AA Milne, Christopher Robin and the curse of Winnie-the-Pooh | Books | The Guardian
The House at Pooh Corner stands in a glade between two dark shadows – the aftermath of one war that had just finished and the dread of one coming. No one who fought in the first world war knew it was the first world war. On the contrary, they had been told that they were fighting the war that would end all wars. It must have been with the most bitter irony and failure, then, that Milne’s generation watched their children march away to a war that they had been told would never happen. The Milnes received that dreaded telegram telling them their son was missing in action and presumed he was dead. This could have happened to anyone; this was feared by everyone. It’s there – something you can build a film around. It’s the shadow that makes the carefree days in the Hundred Acre Wood tremble and shimmer with their own fragility. They are suffused with a sense that happiness is possible and valid even though we know it is short-lived. It’s a feeling that is expressed with peculiar intensity in the political situation of the between-the-war years, but which applies to everyone everywhere all the time.
childhood  modbrit 
2 hours ago
Liturgy and Theology | Kurt Marquart
Aidan Kavanagh:

Theology on this primordial level is thus a sustained dialectic. Its thesis is the assembly as it enters into the liturgical act; its antithesis is the assembly's changed condition as it comes away from its liturgical encounter with the living God in Word and sacrament; its synthesis is the assembly's adjustment in faith and works to that encounter. The adjustment comprises whole sets of acts both great and small, conscious and unconscious, all of which add up to a necessarily critical and reflective theology. . . .

One was called secondary theology, about which we talk a lot. The other was called primary theology, about which we talk little if at all. . . . A liturgical act is a theological act of the most all-encompassing, integral, and foundational kind. . . . It is this constantly modulating, self-critical, and reflective adjustment to God-wrought change in the assembly's life of faith which constitutes the condition for doing all other forms of theology and of understanding the Word of God. It is not so much an isolated act as it is a state of continuing discourse within the worshipping fellowship, and the state is graced, self-critical, reflective, and altogether primary. It is the wellspring out of which the river of secondary theology arises and begins its flow by twists and turns to the sea. It is what liturgy enacts. ..the immense gravitational pull exerted by secondary theology makes all this not easy to do.
theology  liturgy  Catholic  Anglican 
15 hours ago
How political ignorance strengthens the case for libertarianism - The Washington Post
Foot voters face information problems just like ballot box voters do. But they usually handle them better. Most people probably devote greater time and effort to seeking out information when they choose which car or television set to buy, than when they decide who to vote for in even the most important election. The reason is simple: the decision you make about the car or TV set is likely to make an actual difference to the outcome, whereas the chance that a ballot box voting decision will ever do so is infinitesimally small. Both historical and experimental evidence suggest that foot voters both acquire more information than ballot box voters and evaluate it in a less biased way.

Just as foot voting can help diminish the harm caused by voter ignorance, it can also alleviate the dangers of planner ignorance. Unlike government planners, foot voters can take advantage of market prices to make decisions, thereby availing themselves of the information about resource trade-offs contained in them. In addition, they, unlike the planners, have what Hayek called “local knowledge” of their own preferences. Thus, they are in a better position to judge whether, for example, a particular risk is worth taking, given those preferences.
libertarian  politics 
19 hours ago
Reasons to tolerate - The Washington Post
Our social and political lives are far more complex than our market lives – why would we think that a central planner, whether that came in the form of a single person, or a single way of thinking embodied by a perspective and its attendant political philosophy, could do a good job of determining the right rules or policies for governance? No political theory captures everything that we have reason to care about – the world is far too messy. Instead, we need a competition amongst various perspectives, bringing new insights to bear on how we can piece together the rules for living together.

This way of thinking, which I develop in considerably more detail in my recent book, Social Contract Theory for a Diverse World: Beyond Tolerance, suggests that we have a self-interested reason for not just tolerance, but a positive interest in fostering a more diverse society. All of our perspectives are limited, but creating a political environment where many different perspectives compete helps us discover a better set of rules for all of us to live by.
libertarian  politics 
19 hours ago
Not Trained By Angels | Comment Magazine
Althusius would've been quite happy to endorse Wolterstorff's description of the church as an institution born from above by the power of the Spirit—the community to which God has specifically gifted his presence, his sacraments, and his Spirit. At the same time, the church comes together in ways that are analogous to other human communities. We (in principle, at least) recognize Christ as Lord, desire to live in accordance with the norms of Christian discipleship, and hope to share in the fellowship promised to us through the power of the Spirit. The content of these common goods may differ from those in the political community, but they function in a similar way. These two communities are two different species, we might say, of the same genus.

If all of this is true, it shouldn't surprise us that the ways we are formed by the church affect our other relationships—and also the ways we are malformed. This is the flipside: vicious forms of power corrupt all sorts of communities, not just the church, and not just the political community. Since structures of authority do not drop out of heaven, since we are not in fact trained by angels, we must be on the lookout for the ways human communities may have warped our desires and our very selves. Since authority emerges from the ground up, we'll need to work doubly hard to pursue safeguards and structures that protect social relationships from the forces that threaten them.
2 days ago
Latin Mass: William F. Buckley Jr. Lamented Its Passing | National Review
And the translations! Happy the Humble — they shall inherit . . . One cannot read on without the same sense of outrage one would feel on entering the Cathedral of Chartres and finding that the windows had been replaced with pop-art figures of Christ sitting-in against the slumlords of Milwaukee. One’s heart is filled with such passions of resentment and odium as only Hilaire Belloc could adequately have voiced. O God O God O God, why has thou forsaken us! My faith, I note on their taking from us even the Canon of the Mass in that mysterious universal which soothed and inspired the low and the mighty, a part of the Mass — as Evelyn Waugh recalled — “for whose restoration the Elizabethan martyrs had gone to the scaffold [in which] St. Augustine, St. Thomas à Becket, St. Thomas More, Challoner and Newman would have been perfectly at their ease among us,” is secure. I pray the sacrifice will yield a rich harvest of informed Christians. But to suppose that it will is the most difficult act of faith I have ever been called upon to make, because it tears against the perceptions of all my senses. My faith is a congeries of dogmatical certitudes, one of which is that the new liturgy is the triumph, yea the Resurrection, of the Philistines.
3 days ago
Never Stop Making Moral and Religious Arguments | National Review
There are two things (at least) that render these arguments utterly absurd. First, I note that the admonitions about moral arguments tend to run only one way. The Left’s cultural success isn’t built on charts and graphs and health statistics but rather on moral arguments about dignity, fairness, and fulfillment. And yes they “judge” their ideological and religious opponents. Accusations of bigotry are intended as deeply personal condemnations.

The bottom line is that moral arguments have real power, and they’re even more powerful if only one side is making them. That’s doubly true for religious arguments. Progressive Christians have no trouble quoting scripture to support progressive arguments. Yet all too many conservatives fall for the claim that “no one cares” what the Bible says when standing on orthodox Christian moral principle.
ethics  religion  politics  HTT 
3 days ago
Iain Sinclair’s farewell to London | Books | The Guardian
I carried with me the imprint of fire and water: repeat excursions over the same ground. Fractal patterns of pondweed on which new coots have to learn to walk rather than paddle. Viridian swirls of instant derangement from tattered nitrous oxide balloons on London Fields are earthed by the heat from old bricks in the wall of the Beehive Foundry. Physical work is still going on. All the dramas of our lost London are enacted within a few yards of the railway bridge crossing the Regent’s Canal at Mare Street, Hackney.
7 days ago
A Tragedy of Manners | Angela Nagle
The problem in our current, unacknowledged controversy over manners is that while both sides seem to implicitly accept this premise, they have directly opposing views of what our system of manners should be doing and what values it should be normalizing. As a result, a chaos reigns on all sides; constraints are eagerly thrown off in a gesture of liberation but then elsewhere more harshly enforced than ever. The incoherent tumult of the present moment’s culture wars masks what is, at bottom, a battle over what this shared system of manners will be. And if Trumpism has taught us nothing else, it should be this: the prim-sounding process by which our public manners are defined and negotiated may well be the key to everything else.
7 days ago
Sapping Attention: "Peer review" is younger than you think. Does that mean it can go away?
Historian of science Alex Czsisar wrote a short piece for Nature in 2016 ... where he says this, which is very much along the same lines.
'Peer review' was a term borrowed from the procedures that government agencies used to decide who would receive financial support for scientific and medical research. When 'referee systems' turned into 'peer review', the process became a mighty public symbol of the claim that these powerful and expensive investigators of the natural world had procedures for regulating themselves and for producing consensus, even though some observers quietly wondered whether scientific referees were up to this grand calling.

All of this suggests, though it doesn't prove, that the shift to a language of "peer review" involves a model of research that draws on a nationally organized scientific funding system that merges with a series of older traditions. Most of the histories of peer review in the sciences note how late journals were to adopt it: leading British publications like the Lancet and Nature don't take up outside peer reviewers until the 1970s.

If the history of peer review in the sciences is young, the history of peer review in the humanities is even younger.
8 days ago
Seeing the Confederacy Clear: On the terrible issue of monuments and all that | National Review
What was the Confederacy? Earlier this week, I recorded a podcast with George F. Will. What he said, spoke for me. “The Confederates tried to destroy our country. That’s kind of a serious business. … And they tried to destroy our country in the name of the ultimate human evil, which is the complete annihilation of freedom we call slavery. So there’s no point in investing the Lost Cause with glamour and romance. It was an execrable movement with a hideous objective.”

If I were a reporter in Virginia, I would like to ask Ed Gillespie, “Are you glad the Confederates lost the war?” Another way to say that is, “Are you glad the United States hung together and that slavery was abolished?” I wonder what he would say — in the home stretch of the campaign, I mean.

Lately, I have taken to adapting a comment I once heard Richard Brookhiser make. My line is, “I come from the pro-freedom, anti-slavery branch of conservatism.” I have no nostalgia whatsoever for the Confederacy or the Lost Cause. I’m glad that the Lost Cause is a lost cause, and not a won cause. I believe that the cause of the Confederacy was evil. (According to Norman Podhoretz, “evil” is “the strongest of all epithets.”) And I count it a great blessing of human history that this cause lost.
politics  south 
8 days ago
Will social media kill the novel? Andrew O'Hagan on the end of private life | Books | The Guardian
The other day I taped over the camera on my computer. Then I went upstairs and disabled the data collection capability on the TV. Because of several stories of mine, I’d suffered a few cyber-attacks recently, and, though a paragon of dullness, I decided to greet the future by making it harder to find me. One of the great fights of the 21st century will be the fight for privacy and self-ownership, which is also, to my mind, the struggle for literature as distinct from the dark babble of social media. Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter, and so do readers when the lights are low. Giving your sentences thoughtlessly away, and for nothing, seems a small death to contemplation, and does harm to the profession of writing, where you’re paid because you’re good at it. We are all entertainers now, politicians are theatrical in their every move, but even merely passable writers have something large at stake when it comes to opposing the global stupidity contest. Literature, which includes great journalism, might enhance the public sphere but it more precisely enriches the private one, and we are now at the point where privacy, the whole secret history of a people, might be the only corrective we have to the political forces embezzling our times. [...}

It is the habit of the times to organise the ironies embedded in this state of affairs and call it culture. (Just look at reality TV.) And the creative writer, given what I’ve said about metaphor, may have a head start when it comes to investigating that culture – which is why we might do well, now and then, to open the notepad and turn on the recording device. Asked which of the arts was closest to writing, Norman Mailer once told me the answer was “acting”. He talked about an essential loss of ego, a circumstance that most people wouldn’t associate with him. But the principle will be familiar to writers of fiction and non-fiction who are always on the lookout for another life, believing it must be a writer’s business to invest freely in self-transcendence. I believe that is what F Scott Fitzgerald meant when he said there can be no reliable biography of a writer, because “a writer is too many people if he’s any good”.

We were addicted to the ailments of the web long before we understood how the technology would change our lives. In a sense, it gave the tools of fiction-making to everybody equally, so long as they had access to a computer and a willingness to swim into the internet’s deep well of otherness. JG Ballard predicted that the writer would no longer have a role in society. “Given that external reality is a fiction, he does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there,” he wrote. Every day on the web you see his point being made; it is a marketplace of selfhood. With email, everyone can communicate instantly and invisibly, either as themselves or someone else. There are upwards of 67m “invented” names on Facebook, many of them clearly living another life less ordinary, or at any rate less checkable. Encryption has made the average user a ghost – an alias, a simulacrum, a reflection. In this climate, only our buying power makes us real, and what self we have is open to offers of improvement – new eye colour, better insurance, slimmer body – from marketing firms and mobile phone companies who harvest our data before they hand it to governments, who aim to make us visible again in the interests of national security. Maybe Ballard was too pessimistic about the writer’s role: what if she didn’t unplug when confronted with the new fictionalities but inscribed herself into the web and reported back?
media  socialmedia 
8 days ago
Civility, Consensus, Constructivism | Peter J. Leithart | First Things
Sartre may be ignored these days, but his “constructivism” has won the day. And here, finally, we get to the ground floor of our “crisis of civility.” Obama spoke for many when he lamented that “we’re unable to listen to one another,” but why should we listen if each of us inhabits a world of his own making? Why should I assume that your world has anything to say to mine? Not even the thin consensus of liberalism can survive Sartre.

Hand-wringing over the harshness of public discourse is understandable, but it’s a classic rearranging-Titanic-furniture phenomenon. We can’t establish or re-establish civility without common adherence to a common good, and we can’t adhere to a common good without a common belief in the very possibility of commonness.
politics  publicsphere 
8 days ago
Evangelicalism's Flight 93 Moment: Reflections on the Nashville Statement
The Nashville Statement is the Flight 93 statement. It is striking how similar its defenses have been to arguments that evangelicals should vote for Trump. The sense of crisis the preamble announces is so pervasive that it justifies not just any statement, but this one. Anything else makes the perfect the enemy of the good. One signer told me Article 10 alone should impel me to sign, because the urgency of the hour demands it. ‘Choose ye this day’, the statement announces, and voting third party is clearly a waste. The impulse to close ranks and reassert evangelicalism’s identity publicly and the eagerness to indulge in the rhetorical excess of the statement’s importance have the same roots in the despair that governs our politics. Those Nashville pastors were right to detect an elusive commonality between evangelical support for Trump and the dynamics surrounding this statement, even if the vast majority of its signers were strong and faithful critics of Trump’s campaign.

Only time will tell, but I fear the Nashville Statement will be no more a win for conservative evangelicals than the election of Donald Trump. While it has exposed the silliness of progressive foes, it has also galvanized them and dangerously inflated our confidence in our own rightness and strength. The statement draws some of the right boundaries, but in the wrong way. And at least one boundary ought not to be drawn, or needs to be clarified. It comes to many right conclusions, but reflects principles and ideas that have born bad fruit within evangelicalism.

It is not my perfectionism that animates my resistance to this statement. Rather, it is my abiding concern that the church of Jesus Christ not pursue short-term “wins” like the Nashville Statement at the expense of sowing seeds for the long-term renewal of our own sexual ethics. My concern for the Nashville Statement is thus pastoral; my critique is that the document is not pastoral enough. It is not perfection I am seeking, but the humility to name our sin. The only way forward for an evangelicalism broken by the sexual revolution begins not with the announcement of the truth, but by confessing all those things we have both done and left undone.
8 days ago
Orion Magazine | Two Kinds of Wilderness
Though some estimates say that as little as 1 percent of Europe remains in a pristine, wild state, there are thousands of square miles of land that are “near-wilderness” quality. And unlike in the United States where decrying public lands as part of a long-running federal land grab has become a conservative cause célèbre, in Europe there is growing political will to bolster its own inventory of wilderness. In 2009, the EU issued a resolution calling for the “strengthening of wilderness-related policies and measures.” The key piece of that resolution is to “develop” wilderness areas across the eurozone. This legislative effort has given rise to a new ecosystem of environmental NGOs pushing ambitious restoration goals. One group, Wild Europe, for example, is working in various countries to protect old-growth forests and endangered species and is sponsoring restoration projects in eastern Europe. Another organization, Rewilding Europe, is calling for the designation of one million hectares, or 3,800 square miles, of wilderness by 2020. The group is also advocating for the reintroduction of iconic megafauna, such as the European bison, lynx, timber wolf, and red deer.

Unlike the doctrinaire foundational principles of the US Wilderness Act—“an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”—Europe is working with a more general definition. According to the European Commission, “A wilderness is an area governed by natural processes. It is composed of native habitats and species, and large enough for the effective ecological functioning of natural processes. It is unmodified or only slightly modified and without intrusive or extractive human activity, settlements, infrastructure or visual disturbance.” Where the American definition traffics in philosophical absolutes about what wilderness should be, the European definition presents a more general set of ecological guidelines about what a wilderness could be.
nature  wilderness 
8 days ago
History and theorizing the secular – The Immanent Frame
We are by now intensely familiar with the various critiques that scholars have levelled at notions of the secular in recent decades. These include secularism’s mythologization as an intrinsic feature of modernity, its functions as a cypher for racism and xenophobia, its disavowed legacy to a Christian (or especially Protestant) conception of religion, and so on.

Within such critiques, or in their wake, history most often tends to function as critical genealogy. Retracing the various formations of the secular highlights their embeddedness within contexts (and thereby critiques their assumed universalism) and reveals their culturally specific blind-spots. The point is usually to draw revealing comparisons with contemporary debates. For a historian of nineteenth-century Europe the most prominent example is obviously the French Third Republic, whose earth is perpetually tilled by policymakers in search of justifications, and scholars in search of nuances that reveal the problems inherent in precisely such acts of appropriation.

While I reject neither the desirability nor the unavoidability of history having a political function in the present, I wonder whether this use of the past—and particularly certain pasts, such as that of nineteenth-century France—as the conduit for a critique of contemporary European politics might be yielding diminishing returns. The best work today serves a similar function in relation to the bold claims of contemporary social-scientific theory as it does to the grand narratives of contemporary politics: as a critical friend with its own insights to offer, rather than just a source of case studies. I hope historians will continue to think creatively about the role they can play in contributing to debates over religion and the secular beyond simply providing legions of long-dead reinforcements.
secularity  history  disenchantment 
8 days ago
The Church as Diaspora – Covenant
Even if the number of true believers ends up being small indeed at our Lord’s return (Matt. 24:12, 14; Luke 13:24), the promises of Christ for his Church are indefectible in their final grace. What has become apparent, however, is that standard claims for what this body ought to look like, in terms of worldly descriptors, are no longer historically valid.

Young Christians (like their forebears) have long been treated to expectations about the Church’s form that are simply misleading: the true Church, they have been told, is always growing, is well resourced, strong, bold, coherent, focused. These elements have been theologically undergirded by images or models of the Church that float free of history, as in the types Avery Dulles made famous: institution, herald, communion, sacrament, even servant.[1] So, we expect growing institutions, bold heralds, strong servants. This is clearly not the normal profile for most of our churches today. Faced with this dissonance, there is an understandable press to go in search for the real thing, somewhere else. There are handbooks, conferences, inspirational speakers, missional strategies, novel communities, all vying for the prudence of those formed by a false picture of what the Church really is today. What they offer is simply not true.

Our churches are in fact scattered, often confused, groping for direction, increasingly impoverished, and separated into incoherent local nodes of frequent self-regard. This is the Anglican Communion; this is the landscape of most of our Christian communities. Yet they still constitute the Church. What Church? The Church in and as Diaspora.


The grace of Diaspora, however, must be received. That is the work for young Christian leaders to explicate and inspire. I have no idea if repentant family life, learning, and worship will attract people to our churches. That is not the purpose of Diaspora, in any case. Still, I suspect it might, because God is merciful, his mercy is given in just this form of Diaspora, and mercy is a balm to the burdened soul, of which there are so many in our day. The Christian faith is a gospel faith, that is proselytizing at its core, since it is founded on the sharing of good news. But that good news must be rooted in the reality of world and Church both, of which a Diaspora faith is rightly reflective.

There is no missional Christianity in the West, furthermore, apart from such a reality. And Anglicanism, in the West especially (and along with other churches), mirrors Israel’s Diaspora in its starkest edges. That’s what the statistics are suggesting. But some of Anglicanism’s cultural gifts — its traditional concern for families and their common life, its broad scriptural commitments, its rooted worship of the holy God — also mirror the promised fruit of Israel’s Diaspora, like tools that, though now dulled, are waiting to be sharpened. Many young persons have become aspiring Anglican clergy precisely because they intuit the gifts. Are they willing to be patient sharpeners of their purpose?
Anglican  church 
8 days ago
Frederick Wiseman on the American Condition
Wiseman will sit down and look through every frame, sometimes as many as 250 hours of rushes. “That can usually take me six or eight weeks, seeing what’s there and taking notes,” he tells me. “By the time I’ve gone through the material, I’ll have put aside 40 or 50 sequences to edit. At that point I’m not thinking much about structure, only creating good-candidate sequences. Going from one hour of a sequence to four minutes, it’s rare that I get what I want in the first pass. Say it’s a group of people in a meeting. I’ll isolate all the parts of the exchanges, edit it verbally, edit it for language, and keep reducing it and reducing it until it’s exactly the verbal exchange that I want it to be. Then I’ll go through and pick out the cutaways, which allow me to edit the sequence to appear as if it took place the way you’re watching it until I get a rhythm that’s internal in the sequence. Then I begin to work on the structure. Different people work in different ways, but I’m not very good thinking about the structure in the abstract; I have to look at it. So after seven or eight months of editing the sequences, I know the material—every word spoken, every part of the frame—and I make an assembly relatively quickly, in three or four days. Then it’s six or eight weeks to polish the structure, so the internal rhythm within a sequence and the external rhythm of the sequences are working together. I’ll also tune up the shots between any of the major sequences. I’ll go back through all the discarded material and sometimes find things that solve some editorial problem, to connect this sequence to that sequence. And a lot of it, even after 50 years, is still trial and error. But once you begin, it’s totally consuming because you’re on the hunt for the film.”
8 days ago
Second Thoughts about Theologies of Hope - Robert W. Jenson
The gospel by its missionary nature lives always in conversation with the antecedent religion and religious wisdom of each time and place where the church finds herself, a conversation that is always at once constructive and mutually critical. In the strain of Christian history that leads to such things as theologies of hope, the great interlocutors have, of course, been the theologians of Olympian-Parmenidean revelation, the famous 'Greeks', Plato, Aristotle and their epigones. The exchange has been notably fruitful, also and in some aspects especially during the period of modernity just behind us.

But insofar as this conversation is mutually critical it is, of course, always discomfitted by the question, Which critique trumps, if it comes to that? Who settles the question about truth, Socrates or Isaiah? Despite rhetoric about 'openness' and the like, we have to choose and always do choose, especially when we claim not to. For we cannot float above the conversation as if we were the Olympian-Parmenidean deity itself — or perhaps G. F. W. Hegel — though those who make each move regularly accuse those who make the other of trying to.

The choice was perhaps especially urgent in modernity, and for the most part Christian theology in the period chose the one alternative. For the most part, modernity's theology was 'mediating' — that is, it accepted that Western modernity's wisdom finally trumps. It took modernity's religious and metaphysical prejudices for foundational truth, and it therefore cut its understanding of the gospel to fit them. Despite my pejorative description of this move, I do not mean to say it was unproductive. A century earlier, I suppose I would myself have been a mediating theologian. Moreover, the West's standard religous and metaphysical assumptions, that is, our particular derivatives of Socrates' theology, are themselves not conceivable apart from the gospel's long history in the West, which introduces a nice complication, much explored by historians of thought. Nevertheless, I do indeed think modernity's dominant theology made a wrong step.
11 days ago
How The World Lost Its Story | Robert W. Jenson
If there is little mystery about where the West got its faith in a narratable world, neither is there much mystery about how the West has lost this faith. The entire project of the Enlightenment was to maintain realist faith while declaring disallegiance from the God who was that faith’s object. The story the Bible tells is asserted to be the story of God with His creatures; that is, it is both assumed and explicitly asserted that there is a true story about the universe because there is a universal novelist/historian. Modernity was defined by the attempt to live in a universal story without a universal storyteller.

The experiment has failed. It is, after the fact, obvious that it had to: If there is no universal storyteller, then the universe can have no story line. Neither you nor I nor all of us together can so shape the world that it can make narrative sense; if God does not invent the world’s story, then it has none, then the world has no narrative that is its own. If there is no God, or indeed if there is some other God than the God of the Bible, there is no narratable world.

Moreover, if there is not the biblical God, then realistic narrative is not a plausible means for our human self-understanding. Human consciousness is too obscure a mystery to itself for us to script our own lives. Modernity has added a new genre of theater to the classic tragedy and comedy: the absurdist drama that displays precisely an absence of dramatic coherence. Sometimes such drama depicts a long sequence of events with no turning points or denouement; sometimes it displays the absence of any events at all. Samuel Beckett has, of course, written the arch-examples of both, with Waiting for Godot and Krapp’s Last Tape. If we would be instructed in the postmodern world, we should seek out a performance of Beckett—the postmodern world is the world according to Beckett.

The arts are good for diagnosis, both because they offer a controlled experience and because they always anticipate what will come later in the general culture. But the general culture has now caught up with postmodernism, and for experience of the fact, we should turn from elite art to the streets of our cities and the classrooms of our suburbs, to our congregations and churchly institutions, and to the culture gaps that rend them.

There we will find folk who simply do not apprehend or inhabit a narratable world. Indeed, many do not know that anyone ever did. The reason so many now cannot “find their place” is that they are unaware of the possibility of a kind of world or society that could have such things as places, though they may recite, as a sort of mantra, memorized phrases about “getting my life together” and the like. There are now many who do not and cannot understand their lives as realistic narrative. John Cage or Frank Stella; one of my suburban Minnesota students whose reality is rock music, his penis, and at the very fringes some awareness that to support both of these medical school might be nice; a New York street dude; the pillar of her congregation who one day casually reveals that of course she believes none of it, that her Christianity is a relativistic game that could easily be replaced altogether by some other religion or yoga—all inhabit a world of which no stories can be true.
theology  from instapaper
11 days ago
Can These Bones Live? - on Robert Jenson
In my judgment, theology responds best by trusting in the gospel’s own interior rationality, and then building its own metaphysics, its own vision of reality. This endeavor has been going on for some time actually. One point guard in the endeavor might be Wolfhart Pannenberg, who has elaborated an entire system of metaphysics (and indeed an entire philosophy of science to go with it) on the principle that traditional metaphysics draws its vision of what is from what has been, whereas a distinctively Christian metaphysics must draw its vision from what will be. Indeed, that is what we have been doing all along here in these lectures. We have taken the claims of Christian doctrine with absolute seriousness: that the creator of all things is triune, so that his life has a specific structure from which the structure of everything else follows, and that one of the Trinity, one of the three, is the resurrected Jewish Messiah, Jesus. [...]

There is, however, something wrong with the promises we make to each other, which is perhaps why many are now so reluctant to make any. Our promises have hidden conditions. If any promise is apparently unconditional, it is the marriage promise: “for better or worse, for richer or poorer,” we say, explicitly denying all conditions. Yet I cannot really guarantee in advance that no act of my spouse could break my commitment. The fundamental condition in all our promises is death: I cannot be held to a promise if keeping it will kill me. Nor is this a selfish condition. If I am dead, what good am I to anyone, especially to the recipient of my promise? Only in destructive enterprises such as war is it otherwise. And yet, an implicit condition, even this one, means that a promise can turn into law just when it is most needed: just when my spouse does the one thing that threatens me so deeply that—even for her sake!—I must flee, is probably the moment she needs me most.

Only a promise which had death behind it could be unconditional. Only a promise made about and by one who had already died for the sake of his promise, could be irreversibly a promise. The narrative content of such a promise would be death and resurrection. We are back to “the gospel.”
theology  from instapaper
11 days ago
Robert Jenson (1930-2017) on the Proclamation of the Gospel
In the word of proclamation, the story of the past Jesus is addressed to me as my future, as my possibility. If then it occurs that as an event in my life I enact this story as and when it is so proclaimed, then what happened with Jesus is not only the past which my action recalls, it is also the future in which my action will eventuate. Then this enacting is the event of my being destined to this destiny. In the context of the proclamation and not otherwise, our speaking and acting-out of the gospel story is, precisely as an enacting which is an occurrence in our lives like any other, our choosing and being chosen to this destiny which is real to us as the story of Jesus. It is, therefore, the event of our having Jesus’ story as our story.

In the context of this proclamation, worship is the effective hearing of the proclamation, by which I am given love-out-of-death as my chosen future. As such it is the being done to me of what Jesus suffered himself and did to his followers. It is when Jesus’ story is enacted as not only past but also future that the enactment and not merely the enacting is a present event in our lives—and it is the word of proclamation that the past can be future.

– A Religion Against Itself
theology  from instapaper
11 days ago
Robert Jenson, "A Reply"
Some thinkers find themselves compelled to what has been called "revisionary metaphysics," urging changes not merely in affirmations made within a particular discipline, but in the conceptual ways commonly followed by all disciplines within an historical culture. Christian theologians are especially liable to this urge, on account of the gospel's contrariness to human proclivity; indeed the history of Christian theology within any culture can always be read as a sustained effort to dislocate that culture's "common sense." An occasional response to such revisionary efforts is sheer inability to entertain the proposals made, even as experiment. Thus my systematic theology urges that the metaphysics that construes being as perdurance, and contingency as an ontological deficit, is antithetical to the gospel. If a reader takes this metaphysics as unchallengeable, and assumes that the writer also must at bottom depend on it, he will, of course, discover the most horrid consequences and absurdities. But to the elucidation of the book or to critique of its claims, these discoveries will be neither here nor there. Particularly, critique will be simply an exercise in petitio principii.
theology  from notes
11 days ago
Religion is on the decline – yet our society is underpinned by faith | The Spectator
Sometimes, still, the Church of England is better able to capture the national mood than any other institution or authority. In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, it was the local church, St Clements, Notting Dale, which was first to welcome the newly homeless, opening its doors at 3 a.m. and over the next few days leading the relief operation which the borough of Kensington and Chelsea failed so miserably to provide.

We still turn to the church, too, in the event of sudden and violent death. While parish communion may have given way to shopping or an extra hour in bed, we turn out in strength for funerals. Quasi-religious behaviour in the event of tragedy has grown and grown. The vigil in Manchester’s Albert Square following the terror attack in May, in which the poet Tony Walsh implored the city to ‘choose love’, bore a marked resemblance to the language of a traditional funeral oration — just with the word ‘God’ omitted.

That is modern Britain’s relationship with religion. While shy to admit belief, we continue to exhibit the behaviours of religious people. As Alastair Campbell once said to Tony Blair, ‘We don’t do God’. Yet our society is as underpinned by faith as it ever was.
Anglican  church  England  London 
12 days ago
How Poets Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Academy - The Chronicle of Higher Education
If the struggle of the modernists was to make peace with bureaucratic institutions without compromising the purity and quality of their work, the question for those who have come after them has been whether to challenge or sustain that peace. The modernist union of poetry, criticism, and bureaucracy has had many obvious benefits: Certainly the levels of comfort, prosperity, and productivity enjoyed by several generations of Anglo-American poets from the postwar era onward as a result of their connection to bureaucratic institutions are nothing to minimize.

But in many ways poets have traded reliance on an aristocratic elite for a technocratic one — the patron for the administrator. The particular kind of cultural compromise that the modernist poet-critics normalized has made it harder to conceive of an autonomous poetic culture that exists apart from bureaucratic institutions. In an age of labor-market crises in academe and dwindling resources for the arts in both the public and private sectors — not to mention rampant populist anti-intellectualism and skepticism even on the part of elites about the value of the humanities — that may be exactly the future that today’s poet-critics and scholars most need to imagine, whether they want to or not. [...]

Are there new institutional havens out there to which today’s poets (and critics) can turn? Can the market, or civil society, sustain the kind of professionalized poetic activity that has been supported by the academy and other institutions for the past 60 years? Will today’s poets need to return to something like the old patronage system, in which a few exceptional geniuses are subsidized while the majority of would-be professionals are neglected?

The answers are unclear, in part because the need to provide them has not yet become acute: We have not yet abandoned the citadels that the modernists established. Indeed, we should continue to defend them. But we should spend at least as much time and energy surveying what lies beyond.
poetry  criticism  academe 
12 days ago
Is there hope for unbelieving Britain?
It has been generally recognised that the change to the headline figure is largely a reflection of a change in culture more than a change in actual belief: why call yourself ‘C of E’ or Christian if you never actually go to church? Ironically, this is a result that committed Christians, particularly evangelicals, have actually wished for. We would like a little more honesty, and a little less nominalism—and we now have that in spadefuls. But it is interesting to me that, in a country where being a committed Christian is now seen to be significantly out of step with prevailing cultural values, 41% still identify as ‘Christian’. Much comment was made on the figure for identification as ‘Catholic’ which has hardly changed over two decades. Why is that figure so resilient? Surely it is largely shaped by the refusal of Catholic Church leaders (rather in contrast to many Anglicans) to tailor their doctrine and teaching to contemporary mores, the most striking recent embodiment of that being the interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg on breakfast television.
anglican  england 
12 days ago
Whose Motivation? Which Good? - The New Atlantis
At times it appears that Smith is simply pressing social scientists to be coherent — to recognize they implicitly assume something like personalism, to stop disavowing it and be honest and forthright in their beliefs about the telos of human flourishing. That’s a legitimate critique, and one that Smith has been pressing in his theoretical works ever since Moral, Believing Animals. On this front, the bogeyman is not constructionism or antirealism but rather the persistent myth of the neutrality of social science. “The discipline of sociology,” Smith concludes, “has generally tried either to remain neutral on an account of human goods and flourishing or has promoted an antinaturalistic cultural and moral relativism.” But this isn’t really honest or sustainable, Smith points out. “Incongruously, however, most sociologists are also personally motivated in their scholarly work and teaching by visions of and desire to promote particular views of human flourishing in which they really believe.” Ay, there’s the rub: it’s less whether social scientists are committed to specific visions of the Good, and more a matter of recognizing the status of these visions as beliefs. “So it is inconsistent if not disingenuous for sociologists to reject the idea, as I have advocated here, of the discipline being grounded upon a substantive account of a teleological human good. The only question that remains, then, is which account is best.” Yes, precisely. Which is why the first two thirds of Smith’s book expend wasted energy on the claims that most sociologists believe human motivation isn’t grounded in reality. The resulting “realism” engenders Smith’s own overconfidence in the last third of the book where he thinks he is merely describing the Good, short-circuiting a genuine conversation and debate between competing beliefs about the Good. Social situationists have beliefs about the Good but aren’t honest about it, whereas Smith seems to think realism and natural law give him access to the Good beyond belief. That’s a bit of a conversation stopper.
sociology  philosophy  ethics 
13 days ago
The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy
A recent case at the University of Southern California that resulted in the expulsion of Matt Boermeester, 23, the kicker for the school’s football team, illustrates this. In January of this year, one neighbor thought he saw Boermeester hurting his girlfriend of more than a year, Zoe Katz, 22, a top USC tennis player. The neighbor, also a USC student, told another USC student, who told his father, a USC tennis coach. The coach was a mandatory reporter, and he told the Title IX office. A months-long investigation was launched, Boermeester was put on immediate suspension, and a no-contact order was placed on the couple (which they ignored when off-campus). Eventually USC found Boermeester responsible for violating the school’s student code of conduct, which prohibits intimate partner violence, as well as for violating the no-contact order. He was expelled.

In a statement issued to the Los Angeles Times through a lawyer, Katz said that on the night in question the two were playing around and that nothing untoward happened. She wrote that Boermeester “has been falsely accused of conduct involving me” and that “Matt Boermeester did nothing improper against me, ever. I would not stand for it. Nor will I stand for watching him be maligned and lied about.” She said the investigation went on despite her adamant objection; that Title IX administrators treated her in a “dismissive and demeaning” way and told her she was a “battered” woman; and that during “repeated interrogations,” her words were “misrepresented, misquoted and taken out of context.” Boermeester recently filed suit against the school seeking to have his expulsion overturned. In papers filed in response to the suit, USC has said that it stands by its investigation and has asked the court to deny Boermeester relief, citing the completeness of the university’s investigation and the due process afforded him during the school’s administrative proceeding. They wrote that Katz “initially confirmed” the version of events supplied by the neighbor and other witnesses, that she asked for the no-contact order, and that she texted that she was worried Boermeester would find out she had spoken with the Title IX investigator. USC said her “attempts to protect Petitioner were consistent with a recognized pattern of recanting in intimate partner violence that may be motivated by love or fear of reprisal.” Katz called the university’s statements “ludicrous,” again denying its allegations, and noted that she and Boermeester are still dating.
university  sexuality  academentia  from instapaper
14 days ago
Liberal Elites Value Marriage, Monogamy, Career | National Review
One might think that lots of students want to engage in casual sex but are too socially awkward to do so. This too is wrong (although university students are in fact very awkward): Considerably more Brown students said they wanted to be in a relationship than actually were (75 percent vs. 49 percent), but the vast majority of these wanted to be in a committed monogamous relationship, and most of the rest wanted to consistently hookup with just one other person. Only 8 percent of Brown wanted either to hook up with multiple people or to pursue a polyamorous relationship. Brown isn’t exceptional here: A 2014 survey reported by the Stanford Daily found that 86 percent of students would rather be in a committed relationship than not, even though only 34 percent of students were in a relationship. It’s probably closer to the truth to say that a number of students want monogamous relationships but settle for casual sex instead.
sexuality  university 
14 days ago
We’re Thinking about Cybersecurity All Wrong - MIT Technology Review
Similarly, we’ve got this idea that cybersecurity is like border security. That makes no sense. Everybody in cyberspace is touching somebody else. There is no barrier or intermediary. That means we need to think about cybersecurity and the relationship between the government and the private sector using a completely different model. Maybe we need to borrow some models. For example, look at how we think about natural disasters. In a natural disaster, the response starts locally. If it begins to overwhelm the local officials, the state government steps in. If it goes beyond the state, they might call on mutual aid from other states. If it goes beyond that, FEMA steps in from the national level. What’s the cyber equivalent of that? How do we do the handoff, and decide whether something is the kind of thing the private sector can and should handle on its own, versus something that calls for feds to help? We don’t yet have the policy language to talk about what that relationship is.
security  surveillance  politics 
14 days ago
Navigating and Celebrating the Complexity of Scripture: A Conversation with Richard Hays | Theopolis Institute | Bible. Liturgy. Culture.
In literature, an “echo” occurs when a later text (let’s call it Text B) draws upon significant words or images from an earlier text (Text A) without explicit use of a quotation formula (“As it is written” or the like), and often without any overt indication that the author intends an allusion to the precursor text. The reader who’s well versed in the earlier tradition will nonetheless “hear” the intertextual reference and recognize the way in which Text B evokes or reactivates some aspect of Text A. Recognizing the echo will often trigger the recovery of contextual elements of Text A beyond the words that are directly echoed.

An example may illustrate. In Mark 11:12–14, 20–21, Jesus looks for figs on a leafy fig tree; finding none, he curses the tree. The following day, the disciples see that the tree has withered. It’s a puzzling story, unless we hear the echo of Jeremiah 8:13, in which the LORD pronounces this judgment against unfaithful Israel: “When I wanted to gather them, says the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

In Mark’s narrative, the echo of Jeremiah causes us to recognize Jesus’s cursing of the tree as an act of prophetic symbolism, pointing to his judgment against the Temple officials—a story that Mark has sandwiched into the middle of the fig tree episode (Mark 11:15–19). But Mark neither quotes nor refers explicitly to Jeremiah; the intertextual connection between Jeremiah 8 and Mark 11 occurs entirely in the realm of echo. But the alert reader who hears the echo may also wonder what the relationship might be between the LORD who wanted to gather figs in Jeremiah 8 and Jesus himself, who now comes to Jerusalem and looks for figs. This is one of many cases where Mark subtly, almost subliminally, suggests Jesus is in fact the embodiment of the God of Israel.
bible  reading  theology 
14 days ago
Colin McGinn | Mysterianism Revisited
I shall now list the main tenets of scientific mysterianism (or for informal occasions, badass mysterianism). The aim is not to defend these propositions (they have been defended elsewhere) but merely to summarize the basic outlook in compact form.

• Unknowability does not imply non-existence.
• Degree of intelligibility is not degree of reality.
• Intelligibility is a matter of cognitive endowment.
• There is no such thing as “unintelligible reality” tout court.
• Mechanism provides the base standard for human intelligibility.
• Mind is as limited as body, and has an anatomy too.
• How-possible questions might have answers beyond our cognitive reach; philosophical problems can be solved by pointing this out.
• Knowledge is a matter of biological luck, not divine guarantee.
• Science is the name we give to what lies within our cognitive scope.
• We can speak of what we cannot know.
• The bounds of truth are not the bounds of human reason.
• It may be that nothing in nature is fully intelligible to us.
• It is remarkable that we understand anything about the deep principles of nature, not a matter of course.
• Mysteries of nature are facts of human psychology.
• The brain is an evolved organ, not a miracle worker.
• We can grow accustomed to mysteries, but they do not go away.
• Newton’s Principia is the ultimate text in mysterious Western science.
• Understanding a theory is not the same as understanding what that theory is about.
• Locke, Hume, and Kant all understood the limits of human knowledge.
• Positivism is a failed attempt to deny natural mysteries.
• Idealism is the only alternative to mysterious realism.
• Science is not the rejection of mystery but its studied recognition.
• Knowledge and mystery go together.
• Reality does not contain a mysterious part, though it is mysterious in part.
[I have tagged this bookmark "theology" because I'm quite taken with the obvious applicability of many of these theses to speech about God]
philosophy  science  mind  theology 
14 days ago
Question marks of the mysterians
Mysterianism, it’s important to emphasize, is not inconsistent with materialism. The mysterians don’t suggest that what’s unknowable must be spiritual or otherwise otherworldly. They posit that matter itself has complexities that lie beyond our ken. Like every other animal on earth, we humans are just not smart enough to understand all of nature’s laws and workings.

What’s truly disconcerting about mysterianism is that, if our intellect is bounded, we can never know how much of existence lies beyond our grasp. What we know or may in the future know may be trifling compared with the unknowable unknowns. “As to myself,” remarked Isaac Newton in his old age, “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” It may be that we are all like that child on the strand, playing with the odd pebble or shell — and fated to remain so.
philosophy  science  mind  from instapaper
14 days ago
Plastics run in my family but their inheritance is in us all – Rebecca Altman | Aeon Essays
"It was the broadcaster Lowell Thomas, the signature voice of the early 20th century, who helped Bakelite become a household name. The natural world was thought to have only three kingdoms – animal, vegetable and mineral – but in a 1937 film on the story of Bakelite, Thomas described a fourth kingdom of synthetics, which promised to free us from reliance on nature, including timber and plant mass such as cotton and wool. Baekeland’s company chose the infinity symbol as its logo and the phrase ad infinitum as its motto."
from instapaper
14 days ago
The Video Game That Shows Us What the E-Book Could Have Been
"Even as it makes use of game elements to go beyond the book experience, making it more immersive and reactive, Device 6 also illuminates fundamental aspects of the book that usually go unnoticed. One of the primary tasks of a video game is to create a space in which the player overcomes obstacles in order to reach some sort of a goal. Games may accomplish this through the creation of a two-dimensional map (think Pong, Pac-Man, or nearly any board game), or by repeating a series of pixels again and again with some minor variations, until it becomes a three-dimensional hallway. Device 6 uses text itself to create a space through which the reader passes, building upon but also replicating a set of tools that books tend to take for granted. Our use of these tools in a book — the syntax of motion across and between pages, in English left to right, top to bottom — is so ingrained as to frequently be invisible, but it’s there. Every book, every story, is a space through which we travel: one sound, one letter, one sentence at a time. Device 6 emphasizes and reconsiders this movement through text by making its words a map through which the reader is initially led, but which requires later that she retrace her steps back through the text into new, previously obscure corners."
from instapaper
15 days ago
A few notes on heresy, orthodoxy, and common witness in the Church’s churches
"Indeed, there are many mortal sins to be avoided, including “reviling” others, as Ephraim Radner recently noted on a blog: that Paul warns the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother [or sister] who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber” (1 Cor. 5:11). To revile someone is to address or speak of them with contemptuous, abusive, or opprobrious — that is, reproaching or scornful — language. Woe to us when our proper zeal for God’s truth is tied up with our own self-righteousness! We include ourselves in this curse, recognizing that we have “no excuse, whoever we are, when we judge others” (Rom. 2:1).

In the great days of the Zulu empire the paramount chief employed a shaman to inspect the assembled ranks of warriors to sniff out potential traitors. Of course, such a method was slap-dash and unpredictable. While such inquisitors may well have discouraged opponents, they were given the tempting incidental power to settle scores and destroy rivals. It is much more tempting to identify heretics than to do the hard work of translating orthodoxy into contemporary language, thereby demonstrating the poverty and inadequacy of its alternative propositions."
from instapaper
15 days ago
#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics
"We believe the most important division in today’s left is between those that hold to a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism, and those that outline what must become called an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology. The former remains content with establishing small and temporary spaces of non-capitalist social relations, eschewing the real problems entailed in facing foes which are intrinsically non-local, abstract, and rooted deep in our everyday infrastructure. The failure of such politics has been built-in from the very beginning. By contrast, an accelerationist politics seeks to preserve the gains of late capitalism while going further than its value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies will allow."
from instapaper
15 days ago
For Moral Clarity, Don't Look to Universities
"The values that motivated students and faculty members to commit themselves to a political cause, a religious tradition, or even scholarship itself, came from outside the university.
And so universities need to look outside themselves and partner with other moral traditions and civic communities, as my inspiring faculty colleagues here in Charlottesville have done for months in anticipation of this weekend. Universities may not be able to impart comprehensive visions of the good, but they are uniquely positioned to help students engage in open debates and conversations about the values they hold most dear.
Acknowledging the limitations of the academy might help us to reconsider the bromides issued by university press offices in our name — the automatic incantation of "our values" of diversity and inclusion. What kind of goods are these, and why do we defend them?"
from instapaper
15 days ago
I Will Love You in the Summertime
"As for myself, I have found faith not to be a comfort but a provocation to a life I never seem to live up to, an eruption of joy that evaporates the instant I recognize it as such, an agony of absence that assaults me like a psychic wound. As for my children, I would like them to be free of whatever particular kink there is in me that turns every spiritual impulse into anguish. Failing that, I would like them to be free to make of their anguish a means of peace, for themselves or others (or both), with art or action (or both). Failing that—and I suppose, ultimately, here in the ceaseless machinery of implacable matter, there is only failure—I would like them to be able to pray, keeping in mind the fact that, as St. Anthony of the Desert said, a true prayer is one that you do not understand."
from instapaper
15 days ago
What the Greek Myths Teach Us About Anger in Troubled Times - The New York Times
Ancient literature can certainly be eye opening, and it has a wonderful capacity to make us re-examine many modern assumptions that we take too much for granted. But I am very doubtful that it has any particularly useful direct lessons for us. It is slightly disappointing to find that, after many fine observations, the book’s central conclusion lies somewhere between a liberal truism (essentially: It is better to talk about things than fight) and a misleading oversimplification. As Anhalt more or less concedes, the final verdict on anger, whether political or personal, must come down to what we are angry about and how we act as a consequence. Rage, as shown in the “Iliad” and some modern geopolitical debate, can be petty and corrosive, but I doubt that Homer was advocating that we should live entirely without it. It is sometimes not only justifiable but necessary. Do we want to live in a world in which we don’t get furious at slavery, racism, or any number of other global injustices — or even at some of the dreadful truths of the human condition? When more than two millenniums after Homer the poet Dylan Thomas wrote of facing death with the words “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” it was the kind of rage that many of us understandably cherish.
emotion  politics 
15 days ago
A Problem with Apple News Sites
Twitter streams make for bad thinking. I think my RSS feed (ironically) proves that. Every day it fills up with the same headlines linking to each other. Few add thoughtful commentary. Few add anything at all. Which is weird to me, because that's exactly what I want. I want to hear opinions and ideas from good writers, not pull quotes with a trailing off-the-cuff remark.

I also think podcasting is bad for opinion writers. Writing takes time but it also gives time. It gives time to think through your ideas and form better ones. I've rewritten many sentences in this very article. There are certainly still typos, but the ideas have improved with each edit.

Podcasting provides an outline for ideas but it does not provide much introspection. Several writers that I once respected for their deep insight and critical thinking have become mediocre podcast talkers. It's not because I think they were phonies. It's because they traded the ease of recording for the difficulty of writing. Podcasting is fun. Ideas flow unedited and once they are out, they are gone. "Follow up" is not editing.
socialmedia  HTT 
16 days ago
Is The Nashville Statement A Surrender? | The American Conservative
A couple of people in college ministry were at the table. They said that it is impossible to overstate how alienating the enthusiastic support their parents gave to Donald Trump was to their students. A number of college students have left the church entirely over it.

“How is that possible?” I asked one of the campus ministers. “How do you decide to leave Christianity altogether over who your parents voted for? That makes no sense to me.”

He said that in Evangelical circles, it’s common for college students to be skeptical at best of their parents’ theological views. For a lot of them, their parents’ backing of Donald Trump made everything they had been taught as kids about Christianity a lie. Their parents were the primary face of Evangelical Christianity to them, and to see this happen was shattering. They concluded that Christianity must be all about the economy, or tribalism, and so forth. One pastor said that a young man he ministers to in college posted a criticism of Trump on Facebook, and was cut off financially by his parents because of it.

Listening to these pastors and laypeople talking about the Trump effect on younger Christians was quite sobering to me. An older pastor said that it is impossible to separate the Nashville Statement from the massive support white Evangelicals gave to Trump. Impossible to separate, I mean, in the mind of the young.

“But Russell Moore signed it, and other Trump critics among Evangelicals,” I said.

“I know, and I’ve tried to tell people that,” said this pastor, a conservative Evangelical. “It doesn’t matter to them. All they see is a bunch of leaders of a movement who voted for a sexually corrupt man like Donald Trump are now trying to take a public stand on sexual morality for gays. It’s totally hypocritical to them. I don’t know how the Nashville Statement drafters and signers didn’t see this coming.”
christian  sexuality 
16 days ago
Was Charlottesville a Turning Point for the Alt-Right?
In all of my time observing the alt-right, I have never seen its adherents so uncertain, floundering, excuse-making and on the back foot. On 4chan’s /pol/ list, for instance, posters debated whether open talk of a white ethno-state is any longer a good tactic—and if the movement’s most confident and unapologetic spokespeople should be ditched for figures espousing a less extreme line. Significantly, the alt-lite and the entire broader milieu around the white-nationalist alt-right proper have now distanced themselves permanently from the most volatile leaders of the Unite the Right in Charlottesville, and it seems likely that this crucial nexus of political affiliation is permanently sundered for the disaffected online legions of the alt-right. What will happen to these militant young white men? Will they reinvent themselves or fade away in the absence of a guiding vision of the future?

At the risk of putting my own work out of date, I believe that chapter of the alt-right story that my book was about—the anonymous online trolling culture, the constant evasions and ironic styles, the hodge-podge of disparate groups united by the “anti-PC” crusade—is over and a new one has begun. The alt-right in the strict sense will now become more isolated, more focused, and unambiguous—and perhaps more militant. But the part of the movement that is willing to go all the way is still very small.
politics  altright 
16 days ago
Making Technological Miracles
"Or consider the prospect of replacing gasoline with wind-generated electricity to charge batteries in electric cars. Here, too, there are physics-based barriers to innovation. Building a single wind turbine, taller than the Statue of Liberty, costs about the same as drilling a single shale well. The wind turbine produces a barrel-equivalent of energy every hour, while the rig produces an actual barrel every two minutes. Even though the barrel-equivalent of energy from a wind turbine costs about the same as a barrel of oil, the latter is easy and cheap to store. However, storing wind-generated electricity so that it can be used to power cars or aircraft requires batteries. So while a barrel’s worth of oil weighs just over 300 pounds and can be stored in a $40 tank, to store the equivalent amount of energy in the kind of batteries used by the Tesla car company requires several tons of batteries that would cost more than several hundred thousand dollars. Even if engineers were able to double or quadruple battery efficacy, that still would not come near to closing the performance gap between energy from wind and energy from liquid hydrocarbons for transportation."
from instapaper
17 days ago
Social Media isn't for Learning - Long View on Education
I have a very strong reaction against the idea that we should teach students how to brand themselves, especially given the broader economic context where those good google jobs aren’t handed out equitably based on online portfolios. But I think there is a strong argument for teaching children how to manage as best as possible what search engines will find when they are googled. Maybe there is room for teaching how to be less than your whole self, selectively curating different slices of you for extraction at a later date. On the flip side, students may not want to act out their most meaningful or ‘authentic’ learning on the most public of platforms. Schools have a role as a carapace.

As much as we can teach students how to navigate the platforms we do have, we must guard against the greatest danger: inculcating a sense of complacency in the face of the existing platform logic as if it forms an inevitable and incontestable future.
socialmedia  textpatterns  academe 
17 days ago
“Students as Creators” and the Theology of the Attention Economy
But the rhetoric around “students as creators” is unbelievably bad. It parrots all of capitalism’s worst theology: we want to make “makers, not takers”, we value “doers, not thinkers”. As I said a few years back, the idea that universities should value “producers” and push our students towards “production” is actually the least subversive idea you could possibly have at a university. The most subversive idea you could have at a university these days is that you might think a few connected thoughts without throwing them into either publication or the attention economy. That you might think about things for the purpose of being a better human, without an aim to produce anything at all.
academe  textpatterns  socialmedia 
17 days ago
Hubert Dreyfus - Highway Bridges and Feasts: Heidegger and Borgmann on How to Affirm Technology
This resistance to technological practices on the behalf of focal practices is the primary solution Borgmann gives to saving ourselves from technological devastation. Borgmann cannot find anything more positive in technology--other than indulging in good running shoes and a Big Mac every now and then--because he sees technology as the highest form of subjectivity. It may fragment our identities, but it maintains us as desiring beings not world disclosers. In contrast, since Heidegger sees technology as disaggregating our identities into a contingently built up collection of skills, technological things solicit certain skills without requiring that we take ourselves as having one kind of identity or another. This absence may make our mode of being as world disclosers invisible to us. This would be what Heidegger calls the greatest danger. But this absence allows us to become sensitive to the various identities we may have when we are engaged in disclosing the different worlds focused by different kinds of things. As such disclosers we may even respond to technological things as revealing one kind of world among others. Hence, Heidegger's view of technology allows him to find a positive relation to it, but only so long as we maintain skills for disclosing other kinds of local worlds. Freeing us from having a total fixed identity so that we may experience ourselves as multiple identities disclosing multiple worlds is what Heidegger calls technology's saving power. [...]

Heidegger's thinking until 1955, when he wrote "The Question Concerning Technology," was like Borgmann's current thinking in that for him preserving things was compatible with awaiting a single God. Heidegger said as early as l946 that the divinities were traces of the lost godhead. But Heidegger came to think that there was an essential antagonism between a unified understanding of being and local worlds. Of course, he always realized that there would be an antagonism between the style set up by a cultural paradigm and things that could only be brought out in their ownness in a style different from the dominant cultural style. Such things would inevitably be dispersed to the margins of the culture. There, as Borgmann so well sees, they will shine in contrast to the dominant style but will have to resist being considered irrelevant or even wicked. But, if there is a single understanding of being, even those things that come into their own in the dominant cultural style will be inhibited as things. Already in his "Thing" essay Heidegger goes out of his way to point out that, even though the original meaning of 'thing' in German is a gathering to discuss a matter of concern to the community, in the case of the thing thinging, the gathering in question must be self contained. The focal occasion must determine which community concerns are relevant rather than the reverse.
tech  philosophy  textpatterns  from instapaper
18 days ago
Amazon.com: The Real-Town Murders eBook: Adam Roberts: Kindle Store
'In the eighteenth century the really expensive things were food and clothes. But we soon found ways of undermining the scarcity of both those things, and both became trivially cheap. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century the really expensive thing was housing, because people insisted on preferring large detached properties and there wasn’t enough space for everyone to have one. But now, people can live in as much or as little space, as much or as little luxury, as they desire – in the Shine. All they need for a real-world base is a cupboard. So what does that leave us?’

‘I’m confident,’ said Alma, ‘that this disquisition is going somewhere.’

‘There’s a price to be paid for living in the Shine,’ said Pu. ‘It is that you must open yourself. You render yourself easy to track, easy to surveil, easy to monitor and therefore easy to control. People in the Shine don’t care, because they’re too caught up in their various actualised fantasies. But the people who do the surveilling do care, because it’s the grounds of their power, and once you get a taste for it, power is something you never get enough of.’
surveillance  SF  power  tech  textpatterns 
18 days ago
Bernard Williams on reflection
There is no route back from reflectiveness. I do not mean that nothing can lead to its reduction; both personally and socially, many things can. But there is no route back, no way in which we can consciously take ourselves back from it. Even in the individual case, though we can consciously embark on a course to reduce reflection, we cannot consciously pursue that course, and if we are successful, we will have had to forget it. But in the social case, there will be people who do not want to pursue it, and they will try not to let the others forget it. This phenomenon of self-consciousness, together with the institutions and processes that support it, constitute one reason why past forms of life are not a real option for the present, and why attempts to go back often produce results that are ludicrous on a small scale and hideous on a larger one. This can be seen, above all, with reactionary projects to recreate supposedly contented hierarchical societies of the past. These projects in any case face the criticism that their pictures of the past are fantasies; but even if there have been contented hierarchies, any charm they have for us is going to rest on their having been innocent and not having understood their own nature. This cannot be recreated, since measures would have to be taken to stop people raising questions that are, by now, there to be raised.
philosophy  from notes
18 days ago
LRB · John Lanchester · You Are the Product: It Zucks!
Google and Facebook have both been walking this line from the beginning. Their styles of doing so are different. An internet entrepreneur I know has had dealings with both companies. ‘YouTube knows they have lots of dirty things going on and are keen to try and do some good to alleviate it,’ he told me. I asked what he meant by ‘dirty’. ‘Terrorist and extremist content, stolen content, copyright violations. That kind of thing. But Google in my experience knows that there are ambiguities, moral doubts, around some of what they do, and at least they try to think about it. Facebook just doesn’t care. When you’re in a room with them you can tell. They’re’ – he took a moment to find the right word – ‘scuzzy’. [...]

The view of human nature implied by these ideas is pretty dark. If all people want to do is go and look at other people so that they can compare themselves to them and copy what they want – if that is the final, deepest truth about humanity and its motivations – then Facebook doesn’t really have to take too much trouble over humanity’s welfare, since all the bad things that happen to us are things we are doing to ourselves. For all the corporate uplift of its mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic. It is perhaps for that reason that Facebook, more than any other company of its size, has a thread of malignity running through its story. The high-profile, tabloid version of this has come in the form of incidents such as the live-streaming of rapes, suicides, murders and cop-killings. But this is one of the areas where Facebook seems to me relatively blameless. People live-stream these terrible things over the site because it has the biggest audience; if Snapchat or Periscope were bigger, they’d be doing it there instead.

In many other areas, however, the site is far from blameless. The highest-profile recent criticisms of the company stem from its role in Trump’s election. There are two components to this, one of them implicit in the nature of the site, which has an inherent tendency to fragment and atomise its users into like-minded groups. The mission to ‘connect’ turns out to mean, in practice, connect with people who agree with you. We can’t prove just how dangerous these ‘filter bubbles’ are to our societies, but it seems clear that they are having a severe impact on our increasingly fragmented polity. Our conception of ‘we’ is becoming narrower. [...]

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.
tech  Facebook  textpatterns  from instapaper
20 days ago
Some thoughts about the Princess Diana affair - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog
Mind you, did the poor old monarchy have much life left in it anyway? The country of 1689, the year in which our ingenious form of government was devised, which made us the wealthy stable, powerful, free  and independent nation we used to be, suffered a fatal stroke around about 1914, and has been an unconscionable time actually dying, ever since.

But it is dying, and it is as able to sustain a constitutional monarchy as it is able to sustain a cold-war nuclear deterrent. Technically, it has it, but it can’t maintain it, isn’t big and strong enough to keep it in working order, but from a distance it still looks OK, and it can’t quite bring itself to admit the truth yet. I must get back to writing my obituary of the country formerly known as Great Britain.
21 days ago
God's Strangeness | Wesley Hill
In short, as Rowan Williams says, the Creed “has to do with making it harder to talk about God.” The affirmations of the Creed—that God is the source of all that is (not just a cosmic watchmaker), that the human being Jesus is, in a way beyond our ability to grasp, the presence of this God among us (not just an exalted moralist), and that the Spirit is equally “the Lord,” the bearer of the same divine Name (not just an ethereal sensibility or “force”)—are the Church’s attempt to say what must be said in order to safeguard, rather than dissolve, the transcendent wonder and freedom of God. Although I don’t share Dunn’s understanding of what the Creed does, I do like his word for it: dis­quieting. When we confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, we dance on the knife-edge of the deepest mysteries of all.
theology  christian  from instapaper
22 days ago
China Looks at Western Universities and Smells Weakness
Western universities’ traditional response to criticisms on China’s restrictions on free inquiry was to claim that they could help liberalize their Chinese counterparts by establishing contact with them. What has happened instead is that they’ve ended up importing Chinese academic censorship into their own institutions. Cambridge University Press censoring on behalf of Beijing is not the first time elite British universities have opted for the bottom line over principle in accepting Chinese censorship contributions.

A recent study by the U.S. National Association of Scholars found widespread evidence that the Confucius Institutes, Beijing-funded centers for “Chinese culture and language” in foreign campuses, limit what can be taught and discussed not just in their courses but throughout universities. Confucius teachers are paid by the Chinese Ministry of Education and are required to adhere to Chinese laws on speech even when teaching overseas. As the report noted, “Some reported an outright ban on discussing subjects that are censored in China.… [U]niversities have made improper concessions that jeopardize academic freedom and institutional autonomy.” Western universities are not just accepting censorship; they are signing up for it.
academe  from instapaper
23 days ago
Clive James's favourite poetry books
If I had to pick the greatest separate book of American poetry since Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur’s Poems 1943–1956 (published only in Great Britain, by Faber) would have to be the one, even though it contains elements from three of his separate books, The Beautiful Changes, Ceremony and Things of this World; even though his Collected Poems 1943–2004, arranged in reverse so as to track his career from his later days back to the start, is in itself a mighty book; and even though his initial example was so infectious that at least one of the very best Wilbur poems was written by someone else. (Anthony Hecht’s wonderful poem about Japan would never, I am sure, have been the meticulous miracle that it is if Wilbur hadn’t set the standard for a filigree stanza.) The truth about Wilbur is that his post-war impact was so big it had to be largely ignored if the race of poets was to survive. Robert Lowell’s first volume Lord Weary’s Castle is easier to take, even when you open it at ‘A Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket’. Anyone who doubts this contention should open Wilbur’s book at ‘A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra’ and note once again the elegant swagger with which a GI could come home from Europe with a whole cultural heritage in his pocket. On the aspiring poets among his fellow Americans he had the impact of a rococo asteroid, burning up their air with his displays of cool fire. Anyone capable of appreciating his artistry was helpless not to emulate it, and emulation guaranteed mediocrity. Wilbur’s brand of conscious artistry could be sustained only by his instinct for a phrase, the impulse ‘that flings / The dancer kneeling on nothing into the wings.’ Perfect. Some said just perfect, but they said it in helpless envy. The most corrosive enemy of his reputation, though, was the silence of critics to whom his clarity left nothing they could add.
poetry  criticism 
23 days ago
Why I Won't Sign the Nashville Statement | Mere Orthodoxy
The failure of this document, then, is (again) not merely rhetorical. The omissions are as significant as what it explicitly includes. Nor do I think those omissions are merely a matter of differing prudential judgment about what our times require: I have described the statement as failing to meet the minimum conditions for public judgment, because I think there are actual Bible verses that indicate as much. While evangelicals practice self-loathing more than they ought, a statement from churchmen that asserts that a particular view of sexuality is essential to the faith must acknowledge our own complicity and entanglement in the very spirit that is being denounced. Otherwise, it fails to bear the authority of the Gospel it proclaims, an authority which stems from the confession of our sins and the proclamation of Christ’s saving work. Such a dual announcement is the necessary and indispensable precondition for our judgment of the world. The absence of such a confession leaves the affirmations and proclamations withering on the vine, without the grace and life of humility which allows us to see that we, the evangelical churches, have helped make this world as well. If the confidence and courage that the statement enjoins sound forced or hollow, this is why.
theology  christian  church  from instapaper
24 days ago
engscisoc / Acceleration of Tranquility
Were we gods, we might be able to live well without rest and contemplation, but we are not and we cannot. Whereas our physical capacities are limited, those of the machine are virtually unlimited. As the capabilities of the machine are extended, we can use it--we imagine--to supplement our own in ways that will not strain our humanity. Had we no appetite or sin, this might be true, but our desires tend to lead us to excess, and as the digital revolution has quickly progressed, we have not had time to develop the protocols, manners, discipline, and ethics adequate for protecting us from our newly augmented powers.
tech  anthropocene  from instapaper
25 days ago
No safe place except hope: Global struggles and the Anglican vocation
The old enclaves are simply not up to the demands of the era. Catholic and Protestant, Orthodox and Pentecostal: these are fading ecclesial relics, not without their eternal giftedness and bequests that demand safeguarding and hence continued institutional forms. But their exclusive finalities have been clearly subverted, and their demands made upon other Christians for conformity in return for acceptance are now vain. The very attempt to respond to the global revolution of human life through institutions themselves honed by the revolution’s pressures — an attempt that is the manifest face of all churches today — is bound to a dismal end.

It no longer matters what church we belong to. We can leave individual destinies to the secret purposes of God, but there is little reason to think that such destinies are tied to a person’s denomination. More broadly, there is but one people of God, whose membership is founded on baptism and whose integrity is given in faithful following of Christ.
theology  Anglican  anthropocene  from instapaper
25 days ago
No safe place except hope: A scriptural response to the Anthropocene
The Anthropocene epoch is unveiling the connection between human destruction and human self-centeredness. A proper understanding of humanity goes further than this insight, however, because it apprehends the fact of God’s assumption of human nature as an act of grace for this bereft and fallen creature. A true anthropocentrism, then, measures our lives by the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, no more and no less. This must take stock of the breadth of our finitude, our failure, and our frailty, which stands before God in the form of a creature showered by grace. Every moral responsibility and possibility flows from God’s assumption of this creature and this flesh as a sign of God’s sovereign over all creation. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato sí (2015) has pointed to aspects of a proper Christian anthropocentrism. We should take up this vision with a refreshed vigor in our witness.
theology  Anglican  anthropocene  from instapaper
25 days ago
No safe place except hope: The Anthropocene epoch
Taken together, however, there are several common features tied to this huge Anthropocene shift, of which I will note only three: no one in the history of the world has ever lived the way we now live together; there is little evidence that human beings are happier than they once were, and violence and death are unabated; finally, almost every stable form for ordering the “arc” of the human lifespan that societies in the past have followed — including the Christian Church — has dissolved.

Second, there is a unique religious aspect to this new period of history. I am unqualified to say if in fact we have entered a new geological epoch. Scripture suggests, nonetheless, that periods of human history are divinely ordered (e.g., Daniel). These periods probably should not be seen as exclusively fixed chronological frameworks, but as descriptors of the ways that the Word of God relates to specific human collectivities and the ways these in turn respond. To understand our “time” in history, then, we discern something of its scriptural location, even if that location might apply to a range of “times.”

Anthropocene is a secular term. Yet it seems to stand in for such a scripturally explained period (one thinks of Hosea 10-13, along Isaiah 14, where Israel and Babylon have become one in their pride): we live in the epoch of the Anthropos, where everything has been excluded except the human.
theology  Anglican  anthropocene  from instapaper
25 days ago
LRB · Marina Warner · Back from the Underworld: The Liveliness of the Dead
In the course of the story Laqueur tells, death is a constant scandal against the living, but the wounds are becoming more visible. Tranquil, neighbourly country churchyards, such as the ones painted by Constable and elegised by Thomas Gray, were superseded by huge cemeteries in urban parklands, which no longer united the dead by faith or birth and dwelling place but according to the newer bonds of wealth, occupation and social status. Some of the book’s most powerful passages turn to the killing fields and the enormous spooky cemeteries of the Somme created after the First World War was over. These entailed the exhumation of hundreds of bodies, the assiduous identification and reassembly of parts, and their reburial in solemn serried rows, to depict the war as awful, yet sublime, and its victims as heroic and their deaths worthwhile. Through these stately monuments and encyclopedic inventories, the nation cleaned up the story of the war. ‘This constituted an aesthetic obfuscation of reality,’ Laqueur recognises, ‘But there was no alternative. As the history of sites of horror makes clear, they cannot remain as they were to become shrines to themselves. It was also impossible not to memorialise the dead of war.’ […]

Science weirdly spurs on the pursuit of the disenchanted corpse, carrying us into invisible and impalpable dimensions of experience. The invention of telegraphy and photography were essential to psychic experiments to bring back the dead, and after the First World War many survivors visited high street mediums like Ada Deane and William Hope, to hear news from the other side. The pages of spirit photograph albums reveal how many varieties of affectionate ties held people together, as the bereaved sought to contact lost loved ones: siblings, same-sex friendships and intergenerational bonds are all caught by the absurd pathos of the ghost portraits and rapped out messages. Séances seem to have acted as therapeutic consolation: the dead reported they were very happy where they were, in the non-religious uplands of spiritualist heaven, according to the reports the revenants brought to the living. The anthropologist William A. Christian Jr has amassed an extraordinary collection of photographs collaged on postcards to circulate and prolong memories of the absent, the missing and the dead. His recent study, The Stranger, the Tears, the Photograph, the Touch: Divine Presence in Spain and Europe since 1500, supports Laqueur’s accounts of the many ways new institutions, like the postal service, and new technologies, like photography, have been recruited to deal with death.
death  disenchantment  from instapaper
25 days ago
Why Donald Trump Has Been Good For Truth
In paying less attention to truth, we humanists have undermined the strongest argument to be made for why scholarship is important. At the end of his 1950 article, Momigliano explained that the historian’s search for truth is a form of religious life. Scholarship may be secular, but devotion still drives the modern academic venture: the researcher is a secularized monk, truth is sacred, and its pursuit is a path of holiness.

It’s not likely that much of this sentiment is conveyed to doctoral students or newly minted Ph.Ds. And, of course, researchers are not saints and devotion to truth in one’s footnotes does not mean that one does not cheat on one’s taxes. Yet the scholar’s habitus does track a religious calling. If we are going to take truth seriously we will need to take the meaning of its pursuit — not just its ends — equally seriously. We can’t yet know if those shocked by Trump’s Pyrrhonism will turn back to traditional cultures of evidence. But we in the academy can seize this moment to pay new attention to research: its history and practices, its social meaning, and, finally, its ethical importance.
politics  academe  scholarship  from instapaper
26 days ago
Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering
These linked paths and roads form a circuit of about six miles that I began hiking ten years ago to walk off my angst during a difficult year. I kept coming back to this route for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. After all those years of walking to work out other things, it made sense to come back to work close to home, in Thoreau’s sense, and to think about walking.

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.
walking  thinking  HTT  from instapaper
26 days ago
Emotional Intelligence Needs a Rewrite - Issue 51: Limits - Nautilus
Books and articles on emotional intelligence claim that your brain has an inner core that you inherited from reptiles, wrapped in a wild, emotional layer that you inherited from mammals, all enrobed in—and controlled by—a logical layer that is uniquely human. This three-layer view, called the triune brain, has been popular since the 1950s but has no basis in reality. Brains did not evolve in layers. Brains are like companies—they reorganize as they grow in size. The difference between your brain and, say, a chimp or monkey brain has nothing to do with layering and everything to do with microscopic wiring. Decades of neuroscience research now show that no part of your brain is exclusively dedicated to thoughts or emotions. Both are produced by your entire brain as billions of neurons work together. […]

Emotional granularity is a key to emotional intelligence. If your brain can construct many different emotions automatically and make fine distinctions among them, it can tailor your emotions better to your situation. You’re also better equipped to anticipate and perceive emotion in others in the blink of an eye. The more emotions that you know, the more finely your brain can construct emotional meaning automatically from other people’s actions. Even though your brain is always guessing, when it has more options to guess with, the odds are better it will guess appropriately."
emotion  thinking  from instapaper
26 days ago
Far From Dixie, Outcry Grows Over a Wider Array of Monuments - The New York Times
Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader, has argued against calls to remove the enormous carved tableau of Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain, Ga., and other Confederate monuments, saying those disputes make more enemies than friends and distract from more substantive issues.

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia, or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina,” he said, referring to the deadly shooting at a landmark black church in Charleston in 2015. He added, “I’m always interested in substance over symbols.”

Others say fighting over symbols is even less fruitful when the symbolism is far murkier, like Christopher Columbus. Democrats have cautioned about a rush to remake civic landscapes, in some ways echoing President Trump but warning that his use of the issue is intentionally divisive. “Making what happened in Charlottesville about monuments is distracting,” Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, told CNN on Wednesday.
28 days ago
Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science
One early study evaluated postdoctoral fellowship applications in the biomedical sciences and found that the women had to be 2.5 times more productive than the men in order to be rated equally scientifically competent by the senior scientists evaluating their applications. The authors concluded, “Our study strongly suggests that peer reviewers cannot judge scientific merit independent of gender. The peer reviewers over-estimated male achievements and/or underestimated female performance.” The study finds that “gender discrimination of the magnitude we have observed… could entirely account for the lower success rate of female as compared with male researchers in attaining high academic rank.”

A more recent study showed that science faculty at research-intensive universities were more likely to hire a male lab manager, mentor him, pay him more, and rate him as more competent than a female candidate with the exact same résumé. Another paper found that faculty respond to emails from male prospective PhD students more than from female prospective students, showing that men have greater access to professors. This are just a few of the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that clearly show, on average, the bar is set higher for women in science than for their male counterparts.
science  gender  sexism 
29 days ago
Reading the Body
Let me propose yet another bioethical maxim, which John Paul’s discussion of original nakedness seems to suggest: the presence of members of the human communio personarum to each other, enabled in their bodies, should be as clear and unimpeded as presently necessary shame permits. We must quickly note that late modernity’s itch to “transgress” shame is a vain attempt to recover what is lost, before the time has come for that recovery, and can only further obstruct our presence to each other.

It is apparent that directing this maxim to bioethical matters involves an even greater stretch than I have previously allowed myself. Perhaps we may say: Can some interventions into the bodily self-presentation of bodies that are human, from the earliest embryo through to the dying person, obscure or obliterate their ability to be clearly present to others? What of body storage? In the other direction: Do some interventions into bodies that are human violate necessary shame, even perhaps in the case of bodies whose personhood is questioned? What of their exposure to the impersonal gaze of the scientist? Is there an intensity of this that is simply too much?
theology  body  from instapaper
29 days ago
Comment | The Times & The Sunday Times
Sir, The articles by Clare Foges (“Gender-fluid world is muddling young minds”, July 27) and Hugo Rifkind (“Social media is making gender meaningless”, Aug 1), and the letters about children wanting to be pandas (July 29), dogs or mermaids (Aug 1), show that the confusion about gender identity is a modern, and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phrase, the “ungainly, boring, fleshy one”). This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.

The Right Rev Professor Tom Wright
St Mary’s College, St Andrews
gender  sexuality 
29 days ago
Trans Juggernaut Wants Your Kids. Public Schools Are Just The Beginning
This is likely why the transgender movement is targeting the young: They are vulnerable and impressionable, prepuberty pose better as either sex and therefore look less terrifying than adult transgenders, and once locked into the trans body morph will never truly be able to escape. Devastated people are prime candidates for exploitation by their pretend advocates. Also, locking in trans-policies now is a way to preclude debate before more extensive data and personal experience can fuel the inevitable backlash.

Of course this is bad for kids, but it’s not about kids. They’re just pawns, as usual. It’s about politics. Pushing transgenderism not only destabilizes a key component of a child’s identity but also contributes to early sexualization that is linked with mental illness and risky behaviors. Early exposure to and lack of clear parental direction about sex is also linked with increased gender confusion, which is precisely what we’re seeing as clinics for cutting and pasting children’s hormones and body parts explode inside a media environment that glamorizes this form of child abuse.
sexuality  gender 
29 days ago
The Alt-Right Is Not Who You Think It Is
The typical alt-right supporter does not lack education. The movement’s skillful use of the internet alone suggests otherwise. In interviews with people in the alt-right —including the movement’s leading voices and anonymous Twitter trolls—I found at least some degree of college education was a common denominator.

To complicate matters further, many people in the alt-right were radicalized while in college. Not only that, but the efforts to inoculate the next generation of America’s social and economic leaders against racism were, in some cases, a catalyst for racist radicalization. Although academic seminars that explain the reality of white privilege may reduce feelings of prejudice among most young whites exposed to them, they have the opposite effect on other young whites. At this point we do not know what percentage of white college students react in such a way, but the number is high enough to warrant additional study.
politics  altright 
29 days ago
Universities can do more to curb hateful speech - Chicago Tribune
My own view is that universities, including public universities, would be well-advised to stand on their rights to limit the presence of nonuniversity speakers where possible and to stop their public spaces from becoming classic public forums.

On the surface, it may seem that such limitations would run counter to the free academic exchange of ideas.

But on closer examination, academic freedom and constitutional free speech are actually pretty different. In private universities, the act of creating a campus where academic freedom exists requires the creation of a community that shares certain scholarly norms. If students and teachers could shout each other down, free exchange of ideas on campus would quickly become impossible.

And in truth, public universities aren’t much different. To function as universities, they need to create an environment of communal commitment to exploring the truth. That includes, in my view, great latitude for expressing almost any imaginable viewpoint. But it does not include threats or harassment. And it does not allow for gross violations of civility. [...]

In short, the university is not the public square. Where the First Amendment requires it to be treated as such, it’s crucial for public university administrators to follow the law. But wherever possible, we should use all lawful means to distinguish the free-for-all of public argument from the structured, reasoned debate to which the university as an institution is supposed to be dedicated.
academe  university  freespeech 
4 weeks ago
‘Three streams’ Anglicanism? – Covenant
Newbigin insists that an adequate ecclesiology must incorporate all three of these answers to the esse of the Church if it is to be faithful to what the New Testament says about the Church and if it is to be faithful to the high value that the New Testament places on the unity of the Church. That we are content with our divisions is to Newbigin evidence that we don’t believe the Church is what the New Testament says it is: the one body of Christ, the one family of God. Furthermore, for Newbigin the quest for the unity of the Church is necessary in order to be faithful to the God-given mission of the Church, which is to reconcile us to God and to each other in Jesus Christ the Lord. For Newbigin, the Church must be evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, always seeking unity and always sacrificing itself in mission. The point of reference by which the Church is to be judged is not some golden age of the past but the eschatological future, in which the high priestly prayer of Jesus for the unity of his Church has come true, and the whole creation is reconciled to the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am deeply persuaded that the visible solidarity and unity of Christians is of paramount significance for the ministry of evangelism in the 21st century. Newbigin said of the intractable divisions of his time that they caused the human heart to wonder with a kind of agony if there can indeed be one human family. How can we be ambassadors of reconciliation if we are not practicing reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican world and with other Christian traditions?
Anglican  ecumenism  church 
4 weeks ago
Steve Bannon believed in Trumpism. Donald Trump doesn’t. - Vox
The presidency Trump wants is one in which he can say whatever he likes but other people do the work and ignore him when necessary. Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to understand that:
As the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly routes all calls to and from President Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them. He stanches the flow of information reaching the president’s desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump’s relatives — go through him to reach the president.

American politics is hurtling toward a very strange place. The president of the United States is clearly unfit for the job, but the good news, to the extent that there is good news, is that everyone around him knows it, and he is willing to be sidelined as long as no one takes away his phone. Whether he is being marginalized by his own administration or choosing to marginalize himself I don’t know, but Bannon’s ouster is another piece of evidence that Trump is interested in Twitter, not Trumpism.
4 weeks ago
All 165 Pink Floyd Songs Ranked, From Worst to Best
The list that follows ranks all of the band’s officially released studio work, from the worst song to the best.

In its massive confusion, this accounting — which, whether we like it or not, hangs above our cultural world, as the band itself might have put it, motionless upon the air, like an albatross — is a testament to the good humor of the gods of rock, which now and again smile upon otherwise unemployable, gangly British nitwits.
music  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
We Live in Fear of the Online Mobs
We now effectively live in a forager band filled with people we don’t know. It's like the world’s biggest small town, replete with all the things that mid-century writers hated about small-town life: the constant gossip, the prying into your neighbor’s business, the small quarrels that blow up into lifelong feuds. We’ve replicated all of the worst features of those communities without any of the saving graces, like the mercy that one human being naturally offers another when you’re face to face and can see their suffering.

And, of course, you can't move away. There’s only one internet, and we’re all stuck here for the rest of our lives.

Private coercion starts looking less and less like a necessary, if sometimes regrettably deployed, tool of local community-building. Without the tempering instincts of intimate contact, without the ability to exit, it looks a lot more like brute, impersonal government coercion -- the sort that the earliest and highest U.S. laws were written to restrain. [...]

That power keeps growing, as does the number of subjects they want to declare off-limits to discussion. And unless it is checked, where does it lead? To something depressingly like the old Communist states: a place where your true opinions about anything more important than tea cozies are only ever aired to a tiny circle of highly trusted friends; where all statements made to or by the people outside that circle are assumed by everyone to be lies; where almost every conversation is a guessing game that both sides lose. It is one element of Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale" that does resonate today: Any two acquaintances must remain so mutually suspicious that every day, they can discuss only the pleasant weather and their common fealty to the regime.
socialmedia  internet  politics  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
James Murphy on LCD Soundsystem’s Return – and Why They’ll Never Break Up Again
There’s nostalgia in the air for the early 2000s New York music scene that LCD came up in. Does the city still carry any of the sense of creative possibility that it did for you back then?

Not really.

How come?

It’s just how I feel. The city doesn’t feel interesting. It’s too expensive. There’s a lot of really normal people here which is fine, but when I moved here [from New Jersey] in the late ‘80s all my friends were like, “You’re fucking crazy.” Nobody thinks you’re crazy for moving here now. Like, zero people. Instead they’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Why are you moving?” “Well, I got a job with Schwab.”

So where would the 20-year-old version of you move now?

I don’t know. The internet means it doesn’t matter if you fucking live in New York. Why would you live someplace you can’t afford? Also, locality doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. A scene is not a scene of people who know each other and borrow each other’s van. A scene is a style. You can be from the suburbs somewhere and be like, “I make dubstep.” Okay, great. That just means you’re working in a genre, not a scene. It’s a different kind of thing. But if I had to, I guess I’d tell a kid to move to Berlin. That’s where everyone seems to be going.
music  internet  NewYorkCity  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
How Effective is Economic Theory? | National Affairs
First, there is reason to believe that in the coming years economists will reluctantly come to recognize the importance of mental-cultural factors as determinants of economic outcomes, reducing the power of mathematical modeling as an approach. There is really no avoiding some movement in the direction of understanding economics as an interpretive discipline, a little like history. In trying to interpret the decline in labor-force participation of working-age males over the past two decades, or to understand the phenomenon of many retail firms offering special deals on "Black Friday," there is certainly some room to use mathematical models to aid the analysis. But they are neither necessary for coming up with interpretations nor sufficient to render one interpretation superior to all others. In examining subjects like these, economists could greatly reduce their usage of mathematical expression without losing anything in terms of effective theory.
economics  culture 
4 weeks ago
How I Define "Science Fiction"
The structure of metaphor as such is the knight's-move, my favourite manoeuvre in chess. It leads you in a certain metonymic direction, and indeed sometimes leads you quite a long way down that consecutive path, in order to leap suddenly, not arbitrarily, but poetically, expressively, marvellously, in its unexpected direction. It's the way the carefully worldbuilt society of Asimov's ‘Nightfall’ falls apart under stellar Sublimity, or the way the intricate anthropological detail of Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness is leavened by actual supernatural foretelling—a.k.a. magic—as a correlative to love, which is that novel's wondrous theme, wondrously handled. It's the way the scrupulously rational computational logic of Clarke's ‘Nine Billion Names of God’ steps, in its last sentence, into amazing impossibilities. It can be the beautifully unexpected outgoing, as when Ellie Arroway enters the alien world-construct at the end of Contact, or it can be the beautifully unexpected homecoming, as at the end of Kij Johnson's superb ‘26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss’. It is more affective than rational, more lyric than narrative (though the narrative is usually needful to generate its lyrical affect, I think). It is the hurled bone that turns, unexpectedly, impossibly yet somehow rightly, into a spaceship.
SF  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
How Colleges Are Strangling Liberalism - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Flash back to 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan. Republican activists are setting out on the road to spread the new individualist gospel of small government and pouring their energies into winning out-of-the-way county, state, and congressional elections — a bottom-up strategy. Also on the road, though taking a different exit off the interstate, you see former New Left activists in rusting, multicolored VW buses. Having failed to overturn capitalism and the military-industrial complex, they are heading for college towns all over America, where they hope to practice a very different sort of politics aimed at transforming the outlook of the educated classes — a top-down strategy. Both groups succeeded. [...]

The universities of our time instead cultivate students so obsessed with their personal identities and campus pseudo-politics that they have much less interest in, less engagement with, and frankly less knowledge of matters that don't touch on identity in the great out there. Neither Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who studied Greek) nor Martin Luther King Jr. (who studied Christian theology) nor Angela Davis (who studied Western philosophy) received an identity-based education. And it is difficult to imagine them becoming who they became had they been cursed with one. The fervor of their rebellion demonstrated the degree to which their education had widened their horizons and developed in them a feeling of democratic solidarity rare in America today.
politics  academe 
4 weeks ago
The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore
Your memo was a triumph of motivated reasoning: heads men win; tails women lose. Here are a few psychological differences between the sexes that you didn’t mention. Men score higher on measures of anger, and lower on co-operation and self-discipline. If it had been the other way round, I’m betting you would have cited these differences as indicating lack of suitability for the job of coder. You lean on measures of interest and personality, rather than ability and achievement, presumably because the latter don’t support your hypothesis. In many countries girls now do better in pretty much every subject at school than boys—again, if it had been the other way around I’m sure you wouldn’t have neglected to mention that fact. The sole published comparison of competency in coding I am aware of found that women were more likely than men to have their GitHub contributions accepted—but if they were project outsiders, this was true only if their gender was concealed. [...]

I said you didn’t understand what made a great software engineer. If we were talking about weight-lifters or contortionists, it would be simple—and your stylised bell-curve diagram would be the whole story. Men are on average so much stronger, and women so much more supple, that almost all the highest performers are from one sex or the other. But few jobs are that one-dimensional. Software engineering requires a broad mix of skills involving both “people” and “things”. Teamwork, in particular, is important—the stereotypical image of the geek working alone in his basement is far from reality. Senior engineers must manage teams—and by your own reasoning that should mean that women, with their greater empathy and interest in people, should be over-represented at that level, compared with their numbers in more junior jobs. That they are not should have given you pause.

Many of the problems in our industry are caused by the sorts of misconceptions about the job that you clearly hold. Failures of teamwork and product testing are part of the reason so many new releases are glitchy, and so many projects run over time and over budget. I can even point you to ways that products fail because too few women have been involved in their development. When Google Plus was launched users had to state their gender to sign up. The intention was to make it easier to send notifications such as “She shared a photo with you.” Presumably it didn’t occur to anyone involved in development—all of them men—that many women choose to conceal their sex online to cut down on harassment.
google  sexism  gender 
5 weeks ago
A Cosmopolitan Case Against World Government - World Government Research Network
Throughout history, the option of emigration has been a tremendous boon to people forced to live under corrupt, backward, or oppressive regimes. The United States has taken in millions of such migrants from all over the world. Other relatively free societies have also served as important refuges for the oppressed, including Australia and Canada, among others.

“Foot voting” is, in crucial respects, a better mechanism of political freedom than ballot box voting. Unlike ballot box voters, foot voters can make a meaningfully decisive choice about the kind of regime they wish to live under. In most elections, an individual voter has only an infinitesimal chance of affecting the result. By contrast, foot voters make decisions that are highly likely to make a real difference. For that very reason, they also have much stronger incentives to make well-informed decisions, as opposed to rationally ignorant ones.

If a world government becomes oppressive, falls victim to corruption, or adopts economic policies that stifle opportunity, there will be nowhere else to go. We will all be stuck with that regime, perhaps for a long time to come.

This danger may be somewhat mitigated if the world government is democratic. If we cannot exercise exit rights against it, we can still resort to “voice” and “vote the bastards out.” But, as discussed below, there is no guarantee that a world government actually will be democratic or that it will stay democratic over time even if it is initially set up that way.

Moreover, even democratic regimes can and often do adopt pathological policies for a variety of reasons, including the widespread political ignorance discussed above. It is dangerous to trust even a democratic government so much that we are willing to forego any possibility of exit if things go wrong. We should not put all of humanity’s eggs in a single political basket, no matter how enticingly democratic it might seem.
politics  cosmopolitanism 
5 weeks ago
Comics Have Lost the Plot
There are still some wonderful, challenging, grown-up comics being made today, it’s true. But I think it can also be argued that that burst of innovation we saw those many years ago never truly benefitted the mainstream of comics the way many people thought it would. We never really got more of the likes of “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight Returns.” Or, at least, we got much, much more of what I found myself holding in my hands with disbelief this week: tedious soap operas teeming with self-seriousness and tasteless shock value. These comics aren’t for kids and yet they aren’t really for adults either. Instead they’ve become exactly what those who’ve never understood the medium have always accused them of being: an exploitation of that nexus between childhood and adulthood, schlock intended for unrepentant adolescent minds trapped in grown up bodies. It makes me really sad.
5 weeks ago
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