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.