Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 305

more sublists than normal

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.

305 is apparently the 5th ‘hexagonal prism number’, which totally sounds made up and I am slightly skeptical of. This is because 305 = (n + 1)(3n2 + 3n + 1) where n=4 (presumably the first hexagonal prism number is 1, when n=0).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Fading of Forgiveness (Tim Keller, Cardus): “In other words, we no longer ground our values in the sacred. We simply treat the values themselves as sacred.… When the moral norms are detached from faith in a just God, it detaches them also from faith in a merciful and forgiving God. In such a ‘secular religion,’ deviation from norms is simply unforgiveable.” Full of insights.
  2. Loving the Foreigners—Even When They Have a Deadly Disease (Hwee Hwee Tan, Christianity Today): “While migrant workers had long lived challenging lives in Singapore, it was their unique vulnerability during the circuit-breaker period that really woke up local Christians to the need to help them—in both the short and long term.”
  3. A crisis inside America’s largest evangelical denomination:
    • Russell Moore’s Warnings Should Bring a Reckoning (David French, The Dispatch): “Christians, let me ask you a question. When the #MeToo movement launched… did you think, ‘Stop obsessing over scandal. Most members of the media and most folks in Hollywood are good people’? Or did you think that multiple powerful American institutions were beset with deep cultural and spiritual problems? .… #MeToo did reveal moral rot. But let’s flip it all around. When you heard about corruption and sexual misconduct at America’s largest Christian university, what did you think? What did you think when you read about the sexual scandal at Hillsong or when you learned about Ravi Zacharias’ record of abuse and his ministry’s terrible mistreatment of whistleblowers? Did you pause to consider the larger implications of a decade of sexual predation at one of America’s largest Christian camps or the camp’s efforts to intimidate and coerce victims into silence?” I don’t often tip my hand, but FYI Moore and French are two of my favorite evangelical cultural commentators. If they ever agree on something, you can be pretty sure that is my position as well.
    • The Scandal Rocking the Evangelical World (Pete Wehner, The Atlantic): “And the rot that has been so powerfully and so painfully exposed by Russell Moore is not an indictment of Jesus any more than the failures of the religious authorities in first-century Palestine were. A theologian recently reminded me that the Church is not the hope of the world; its purpose is to be a witness to the hope of the world, even if that witness is often imperfect. But those of us of the Christian faith do seem to be overdoing the imperfect part.”
    • Where Did All the Evangelical Prophets Go? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “The godlessness of the left maps very cleanly onto the evangelical church’s radar because its institutions and leaders are watching for it all the time, but the godlessness of the right is obviously not yet something someone can talk about confidently, expecting their denomination or ecclesiastical support system to back them on.” Some good insights here.
  4. The future of America:
    • A calm perspective: Are We Destined for a Trump Coup in 2024? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Then keep in mind, too, that in the event of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Biden, not Trump, will enjoy the presidency’s powers; Kamala Harris, not Mike Pence, will preside over the electoral count; and Trump will be four years older, unlikely to run a fourth time, and therefore somewhat less intimidating in defeat.”
    • Alarmed from the left: 9/11 and 1/6 (Timothy Snyder, Substack): “The scenario then goes like this. The Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, in part thanks to voter suppression. The Republican candidate in 2024 loses the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by the margin of a few states. State legislatures, claiming fraud, alter the electoral count vote. The House and Senate accept that altered count. The losing candidate becomes the president. We no longer have ‘democratically elected government.’ And people are angry. No one is seeking to hide that this is the plan.”  The author is a historian at Yale.
    • Alarmed from the right: Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization (Mark Steyn, Imprimis): “…one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.” Sent my way by a friend of the ministry.
  5. A few thoughts on depression (Noah Smith, Substack): “For some reason, human company helps. In fact, it is the single thing that helps the most. But not the kind of company a sad person needs. What a depressed person needs is simply to talk to people, not about their problems or their negative thoughts or their depression, but about anything else — music, animals, science. The most helpful topic of conversation, I’ve found, is absurdity — just talking about utterly ridiculous things, gross things, vulgar offensive things, bizarre things. Shared activities, like going on a hike or playing sports, are OK, but talking is much, much more important.”
  6. Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis (Michael Powell, New York Times): “I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”
  7. Some snapshots of academia:
    • The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t (Sarah Viren, New York Times): “Of the 1,500 university educators listed as Native American at the time, said Bill Cross, who helped found the American Indian/Alaska Native Professors Association, “we’re looking realistically at one-third of those being Indians.”
    • Gripped by ‘Dinner Party-gate,’ Yale Law Confronts a Venomous Divide (Sarah Lyell and Stephanie Saul, New York Times): “At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.”

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 world will only get weirder (Steven Coast, personal blog): “We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago. Sometimes a long, long time ago. So, we are left with the less and less probable events.” The piece is a few years old so the examples are dated, but it remains very intriguing. (first shared in volume 67)

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 298

surprisingly little from the news this week — just randomly interesting things

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 298, which is a fairly uninteresting number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. New Rule: Give It to Me Straight, Doc (Bill Maher, YouTube): eight minutes. This is a very good clip about COVID misinformation, although the language is not family-friendly. It goes in a direction I did not expect towards the end.
    • Related: Why do so many vaccinated people remain irrationally fearful? Listen to the professor’s story. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “To take just one example, major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000.… A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.”
  2. On Good Parties (Tara Isabella Burton, Breaking Ground): “A Good Party is a place where bonds of friendship, fostered in a spirit of both charity and joy, serve as the building blocks for communal life overall. The wedding feast, that abundant banquet of Christian life, is always prefigured in the convivial symposium of friendship. The kingdom of heaven, when it comes, will be a very Good Party. Good Parties don’t merely offer us the opportunity to gather with those we love. Rather, more importantly, they teach us how to love.” This is really quite something. I like it a lot.
  3. The Question That Dictates How Christians Approach Culture and Politics (David French, The Dispatch): “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that one explanation for profoundly different Christian approaches to politics and culture rests with different answers to the following question: Does the primary threat to the church come from within the church or without? Put differently, does the church stumble and fall primarily because of the sins of the church or because of the cultural and political headwinds directed against the church?”
    • In Here, Out There: On Assessing Spiritual Threats (Dan Darling, Substack): “At times when we are combating cultural ideas, we are not arguing with the world, but trying to equip the next generation of Christians whose faith will be challenged by ideas that run contrary to Scripture. Our people are inundated on every side by messages that are at odds with Jesus’ teachings. Pop culture, social media, friends, etc form a powerful influence on this cohort of young people.” Not a rebuttal, but a complement.
  4. It’s Time for Social Conservatives to Stop Fawning Over Hungary (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “What made Hungary’s family policy work wasn’t the populism, but the boring technocracy of it. Flashy populist programs failed, while just pushing cash out the door to families (as is the norm in countries like Sweden, Denmark, or Norway, all of which have higher birth rates than Hungary) worked. American conservatives should learn from this: if you want a higher birth rate, you’re going to have to pay for it.” This was way more interesting than I anticipated.
  5. Why is Everything Liberal? (Richard Hanania, Substack): “In a democracy, every vote is supposed to be equal. If about half the country supports one side and half the country supports another, you may expect major institutions to either be equally divided, or to try to stay politically neutral. This is not what we find.” This is basically one really good observation expounded in detail. The author, a political scientist, is a research fellow at Columbia University.
  6. Reparations: A Critical Theological Review (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “With tax collectors and soldiers throughout the Gospels, there is no talk of restitution for imperial supremacy or extractive systems, nor any summons to dismantle the structures they inhabited, just the straightforward command to live a godly life, be generous to others, and repay what you have stolen.” Well done book reviews are amazing. This is as good as the best reviews by Scott Alexander.
  7. The Great Unsettling (Paul Kingsnorth, Substack): “We in the West invented this thing called ‘modernity’, and then we took it out into the world, whether the world wanted it or not. Once we called this process ‘the white man’s burden’ and exported it with dreadnoughts. Now we call it ‘development’ and export it via the World Bank.” Wide-ranging.

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 This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 289

A collection of links ranging from the future of America to the impacts of hypocrisy.

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 289, which is a Friedman number because 289 = (8 + 9)2

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why will the important thinkers of the future be religious ones? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Fourth, if you live amongst the intelligentsia, being religious is one active form of rebellion. Rebelliousness is grossly correlated with intellectual innovation, again even if the variance of quality increases.” Cowen is not religious himself.
  2. Book Review: The Cult Of Smart (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “DeBoer recalls hearing an immigrant mother proudly describe her older kid’s achievements in math, science, etc, “and then her younger son ran by, and she said, offhand, ‘This one, he is maybe not so smart.’ ” DeBoer was originally shocked to hear someone describe her own son that way, then realized that he wouldn’t have thought twice if she’d dismissed him as unathletic, or bad at music. Intelligence is considered such a basic measure of human worth that to dismiss someone as unintelligent seems like consigning them into the outer darkness.”
    • Normally the best thing about Alexander’s blog is his book reviews. This one was just okay (smart and well-written but not astounding) and then all of a sudden he turned his rant up to 11. Hang in until you reach the phrase “child prison.” If you’re not sold at that point, stop reading.
  3. The “Majority-Minority” Myth (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “Most demographic estimates of the ‘white’ population are based on the Census definition: ‘non-Hispanic white.’ But what of ‘Hispanic whites’ — those whose lineage may come from South or Latin America in ethnicity but who also identify racially and socially as white? If you include them in this category, America remains two-thirds ‘white’ all the way through 2060 and beyond.” A fascinating read.
  4. ‘Horrible’: Witnesses recall massacre in Ethiopian holy city (Cara Anna, Associated Press): “Bodies with gunshot wounds lay in the streets for days in Ethiopia’s holiest city. At night, residents listened in horror as hyenas fed on the corpses of people they knew. But they were forbidden from burying their dead by the invading Eritrean soldiers.… some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city.”
  5. The Doublethinkers (Natan Sharansky with Gil Troy, Tablet Magazine):  “Step by liberating step, I was running toward freedom. By the time I was imprisoned in 1977, I had been free for at least four years. As thrilling as it was to be released from prison after nine long years in 1986, leaving the prison of doublethink years earlier made me even more euphoric.” The author has had quite the life — beginning as a scientist in Soviet Russia, becoming a dissident, and then eventually reaching Israel and becoming a politician.
    • Related: Firing Actors for Being Conservative Is Another Hollywood Blacklist (Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine): “What’s most striking about the news coverage of Carano’s defenestration is the utter absence of any scrutiny of her employer or her (now-former) agency. The tone of the reporting simply conveys her posts as though they were a series of petty crimes, the punishment of which is inevitable and self-evidently justified. The principle that an actor ought to be fired for expressing unsound political views has simply faded into the background.”
    • Also related: Gina Carano and Crowd-Sourced McCarthyism (Bari Weiss, newsletter): “Things have gotten so ridiculous so quickly — Bon Appetit is currently going back and editing insufficiently sensitive recipes in what they call (I kid you not) an ‘archive repair effort’ — that my baseline assumption is that 99 percent of cancellations are unwarranted. In other words, people are losing their jobs and their reputations not for violating genuine taboos but for simple mistakes, minor sins or absolute nonsense.”
    • And a different related story:  Whistleblower at Smith College Resigns Over Racism (Bari Weiss, Substack): “Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin.”  
  6. ‘You Are One Step Away from Complete and Total Insanity’ (David French, The Dispatch): “This has been a difficult newsletter to write. I’ve had to confront my own negligence. I’m a Christian writer and journalist, and I paid insufficient attention to Thompson’s initial claims. I was only vaguely aware of her allegations at the time, and had I dug down into the story, it would have been obvious that Zacharias’s account had serious problems. It is no excuse to say that I can’t cover everything. I should have covered this. I’m terribly sorry I did not.”
    • Related: The Wreckage of Ravi Zacharias (Rusell Moore, newsletter): “Your salvation and discipleship are not dependent on whether the preacher from whom you heard the gospel is genuine, but rather on whether the gospel itself is genuine. It is. Predators often move forward by hiding behind mimicked truth. Predatory filmmakers proceed by learning how to make good films. Predatory politicians go forward by honing political skills. Fraudulent religious leaders often peddle false doctrine, but some of them also traffic in true doctrines by which they have not personally been transformed. Yes, wolves often come with false doctrine. But that does not mean that wolves are limited to the flocks that tolerate false doctrine. In infiltrating a sheep pen, a wolf will come in the skin of a sheep, not that of a goat.”
    • Also related: Ravi Zacharias, Rich Mullins, and a Ragamuffin Legacy (Esther O’Reilly, Patheos): “As I was reflecting on all this recently, my mind went back to another figure who was a ‘celebrity Christian’ in his own way, yet attained this status reluctantly, almost by accident. This figure also had a magnetic appeal, also had a lucrative and popular ministry, and also used his platform to address the challenges of the Christian walk. He also spoke often about sin, grace, moral purity and spiritual integrity, while wrestling with private sin. I’m speaking about Christian singer-songwriter Rich Mullins…” Rich Mullins is actually one of my heroes.
  7. Essentially Fertile: Notes Toward a Land Ethic (Jacquelyn Lee, First Things): “Whatever one’s opinion about climate change—true, false, man-made, natural course of events, the most acute problem humanity faces, leftist unicorn, etc.—it’s undeniable that the average American is estranged from the land. That the earth is humanity’s sole source of food and water is as inescapable as ‘male and female he created them.’ And just as conservatives insist that without a rightly ordered sexual ethic society will be in disarray, so should we insist that without a rightly ordered ‘land ethic’ society is unsustainable.” I was not sure what to expect as I began reading this article and was pleasantly surprised.

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 How To Ask Your Mentors For Help (Derek Sivers): this is super‐short and very good. Excerpting it would ruin it. Read the whole thing. First shared in volume 224.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Alienation, Death, and Selfishness

It’s like we’re all watching the same foreign-language movie with subtitles for different films. We’re seeing the same things and can’t understand why we disagree about the plot.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

My summary of this week’s reading is a bit of a rant. Buckle up.

I was caught off-guard by this tweet yesterday from ABC News: “Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.”

It was those last few words that caught my eye: “a peaceful demonstration intensified.” I would have thought the intensification of peace was something akin to heaven, but apparently intensifying peace leads to a place full of flames.

I suppose it is possible that the person who wrote the tweet simply meant that the peaceful protest changed into something violent, but it’s so in line with other language that’s floating around that I suspect it reflects the author’s perspective: peaceful demonstrations are sometimes accompanied by fire and violence.

Perhaps the tweet was nothing more than poorly-worded. Even if so, it illustrates the schism in our culture. Go read the comments on the tweet. It’s like we’re all watching the same foreign-language movie with subtitles for different films. We’re seeing the same things and can’t understand why we disagree about the plot.

Examples abound. Is the 1619 Project is a necessary correction of the standard American narrative or is it a malicious distortion of our history? Is cancel culture even a thing? Is free speech a real value to celebrate in all areas of life, a necessary legal standard which we should construe as narrowly as possible, or a hypocritical tool used to marginalize people? How do you feel about Black Lives Matter? Does it matter whether we are talking about Black Lives Matter as an organization, as a slogan, or as a grassroots uprising? Is religious liberty the cornerstone of human rights or does it deserve scare quotes because “religious liberty” is really a pretext for privilege? Who should be president? How many genders are there? Is the environment on the brink of collapse? Is socialism one of the most ruinous mistakes in history or a hopeful inevitability we should embrace? Can a well-informed and decent person be a conservative? Can a well-informed and decent person be a liberal?

People strongly (and even violently) differ about each of these questions. With that on my mind, two passages from the reading stood out to me. The first is a reminder that the brokenness we see out there is an aggregate of the brokenness that is in each of us.

The problem is not in our systems but in our selves. This is the reason all societies collapse, why the dams of goodness never hold out long against the floods of evil, why the bad people always somehow seem to come to the top. Society is only us. There is no “them”. If there were no such thing as Original Sin, why else couldn’t we ever attain the goodness and justice and joy and peace that the majority of sane people always want and have always wanted? Original Sin is the only key that opens the mystery of history.

Kreeft commenting on Pensee 211 (page 155)

And then, as a cautionary note, this one:

Staggeringly enormous miseries have been the fruit of modernity’s five great revolutions: the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the National Socialist Revolution and the Sexual Revolution. These five revolutions are one revolution: five visible out-croppings of the same invisible undersea continent. Each stems from the same root: the idolatrous search for a new absolute, the divinization of power or freedom or equality or pride or pleasure, respectively.

Kreeft commenting on Pensee 199 (page 135)

I have opinions about all of the questions I rattled off earlier, and I hold this opinion as strongly as any of them: words are better than weapons and ballots are better than bullets. Our disagreements must not drive us to destroy one another or to tear down the society we live in. People suffer when a society collapses, and those who are already vulnerable suffer even more.

I don’t think America is on the cusp of a violent revolution, but why keep walking down this road? Opt out. As followers of Christ let us instead become what I’ve heard called “a creative counterculture for the common good.” As our Master said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”(Luke 6:27–28).

Let your peace intensify. Here endeth the rant.

Some other quotes from the reading that stood out to me:

Pascal, Pensee 165: The last act is bloody, however fine the rest of the play. They throw earth over your head and it is finished for ever. 

Kreeft commenting: A story, like a syllogism, gets its unity and point from its conclusion, its end. Life seems wretched and vain because its end, and hence its point, seems to be death, and death seems to be nothingness. Therefore the question of immortality is existentially crucial.

Pascal, Pensee 165 (page 144)

This may seem abstract to you while you’re in college, but Pascal makes an excellent point elsewhere:

Anyone with only a week to live will not find it in his interest to believe that all this is just a matter of chance. Now, if we were not bound by our passions, a week and a hundred years would come to the same thing. 

Pascal, Pensee 326 (page 141)

Related:

Is not our span of life equally infinitesimal in eternity, even if it is extended by ten years?

Pascal, Pensee 199 (page 125)

On a different note:

Secular morality is a plan for the fulfillment of selfishness, Christianity is a plan for its destruction. It cuts to the heart. In fact, it is heart surgery. Clearly, this is going to appear optimistic only to one who knows he has heart disease. No one who thinks he is healthy is going to be happy to be offered a free heart transplant.

Kreeft introducing chapter 12 (page 148)

And a useful reminder that people are the same wherever you go, whether 17th century France, contemporary America, or ancient Israel (see Ecclesiastes 7:21–22):

No one talks about us in our presence as he would in our absence. Human relations are only based on this mutual deception; and few friendships would survive if everyone knew what his friend said about him behind his back, even though he spoke sincerely and dispassionately.

Pascal, from Pensee 978 (page 151)

In my experience this next observation is spot-on:

The greatest liar in the world is still outraged by being lied to. No one is a moral relativist, subjectivist or minimalist when it comes to others’ behavior to him, only his to others.

Kreet commenting on Pensee 978 (page 153)

And I am always amused when someone pulls the move Kreeft describes here:

In Pascal, as in the Middle Ages, the vast size of the universe is used to show forth the vastness of God’s power. The very same fact is commonly used by the modern mind (which ignorantly thinks it is the first to discover the fact) as evidence for atheism! “How could you believe in a God when Man is but a lost speck in an infinite abyss?” Why the size of the universe should count against theism is never argued for, only assumed. For the argument is worthless or nonexistent, but the feeling is strong. That’s where the change takes place: in feeling, in sensibility.

Kreeft commenting on Pensee 199 (page 128)

Similarly:

Science no more proves that nature is not a mother but only matter than an X‑ray proves that a woman is not a mother but only a bag of bones.

Kreeft, introduction to chapter 10 (page 120)

And this last one seems to me to be mostly true. It’s true enough to think about.

How natural and normal is our unnatural injustice! Of course we are annoyed at criticism, even true criticism. Especially true criticism. A man will forgive you for unjust criticism but not for just criticism. A bully will forgive you if you call him a coward but not if you call him a bully. A coward will forgive you if you call him a bully but not if you call him a coward.

Kreeft commenting on Pensee 978 (page 153)

It reminds me of the saying, “when you throw a stone into a pack of dogs, the dog that yelps is the one that got hit.” What makes you yelp? It’s worth pondering.

For this week we’re reading chapters 13 (Diversion) & 14 (Indifference). I think you’ll be shocked at how contemporary they seem.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 259

This week contains some of the most fascinating articles I ever have passed along. Definitely worth skimming!

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born (James Gallagher, BBC): “China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.” From a long-term perspective, this is possibly the most significant news you will read this year. Some of you will still be alive when China’s population is half what it is now. And it’s not just China — many nations are on the same path (with only a few sizable ones headed in the opposite direction).
  2. The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution (Ari Schulman, The New Republic): “That so many views tut-tutted as the irrational defiance of expert consensus actually became the expert consensus in the span of just a few weeks vividly suggests that we need to reexamine just how our culture talks about expertise. The problem is not mainly that the experts were wrong—that is to be expected. It is, rather, that our lead institutions and public information outlets continually treated the assurances of experts as neutral interpretations of settled science when they plainly were not.” Interesting throughout. This will likely enter my rotation of classics that I repost from time to time. 
    • Related: An Open Letter To My Fellow Christians (David Carreon, personal blog): “Large gatherings are dangerous with a spreading virus regardless of the reason for the assembly. Some resist the straightforward response to this out of idolatry of church attendance and the church building. Any good thing can become an idol. Gold is good but can be shaped into a golden calf (Exo 32:4). Sex is good but can we can also pervert it through fornication (1 Cor 6:9). A church building or even physical attendance at church can be mistaken for the Church itself. This, too, is idolatry.” David is a Stanford psychiatrist (and a friend of mine)
    • Related: Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today): “Here is where I think the church needs to think about this: As a local church, we have limited time, limited staff, and limited resources; it makes no sense to focus our staff time and resources on creating a subpar environment on Sunday morning for a nine and 11 o’clock service that only 20% of the people may attend. We decided to focus on the 100% of all of our church folks and their friends and the rest of the world that may show up later.“
  3. David Shor’s Unified Theory of the 2020 Election (Eric Levitz, New York Magazine): “Campaigns do want to win. But the people who work in campaigns tend to be highly ideologically motivated and thus, super-prone to convincing themselves to do things that are strategically dumb.” Super interesting — well worth reading.
  4. Disturbing video shows hundreds of blindfolded prisoners in Xinjiang (Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths, CNN): “The video — which was posted online anonymously last week — shows hundreds of men, most of whom are dressed in purple and orange vests with the words ‘Kashgar Detention Center’ printed on them, seated in rows on the ground of what appears to be a large courtyard outside a train station. Their heads are shaved and their hands bound behind their backs. All of the men are wearing black blindfolds over their eyes and they are being watched over by dozens of police officers in SWAT uniforms.”’
    • Related: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (Associated Press): “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
  5. Sit With Negative Emotions, Don’t Push Them Away (Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic): “In sum, if we want a life full of deep meaning, true love, and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the risk (and often the reality) of discomfort, conflict, and loss. This means there will be sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. If we eliminate negative emotions and experiences from our lives, we will be poorer and weaker for having done so.” The author is a professor at Harvard, recommended by a friend.
  6. 10 Theses About Cancel Culture (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “The point of cancellation is ultimately to establish norms for the majority, not to bring the stars back down to earth…. The goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
    • The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism (Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic): “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.” Written before the letter I shared last week, this is one of the best defenses of cancel culture.
    • The World That Twitter Made (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “I suspect an entire class of pundits has internalized the idea that [Twitter debate] is what public discussion is. Of course they don’t believe in free expression, civil debate, the spirit of liberalism, and all of that jazz. To this generation those things are just words. The public sphere they have known has always been a bare-knuckle brawl.”
    • Resignation Letter (Bari Weiss, personal website): “What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” Recommended by a student.
    • See You Next Friday (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative.”
    • Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance (Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous): “In short, I don’t think society has gotten more intolerant, but technology has facilitated, among other things, the expression of intolerance.”
    • A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate (many authors, The Objective): “In truth, Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black and trans people — can now critique elites publicly and hold them accountable socially; this seems to be the letter’s greatest concern. What’s perhaps even more grating to many of the signatories is that a critique of their long held views is persuasive.”
    • Liked tweets nearly cost me my university job (Mike McCulloch, Unherd): “To think that I could have lost my career to a single complaint about my liked tweets shows just how hysterical the present social mood is. Now more than ever, it is vital that we — and in particular the universities — stand up for enlightenment principles and replace fear with reason and fact.” The author is a math lecturer (similar to an assistant professor in the US) at the University of Plymouth. 
    • A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor (Joshua T. Katz, Quillette): “I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them.” 
    • Attempted Putsch At Princeton (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I am a Princeton professor who signed the letter that you wrote about today. I am also a devout Christian and a daily reader of your blog.” Contains a letter from a Princeton prof with a different view than the one above, worth contrasting.
  7. My Time in Prison (George Cardinal Pell, First Things): “There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.”

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 How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Vanity of Human Reason, of Dogmatism, and of the Philosophers

why Christianity has such a countercultural perspective on sex

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

This week we’re talking about chapters 7–9, the vanity of human reason, of dogmatism, and of the philosophers.

The thing that stood out most to me is the skepticism that Pascal applies to reason. Recall that he is one of the greatest scientists in history and that his pioneering work laid the foundation for many fields of study. He knows well what reason can achieve, and as a result he also realizes its limitations.

…demonstration is not the only instrument for convincing us. How few things can be demonstrated! Proofs only convince the mind; habit provides the strongest proofs and those that are most believed…. We must resort to habit once the mind has seen where the truth lies, in order to steep and stain ourselves in that belief…, for it is too much trouble to have the proofs always present before us…. When we believe only by the strength of our conviction and the automaton is inclined to believe the opposite, that is not enough. We must therefore make both parts of us believe: the mind by reasons, which need to be seen only once in a lifetime, and the automaton by habit.

Pascal, Pensee 821 (pages 99–100)

This is brilliant, although the translation feels clumsy to me. Kreeft’s commentary on this is helpful:

…once reason has convinced us to believe, we require the aid of good habits to overcome bad habitual tendencies in the opposite direction. Therefore we must act as if we believed, go to church and so forth, thus habituating the automaton to obey what reason has discovered to be true. Habit is not an honest substitute for reason, but it is an honest and needed servant to reason. If we try to fight against irrationality with reason alone, we will lose. We need cruder weapons too.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 821, page 100

This is one reason that Christian community is often so instrumental in someone’s conversion. Reason, like a map, can guide people to Christ but only if they actually follow the directions. Other parts of their self must be engaged for the journey to take place, and these parts are most commonly called forth through relationships.

It also occurs to me that this may be a good way to explain why Christianity has such a countercultural perspective on sex. Sex engages the whole person and can either do so in a way that reinforces the gospel message or in a way that undermines it (see Ephesians 5:31–32 and 1 Cor 6:12–20). Paul lays this out in Romans 1:18–27

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:18–27 (NIV)

When people reject the knowledge of God, they must build lives to reinforce that rejection of God. Paul says they do it using idols and sex, and he adds that they suffer for it. Of course they do. They are living based on a false conception of human nature, which makes it inevitable that there will be needless pain. Paula recently had a plate shatter in the microwave. We had both assumed it was microwave-safe, but because we were wrong the shattering was inevitable. The cause of the damage was the interaction of invisible things (the microwaves and the molecular structure of the plate), but the resulting damage was easily observed. Sadly, our culture (and many lives within it) are shattering and the reasons are invisible to many people.

Other thoughts from these chapters that stood out to me:

To reason is to rely on reason, and to rely on reason is an act of faith, not of reason. Therefore reason presupposes faith… Indeed, how could reason itself be validated? There are only three possibilities: (1) by something subrational, like animal instinct (which is obviously absurd: How can the inferior validate the superior?); or (2) by something rational, by a piece of reasoning (which is also absurd: How can the part justify the whole? All reason is on trial; how dare the one piece of reasoning you use to justify all reasoning be exempt from trial?); or (3) by something superrational, by faith in God (which is the only possibility left).

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 131, pages 110–111

FWIW, I think Kreeft’s inclusion of God in the third point is valid but it’s really something he should argue for. I think many skeptics would counter that something like the platonic laws of logic could stand in for God in option 3, which is true but doesn’t get them as far away from God as they think. Having read other things by Kreeft, I believe he has had this argument before and is merely announcing checkmate when it is still not obvious to his opponent that the game is over.

You can think skepticism, but you can’t live it.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 131, page 111

Philosophers and theologians do not practice what they preach any better than the rest of us–less, if they preach better than the rest of us.

Kreeft’s commentary on Pensee 142, page 117

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 257

a shorter collection of links than those I’ve shared recently

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Stop Firing the Innocent (Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic): “Cafferty was punished for an offense he insists he did not commit. Shor was punished for doing something that most wouldn’t even consider objectionable. Wadi was punished for the sins of his daughter. What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.” The author is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins. 
    • This is an essential follow-up: punishing the innocent (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “…for those who want to effect social change by exposure and shaming, punishing the innocent is a feature of their system, not a bug. It increases fear, which increases discipline, not only of oneself but of others. And every employer who fires an employee because they’re afraid of a social-media mob draws us closer to a fully Panoptic society, a social tyranny with an efficiency beyond the dreams of totalitarian societies of the past.” This reminds me of the classic post Planet of Cops by Freddy deBoer.
  2. The Minneapolis street corner where George Floyd was killed has become a Christian revivalist site. (Ruth Graham, Slate): “‘I would describe this as revival and awakening,’ said Joshua Giles, a local pastor who has been coming to the site to pray and preach for several weeks. Giles, who is Black, said he has taken part in conversions and spontaneous baptisms there, and that at least one woman had been miraculously healed of persistent pain in her arm.”
    • I found the way Graham framed one minister’s criticism of the Black Lives Matter organization interesting. I don’t think it’s an unusual perspective — it was presented on Tuesday by sports anchor (and Columbia grad) Marcellus Wiley: https://twitter.com/SFY/status/1278064470435090438 (three minute video)
    • It’s also interesting to compare Worshippers Continue ‘Unity Revival’ at George Floyd Memorial Despite Pushback (Taylor Berglund, Charisma News). The reports largely align, I’m just fascinated by how reporters’ interests and contexts shape the questions they ask and the answers they emphasize. I am pretty sure both reporters are Christian, although I suspect they gravitate to different churches.
  3. Is Tim Scott the Most Influential Legislator in Congress? (Declan Garvey, The Dispatch): “To Scott, his blackness and his partisan affiliation makes perfect sense: He’s lived the American dream, rising from poverty to build a series of successful businesses. He’s a devout Christian committed to the preservation of religious liberty. But to interlopers projecting their own experiences and beliefs onto him, two of his three core identities are in direct contradiction with one another. Leaning too hard into one elicits accusations of being traitorous to the other.’” Utterly fascinating.
  4. How a Great Power Falls Apart (Charles King, Foreign Affairs): “Faced with a series of external shocks and internal crises, and pursued by more dynamic and adaptable competitors abroad, his country had far less life in it than anyone at the time could see. All countries end. Every society has its own rock bottom, obscured by darkness until impact is imminent. Already in the sixth century, Amalrik wrote, goats were grazing in the Roman Forum.” The author is an international relations Professor at Georgetown. Relevant for both America and China.
  5. Pastors on Social Media (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “… you are wrestling against principalities and powers, and those powers have keen eyes for your desire for a bigger audience and your church members’ affinity for other forms of social reinforcement. They want you to believe that other forms of wisdom are more reliable than God’s Word, other audiences more important than your humble congregation, other platforms more powerful for speaking, other kinds of impact you can make more lasting and significant. The second you begin to believe these things you have begun to compromise your calling as a pastor.” This is a fire hydrant of wisdom, and most of it is relevant to everyone.
  6. On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare (Mike Shellenberger, Quillette): “Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.”
    • The author’s book is currently the #1 best seller in environmental science on Amazon. This article was originally published on Forbes (where he is a regular contributor) but they took it down in the ensuing controversy. Undeniably interesting. I don’t have expertise in this area, so if he’s wrong please point me to any better pieces you know of.
  7. The Ghost of Woodrow Wilson (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…unless the endgame of New Haven’s removal of Columbus is the expropriation of white property (Yale’s property, I suppose, especially) and its redistribution to the Pequots and Mohegans, then a consistent rejection of Columbus’s legacy isn’t what my city is embracing. Instead, it’s just doing the same thing as Princeton: keeping the inheritance, but repudiating the benefactor. Keeping the gains, but making a big show of pronouncing them ill gotten.”

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 Are Satanists of the MS‐13 gang an under‐covered story on the religion beat? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): this is a fascinating bit of news commentary. My favorite bit: “How does one get out of MS‐13? An opinion piece in the New York Times this past April gives a surprising response: Go to a Pentecostal church.” Highly recommended. First shared in volume 158.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 255

Again, the standalone stuff is up top and the current news items are towards the end.

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why Ditching Instagram Earned me the Podium (Madison Fischer, personal blog): “I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”
  2. The Financial Finish Line (Christina Darnell, Ministry Watch): “Giving has always been another bedrock principle for the Barnharts. The company committed to giving half of their profits to ministry. The other half goes to growing the business. The first year, they gave away $50,000. The next year, it was $150,000. It grew to $1 million a year—then $1 million a month.” An inspiring story.
  3. On Cultures That Build (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not ‘how do we make that happen?’ but ‘how do we get management to take our side?’ This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that ‘builds.’”
    • Related: Why America’s Institutions Are Failing (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Whatever the true cause for our failure, when I look at the twin catastrophes of this annus horribilis, the plague and the police protests, what strikes me is that America’s safekeeping institutions have forgotten how to properly see the threats of the 21st century and move quickly to respond to them. Those who deny history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who deny the present are just doomed.”
  4. Is There a Religious Left? (Casey Cep, New Yorker): “The daughter of a Baptist preacher who was once the dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, Newsome came by her faith and her preaching honestly, yet almost all of the publicity that followed her act of civil disobedience [taking down the Confederate flag] stripped her protest of its theological tenor. Such is the fate of much of the activism of the so-called religious left: if it is successful, it is subsumed by broader causes and coalitions; if it fails, it is forgotten.” 
  5. Race in America
    • Most US Pastors Speak Out in Response to George Floyd’s Death (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Nearly all US pastors (94%) agree that ‘the church has a responsibility to denounce racism,’ and most (62%) say their church has made a statement on the unrest stemming from the May 25 death of George Floyd, according to a Barna Church Pulse Poll released today. The poll, conducted over the past week, also found that 76 percent of pastors say the church should support peaceful protests occurring in response to Floyd’s killing.”
    • What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger (Esau McCauley, New York Times): “Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton. 
    • On the Unjust Death of George Floyd and Racism in America (Marco Rubio, The Public Discourse): “Like before, the latest unrest has given rise to voices arguing that the foundations of our republic are built on systemic racism and must therefore be brought down. The only difference is that this time claims like these don’t just come from the fringes of our politics. Like before, we also have voices who say that today race is a factor only in individual cases, distinct from our society at large. Both of these views are wrong.” This was a speech given on the floor of the Senate.
    • Racist Police Violence Reconsidered (John McWhorter, Quillette): “…these figures are not necessarily evidence of police racism. According to the Washington Post‘s database, over 95 percent of the people fatally shot by police officers in 2019 were male, and no serious-minded person argues that this is evidence of systemic misandry. So what, then, accounts for the disproportionate representation of black men among those killed by cops?” McWhorter is a professor of linguistics at Columbia. 
    • Stories and Data (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false. There was a time when I believed it.” The author is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
    • A Few Bad Apples? Racial Bias in Policing (Felipe Goncalves & Steven Mello, SSRN): “Using a bunching estimation design and data from the Florida Highway Patrol, we show that minorities are less likely to receive a discount on their speeding tickets than white drivers. Disaggregating this difference to the individual police officer, we find that 40% of officers explain all of the aggregate discrimination.” 40% is HUGE!
    • Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation and Started Talking About White Supremacy (Erna Kim Hackett, Inheritance Magazine): “The term white supremacy labels the problem more accurately. It locates the problem on whiteness and its systems. It focuses on outcomes, not intentions. It is collective, not individual. It makes whiteness uncomfortable and responsible. And that is important.” Shared with me by a student.
  6. On American journalism:
    • The American Soviet Mentality (Izabella Tabarovsky, Tablet Magazine): “The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence. Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively.” The author is a scholar with the Wilson Center.
    • Is There Still Room for Debate? (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “Liberalism is not just a set of rules. There’s a spirit to it. A spirit that believes that there are whole spheres of human life that lie beyond ideology — friendship, art, love, sex, scholarship, family. A spirit that seeks not to impose orthodoxy but to open up the possibilities of the human mind and soul.”
    • The American Press Is Destroying Itself (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “It isn’t the whole story, but it’s demonstrably true that violence, arson, and rioting are occurring. However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.’”
    • The woke revolution in American journalism has begun (Damon Linker, The Week): “In place of difficulty, complexity, and complication, today’s journalistic revolutionaries crave tidy moral lessons with clear villains and heroes. They champion simplicity, embrace moral uplift, and seek out evildoers to demonize.” See also his earlier column Don’t willfully ignore the complexity of what’s happening in America right now

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 a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 254

The less timely stuff is up top this time and there are a lot of magic videos at the bottom.

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. What Unites Most Graduates of Selective Colleges? An Intact Family (Nicholas Zill & Brad Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “… even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity, being raised by one’s married birth parents provides an additional boost to one’s chances of getting through Princeton.”
  2. What Christians Must Remember about Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control (Peter Feaver & William Inboden & Michael Singh, Providence): “Before embracing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, thoughtful Christians must confront two uncomfortable facts. First, we live in a fallen world in which the threats we face are changing, and arguably growing. Second, the envelope of peace and security in which free societies have thrived for the past eight decades is not self-sustaining—one need only view the recent decline of democracies and rise of authoritarian threats from Russia and China. One can detest nuclear weapons and still see their strategic value.” The authors are, respectively, a professor of political science at Duke, a professor of public policy at UT Austin, and a senior fellow at a thinktank.
  3. Peer Review (Rodney Brooks, personal blog): “I came to realize that the editor’s job was real, and it required me to deeply understand the topic of the paper, and the biases of the reviewers, and not to treat the referees as having the right to determine the fate of the paper themselves. As an editor I had to add judgement to the process at many steps along the way, and to strive for the process to improve the papers, but also to let in ideas that were new.” The author is a professor emeritus of robotics at MIT.
  4. JK Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (JK Rowling, personal blog): “…I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
  5. More on the NY Times tangle last week and what it reveals about our society
    • America is changing, and so is the media (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.”
    • The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age (Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine): “…it is an error to jump from the fact that right-wing authoritarian racism is far more important to the conclusion that left-wing illiberalism is completely unimportant. One can oppose different evils, even those evils aligned against each other, without assigning them equal weight.”
    • Why everyone hates the mainstream media (Andrew Potter, Policy for Pandemics): “It’s not a coincidence that lawyers, journalists, and politicians are routinely ranked as the most disliked professions in the world. It’s because the law is not about justice, politics is not about democracy, and the news is not about information. But in each case, that is what emerges, by harnessing the status-conscious competitive natures of the participants.” The author is a former journalist and editor.
  6. Thoughts on race and racism:
    • George Floyd and Me (Shai Linn, Gospel Coalition): “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope. Personally, I have little confidence in our government or policymakers to change the systemic factors that contributed to the George Floyd situation. But my hope isn’t in the government. My hope is in the Lord.”
    • American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go (David French, The Dispatch): “If politically correct progressives are often guilty of over-racializing American public discourse, and they are, politically correct conservatives commit the opposite sin—and they filter out or angrily reject all the information that contradicts their thesis.”
    • This moment cries out for us to confront race in America (Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post): “Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains.” She is, of course, a fellow believer and also a Stanford professor who will soon be the director of the Hoover Institution. 
    • Our Present Moment: Why Is It So Hard? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I’m thinking more broadly about why race in this country is so difficult, and in particular difficult even between people of good will, between people in your church of a different color. I’m thinking about people who agree on so many other things. And you sing the same songs and you really love Jesus together. And you read the same Bible, and you really are together for the gospel. So why is it so divisive?” Some really good thoughts in here.
  7. On the protests
    • The protests started out looking like 1968. They turned into 1964. (Omar Wasow, Washington Post): “For a growing international movement trying to draw attention to the long history of racist and brutal policing, nonviolence in the face of police repression is an exceedingly difficult strategy to sustain. Evidence from the 1960s, however — and perhaps this month, too — suggests using such tactics to generate media coverage of a pressing social problem can be a powerful tool for building a coalition for social change.”
    • We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Guardian): “Two weeks ago we shamed people for being in the street; today we shame them for not being in the street.”
    • Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science (Yuval Levin, The New Atlantis): “These public health professionals are simply admitting that their views on the health risks of large gatherings depend on the political valence of those gatherings. Rather than compartmentalize their professional judgment from their political priorities — explaining the risks of large protests regardless of their political content and then separately and in a different context expressing whatever views they might have about that content — they openly deny not only the possibility but even the desirability of detached professional advice. This kind of attitude inevitably makes it much harder for the public to assess scientific claims about the pandemic through anything other than a political lens.”
    • The Growing CHAZm in Seattle (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “It took activists less than 24 hours to discover that even their make-believe Duchy of Grand Fenwoke relies on the basic building blocks of any polity. If Seattle’s supine and sausage-spined political leadership allows this experiment to continue, pretty soon you can expect the emergence of currency, taxes, even some kind of charter or constitution. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up creating rudimentary courts or even a jail.” Goldberg is an expert at the meandering rant. 
    • Anarchy In Seattle (Christopher Rufo, City Journal): “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone has set a dangerous precedent: armed left-wing activists have asserted their dominance of the streets and established an alternative political authority over a large section of a neighborhood. They have claimed de facto police power over thousands of residents and dozens of businesses—completely outside of the democratic process. In a matter of days, Antifa-affiliated paramilitaries have created a hardened border, established a rudimentary form of government based on principles of intersectional representation, and forcibly removed unfriendly media from the territory.”
    • A Dark Cloud For Democracy (Carl Trueman, First Things): “…this does not entirely explain why Minneapolis and not Hong Kong has grabbed the imagination of British youth. After all, Hong Kong is a much more recent part of the British narrative; one can watch the dismantling of Hong Kong’s constitution online and on the television; and an extremely good case can be made that the British government is more responsible for that mess and its potential amelioration than for the chaos in the Minneapolis police department. After all, the British can actually do something about it—as Boris Johnson’s pledge on immigration to the U.K. from Hong Kong indicates. So why Minneapolis, not Hong Kong?”
    • If we want better policing, we’re going to have to spend more, not less (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Reform is thus more likely to stick if we co-opt the unions rather than trying to break them. Instead of ‘defund the police,’ what if we offloaded the nonjudicial parts of their work, like dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill, to social workers, and then ‘stuffed their mouths with gold’ to reform the policing part? We could offer a significant salary boost in exchange for accepting stricter standards and oversight, which wouldn’t just ease the political obstacles, but possibly attract higher-quality candidates to the police force.”
    • Most Americans Want Police Reform But Don’t Back ‘Defund The Police’ (Ariel Edwards-Levy and Kevin Robillard, Huffington Post): “A near-universal majority of Americans support at least some changes to policing in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There is majority support for proposals circulating in Congress to ban chokeholds and make it easier to track and charge officers accused of misconduct. But the idea of ‘defunding the police’ has little support from the public.”
    • Police Brutality: The Ferguson Effect (Robert Verbruggen, National Review): “There’s a temptation in some quarters to think this issue is like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, where there’s a turning point in public opinion and a rapid shift in policy and then everyone wonders what the big deal ever was. See, for example, Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico today, which bizarrely claims we may be seeing the ‘last stand’ of law-and-order Republicans and draws those two parallels explicitly. But crime isn’t like that. When the streets become unsafe, public opinion shifts back in favor of the folks who stand between the innocents and the bad guys.”

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.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 232

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’ve missed sending this email due to holiday travels for a while, and I’ve got nothing on Iran yet. Too much is happening and I’m in a remote place with limited internet access. Anything you find great please send my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’ (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “The American system of government was built on the assumption that the most salient political divides would reflect geography, not ideology or class. The senator from Massachusetts would share bonds in common with the lay citizenry of Boston that he did not share with a senator from South Carolina. On the national sphere this would allow him to represent the interests of his constituents as if they were his own. This has proven more true at some times in American history than others; yet because of the way American politicians are elected, this sense of representing the interests of a geographically bounded group of people is more true in the political arena than in most others.” Highly recommended.
  2. Decade in review: Marital norms erode (Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, USA Today): “Law shapes culture; culture shapes beliefs; beliefs shape action. The law now effectively teaches that mothers and fathers are replaceable, that marriage is simply about consenting adult relationships, of whatever formation the parties happen to prefer. This undermines the truth that children deserve a mother and a father — one of each.”
    • Follow-up by Rod Dreher: Family, Memory, Power (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “If you’re one of those people with a habit of saying, nobody has ever explained how all this is going to hurt heterosexual me, this is a good basic place to start. Morality is an ecology. This is the equivalent of injecting something into the groundwater. It may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing, but it does affect everybody. People who say it doesn’t are lying — perhaps to themselves.”
    • That follow-up inspired Professor George to reply: The Shame Of The Conformists (this is on Dreher’s blog): “Someone might say, ‘this is no time for recriminations.’ Well, I don’t agree. This is precisely the time for recriminations. Indeed, there was never a better time. Standing boldly for what is true and good and right and just is everybody’s job. It’s not just ‘other people’s’ job. Especially to my fellow Christians I say, it is OUR job. It comes with the Gospel territory. You say ‘it’s hard’? Of course, it’s hard. But who ever told you that Christian discipleship was not going to be hard? Or risky? Or costly? Not Jesus, that’s for sure. He told us–in the most explicit terms–that it was going to be hard–very hard–and risky, and costly. “
  3. Yes, Jesus Was a Refugee. He Still Is. (Tyler Huckabee, Relevant): “When most people talk about Jesus being a refugee, they’re not talking about Bethlehem but the family’s flight to Egypt. Some time after his birth, Herod got panicky about rumors of a new king and sent soldiers to kill all the newborns in Bethlehem. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to hightail it to Egypt where they could safely lay low. Egypt made for an ideal hiding place, connected to Judea via a well-traveled and relatively safe trade route known as the Via Maris. The argument for Mary and Joseph’s refugee status here is about as strong as it could be under the circumstances.”
  4. Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2019 (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today): “…many of the mainstream media stories announcing these discoveries acknowledged that the Bible was right all along or right after all in these instances. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck’s declaration that ‘no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference’ still stands.”
  5. Some follow-ups to the Christianity Today article I shared last time calling for Trump’s removal from office:
    • The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President (Tim Dalrymple, Christianity Today): “In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding, we believe it’s critical for Christians to model how to have a firm opinion and host free discussion at the same time. Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen. We hold fast to our view that the wholehearted evangelical embrace of Trump has been enormously costly—but we are committed to irenic conversation with men and women of good faith who believe otherwise.”
      • Side note: the author was a gymnast at Stanford who was actively involved in campus ministry while here (his time preceded my tenure at Chi Alpha, to my knowledge we have never met or even been in the same ZIP code). There’s an article about his story back in volume 191
    • What It Would Take for Evangelicals to Turn on President Trump (Michael Luo, New Yorker): “…though greater religiosity is correlated with Christian-nationalist beliefs, once those beliefs are accounted for, Americans who engaged in more frequent religious practice—church attendance, prayer, and bible reading—were less likely than their less observant peers to subscribe to political views normally associated with Christian nationalism, such as believing that refugees from the Middle East pose a terrorist threat to the United States, or that illegal immigrants from Mexico are mostly dangerous criminals. In other words, Whitehead and Perry find that the threat to democratic pluralism is not evangelicalism itself but the culture around evangelicalism.”
    • Evangelicalism’s Silent Majority (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “One of my big takeaways from reporting on evangelical communities is that, contrary to some stereotypes, evangelicals are some of the most globally minded people in America. They donate to charities that do extensive aid work overseas. They’re exposed to other countries through mission work or humanitarian trips.”
    • Trump Should Not Be Removed from Office: A Response to Mark Galli and Christianity Today (Wayne Grudem, Townhall): “If evangelicals fail to support Donald Trump after he has delivered on so many issues important to Christian values, many people will conclude that we really do not care about conservative judges, the protection of the unborn, the protection of gender distinctions, religious freedom, conscience protections for Christians in the workplace, a strong enough military to protect us against threats from China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran, jobs,wages, economic opportunities for minorities, a secure border, Israel, affordable energy (especially for the poor), energy independence, the protection of property rights, expanding parental choice for schools, revitalizing NATO, protecting freedom of speech on campuses, and many other things. Galli dismisses these concerns with the label ‘political expediency,’ but all of these issues affect people’s ordinary lives. These issues really do matter. On issue after issue, President Trump is changing the direction of the country for the better. When I weigh these results against his sometimes imprecise and coarse speech, there is no comparison.”
    • Where Cain Got His Wife, and Other Issues Related to the 2020 Election (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “As mentioned above, I did not vote for the president in 2016. I did not vote for him because character matters, and because I did not trust him to do what he was promising to do…. And with that said, I have to acknowledge I was wrong… If anything, the great mass of evangelical voters have demonstrated that they actually have a better set of political instincts than their leaders, me included.”
  6. My Semester With the Snowflakes (James Hatch, Medium): “In May of 2019, I was accepted to the Eli Whitney student program at Yale University. At 52, I am the oldest freshman in the class of 2023. Before I was accepted, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had seen the infamous YouTube video of students screaming at a faculty member. I had seen the news stories regarding the admissions scandal and that Yale was included in that unfortunate business. I had also heard the students at Yale referred to as ‘snowflakes’ in various social media dumpsters and occasionally I’d seen references to Ivy League students as snowflakes in a few news sources.” (there’s an interesting follow-up interview with him on NPR)
  7. Two academic things I found interesting:
    • Comparing meta-analyses and preregistered multiple-laboratory replication projects (Amanda Kvarven, Eirik Strømland & Magnus Johannesson, Nature Human Behavior): “We compare the results of meta-analyses to large-scale preregistered replications in psychology carried out at multiple laboratories. The multiple-laboratory replications provide precisely estimated effect sizes that do not suffer from publication bias or selective reporting. We searched the literature and identified 15 meta-analyses on the same topics as multiple-laboratory replications. We find that meta-analytic effect sizes are significantly different from replication effect sizes for 12 out of the 15 meta-replication pairs. These differences are systematic and, on average, meta-analytic effect sizes are almost three times as large as replication effect sizes.” uh-oh. 
    • The Many Faces of Scientific Fraud (Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis, Quillette): “Is every scientific article a fraud? This question may seem puzzling to those outside the scientific community. After all, anyone who took a philosophy course in college is likely to think of laboratory work as eminently rational. The assumption is that a researcher faced with an enigma posed by nature formulates a hypothesis, then conceives an experiment to test its validity…. However, as every researcher knows, it is pure falsehood. In reality, nothing takes place the way it is described in a scientific article. The experiments were carried out in a far more disordered manner, in stages far less logical than those related in the article. If you look at it that way, a scientific article is a kind of trick.” The author has a Ph.D. in biology and this is an excerpt from a book he is publishing with Harvard University Press.

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have This Is What Makes Republicans and Democrats So Different (Vox, Ezra Klein): the title made me skeptical, but there are some good insights in this article (first shared in volume 32 back in 2016).

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.

Disclaimer

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.