Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 220

On Fridays I share articles/resources 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. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Does a Religious Upbringing Promote Generosity or Not? (Tyler J. VanderWeele, Psychology Today): “In 2015, a paper by Jean Decety and co-authors reported that children who were brought up religiously were less generous. The paper received a great deal of attention, and was covered by over 80 media outlets including The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Scientific American. As it turned out, however, the paper by Decety was wrong.” Recommended by an alumnus who noted, “it seemed up your alley.” A story which touches on religion, features a statistical screwup, and highlights media bias? Indeed it is! The author is an epidemiologist at Harvard whose writing I have highlighted before
  2. Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise. (Bradley Wright, Christianity Today): “…evangelical Christianity is doing rather well for itself. Where it is not increasing, it is holding steady. As Stanton writes, ‘Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing Biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. In some areas, they are seeing growth.’ In contrast, the fortunes of mainline Protestantism in America are falling fast. Its long decline has been documented before, and Stanton updates our understanding of it. As he puts it, ‘people are leaving those churches like the buildings are on fire.’” The author is a sociologist at U Conn whose writing I have highlighted before.
  3. Looking back at the Snowden revelations (Matthew Green, personal blog): “One of the most important lessons we learned from the Snowden leaks was that the NSA very much prioritizes its surveillance mission, to the point where it is willing to actively insert vulnerabilities into encryption products and standards used on U.S. networks…. This kind of sabotage is, needless to say, something that not even the most paranoid security researchers would have predicted from our own intelligence agencies. Agencies that, ostensibly have a mission to protect U.S. networks.” The author is a professor at Johns Hopkins.
  4. Harvard’s Legacies Are Nothing to Be Proud Of (Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion): “If you are wondering why Americans do not trust the current establishment, or why Americans are not so convinced that the Democratic Party actually will reverse income inequality, look no further than the Harvard admissions case.”
  5. Inside Stanford’s Last Fallout Shelter: a time capsule to Cold War politics and protests (Patrick Monreal, Stanford Daily): “At the height of the Cold War, Stanford and the Office of Civil Defense, a federal agency established by Franklin D. Roosevelt, designated as many as 56 fallout shelters on campus. The University managed these shelters, which collectively had a maximum occupancy of 49,269 people, as a part of emergency plans in the event of a nuclear strike or natural disaster.”
  6. Some diverse perspectives on maximizing your time at Stanford.
    • Classes for the College Contrarian: The Comprehensive Guide to Getting More out of Stanford (Annika Nordquist, Stanford Review): “Although Stanford’s dominance in STEM fields is universally acknowledged, it can be harder to find stellar humanities and social sciences classes, which don’t have the same structured curriculums and are more likely to suffer from severe grade inflation. This is not even to mention the difficulty of finding classes which represent opposing viewpoints and teach critical thought rather than academic orthodoxy.” Annika is involved in Chi Alpha. 
    • Eleven Must-Take Classes This Fall (Stanford Sphere editorial board): “In our oldest recurring feature, we present below an alphabetized list of the most interesting classes of the fall.”
    • I propose a new rule at Stanford — all students shall be automatically enrolled in any courses which are recommended by both the Sphere and the Review 
    • How to Major in Unicorn (Max Read & Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “Google was founded by two Stanford graduate students, Instagram by two Stanford alumni, Snapchat by a Stanford dropout. WhatsApp, Netflix, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard were all founded by onetime Stanford students; the earliest investors in Facebook and Amazon were Stanford graduates. Even Elizabeth Holmes, symbol of Silicon Valley self-delusion and fraud, was a student at Stanford when she dropped out to found Theranos. About the only two famous tech founders with no immediately apparent Stanford connection are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — though is it a coincidence that each had a daughter attend the school?”
    • If Not Snapchat, What? A Guide to Stanford’s Non-Tech Fiefdoms (Andrew Granato, New York Magazine): “An anecdote about the university that is positioning itself to take charge of the 21st century: Jackson Beard ’17, the former student body president, told me a story about how a cabinet member of hers tried to schedule a meeting with the head of the student health center to discuss school policy on involuntary psychiatric holds of students. After many delays, a meeting occurred where the administrator ‘just asked, straight up, “When do you two graduate?” He said, “I want to know when you’ll stop caring about this issue.”’” A remarkably brief summary of a very real Stanford dynamic.
    • An Optimist’s Guide to Finding Meaning at Stanford (Ibrahim Bharmal and Alina Utrata, Medium) “The best advice I ever got about picking a major was: plan out all the classes you want to take, and then see what major lets you take those classes. YOU HAVE TONS OF TIME! Spend freshman and sophomore year taking all the classes you’re interested in and expanding your horizons — even classes that don’t seem ‘useful’ to you.”
  7. The Danger of Reusing Natural Experiments (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A correspondent writes to ask whether I was aware that Regulation SHO has been used by more than fifty other studies to test a variety of hypotheses. I was not! The problem is obvious. If the same experiment is used multiple times we should be imposing multiple hypothesis standards to avoid the green jelly bean problem, otherwise known as the false positive problem.” 

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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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