals should seek to manage themselves better to deal with the struggles they face in life. While people have always faced struggles and problems in life, these, as Ian Craib (1994) notes, might once have been seen as moral choices in the context of a larger community or as religious struggles with the forces of destiny, or as political problems to be solved through collective action. The cultural shift, Craib argues, was to start ‘seeing them in terms of individual morality with individual solutions’, as the modern person as an autonomous individual became perceived and experienced as increasingly isolated from wider society (pp. 98-99). In many ways, the idea of ‘life’ across these groups is inflected with this sense of individuals managing themselves better to deal with the struggles and disappointments of life, although we also see at the Sunday Assembly and Riverside a sense that this is inextricably bound up with a desire to work to help others also live flourishing lives, and Riverside encourages and enables different kinds of civic and political activism to these ends. 

These connections across religious and non-religious organizations are in many ways not surprising, as both the Sunday Assembly and the School of Life situate themselves as drawing on aspects of religious traditions while ‘free from dogma’. But what might lie behind the specific contemporary prominence being accorded to ‘life’? We might interpret the pervasiveness of concepts of life as a strategy of differentiation from religious – and especially other Christian - cultures that place significant theological emphasis on life after death. Thus, in many ways, the identities of the open evangelical and non-religious organizations are both shaped through their acts of distancing from other, more conservative, religious traditions. The celebration of life and idea of ‘doing life’ can be seen as a means of finding modes of transcendence, enchantment and wonder in everyday, immanent life, rather than locating transcendence in some other-worldly realm. Simmel’s writings also capture this sensibility, presenting transcendence as immanent within life, as he describes life as ‘that which at all points wants to go beyond itself, reaching out beyond itself’, a form of pure potentiality, that is always not yet, being made and re-made (cited in Pyyhtinen 2012: 84). This dynamic sense of life-as-becoming is emphasized across Riverside, the Sunday Assembly and the School of Life. At the same time, Simmel also argues (1997) that the experience of fragmentation in modernity intensifies a desire for coherence across all spheres of social interaction. We could perhaps thus locate this sacralization of ‘life’ as also bound up with an existential desire to see all – even the most mundane, everyday details of our lives – as ultimately connected as part of ‘life’. This is not so much about finding a transcendent vantage point from which to understand life and death, but about finding the transcendent within the ordinary. Simmel describes how Rembrandt’s paintings vividly evoke this illumination of everyday life: ‘Light does not come from outside (such light would inevitably fall unevenly); rather, in order to illuminate its ordinariness, from within, shining through equally in each path that leads from the core of life to life’s appearances’ (2005: 116).

Remembering Death as a Way of Life
While the School of Life focuses on finding techniques to deal with the struggles of life, at the same time, there is alsoan acknowledgement of both the ultimate recalcitrance of life, and of the importance on reflecting on death as an everyday practice of life. The School of Life’s promotional blurb about its ‘Memento Mori’ paperweight states that ‘Many of the obstacles we face in our lives are rather like the waves of the sea: relentless, bleak, repetitive and, ultimately, not responsive to our wishes or longings’. It notes that this is ‘a basic premise of the human condition’ and we should not ‘be continually shocked and dismayed when life does not answer to our demands. We should learn to accept all we cannot change and face it with a degree of heroism and Stoic strength, as a sailor battling the waves might.’ The ‘Memento Mori’ paperweights are designed to be ‘vivid reminders of mortality and the transient nature of life’ and to ‘put our prosaic obsessions into question’ by measuring them ‘against the finality of death.’[10]Practices of memento mori– reflecting on the condition of mortality – were developed in Stoic philosophy, and were taken up in Christian Europe, circulating throughout the visual arts, for example, as symbols of death in still life paintings. Acknowledgement of mortality is likewise inextricably interwoven throughout contemporary Christian practices, such as in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, when priests sign a cross with ashes on the foreheads of those attending Mass or Eucharist with the words ‘from dust you came, to dust you will return,’ or in the celebrations of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, which draws on pre-Columbian as well as Catholic rituals of remembrance.
            This idea of consciously reflecting on death is also found beyond the School of Life in other non-religious cultures, such as the Death Cafés movement, which was started in 2011 by Hackney-based former council worker Jon Underwood, inspired by the Café Mortelpioneered by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz.[11]Death cafés are largely pop-up meetings, run as a social franchise rather than for profit, and have spread across Europe, North America, and Australasia, with meetings having been held in 29 countries. ‘At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death’, the Death Café website states.[12]When I interviewed Jon Underwood, he described their shared objective as ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their finite lives’. He said that some of the people who attend the cafés do have a belief in life after death, but that the groups didn’t tend to focus on discussing those, as ‘generally, it’s fairly unproductive territory, because people have their view, it’s quite strongly held, and that’s that’. Resonating with the avoidance of ‘dogma’ in the approaches taken to life at Riverside, the Sunday Assembly and the School of Life, Underwood said that they don’t seek to offer one way of dealing with death: ‘We don’t have any answers… We might suggest some things, and we might know of resources, but the only answers are people’s own.’
            The popularity of death cafés might be seen as in one sense a response to a widespread cultural denial or avoidance of death in contemporary secular societies. Ernest Becker argued in The Denial of Deaththat death is so terrifying that we don’t want to think about it: ‘the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man’ (1973: xvii). Simmel likewise suggests that much of life might be defined as Todesflucht, a ‘fleeing from death’ (cited in Pyyhtinen 2012: 94).While religions have often been seen as denials of death, the acknowledgement of death – and of the fear of death – that animates many religious practices and the death cafés might perhaps also be seen as often bound up with the desire to become oriented towards the fullness of life, an inhabiting of and affirming of life in the present. Indeed, awareness of life perhaps requires, as Simmel argues, ‘death as its opposite, its “other”’ (cited in Pyyhtinen 2012: 87). While conflicting beliefs about death and teachings on the potential horrors or blessings of an afterlife tend to figure prominently in oppositional relations between the religious and the non-religious, practices of attending to the fact of mortality across religious and non-religious cultures provide an alternative mode of connection and a means of acknowledging shared existential grounds of what it is to be human. 

In this brief sketch of modes of engaging with ideas of life and death, we can see that although the terms may carry different resonances in particular contexts, attending closely to concepts such as these that are prominent across religious and non-religious cultures may help deepen understanding of affinities between groups that we are often tempted to treat as separate. Although the discursive strategies of particular religious and non-religious groups are often acts of distancing from another culture, in each act of ‘othering’ there is also, as Simmel highlights, a haunting by the possibility of connection, and these modalities of otherness, separation, and desire raise important questions about the kinds of subjectivity and experience these relations enable and foreclose. Studying these modes of interrelationality can help us draw more precisely into focus the question of what is delimited as ‘the religious’ in everyday social life, in which engagement with ideas of life and death figure prominently, for example, and thus often continue to permeate non-religious cultures. 
            Theologian Philip Goodchild argues that the ‘death of God’ in contemporary society and culture affects the believer and unbeliever alike, and that the philosopher of religion therefore has to be concerned with the conditions under which the mind is set in motion. He questions whether the concept of life might set the mind in motion, and suggests that this would require ‘an attention to life… and the thinking of life would also be the life that thinks, the awakening thought that arises from the swirling depths of consciousness and expresses its vital power in thought itself’ (Goodchild 2012: 174). He goes on to question whether the concept of life might perhaps today fulfil functions formerly attributed to God:

it replaces God, or rather, as a biblical and philosophical name for God, the concept is one of the few acceptable names under which God can be thought outside of the confines of institutional religion, in all God’s transcendence, immanence and inspiration. If life does play such a role, then perhaps our sharpest divisions are not between theists or atheists, nor between participants and non-participants in religious practice, but would arise from the thinking that undergirds our ways of life. For the substitution of concepts such as ‘God’ and ‘life’ are less significant than our frameworks of thinking insofar as these constrain or enable us to perceive reality, to touch it, participate in it and live it. (Goodchild 2012: 174)

Following Goodchild, attending to different ways of engaging with life and death, and the existential and ethical effects of these, cuts across the religious/nonreligious and theistic/nontheistic/atheistic divides that have so often focused on the propositional contents of beliefs about life, death, and im/mortality. 
Attending to practical, lived engagements with concepts of life and death might open up not only modes of connection between the religious and the non-religious, but also more nuanced understanding of common human concerns with what it means to live a good life within the limits of human finitude, and of what it means to be human. The concept of ‘natality’ might here also provide a useful further point of connection. Hannah Arendt argues that it is natality, rather than mortality, which reorients our social imaginaries to fully perceive our human interconnectedness, as our being born means being welcomed into a whole ‘web of human relationships which is, as it were, woven by the deeds and words of innumerable persons, by the living as well as the dead’ (Arendt, cited in Jantzen 1998:  149).
 Exploring engagements with life and death might also entail, following Foucault and Agamben, examining the ways in which some lives come to count for more or less in specific contexts. As the anthropologist Veena Das describes, we can see the dangers of modes of dehumanization ‘as if stitched into everyday life when one withholds recognition from the other, not simply on the grounds that she is not part of one’s community but that she is not part of life itself.’ (2007: 16). In Europe, this is a question of particular contemporary relevance as we witness a proliferation of dehumanizing framings of migrant lives associated with the swelling of far-right political movements in Europe and elsewhere. And we can also see how the concept of ‘life’ can provide a means of resistance to such discourses, for example, in the Migrant Lives Matter movement. Further reflection on the varieties of ways in which people reflect on and engage with ‘life’ and its interrelations with mortality thus has the potential to help us understand better the kinds of practices and orientations that unite (as well as divide) us from each other across religious and non-religious cultures, and might encourage a deeper affirmation of, appreciation of and attentiveness to life and its wonders, as well as acknowledgement of its struggles and tragedies. As Mary Oliver expresses this in Red Bird:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it. (cited in Moody and Shakespeare 2012: 176).

This research was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, under the Early Career Fellowship Award Scheme [ECF-2012-605].

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[1]This chapter expands on themes which formed the basis of a post at the NSRN blog, available at 22 December 2015)
[2]Examples of work in this turn include: Deleuze and Guattari 1987, Deleuze 2001, Bennett 2010, Connolly 2011, 2013, Lash 2006.
[3]I use the term ‘evangelical’ here, following David Bebbington, to refer to the tradition existing in Britain since the 1730s, marked by the characteristics ofconversionismactivism, biblicism, and crucicentrism(1989: 3).
[4]I use the term ‘open evangelical’ to characterize a movement dissatisfied with dominant evangelical understandings of faith, in whose view ‘evangelicalism has suffocated itself through a tight hold on propositional belief, personal salvation, and overheated conviction’ (Engelke 2013: 20).
[5]This language pervades contemporary evangelical cultures, with US pastor Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004) having sold over 4 million copies. It should be noted, however, that not all evangelicals agree with Osteen’s theology (see, e.g. Strhan 2015: 127). 
[6]From 22 December 2015).
[8]From 23 December 2015).
[12]From 23 December 2015).