On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- Artificial Intelligence and Magical Thinking (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Building a computer is precisely analogous to putting together a bit of magical sleight of hand. It is a clever exercise in simulation, nothing more. And the convincingness of the simulation is as completely irrelevant in the one case as it is in the other. Saying ‘Gee, AI programs can do such amazing things. Maybe it really is intelligence!’ is like saying ‘Gee, Penn and Teller do such amazing things. Maybe it really is magic!’” Feser is one of my favorite philosophers.
- Revealing religion: Understanding faith at Stanford (Melina Walling, Stanford Daily): “It’s my first day at Stanford: a whirlwind of unpacked suitcases, reshuffled notebooks and crumpled bedding. My roommate and I meet each other for the first time and choose our beds. Our parents all shake hands. Then, in the blink of an eye, we’re alone for the first time. I take a deep breath and ask my roommate the question I’ve been waiting to ask: Are you comfortable if I pray?” Two Chi Alphans are interviewed in this article, and I am very pleased with how they handled themselves. Good job, Connor & Naomi!
- While we’re talking about Stanford: How Stanford’s Desire for a Booze-Free Town Gave Birth to Palo Alto (Ryan Levi, KQED): “This was during the heart of the Temperance Movement, and the Stanfords knew that associating their school with an alcohol-free town would be enticing to many of the parents of prospective students.”
- They Had It Coming (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “Sweet Christ, vindication! How long has it been? Years? No, decades. If hope is the thing with feathers, I was a plucked bird. Long ago, I surrendered myself to the fact that the horrible, horrible private-school parents of Los Angeles would get away with their nastiness forever. But even before the molting, never in my wildest imaginings had I dared to dream that the arc of the moral universe could describe a 90-degree angle and smite down mine enemies with such a hammer fist of fire and fury that even I have had a moment of thinking, Could this be a bit too much?” This is a wild ride of a read about the college admissions scandal.
- Denying the Neuroscience of Sex Differences (Larry Cahill, Quillette): “No one seems to have a problem accepting that, on average, male and female bodies differ in many, many ways. Why is it surprising or unacceptable that this is true for the part of our body that we call ‘brain’?” Cahill is a neuroscientist at UC Irvine.
- The Great Awokening (Matt Yglesias, Vox): “In the past five years, white liberals have moved so far to the left on questions of race and racism that they are now, on these issues, to the left of even the typical black voter. This change amounts to a ‘Great Awokening’ — comparable in some ways to the enormous religious foment in the white North in the years before the American Civil War.”
- Related: The Democratic Party Is Radicalizing (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Progressivism is wrecking the Democratic Party even as crude populism and ethnic nationalism have (for now) wrecked the Republican Party. Both are salvageable and both are worth saving, but that will require individuals who have identified with each party to fight to reclaim them; to show wisdom, decency, and courage in an age of extremism and intemperance.”
- The author of the first piece, Yglesias, is a progressive. The author of the second article, Wehner, is a conservative. The two articles read together give an interesting take on the current state of the Democratic party.
- Harold Bloom: Anti-Inkling? (Michael Winegrad, Jewish Review of Books): “According to Bloom’s famous theory of the ‘anxiety of influence,’ we don’t get to choose our influences. Moreover, a writer’s explicit designation of a major influence is usually a ruse, intended to hide (mostly from himself) the real influence at work.…. it starts to look as if it was actually the Inklings, and especially Lewis, who got under Bloom’s skin.”
- The Rapture and the Real World: Mike Pompeo Blends Beliefs and Policy (Edward Wong, New York Times): “…no secretary of state in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath. That has increasingly raised questions about the extent to which evangelical beliefs are influencing American diplomacy.”
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- A Talking Snake (SMBC) — the theology is not great but it is amusing
- What Truly Brings Christians Together (Gavin Ortlund, Twitter)
- New Evidence Suggests King David Actually Saw Bathsheba Wearing Leggings As Pants (Babylon Bee): shared with me by a friend who correctly thought I would find it amusing.
- Related: an actual, non-humor opinion piece In Christian Circles, the Debate Over Leggings and Female Butts Has Been Raging With Special Urgency (Ruth Graham, Slate): “Here’s a fact about leggings in 2019: The only thing people like more than wearing leggings is getting mad about leggings. In the sphere of public debate, leggings have become the symbol of slipping standards, immodesty, and The Problem With Young People Today.”
- ‘Greatest Shooter in NBA History’ Played With Blurry Vision (Newser): this is a real news story, not satire. Steph Curry has bad eyesight and only just recently got contacts. That’s amazing.
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Book Review: Seeing Like A State (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Peasants didn’t like permanent surnames. Their own system was quite reasonable for them: John the baker was John Baker, John the blacksmith was John Smith, John who lived under the hill was John Underhill, John who was really short was John Short. The same person might be John Smith and John Underhill in different contexts, where his status as a blacksmith or place of origin was more important. But the government insisted on giving everyone a single permanent name, unique for the village, and tracking who was in the same family as whom. Resistance was intense.” This is long and amazing. (first shared in volume 95)
Why Do You Send This Email?
In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.
Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent.
Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.