Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 339

some of these links are quite spicy — consume with care

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 339, which is 3 · 113. I like numbers with only two factors (technically four, but you know what I mean — two interesting factors). They’re the silver medalists of the prime olympics. They almost made it, but no.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Women’s Tears Win in the Marketplace of Ideas (Richard Hanania, Substack): “…the ways in which public debate works when we take steps to make the most emotional and aggressive women comfortable have been overlooked. Things that we talk about as involving ‘young people,’ ‘college students,’ and ‘liberals’ are often gendered issues.” Long, provocative, and worth your time.
  2. The Canadian truckers:
    • Reality Honks Back (NS Lyons, Substack): “For our purposes here, let’s call these two classes the Physicals and the Virtuals, respectively.… That Trudeau’s government would choose to jettison any remaining illusion of Canada still being a liberal democracy just to harm their political class enemies isn’t too surprising. It’s their method of doing so that is particularly striking: control over digital financial assets is pretty much the ultimate leverage now available to the Virtuals. We should expect more use of this tool around the world anywhere the Physicals continue to revolt against their masters. And here the Virtuals have a significant advantage because they are free to use the maximum level of coercive force available in their natural domain, while the Physicals cannot – because, in the physical world, that would mean violence, which is something the protestors have rightly forsworn.”
      • Full of insight. The Virtual vs Physical framing is getting at something I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere.
    • The plausible dystopia of a social credit system (Damon Linker, The Week): “For a recent and especially vivid example from a neighboring democracy, this week’s declaration of a national emergency in Canada has empowered banks to freeze and suspend the accounts of ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters without a court order and while enjoying protection from civil liability. That is precisely the kind of thing one would expect to see become normalized with the imposition of a social credit system. Add in facial recognition software that can identify individuals attending ‘dangerous’ protests and other public events and we’re left with a vision of the near-term future that can look pretty dystopian.”
  3. Lots of Studies Are Bad (Emily Oster, Substack): “My point isn’t that this paper is wrong in its conclusions, just that it’s largely uninformative. The authors begin with an interesting graph showing a limited relationship between the stringency of COVID restrictions and mortality. That deserved more study, but this paper isn’t helping us understand it much.”
    • Emily Oster, an economist at Brown, is not impressed with the Johns Hopkins study I shared earlier (and offers a similar critique of a pro-mask study).
  4. No, America is not on the brink of a civil war (Musa al-Gharbi, The Guardian): “Of course, a far more obvious and empirically plausible explanation is that respondents knew perfectly well what the correct answer was. However, they also had a sense of how that answer would be used in the media (‘Even Trump’s supporters don’t believe his nonsense!’), so they simply declined to give pollsters the response they seemed to be looking for. As a matter of fact, respondents regularly troll researchers in polling and surveys – especially when they are asked whether or not they subscribe to absurd or fringe beliefs, such as birtherism (a conspiracy that held that Barack Obama was born outside of the US and was legally ineligible to serve as president of the United States).”
    • The author is a sociologist at Columbia. The article is a few weeks old but quite good and not particularly time-sensitive.
  5. The Seeds of Political Violence Are Being Sown in Church (David French, The Dispatch): “Pentecostal Christianity, despite its immense size, is about as far from elite American culture as Mercury is from Mars. And this means it’s quite distant from elite Evangelical culture as well. Right-wing blue-check theologians and pastors who speak disdainfully of warnings about Christian nationalism because it’s not something they see in their churches never darken the door of a Pentecostal church.” I think French gets it a little wrong here (there is an important distinction between Pentecostal and charismatic churches, and even more significantly between denominational and nondenominational ones). Still, French used to be an Assemblies of God youth pastor(!) and so he is not speaking of something he doesn’t understand. Recommended.
  6. Why America Has So Few Doctors (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Imagine you were planning a conspiracy to limit the number of doctors in America. Certainly, you’d make sure to have a costly, lengthy credentialing system. You would also tell politicians that America has too many doctors already. That way, you could purposefully constrain the number of medical-school students. You might freeze or slash funding for residencies and medical scholarships. You’d fight proposals to allow nurses to do the work of physicians. And because none of this would stop foreign-trained doctors from slipping into the country and committing the crime of helping sick people get better, you’d throw in some rules that made it onerous for immigrant doctors, especially from neighboring countries Mexico and Canada, to do their job.” The original title was better: Why Does the US Make it so Hard to be a Doctor?
  7. What do students’ beliefs about God have to do with grades and going to college? (Ilana Horwitz, The Conversation): “In interviews, religious teens over and over mention life goals of parenthood, altruism and serving God – priorities that I argue make them less intent on attending as highly selective a college as they could. This aligns with previous research showing that conservative Protestant women attend colleges that less selective than other women do because they do not tend to view college’s main purpose as career advancement.”
    • The author is a professor of Jewish studies at Tulane University. Overall interesting, although she doesn’t comment on two factors which I think are quite significant: religious students often view selective colleges as inimical to faith, and students are often torn between prestigious colleges and less selective religious colleges (I have personally spoken to several Stanford students who were torn between Stanford and Wheaton).
    • Related? Marriage Made Me Let Go of My Dreams. Good. (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “Many believe that the purpose of marriage is self-actualization. We find the partner who will come alongside us and help us become what we have always dreamed we would be. Conversely, we may think that a potential spouse who would get in the way of our dreams is the wrong person for us. What if marriage is meant to be something else?” This is very good. Highly recommended.

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 Artificial Intelligence and Magical Thinking (Ed Feser, personal blog): “Building a computer is precisely analogous to putting together a bit of magical sleight of hand. It is a clever exercise in simulation, nothing more. And the convincingness of the simulation is as completely irrelevant in the one case as it is in the other. Saying ‘Gee, AI programs can do such amazing things. Maybe it really is intelligence!’ is like saying ‘Gee, Penn and Teller do such amazing things. Maybe it really is magic!’” Feser is one of my favorite philosophers. First shared in volume 197. I remember one CS grad student strongly disliking this article when I first shared. I share it again regardless

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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