Current State #184 | October 22, 2013

Oct 22, 2013

Today on Current State: living without religion; Michigan's renewable energy standards; the effects of reading literature on the brain; and marketing cars to minorities.




Driving around Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo or suburban Detroit you’re apt to see an interesting new billboard.  Alongside smiling, ethnically diverse faces, the boards read: “Millions of Americans are Living Happily Without Religion.”


These billboards and a related website are the work of the secularist organization The Center for Inquiry which is based in New York.  

Jennifer Beahan is the assistant director of the Center's Michigan chapter, and she joins us to discuss the campaign and her organization.

Wikimedia Commons

In 2008,  the state legislature passed Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. The law requires that by the year 2015,  utilities must generate at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources.  As 2015 approaches, state officials are working to determine the next steps for Michigan’s energy policy.

Earlier this year we spoke with Michigan Public Service Commission Chair John Quakenbush. At the time he was holding public forums on the state’s energy future. The information compiled at the forums and online are part of four comprehensive draft reports.


John Quakenbush discusses what he’s learned since starting this process.

MSU lab examines literature's effects on the brain

Oct 22, 2013

Dr. Natalie Phillips, the co-director and lead faculty for Literary Neuroscience and History of Mind at the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab, integrates the humanities and sciences in her research.


Through literature and brain scans, she analyzes the developmental impact of reading on complex processes in the brain. Dr. Phillips joins us to discuss her research and findings.


Do car companies perpetuate stereotypes in their ads?

Oct 22, 2013

Jalopnik's Aaron Foley singles out this ad for the Toyota Prius as an example of the auto industry's stereotypical marketing to minorities. 

Target marketing is nothing new. From their cleaning products to fast food to pick-up trucks, companies have been directing their advertising at certain segments of the population for ages. But when does target marketing cross the line from just good commerce into perpetuating stereotypes about certain groups in our society?

Aaron Foley, a Detroit-based writer for Jalopnik – Gawker Media’s popular blog on cars – had a post on the subject last Friday in which he wrote,  “As a minority, it’s borderline insulting that automakers are over-thinking this.”  He says that the auto manufacturers are particularly egregious offenders of using stereotypes to market their products to minorities. He joins us to elaborate.