Encyclopedia Smackdown

In yet another vindication of Wikipedia, the prestigious science journal Nature just released a fascinating article, Internet encyclopaedias go head to head which did some thorough research and discovered that at least in science, Wikipedia is on par with the Encyclopedia Britannica for accuracy (if not elegance). Disclaimer: I’m a proud Wikipedian (username GlenDavis)

Personality Tests And Their Defects

The Cult of Personality Testing : How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand OurselvesSometime last year I read The Cult of Personality (since retitled to The Cult of Personality Testing). I picked it up on a whim at an offbeat bookstore in Half Moon Bay between two church services.

I loved it and found it utterly persuasive. I’ve had a long-simmering aversion to personality testing (rooted in a bad experience in seminary, observing friends get shafted by the Assemblies of God personality screening system for missionaries, some biting passages about psychology by Richard Feynmann, and being a critical thinker). Something about them always felt wrong (and I could even put parts of my unease into fairly persuasive words), but I never had the facts I needed to understand exactly where the problem lay. This book changed all that.

I mention it because I just read an article by Malcolm Gladwell called Personality Plus that covers the same ground. It’s a great intro to the concepts covered in the book.

So if you’re in the habit of referring to people by their Myers-Briggs type, or if you like to use the terms sanguine and choleric in casual conversation, or if you’ve ever made a decision based on the results of a personality test, READ THIS BOOK (or at least Gladwell’s article).

Lion Rampant

My church went to see The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe this Saturday and we brought guests–3 to 4 times as many outside our church went to see it with us as did church members.

It was magnificent. From a fan’s perspective, it was as faithful to the book as you can expect a movie to be. From a technical perspective, it should say something that I found a beaver in chain mail utterly convincing.

They even made Turkish Delight look appealing, which is truly nasty candy. If that was the most tempting snack available to Brits during the war I’m amazed they were able to hold out against the Luftwaffe. I mean, really. Turkish Delight? The stuff tastes like congealed fat.

I was destined to love the movie as long as it was even close to the book. I was more interested in the reactions of my neighbors: he an atheistic Jewish postdoctoral biology researcher at Stanford and she a not-really-practicing Hindu who works as a business consultant.

They loved it, too.

As we were talking about it afterwards, he commented “The reviews I’ve read are right–it’s definitely got Christian imagery but you have to look for it.”

While I think he downplayed the obviousness of the Christian message (it’s always winter without CHRISTmas–hello?), I think he was on to something.

The movie did dilute some key dialog, but even if the dialog had been unaltered his point would still have merit. The story doesn’t so much tell the Christian message as it prepares one for it. It creates categories and understandings in your mind which serve as placeholders for the gospel. It’s like an extended parable that highlights a few truths:

  • This world is more fantastic than we dare believe.
  • Evil is seductive.
  • Evil need not prevail, either in our lives or in our world.
  • Evil must be fought.
  • We can’t win the fight against evil alone.
  • The one we need help from is our rightful King.
  • Our rightful King is not tame but he is good.

And given Phillp Pullman’s claim that the story was loveless I couldn’t help but marvel as the formerly fear-stricken Edmund—Edmund, who knew well the horrible extent of the Witch’s power—hurled himself at her to prevent the slaughter of Peter and incurred a life-threatening wound as a result. And I could talk of the love of the mother for her children, of the children for their father, of the children for each other, of the children for Aslan, of Aslan for his people, of the professor for his haplessly unloveable housekeeper, and of the children (especially Lucy) for Mr. Tumnus.

No love indeed. Pullman just has it in for Lewis.

Anyway, it’s an outstanding movie. I’ve been to precious few movies which caused the audience to burst into applause at the end. This was one.