Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 210

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.

It’s good to be back after last week’s hiatus.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed (Madeleine Gregory, Motherboard): “In a study published in Nature on July 3, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to energy and are used in many heating and cooling applications.”
  2. Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants? (Alan Cross, The Bulwark): “Compassion is not inherited, either in individuals nor in nations. It must be cultivated and that cultivation often happens in trial when we are tested. America is being tested right now. How will we respond to the migrants coming to us desperate for help and refuge? How will we respond to the sight of Oscar and Valeria drowning and being found face down on the banks of Rio Grande in each other’s arms?”
    • Related: In the ‘battle at the border,’ evangelical leaders jostle for Trump‐era media relevancy (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Unless you’ve been under a rock recently, you know much of the country is fixated on the mess at our border. What’s not as visible is how evangelical Christians are fighting among themselves over all of this.”
    • And yet: Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets (Hannah Hartig, Pew Research): “By more than two‐to‐one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”
  3. Manly wedding rings for tough guys who are dudes (Dan Brooks, The Outline): “I don’t hunt, but I briefly considered buying a camouflage ring, partly to signal my deep commitment to irony and partly to get better service at the auto parts store.” I really enjoyed this essay, and I hope that many of you have need of wedding bands in the not‐too‐distant future.
  4. Evangelical Christians Face A Deepening Crisis (Peter Wehner, The Atlantic): “Coppock mentioned to me the powerful example of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who was willing to rebuke the Roman Emperor Theodosius for the latter’s role in massacring civilians as punishment for the murder of one of his generals. Ambrose refused to allow the Church to become a political prop, despite concerns that doing so might endanger him. Ambrose spoke truth to power. (Theodosius ended up seeking penance, and Ambrose went on to teach, convert, and baptize St. Augustine.) Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. I wish that the American church was more visibly dismayed at some of Trump’s obvious sins. I remind people of all political inclinations that you can support someone’s overall agenda and still rebuke them for acts of wickedness. In fact, being willing to do so makes your support more meaningful. So vote for whoever you want, and hold the leaders you support to a high standard.
  5. Taiwan’s Status is a Geopolitical Absurdity (Chris Horton, The Atlantic): “’Taiwan’s government is democratically elected—we have a president, we have a parliament,’ Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said plaintively at a briefing for foreign media earlier this year. At the time, his government was trying to be included in the World Health Assembly. (It was ultimately blocked by China.) ‘We issue visas, we issue passports,’ he said, practically pleading. ‘We have a military and a currency … Taiwan exists by itself; Taiwan is not a part of any other country.’”
  6. Robespierre’s America (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The data confirm what one hears and experiences anecdotally all the time: In the proverbial land of the free, people live in mortal fear of a moral faux pas. Opinions that were considered reasonable and normal a few years ago are increasingly delivered in whispers. Professors fear their students. Publishers drop books at the slightest whiff of social‐media controversy.”
  7. Gay Rites Are Civil Rites (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “‘Civil religion’ is a surprising place for social justice to end up. Gay pride started at Stonewall as a giant ****-you to civil society. Homeless people, addicts, and sex workers told the police where they could shove their respectable values. But there was another major world religion that started with beggars, lepers, and prostitutes, wasn’t there? One that told the Pharisees where to shove their respectable values.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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.

Disclaimer

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. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 199

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

If you’ve been following the news, articles about the Mueller report are conspicuous by their absence in this week’s email. Apologies if you were hoping for something on that, but I find it difficult to overstate how uninterested I am in this news cycle.

Also, next week will be volume 200. Should I do anything special? Suggestions are welcome.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Is Religious Decline Inevitable in the United States? (Ryan Burge, Christianity Today): “The results are unambiguous: those with the least amount of education are consistently the most likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The far right bar in the graph, indicating those with a graduate level education are almost always the group that is the most likely to be religiously affiliated.”
  2. The new religion: why trying to be perfect is doomed to fail (Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian): “It’s one thing to seek salvation in God, or to stop seeking salvation; but the attempt to engineer your own salvation is doomed to fail. We’re flawed and finite, so we lack the capacity to work, parent or romance our way to perfection. Try to do so and you’ll only end up struggling to exert ever more control over your life – whereas deep relationships, and other meaningful experiences, require giving up control.”
  3. Now We’re Talking: The Exceptional Life of Paul Coates (Wil S. Hylton, Huffington Post): “There weren’t white cats in hoods, burning crosses and beating up on black people, but if you walked through town, the moment you got to the black side, the sidewalks would disappear, the streets would disappear, and now you’re walking in dirt. So the racism was subtle—but as your consciousness expands, the subtlety melts away and the racism becomes more rancid to the eyes and nose.” This is a fascinating interview with Ta‐Nehisi Coates’ father.
  4. Missionaries are supposed to suffer … So am I allowed to buy an air conditioner? (Amy Medina, A Life Overseas): “If God has called you to work among the upper‐class in India, then you’ll need to live like them, in a luxury apartment. If God has called you to work among the coastal tribes of Tanzania, then you’ll need to live like them, in a simple cinder‐block house with a pit toilet. Each life has its set of challenges. Each life has its set of blessings.”
  5. Broke Millennials Are Flocking to Financial Guru Dave Ramsey. Is His Advice Any Good? (Kristen Bahler, Money): “[Young adults are] an audience that marketers stake their entire budgets on, and he’s speaking to them in all the wrong ways. He quotes scripture and Ronald Reagan. He calls young people ‘snowflakes.’ He has absolutely no chill, whatsoever. But for a growing swath of millennials—a generation we’re told is too fragile, too godless, too politically correct—his word is gospel.”
  6. Listening at the Great Awokening (Areo, Darel E. Paul): “…this spring the Great Awokening finally came to my home institution, Williams College. Administrators and other campus leaders have encouraged white members of the college community like myself to listen. Over the past two months, I have striven to do exactly that…. Listening to these views from multiple campuses helped me realize that what seems to be a local discourse responding to local issues is actually a local manifestation of an international social, political and ideological phenomenon.” The author is a professor of Political Science at Williams College.
    • Related: The End of Empathy (Hanna Rosin, NPR): “…new research has scrambled notions of how empathy works as a force in the world. For example, we often think of terrorists as shockingly blind to the suffering of innocents. But Breithaupt and other researchers think of them as classic examples of people afflicted with an ‘excess of empathy. They feel the suffering of their people.’”
  7. The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News (Griffin Paul Jackson, Christianity Today): “[The document], composed by experts in business, public policy, tech, ethics, and biblical theology, consists of 12 articles, each offering biblical affirmations and denials about human nature and various implications for the future of artificial intelligence. The document emphasizes God’s power as the author of life and humans’ special role as image‐bearers. It mostly focuses on conceptual and theoretical frameworks for using AI but also explicitly decries the use of AI for sexual pleasure as well as ‘manipulative and coercive’ data collection.”
    • See the full document: Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles: “In light of existential questions posed anew by the emergent technology of artificial intelligence (AI), we affirm that God has given us wisdom to approach these issues in light of Scripture and the gospel message. Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Preacher And Politics: Seven Thoughts (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would.” First shared in volume 150.

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.

Disclaimer

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. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 131

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

  1. The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective (Puzhong Yao, American Affairs): “Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.” This is quite funny in places, especially his experiences at the Stanford GSB.
    • From a sort‐of‐reverse perspective: How Trust Shapes Nations’ Safety Rules (Veronique Greenwood, The Atlantic): “By the end of my first year in China, I feel as if I am a one‐person FDA.”
  2. University evicts Christian club over leadership faith requirement (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “‘The [University of Iowa] knows that what it is doing to BLinC is unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional,’ the complaint prepared by the firm says, adding that, while BLinC only requires adherence to their beliefs for their leaders and not their members, university policy is that campus organizations can require members to believe a certain way.’” Read the actual legal complaint — it’s straight fire. I was especially tickled by paragraph 76.
  3. How Culture Affects Depression (Marianna Pogosyan, Psychology Today): “However, teaching people that this very complex social, cultural, and biological phenomenon is entirely biological can backfire. It encourages people to ignore environmental factors, and instead, essentialize depression as a characteristic of themselves and their biology.” An interview with a Georgetown psychology professor.
  4. The Warlock Hunt (Claire Berlinski, The American Interest): “Given the events of recent weeks, we can be certain of this: From now on, men with any instinct for self‐preservation will cease to speak of anything personal, anything sexual, in our presence. They will make no bawdy jokes when we are listening. They will adopt in our presence great deference to our exquisite sensitivity and frailty. Many women seem positively joyful at this prospect. The Revolution has at last been achieved! But how could this be the world we want? Isn’t this the world we escaped?”
  5. Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive? (Brad Wilcox, Christianity Today):  “…churchgoing evangelical Protestant husbands were the least likely to be engaged in abusive behavior…. Although the empirical story of religion and domestic violence looks good for practicing believers, it’s much less rosy for others. My research suggests that the most violent husbands in America are nominal evangelical Protestants who attend church infrequently or not at all.” Brings to mind Rev 3:15–16 — be hot or cold, not lukewarm. The author is a sociologist at UVA.
  6. I read many articles about the Alabama election — these stood out.
    • Roy Moore and the Invisible Religious Right  (Benjamin Wallace‐Wells, The New Yorker): “…what was most notable about the pastors on Moore’s list was their obscurity. I found a list of the pastors of the thirty‐six largest churches in Alabama, assembled this summer by the Web site of the Birmingham News; no pastor on that list appeared on Moore’s. I called leaders within the deeply conservative Southern Baptist Church—the largest denomination in Alabama and, for decades, the core of the religious right—and was told that not a single affiliated Southern Baptist pastor in the state was openly allied with Moore.”
    • Roy Moore Had Lowest White Evangelical Support Of Any Alabama Republican In The 21st Century (Lyman Stone, The Federalist): “Exit polls from the Alabama Senate special election on Tuesday show that Roy Moore got 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, but nonetheless went down to defeat. This is shocking, because white evangelicals are a big share of Alabama’s population…. So if it’s a big voting bloc and they’re 80 percent for a candidate, shouldn’t that candidate win?”
    • For a critical take on the above claim: Is it possible that white evangelicals swung the Alabama election against Roy Moore? (Scott Clement, Washington Post): “Moore’s support among white evangelicals is historically low for a Republican. At the same time, the drop‐off in Moore’s support among other white groups from previous elections (particularly non‐evangelicals, white women and whites with college degrees) is far larger, indicating that evangelicals were far less likely than other typical Republican voters to alter their party support with Moore as a candidate.”
    • And more generally: Pro‐life Voters and Pro‐Choice Politicians (Michael Wear, personal blog): “The way some invoke conscience in politics reflects an odd morality that puts one’s conscience at risk for supporting a candidate who opposes Roe v. Wade, but rationalizes away moral responsibility for a candidate who intentionally seeks to disenfranchise African‐Americans or restrict the right of worship for Muslims or wantonly breaks up families through deportation or mass incarceration. Perhaps abortion as a political issue carries greater moral weight than these other issues—an idea some pro‐lifers seem a bit too eager to accept, I have to say—but is there no confluence of evil that can affect the voting calculation of the pro‐life person who believes their conscience requires them to vote for whoever the pro‐life candidate happens to be?” Wear, an evangelical, was an Obama White House staffer.
    • Also more generally: Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican (Peter Wehner, New York Times): “the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures. Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.” (this one came recommended by a student)
  7. Is AlphaZero really a scientific breakthrough in AI? (Jose Camacho Collados, Medium):  “I am a researcher in the broad field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), specialized in Natural Language Processing. I am also a chess International Master, currently the top player in South Korea although practically inactive for the last few years due to my full‐time research position…. However, there are reasonable doubts about the validity of the overarching claims that arise from a careful reading of AlphaZero’s paper.”  I was recently hyping this to someone and clearly did not know as much about it as I thought. Interesting pushback.
  8. And last but not least : Want to raise employee morale? Treat every day as an experiment (Christos Makridis, Medium): our very own Christos continues to put his work out into the public square. Go, Christos!

Things Glen Found Amusing

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a provocative read: In Defense of Flogging (Peter Moskos, Chronicle of Higher Education) — the author is a former police officer and now a criminologist at the City University of New York. This one was shared back before I started sending these emails in a blog post called Punishment.

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.

Disclaimer

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).

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.

Archives at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links.