Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 319

a brief roundup

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.

This is volume 319, which feels like it ought to be a prime number but really 319 = 11 · 29.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom (Christopher R. Moore, The Conversation): “As the inhabitants of an ancient Middle Eastern city now called Tall el-Hammam went about their daily business one day about 3,600 years ago, they had no idea an unseen icy space rock was speeding toward them at about 38,000 mph (61,000 kph). Flashing through the atmosphere, the rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the ground. The blast was around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The shocked city dwellers who stared at it were blinded instantly. Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames.”
    • No, it didn’t “inspire” the Bible story. The Bible story is inspired, though. Astounding regardless.
    • A bit of cold water: Sodom Destroyed by Meteor, Scientists Say. Biblical Archaeologists Not Convinced. (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today): “Archaeologists Steve Ortiz, director of Lipscomb University’s Lanier Center of Archaeology, agreed that while Tall el-Hammam is an important site, its destruction date is too late to fit the Sodom scenario. He dismissed the fireball hoopla to CT. ‘[Their] destruction does not look any different than any other destruction,’ he said. ‘We have Assyrian and Egyptian destructions at Gezer that looks just as dramatic.’ ”
  2. Why Covid regulations may be around longer than you think (Tim Harford, personal blog): “The US and most European countries had abandoned passports by the end of the 19th century. In many South American nations, freedom to travel without a passport was a constitutional right. So how did the passport come roaring back? The answer was the first world war.… Lloyd writes: ‘At the end of the war in 1918, the movement to abolish passports re-energised itself but it was now fighting against governments who had discovered how closely a population could be controlled and how easily this could be justified.’ ”
    1. The Extremely Weird Politics of Covid (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “In less than two years, we’ve gone from a world where it was normal for a left-leaning publication to run an essay gently celebrating the defiance of public health rules during a brutal outbreak of the plague, to a world where the defiance of public health rules during a less lethal pandemic is coded as incredibly right wing. I don’t know exactly why or exactly what it means. I just want people to acknowledge that it has happened and it’s really, really weird.” Accurate.
  3. My Confessions (Joshua Katz, First Things): “Though my faith in academia, which had been waning for years, is now largely gone, my faith in the power of God’s mysterious ways is ascendant. Because religion is still new to me, and because I grew up with the New York Times, which in the guise of news now instructs those aptly dubbed by John McWhorter ‘The Elect’ to despise religion, I find it remarkable—though I shouldn’t—that many of the people who have worked so hard to keep me going are religious.” The author is a professor of classics at Princeton.
  4. The 1619 Project and Living in Truth (Sean Wilentz, Opera Historica): “If it were a high school history paper, that discussion alone would have been grounds for failure. It’s rare, after all, to read a student get every single stated fact perfectly wrong, in support of a proposition for which there is no other evidence cited, on two of the most important topics in all of U.S. history, indeed, all of modern history, the causes of the American Revolution and the origins of antislavery. But this wasn’t a high school paper, it was the New York Times Magazine, and the author was, according to her contributor’s biography, a highly acclaimed journalist.” The author is a historian at Princeton. The article itself is a PDF, direct link here.
  5. The Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted, Remote-Control Killing Machine (Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times): “The straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened that afternoon and the events leading up to it, published here for the first time, is based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation, and statements Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s family made to the Iranian news media.”
  6. Everybody Hates the Jews (Bari Weiss, Substack): “In an era in which the past is mined by offense-archaeologists for the most minor of microaggressions, the very real macroaggressions taking place right now against Jews go ignored. Assaults on Hasidic Jews on the streets of Brooklyn, which have become a regular feature of life there, are overlooked or, sometimes, justified by the very activists who go to the mat over the ‘cultural appropriation’ of a taco.” A bit long, but sobering.
  7. Whither Tartaria? (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “So I think there’s a genuine mystery to be explained here: if people prefer traditional architecture by a large margin, how come we’ve stopped producing it?” Much better than the excerpt indicates.

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 The Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

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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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