Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 219

New students: if this is your first email from the Chi Alpha list, welcome! Every Friday I email out a compilation of articles about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. My hope is that everyone will find at least one link intriguing enough to click through for more.

Most of the list’s content isn’t remotely like this, so even if this isn’t your cup of tea be sure to stick around (although I’ve heard rumors that some people stay on our list just for this Friday email). Also pay attention to the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom — I really mean them. And I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard (Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler and Tyler Ransom, link is a PDF of a working paper): “The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly-released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non-ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.” The lead author is an econ professor at Duke.
  2. Too Much Dark Money in Almonds (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that. Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.” It builds to a surprising twist. Highly recommended.
  3. I normally avoid two links from one author, but every once in a while someone is on fire. Against Against Pseudoaddiction (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Let me confess: I think pseudoaddiction is real. In fact, I think it’s obviously real. I think everyone should realize it’s real as soon as it’s explained properly to them. I think we should be terrified that any of our institutions – media, academia, whatever – think they could possibly get away with claiming pseudoaddiction isn’t real. I think people should be taking to the streets trying to overthrow a medical system that has the slightest doubt about whether pseudoaddiction is real. If you can think of more hyperbolic statements about pseudoaddiction, I probably believe those too.” I am fully persuaded by this article. 
  4. ‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist (Christopher Dummitt, Quillette): “In my defence, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was (and is) making it up. That’s how the gender-studies field works. But it’s not much of a defence. I should have known better. If I were to retroactively psychoanalyze myself, I would say that, really, I did know better. And that’s why I was so angry and assertive about what I thought I knew. It was to hide the fact that, at a very basic level, I didn’t have proof for part of what I was saying. So I stuck to the arguments with fervor, and denounced alternative points of view.” The author is a historian at Trent University (in Canada). 
  5. The Christian Right Is Helping Drive Liberals Away From Religion (Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox, FiveThirtyEight): “Researchers haven’t found a comprehensive explanation for why the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has increased over the past few years — the shift is too large and too complex. But a recent swell of social science research suggests that even if politics wasn’t the sole culprit, it was an important contributor.”
    • Related: Not everybody wants thoughts and prayers after a disaster, according to a study of hurricane survivors (Allen Kim, CNN): “Thinking of sending your ‘thoughts and prayers’ to those affected by tragedy or a natural disaster? Well, not everyone wants them. While Christians value these gestures from religious people, some atheists and agnostics would pay money to avoid them, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” I am shocked at how allergic some people are to religion. The academic article upon which this news story was based is The value of thoughts and prayers (Linda Thunström and Shiri Noy, PNAS).
  6. World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship (Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today): “Almost 1,000 children in rural Guatemala gained sponsors this month from a megachurch in southern Indiana. But in this case, it was the indigenous children in need who pondered photos of smiling faces and chose one they felt a connection with. And it was the adult donors in the United States who nervously waited, wondering who would pick them.”
  7. The grandmaster diet: How to lose weight while barely moving (Aishwarya Kumar, ESPN): “Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.”

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 Godspeed: The Pace Of Being Known (Vimeo): a student brought this 30 minute video to my attention and said it made her think about how she should be living in her dorm. Recommended. First shared in volume 181.

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. 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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