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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…”
- ‘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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Amazing New Technology Sure To Advance Mankind To The Next Level Of Consciousn — Never Mind, They’re Just Using It To Make Porn Again (Babylon Bee)
- New Poll Finds Presidential Race In Dead Heat Between ‘Uncommitted’ And ‘None Of These’ (Babylon Bee)
- Amazing: This Mind-Reader Can Instantly Guess People’s Pronouns With 99.9% Accuracy (Babylon Bee) — this one is much older but someone just brought it to my attention
- AIs are more accurate at math if you ask them to respond as if they are a Star Trek character — and we’re not sure why (Marianne Guenot, Business Insider): “One of Llama2-70B’s best-performing prompts, for instance, was: ‘System Message: ‘Command, we need you to plot a course through this turbulence and locate the source of the anomaly. Use all available data and your expertise to guide us through this challenging situation.’ The prompt then asked the AI to include these words in its answer: ‘Captain’s Log, Stardate [insert date here]: We have successfully plotted a course through the turbulence and are now approaching the source of the anomaly.’ ”
- From the arXiv preprint: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Eccentric Automatic Prompts (Rick Battle & Teja Gollapudi): “our findings reveal that the highest-scoring, automatically-optimized prompt exhibits a degree of peculiarity far beyond expectations.”
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.
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.