Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 250

Probably my favorite article in this bunch is the epidemiological analysis of the seven deadly sins. What a genius idea.

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.

Also, this is the 250th of these weekly roundups I have published. Even though last week was number 249, I was still surprised to type in 250 this week. Someday I’ll remember a special number is coming up and do something different for it. But not this day.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Are the Wages of Sin Really Death?: Moral and Epidemiologic Observations (David Lyle Jeffrey and Jeff Levin, Christian Scholar’s Review): “So, are the wages of sin really death? As far as population-health research suggests, the answer is a guarded yes.” The authors are professors at Baylor, one of epidemiology and the other of literature. 
  2. Kids’ TV has a porn problem (BrazyDay, Medium): “In a very real way, the ‘hypersexual and toxic’ culture that has sprung up around children’s TV cartoons is of companies’ own making. They actively allow it to happen simply by doing nothing — creating a lawless vacuum where anything goes and porn coexists with harmless fan creations.” This article was much better than I expected it to be. 
  3. How We Got the Bible (Dirk Jongkind,Desiring God): “…by understanding what God had done over the ages, we will see that it is reasonable and justified to trust that the Bible in our hands is a translation of the trustworthy words of Scripture.” The author is a research fellow in New Testament text and language at Tyndale House, Cambridge University. 
  4. The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian): “The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits.“ Recommended by a student.
    • Fascinating Twitter thread in response by Tanner Greer: “Lord of the Flies is one of those novels that people remember wrong. People remember its central theme as ‘take away civilization, and we all turn into Hobbesian little monsters.’ But if you read the book as an adult, instead of an 8th grader speeding through, you find a different meaning.”
  5. Should Religious Conservatives Aspire to Notoriety? (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “You don’t go looking for power and prestige. You aspire to be faithful. If prestige finds you, then you allow yourself to be extruded into it and pray that God protect you from the spiritual dangers.” This is essay is part of a swarm of internet articles about the trajectory of the magazine First Things, but you don’t have to read anything else about that (or even care much about that) to find this essay worthwhile. 
  6. Pandemic Perspectives
    • “Our regulatory state is failing us” Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “When the CDC pooh-poohed masks early on, or botched their testing kit thereby delaying U.S. testing by weeks or maybe months, did the permanent staff of the CDC rise up and rebel and leak howling protests to the media, realizing that thousands of lives were at stake? That is surely what would happen if say the current FDA announced it was going to approve thalidomide.” This is a link to a search result on his blog, keep scrolling after you finish the main article to see several examples of what he is describing. 
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: A Plea for Generosity (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “There is a good reason to hesitate to judge, namely our ignorance. Plagues are a time for scapegoats and blame-shifting precisely because they deal out suffering such a seemingly unjust and random fashion. Our leaders say they will follow the science, but they can’t, really. With a heretofore-unseen virus such as this one, the science is more like inherited wisdom and intuition from previous, similar maladies, at least at the start. What follows is a confused rush to catch up through trial and error.“
    • The Risks — Know Them — Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, personal blog): “I regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides, inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks.… are these places of concern? Well, not really. Let me explain.” The author is a biology professor at U Mass who teaches courses on immunology and infectious disease. Recommended by an alumnus. 
    • No, the superspreader choir in Washington doesn’t prove church is dangerous (Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner): “It’s hard to blame the choir for not taking more precautions, as this was March 10, before stuff really hit the fan (and when our government was still telling people NOT to wear masks).”
      • This op-ed is based on a CDC investigation: “The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages.”
    • Lockdown is over. Someone tell the government (Dominic Green, Spectator USA): “Every society has reacted to COVID-19 according to its principles or, if no principles were to hand, its habits. It has been America’s misfortune that its principles and habits are ill-suited to managing an epidemic.”
    • Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “The general point is that minimizing the number of COVID-19 deaths today or a month from now or six months from now may or may not minimize the human costs of the pandemic when the full spectrum of human consequences is considered. The last global depression created conditions for a catastrophic world war that killed roughly 75 to 80 million people. Is that a possibility? The downside risks and costs of every approach are real, frightening, and depressing, no matter how little one thinks of reopening now.”
    • Coronavirus and The Myopia of American Exceptionalism (Brad Littlejohn, Mere Orthodoxy): “Rather than proving ourselves exceptional, we simply assume that we are. The ordinary rules do not apply to us, because we are America. We make things better here, we run things more efficiently here, we live more happily here, because we are America. There is no need to look at OECD rankings, because we already know that they are wrong if they show us anywhere but #1…. this way of thinking, far from making America great, is almost certain to make her the opposite. After all, the only way to improve is to learn, and the chief way we learn as human beings is from the examples of others.”
    • The Miracle of the Internet (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)”
    • Stanford’s $27.7 billion not enough to house students in need amid pandemic (Sheikh Srijon, Stanford Daily): “Harvard is allowing those on campus with demonstrated need to stay for the whole summer for only $200. MIT is offering free housing and meals. Duke is offering free housing and partial compensation for lost summer earnings to those with substantial financial aid.… Compare Stanford’s policy to these institutions’ policies. Though it has a $27.7 billion dollar endowment (as of October 2019), it is charging students nearly $6,000 for summer housing and meals in times of such financial uncertainty.”
  7. The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It. (Pamela Paresky, Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen And Steven Pinker, Politico): “…for the Times to ‘disappear’ passages of a published article into an inaccessible memory hole is an Orwellian act that, thanks to the newspaper’s actions, might now be seen as acceptable journalistic practice. It is all the worse when the editors’ published account of what they deleted is itself inaccurate. This does a disservice to readers, historians and journalists, who are left unable to determine for themselves what the controversy was about, and to Stephens, who is left unable to defend himself against readers’ worst suspicions.”

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 If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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 183

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. You Are Doing It Wrong: Reading Entire Books Of The Bible (Tim Miller, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary): “Imagine being in Rome when the book of Romans was first delivered. Now imagine the reader only reading for three minutes (corresponding to the end of chapter one) and saying, ‘well, that is enough for today, we will read some more tomorrow.’ The crowd would be outraged and would demand the man continue reading.”
  2. Shame Storm (Helen Andrews, First Things): “The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie.” I found this essay engrossing.
  3. China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor (Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The evolution of the Xinjiang camps echoes China’s ‘re-education through labor’ system, where citizens once were sent without trial to toil for years. China abolished ‘re-education through labor’ five years ago, but Xinjiang appears to be creating a new version.”
  4. Internet Church Isn’t Really Church (Laura Turner, New York Times): “The intention behind live-streaming services — to make church, and its attendant benefits of community, prayer and worship, available to everyone with a smartphone — is a good one. But it presumes that God is primarily present to us one on one, as individuals, rather than as a community of believers.” Kind of a follow-up to last week’s John Crist video.
  5. A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport, and a 15-year mystery (Petula Dvorak, Washington Post): “The story of Tom and Maya and Zainab is about trust, about listening to your heart over your mind, and about that gut feeling you have when you meet a good person. And it’s a story that could’ve gone horribly wrong.” Heartwarming.
  6. Is There Such a Thing as an Authoritarian Voter? (Molly Worthen, New York Times): “In one of the ironies of history, as the social scientific portrait of humanity grows more psychological and irrational, it comes closer and closer to approximating the old Adam of traditional Christianity: a fallen, depraved creature, unable to see himself clearly except with the aid of a higher power.”
  7. Men and Marriage: Debunking The Ball and Chain Myth (Brad Wilcox & Nicholas Wolfinger, National Marriage Project): “…the benefits of marriage for men are substantial by every conceivable measure, including more money, a better sex life, and significantly better physical and mental health. Yet many men remain ignorant of these benefits, a view seemingly promoted by popular culture.” This is a PDF of a brochure from the Institute for Family Studies. The two authors are sociologists whom I have linked to in previous issues.

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 Alcohol, Blackouts, and Campus Sexual Assault (Texas Monthly, Sarah Hepola): I think this is the most thoughtful secular piece I’ve read on the issue. “Consent and alcohol make tricky bedfellows. The reason I liked getting drunk was because it altered my consent: it changed what I would say yes to. Not just in the bedroom but in every room and corridor that led into the squinting light. Say yes to adventure, say yes to risk, say yes to karaoke and pool parties and arguments with men, say yes to a life without fear, even though such a life is never possible… We drink because it feels good. We drink because it makes us feel happy, safe, powerful. That it often makes us the opposite is one of alcohol’s dastardly tricks.” (first shared in volume 25)

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 176

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. Mass Shootings at Houses of Worship: Pittsburgh Attack Was Among the Deadliest (Sarah Mervosh, NY Times): “Mass shootings have become a recurring part of American life, and religious institutions a recurring setting. In each case, the shock is compounded by the violence at what is supposed to be a safe space for peace and healing.”
    • Related: If You Hate Jews, You Hate Jesus (Russell Moore, personal blog): “I will often hear Christians say, ‘Remember that Jesus was Jewish.’ That’s true enough, but the past tense makes it sound as though Jesus’ Jewishness were something he sloughed off at the resurrection. Jesus is alive now, enthroned in heaven…. When Jesus appeared before Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ introduced himself as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 22:8). Jesus is Jewish, present tense.”
    • Related: Holiness & Dr. Cohen (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “What Dr. Cohen — who is a member of Tree of Life synagogue — and his Jewish staff showed is moral courage, but more than that, it is holiness.”
    • Related: The Jews of Pittsburgh Bury Their Dead (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “‘We, the Jews, are good at death,’ says Rabbi Seth Adelson, whose synagogue, Beth Shalom, is less than a mile from Tree of Life. ‘The customs that we fulfill at this time are really helpful for those who have suffered a loss.’ In the face of extraordinary tragedy—the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, according to the Anti-Defamation League—ordinary rituals help Jews grieve.”
  2. ‘God Is Going to Have to Forgive Me’: Young Evangelicals Speak Out (Elizabeth Dias, New York Times): “With just days left before the midterm elections — two years after President Trump won the White House with a record share of white, evangelical support — we asked young evangelicals to tell The Times about the relationship between their faith and their politics.” These are interesting interviews, although I suspect a skew in the sample.
  3. The Big and Small World of Bible Geography (David Barrett, The Gospel Coalition): “As I have studied and mapped the events of Scripture over the years, I have been struck by an intriguing paradox: The world of the Bible was at the same time very small and very large.” Recommended for the pictures even more than the text.
  4. What Progressives Can Learn From Michael Avenatti’s Mistake (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Insofar as Democrats are convinced that America is a white-supremacist patriarchy, that racism and sexism were the decisive factors costing Democrats the 2016 election, and that fascism is nigh, you can see how they would conclude that a Cory Booker or an Elizabeth Warren can’t really best Trump, or would face much longer odds than a white man, and that winning should be the priority. Conjure in your mind an institutionally racist, white-supremacist patriarchy. Does its popularly elected president look like Kamala Harris?” This is the most provocatively insightful thing I read this week.
    • Not really related, just similarly provocative: The Real Reason They Hate Trump (David Gelernter, Wall Street Journal): “The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife.” The author is a professor of computer science at Yale..
  5. Free rent in Seattle, no catch: Landlords’ faith inspired a gift for tenants (Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times): “They’re also devout Pentecostal Christians. When Slaatthaug, a 74-year-old retired carpenter, does repairs at the building, he drives there in a Jeep with a 4‑foot-tall Bible on top. The Old Testament has a passage about the year of jubilee — every 50 years, debts are to be forgiven. So Slaatthaug and Bambrick are celebrating the family’s 50 years as property owners by doing something unheard of for a landlord: For the month of November, everyone in the 11-unit building goes rent-free.”
  6. Kissing Purity Culture Goodbye (Abigail Rine Favale, First Things): “Christianity does not offer mere prescriptions; it offers a worldview, one centered on a God who descended into our bodily nature and thereby vivified it. Within the context of this worldview, the sexual mores of Christianity become compelling, connected as they are to the cosmos as a whole. Removed from this context, they enslave.”
  7. Lack Of Attention To Chinese Interpol Chief’s Disappearance Shows The Khashoggi Furor’s Fakery (Ben Weingarten, The Federalist): “Why do certain individual victims of tyrannical regimes become cause célèbres, worthy of dramatically altering U.S. foreign policy, while others disappear into the ether? …concurrent with the Khashoggi affair, Meng, the president of Interpol, also disappeared, and may have succumbed to a similarly grim fate at the hands of Chinese henchmen. Let me repeat that: The president of Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, disappeared.” I dislike the title of this piece and the way it frames a few things, but it raises a very important point.

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 Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

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 137

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. My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness. (Morgan Lee interviewing Rachael Denhollander, Christianity Today): “One of the areas where Christians don’t do well is in acknowledging the devastation of the wound. We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes like God works all things together for good or God is sovereign. Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God. Goodness and darkness exist as opposites. If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.”
  2. Want to see a spat between two brilliant theologians?
    • The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart (N.T. Wright, The Christian Century): “When a theologian of the stature of David Bentley Hart offers a ‘pitilessly literal translation’ of the New Testament that is ‘not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history’ and aims to make ‘the familiar strange, novel, and perhaps newly compelling,’ we are eager to see the result. He promises to bring out the ‘wildly indiscriminate polyphony’ of the writers’ styles and emphases, converging on their ‘vibrant certainty that history has been invaded by God in Christ in such a way that nothing can stay as it was.’ But his two main claims (to be ‘literal’ and ‘undogmatic’) are not borne out, and the promise of displaying the strangeness of early Christian life disappears behind different kinds of strangeness.”
    • A Reply To N.T. Wright (David Bentley Hart, Eclectic Orthodoxy): “[A rebuttal] wherein, at long last, our author unburdens himself of a great number of complaints he has long wished to make against that pious man’s earnest but problematic approach to the New Testament, embellished with a few moments of sly mockery, but ultimately intended as a good-natured—albeit inflexible—expression of deep disagreement.”
    • Translating the N. T. Wright and David Bentley Hart Tussle  (Caleb Lindgren, Christianity Today): “While the verbal sparring is both sharp and entertaining (and perhaps off-putting to certain sensibilities), there is a valuable point at the heart of this debate—one that is worth noting as these two Bible scholarship heavy-hitters take swings at each other’s work.”
  3. Fake porn is the new fake news, and the internet isn’t ready (Nicole Lee, Engadget): “Motherboard recently uncovered a disturbing new trend on Reddit, in which users create AI-generated pornographic clips by swapping other people’s faces onto porn stars…. Needless to say, this has frightening consequences. Not only does this open the door for a horrifying new kind of revenge porn, where a vengeful ex could slap your face on an X‑rated video, it also opens a Pandora’s box of fears where nothing on the internet can ever be trusted.” The embedded (non-sketchy) gif is alarmingly realistic. The technology is already good enough that we’re at a tipping point, and it will only get more effective in the future.
  4. A Workout-Tracking App Accidentally Revealed The Location Of A Bunch Of Secret Military Bases And Soldiers’ Names (Digg): “Strava, a GPS-enabled mobile app that allows users to track their running, biking and swimming workouts, is attracting controversy after observers noticed that its global workout heatmap apparently revealed the location of secret military bases and the exercise habits of individual troops on those bases.” Oops. Technology has consequences. Remember that, you startuppy types.
  5. The Abortion Memo (David Brooks, New York Times): “I’m asking us to rethink our priorities. What does America need most right now? One of our talking points is that late-term abortions are extremely rare. If they are extremely rare, why are we giving them priority over all of our other issues combined?”
  6. The female price of male pleasure (Lili Loofbourow, The Week): “Because if you’re going to wax poetic about male pleasure, you had better be ready to talk about its secret, unpleasant, ubiquitous cousin: female pain. Research shows that 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal sex, 72 percent report pain during anal sex, and ‘large proportions’ don’t tell their partners when sex hurts.” First, fascinating because I had no idea. Second, because the author is so cocooned in assumptions stemming from the sexual revolution that she doesn’t seem to have considered whether this is a symptom of the whole thing being unhealthy and mistaken on key points.
  7. Showing Off To the Universe: Beacons For The Afterlife of Our Civilization (Steven Wolfram, personal blog): “There’s a thought experiment I’ve long found useful. Imagine a very advanced civilization, that’s able to move things like stars and planets around at will. What arrangement would they put them in? Maybe they’d want to make a ‘beacon of purpose’. And maybe—like Kant—one could think that would be achievable by setting up some ‘recognizable’ geometric pattern. Like how about an equilateral triangle? But no, that won’t do. Because for example the Trojan asteroids actually form an equilateral triangle with Jupiter and the Sun already, just as a result of physics. And pretty soon one realizes that there’s actually nothing the aliens could do to ‘prove their purpose’. The configuration of stars in the sky may look kind of random to us (except, of course, that we still see constellations in it). But there’s nothing to say that looked at in the right way it doesn’t actually represent some grand purpose.” A long but fascinating essay about how difficult it is to encode a message that unambiguously communicates intelligence. Relevance to natural theology should be obvious (although Wolfram, being an atheist, goes in a different direction).
  8. Some of our students and alumni have published things recently:
    • The One Lesson We Do Not Learn at Stanford (Hugh Zhang, The Stanford Review): “If we fail to develop the type of character needed to resist temptation when the stakes are so low, how can we be trusted to resist them when they are higher? What we do at Stanford is less harmful than the failings of the powerful. But it is only less harmful because our power is yet limited. When those in prominent positions act as we do, we rightly fear for society’s well being…. If we truly believe that the duty of a university is to prepare us for our responsibilities in the world beyond these idyllic palm trees, then the most important lesson we can learn here at Stanford is the age old lesson of integrity: the ability to do what is right even when no one is looking.”
    • Can I Help You? (Ryan Eberhardt, personal blog): “My friend Arjun committed suicide last September. I’m ‘over it’ in as much of a functional sense as possible, but I still think about him all the time. I miss him so much. He was among my best friends in high school…. I wish I could tell him about all the things I’m up to these days, brainstorm things for me to pursue after graduation, and ask for his advice. That will never happen again. But here’s the funny thing: I don’t know if I would be so eager to talk to him if he weren’t dead. Death has an interesting way of doing that.”
    • Reversing the Curse: A Spiritual Guide to Decoding Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN (Femi Olutade, Medium): “For those of you who are rooted in a faith tradition but can’t understand how a popular, ‘secular’ rap album can be a faithful witness to Jesus’s life and mission, Kendrick — and Jesus for that matter — may surprise you. For anyone who is still searching for how truth and justice emerge from the shadow of racism and oppression, I present to you the stories of hip hop and Judeo-Christian scriptures in the hope that you can find in them the kind of transformation that I have experienced.” Femi releasing this free online book bit by bit. Seth, who writes the forward is also one of our alumni.
    • Medical education systematically ignores the diversity of medical practice (Rebekah Fenton, KevinMD): “Medical education systematically ignores the diversity of medical practice during the classroom phase. Why do we only show rashes on Caucasian patients? Why do we only learn to recognize how men present with MIs? Why do we not address how obesity impacts exam findings? Medical education favors the white, thin, male patient. I’ve seen his chest X‑ray, I’ve examined his abdomen, I know his symptoms, and I’ve seen his rashes.”

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 Inside Graduate Admissions (Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschick): if you plan to apply to grad school, read this. There is one revealing anecdote about how an admissions committee treated an application from a Christian college student. My takeaway: the professors tried to be fair but found it hard to do, and their stated concerns were mostly about the quality of the institution rather than the faith of the applicant. Troubling nonetheless. (first shared in volume 32)

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.