Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 186

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. America in one tweet:“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.” (Clay Routledge, Twitter)
  2. Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping’s China (John Garnaut, Sinocism): “In classical Chinese statecraft there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over “the mountains and the rivers”: The first is wu (weapons, violence — 武) and the second is wen (language, culture — 文). Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand-in-hand.”
  3. A Strange Argument for the Commonplace (Cato Unbound, Agnes Callard): “We should not equalize the rich and poor, but rather endeavor to make the poor of tomorrow wealthier than the rich of today.” I’m including this link mostly because of that quote. Also because it has some commentary on Peter Singer which dovetails with a conversation I had earlier this week.
  4. Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults (Aaron Earls, Lifeway Research ): “Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year…. Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.”
    • The title is a bit misleading. Yes, a majority of young adults who previously attended church do stop attending church for at least one year between the ages of 18–22, but if you look at their underlying research about 70% eventually start attending again. Also, it doesn’t seem to ask whether any of these people were involved in an activity that they might not characterize as church (like Chi Alpha or Intervarsity). I know some of my Chi Alpha students are not currently worshiping with a Sunday morning congregation, but it would be wrong to infer that their faith has been put on pause.
  5. Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua (Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker): “Last year, I wrote a paper about cosmology where there was an unusual result, which showed that perhaps the gas in the universe was much colder than we expected. And so we postulated that maybe dark matter has some property that makes the gas cooler. And nobody cares, nobody is worried about it, no one says it is not science. Everyone says that is mainstream—to consider dark matter, a substance we have never seen. That’s completely fine. It doesn’t bother anyone. But when you mention the possibility that there could be equipment out there that is coming from another civilization—which, to my mind, is much less speculative, because we have already sent things into space—then that is regarded as unscientific.”
    • I am skeptical, but I find the conversation fascinating. Related: an article on the Fermi paradox I shared back in volume 159 and an article on government investigation of UFO reports from volume 132.
  6. The marvel of the human dad (Anna Machin, Aeon): “But crucially, dad has not evolved to be the mirror to mum, a male mother, so to speak. Evolution hates redundancy and will not select for roles that duplicate each other if one type of individual can fulfil the role alone. Rather, dad’s role has evolved to complement mum’s.” Dr. Machin is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford.
  7. The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World (John McWhorter, The Atlantic): “Just as the first and second waves of both feminism and antiracism transformed social structures, third-wave antiracism may seem parallel to third-wave feminism in moving on to a different form of abuse, psychological rather than institutional. But this focus on the psychological has morphed, of late, from a pragmatic mission to change minds into a witch hunt driven by the personal benefits of virtue signaling, obsessed with unconscious and subconscious bias. As noble as this culture of shaming genuinely seems to many, it’s a dead end.”
    • A useful, detailed follow-up: The Perils of a Psychological Approach to Anti-racism (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “If the phenomenon McWhorter described is real, we should be able to find leftists who intend to fight bias by calling out psychological harms, only to fall into ‘hypersensitivity, oversimplification, and even a degree of performance’ as participants signal virtue in ways that help no one.”

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.


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.

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