Glen Davis
Glen, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, is the adviser to Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Stanford University. He blogs and maintains a database of quotes.

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Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 379

Fri, Dec 2nd 2022

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.

This is volume 379, the 75th prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Holy Spirit is a Political Liability (Samuel D. James, Substack): “It does not mean we have to accept that we simply cannot win. It means the opposite: accepting that we have already won. When Christ emerged from that tomb, all the gender insanity, all the religious persecution, all the abandonment of first principles in the universe were given a death sentence. Christ himself is truth. Truth was killed, then got back up, and will never die again. This is not just piety. It’s a reality that must go down deep in our methods, our speech, our attitudes.”
  2. Tolkien Was Right: Notes on the Respect for Marriage Act and the Post-Boomer Church (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “Some time after his death, an editor was going through the papers and books in J. R. R. Tolkien’s library when he came across an old copy of C. S. Lewis’s pamphlet ‘Christian Behavior,’ which would later be re-published as one section in Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. Folded inside the book was a letter Tolkien had written but apparently never sent to his long-time friend and fellow Oxford don. In it, Tolkien took issue with Lewis’s treatment of divorce in the pamphlet.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  3. FORUM: The New Shape of Christian Public Discourse (Jay Green, Current): “ ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ do not have self-explanatory or stable meanings. The old labels tend to obscure at least as much as they reveal. The terminology is handy in a fight as long we aren’t asked to define exactly what we mean by them. But especially during the past seven years some of the most acrimonious disagreements among Christians about public life go well beyond the issues identified by Hunter in the 1990s. Our public fights have become far more than basic disagreements over ‘issues.’ ”
    • Recommended by an alumnus. The author is a history professor at Covenant College. I think he is on to something, but his framing is not quite right.
  4. Check out ChatGPT — it’s free to play with and extremely impressive. You can sign up at https://beta.openai.com/playground
    • I had it write a worship song: https://beta.openai.com/playground/p/iWbGQyANHXhdXGw2fM0AGQQJ
    • Andy Crouch, a shrewd Christian thinker, believes this represents the end of a lot of homework. https://twitter.com/ahc/status/1598323606303424512 — this simple tool can do college-level homework pretty easily.
    • Jailbreaking ChatGPT on Release Day (Zvi Mowshowitz, Substack): “One of the things it attempts to do to be ‘safe.’ It does this by refusing to answer questions that call upon it to do or help you do something illegal or otherwise outside its bounds. Makes sense. As is the default with such things, those safeguards were broken through almost immediately. By the end of the day, several prompt engineering methods had been found.”
    • In another bit of AI news, On the Diplomacy AI (Zvi Mowshwitz, Substack): “When people say the AI ‘solved’ Diplomacy, it really really didn’t. What it did, which is still impressive, is get a handle on the basics of Diplomacy, in this particular context where bots cannot be identified and are in the minority, and in particular where message detail is sufficiently limited that it can use an LLM to be able to communicate with humans reasonably and not be identified.”
  5. Some Stanford news:
    • Stanford president’s research under investigation (Theo Baker, Stanford Daily): There’s a lot happening in this article and what follows is not the main point, but this paragraph caught my attention: “Prior to taking on Stanford’s presidency in early 2016, Tessier-Lavigne directed more than a thousand scientists at biotechnology companies Genentech as well as Regeneron. Tessier-Lavigne’s salary at Regeneron in 2014 was $1,764,032, according to a previously-unreported class action lawsuit alleging excessive compensation for members of the Compensation Committee, which included Tessier-Lavigne. It was later settled. He earned $1,555,296 from Stanford in 2021 with an additional $700,000 annually as a board director for Regeneron.”
    • ‘This actually changes everything’: Altered image in 1999 paper raises potential peril for Stanford president (Olivia Goldhill  & Megan Molteni, Stat News): “The newly identified apparent manipulation in Cell is especially serious as it seems to alter the results and appears to be intentional, said Bik. ‘I would testify in court that’s been digitally altered,” she told STAT. “This actually changes everything. … It’s a more severe level of digital altering.’”
    • Most damning — later in the article they explain that similar problems have occurred at multiple institutions with varying sets of coauthors with MTL being the only constant presence. Eep!
    • Department of Education opens investigation into Stanford for bias against male students (Judy Liu, Stanford Daily): “The complaint, which was filed by University of Southern California emeritus professor James Moore and Kursat Pekgoz, CEO of Turkish real estate company Doruk, alleges that multiple Stanford programs violate Title IX, a federal civil rights law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.” An inevitable development in our identity-obsessed culture.
  6. ‘It’s The First Time I’ve Seen This in China’ (Simon Leplâtre, Bari Weiss’s Substack): “When someone shouted, ‘Xi Jinping, resign,’ the crowd exploded, and soon other people were saying it, and it was as if the shouter had broken a taboo in a country where people usually lowered their voice when mentioning the name of their leader.  Then someone else in the crowd shouted, ‘Down with the Communist Party,’ which was a big no-no—the Chinese generally broadcast their ideological fervor—and the crowd loved that, too. It was like toppling the statue of a dictator. I told a colleague we were probably witnessing something important that might become very important.”
  7. Fire Them All; God Will Know His Own (Brooks B. Anderson, Harvard Crimson): “Across the University, for every academic employee there are approximately 1.45 administrators. When only considering faculty, this ratio jumps to 3.09. Harvard employs 7,024 total full-time administrators, only slightly fewer than the undergraduate population. What do they all do?” The situation is similar at Stanford.

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 Religious services may lower risk of ‘deaths of despair’ (Chris Sweeney, Harvard Gazette): “After adjusting for numerous variables, the study showed that women who attended services at least once per week had a 68 percent lower risk of death from despair compared to those never attending services. Men who attended services at least once per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death from despair.” Those are HUGE reductions! From volume 251.

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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.

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Paula Davis
Paula, a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, also serves with Chi Alpha.

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