Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • The New Naysayers

    Americans answered the atrocities of September 11, overwhelmingly, with faith. Attacked in the name of God, they turned to God for comfort; in the week after the attacks, nearly 70 percent said they were praying more than usual. Confronted by a hatred that seemed inexplicable, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson proclaimed that God was mad at America because it harbored feminists, gays and civil libertarians. Sam Harris, then a 34-year-old graduate student in neuroscience, had a different reaction. On Sept. 12, he began a book. If, he reasoned, young men were slaughtering people in the name of religion--something that had been going on since long before 2001, of course--then perhaps the problem was religion itself. The book would be called "The End of Faith," which to most Americans probably sounds like a lament. To Harris it is something to be encouraged.This was not a message most Americans wanted to hear, before or after 9/11. Atheists "are seen as a threat to the American way of...
  • Of Cosmic Proportions

    Astronomers decide Pluto isn't a real planet anymore. Why they did it--and how our view of the universe is changing.
  • The Greening of America

    One morning recently ... 29 years after president Jimmy Carter declared energy conservation so important it was "the moral equivalent of war ... " 37 years after the first reference to the "greenhouse effect" in The New York Times ... one day after oil prices hit a peak of more than $75 per barrel ... Kelley Howell, a 38-year-old Florida architect, got on her bicycle a little after 5 a.m. and rode 7.9 miles past shopping centers, housing developments and a nature preserve to a bus stop to complete her 24-mile commute to work. Compared with driving in her 2004 Mini Cooper, the 15.8-mile round trip by bicycle conserved approximately three fifths of a gallon of gasoline, subtracting 15 pounds of potential carbon-dioxide pollution from the atmosphere (minus the small additional amount she exhaled as a result of her exertion). That's 15 pounds out of 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide produced annually to fuel all the vehicles in the United States. She concedes that when you look at it...
  • Cavemen, Chimps And Us

    It is the holy grail of human paleontology, a window on a crucial moment in our evolution. Last week scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany announced they would attempt to sequence the Neanderthal genome--the complete DNA of the closest known relative to modern humans, a species that disappeared from the Earth about 30,000 years ago. It is the next best thing to having a living Neanderthal for comparison--and, in theory, if you know all the genes, you could create living Neanderthals. Not that anyone has any plans to do that.What would they be like? From their skeletons, we know they would be robust and barrel-chested, with a heavy jaw and brow; from their caves it appears they could use primitive tools and buried their dead. But they seem to have lacked modern humans' capacity for abstract thought; although they spread overland through the Middle East and Europe, they apparently never crossed a body of water they couldn't see across. Anthropologists are divided on...
  • NEWSWEEK's Environmental Archive

    One morning last week ... 29 years after president Jimmy Carter declared energy conservation "the moral equivalent of war" ...  37 years after the first reference to the "greenhouse effect" in The New York Times ... one day after oil prices hit a record peak of more than $75 per barrel ... Kelley Howell, a 38-year-old architect, got on her bicycle a little after 5 a.m. and rode 7.9 miles past shopping centers, housing developments and a nature preserve to a bus stop to complete her 24-mile commute to work. Compared with driving in her 2004 Mini Cooper, the 15.8-mile round trip by bicycle conserved approximately three fifths of a gallon of gasoline, subtracting 15 pounds of potential carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere (minus the small additional amount she exhaled as a result of her exertion). That's 15 pounds out of 1.7 billion tons of carbon produced annually to fuel all the vehicles in the United States. She concedes that when you look at it that way, it doesn't seem...
  • Fast Chat: Starting a New Slate

    In 1996, in a move that rocked the mainstream media, editor and commentator Michael Kinsley relocated from Washington, D.C., to Seattle to found an online magazine backed by the Microsoft Corp. The magazine, Slate, is now owned by The Washington Post Company--NEWSWEEK's parent--and edited by Jacob Weisberg, but Kinsley still keeps a hand in as a columnist. He spoke with Jerry Adler about online journalism's first decade:To some extent, I guess it's inevitable. I love the way Slate is now a fixture in the journalistic landscape. For the first few years it had to be referred to as "Slate, Microsoft's experimental online magazine that some people read on their computer via the Internet ... " Now it's: "Slate reported yesterday ... "Well, I married my boss (Microsoft executive Patty Stonesifer, now CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), so the question comes up. Ten years ago everyone woke up with the same thought: We need a Web site. Even Microsoft wasn't immune. I approached...
  • Saving a Great Racehorse

    You can see the X-rays on the Web, of bones crisscrossed by dark fracture lines like weathered boulders, and even if you can't name the parts—pastern, cannon, sesamoid—it's obvious that something ghastly happened. To Dean Richardson, one of the country's leading veterinary surgeons, it was "about as bad as it could be." Before a crowd of 118,402 assembled to cheer on Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro to a hoped-for victory in the second race of the Triple Crown, the dark-bay colt took a wrong step. His weight came thudding down on the slender bones of his right hind leg, which shattered, and as jockey Edgar Prado eased him to a stop it was already apparent that he would be in a fight for his life. Richardson, who had just finished an operation on a horse in Florida, immediately made plans to return to Philadelphia, where he is chief of large-animal surgery at the veterinary school of the University of Pennsylvania. Barbaro, in an equine ambulance, escorted by state troopers who cleared...
  • Ideas: Intelligent Defense

    Why, of all the assertions of modern science, does evolution by natural selection attract the most dissent? As the philosopher Daniel Dennett points out, Darwin's theory is no more implausible than the claim by quantum mechanics that an electron can appear to be in two places at once, yet physicists don't have to endlessly explain and justify their theories to a skeptical public. Dennett's answer is that natural selection, "by executing God's traditional task of designing and creating all creatures great and small, also seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God's existence." Which should leave no one in doubt about the source of the attack on Darwinism in the guise of intelligent design: it comes from religion.The intelligent-design movement suffered a political setback last December when a federal judge ordered a Pennsylvania school district to stop talking about it in high school, but it lives on as an idea, to the bemusement and occasional frustration of...
  • Evolution: If It Walks Like a Fish ...

    Darwin predicted that the "missing links" of evolution--gaps in the fossil record between related species--would come to haunt his theory. He was right: even today, they're a major theme in the effort to discredit evolution with the public. Which is why there was such a stir about a paper in the journal Nature last week describing a 375 million-year-old creature dug from rocks in the Canadian Arctic. It's a four-foot-long, crocodile-headed fish with scales, gills--and primitive wrist- and fingerlike bones in its fins. Given the Inuit name Tiktaalik, the specimen neatly splits the gap between fossil fish that lived about 385 million years ago and the four-legged amphibians that came 20 million years later.Until recently, scientists believed that legs evolved when a warming climate dried up ponds and swamps. But Tiktaalik supports the view that legs evolved in water, among fish living in what was then a tropical river delta--perhaps to help them crawl to shallows where larger...
  • The New Hot Zones

    In the din and clamor of issues competing for public attention, there's an inner circle of causes that virtually define good citizenship. Who would argue that a mind isn't a terrible thing to waste? The quasi-official gatekeeper to this pantheon is the Ad Council, which deploys more than $1 billion in donated media time and space each year for a few dozen carefully vetted, slickly produced messages. Last week a new issue got the Ad Council's blessing, a potential catastrophe that could make college dropouts the least of our worries: global warming.The council's two new TV spots were released on the same day as the première of a lavishly produced documentary, "The Great Warming," and in the same month as two major books on the subject: "The Weather Makers" by Australian biologist Tim Flannery and "Field Notes From a Catastrophe" by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. May will also see the release of "An Inconven-ient Truth," a film and book about Al Gore's one-man crusade against warming....
  • Transition: Buck Owens, 1929-2006

    He called his music "American," and he played it with a honky-tonk fervor on a red, white and blue guitar. Buck Owens, who died Saturday in his home in Bakersfield, Calif., at 76, was best known for his first No. 1 hit (out of more than 20), "Act Naturally," which he recorded in 1963--two years before Ringo Starr covered it for the Beatles. Then came "Together Again," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" and "My Heart Skips a Beat." From 1969 to 1986 he was cohost of "Hee Haw," which for many Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line was their first introduction to country music. Long ago he wrote his own obituary, saying he wanted to be remembered as "a guy that came along and did his music, did his best and showed up on time, clean and ready to do the job, wrote a few songs and had a hell of a time."
  • Freud in Our Midst

    On his 150th birthday, the architect of therapeutic culture is an inescapable force. Why Freud--modern history's most debunked doctor--captivates us even now.
  • Spain--The Next Italy

    In Catalonia, on the northeast coast of Spain, it is said that a fish swims three times: in water when it's alive, in oil as it's cooked and then in the wine that washes it down. For the fish, we are suggesting chef Andy Nusser's dorada with blood sausage at Casa Mono (mariobatali.com ), Mario Batali's electrifyingly original Spanish restaurant in Manhattan; and for the wine, a 1996 Montecillo Gran Riserva Rioja (about $28, retail). You will notice that the wine is red, a deep ruby red, which the Spanish are perfectly happy to drink with fish because, frankly, their white wines aren't all that hot. But the red Riojas, rich and fruity with a backbone of steel (years to look for: 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2001), are among the most underappreciated wine values on the planet.For now, that is. How long that will last is anyone's guess, because Spanish food has begun to emerge from its accustomed venue in shadowy bars where college kids swill sangria to the mournful plunk of guitars. Imports...
  • Health: The New Fight Over Fat

    If you were wondering what to make of the definitive eight-year study on dietary fat by the Women's Health Initiative released last week, you're not alone. Even some leading researchers were having trouble figuring out what to say about the study's major conclusion: that a low-fat diet did not significantly reduce disease among nearly 20,000 postmenopausal women, compared with a control group who ate what they wanted.Was Ross L. Prentice of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, one of the authors of the study, sounding slightly defensive when he proclaimed that "women can be confident that cutting back on fat... certainly won't hurt when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle"? (Emphasis added.) Did the food industry waste the billions it spent inventing fat-free cookies?Well, maybe. The problem, says Dr. Marcia Stefanick of Stanford, who heads the steering committee of the WHI, is that the study was designed back in the early 1990s to test an idea that most researchers...
  • Cannibals in the Closet?

    Did human cannibalism leave its signature in our DNA? The debate is heating up again over that controversial 2003 claim by British researcher Simon Mead. The evidence, he wrote, lies in the gene that produces the prion protein, the one that in its abnormal form causes mad-cow and kuru--a degenerative brain disease that was endemic among cannibals in New Guinea. The gene, and thus the protein, exists in two slightly different forms, which both work equally well in the body. But people who inherit two copies of the same form--either one--are at risk for prion disease, while those with the two different versions are protected. In a paper in Science, Mead argued that the prevalence of these two forms, and a mathematical analysis of other mutations on the same gene, showed there was strong evolutionary pressure for defense against prion disease for much of human history. But how were people exposed to it? The spontaneous form is very rare, and mad-cow outbreaks are an artifact of...
  • Lisa Randall

    Sometime in 2007, the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, will start operations near Geneva, Switzerland, and the universe we think we know may disappear in a shower of elementary particles. Few will be watching the results more carefully than a soft-spoken young Harvard professor named Lisa Randall, who has been making a name for herself as one of the most promising theoretical physicists of her generation. That she teaches at a university whose president once publicly doubted that women could compete at the top levels of science interests her far less than what we might find when we begin taking apart protons at 7 trillion volts.What she hopes for is nothing less than a glimpse into another spatial dimension, one of several whose existence is predicted by string theory, science's brave attempt to unify all the forces of nature in one grand equation. To account for the fact that we perceive only three dimensions, physicists have proposed that the...
  • Evolution of a Scientist

    On a December night in 1831, HMS Beagle, on a mission to chart the coast of South America, sailed from Plymouth, England, straight into the 21st century. Onboard was a 22-year-old amateur naturalist, Charles Darwin, the son of a prosperous country doctor, who was recruited for the voyage largely to provide company for the Beagle's aloof and moody captain, Robert FitzRoy. For the next five years the little ship sailed up and down Argentina, through the treacherous Strait of Magellan and into the Pacific, before returning home by way of Australia and Cape Town. Toward the end of the voyage, the Beagle spent five weeks at the remote archipelago of the Galapagos, home to giant tortoises, black lizards and a notable array of finches. Here Darwin began to formulate some of the ideas about evolution that would appear, a quarter-century later, in "The Origin of Species," among the most influential books ever published. Of the revolutionary thinkers who have shaped the intellectual history...
  • Evolution of a Scientist

    He had planned to enter the ministry, but his discoveries on a fateful voyage 170 years ago shook his faith and changed our conception of the origins of life.
  • The Boomer Files

    The generation that vowed to stay forever young is coming up on a major milestone. But for the 3.4 million Americans who were born in 1946, retirement is a distant prospect, and life still holds plenty of promise and surprises. They've been hippies and yuppies; and now it's the time of the 'abbies': aging baby boomers.
  • Hitting 60

    The generation that vowed to stay forever young is coming up on a major milestone. But for the 3.4 million Americans who were born in 1946, retirement is a distant prospect, and life still holds plenty of promise and surprises. They've been hippies and yuppies; now it's the time of the 'abbies': aging baby boomers.
  • The Fight Against the Flu

    The lethal H5N1 virus was found last week in birds in Europe. So far it has spread between humans in only a few suspected cases, but with no cure in sight, global health officials are nervously watching their borders and preparing for the worst.
  • The Fight Is Never Over

    At the Manhattan headquarters of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation's largest environmental organizations, Frances Beinecke sits in a corner office with not much space to spare; frugally, the lights are switched off on a sunny afternoon, and the coffee served to visitors is barely lukewarm. Beinecke, 56, a Prius-driving graduate of Yale and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has been with NRDC since 1973, the last seven years as executive director. In January she will take over the presidency of the organization from John Adams, who cofounded it in 1970 and helped build it into what is often cited as the most influential and effective environmental group in the nation, with about 650,000 members and 300 employees working on energy, pollution, land-use and resource-conservation issues. She spoke last week with NEWSWEEK's Jerry Adler: ...
  • The Day California Won First Prize

    In 1972, during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to France, Steven Spurrier, a young English wine merchant in Paris, bought five cases of a Burgundy-style white from a vineyard in Hambledon, England, for a state dinner at the British Embassy. Just before the dinner, Spurrier was told that his wine could not be imported. The list of French customs duties had no category for English wine.How amusant of the English to plant a vineyard, all the way on the far side of the channel! No doubt you could grow grapes in America, but the inhabitants would probably use them for jelly. So four years later, when Spurrier got the idea of a tasting to introduce his French friends to some of the California wines he'd been hearing about, he threw in a few Burgundies and Bordeaux for comparison. This might have been the first time that California and French wines went head to head in a major tasting, with nine experienced French judges: sommeliers, chefs, winemakers and critics. Knowing the French,...
  • In Search of the Spiritual

    MOVE OVER, POLITICS. AMERICANS ARE LOOKING FOR PERSONAL, ECSTATIC EXPERIENCES OF GOD, AND, ACCORDING TO OUR POLL, THEY DON'T MUCH CARE WHAT THE NEIGHBORS ARE DOING.
  • A 9, 000-YEAR-OLD SECRET

    When last heard from, 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man was in federal court, his battered bones the subject of a tug of war between scientists who wanted to study them and Indian tribes who sought to bury them. Almost from the moment he came tumbling out of the muddy bank of the Columbia River during a speedboat race in 1996, the proto-American with the "Caucasoid-like" skull has been arousing passions on all sides. Was he a messenger from the past, bearing evidence that the New World was populated not just once, by way of the now vanished land bridge from Siberia, but at different times, by unrelated groups, from diverse parts of the world? If so, who were his people--and who were the ones who embedded a stone spearpoint in his right hip? Or was he merely an uncommonly remote ancestor of the Northwest Indian tribes who live along the river today, and who are thereby entitled to bury him according to their rites? Last week he was in the news again as scientists began studying the 300...
  • Buried Treasure

    WITH THE HELP OF NEW FOSSIL DISCOVERIES AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES, SCIENTISTS ARE LEARNING HOW DINOSAURS LIVED--AND DIED.
  • POINT MAN FOR THE 'KINGDOM'

    So Moses turns for advice to his public-relations man as he's wondering how to cross the Red Sea, according to a story Larry Ross told in New York last week.And the guy says, Here's what to do: stand at the water's edge and raise your staff, and the sea will part for you and then the Egyptians will all drown.And Moses asks, Is that really going to work?And the PR guy says, I don't know, but if it does, I can guarantee you two pages in the Old Testament.The point being, behind every great man in history, there's a public-relations consultant spinning posterity on his behalf. That, in fact, is exactly Ross's preoccupation these days, as his longtime client, the 86-year-old evangelist Billy Graham, prepares to lay down his burden after more than six decades of preaching. Graham takes his crusade to New York City for three days this weekend, and has no plans beyond that; he has been invited to England in the fall but says he won't make up his mind until after the New York revival. Ross...
  • Toxic Strength

    It can take years to hit bottom with many drugs, decades with alcohol. But on steroids Chris Wash managed it in just 12 months, starting with a dream of playing for a top college basketball team and winding up on a highway overpass, waiting for the moment to jump. In that time Wash, a 1.88-meter guard on the Plano West High School team in Plano, Texas, went from a rangy 82 kilograms to a hulking 104, with shoulders so big he could barely pull on his backpack in the morning. And he developed a whole new personality to match that intimidating physique: depressed, aggressive and volatile.After a series of fights in his junior year his coach threw him off the team, but by then building muscles had become an end in itself. He switched from pills to injecting himself with steroids in the buttocks, often with a couple of friends, including a promising high-school baseball player named Taylor Hooton. That went on for several months, until one day Hooton was found dangling from his belt in...
  • A FOODIE UNMASKS

    Alan Richman's choice of a career was greatly influenced by his experience serving in Vietnam, where he claims to have been the only soldier who gained weight during his tour of duty. That was because he could eat free of charge. "I am proud," he says, "that while I was serving my country, my country was also serving me." Years later, when he discovered that restaurant critics also get their meals paid for, he knew he'd found his calling. For a decade and a half he has been one of America's most discerning, original and voracious food writers. As he looks back in his new book, "Fork It Over," at meals variously enjoyed or regretted but generally paid for by someone else, one accomplishment stands out: whether he's taking Sharon Stone to lunch at Manhattan's ultrachic March or scouring the delicatessens of Brooklyn in search of the oldest living Jewish waiter, Richman goes out of his way to be recognized by restaurant owners.This, of course, is a gross violation of the code of honor...
  • INSIDE THE MIND OF AN INVENTOR

    Steve Wozniak (who designed the Apple II computer), Dean Kamen (who built the Segway personal transporter) and Jay Walker (who devised the name-your-price business model of Priceline.com) are among the inventors profiled in Evan I. Schwartz's new book, "Juice: The Creative Fuel That Drives World-Class Inventors." Schwartz, whose last book was a biography of television pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth, talked with NEWSWEEK's Jerry Adler.ADLER: You quote Jay Walker on how inventing is like solving a Rubik's Cube: "Here's a six-sided figure, and getting five of them right doesn't help you." Actually, if you get five sides of a Rubik's Cube right, the last one is automatically right, also, isn't it?SCHWARTZ: Correct.So how come he's rich and I'm not?I don't know. I think I misquoted him. He must have said four, not five.What three recent inventions exemplify the kind of conceptual breakthrough you talk about in your book?The first one that comes to mind is the use of computers for...