For the last several years, I have been sharing articles/resources every Friday about broad cultural, societal and theological issues.
I was inspired by the tribe of Issachar from the time of King David. They 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.
Be sure to see the disclaimers at the bottom. Also, I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.
All that having been said, here is 318th roundup of things I have found interesting (318, I am told, is the number of unlabeled partially ordered sets of 6 elements).
Things Glen Found Interesting
- The American Crisis of Selective Empathy (David French, The Dispatch): “…America is experiencing an empathy crisis. But it’s not quite the crisis you might think. Our empathy can overflow for the people we love, for the people within our tribe—even when they make grave errors. But what about our empathy for ‘them,’ the people we distrust? Then empathy is in short supply. Indeed, in some cases, the very concept of empathy is under fire.”
- Related: The Limits of My Empathy for Covid Deniers (Tressie McMillan Cottom, New York Times): “Because I value being a thinking person, I honor emotions like empathy, fear, joy and trust to guide me around the pitfalls of my ego. Ego makes for really sloppy analysis and writing. I am at a point where headlines about ill and dying Covid deniers do not pull at my empathy strings the way I want them to.”
- Norm Macdonald’s Spiritual Journey (Nic Rowan, First Things): “Macdonald may have only been dabbling in Christianity, but his criticisms of the post-Christian world were often incisive. He had no tolerance for scientism and laughed at atheists. He frequently lampooned the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher. And he wasn’t afraid to make dark predictions about a future dominated by their successors.”
- Related: Did a religious search help shape Norm Macdonald’s haunting humor? (Terry Mattingly, GetReligion): “Macdonald was also a self-identified Christian, yet he made it clear that he didn’t consider himself a very good one.” There are several excellent YouTube clips in this one. Recommended.
- Fired After Getting Vaccinated—And Encouraging Others to Do So (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “I was trying to use my platform to share the truth. You’re right that Christians should be people of the truth—not just that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but also the truth about what is real. The question is: How do you get the truth to people? We live in a time where information is coming at us from all over. It’s not necessarily that people don’t want to believe the truth.” This is a solid interview. Darling comes off very well.
- Effect size is significantly more important than statistical significance. (Ben Recht, personal blog): “In either case we are talking about a difference of 15 cases between the treatment and control villages in a population of 32,000 individuals.… If the effect size is so small that we need sophisticated statistics, maybe that means the effect isn’t real. Using sophisticated statistical scaffolding clouds our judgement. We end up using statistical methods as a crutch, not to dig signals out of noise, but to convince ourselves of signals when there are none.” The author is a professor of machine learning and data analysis at Berkeley.
- Why America needs the Black church for its own survival (Charlie Date, Washington Post): “The difference between the Black church and any other Christian institution in America is that rather than abandoning Scripture as a tool of our oppression, we apply Scripture as God’s rule for our liberty and living. The difference is in how our social ethic is rooted in both righteousness and justice, not either righteousness or justice. The difference is that we’ve come to see Jesus and his power to sustain and flourish us from the margins without the benefit of large donors, political capital or ownership of media outlets.” The author is pastor of a prominent Black church in Chicago as well as a seminary professor.
- Roe Will Go (Robert P. George, First Things): “Let me offer a prediction, free of any face-saving hedge: Next year, the Supreme Court will hold that there is no constitutional right to elective abortions. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case pending before the court, it will return the issue to the states for the first time in forty-nine years. It will do so explicitly, calling out by name, and reversing in full, the two major cases that confected and then entrenched a constitutional right to elective abortion: Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). And the vote will be six to three.” The author is a law professor at Princeton.
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 A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.
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.