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 326, which makes me a little happy because last week I observed that 3 +2 = 5 and this week we can see a similar coincidence with multiplication: 3 ⋅ 2 = 6.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- U.S. missionaries have long tried to convert the ‘unreached’ in the Amazon. Now Indigenous groups are fighting back. (Terrence McCoy, Washington Post): “But the biblical commission that followers of Jesus ‘make disciples of all nations’ is increasingly colliding with the laws of man in Brazil, where the right to voluntary isolation is enshrined in the constitution and where it’s illegal to contact isolated Indigenous groups without government permission.”
- The details in the story show that things are more complex than the headline leads you to believe. The indigenous people are divided — some want the missionaries and some do not. The ones who do not are represented by a lawyer and he is the focus of this story. Surely the rights of those who wish to hear new ideas should also be respected? The people who applaud this development are almost certainly glad that they don’t believe what their ancestors believed, but they apparently hope these people are not exposed to multiple religious perspectives.
- There is probably close to a 100% inverse correlation between those who believe the indigenous people should be able to keep outsiders away and those who believe America should build a wall. It’s an interesting ideological consistency test. And this would be more than a wall with controlled access — this would be a force field.
- How I Became Extremely Open-Minded (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “When I set out to write about the entire chronic-illness experience, I hesitated over whether to tell this kind of story. After all, if you’re trying to convince skeptical readers to take chronic sickness seriously, and to make the case for the medical-outsider view of how to treat Lyme disease, reporting that you’ve been dabbling in pseudoscience and that it works is a good way to confirm every stereotype about chronic ailments and their treatment…” Engrossing.
- Truth, justice and the torturing of tolerance (Karen Swallow Prior, Religion News Service): “Too many in the church have tolerated too much for too long. To be sure, situations can be complicated. Motives and actions can be mixed. Facts can be disputed. Perspectives can differ. Pictures can be incomplete. Nevertheless, some things are clearly and simply wrong. It takes wisdom to discern what should be tolerated and what should not.” The story starts in one place and winds up somewhere completely different. Recommended.
- Some pandemic and pandemic-adjacent news:
- Vaccines for Children (5–11 years old) (Matt Shapiro, Substack): “There seemed to be a resilient faith among the doctors in this discussion that the only appropriate way to move forward would be to make the vaccine available and then trust parents and caregivers to take into consideration all the risks and make the right decisions given the evidence that is available. Hearing them say this is so strange to me because that is exactly my position.” This is good, sane commentary.
- How SARS-CoV‑2 in American deer could alter the course of the global pandemic (Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR): “Now veterinarians at Pennsylvania State University have found active SARS-CoV‑2 infections in at least 30% of deer tested across Iowa during 2020. Their study, published online last week, suggests that white-tailed deer could become what’s known as a reservoir for SARS-CoV‑2. That is, the animals could carry the virus indefinitely and spread it back to humans periodically. If that’s the case, it would essentially dash any hopes of eliminating or eradicating the virus in the U.S. — and therefore from the world — says veterinary virologist Suresh Kuchipudi at Penn State, who co-led the study.”
- Have they tried masking the deer?
- Good morning. Is it time to start moving back to normalcy? (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “The bottom line is that Covid now presents the sort of risk to most vaccinated people that we unthinkingly accept in other parts of life. And there is not going to be a day when we wake up to headlines proclaiming that Covid is defeated. In many ways, the future of the virus has arrived. All of which raises the question of which precautions should end — now or soon — and which should become permanent.”
- Gonna tip my hand here: we should accept that COVID is not going away, lament those we have lost, rejoice that we have vaccines and are even starting to see effective treatments emerge, and get on with life. Unvaccinated people have made their choice and I’m happy to respect it, doubly so now that deer seem to be repositories for COVID (widespread animal infections undermine the only strong argument I know for vaccine mandates — namely that the unvaccinated allow the virus to circulate and perhaps mutate).
- God’s Mercy in a New Malaria Vaccine (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra interviews Kelly Chibale, The Gospel Coalition): “Science is a gift from God, out of his mercy for us. As a scientist, I am doing God’s work, attempting to alleviate human suffering in partnership with God. And other Christians cannot say that we don’t need the scientific part of the body of Christ. The finger cannot say it doesn’t need the nose (1 Cor. 12:12–27).” The interviewee is a professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cape Town.
- Meta-analysis suggests that emotional intelligence is declining among college students (Beth Ellwood, Psy Post): “Western culture has undergone remarkable change in the past 20 years. For one, a rise in economic liberalism and free-market capitalism has encouraged an environment of competitive individualism. Secondly, social media emerged and has grown rapidly, along with smartphone technology. Studies suggest these changes may have led to generational differences in personality, revealing generational rises in narcissism, self-esteem, self-focus, and materialism.”
- This feels related: A “proliferation of administrators”: faculty reflect on two decades of rapid expansion (Philip Mousavizadeh, Yale Daily News): “Lauren Noble, the founder and executive director of the William F. Buckley Jr. program at Yale, pointed to the fact that the number of Yale’s administrators today exceeds the number of faculty — 5,066 compared to 4,937 — which ‘raises important questions about the university’s allocation of resources,’ she said. ‘It’s unclear how such a significant increase advances Yale’s mission.’ ”
- For context, there are only 4,664 undergrads at Yale: more than one administrator per student! Not all administrators deal with students (some work with faculty, for example), but that is still a stunning comparison.
- Some thoughts about critical race theory in schools:
- The Woke Meet Their Match: Parents (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “And when the Democrats and the mainstream media insist that CRT is not being taught in high schools, they’re being way too cute. Of course K‑12 kids in Virginia’s public schools are not explicitly reading the collected works of Derrick Bell or Richard Delgado — no more than Catholic school kids in third grade are studying critiques of Aquinas. But they are being taught in a school system now thoroughly committed to the ideology and worldview of CRT, by teachers who have been marinated in it, and whose unions have championed it.… To use a term the woke might understand, it is, in fact, structural.”
- “Critical Race Theory” and actual education policy, part one (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “Standardized testing has become a weird discourse flashpoint, but I think everyone agrees that you can, in principle, assess someone’s competence in a given subject area with a test. And if you want to compare different people, you need to give them the same test. It’s only by making comparisons across classrooms and across time that we are able to persuasively demonstrate that particulates are bad for school performance, healthy meals are good for school performance, and air conditioning improves school performance in the summer.”
- “Critical Race Theory” and actual education policy, part two (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “That said, my view on [teaching history] as a K‑12 education issue has always had two parts:
- Public schools are public, and to some extent, they inevitably have to reflect mass opinion. You can try to buck that trend and lose the school board election, handing all control over to right-wingers who don’t even think public schools should exist, or you can acknowledge that in a patriotic country you basically have to come up with a way to craft a patriotic narrative that’s also inclusive.
- This is not actually very significant. The kids who are good at school will go on to attend selective colleges where they will absolutely be exposed to left-wing intellectuals’ thoughts on patriotism and American exceptionalism. The kids who are not good at school, meanwhile, are not paying close attention to the content of history classes.”
- How NFTs Create Value (Steve Kaczynski and Scott Duke Kominers, Harvard Business Review): “But NFTs don’t just provide a kind of digital ‘deed.’ Because blockchains are programmable, it’s possible to endow NFTs with features that enable them to expand their purpose over time, or even to provide direct utility to their holders. In other words, NFTs can do things — or let their owners do things — in both digital spaces and the physical world. In this sense, NFTs can function like membership cards or tickets, providing access to events, exclusive merchandise, and special discounts — as well as serving as digital keys to online spaces where holders can engage with each other. Moreover, because the blockchain is public, it’s even possible to send additional products directly to anyone who owns a given token. All of this gives NFT holders value over and above simple ownership — and provides creators with a vector to build a highly engaged community around their brands.” This is the first explanation of NFTs I’ve read that makes them sound useful.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- Video shows skydivers scramble as plane stalls mid-air (Good Morning America, YouTube): three minutes that made me think of several of our students.
- COVID Excuses (Dilbert)
- Flinching by Major (xkcd)
- Abundance of Caution (Dilbert)
- How To Have A Worthwhile Discussion About Politics (Basic Instructions)
- Tina’s Problem Is Jerks (Dilbert)
- Alice’s College Emails (Dilbert)
- Harry Potter didn’t ‘save the world’ at the end of the series, and the last sentence of the book is proof (Indira Martinez, Insider): “Harry Potter is lauded as the brave and successful hero of the series, but what actually changed after he defeated Voldemort? The real evils plaguing the Wizarding World cut deeper than one powerful villain.” Yeah, not much changed except for the CESSATION OF REGULAR, BRUTAL MURDERS. So Harry Potter didn’t fix everything wrong with the world. He made it better. Cut the seventeen-year-old orphan some slack. Sheesh. Recommended by an alumnus.
- God Develops Ultra-Realistic Metaverse Where People Can Talk, Learn, And Work With Other People, Calling It ‘Universe’ (Babylon Bee)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.
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.