Links from the last week

Think I will try to start this weekly post up again, again because there are too many interesting articles I come across I’d like to share, and because I myself enjoy so many blogs (including posts that are mainly collections of links).  So here we go…

1. First The Fall Of Alexandria, And Now Fidget Spinners

Via a Facebook friend, a post in which fidget spinners lead to philosophy.  I always appreciate articles that remind us of something obvious Americans like to forget – our ancestors may have lacked our technology, but they weren’t idiots.  If something as simple as a fidget spinner would have produced the dramatic educational benefits some claim, that fact would have been realized a very long time ago.  (I personally have seen a couple in class – and yes, they did seem to enhance distraction, not improve the learning environment.)

If a fidget spinner is no different than spinning a pencil, spin a pencil. The fact of the matter is a fidget spinner is nothing like a pencil, for a pencil is made for writing and a fidget spinner is made for distraction. “It helps me pay attention” is the same manner of specious moonshine I floated back in the fourth grade when I told my mother Nintendo would help me “improve my hand-eye coordination.” The claim is passed from sneaky adults to children so that children can defend themselves with Recent Studies Show balderdash against the common sense of the stodgy adults. Only in America would adults give children amusing, distracting, mind-numbing, addictive, easily-hidden little toys and tell them, “These will help you pay attention in school.”

2. Walker Percy’s Last Self-Help Book

One of many articles making the rounds again because of the recent death of the author, Peter Augustine Lawler.

Darwin was basically right until we showed up. He’s right to say that we’ve been equipped by nature to be who we are, but he slighted or ignored the ways we introduced a fundamental discontinuity into the process of evolution. Darwin was basically right until the creature with a self or soul showed up who could actually discover the theory of evolution and fail to locate himself in it.

Darwin didn’t reflect enough about who Darwin, the being who wonders and wanders, is, and to some extent his theory is a diversion from that personal question. Darwin wasn’t scientific enough when it comes to the strange and wonderful being who can be a scientist, but is never only a scientist.

3. The True Purpose of the University

A nice Heather Mac Donald piece that basically says… the president of Yale says education is about teaching students to recognize “false narratives”, and Yale faculty are a model of stubborn skepticism when it comes to such narratives.  Heather says this is ridiculous because…

  • Like most universities, Yale is hardly a bastion of mythbusting and skepticism when it comes to the important progressive cultural narratives of the day.
  • Education isn’t about recognizing false narratives anyway, primarily.  It’s about spreading knowledge.  Because students arrive at college not knowing much at all in a tremendous range of subjects.  You can’t start arguing about interpretation when you lack knowledge of the bedrock.

So Salovey’s claim that Yale resolutely seeks out and unmasks “false narratives” is itself a false narrative. But is the routing of “false narratives” even an apt description of what a college education should ideally be? It is not, even though that goal, in different iterations, is widely embraced across the political spectrum. The most urgent task of any college is the transmission of knowledge, pure and simple. American students arrive at college knowing almost nothing about history, literature, art, or philosophy. If they aspire to a career in STEM fields, they may have already picked up some basic math and physics, and possibly some programming skills. But their orientation in the vast expanse of Western civilization is shallow; they have likely been traveling on a surface of selfies and pop culture with, at best, only fleeting plunges into the past.

4. The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies

“The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.”

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

Via Michael Shermer, Dr. Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsey craft a totally fake article with the title above, submit it to a peer-reviewed Gender Studies journal… and it gets published.  Lots of lessons here (read the piece), especially:

  • There’s nothing magic about peer-review.  It’s a good thing, it’s just not magic.  Oodles of flawed papers are published every year.  As I sometimes have to tell people, peer-review absolutely does NOT mean that someone reproduced your research and found it valid.  All it means is that someone, hopefully doing work somewhat like your own, read your paper, noticed no obvious flaws, and thought it important enough to publish.  (And perhaps offered some suggestions.)  That’s it.  That’s a good thing to have done, but it’s not magic.
  • Of course another one of the goals here was to poke fun at “Gender Studies” for being unable to distinguish utter nonsense from real work in the field – as I told a friend in the social sciences on Twitter recently, I feel like the social sciences on the whole are much, much less constrained by reality when it comes to what conclusions they may draw.  To me, they often feel much more like “just interpret this thing in some way nobody has interpreted it yet” – boom, publication.  The friend replied that the data in social science fields is just a lot more complicated, and that’s probably true too… but I still say the fields feel much less constrained by reality.  I am wary of commenting outside my field but there you go.

5. University Of Michigan Student Who Insists Wood Paneling Is Racist Gets It All Backwards

OK, I was charmed that this article was written by an undergraduate engineering major.  Also love the middle sentence.

The university describes the union building as “one of the University of Michigan’s most recognizable landmarks,” and if that is racist, sexist, and oppressive, then so is the entire existence of the University of Michigan—and maybe the existence of any college in America today. Civilizational progress is, in many ways, a making available to lower classes what once was available only to the elite. The changes of the modern age are always good when they take a wealthy man’s possession, like comfortable furniture, and allow the poor to have their own version of it.

6. Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

Because I have to have some neat Physics in this line-up.

Dipping a tube into a container filled with water will make the water rise in the tube. This phenomenon is called liquid capillarity. It is responsible for many natural and technical processes, for example the water absorption of trees, ink rising in a fountain pen, and sponges absorbing dishwater. But what happens if the tube is dipped into a container filled not with water but with sand? The answer is – nothing. However, if the tube is shaken up and down, the sand will also begin to rise. Scientists have now discovered the mechanism behind this effect, the so-called granular capillary effect.

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This week’s post brought to you by “au revoir Montréal!”, a city we were vacationing in until yesterday.

Rash of good thinking about the nature of science provoked by Bill Nye and the March for Science

(Though not really in the way either had intended.)

Below, find links to a flurry of articles I didn’t want to lose, along with brief excerpts or summaries.  Several of these are very long pieces and I do recommend reading them, rather than stopping with my little note.  No point in trying to repeat them here!  I especially recommend #7 and #8.

1. Bill Nye, Progressive Science, and the Threat of Nature

Nice long piece by Alistair Roberts (who only knows how to write long pieces) on how we say we can’t derive morality from nature, and yet clearly we also can’t get nature out of our heads, hence many unscientific attempts to “justify” moral positions by an appeal to “Science”.

The appeal to nature fallacy is the claim that something is good and morally binding because it is natural. The inverse fallacy, the fallacy that is increasingly popular among progressives, insists that, because something is deemed by society to be good, it must be regarded as every bit as natural as anything else.

2. Bill Nye Spends Most of His New Netflix Show Yelling at the Audience

Instead, we watched for an excruciating five minutes as Nye pitted Jacobson against another of his round table guests, energy and environment reporter Richard Martin, to explain at a ten-year-old level why Martin is like, totally wrong and dumb for thinking nuclear power should be part of our energy future, too. The entire exchange was apparently intended to bolster the (not exactly scientific) viewpoint Nye interjected throughout the segment, that “nobody wants nuclear power.”

This, unfortunately, is quintessential of the show—a small amount of information packaged to promote a cartoon-caricature understanding of a complex science issue, slanted to the POV of an unabashedly political science comedian.

Which is also the problem with a tremendous amount of the “Science” bandied about in public these days.  To just quote something I said on FB:

It can hardly be overstated that good science takes place in the details of the data, in careful definition of terms, in precise and clear reasoning… in short, it’s hard work, as my own students could certainly tell you. Maybe this is just the teacher in me talking, but it ought to be far more important to teach people that, to teach people how to think well, than it is to teach them the right answers. Because bad thinking and speaking is legion in America today, including in the hallways of academia where I observe it daily. We say we want to teach critical thinking, but we seem to be willing to overlook quite a bit (and engage in quite a bit of sloppy work ourselves) if the “answers” are “right”.

3. The Real “Anti-Science”

Conflating “science” with ethics and morality: Science is amoral. It is very effective at deriving knowledge and learning facts, but it can’t tell us right from wrong, good from bad, or moral from immoral. Yet self-described science advocates often blur those crucial distinctions by accusing the people with whom they disagree with on an ethical or public policy question of being “anti-science.”

4. Celebrity scientists (and faux-scientists) should leave understanding the person to the humanities

I don’t actually agree with the headline on a literal level – what I would say is, these people should get a real education in philosophy / theology / humanity, and stop dismissing those fields and pretending (and it is just pretend) that their ideas about humanity flow directly from what the Science says.

It’s usually pretty clear when de Grasse Tyson and Nye are in over their heads, but it’s never more painfully obvious than when they try to comment on politics, culture and other things involving a general understanding of human nature. They may know how magnets work and how galaxies move, but they seem to be utterly confused by people.

5. My Sex Junk – Rachel Bloom – Bill Nye Saves The World

I don’t normally subject myself to material everyone says is horrendous, but in this case I had to see for myself.  This is the video from Bill Nye’s new show that was referenced in two of the articles above – if you care to watch it, just a warning that it is extremely crude.  The contrast between who he was (or at least appeared to be) and who he has become could hardly be greater.  Even if you ignore the crudity, much that is said cannot be justified by science in the slightest degree.

On the subject of trusting in Science to tell you what morality should be…:

6. Refusing To Believe Early Progressives Loved Eugenics Will Not Erase The Horrible Truth

If you have spent any time in the conservative or pro-life movements, it is not news to you that the leading lights of progressive opinion a century ago openly embraced eugenics. Eugenics, the theory that social policies must be enacted to cull the “bad genes” from society, was popular among progressives across the developed world, including the United States. What constituted “bad genes” was, according to its proponents, a matter of scientific consensus. Today we would call it racism and classism.

7. The ‘March For Science’ Shows How Carl Sagan Ruined Science

Science has its own unique language and methods: the language of mathematics and a method of systematic observation and experimentation. The reason science tends to be opaque to the public is because it ultimately requires that they understand its language and learn to use its methods. But how do you communicate the history and meaning of science to those who don’t yet speak its language? You turn science into something they can understand. You make it into a narrative, a story.

8. The Problem with the March for Science

Let’s start with my contention that most “pro-science” demonstrators have no idea what they were demonstrating about. Being “pro-science” has become a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which liberals (and other members of the cultural elite) engage in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it. On any given day, many of my most “woke” friends are quick to post and retweet viral content about the latest on what Science (and I’m capitalizing this on purpose) “says,” or what some studies “prove.” But on closer look, much of what gets shared and bandied about is sheer bullshit and is diagnostic of one thing only: The state of science (and science literacy) in this country, and most of the planet for that matter, is woefully bad. For example, the blog IFLScience (IFL stands for “I f—ing love”) seems singularly committed to undermining legitimately good science half the time, while promoting it the other half—which, scientifically speaking, is a problem. Here’s a neat one that relays news about a study that suggested that beer hops may protect against liver disease. I’ll be sure to mention that to the next alcoholic with hepatitis and cirrhosis that I treat. To date that article has been shared 41,600 times. Very few of those readers, I should mention, were mice, though the research was carried out in, you guessed it, mice. (And of course, this type of coverage is not refined to cleverly named blogs.)

By the way, ironically the headline for the next article expressed dismay that Bill Nye’s show wouldn’t even reach the people it needs to convince.  Oh, it reached them all right, they’ve been sharing clips of it for the past week.  They found it a bit less than convincing.  On that point…

9. Scientists Abandon Search for Bill Nye’s Credibility

10. What Can Church History Teach Us About Wolves?

Wait, why is this article here?  Because I thought points #1, 3, and 4 could be easily “secularized” and apply here as well.  Namely:

1. People promoting bad ideas often don’t know they’re promoting bad ideas.  Sure, occasionally sometimes is trying to make a quick buck through a lie.  But quite often, people are very sincere and very mistaken.

3. People promoting bad ideas are often imbalanced, in that they’ve let one idea (quite possibly a good one) too much dominate their own thinking.  Love is good, but it can become an excuse to avoid any uncomfortable moral judgments.  Etc.

4. Bad ideas thrive where precise definition is ignored or disallowed.

Links I liked, Nov 13-19 (Space junk art, Franklin Graham in Burma, identity liberalism)

1. UK ‘space junk’ project highlights threat to missions

An art project to call attention to space junk, huh.

2. Franklin Graham hosts rally in Burma, 46,000 attend

Just a few neat photos in a tweet, but I didn’t know Burma was open to that kind of activity.  I’ve had some students from there, and Bec loved visiting there.

3. Reformed Church Unintentionally Pulls Off Perfect Mannequin Challenge

Ah, speaks for itself!

4. The IRS is seeking the identities and transaction histories of all Coinbase customers in the U.S.

I’m not a lawyer, but this feels like an unprecedented request for financial information on people accused of no crime – and Coinbase has now announced their intention to fight it in court (I feel like they ought to win).  Near as I can tell, on the grounds that some people use Coinbase to avoid taxes, the federal government wants the transaction history of all Coinbase customers (1.5 million last I saw) over the last three years.

5. A Cup of Wrath Poured Out

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Dutch physicians refused to obey orders by Nazi troops to let the elderly or the terminally ill die. In 2001, Holland became the first country to give legal status to doctor assisted suicide. Some years earlier Malcolm Muggeridge noted, it took only one generation to transform a war crime into an act of compassion.

Sermon from our church last Sunday, especially the comments (25:50-31:43) on euthanasia, not a topic I often think about.

6. You Are Still Crying Wolf

A widely passed around article by an anti-Trump psychiatrist who nonetheless says – stop traumatizing people with all these horror stories about what is going to happen to them.  And if you don’t think he’s really anti-Trump… that second-to-last paragraph is something.

Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes. In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

7. The End of Identity Liberalism

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.

The week brought to you by leaves in East Lansing.

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Links I liked, Sep 17 – Sep 24 (Christian atheists, artificial viruses, cul-de-sac neighborhood design)

1. Tom Holland: Why I was wrong about Christianity

A self described “Christian atheist” historian realizes that many of the ethical positions he holds dear are not shared across humanity, but the result of the West’s Christian history.

Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

2. Smallest reported artificial virus could advance gene therapy.

Artificial viruses eh.  I’ve seen that movie.

3. Why Tim Keller Wrote a Prequel to ‘The Reason for God’

…people have a materialistic view of the universe—we aren’t here for any purpose, we evolved strictly through a process of the strong eating the weak, and nothing we do here will matter in the end, since everything will burn up in the death of the sun. Yet we’re told we shouldn’t live selfish lives, and we should treat everyone as having human rights. Humanistic values in no way fit with that view of the universe—they’re held despite that view of the universe.

4. Openings in Our Fractured Republic

Great interview of Yural Levin – hard to quote just any one piece, but worth a read.

5. Will the Left Survive the Millennials?

Lot of people passing this piece around last week.

In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out.

6. Debunking the Cul-de-Sac

“A lot of people feel that they want to live in a cul-de-sac, they feel like it’s a safer place to be,” Marshall says. “The reality is yes, you’re safer – if you never leave your cul-de-sac. But if you actually move around town like a normal person, your town as a whole is much more dangerous.”

7. Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris

Older but fun video!

This week brought to you by cats hiding from vets.

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Links I liked, Sep 6 – Sep 16 (Join the Plodders, Air Force One on 9/11, College Blacklists)

1. Stop the Revolution.  Join the Plodders.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

2. ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’

A long but fascinating retelling of the events of 9/11 from the perspective of Air Force One.  You’ll just have to give it a read.

3. Play mini golf on the Lugnuts’ field

OK this is a local story but I thought – what a great idea, maybe other cities should try it.  Putt-putt golf for a week post-season on the field of the minor league baseball Lansing Lugnuts.

4. Pittsburgh, your Self-Driving Uber is arriving now

A genuine, self-driving Uber test in Pittsburgh.  (Still with a “safety driver” up front, but nonetheless feels like a real step forward.)

5. Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong

Someone (er… in 2012) uploaded an HD version of this enjoyable parody and tour of the state.

6. You don’t say: Trust in media falls to historic low in new Gallup poll

The numbers here are astounding even to me.  14% of Republicans have at least a “fair” amount of trust in mass media.  14%.  As recently as 1998 that was 52%.  Even Democrats are only at 51%.

7. LBGT College Blacklist

This is Athenian Democracy 101 — that when we pool money, we ineluctably support things we’re not crazy about — that you can read about in Aristotle’s Politics, but Campus Pride has, in classic Enlightened Modernity fashion, now seen a thing that was never there and claimed it to be eternal.

Worse, follow Campus Pride’s logic: Group A has a policy we dislike, and so we encourage incomparably powerful structures (for what else are corporations?) to boycott and blacklist anyone associated with Group A. The gay rights movement was marginalized for many years. The fact that they are now calling for hegemonic and anti-democratic powers to join them in silencing people who verbally disagree should be a huge cause for concern. And this is not even to mention that they don’t want to just silence Group A but in fact anyone associated with it, including, potentially, a gay student who had the poor luck to graduate from there.

Traditional conservatives should not roll our eyes at this development. A neo-McCarthyist group is explicitly asking the forces of the neoliberal corporate state to join forces with them in expelling dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy not just from the public square, but from the public and from the society. The goal is not to win an argument; the goal is to drive someone away. The goal, bluntly, is to symbolically kill them. That such vengeance is emanating from a recently disenfranchised group is very disheartening. That the movement is calling for a State-Corporate fusion in order to excise Christian enemies is terrifying.

As someone who cares about clear thinking, this stuff actually wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it wasn’t done in the name of being “inclusive and welcoming”, as is the explicit claim in this case. You cannot ask businesses to exclude from their consideration anyone who so much as touched a college you had so much as a verbal disagreement with and claim you are being “inclusive and welcoming”. Anything but.

This week brought to you by our new fighting conch.

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Links I liked, Aug 30 – Sep 5 (SpaceX explosion, winds in the stratosphere, and more)

1. SpaceX rocket explodes during test.

Golly.  Gives you a sense for how nervous those tiny Apollo astronauts might have been sitting at the end of those gigantic rockets.

2. A strange thing happened in the stratosphere

Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed – until late 2015.

3. Coral Beauty Angelfish getting scrubbed by Cleaner Shrimp

From our aquarium actually – was pleased to finally catch this neat interspecies interaction on video.

4. How Trigger Warnings Silence Religious Students

Many passed this article around last week – happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.  I know a lot of people (especially outside of academia) would say that the whole point of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and the like is to silence speech.  This author would rather say that the silencing of speech is an unfortunate side effect that needs to be dealt with.  So I know a lot of readers would say this article is really much too nice but, as I said, happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.

Students should be free to argue their beliefs without fear of being labeled intolerant or disrespectful, whether they think certain sexual orientations are forbidden by God, life occurs at the moment of conception, or Islam is the exclusive path to salvation; and conversely, the same freedom should apply to those who believe God doesn’t care about who we have sex with, abortion is a fundamental right, or Islam is based on nothing more than superstitious nonsense. As it stands, that freedom does not exist in most academic settings, except when students’ opinions line up with what can be broadly understood as progressive political values.

5. I don’t.

About 2% of children in Japan are born out of wedlock – in America, about 40%.

6. Discrimination That Is Necessary For a Civil Society: A Response to David Gushee

A while ago a local news station had a poll that went something like “are curfews only for those of certain ages discriminatory?”. My reaction was – that is a terrible question to poll people about. One of the definitions of “discrimination” is to make a distinction between. By definition a curfew that applies to some ages and not others is discrimination, you don’t need a poll for that. What they really wanted to know, of course, is if people thought such curfews were wrong or unjust. But that isn’t what they said.

The law is usually more precise, forbidding discrimination based on X, Y, and Z, sort of implying thereby that there is a lot of other discrimination going on that is just fine. But the two definitions (basically “recognize a distinction” and “make an unjust distinction”) are often mixed, quite intentionally at times I think by people who want to create confusion of thought and draw people to their side (“it’s unjust discrimination”) without ever having to make an argument for why it is. (And mixed unintentionally at other times by people whose thought is simply, by now, thoroughly confused.) Therefore I am happy to see careful thinkers pointing this out and insisting on more precision.

7. 10 Steps to Fix a City

Throw out your parking ordinances.  Dramatically simplify your zoning.

8. Freshwater jellyfish discovered in Michigan lake

The non-native species is home to one region in China, but they have been reported in Michigan since the 1930s, according to the United States Geological Survey. Experts said these penny-sized invertebrates are not dangerous to humans nor Michigan’s ecological system.

This week brought to you by aurora north of Lansing, Michigan.

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Links I liked, August 16-22 (Gigantic jets, Martin Luther, WEIRD people)

1. Sprites Lightning

Out of China, the most remarkable photos of the “gigantic jets” phenomenon I’ve ever seen.

2. The Day Martin Luther’s Father Died

Via a biography I’m reading, a very touching letter from Luther on the death of his father.

Today Hans Reinecke wrote me that my very dear father, Hans Luther the Elder, departed from this life on Exaudi Sunday at one o’clock. This death has certainly thrown me into sadness, thinking not only [of the bonds] of nature, but also of the very kind love [my father had for me]; for through him my Creator has given me all that I am and have.

3. The Most Important Book I’ve Read This Year

Human beings, Haidt argues, use six different foundations for moral reasoning – the six “taste-buds” of the righteous mind – but some of us use more of them than others. For WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic), like most readers of his book and this blog, the most obvious bases for morality are (1) care vs harm, and (2) fairness vs cheating, to the point that many WEIRD people will not be able to fathom why anyone would regard something as wrong if it wasn’t (1) clearly harmful to someone or (2) demonstrably unfair. Yet Haidt’s studies in psychology, especially in the non-WEIRD world, presented him with a range of other foundations: (3) loyalty vs betrayal, (4) authority vs subversion, (5) sanctity vs degradation, and (6) liberty vs oppression. The profusion of case studies here, again, is fascinating, and indicates that even within the US and the UK, where foundations (3), (4) and (5) seem not to exist at all, there are certain extreme scenarios (consensual cannibalism is one particularly gruesome example) that indicate they still do.

4. Episcopal Pulpits will Lose 2000 Priests in next Six Years

45% of parishes in the Episcopal Church are currently without a full-time priest, and priests are retiring faster than they can be replaced.  See also the comments section for some interesting and sometimes sad comments from former Episcopalians.

5. Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age?

285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the past 25 years.  I think that number includes births – still, remarkable.

6. Keeping Faith Without Hurting LGBT Students

The concept of a “thick diversity” as compared with “thin diversity” should probably get more of a hearing.

To put this in context, recall that Barack Obama first publicly supported same-sex marriage as president four years ago. As of 2008, he unequivocally opposed it. In that short period, the American “community conscience” shifted from enthusiastic support for a Democratic president who opposed same-sex marriage to serious legislative efforts to punish schools in California that do not provide housing for same-sex married couples. Relying on public opinion to determine whether Title IX religious exemptions are just puts religious communities with deeply held, historic beliefs at the mercy of rapidly evolving social norms. Unlike the Bob Jones case, which concerned a fringe view among Christian colleges, a great many religious schools remain committed to traditional teachings on marriage and gender.

7. This Clever, Three-Word-Address System Is Coming To Middle Eastern Shoppers

Dividing the whole world into a 3m x 3m grid, and assigning each space a three word name like “gold.river.tree”, to give everyone a not-easily-confused-with-another address.  Especially to improve deliveries in countries with low quality postal systems.

8. The End of the Liberal Tradition?

Call me a pessimist, but I tend to think most people would happily live under a monarch, even an oppressive monarch, as long as the people he was oppressing were people not like them.  Which is to say – I find these statistics easy to believe.

This week brought to you by pretty birds at Preuss’ Pets:

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Links I liked, August 9-15 (Astrophotography, Brave New World, Biblical Anthropology)

1. An astrophotography timelapse from our East Lansing balcony

You can be in a city and still see a surprising number of stars.  Lasts about 2.5 hours (then our camera battery died), five minutes between frames, note Polaris barely moving down at the bottom middle!  (And, for a brief moment, a Perseid.)

2. “The division between politics and religion, I dare say, is an ideological ploy.”

I am reading this book.

3. The City That Unpoisoned Its Pipes

A happy story about how our beloved (yet often dysfunctional, shh) Lansing has quietly replaced nearly all of its lead water pipes.

4. Brave New World, 85 Years Later

In a post-Fordist economy and a digital age of personalized devices, mass society is no longer as straightforward as it once seemed. Far from being perceived as a threat, for instance, individuality is now deeply assimilated into our economic system, as we’re encouraged to differentiate, identify, and align ourselves through our chosen forms of consumption. The fact we’re all caught up in the same system is less obvious when we all wear bespoke chains we’ve chosen for ourselves.

5. How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen

Seemed like everyone passed around this article last week, but if you haven’t seen it…

But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

6. Reclaiming ‘Redneck” Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn from Trailer Parks

Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city.

7. Biblical Anthropology

A lecture Kevin DeYoung gave in South Carolina last week.  Of especial interest to me, he talked about how his kids attend our public schools, and the message they receive at school that he feels he most often has to correct is actually the stuff they hear related to the environment. And the problem is that a model is adopted that portrays humans never as producers, but just as polluters, the Earth as a good functioning system on which humans are basically cancer cells that can only make things worse. The Christian position would be rather – in fact, humans are God’s highest creation, and meant to be creators like him on Earth. We should recycle and be careful how we live and all that – but we aren’t a cancer on the planet. Indeed the planet is a better place today, than it was 4000 years ago, because of our creative works.

8. Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen

You cannot dislike this song.

This week brought to you by good times at the Great Lakes Folk Festival this past Saturday.

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Links I liked, August 2-8 (I Am N, Star Trek fan films, Krugman and Trump)

1. I reviewed “I Am N”

A good book to read for any American Christians tempted to think the goal of life is to be comfortable… which is probably just about all of us. This is not a very complicated book, the chapters tend to be 3-5 pages each, and even the names are often changed in these short stories of the lives of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And for the most part these are not the stories that make the news, the threats and violence and legal punishments, however terrible, are too personal and too much “just the daily risk you take being a public Christian in these parts of the world” – all the more reason to read them. These are the stories of people who share the good news they know no matter the risk, because they’re longing for a better country.

2. ReasonTV talks about Star Trek fan films

Prelude to Axanar might be the best fan-produced short film I’ve ever seen… which is probably why CBS got all concerned.

3. Tim Keller Releases New ‘Sweatin’ To the Hymnal’ Line of Workout Videos

Babylon Bee is a treasure.

4. Self-driving Cars Will Kill Transit-Oriented Development

Will this happen?  Are transit agencies thinking about this happening?

5. How Paul Krugman Made Donald Trump Possible

Dishonesty always comes back to bite you in the end.

His convention was called “one of the worst ever.” Chris Matthews deemed him “dangerous” and “scary,” Ellen DeGeneres said “If you’re a woman, you should be very, very scared.” His opponent ran an ad against him portraying him as uniquely dangerous for women. “I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman,” said a woman in the ad.

He was frequently called a “bully,” “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “stupid,” and “unfit” to be president.

I’m referring, obviously, to the terrifying Mitt Romney.

6. No, Eric Metaxas is not a Proto-Nazi

Just sharing to say, the world could probably use more “my friend is wrong about this but don’t you dare slander him” pieces.

7. Key Figure in Fight for Religious Freedom in Egypt Freed, Declares Return to Islam

Hegazy apologized to family members, who had threatened to kill him after he became a Christian.

8. Aquatic Mushrooms Timelapse

From our aquarium, photos taken every five minutes from around noon until around 8 PM.  Huh.

9. I had no idea Kevin DeYoung’s new children’s book was being made into a short film

Look at dat.  (He is the senior pastor of our church.)

This week brought to you by a rainbowfish in our freshwater aquarium.

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Links I liked, July 26-August 1 (Australia moving up, Gary Johnson libertarian?, Jerry Doyle passes away)

1. Australia moving up in the world… literally

Oh the problems you have (with modern satellite navigation systems) when your country drifts north by 7 cm per year.  Australia updating the coordinates of its maps to make them match modern reality – they haven’t been updated since 1994, which is quite a drift, actually.

2. Is Johnson-Weld a Libertarian Ticket?

The one presidential election season when a whole lot of people would love a good third-party candidate…

In other words, Johnson doesn’t just come off as anti-religion, but completely misses the distinction between public (meaning government) and private action that is at the heart of (classical) liberal or libertarian legal theory. That’s a shame: it makes him no different than progressives in that regard – or social conservatives, who miss the distinction in the other direction, restricting individual rights in addition to government powers.

3. Jerry Doyle passes away at age 60

I still haven’t seen anything beyond “natural causes”.  I enjoyed his character on Babylon 5 and listened to his radio program (conservative political talk!) from time to time back in the day.  From the Babylon 5 creator:

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

4. Tim Kaine “I’m Conservative” ad 2005 – “I’m against same sex marriage and for sanctity of life”

Oh how quickly what is considered acceptable in the Democratic Party has changed.  See also Hillary Clinton, 2004, talking about marriage as a “sacred bond between a man and a woman”.

5. Unprecendented $70M donation to cut Kalamazoo property taxes by a third

I have actually never heard of anything like this happening before – anonymous philanthropists donate money to the city of Kalamazoo to help them get their budget under control, cut taxes, and make investments for the future.

6. Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens

This from CNN Money – is the mainstream media paying much attention to the ridiculous, and very sad, collapse of Venezuela?  I pay so little attention to it these days it’s hard for me to know.  Really is sad.

7. ASMSU and COGS: MSU wasn’t transparent in decision to remove Women’s Lounge

A local story and yet also not a local story here – a University of Michigan – Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards Michigan State University because they had a study lounge designated for women only, but not one for men only.  He suggested such discrimination (it is discrimination, whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing is another matter) might violate Title IX and Michigan civil rights laws.  MSU is now closing the lounge.

8. Monuments to Idiocy

Like all government monopolies, the TSA blames its failures on lack of funding. But it’s already spending way too much, as demonstrated in a congressional study comparing TSA screeners in Los Angeles with non-TSA screeners in San Francisco, one of the few airports allowed to run its own system, contracting with a private company. If LAX switched to the San Francisco model, the study concluded, it could cut its screening costs by more than 40 percent.

The San Francisco private company’s screeners received the same salary and benefits as TSA screeners, but they were so much better trained and deployed that each one processed 65 percent more passengers than a TSA screener in Los Angeles. They apparently enjoyed better working conditions, too, because they were much less likely to quit their jobs. And in tests by federal investigators, they were three times better at detecting contraband.

9. I reviewed “Bad Religion” on Goodreads

This week brought to you by dinner tonight at Lansing’s favorite food truck:

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