Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 431

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 431, a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Is South Korea Disappearing? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “[South Korea currently has] 0.7 births per woman. It’s worth unpacking what that means. A country that sustained a birthrate at that level would have, for every 200 people in one generation, 70 people in the next one, a depopulation exceeding what the Black Death delivered to Europe in the 14th century. Run the experiment through a second generational turnover, and your original 200-person population falls below 25. Run it again, and you’re nearing the kind of population crash caused by the fictional superflu in Stephen King’s ‘The Stand.’ ”
    • Unlocked. The declining birthrate is truly one of the world’s most important long-term stories. One of the reasons is that it will self-correct, but the way that it will self-correct will transform societies.
  2. Soft Occultism (Patricia Patnode, The American Mind): “The new, default spiritual identity for young people in the West is soft occultism, or casual witchery. This identity can easily accompany an existing religious affiliation, and often does since it is so obviously integrated in most aspects of modern Western culture.… Surveys and scientists have repeatedly found that people who have religious beliefs, especially those who attend a formal house of worship, tend to be happier than those who don’t. Despite this, soft occultists prefer to buy purifying green juices and participate in pseudo-religious gatherings. They go to Pilates class but not church, meditate on personal energy but don’t pray. Take vitamin supplements but not communion. Sit through therapy but not confession.”
  3. The Forgotten Dispute that Could Ignite a War in South America (Francisco Toro, Persuasion): “Yesterday, Venezuelans voted in a non-binding referendum to annex the Essequibo territory, a stretch of jungle that makes up around two-thirds of the landmass of Venezuela’s eastern neighbor, tiny Guyana. Desperate for a win amid a newly united opposition and a chronically sick economy, the leftist dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro dusted off a musty old dispute to fan the nationalist flames. As a matter of international law, Maduro has no leg to stand on. A military adventure into Essequibo is improbable—Venezuela’s military remains laser-focused on the one thing it does well, and that’s trafficking cocaine, not fighting wars. But dictatorships are inherently unpredictable, and the prospect of a military adventure is sending jitters around the region.”
    • Some helpful backstory.
  4. Santos’ Cameo Earnings Exceed His House Salary (John Johnson, Newser): “Santos’ House salary stood at $174,000, and Semafor reports he has ‘lined up more than that sum’ in just his first 48 hours on the Cameo platform.”
    • This story seems to summarize something important about the societal moment we are living in. I invite you to draw your own conclusions about what that important something is.
  5. What The Algorithm Does To Young Girls (Freya India, Persuasion): “…I believe we have some personal agency. But I also believe that a 12-year-old’s mind is no match for a giant corporation using the most advanced AI to manipulate her behavior. Gen Z were the guinea pigs in this uncontrolled global social experiment. We were the first to have our vulnerabilities and insecurities fed into a machine that magnified and refracted them back at us, all the time, before we had any sense of who we were. We didn’t just grow up with algorithms. They raised us. They rearranged our faces. Shaped our identities. Convinced us we were sick.”
  6. The University presidents (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Overall this was a dark day for American higher education. I want you to keep in mind that the incentives you saw on display rule so many other parts of the system, albeit usually invisibly. Don’t forget that. These university presidents have solved for what they think is the equilibrium, and it ain’t pretty.”
    • You can find the video of the Harvard, MIT, and Penn presidents’ Congressional testimony easily with a search if you haven’t seen it yet. Here is the specific snippet Cowen is commenting on.
    • Related: Stanford condemns calls for genocide of Jews (Caroline Chen, Stanford Daily): “Stanford ‘unequivocally’ condemned ‘calls for the genocide of Jews or any peoples’.… The statement opened with acknowledgment of ‘the context of national discourse,’ amid national controversy over a Wednesday congressional hearing where the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania appeared to evade questions on disciplining students who called for the genocide of Jewish people.”
  7. The Problematic Inklings (G. Connor Salter, Mere Orthodoxy): “Of course, seeing someone as a saint makes it hard to believe the person had flaws. It’s not easy to admit that the Inklings—Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and their friends who met weekly to share their writings—weren’t the perfect heroes revered in Christian homeschool guides. But eventually, we must recognize that everyone’s life is complicated.”
    • Surprising details I did not know, mostly about some of the less famous Inklings.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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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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