The new British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her cabinet today.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Is There Existential Meaning Beyond Religion?

Aug 12, 2013

Religious beliefs are often (though not always) comforting. The idea of an afterlife can be attractive. Ideas like fate and destiny — or simply things happen for a reason — can make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It's nice to think that humans have a purpose, that we were put here for some reason, that the natural world is meaningful.

Science is rarely seen as offering these existential and emotional benefits. While some wax poetic about the wonder of nature, a naturalistic worldview is often described as stark and bleak; as painting a portrait of nature devoid of meaning.

In a passage from Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, one of the main characters describes her experience on a trip to Antarctica:

We'd pass icebergs floating in the middle of the ocean. They were gigantic, with strange formations carved into them. They were so haunting and majestic you could feel your heart break, but really they're just chunks of ice and they mean nothing.

I like this passage because it highlights a tension — on the one hand appreciating the natural world and embracing a strong emotional response to it, but on the other hand seeming to divest it of meaning.

Can a scientific, naturalistic worldview actually offer the existential and emotional benefits of religious beliefs?

In a recent article at the Boston Review, "Can Science Deliver the Benefits of Religion?," I take up this question in the context of human evolution and what it suggests about our place in the natural world. I invite 13.7 readers to take a look and respond!


You can keep up with more of what Tania Lombrozo is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.