Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 460



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 460, a largely uninteresting number. It’s a multiple of 23, so I guess that’s kinda cool (for a certain definition of cool).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Your Constitutional Right to Be a Pirate (A.J. Jacobs, The Free Press): “It may not get much publicity, but there it is, smack-dab in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution: Congress has the power to grant citizens ‘letters of marque and reprisal.’ Meaning that, with Congress’s permission, private citizens can load weapons onto their fishing boats, head out to the high seas, capture enemy vessels, and keep the booty. Back in the day, these patriotic pirates were known as ‘privateers.’ ”
  2. the Pentateuch in brief outline (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “As Robert Alter has pointed out, the long-time obsession with sources among scholars of the Hebrew Bible — their slightly mad-eyed teasing out of the contributions of their posited authors J, E, D, and P — led them to the assumption that ‘the redactors were in the grip of a kind of manic tribal compulsion, driven again and again to include units of traditional material … for reasons they themselves could not have explained.’ Yet if that were true, why does an outline of the Pentateuch look so orderly — indeed, almost excessively so?”
  3. The Codger-in-Chief (Dan Drezner, Substack): “[We are seeing] coverage that bears more of a passing resemblance to what I saw during the Toddler-in-Chief days. In other words, there are some disturbing parallels in how Biden’s staffers are talking about him to the press when compared to Trump’s White House staffers. Furthermore, I strongly suspect the staffers now talking to the press are higher-ranking than, say, the deputy director of photography.”
    • I read a lot of post-debate articles, most of them strongly partisan one way or the other. This one summarizes a lot of threads well. The author is a political science professor at Tufts.
    • Not directly related, but also related to the upcoming presidential election — My Unsettling Interview With Steve Bannon (David Brooks, New York Times): “I should emphasize that I wasn’t trying to debate Bannon or rebut his beliefs; I wanted to understand how he sees the current moment. I wanted to understand the global populist surge from the inside.”
    • Fascinating. Unlocked.
  4. Notes From a Formerly Unpromising Young Person (Rebecca Snyder, New York Times): “My situation was this: I was finishing my sophomore year of high school and had probably attended fewer days than I’d missed. I’d failed nearly all my classes, and my transcript boasted a 0.47. (I say ‘boasted’ because you really do have to miss quite a lot of school to fail so spectacularly.) Then there were the fistfights. The weed. The acid.… [Yet] someone had taken the time to meet me, to listen and to ultimately believe I had potential. When Mr. Spencer sat in the admissions office of North Central College and said, ‘I’m going to take a chance on you, Rachel Snyder,’ those were probably the most important words of my life.”
  5. Why a New Conservative Brain Trust Is Resettling Across America (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “The idea was a ‘fraternal community,’ as one leader put it, that prioritized in-person meetings. The result was the all-male Society for American Civic Renewal, an invitation-only social organization reserved for Christians.… Members must be male, belong to a ‘Trinitarian Christian’ church, a broad category that includes Catholics and Protestants, but not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members must also describe themselves as ‘unhyphenated Americans,’ a reference to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech urging the full assimilation of immigrants.”
    • Both the existence of this movement and the way it is reported on are interesting. Unlocked.
  6. Loving America Means Expecting More From It (Esau McCaulley, New York Times): “Too often we worry that if we tell our children about our complex and sometimes dark history, their response will be debilitating shame. But instead of lying to our youth, we can give them a task that demands the best of them. We can call upon them to close the often-gaping chasm between our ideals and practices. This is the gift the past offers us, a chance to flee old evils and pursue new goods.”
  7. Revival and Revolution (John Fea, Commonweal): “Since Evangelicalism is an inherently populist and anti-intellectual movement, most born-again Christians do not trust academics and rely instead on such ‘experts.’ When they need to know something about science, they turn to Ken Ham, host of the popular radio show Answers in Genesis and founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. They get their psychology and social philosophy from James Dobson, the longtime culture warrior and founder of the lobbying organization Focus on the Family. Their political philosophy comes from sources like Fox News’s Sean Hannity, the Liberty University Standing for Freedom Center, or the Robertson School of Government at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. And for American history, conservative Evangelicals turn to David Barton, the founder and CEO of WallBuilders, an Evangelical organization in Aledo, Texas.”
    • The author is a history prof at Messiah University, an evangelical school.

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 459



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 the 459th installation, a number I find interesting simply because 4 + 5 = 9.

I should probably mention that I’m not sharing any articles about last night’s presidential debate today because I want to wait and see how people are thinking about the race after a few days. The reactions right now are too raw.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A slap in the face for psychobabble (Janan Ganesh, Financial Times): “I can’t be the only foreigner in the US who has been chided for not having a therapist by someone who — choosing my words carefully here — seems to be getting uneven results from theirs. If psychobabble were confined to actors going up to collect their big certificates, I’d leave it alone. But, like sand, it gets everywhere.”
    • Older but gold.
  2. Rebels with a religious cause: Meet New York’s avant-garde conservatives (Leonardo Bevilacqua, Christian Science Monitor): “Originally from Philadelphia, Salomé has been a devout Catholic since she was young. She wears a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat around town sometimes as an act of ironic defiance. And even though she’s a transgender woman, she prefers the term of an earlier age: castrato.  But first and foremost, she says, she’s a child of God.”
    • Interesting and full of surprises.
  3. A Partial Explanation of Zoomer Girl Derangement (Zinnia, Substack): “Why are young women today so deranged? Because no one is honest with them and they cannot be honest with themselves. Parents lie to you, teachers lie to you, friends lie to you, everyone lies to you. If anyone dares tell you the truth, they are ostracized. My teenage self could only find truth smuggled away in the dark recesses of obscure online communities; usually couched in layers of ironic (and sincere) bigotry. And while I did not enjoy the bigotry (at the time), I found value in engaging with the transgressive material I came across because I felt that it expressed truths otherwise unavailable to me. Today, truth lies within the domain of internet ghettos, siloed away from the rest of polite society. At best, what society tells you is entirely unhelpful: ‘You’re beautiful just the way you are.’ At worst, what society tells you is entirely destructive: ‘If you feel alienated by your body, you should maybe consider a mastectomy.’ ”
    • A bit vulgar in places, but interesting. Kinda long.
  4. Elite misinformation is an underrated problem (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “…all this sloppy work and misleading rhetoric is both more impactful than a lot of people realize, and also a lot less tactically savvy than those doing it think. The problem is that it’s about a million times easier to persuade a highly engaged member of your team of something than it is to persuade a swing voter (who is probably skeptical, cynical, and not that engaged with politics) or a member of the opposition (who instinctively assumes you’re lying about everything). So when you put something out there that’s false or misleading, you’re about a million times more likely to confuse people who are friendly to your cause than to actually persuade anyone worth persuading.”
  5. It Is Time for Radical Candor (Kevin D. Williamson, The Dispatch): “It’s another little Battle of Stalingrad: It’s a pity somebody has to win; all a decent person can do is pray for casualties.… Because we are governed by imbeciles and thieves and miscreants and degenerates and people who are willing to put up with all that imbecility and thievery and miscreance and degeneracy if it gets them even such a pathetic prize as a temporary seat in the U.S. House of Representatives…”
  6. How (and How Not) to Wait (Mark Vroegop, Crossway): “Focus. Adore. Seek. Trust. That’s how you wait on the Lord. It’s how you live on what’s true about God when you don’t know what’s true about your life.… Rather than allowing strong emotions to hold you hostage, you can embrace a strategy (FAST) that welcomes God’s grace into your uncertainty.”
    • Recommended by a student.
  7. I feel awkward sharing this, but I was interviewed for a podcast. I did not choose the title (nor even the topic): Why I am NOT a Calvinist: Breaking Down Everything from Calvinism, to Can We Lose Our Salvation (Kingdom Come Podcast, YouTube): one hour long.

Less Serious Things Which Interested Glen

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 457



On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 453

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. Reconciling Christianity with intellectual curiosity (Nadia Jo, Stanford Daily): “One of the values Jesus emphasized most is humility, and I strive to implement that value in my intellectual life in addition to my personal life. My ethos of intellectual curiosity involves curiosity, challenging and wrestling with claims and lines of reasoning, flexible thinking and respect for people who put in the same effort. I hope that my nonreligious peers can come to understand and appreciate Christianity’s deep intellectual tradition, even if they don’t agree with its conclusions. And, I encourage more Christians to live up to that tradition and examine their own belief. You’ll probably find it more rewarding than you expect.”
    • Nadia is a student in Chi Alpha.
  2. Homeless man is brought to church and starts CURSING right in the middle of the sermon while the pastor is preaching on the parable of the lost sheep. (Twitter): the link title is clickbaity, but the video is really good. 17 minutes but 100% worth your time.
  3. The Single Christian (Alexandra DeSanctis Marr, Religion & Liberty Online): “Rather than offering sympathy to those who are single for reasons outside their control, Broadway argues, Christians often send the message that singleness is an affliction endured by those who simply aren’t trying hard enough to find a spouse. But, as she explains, there isn’t an easy answer to what is ultimately a problem of numbers: ‘When women outnumber men in the church, that leaves three options: polygamy, marrying a non-Christian or staying single. Which would you like us to choose?’”
    • That’s a great line by Broadway.
  4. The Scholar of Comedy (David Remnick interviewing Jerry Seinfeld, The New Yorker): “Every artist is only showing you his best. When you watch a movie, every scene—they only show you the one take that worked. Seventeen times, they missed it. You’re only seeing the peak of it. But in standup you gotta make it happen every night. That’s the difference. That’s why actors, I think, like to do the theatre. They want to be honest. They want to be held to account. And only a live audience holds you to account.”
  5. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker says Pride Month is example of ‘deadly sin’ during commencement speech (Lukas Weese, New York Times): “Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, speaking during a commencement speech at Benedictine College, referred to Pride Month, the events in June demonstrating inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ+ community, as an example of the ‘deadly sins’ as he advocated for a more conservative brand of Catholicism.”
    • I am always surprised when people seem surprised when religious people say religious things.
    • Related: Harrison Butker jersey sales increase in aftermath of Benedictine College address (Greg Dailey and Ryan Hennessy, KCTV 5): “Amid reaction to Harrison Butker’s now-viral commencement speech at Benedictine College on Saturday, the placekicker seems to have gained several new fans in the process. According to NFL.com, Butker’s jersey sales are among the most popular online. Only Travis Kelce rated higher than Butker, with Mahomes coming in right behind the star from Georgia Tech.”
    • This is common enough that there is probably a term for it: high-status people denounce something and or pretend it doesn’t exist, whereas many lower-status people really like it. This is a good example of this, as is the New York Times bestseller list compared to actual sales numbers.
  6. Campus protest-related:
    • Seeing the University More Clearly (David Pozen, blog): “To simplify somewhat, we might say that professors are granted a number of basic rights within the university, including rights to free speech and due process and quasi-property rights in the job itself. Students and staff are granted a partially overlapping, though weaker, bundle of rights. What none of us have are governance rights against the trustees who really run the place. We enjoy various individual privileges and protections, but not the franchise. Legal scholars and political scientists have a term for this sort of arrangement, too: liberal autocracy.”
      • The author is a law prof at Columbia and has some insightful thoughts about how shifts in university governance in recent years have provided the context for how campuses are responding to protests.
    • Modern Protest Culture is Crippled by Internet-Brain (Samuel D. James, Substack): “A transformational protest is one that bears the brunt of reality and, in so doing, convinces others to join in changing it. The inability to bear this reality is not just fragility, it is precisely the way computer systems work; when the autonomous system fails to yield a pleasant or smooth solution, it must be fixed, not endured. Contemporary student activism reflects the assumptions and habits of the digital era.”
      • Emphasis in original.
  7. Belgian Government Will Intervene In Cases Where Prostitutes Refuse Sexual Acts Too Often (Amy Hamm, ProPublica): “Prostitutes are to be granted ‘rights’ to refuse sexual acts, stop sexual acts, perform sexual acts in the manner they prefer, and refuse to sit behind Amsterdam-style windows (public facing windows where prostitutes are on display). However, should a prostitute use these ‘rights’ 10 times within six months, their pimp can then call on a government mediator to intervene.”
    • Pimps used to have to beat their prostitutes. Now they can have the government use force on their behalf. #progress
    • This is the logic of “bake the cake, bigot” taken to its ultimate conclusion — conscience is nothing and the market is everything and personal convictions are inconveniences to be trampled upon.
    • If, as some feminists tell us, sex work is real work then you can’t be shocked at stuff like this. If, on the other hand, prostitution is both a tragedy and a vice you can get outraged.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 449

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 449, which is not a super interesting number. It has this going for it: its base 3 representation (121122) begins with the same digits as its base 7 representation (1211).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Religious Worship Attendance in America: Evidence from Cellphone Data (Devin G. Pope, NBER): “I establish several key findings. First, 73% of people step into a religious place of worship at least once during the year on the primary day of worship (e.g. Sundays for most Christian churches). However, only 5% of Americans attend services ‘weekly’, far fewer than the ~22% who report to do so in surveys. The number of occasional vs. frequent attenders varies substantially by religion. I estimate that approximately 45M Americans attend worship services in a typical week of the year, but with large changes around Holidays (e.g. Easter).”
    • Excerpt is from the abstract. Author is a prof of behavioral science and economics at U Chicago.
    • See also this (somewhat harsh) critique by Lyman Stone: https://twitter.com/lymanstoneky/status/1779889740260499820 (read the whole thread for the critique)
    • Response from Devin Pope, on religious attendance (Devin Pope, Marginal Revolution): “There are definitely limitations with the cellphone data (I’ve had about 100 people tell me that I’m not doing a good job tracking Orthodox Jews!). I know that these issues exist. But survey data has its own issues. Social desirability bias and other issues could lead to widely incorrect estimates of the number of people who frequently attend services (and surveys are going to have a hard time sampling Orthodox Jews too!). Given the difficulty of measuring some of these questions, I think that a new method – even with limitations – is useful.”
    • Lyman Stone helpfully replies to Devin Pope (Twitter thread)
    • Extremely interesting throughout. If you don’t have time to dive in then just read the abstract of the initial article and the Stone’s final Twitter thread.
  2. Americans are still not worried enough about the risk of world war (Noah Smith, Substack): “So if you were living at any point in 1931 through 1940, you would already be witnessing conflicts that would eventually turn into the bloodiest, most cataclysmic war that humanity has yet known — but you might not realize it. You would be standing in the foothills of the Second World War, but unless you were able to make far-sighted predictions, you wouldn’t know what horrors lurked in the near future. In case the parallel isn’t blindingly obvious, we might be standing in the foothills of World War 3 right now. If WW3 happens, future bloggers might list the wars in Ukraine and Gaza in a timeline like the one I just gave.”
    • This was published before Iran attacked Israel. btw.
  3. How to Stop Losing 17,500 Kidneys (Santi Ruiz, Substack): “Greg and the researchers that he worked with showed that there are 17,500 kidneys, 7,500 livers, 1,500 hearts, and 1,500 lungs that go untransplanted every year from potential American organ donors. For scale, that means the United States does not need to have a waiting list for livers, hearts, or lungs within three years, and the kidney waiting list should come way down. That data convinced not only the Obama administration, but also the Trump administration. This reform movement has now crossed three administrations, and that almost never happens.”
  4. Should We Change Species to Save Them? (Emily Anthes, New York Times): “In some ways, assisted evolution is an argument — or, perhaps, an acknowledgment — that there is no stepping back, no future in which humans do not profoundly shape the lives and fates of wild creatures. To Dr. Harley, it has become clear that preventing more extinctions will require human intervention, innovation and effort.”
    • Including partly for the amazing header art. Unlocked.
  5. Abolish Grades (Bethany Lorden, Stanford Review): “I have earned an ‘A’ on architecture drawings which were not my most careful, on physics problem sets that I did not fully understand, on stories which were not my most creative. Something is broken in the grading system. Feedback on work ought to be in words, not letters, and it should be relative to a student’s best work, not to the performance of the class.”
    • Bethany is a student in Chi Alpha.
  6. Mate Poaching: Social Taboo or Healthy Way to Find Love? (Kevin Bennett, Psychology Today): “Psychological research suggests that 10 to 20 percent of new relationships among heterosexual couples are formed directly from mate poaching. One study found that 10 to 15 percent of participants’ current relationships were the result of successful mate poaching. Another study surveyed undergraduate students and found that 20 percent were currently involved in a relationship that began this way.… Research suggests that mate poachers—and those most susceptible to poaching—share some characteristics. There is a link between narcissism, infidelity, uncommitted sex, and mate poaching, and these findings are not limited to modern industrialized countries.”
    • That’s a lot of relationships begun on the shady side! A bit of advice from a longtime observer of college romances: if they cheat with you they are likely to cheat on you.
  7. Switch to Web-Based Surveys During COVID-19 Pandemic Left Out the Most Religious, Creating a False Impression of Rapid Religious Decline (Schnabel et al, Sociology of Religion):  “Although at first glance it appears that intense religion declined dramatically during the pandemic, further investigation reveals how this shift is a function of changes in how the survey was fielded rather than Americans turning away from religion during a time of crisis.… religion is more persistent than it appears, intensely religious people are less likely to agree to participate in surveys, and data collection efforts like the typical in-person GSS are invaluable for accurately estimating religion and other ideological factors in the United States associated with the likelihood of participating in surveys.”
    • The authors are sociologists at Cornell, Harvard, and NYU. Fascinating.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Sticky Situation (Loading Artist) — there are two kinds of people
  • A Dungeons & Dragons actual play show is going to sell out Madison Square Garden (Amanda Silberling, Tech Crunch): “Dropout’s Dungeons & Dragons actual play show, Dimension 20, is getting pretty close to selling out a 19,000-seat venue just hours after ticket sales opened to the general public. To the uninitiated, it may seem absurd to go to a massive sports arena and watch people play D&D. As one Redditor commented, ‘This boggles my mind. When I was playing D&D in the early eighties, I would have never believed that there was a future where people would watch live D&D at Madison Square Garden. It’s incomprehensible to me.’ ”

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 445

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 445, which feels like it ought to have many factors. But it’s just 89 * 5.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Harvard, M.I.T. and Systemic Antisemitism (David French, New York Times): “…what’s happening to Jewish students and faculty at several elite campuses is so comprehensive and all-consuming that it can only be described as systemic antisemitism.”
    • Recommended by a student. Worth reading. Unlocked.
  2. How To Save a Democracy (Quico Toro, Substack): “Watching videos of the protest now, what strikes you is that Bernardo Arévalo is seldom mentioned. K’iche’ leaders were at pains to emphasize they were not there to favor one politician or another. They were there to defend their votes. If Arévalo’s name was seldom uttered, the name of Jesus Christ was constantly invoked.”
    • A remarkable story. 
  3. Piety and Profanity: The Raunchy Christians Are Here (Ruth Graham, New York Times): “The partial embrace of vulgarity, Dr. Kobes Du Mez pointed out, is happening in a moment of deep conservative outrage, an often visceral disgust, at rising rates of nontraditional gender and sexual identities, particularly among young people. In that context, an indulgence in heterosexual lust, even if in poor taste, is becoming seen as not just benign, but maybe even healthy and noble. Part of the reason transgender identities are considered a threat is that they blur gender difference, Dr. Kobes Du Mez said. ‘Against that backdrop, it’s a wholesome thing for a boy to be lusting after a very sexy woman.’”
    • Unlocked.
  4. Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics co-author and University of Chicago Economics Professor) on His Career And Decision To Retire From Academic Economics (Jon Hartley, Capitalism and Freedom): “I had always been the smartest kid or close to the smartest kid, but then I got to MIT and I realized my God these people are incredible. Not just what they know but how they think. So, I knew from day one I was the odd man out. I mean I’m not even exaggerating when I say that there was a group of people in the in-crowd. Austan Goolsbee, my good friend Austan Goolsbee was one of the in-crowds. And Austan told me that maybe a month into our first year at MIT, the in-crowd sat down and they made a list of the five people most likely to fail out. And I was on that list of five.”
    • An absolutely delightful interview. The above link is to the transcript, but I recommend the audio version.
  5. The Policy Stakes in this Election Are High (Josh Barro, Substack): “This presidential election is not very interesting, but it is important. And some of the reasons it’s important are the banal reasons that every presidential election is important: You get different policy outcomes depending on who gets elected.”
    • Written from a center-left perspective. Even if you disagree with Barro on your preferred policy outcomes, I think he does a nice job of summarizing some of the most important differences (although he leaves off a few big ones about which the two administrations have different track records such as religious freedom, DEI issues, etc).
  6. Are Drunk People in New Orleans More Sensible Than Congress? (Ben Meets America, YouTube): four minutes. If the quality continues, I will probably be sharing most installments of this series.
  7. Which Cities are the Least Religious? (Ryan Burge, Substack): “The least religious cities are at the top and there are two clear winners here: San Francisco and Seattle. In both cases, about seven in ten adults are attending religious services less than once a year. But I think that San Francisco make take the crown for most secular — just 12% of folks in that city are attending church at least once a month.”
    • Emphasis removed for readability

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 443

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, volume 443, is a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Four Ways of Looking at Christian Nationalism (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…to chart the supposed reach of Christian nationalism, a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute asks respondents whether they agree with the formulation ‘U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.’ But someone who says yes might just be agreeing with King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ or the Declaration of Independence, not endorsing a legal code based on Deuteronomy.”
    • Unlocked.
  2. Related: If It Were Me, I’d Try Not Helping the Christian Nationalists (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “A democratic life is not the highest thing or the best thing. But as a way of living amongst our neighbors and seeking to live a life of conscience under the law, it is a very good thing. The Christian Nationalists, with their strong man politics, support for revolutionary violence, and obsession with racial solidarity would destroy all of that. What worries me now, though, is not the Christian Nationalists themselves. Frankly, many of them are too reckless, undisciplined, and reactive to be able to accomplish the revolutionary change they seek. What worries me is that there are a great many socially conservative evangelical voters who love the democratic life who are constantly being called ‘Christian Nationalists’ by the likes of Heidi Przybyla for believing things that are utterly unremarkable in Christian history. If our secular media outlets continue to tell them that ‘Christian Nationalism’ is the belief in things virtually all Christians across history have believed, I fear they will listen. And they will find these ethno-nationalist totalitarian aspirants and, not realizing what they are doing, they will make common cause with them.”
    • This is one of the most helpful pieces I’ve seen on Christian Nationalism. It’s a bit long, but easily skimmable to zero in on the parts you find most interesting.
  3. What happened after a man got 217 coronavirus shots (Rachel Pannett, Washington Post): “Going into the study, the researchers had speculated that having so many shots could cause his immune system to become fatigued. Vaccines create immune memory cells that are on standby, ready to rapidly activate the body’s defenses in the event of an infection. But in fact, the researchers found that the man had more of these immune cells — known as T‑cells — than a control group that had received the standard three-dose vaccine regimen. They also did not detect any fatigue in these cells, which they said were just as effective as those of people who had received a typical number of coronavirus shots.”
  4. Albania to speed up EU accession using ChatGPT (Alice Taylor, Euractiv): “The Albanian government will use ChatGPT to translate thousands of pages of EU legal measures and provisions into shqip (Albanian language) and then integrate them into existing legal structures, following an agreement with the CEO of the parent company, OpenAI, Mira Murati, who was born in Albania.… on 13 December, at the EU summit in Brussels, he will present the project and a successful test of ‘the Albanian model of artificial intelligence for the interposition of the legislation totalling 280,000 pages of legal measures of the EU.’”
  5. I spend £8,500 a year to live on a train (Steve Charnok, Metro): “While the 17-year-old does indeed live on trains, he does so entirely legally. And with a surprising amount of comfort. Lasse travels 600 miles a day throughout Germany aboard Deutsche Bahn trains. He travels first class, sleeps on night trains, has breakfast in DB lounges and takes showers in public swimming pools and leisure centres, all using his unlimited annual railcard.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 442

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 the 442nd edition of these emails. 442 is the sum of eight consecutive prime numbers: 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67 + 71

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The State of the Culture, 2024 (Ted Gioia, Substack): “The tech platforms aren’t like the Medici in Florence, or those other rich patrons of the arts. They don’t want to find the next Michelangelo or Mozart. They want to create a world of junkies—because they will be the dealers. Addiction is the goal.”
    • Highly recommended. Includes an anecdote about a Stanford undergrad near the end.
  2. Men Are From Mercury, Women Are From Neptune (David French, New York Times): “…if there are pre-existing political differences between men and women — and it’s true that in aggregate men are more conservative than women — then those differences will be exacerbated as men spend more time with men, and women spend more time with women. The more that men and women live separate lives, the more we would expect to see separate beliefs.”
    • Recommended to me by a student, and I highly recommend it to you.
  3. My Mom’s Rules For Cults (Ben Landau-Taylor, Substack): “…when I was 25 years old I told my parents I was moving to San Francisco to join a new-wave radical movement and a self-development psychology I‑swear-we’re-not-a-cult group. And she sat me down and gave me three things to check before I went: 1. Are the members of the group in contact with their families? 2. How does the group react when members are close with friends who don’t share the group’s beliefs and ideology? Is this discouraged? Is it seen as normal and healthy? 3. How does the group relate to former members who have left? Are they old friends who are welcome at parties, or are they vile traitors, or what? In my experience this is the best and fastest way to tell the difference…”
  4. ‘I Said, ‘What’s Your Plan About Marriage and Dating?’ And There Was Silence.’ (Jane Coaston, New York Times): “I was talking to a graduate student recently. He had a very clear sense of his plan for schooling and work, and then I said, ‘What’s your plan about marriage and dating?’ And there was silence. He didn’t really have a plan. I think that’s part of the challenge — that people are not being intentional enough about seeking opportunities to meet, date and marry young adults in their world.”
    • An interview with Brad Wilcox, who is often cited in these updates. Recommended by a student.
  5. The Rise of the Non-Christian Evangelical (Ryan Burge, Substack): “Nine percent of Republican Jews self-identify as evangelical, compared to 3% of Democratic Jews. For Muslims, the gap is huge: 32% vs 11%. It’s also fairly large for Buddhists (16% vs 6%) and Hindus (18% vs 10%). You can even see it among nothing in particulars. 19% of the Republicans are evangelicals; it’s just 9% of the Democrats.”
    • Wild and interesting.
  6. The Takeover (Neetu Arnold, Tablet Magazine): “…even in the vanishingly rare event that universities attempt to cultivate an environment of academic freedom and free speech on campus, it will never fully apply to sponsored international students from countries with authoritarian governments. In many ways, this defeats the main purpose of having international students on American campuses in the first place: the free and open cultural exchange that occurs between them and American students. What kind of skewed cultural education will American students receive about Saudi Arabia and China if their friends from those countries aren’t even allowed to criticize their own governments, and if the main source of teaching and scholarship on such countries comes out of ‘centers’ funded by those governments?”
    • This is an odd article. Lots of interesting stats framed strangely, but definitely interesting.
  7. Academia’s “Pretendian” Problem Stems From a Few Very Obvious and Basic Realities (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “You’ve created a fiercely competitive process in which a segment of people are given a very large advantage, there are few if any objective markers that can disprove that someone is a member of that segment, and you’ve declared it offensive to question whether someone really is a member of that segment, outside of very specific scenarios. (When I was in academia people spoke very darkly about the concept of ever questioning someone’s indigenous identity, called it the act of a colonizer, etc etc.) The obvious question is… what did you think was going to happen? Humanities and social sciences departments have, through the conditions described above, rung the dinner bell for people pretending to have indigenous heritage. They now act shocked when such people show up. I find it disingenuous and untoward. This behavior is the product of the incentives that you yourself built.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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 439

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 439, which is not only a prime number and the sum of three consecutive primes (139 + 149 + 151), but also the sum of nine consecutive primes (31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47 + 53 + 59 + 61 + 67). Which is, you know, a lotta primes.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. How Digital Apps Are Changing How We Read the Bible (John Dyer, Text & Canon): “I asked both groups to read the book of Jude and then tell me (1) what the point of the book was, and (2) how it made them feel. Interestingly, two opposite trends emerged. The print readers said they felt Jude was about God’s judgment while the phone readers tended to emphasize God’s faithfulness. But then, on the second question, their answers seemed to split. The print readers, who felt the book was about God’s judgment, said they were encouraged by the reading. The phone readers on the other hand who said Jude was about God’s faithfulness, said after reading it that they felt discouraged and confused. So what can account for that difference? Why is a judgmental God encouraging and a faithful God discouraging?”
  2. The Grand Canyon-Sized Chasm Between Elites and Ordinary Americans (Rob K. Henderson, Substack): “Perhaps the most striking divergence between elite and non-elite opinion: Although the majority of ordinary voters oppose the strict rationing of meat, electricity, and gas to fight climate change, 89% of Ivy graduates and 77% of elites overall are in favor of it.”
  3. What Happened When My Church Encountered Negative World (Patrick Miller, Mere Orthodoxy): “You can tell our church’s story in a way that makes us the victims of the progressives, but that’s not our full story. Nor is it the story of most non-coastal churches that refused to go pro-Trump or pro-Biden in 2020. Pastors at such churches will tell you the same story: The negative world bows before golden donkeys and elephants.”
  4. Sarah Isgur’s Majority Report (Kelefah Sanneh, The New Yorker): “Through the eyes of Isgur and French, the American legal system generally appears to be a place where smart people assess good-faith arguments and compose thoughtful essays explaining their decisions. Their underlying contention is that the Supreme Court is good, even, or perhaps especially, in its current incarnation.… In an era of aggrieved political discourse, Isgur is something unusual: a commentator who truly seems to love the government institution she covers.”
    • Advisory Opinions is one of my favorite podcasts and I’m not remotely a lawyer. Isgur and French are amazing.
  5. The Devil’s Face in Gaza (Gerald McDermott, First Things): “The minister of tourism, a rabbi, told an Israeli Christian leader, ‘We hope you send missionaries to the Arabs here.’ The Christian was shocked: ‘Don’t you hate missionaries?’ The government minister replied, ‘If you teach them what you believe, we will have peace in the Middle East.’”
  6. Some Stanford news:
    • Sit-in on Islamophobia replaces pro-Israel tent in White Plaza (Dilan Gohill, Stanford Daily): “Organizers set up the Sit-in to Stop Islamophobia on the White Plaza lawn — a space previously occupied by the Blue and White Tent. Tent organizers told The Daily they made an indefinite reservation through Cardinal Engage. According to Feigelis, University administration told the Sit-In to Stop Islamophobia that the space was reserved for the Blue and White Tent. He said as long as the sit-in refuses to relocate, the tent cannot reassemble. The Daily has reached out to the University for comment. ‘We did not move your stuff — the wind destroyed it, you cleaned it up. We saw an open space, we set up here, we’re happy to coexist.’ El Boudali said. He added that organizers set up in White Plaza due to its high traffic.”
    • Stanford students protest new ban on overnight sit-in camping (Lauren Irwin, The Hill): “Stanford said its level of concern has risen to a point that it can no longer support overnight activities.”
    • Read the official Stanford statement: Preserving free speech and safety on White Plaza (Stanford News): “Moving forward, any tents, tables, chairs, or other similar items will need to be removed from White Plaza between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Any overnight displays and/or camping items left unoccupied are subject to removal for health and safety reasons. Students who violate the no-camping policy will be subject to a disciplinary referral to the Office of Community Standards and may also be cited for trespass for failing to comply with a university directive.”
    • And not exactly Stanford news, but not not Stanford news: Law schools must adopt free speech policies to maintain ABA accreditation (Lexi Lonas, The Hill): “The new standard requires schools to adopt a policy that would allow faculty, students and staff ‘to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations or protests,’ and would forbid activities that disrupt or impinge on free speech. But it wouldn’t impose specific policy language,’”’ the statement added.”
  7. The Political Preferences of LLMs (David Rozado, Substack): “When probed with questions/statements with political connotations most conversational LLMs tend to generate responses that are diagnosed by most political test instruments as manifesting preferences for left-of-center viewpoints. This does not appear to be the case for base (i.e. foundation) models upon which LLMs optimized for conversation with humans are built. Though not conclusive, our results provide supporting evidence for the intriguing hypothesis that the embedding of political preferences into LLMs might be happening mostly post-pretraining. Namely, during the supervised fine-tuning (SFT) and/or Reinforcement Learning (RL) stages of the conversational LLMs training pipeline.”
    • In other words, the AI tools we see appear to have political preferences trained into them by the companies that are creating them, although it is not clear to what extent this is deliberately being done.
    • The author is a professor of data science in New Zealand — https://drozado.github.io/

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • History of Japan (Bill Wurz, YouTube): nine amazing minutes — genuinely worth your time if you have any interest in Japan at all. Or in how to teach history using video. He leaves a bunch out and definitely throws his opinion around, but it’s hard to see how he could have done anything else in nine minutes. Really good.

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 429

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 429, a sphenic number (i.e, a number with exactly three distinct prime factors).

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Classical liberals are increasingly religious (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “Not too long ago, I was telling Ezra Klein that I had noticed a relatively new development in classical liberalism. If a meet an intellectual non-Leftist, increasingly they are Nietzschean, compared to days of yore. But if they are classical liberal instead, typically they are religious as well. That could be Catholic or Jewish or LDS or Eastern Orthodox, with some Protestant thrown into the mix, but Protestants coming in last. The person being religious is now a predictor of that same person having non-crazy political views. Classical liberalism thus, whether you like it or not, has become an essentially religious movement.”
    • Related: Why Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Meet Protestant Intellectuals (Aaron Renn, Substack): “You would think that after decades of bemoaning the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind,’ we would be heavily promoting the world class scientists and other intellectual figures we have. But that isn’t the case. I’m not a scientist but I’m not chopped liver either. I was a partner in a consulting firm, a senior fellow in a major think tank, and have written for and been cited in most of the major publications in the country (NYT, WSJ, Guardian, Atlantic, etc). But the institution that’s done the most to promote my work is the Catholic-centric First Things magazine. Undoubtedly the best career move I could make as a writer on culture, men’s issues, and public policy would be to convert to Catholicism. That would probably open doors to opportunities I will not otherwise get.”
      • Renn left out some important pieces of the puzzle. It also has to do with the way that decentralized church authority operates in the Protestant world and the lack of intersection between someone like me and someone like Andy Stanley. We just move in completely different circles. I’m not saying I’m the intellectual in this equation, by the way. I am saying I know a bunch. I have baptized people who are now professors at Stanford, but pick-your-favorite megachurch preacher has no idea that they exist. And that lack of intersection extends to groups like Veritas and the Trinity Forum which are doing the kind of work Renn describes, but independently of Saddleback Church or any other evangelical center of influence. Most influential preachers are niche celebrities who are also populist intellectuals, and that is a very different thing from an academic or institutional intellectual. There really isn’t any straightforward way to bring the two together. And I haven’t even talked about the role of Christian universities in this situation, their relationship to evangelical influencers, and their joint relationship to secular scholars. It would take a whole essay to bring all the pieces together, and I’m not sure it’s a good use of my time.
    • Related: She found meaning where she least expected it — her childhood faith (Rachel Martin, NPR): “Hurwitz: But I think what makes me nervous about the spiritual buffet is that what you’re saying is, ‘I’m going to take this thing from Buddhism that’s so me and this thing from Judaism that’s so me and this from Catholicism.’   Martin: One-hundred percent. That’s what I’m doing. Hurwitz: This is what so many of us do, and at the end of the day you’re reinforcing yourself. You’re kind of deifying yourself. Martin: Wow. Hurwitz: You’re saying, ‘What reinforces my preexisting beliefs?’ This is how we consume social media, right? But it’s not the purpose of these great spiritual traditions.”
    • Also related: Where Does Religion Come From? (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Some sort of religious attitude is essentially demanded, in my view, by what we know about the universe and the human place within it, but every sincere searcher is likely to follow their own idiosyncratic path.”
      • A fascinating essay that wanders into weird places.
  2. How this Turing Award–winning researcher became a legendary academic advisor (Sheon Han, MIT Technology Review): “Former students describe Blum as unwaveringly positive, saying he had other ways besides criticism to steer them away from dead ends. ‘He is always smiling, but you can see he smiles wider when he likes something. And oh, we wanted that big smile,’ says Ronitt Rubinfeld, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Behind the general positivity, Rubinfeld says, is a fine taste for interesting ideas. Students could trust they were being guided in the right direction. Come up with a boring idea? Blum, who is known for his terrible memory, would have mostly forgotten it by your next meeting.”
    • I quite liked this one.
  3. There’s another Christian movement that’s changing our politics. It has nothing to do with whiteness or nationalism (John Blake, CNN): “The Social Gospel was a Christian movement that emerged in late 19th-century America as a response to the obscene levels of inequality in a rapidly industrializing country.… The Social Gospel turned religion into a weapon for economic and political reform. Its message: saving people from slums was just as important as saving them from hell. At its peak, the movement’s leaders supported campaigns for eight-hour workdays, the breaking up of corporate monopolies and the abolition of child labor. They spoke from pulpits, lectured across the country and wrote best-selling books.… The Social Gospel movement is making a comeback. Some may argue it never left.”
  4. You Are the Last Line of Defense (Bari Weiss, The Free Press): “I am here because I know that in the fight for the West, I know who my allies are. And my allies are not the people who, looking at facile, external markers of my identity, one might imagine them to be. My allies are people who believe that America is good. That the West is good. That human beings—not cultures—are created equal and that saying so is essential to knowing what we are fighting for. America and our values are worth fighting for—and that is the priority of the day.”
  5. UK infant baptized before being forced off life support, father says ‘the devil’ was in the courtroom (Timothy H.J. Nerozzi, Fox News): “Dean Gregory, Indi’s father, said before her death that he was inspired to baptize his daughter by Christian legal volunteers who fought to keep her alive. Dean said he became convinced of the existence of the devil by his family’s treatment in the courtroom. ‘I am not religious and I am not baptized. But when I was in court, it felt like I had been dragged to hell,’ Dean Gregory said in a Nov. 6 interview with New Daily Compass. ‘I thought, if hell exists then heaven must exist. It was like the devil was there. I thought if there’s a devil then God must exist.’ ”
    • Heartbreaking. Recommended by a student.
  6. Some Israel/Hamas perspectives:
    • There Should Be More Public Pressure on Hamas (David French, New York Times): “I’m not naïve. I don’t for a moment believe that defeating Hamas and removing it from power solves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel cannot live up to its own democratic promise or its own liberal ideals if, for example, it indulges its own dangerous radicals. But I do know that placing more pressure on Israel than Hamas to end the conflict and save civilian lives is exactly backward. The international system depends on opposing the aggressor and punishing crimes. Protests that aim their demands more at Israel than Hamas impede justice, erode the international order and undermine the quest for a real and lasting peace.”
    • This War Did Not Start a Month Ago (Dalia Hatuqa, New York Times): “To many inside and outside this war, the brutality of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks was unthinkable, as have been the scale and ferocity of Israel’s reprisal. But Palestinians have been subject to a steady stream of unfathomable violence — as well as the creeping annexation of their land by Israel and Israeli settlers — for generations. If people are going to understand this latest conflict and see a path forward for everyone, we need to be more honest, nuanced and comprehensive about the recent decades of history in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, particularly the impact of occupation and violence on the Palestinians.”
      • A fairly straightforward presentation of the Palestinian perspective.
    • The Struggle for Black Freedom Has Nothing to Do with Israel (Coleman Hughes, The Free Press): “There is yet another inconvenient fact for those who want to reduce the Israeli-Arab conflict to a competition between European settlers and people of color: the majority of Israeli Jews are not European. They are Mizrahi Jews—hailing from the Middle East and North Africa. What’s more, it is not the European Jews but the Mizrahi Jews—who are difficult to visually distinguish from Palestinians—that form most of the voting base of the right-wing parties that Israel’s critics consider to be the truly racist ones.”
    • Three articles from The Gospel Coalition about the various ways Christians think about the promises to Israel in the Old Testament. It’s worth sorting through your own perspective. These three essays are from well-respected Christian academics who present their positions concisely and well.
      • Why the Land Promises Belong to Ethnic Israel (Gerald McDermott, The Gospel Coalition): “First, if the land promise was ended with the coming of Jesus, then God is not trustworthy. For he promised to Abraham and his seed that the land would be theirs for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8). Second, if the land promise to Israel is broken, then so might be God’s promise to renew and restore the heavens and the earth. The land promise’s partial fulfillment—by bringing Jews from the four corners of the earth back to the land starting in the eighteenth century—is down payment on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Third, it is a deep theological reason why we should support Israel in this new war against the new Nazism.”
      • The Expected Universalization of the Old Testament Land Promises (G. K. Beale, The Gospel Coalition): “The land promises will be fulfilled in a physical form when all believers inherit the earth, but the inauguration of this fulfillment is mainly spiritual until the final consummation in a fully physical new heaven and earth. The physical way these land promises have begun fulfillment is that Christ himself introduced the new creation by his physical resurrection.… Therefore, none of the references to the promise of Israel’s land in the Old Testament appears to be related to the promises of ethnic Israel’s return to the promised land on this present earth.”
      • Israel’s Role in the Land Promise (Darrell Bock, The Gospel Coalition): “It’s often claimed the New Testament moves the land promise from being about Israel as a people in the land to being about God’s people in the world. That’s an oversimplification. The question is whether that universal expansion neuters the specific promise made to Israel of a people in a land.”
  7. The Imprudence of ‘Dump Them’ (Clare Coffey, Christianity Today): “As prudence has fallen out of favor as an aspiration, it’s hard not to see the hole it has left. On social media, we try to fill that hole with an endless proliferation of abstract rules to govern human decisions. We try to outsource the basis of individual judgment to overly simplistic moral equations, and more often than not, we find the math works out to ‘dump them.’ ”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

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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.