Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 387

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 387, which I learned today is the lowest number with a sort-then-add persistence of 10, which is a really weird concept. Take 387 and add it to 378 (the digits sorted) and you get 765. Take 765 and add it to 567 to get 1332. Then sort that to add 1233. Keep doing that until you get an answer whose digits are already sorted (appear in increasing order). It takes 10 iterations to get there. Someone discovered this. Mathematicians are both wonderful and weird.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Under Municipal Regulations, UK Abortion Clinics ‘Safe’ From Silent Prayer (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Adam Smith-Connor prayed silently on a public street in Bournemouth, England, earlier this month, his back to an abortion clinic. When community safety officers asked what he was doing, he told them he was ‘praying for [his] son, who is deceased.’ The officers expressed condolences but then said Smith-Connor, a 49-year-old physical therapist and British army veteran, was ‘in breach’ of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), according to a video of the incident. Later he was fined.”
    • I’ve been following these stories on social media, this is the first decent writeup of them that I’ve seen. It blew my mind when I first saw it and I assumed some cops misunderstood a policy. Nope. Insane and demonic. I’ve long known that you don’t have the right to free speech in the U.K. I didn’t realize you also lacked the right to free silence.
  2. AI Stuff
    • OY, A.I. (Jaron Lanier, Tablet): “The problem wasn’t that Israelites wanted to craft a calf, but that they worshipped it, even though it was a thing they had just made. The calf was social narcissism and amnesia. Jews have always had a problem of getting bored, of not getting enough of a charge from whatever is going on. The Israelites waiting for Moses to come back down were bored enough to go nuts. We people, not just Jews, still make golden calves all the time. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, corporations-as-persons, the Chinese Communist Party, Wikipedia, the latest AI programs. All the same. All a bunch of people being subsumed to create an imaginary superhero.” An interesting theological reflection on AI by a guy I don’t remember hearing of before but clearly should have:
    • What if you could talk to the Bible? (Andrew Gao, Twitter): See
    • AI Sermon Outline Generator (John Dyer, OpenBible): “To start, please enter up to 5 Bible passages. The AI will then generate 4 sermon thesis statements, or main arguments, based on the passages. After you choose a thesis statement you like, it will generate an outline for you.”
    • Put Not Your Trust in ChatGPT, for Now (Emily Belz, Christianity Today): “Here is a system that will turn my head: You take an empty system, and it has the capability of learning language at the speed of a child. The way kids acquire language is truly mind-blowing. And not just language, but even if you go open the cupboard door—they see something once, and they figure out how to do it. The system that this Google engineer was talking about, it was given trillions of examples in order to get some sense of intelligence out of it. It consumed ridiculous amounts of energy, whereas a little kid’s brain requires the power of a flashlight, and it’s able to learn language. We’re not anywhere close to that kind of general AI.” The interviewee has a PhD in physics and works in AI -
    • Five Days in Class with ChatGPT (Thomas Rid, The Alperovitch Institute): “Last week brought two related features of artificial intelligence in education into sharp relief: the first is that all that talk about plagiarism and cheating and abuse is uninspiring and counterproductive. Yes, some unambitious students will use this new tool to cover subpar performance, and yes, we could talk about how to detect or disincentivize such behavior. The far more inspiring conversation is a different one: how can the most creative, the most ambitious, and the most brilliant students achieve even better results faster?” An engaging and thought-provoking case study.
  3. Five Rules for an Aging World (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe the defining challenge of the 21st century will be climate change, and those who know that it will be the birth dearth, the population bust, the old age of the world.”
  4. Whatever Happened to Light Verse? (Kevin Mims, Quillette): “Part of this seems to be due to what has lately been termed ‘elite overproduction.’ In previous eras, much of America’s journalism, poetry, and fiction were written by people who not only lacked an elite college education, many of them lacked any college education at all. Neither Ogden Nash nor Dorothy Parker earned a college degree (nor, for that matter, did Emily Dickinson, H.D., Robert Frost, and any number of other ‘serious’ poets of previous eras). But for half a century now, most of America’s most prominent journalists, poets, and novelists have been graduates of elite universities. And, because the lecture is a primary method of delivering education at schools like Harvard and Yale and Stanford, much contemporary journalism, poetry, and fiction reads like a lecture.”
  5. Has Church Abuse Activism Taken a Wrong Turn? (Samuel D. James, Substack): “So why do so few people want to say ‘evil’ and so many more seem to say ‘toxic’? Because the word ‘evil’ evokes moral absolutes, whereas the word ‘toxic’ is impression-coded. An evil regime merits opposition, even sacrificial opposition. A toxic culture merits quiet quitting and self-care afterwards.”
  6. A cluster of LGBT-related articles I stumbled upon this week:
    • The first of two reactions to an honest conversation about LGBT issues: L’Esprit d’Escalier, Dishcast Edition (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “I did not give an argument about why the Christian sexual ethic is good. I realize that it’s because for me, it’s totally a matter of obedience. As I’ve explained many times, and did again on Andrew’s show, once I understood that my own sexual activity was the only barrier to accepting Christ, and once I saw what a mess I was making of my life by standing firm for what I believed was my sexual freedom, I knew that I had a choice to make: I could have my sexual freedom, or I could have Christ. Anything short of making that sacrifice was dishonest.”
    • The other guy’s perspective (along with fascinating commentary from listeners): Rod Dreher On His Crises Of Faith And Family (Andrew Sullivan, Substack): “He’s currently writing a book about bringing the enchantment back to Christianity in a time of growing secularism. He was enchanted himself after taking LSD in college, putting him on the path to Christianity — something he hasn’t talked about in public until now. We’ve been sparring online for a couple of decades, while remaining friends.”
    • ‘Isla Bryson’ and the madness of Scotland’s gender bill (Alex Massie, The Spectator): “Moreover, some 50 per cent of Scottish inmates only discovered their new gender identity after they were charged by police. Bryson now adds to this number. This seems dubiously convenient to the point of being suspicious and it cannot sensibly be thought ‘transphobic’ to think so. Something is happening here, even if it is considered indecorous to speculate on precisely what is occurring.… Ultimately, this is a disagreement between fantasists and realists and it is deplorable to realise that the majority of Scottish parliamentarians are signed-up members of the fantasy club.”
    • Ivan Provorov jerseys sell out days after NHL player refuses to wear LGBT pride jersey (Luke Gentile, Washington Examiner): “Jerseys for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov have sold out online days after the 26-year-old refused to wear a gay pride-themed jersey for religious reasons. Both NHL Shop and Fanatics have listed Provorov’s jerseys as ‘almost gone,’ and there are no longer any men’s jerseys with his name and number available. On Fanatics, the defenseman is listed as having the most popular men’s jersey, women’s jersey, and sweatshirt, and his Branded Backer shirt is being advertised as the most popular seller related to the Philadelphia Flyers, according to the online store.”
    • The Myth of “Reliable Research” in Pediatric Gender Medicine: A critical evaluation of the Dutch Studies—and research that has followed (Abbruzzese, Levine & Mason, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy): “Our analysis of the Dutch protocol has been written with three goals in mind. First, we wanted to definitively refute the claims that the foundational Dutch research represents ‘solid prospective research’ that provides reliable evidence of net benefits of youth gender transition. In fact, it is much better described as case series—one of the lowest levels of evidence available (Dekkers et al., 2012, Mathes & Pieper, 2017). Second, we aimed to demonstrate that the type of non-comparative, short-term research that the gender medicine establishment continues to pursue is incapable of generating reliable information. And third and most importantly, we wanted to remind the medical community that medicine is a double-edged sword capable of both much good and much harm. The burden of proof—demonstrating that a treatment does more good than harm—is on those promoting the intervention, not on those concerned about the harms.” I am sure there will be articles critiquing this in coming days, but wow. The authors did not come to play.
    • You Don’t Want A Purely Biological, Apolitical Taxonomy Of Mental Disorders (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten):  “The people asking for apolitical taxonomies want an incoherent thing. They want something which doesn’t think about politics at all, and which simultaneously is more politically correct than any other taxonomy. Or if ‘political correctness’ sounds too dismissive, we can rephrase it as: ‘they want something that doesn’t think about ethics and practicality at all, but which is simultaneously more ethically correct and pragmatically correct than other taxonomies’.” Super spicy, short, and says things out loud which most people avoid.
  7. Who’s More Irrational — The Religious or the Irreligious? (Dennis Prager, syndicated column): “The truth is that today the secular have a virtual monopoly on irrational beliefs. One proof is that colleges have become the most irrational institutions in the country. Not coincidentally, they are also the most secular institutions in our society. In fact, the former is a result of the latter.” Recommended by a student.

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 Church Forests of Ethiopia (YouTube): nine minutes. This commentary by Rod Dreher was what brought the video to my attention. Watch the video before you read the commentary. These forests are a beautiful picture of the way the Church blesses the world around it, and what the Church must do to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in. From volume 262.

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Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.