Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 246

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. The Small World Network of College Classes: Implications for Epidemic Spread on a University Campus (Weeden & Cornwell, prepub): “If one chose a given student at random, that student is likely to attend class with a student who, in turn, attends class with any other randomly chosen student. Put differently, although it is unlikely that any two randomly chosen students would be enrolled in the same course, it is highly likely that they would be enrolled in different courses that both include the same third party.“
    • The authors, professors at Cornell, were curious about the potential for disease spread among undergrads at their school. Taking this in a completely different direction: the average student at Stanford is likely only one or two steps away from Chi Alpha. WOW! Invite your friends!
  2. General Coronavirus:
    • A Comic Strip Tour Of The Wild World Of Pandemic Modeling (Zach Weinersmith, Maggie Koerth, Laura Bronner and Jasmine Mithani, FiveThirtyEight): difficult to excerpt. It’s a comic strip.
    • Why can’t you go fishing during the pandemic? (Matthew Walter, The Week): “Common sense is exactly what has been lacking throughout this pandemic. This has been true of nearly everyone in a position of authority. Telling people that they cannot engage in ordinary, wholesome, totally risk-free activities is not, as Whitmer recently put it, ‘the best science.’ It is not any kind of science.”
    • When Coronavirus Lockdowns Go Too Far (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…officials micromanaging outdoor time and exercise — chivvying people out of parks if they’re doing the wrong thing (reading quietly instead of exercising, say) or closing an entire state’s worth of parks, as New Jersey’s governor chose to do last week — are cracking down on exactly the kind of creative and adaptive behaviors that a socially distanced society ought to be encouraging.”
    • When Will The Riots Begin? (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “From the point of view of the non-elites, the elites with their models and data and projections have shut the economy down. The news is full of pleas for New York, which always seemed like a suspicious den of urban inequity, but their hometown is doing fine. The church is closed, the bar is closed, the local plant is closed. Money is tight. Meanwhile the elites are laughing about binging Tiger King on Netflix.”
    • What does this economist think of epidemiologists? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “…I have a few rude questions that nobody else seems willing to ask, and I genuinely do not know the answers to these: As a class of scientists, how much are epidemiologists paid? Is good or bad news better for their salaries? How smart are they? What are their average GRE scores? Are they hired into thick, liquid academic and institutional markets? And how meritocratic are those markets? What is their overall track record on predictions, whether before or during this crisis?”
      1. A response: From my email, a note about epidemiology (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “The quantitative modelers are generally much smarter than the people performing contact tracing or qualitative epidemiology studies. However, if I’m being completely honest, their intelligence is probably lower than the average engineering professor – and certainly below that of mathematicians and statisticians.”
      2. A response: A reply to Tyler Cown’s questions on Epidemiology: (an anonymous professor named Joseph, personal blog): “Epidemiologists are typically paid above average for academics, because of their links to medical schools. Those in departments of public health are shamefully underpaid. Since people want good news from them, there is some pressure to produce good news and most of our scandals come from over-optimistic forecasts.” 
    • Suspending WHO Funding Should Be Just the Beginning (Lyman Stone, The Dispatch): “…the WHO is simply not the organization of doctors many people envision. Of the 80 job listings currently on the WHO’s website, no more than four that I could identify apply to doctors at all. Even permanent career positions on the international professional payscale usually do not require more than a master’s degree in a health-related field. The WHO is currently hiring almost as many media and communication staffers as it is epidemiological staffers.”
    • Carta’s covid-19 layoff (Henry Ward, Medium): “It is important that all of you know I personally reviewed every list and every person. If you are one of those affected it is because I decided it. Your manager did not. For the majority of you it was quite the contrary. Your manager fought to keep you and I overrode them. They are blameless. If today is your last day, there is only one person to blame and it is me.” This is super-classy.
    • The Black Plague (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, New Yorker): “The old African-American aphorism “When white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia” has a new, morbid twist: when white America catches the novel coronavirus, black Americans die.”
    • A different perspective: Do COVID-19 Racial Disparities Matter? (Coleman Hughes, Quillette): “In fact, blacks are more likely than whites to die of many diseases—not just this one. In other cases, the reverse is true. According to CDC mortality data, whites are more likely than blacks to die of chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and eight different types of cancer. The same thinking that attributes the racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths to systemic racism against blacks could be applied equally to argue the existence of systemic racism against whites.”
    • Wasted time: how San Francisco failed its homeless population amid coronavirus (Vivian Ho, The Guardian): “…many not-for-profit organizations that offered services to the unhoused were forced to close. Shelters that used to allow people to congregate during the day closed their doors. So did gyms with showers, businesses with public restrooms and even the public library, where the unhoused can stay dry from the rain.” Recommended by a student.
  3. Christianity & Coronavirus
    • The Coronavirus and the Will of God (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Because we are not Jesus, it is a very bad idea to walk around telling strangers how their suffering might display the works of God. But as friends, we can participate in others’ discernment and pattern-seeking, and we can try to discern purposes in our own life — suffering as punishment, suffering as refinement, suffering as a judgment on a nation or society, suffering as an opportunity, suffering as part of a story not our own.”
    • Ministry Leaders to ICE: Release Immigrants and Let Churches Help (Bekah McNeel, Christianity Today): “This week, evangelical leaders from nine major organizations wrote the Trump administration to urge officials to release detained immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those who are elderly or at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.”
    • A Q&A for churches on government restrictions with a religious liberty attorney: Navigating the tension between church and state during a pandemic (Jeff Pickering, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission): “Ultimately, churches should approach religious freedom conflicts the same way they approach COVID-19: not with fear of suffering but with calm confidence in the goodness of God. Neither a global pandemic nor a local bureaucrat can silence the gospel.”
    • Justice Department takes church’s side in 1st Amendment suit (Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo And Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press): “The Justice Department took the rare step on Tuesday of weighing in on the side of a Mississippi Christian church where local officials had tried to stop Holy Week services broadcast to congregants sitting in their cars in the parking lot.…. Attorney Ryan Tucker of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church, says there’s a Sonic Drive-In restaurant about 200 yards (180 meters) from the church where patrons are still allowed to roll down their windows and talk.”
    • Prominent Virginia pastor who said ‘God is larger than this dreaded virus’ dies of covid-19 (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post): “Earlier in the sermon, he said: ‘If I had to deliver my own eulogy, I’d say, ‘God is greater than any challenge you and I face.’ That would be my epitaph.’”
  4. Atheists are the Most Politically Active Group in the United States (Ryan P Burge, Religion In Public): “At every level on the education spectrum, atheists and agnostics are more politically active than Protestants or Catholics. More education leads to higher levels of political activity among all religious groups, but the relationship is even stronger for atheists than other groups. An atheist with a graduate degree participated in 2.1 political activities in the last year. It was 1.8 activities for agnostics. For Catholics and Protestants it’s between 1.3 and 1.4 activities. That’s not a small difference.”
  5. The Trump campaign wants to win the votes of evangelicals of color (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein , Washington Post): “[Black and Latino evangelicals] have conservative beliefs on social issues such as same-sex marriage, which they oppose at rates just slightly lower than white evangelicals, and to some extent abortion, which would put them in the Republican camp. But they also tend to favor more legalized immigration, government sensitivity toward racial justice, and help for the poor, generally pushing them toward Democratic candidates.”
  6. The bloody decade: think America’s divided now? Try the 1970s (William Rosenau, Spectator): “In 1974 alone, there were 2,044 bombings in America, with 24 people killed. Violent extremist groups dotted the political landscape in a way they simply do not today.”
  7. Bloomberg News Killed Investigation, Fired Reporter, Then Sought To Silence His Wife (David Folkenflik. NPR): “Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government.The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.”

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 20 Arguments For God’s Existence (Peter Kreeft, personal website): “You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God’s presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.” I was reminded of this by a conversation with an alumnus. The author is a philosophy professor at Boston College. (first shared in volume 116)

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.

Leave a Reply