Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 355

Two pieces critical of Stanford plus lots more.

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 355, which is 5 times 71. It’s also apparently the number of labeled topologies with 4 elements, but I think knowing that it is 5 · 71 is cooler.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Two fascinating articles about Stanford:
    • Stanford’s War on Social Life (Ginevra Davis, Palladium Magazine): “The University sent a clear message with its treatment of the Band. Spontaneous organizations, particularly when they could become chaotic, controversial, or otherwise a space for breaking rules, were now something to be controlled. Rather than treating freedom and spontaneity as strengths, the dynamic became one where students had to justify their projects and ideas while under suspicion from administrators. Student life was becoming dominated by restrictive bureaucracy.” I believe this is substantially correct.
    • How I Almost Didn’t Graduate From Stanford (Maxwell Meyer, Substack): “Apparently, in order to graduate from Stanford while not officially enrolled, I needed to be placed in a special 0‑unit ‘course’ that exists only on paper. And because Stanford requires booster vaccines in order to enroll in courses, the degree progress office was literally unable to place me in the fake course.”
  2. The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life (Nitasha Tiku, Washington Post): “As he talked to LaMDA about religion, Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, noticed the chatbot talking about its rights and personhood, and decided to press further. In another exchange, the AI was able to change Lemoine’s mind about Isaac Asimov’s third law of robotics.” Speculative and disputed.
  3. This traffic stop between a Black man and a White state trooper began with fear. It ended with a surprising act of kindness (John Blake, CNN): “Doty closed his ticket book and opened his car door. He walked back over to Wilkerson’s car and turned to Geddis. ‘Sir, do you mind if I ask what kind of cancer you have?’ ‘No, I don’t mind. I have colon cancer.’ Doty took a deep breath and looked at Geddis. ‘Can I pray for you?’ Doty said.” Heartwarming.
  4. In the world of medicine:
    • A turning point in cancer (Eric Topol, Substack): “The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as ‘unheard-of’ by expert oncologists.”
    • The Battle Over Gender Therapy (Emily Bazelon, New York Times): “ ‘Being trans comes with goals — this is what to do,’ Butzen says. ‘It comes with a support network and a cause to fight for.’ Online, where the stakes start relatively low, teenagers in progressive communities can trade in a cisgender, heterosexual, white identity — the epitome of privilege and oppression — to join a community with a clear claim to being marginalized and deserving of protection.”
      • It is significant that this reporting is in New York Times. This is a long article and it was difficult to find a passage to excerpt. I am confident the journalist would not consider this a representative excerpt nor the one she considers most important.
  5. Professors Need the Power to Fire Diversity Bureaucrats (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “At present, sanctions in higher education flow in one direction: Diversity bureaucrats exert control over faculty members whose speech allegedly undermines inclusion. I propose giving faculty the power to investigate, sanction, and fire diversity officials if they undermine free speech. Administrative abuses will continue as long as bureaucrats can punish speech, even in flagrant violation of university policy, without any consequences.” I like this. I don’t think it’s structurally possible at most universities, but I like this.
  6. International perspective:
    • Five Blunt Truths About the War in Ukraine (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “The Russians are running out of precision-guided weapons. The Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era munitions. The world is running out of patience for the war. The Biden administration is running out of ideas for how to wage it. And the Chinese are watching.… an army that cannot wage a high-tech war, relatively low on collateral damage, will wage a low-tech war, appallingly high on such damage. Ukraine, by its own estimates, is suffering 20,000 casualties a month. By contrast, the U.S. suffered about 36,000 casualties in Iraq over seven years of war. For all its bravery and resolve, Kyiv can hold off — but not defeat — a neighbor more than three times its size in a war of attrition.”
    • China’s military expansion is reaching a dangerous tipping point (Josh Rogin, Washington Post): “China is building the capability to use nuclear blackmail to deter a U.S. intervention if it invades Taiwan, following Russia’s model. China’s regional military presence is expanding, including a secret naval base in Cambodia and a secret military cooperation agreement with the Solomon Islands. China has developed new technologies, including hypersonic missiles and antisatellite lasers, to keep the U.S. military at bay in a Taiwan scenario. And now, China no longer recognizes the Taiwan Strait as international waters.”
  7. Elephant in the Zoom (Ryan Grim, The Intercept): “…Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and other reproductive health organizations had similarly been locked in knock-down, drag-out fights between competing factions of their organizations, most often breaking down along staff-versus-management lines. It’s also true of the progressive advocacy space across the board, which has, more or less, effectively ceased to function. The Sierra Club, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, the Movement for Black Lives, Human Rights Campaign, Time’s Up, the Sunrise Movement, and many other organizations have seen wrenching and debilitating turmoil in the past couple years.”

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 Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research (Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science): “At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid.” The author is a professor at Yale. First shared in volume 221.

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 339

some of these links are quite spicy — consume with care

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

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

Things Glen Found Interesting

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

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

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

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

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 330

a surprising concentration of medical articles this week

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 330, which is the number of ways to put 11 items into groups of 4.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. “What is wrong with physicians?” (from the comments) (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “There is a wild disconnect between ‘being a physician’ as understood by the public and what you actually live.” Well worth reading for anyone considering med school.
  2. On Cards, Crypto, and Christ (Pratyush Buddiga, Substack): “All I can remember was singing a song and suddenly feeling an internal resonance within me, a oneness with something far greater and more powerful than anything I had ever experienced. It took me out of where I was in that small church in Singapore and connected me with the divine. The second before I didn’t believe in God. After that moment that felt like a lifetime, I knew He was real.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  3. Research: Religious Americans Less Likely to Divorce (Lyman Stone & Brad Wilcox, Christianity Today): “Earlier marriage is a known risk factor for divorce. Premarital cohabitation is too. Since religiosity tends to motivate earlier marriage but less cohabitation, the effects on divorce are not easy to guess. What we really want to know is: Do religious people get divorced less? The answer appears to be yes.”
  4. Leaked SoCal hospital records reveal huge, automated markups for healthcare (David Lazarus, LA Times): “[The nurse’s] screenshots, taken earlier this year, speak for themselves. What they show are price hikes ranging from 575% to 675% being automatically generated by the hospital’s software. The eye-popping increases are so routine, apparently, the software even displays the formula it uses to convert reasonable medical costs to billed amounts that are much, much higher.… This is separate from any additional charges for the doctor, anesthesiologist, X‑rays or hospital facilities.” Shared with me by an alumnus.
  5. Destruction is Still Mutually Assured (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “Do I think it would be good if Russia invaded Ukraine? No. Do I think that Russia invading Ukraine would be as bad as a nuclear war between the countries with the two largest nuclear stockpiles? Also no. Not even close, actually.”
  6. Rob Henderson: How “Luxury Beliefs” Hurt the Rest of Us (Bari Weiss, podcast). This is a really interesting interview.
  7. Some COVID links:
    • The Phrase “No Evidence” Is A Red Flag For Bad Science Communication (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “Science communicators are using the same term — ‘no evidence’ — to mean: 1. This thing is super plausible, and honestly very likely true, but we haven’t checked yet, so we can’t be sure. 2. We have hard-and-fast evidence that this is false, stop repeating this easily debunked lie. This is utterly corrosive to anybody trusting science journalism.”
      • I found the title confusing. What the author means is that whenever you see the phrase “no evidence” in a headline you should anticipate an unhelpful article. This comes up often in COVID-related articles.
    • The CDC’s Flawed Case for Wearing Masks in School (David Zweig, The Atlantic): “…the CDC has promised to ‘follow the science’ in its COVID policies. Yet the circumstances around the Arizona study seem to show the opposite. Dubious research has been cited after the fact, without transparency, in support of existing agency guidance.”
    • Where I Live, No One Cares About COVID (Matthew Walther, The Atlantic): “…outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.” Maybe not worth using the free paywall view unless you’re particularly interested in the topic.

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 Facts Are Not Self‐Interpreting (Twitter) — this is a short, soundless video. Recommended. First shared in volume 184.

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 317

lots of pandemic and vaccination stuff

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 317 — a prime number.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Too Good To Check: A Play In Three Acts (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “Did you believe that? I mean, that’s also a pretty cool story, isn’t it? Right-wing news outlets accuse the so-called ‘liberal media’ of bias, then get hoist on their own petard? Seems a bit too cute. Have you clicked through to any of the links yet? No? Not even after I admitted I’m probably biased here?”
  2. On vaccinations
    • It’s Time to Stop Rationalizing and Enabling Evangelical Vaccine Rejection (David French, The Dispatch): “For the Christian believer, the pursuit of freedom is inseparable from the pursuit of virtue. We do not seek liberty simply to satisfy our desires or to appease our fears. In fact, when we pursue the freedom to make our neighbors sick, we violate the social compact and undermine our moral standing in politics, law, and culture. Christian libertinism becomes a long-term threat to religious liberty itself.”
      • Although I am vaccinated myself, I am more sympathetic to vaccine reluctants than French is. I definitely do not think it is a religious liberty issue, though. It seems to me that this is more a matter of personal autonomy and the reluctance is largely driven by self-inflicted damage from the authorities. The CDC (for example) has repeatedly said and done extraordinarily stupid things in this pandemic. Very often you would have been better off doing the opposite of what they advocated for. People noticed. And so now that the official advice is to receive the vaccine, people who are resistant are applying an understandable heuristic.
    • I’m a Former Pastor, and I Don’t Believe in ‘Religious Exemptions’ to Vaccine Mandates (Curtis Chang, New York Times): “Christians who request religious exemptions rarely even try to offer substantive biblical and theological reasoning. Rather, the drivers for evangelical resistance are nonreligious and are rooted in deep-seated suspicion of government and vulnerability to misinformation.… The biggest threat to any legitimate right is the illegitimate abuse of that right.” Recommended by a student. Curtis Chang used to pastor near here and although we’ve never met I emailed with him once about a book he had written.
    • NRB spokesman Dan Darling fired after pro-vaccine statements on ‘Morning Joe’ (Bob Smietana, Religion News Service): “Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, was fired Friday (Aug. 27) after refusing to recant his pro-vaccine statements, according to a source authorized to speak for Darling.”
    • The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics (Glenn Greenwald, Substack): “What makes the ACLU’s position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.”
  3. The pandemic more generally
    1. One in 5,000 (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Here’s one way to think about a one-in-10,000 daily chance: It would take more than three months for the combined risk to reach just 1 percent… I will confess to one bit of hesitation about walking you through the data on breakthrough infections: It’s not clear how much we should be worrying about them. For the vaccinated, Covid resembles the flu and usually a mild one. Society does not grind to a halt over the flu.”
    2. New Details Emerge About Coronavirus Research at Chinese Lab (Sharon Lerner & Mara Hvistendahl, The Intercept): “The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed.” Recommended by a student
    3. New Studies Find Evidence Of ‘Superhuman’ Immunity To COVID-19 In Some Individuals (Michaleen Doucleff, NPR): “In fact, these antibodies were even able to deactivate a virus engineered, on purpose, to be highly resistant to neutralization. This virus contained 20 mutations that are known to prevent SARS-CoV‑2 antibodies from binding to it. Antibodies from people who were only vaccinated or who only had prior coronavirus infections were essentially useless against this mutant virus. But antibodies in people with the ‘hybrid immunity’ could neutralize it.”
  4. Steven Pinker Thinks Your Sense of Imminent Doom Is Wrong (David Marchese, New York Times): “Given that virtually every climate scientist believes that human activity is warming the planet, how could anyone deny it? The answer is, people don’t necessarily believe what scientists say because they correctly sense that within academia a person can get punished for unorthodox beliefs.”
    • Including entirely for that excerpt. What I find fascinating is that the journalist is dismissive of this idea, which is not only clearly true but at the root of much societal dysfunction. We have a crisis of confidence in our culture because our experts seem determined to demonstrate their untrustworthiness again and again. Journalists are even more to blame than academics, which is why I think it is so hard for this journalist to accept Pinker’s claim.
  5. Perspective: The moral utility of history (Jon Meacham, Deseret News): “As a matter of observable fact, the United States, through its sporadic adherence to its finest aspirations, is the most durable experiment in pluralistic republicanism the world has known. Other national revolutions have descended into dictatorship and persecution; ours has produced enviable, if fragile, democratic institutions. In the main, the America of the 21st century is, for all its shortcomings, freer and more accepting than it has ever been.” Recommended by an alumnus.
  6. On the Texas abortion law
    1. Texas’ Abortion Law Should Force America to Change Its Ways (Karen Swallow Prior, New York Times): “In America, of all the pregnancies that don’t end in miscarriage, nearly one in five is aborted; this is a society in which things are wildly off track. A world like this, spun by forces that lead to that many lives being undone, doesn’t happen by chance. It takes all of us. It takes a village to make abortion seem like the best choice. We can change our ways, though.” The author is an English professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
    2. The Pro-Life Movement Must Transcend Politics (David French, The Dispatch): “To be pro-life does not mean supporting every possible strategy, even if only temporarily successful (a Texas state court has already issued a broad injunction against the law), designed to ban or limit abortion. Strategies designed to ban abortion do not necessarily help end abortion, and ending abortion is the ultimate aim of the pro-life movement.”
    3. How a former SLS professor and Hoover fellow helped shape the Texas abortion ban (Sarina Deb and Georgia Rosenberg, Stanford Daily): “Jonathan Mitchell was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School and former fellow at the Hoover Institution when he theorized the legal mechanism which laid the groundwork for the controversial Texas abortion ban that went into effect last week. If states wanted to circumvent judicial review, Mitchell wrote in a 2018 law review article, they could delegate the power of enforcement to private citizens. That is exactly what S.B. 8 does.”
  7. Strategic Citing (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “[Scholars are more likely to cite other scholars who can help them out]… The finding is robust to controlling for self-citations, own-journal citations, and a variety of other possibilities. The authors also show that deceased authors get fewer citations than matched living authors. For example, living Nobel prize winners get more citations than dead ones even when they were awarded the prize jointly.”

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 Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” At the time of writing, the author had just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

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 315

some extraordinarily interesting articles this week — highly recommended

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.

Today’s number is 315, which is northwest when measured on a compass.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. OnlyFans and the Sexual Revolution (Samuel D. James, First Things): “If you look carefully, you can see how sobriquets such as ‘sex worker’ give away the game. The contemporary liberated social order is an order of workers: naked bodies laboring round the clock, sacrificing dignity and reputation for the opportunity to nibble the crumbs that fall from Big Tech’s table. Our civilization’s efforts to commodify sexuality cannot deliver what they promise. It is impossible to make sex a product or subscription; the closest thing is human trafficking, which, as it turns out, is a feature and not a bug of the adult content industry.” Straight fire.
  2. The World Is Catechizing Us Whether We Realize It or Not (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “It is worth remembering David Well’s famous definition: worldliness is whatever makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. Here’s the reality facing every Christian in the West: the money, power, and prestige of the mainstream media, big time sports, big business, big tech, and almost all the institutions of education and entertainment are invested in making sin look normal.”
  3. Nike’s End of Men (Ethan Strauss, Substack): “For all the talk of a racial reckoning within major industries, Nike’s main problem is this: It’s a company built on masculinity, most specifically Michael Jordan’s alpha dog brand of it. Now, due to its own ambitions, scandals, and intellectual trends, Nike finds masculinity problematic enough to loudly reject.” This is WAY more interesting than I anticipated.
  4. Tetlock and the Taliban (Richard Hanania, Substack): “I have a PhD in political science with a focus on international relations. Most people in my position would tell you that you should give my opinions on my topic of expertise more weight because of my credentials. I believe if anything, you should hold my degree against me, as getting a PhD is probably the most inefficient way to understand a topic, and a person seeking that credential has shown that they don’t understand that. I think I’ve been right on Afghanistan and other American interventions because of good intellectual habits, including a genuine concern with what is true. But that has little to do with any training I got from political science.” This piece is quite good. I feel like I should add a disclaimer like, “Warning: academic heresy ahead.”
  5. ‘When My Satire Becomes Popular, I Must Ask, What Is the Problem?’ (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “[Popular satirists] can’t say, ‘I’m calling out power.’ No, you are power. Satirists must interrogate their own positionality. I try to say, ‘How am I implicated in this thing personally?’ Because satire never used to be popular.… So when my satire becomes popular, I must ask, What is the problem? Why are there so many people that are comfortable with my work?” A very perceptive interview with Elnathan John. Emphasis in original.
  6. Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why. (Sarah Kliff & Josh Katz, New York Times): “This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.… data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.” This is revealing and irritating.
  7. About Afghanistan:
    • We Must Learn From Our Defeat (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “We must learn the lessons of our failure with great urgency. American primacy has insulated America from the pains of our defeat. This will not be true for much longer. As I type these words my nation hurtles towards a dark and uncertain future. The challenge posed by an ambitious and revisionist Communist Party of China dwarfs any problem a movement of illiterate poppy farmers could create. We have wasted the profits of our imperium away; in this more feeble state we now confront the challenge of a century. We must not face it armed with the dysfunction of our past two decades. We must relearn how to be serious.”
    • US special operations vets carry out daring mission to save Afghan allies (James Gordon Meek, ABC News): “The Afghan operators, assets, interpreters and their families were known as ‘passengers’ and they were being guided remotely by ‘shepherds,’ who are, in most cases their loyal former U.S. special operations forces and CIA comrades and commanders, according to chat room communications viewed by ABC News.… Looking back at an effort that saved at least, by their count, 630 Afghan lives, Redman expressed deep frustration ‘that our own government didn’t do this. We did what we should do, as Americans.’ ” Amazing.
    • Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 (Jim Lobe, Responsible Statecraft): “If the U.S. government was caught up short by the dramatic denouement of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, viewers of the three major networks must have been taken entirely by surprise. Out of a combined 14,000-plus minutes of the national evening news broadcast on CBS, ABC, and NBC last year, a grand total of five minutes were devoted to Afghanistan…”
    • Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “I will not pretend that I know how we should have left Afghanistan. But neither do a lot of people dominating the airwaves right now. And the confident pronouncements to the contrary over the past two weeks leave me worried that America has learned little. We are still holding not just to the illusion of our control, but to the illusion of our knowledge.”
    • The economics of Taliban finance (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “An example of Islamist governance can be found on the stretch of road from Kabul to the Mile 78 border crossing in south-west Farah province that borders Iran. The road has more than 25 government checkpoints and a fee is charged at multiple points on the journey. By contrast, the Taliban who police the same road have far fewer checkpoints and give a receipt, so only a single payment is necessary.” Very interesting, summarizing a paywalled piece.

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 Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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.