Topic Review
Imamate (Twelver Doctrine)
Imāmah (Arabic: اٍمامة) means "leadership" and is a concept in Twelver theology. The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the Twelver branch of Shia Islam. According to Twelver theology, the successors to Muhammad are infallible human beings, who rule justly over the community and maintain and interpret sharia and undertake the esoteric interpretation of the Quran. The words and deeds of Muhammad and the Imams guide the community. For this, the Imams must be free from error and sin and chosen by divine decree—nass—through the Prophet. Shi'a believe that divine wisdom—'Aql—is the source of the souls of the Prophets and Imams and gives them esoteric knowledge—hikmah—and that their suffering is a means by which their devotees may acquire divine grace. The Imam is not the recipient of divine revelation, but has a close relationship with God, who guides him, allowing the Imam in turn to guide others. The Imamat, or belief in the divine guide, is a fundamental belief in Shia Islam and is based on the concept that God would not leave humanity without access to divine guidance. According to the Twelvers, an Imam of the Age is always the divinely appointed authority on all matters of faith and law. Ali was the first Imam in this line and in the view of Twelvers the rightful successor to Muhammad, followed by the male descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah. Each Imam was the son of the previous Imam, with the exception of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the brother of Hasan ibn Ali. The twelfth and final Imam is Muhammad al-Mahdi, who is believed by the Twelvers to be alive and in hiding.
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  • 17 Oct 2022
Topic Review
Timeline of Human Prehistory
This timeline of human prehistory comprises the time from the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa 300,000 years ago to the invention of writing and the beginning of history, 5,000 years ago. It thus covers the time from the Middle Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the very beginnings of world history. All dates are approximate subject to revision based on new discoveries or analyses.
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  • 02 Nov 2022
Topic Review
Peace Be Upon Him
The Arabic phrase ʿalayhi s-salām (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), which translates as "peace be upon him" is a conventionally complimentary phrase or durood attached to the names of the prophets in Islam. The English phrase is also given the abbreviation PBUH in English-language writing. An extended variant of the phrase reads ṣallā -llāhu ʿalayhī wa-ʾālihī wa-sallama (Arabic: صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ), and it is often abbreviated SAW or SAWS in writing, even in English. The Arabic phrase is given the name Salawat. The phrase is encoded as a ligature at Unicode code point U+FDFA ﷺ ARABIC LIGATURE SALLALLAHOU ALAYHE WASALLAM Some Islamic scholars have voiced disagreement with the practice of abbreviating these phrases, arguing that it demonstrates laziness and a lack of respect.
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  • 04 Nov 2022
Topic Review
Flying Spaghetti Monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism. Pastafarianism (a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarianism) is a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools. According to adherents, Pastafarianism is a "real, legitimate religion, as much as any other". In New Zealand, Pastafarian representatives are authorized to officiate weddings. However, in the United States, a federal judge has ruled that the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" is not a real religion. In August 2018 the Dutch Council of State also ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion. The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" was first described in a satirical open letter written by Bobby Henderson in 2005 to protest the Kansas State Board of Education decision to permit teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes. In the letter, Henderson demanded equal time in science classrooms for "Flying Spaghetti Monsterism", alongside intelligent design and evolution. After Henderson published the letter on his website, the Flying Spaghetti Monster rapidly became an Internet phenomenon and a symbol of opposition to the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Pastafarian tenets (generally satires of creationism) are presented both on Henderson's Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster website, where he is described as "prophet", and in The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, written by Henderson in 2006. The central belief is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. Pirates are revered as the original Pastafarians. Henderson asserts that a decline in the number of pirates over the years is the cause of global warming. The FSM community congregates at Henderson's website to share ideas about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and crafts representing images of it. Because of its popularity and exposure, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is often used as a contemporary version of Russell's teapot—an argument that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon those who make unfalsifiable claims, not on those who reject them. Pastafarianism has received praise from the scientific community and criticism from proponents of intelligent design. Pastafarians have engaged in disputes with creationists, including in Polk County, Florida, where they played a role in dissuading the local school board from adopting new rules on teaching evolution.
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  • 10 Oct 2022
Topic Review
Judgment of Solomon
The Judgment of Solomon is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which King Solomon of Israel ruled between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child. Solomon revealed their true feelings and relationship to the child by suggesting to cut the baby in two, with each woman to receive half. With this strategy, he was able to discern the non-mother as the woman who entirely approved of this proposal, while the actual mother begged that the sword might be sheathed and the child committed to the care of her rival. Some consider this approach to justice an archetypal example of an impartial judge displaying wisdom in making a ruling.
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  • 24 Oct 2022
Topic Review
Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence
Whether Ashkenazi Jews have higher average intelligence than other ethnic groups, and if so, why, has been an occasional subject of scientific controversy. Studies have generally found Ashkenazi Jews to have an average intelligence quotient (IQ) in the range of 107 to 115, and Ashkenazi Jews as a group have had successes in intellectual fields far out of proportion to their numbers. A 2005 scientific paper, "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence", proposed that Jews as a group inherit significantly higher verbal and mathematical intelligence and somewhat lower spatial intelligence than other ethnic groups, on the basis of inherited diseases and the peculiar economic situation of Ashkenazi Jews in the Middle Ages. Opposing this hypothesis are explanations for the congenital illnesses in terms of the founder effect and explanations of intellectual successes by reference to Jewish culture's promotion of scholarship and learning.
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  • 14 Oct 2022
Topic Review
SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants (also simply referred to as SpongeBob) is an American animated comedy television series created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. The series chronicles the adventures of the title character and his aquatic friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. Being the fifth-longest-running American animated series, its high popularity has made it a media franchise. It is the highest rated series to air on Nickelodeon as well as the most profitable property for ViacomCBS Consumer Products, having generated over $13 billion in merchandising revenue as of 2019. Many of the series' ideas originated in The Intertidal Zone, an unpublished educational book that Hillenburg created in 1989 to teach his students about undersea life. He began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series in 1996, and in 1997, a seven-minute pilot was pitched to Nickelodeon. The network's executives wanted SpongeBob to be a child in school, but Hillenburg preferred SpongeBob to be an adult character. He was prepared to "walk out" on Nickelodeon and abandon the series, but he compromised by creating Mrs. Puff and her boating school, so that SpongeBob could attend school as an adult. Nickelodeon held a preview for the series in the United States on May 1, 1999, after it aired the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The series officially premiered on July 17, 1999. It has received worldwide critical acclaim since its premiere and had gained enormous popularity by its second season. The thirteenth season began airing in October 2020. The series has inspired three feature films: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in 2004, Sponge Out of Water in 2015, and Sponge on the Run in 2020. Two spin-off series, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and The Patrick Star Show, premiered in 2021. An additional spin-off, an untitled project based on the character Squidward Tentacles, is in development as of 2020. SpongeBob SquarePants has won a variety of awards including six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 18 Kids' Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children's Awards. A Broadway musical based on the series opened in 2017 to critical acclaim.
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  • 25 Nov 2022
Topic Review
List of Topics Characterized as Pseudoscience
This is a list of topics that have, either currently or in the past, been characterized as pseudoscience by academics or researchers. Detailed discussion of these topics may be found on their main pages. These characterizations were made in the context of educating the public about questionable or potentially fraudulent or dangerous claims and practices—efforts to define the nature of science, or humorous parodies of poor scientific reasoning. Criticism of pseudoscience, generally by the scientific community or skeptical organizations, involves critiques of the logical, methodological, or rhetorical bases of the topic in question. Though some of the listed topics continue to be investigated scientifically, others were only subject to scientific research in the past and today are considered refuted, but resurrected in a pseudoscientific fashion. Other ideas presented here are entirely non-scientific, but have in one way or another impinged on scientific domains or practices. Many adherents or practitioners of the topics listed here dispute their characterization as pseudoscience. Each section here summarizes the alleged pseudoscientific aspects of that topic.
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  • 14 Oct 2022
Topic Review
Language Acquisition
Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Language acquisition involves structures, rules and representation. The capacity to successfully use language requires one to acquire a range of tools including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and an extensive vocabulary. Language can be vocalized as in speech, or manual as in sign. Human language capacity is represented in the brain. Even though human language capacity is finite, one can say and understand an infinite number of sentences, which is based on a syntactic principle called recursion. Evidence suggests that every individual has three recursive mechanisms that allow sentences to go indeterminately. These three mechanisms are: relativization, complementation and coordination. There are two main guiding principles in first-language acquisition: speech perception always precedes speech production and the gradually evolving system by which a child learns a language is built up one step at a time, beginning with the distinction between individual phonemes. Linguists who are interested in child language acquisition for many years question how language is acquired, Lidz et al. states "The question of how these structures are acquired, then, is more properly understood as the question of how a learner takes the surface forms in the input and converts them into abstract linguistic rules and representations." Language acquisition usually refers to first-language acquisition, which studies infants' acquisition of their native language, whether that be spoken language or signed language as a result of prelingual deafness, though it can also refer to bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA), which refers to an infant's simultaneous acquisition of two native languages. This is distinguished from second-language acquisition, which deals with the acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages. In addition to speech, reading and writing a language with an entirely different script compounds the complexities of true foreign language literacy. Language acquisition is one of the quintessential human traits, because non-humans do not communicate by using language.
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  • 18 Nov 2022
Topic Review
Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl (/ˌkɛtsɑːlkoʊˈɑːtəl/; Spanish: [ket͡salˈkoatʊl] (listen); Template:Lang-nci-IPA, in honorific form: Quetzalcohuātzin, modern Nahuatl pronunciation (help·info)) is a deity in Mesoamerican culture and literature whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and means "feathered serpent" or "Quetzal-feathered Serpent". The earliest known documentation of the worship of a Feathered Serpent occurs in Teotihuacan in the first century BC or first century AD. That period lies within the Late Preclassic to Early Classic period (400 BC – 600 AD) of Mesoamerican chronology; veneration of the figure appears to have spread throughout Mesoamerica by the Late Classic period (600–900 AD). In the Postclassic period (900–1519 AD), the worship of the feathered-serpent deity centred in the primary Mexican religious center of Cholula. In this period the deity is known to have been named "Quetzalcoatl" by his Nahua followers. In the Maya area he was approximately equivalent to Kukulkan and Gukumatz, names that also roughly translate as "feathered serpent" in different Mayan languages. Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind, air, and learning, wears around his neck the "wind breastplate" ehecailacocozcatl, "the spirally voluted wind jewel" made of a conch shell. This talisman was a conch shell cut at the cross-section and was likely worn as a necklace by religious rulers, as such objects have been discovered in burials in archaeological sites throughout Mesoamerica, and potentially symbolized patterns witnessed in hurricanes, dust devils, seashells, and whirlpools, which were elemental forces that had significance in Aztec mythology. Codex drawings pictured both Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl wearing an ehecailacocozcatl around the neck. Additionally, at least one major cache of offerings includes knives and idols adorned with the symbols of more than one god, some of which were adorned with wind jewels. In the era following the 16th-century Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, a number of records conflated Quetzalcoatl with Ce Acatl Topiltzin, a ruler of the mythico-historic city of Tollan. Historians debate to what degree, or whether at all, these narratives about this legendary Toltec ruler describe historical events. Furthermore, early Spanish sources written by clerics tend to identify the god-ruler Quetzalcoatl of these narratives with either Hernán Cortés or Thomas the Apostle— identifications which have also become sources of a diversity of opinions about the nature of Quetzalcoatl. Among the Aztecs, whose beliefs are the best-documented in the historical sources, Quetzalcoatl was related to gods of the wind, of the planet Venus, of the dawn, of merchants and of arts, crafts and knowledge. He was also the patron god of the Aztec priesthood, of learning and knowledge. Quetzalcoatl was one of several important gods in the Aztec pantheon, along with the gods Tlaloc, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli. Two other gods represented by the planet Venus are Quetzalcoatl's ally Tlaloc (the god of rain), and Quetzalcoatl's twin and psychopomp, Xolotl. Animals thought to represent Quetzalcoatl include resplendent quetzals, rattlesnakes (coatl meaning "serpent" in Nahuatl), crows, and macaws. In his form as Ehecatl he is the wind, and is represented by spider monkeys, ducks, and the wind itself. In his form as the morning star, Venus, he is also depicted as a harpy eagle. In Mazatec legends the astrologer deity Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, who is also represented by Venus, bears a close relationship with Quetzalcoatl.
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  • 11 Oct 2022
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