Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 457

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 457, the sum of three consecutive primes (149 + 151 + 157) and also apparently the index of a prime Euclid number, but I would be lying if I said I knew what that is.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The case for showing up to church—even if you don’t believe in God (Emma Camp, America): “But despite my regular church attendance for almost two years now, I still haven’t developed a rock-solid faith. I’ve joked—and said as much on Twitter—that I only believe in God about 30 percent of the time on a good day. My ambivalence does set me apart from most of my friends from church, a group that includes a few seminarians. But it doesn’t keep me from coming back.”
  2. The Weird Nerd comes with trade-offs (Ruxandra Teslo, Substack): “To formalize this: ‘Any system that is not explicitly pro-Weird Nerd will turn anti-Weird Nerd pretty quickly.’ That is because most people, while liking non-conformism in the abstract and post-facto, are not very willing to actually put up with the personality trade-offs of Weird Nerds in practice. There is an increasing number of people right now who are thinking about how to build better intellectual institutions… it’s worth thinking about what kind of people one wants to attract in these institutions and how to keep them there. And I believe the conversation here starts with accepting a simple truth, which is that Weird Nerds will have certain traits that might be less than ideal, that these traits come ‘in a package’ with other, very good traits, and if one makes filtering or promotion based on the absence of those traits a priority, they will miss out on the positives.”
  3. An Object Lesson From Covid on How to Destroy Public Trust (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “If the government misled people about how Covid is transmitted, why would Americans believe what it says about vaccines or bird flu or H.I.V.? How should people distinguish between wild conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies?… As the expression goes, trust is built in drops and lost in buckets, and this bucket is going to take a very long time to refill.”
    • Unlocked.
  4. ‘Sham’ Surgery Can Actually Fix Our Bodies. So Why Are Some Against It? (Jeremy Howick, Science Alert): “More broadly, a review of 53 placebo-controlled surgery trials found that sham surgery was as good as the real thing in over half of the studies. Sham knee and back surgery works as well as real surgery for pain. Pretending to put brain implants works as well as real implants for reducing migraine attacks. Fake laser surgery works as well as real laser surgery to stop gastrointestinal bleeding. And fake surgery works as well as real surgery for making sphincters function more efficiently.”
  5. The Day My Old Church Canceled Me Was a Very Sad Day (David French, New York Times): “When I left the Republican Party, I thought a shared faith would preserve my denominational home. But I was wrong. Race and politics trumped truth and grace, and now I’m no longer welcome in the church I loved.”
    • Unlocked.
  6. Alito’s ‘Godliness’ Comment Echoes a Broader Christian Movement (Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer, New York Times): “It’s a phrase not commonly associated with legal doctrine: returning America to ‘a place of godliness.’ And yet when asked by a woman posing as a Catholic conservative at a dinner last week, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. appeared to endorse the idea.… Now, Supreme Court justices have become caught up in the debate over whether America is a Christian nation. While Justice Alito is hardly openly championing these views, he is embracing language and symbolism that line up with a much broader movement pushing back against the declining power of Christianity as a majority religion in America.”
    • This caveat is significant and should perhaps be higher placed in the story: “The Times has not heard the full unedited recording and has reviewed only the edited recording posted online, after the woman who recorded them, a liberal activist, declined to send the Times the full recording.” 
    • Related: What Exactly Did Justice Alito Say That Was Wrong? (Marc O. DeGirolami, New York Times): “Where was the justice’s error? He did not mention any pending case or litigation. He did not name any person or party. He did not discuss any specific political or moral matter. Most of the exchange consists of the filmmaker’s own goading remarks, followed by the justice’s vague and anodyne affirmations and replies. About what you might expect when cornered at a boring cocktail party.”
    • Related: Wild Distortions of ‘Secret Recording’ of Alito (Ed Whelan, National Review): “You are welcome of course to disagree with Alito.… But it’s beyond bizarre to find it newsworthy that Alito made a private comment that mirrors public speeches he has been giving.”
  7. Against Ambition (Grace Carroll, Stanford Daily): “Wineburg walked into his classroom intending to make a brief opening comment about the scene outside. What followed — a tirade against a culture of careerism so blatantly profit-motivated that students were being lured, literally, to flashing salaries like moths to flame — ‘sort of took on a life of its own,’ he recalled recently. It’s known colloquially among some students as ‘the rant.’ I was one of the frosh sitting in Wineburg’s class that fall. I remember the rant.… mostly I remember feeling like someone was lifting something very heavy off of me, a weight I hadn’t realized I was carrying until it was gone.”

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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