Digital humanities as a semi-normal thing | The Stone and the Shell
If “data” were a theme — like thing theory or the Anthropocene — this play might now have reached its happy ending. Getting literary scholars to talk about a theme is normally enough.

In fact, the play could proceed for several more acts, because “data” is shorthand for a range of interpretive practices that aren’t yet naturalized in the humanities. At most universities, grad students still can’t learn how to do distant reading. So there is no chance at all that distant reading will become the “next big thing” — one of those fashions that sweeps departments of English, changing everyone’s writing in a way that is soon taken for granted. We can stop worrying about that. Adding citations to Geertz and Foucault can be done in a month. But a method that requires years of retraining will never become the next big thing. Maybe, ten years from now, the fraction of humanities faculty who actually use quantitative methods may have risen to 5% — or optimistically, 7%. But even that change would be slow and deeply controversial.

So we might as well enjoy the current situation. The initial wave of utopian promises and enraged jeremiads about “DH” seems to have receded. Scholars have realized that new objects, and methods, of study are here to stay — and that they are in no danger of taking over. Now it’s just a matter of doing the work. That, also, takes time.
6 days ago
Symposium: Is Free Speech Under Threat in the United States? | commentary
While politically correct shaming still has great power in deep-blue America, its effect in the rest of the country is to trigger a furious backlash, one characterized less by a desire for dialogue and discourse than by its own rage and scorn. So we’re moving toward two Americas—one that ruthlessly (and occasionally illegally) suppresses dissenting speech and the other that is dangerously close to believing that the opposite of political correctness isn’t a fearless expression of truth but rather the fearless expression of ideas best calculated to enrage your opponents.

The result is a partisan feedback loop where right-wing rage spurs left-wing censorship, which spurs even more right-wing rage. For one side, a true free-speech culture is a threat to feelings, sensitivities, and social justice. The other side waves high the banner of “free speech” to sometimes elevate the worst voices to the highest platforms—not so much to protect the First Amendment as to infuriate the hated “snowflakes” and trigger the most hysterical overreactions.

The culturally sustainable argument for free speech is something else entirely. It reminds the cultural left of its own debt to free speech while reminding the political right that a movement allegedly centered around constitutional values can’t abandon the concept of ordered liberty. The culture of free speech thrives when all sides remember their moral responsibilities—to both protect the right of dissent and to engage in ideological combat with a measure of grace and humility.
6 days ago
Divided on Reconciliation – The Living Church
There may be some who are not comfortable about engaging in ministry with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, but Truro has a long history of joint ministries involving EDV, including Five Talents and the Lamb Center. While we recognize our deep differences on some issues, we have chosen to focus on what unites us as people who believe in the resurrected Lord, rather than on what divides us. With this ministry, Truro is following a long heritage. We also take comfort in the three-year test period which will let all parties determine if we are truly following God’s calling. We have discerned that this ministry is indeed a calling from God, and events have lined up to reinforce that discernment. But if it is not of God, not infused with the Holy Spirit, then it will not produce Godly fruit. Both parties are happy to submit to this testing/discernment period to be sure we are following God’s plan for us. [...]

A letter from the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, Bishop of the ACNA’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic:
Truro leaders have made clear to me that the heart of this initiative is evangelistic. They desire to build loving relationships and, through them, to win back to the truth of the Scriptures those who have departed from the historic Christian faith. And they desire to lead to Christ those who do not know Jesus as the Crucified and Risen Lord, the only Savior of the world. I certainly support such goals and pray for even more fruit from Truro’s dynamic evangelism ministries.

At the same time, as I have been made aware of the vision for this Institute, I have repeatedly expressed to the Truro leadership my deep concerns over the possibility of their conducting this ministry in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Because of the false teaching of the Episcopal Church, I asked them not to enter into a joint ministry with the Episcopal Diocese. The issues that divide us are of first importance and to partner with the Episcopal Church is to give the mistaken impression that these concerns are merely secondary. If I thought that the issues that divide us were secondary, I would never have left the Episcopal Church.

The Truro leadership has chosen to proceed in joint ministry with the Episcopal Diocese in spite of my opposition. I am deeply grieved by this, and I hope Truro will reconsider.

[FWIW, I see Bishop Guernsey's response as encapsulating everything that's wrong with ACNA]
ecumenism  Anglican 
8 days ago
John Stuart Mill’s Intolerant Faith and the Religion of Liberalism
The use of the suffix -phobe by liberals to describe dissenters’ positions on such issues suggests that holding particular views is akin to suffering from a mental illness. Such demagoguery is increasingly accompanied by soft sanctions such as mandatory diversity training. Sometimes liberal censuring assumes harder forms such as hauling people before Star Chamber-like human rights commissions that make a mockery of due process. In these and other ways, contemporary liberalism exhibits tendencies toward what the conservative Cambridge historian Maurice Cowling described in his 1963 book Mill and Liberalism as “moral totalitarianism.” In the same book, Cowling challenged the widespread view of John Stuart Mill as the secular saint of tolerance. According to Cowling, Mill’s liberalism constituted nothing less than an alternative religion: one that turns out to be a rather fideistic faith that demands submission from nonbelievers. Not surprisingly, reactions to Cowling’s thesis were almost uniformly hostile. Fifty-four years later, however, Cowling’s analysis of Mill’s liberalism provides insights not only into liberal intolerance in our time but also into how to address it.
8 days ago
Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander | Popehat
And yet, the "we're just applying their rules to them" theory has some heft. It's not because of the nasty, disruptive little totalitarians themselves. Antifa scum and pseudo-educated campus thugs are not legitimate foundation for any adult's philosophy. No, the bit of plausibility comes from the reaction of people in authority, people who ought to know better, people whose conduct is somewhat more fairly attributed to a larger political groups. A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor's termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does. Relatively few thugs disrupting a speech and even physically assaulting a professor don't call into question the culture's support for free speech, but Middlebury offering weak slaps on the wrist and shrugs for that violent behavior does. A violent mob in Berkeley does not undermine the legitimacy of free speech doctrine — a mob is a mob — but Berkeley's timorousness or indifference in the face of violent censorship does. Students furious at a professor disagreeing with them don't call into question the nation's commitment to freedom, but state officials refusing to guarantee a professor's safety do. In short: the regrettable behavior of officials who have failed to stand up to disruption of speech are the people most responsible for legitimizing further disruptions of speech, whoever commits them.

But we can, and should, do better. Commitment to free speech as an American value — as an element of American exceptionalism — has always required tolerating evil and injustice and idiocy. We don't refrain from disrupting speech because the speakers deserve it, or because we've been treated fairly by the speakers or their allies. We refrain from disruption — and ought to punish those who disrupt — because free speech is the necessary prerequisite of a society based on individual rights and freedoms. It's the right that's the gateway to all other rights. Shrugging and abandoning it as a value is an abandonment of our commitment to all rights.
academentia  freespeech 
10 days ago
The Sovereign Myth - Niskanen Center
I suggest that the sense of control that is often attributed to voters in the olden days was really a sense of satisfaction with outcomes. Long years of economic growth in the West, broadly shared in, and in excess of the expectations of people who had lived through wars and economic collapse, propelled this satisfaction. In retrospect, though, it’s easy to flatter ourselves that, if things went well, it’s because we made such good decisions. Things look rather different when expectations are suddenly, sharply disappointed, as in the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. It’s all too easy for opportunistic politicians in such moments to tell the story: the reason why things went so badly is that control was taken away from you — whether by faceless international bureaucrats, greedy financiers, or alien others, whether they have immigrated or are still in their countries of origin, producing and competing against you.

This doesn’t, of course, amount to a strictly economic explanation of support for populist authoritarianism. The simple versions of the “economic anxiety” explanations for who supports such political movements have been widely debunked. But I think it is part of what makes fertile ground for such holist and fear-based political movements. The loss of the feeling of control can, moreover, go past economic questions; the demagogue can promise a restoration of control to the real people on social and cultural matters, too.
politics  economics 
11 days ago
The Man in the Box | The New Yorker
That’s how the Tardis got stuck as a police box, but it doesn’t explain why it started out that way. That explanation may lie in the history of policing. Beat policing is a British invention. British police are called bobbies because the London Metropolitan Police, a model for police forces all over the world, was created by Home Secretary Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel, in 1829. Doctor Who polices worlds. The idea of a world’s policeman dates to the First World War and began to come into common usage near the end of the Second. In 1943, during a birthday dinner for Winston Churchill, F.D.R. called upon the allied powers—the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China—to serve as the world’s “four policemen.” In 1945, the four policemen became the United Nations Security Council.

“Doctor Who” is, unavoidably, a product of mid-twentieth-century debates about Britain’s role in the world as its empire unravelled. It is also one of the stranger means by which British culture has reckoned with the horrors of the Second World War, the apocalyptic doomsaying of the Cold War, and the lasting madness of twenty-first-century terrorism. Superman, who first appeared in 1938, thwarted gangsters and thugs and criminal masterminds. But Doctor Who, created in the postwar, postcolonial, atomic age, inherited the agony of helplessness: he believes he can use his power to travel through time and space to undo unspeakable slaughter, only to find that, very often, he cannot. “Imagine you were in Pompeii and you tried to save them but in doing so you make it happen,” he says, trying to explain to a woman who is about to die in a nuclear explosion that he is powerless to prevent it. “Everything I do just makes it happen.” (He tries anyway. Moments after he saves her life, she kills herself.)

Doctor Who” is a chronicle of the impossibility of rescue. Yet it contains within it both a liberal fantasy about the heroism of the West in opposing atrocity and a conservative politics of self-congratulation, which, in the end, amount to the same thing. “You act like such a radical,” an alien said to the Doctor, not long ago, “and yet all you want to do is preserve the old order.”
tv  history  England 
12 days ago
Our Common Creed: The Myth of Self-Authorship - Julian Baggini
The shift to belief in sole self-authorship was not a step in the wrong direction but a step too far. That is why it is misleading to describe what we believe in today as individualism. The Enlightenment emphasis on the rights and responsibilities was progressive and we should not seek to reverse it. All we need to do is to accept that this was never meant to be a new religion in which humans became gods. Sustainable individualism requires us to accept that our individuality is only made possible by the society we grow up and live in. We should indeed strive to be the authors of our own lives, but we must acknowledge that the setting and the other characters are not under our control and that even we were sketched out before we could start to write our own scenes.

In place of the myth of sole self-authorship we need a different creative metaphor, perhaps that of jazz musicians, who must try to forge their own creative paths but are never anything like the sole authors of their lives. In such a life there are chances for individuality to shine, through solos and compositions. But even these are not isolated achievements. Every performance comes in the context of a history, a tradition, a discipline. To play is almost always to play with others, and to get the best for yourself you need them to get the best for themselves too.
12 days ago
The ‘Global Order’ Myth | Andrew Bacevitch
Yet collectively, the actions and episodes enumerated above do not suggest a nation committed to liberalism, openness, or the rule of law. What they reveal instead is a pattern of behavior common to all great powers in just about any era: following the rules when it serves their interest to do so; disregarding the rules whenever they become an impediment. Some regimes are nastier than others, but all are law-abiding when the law works to their benefit and not one day longer. Even Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s USSR punctiliously observed the terms of their non-aggression pact as long as it suited both parties to do so. My point is not to charge à la Noam Chomsky that every action undertaken by the United States government is inherently nefarious. Rather, I am suggesting that to depict postwar U.S. policy in terms employed by the pundits quoted above is to whitewash the past. Whether their motive is to deceive or merely to evade discomfiting facts is beside the point. What they are peddling belongs to the universe of alt facts. To characterize American statecraft as “liberal internationalism” is akin to describing the business of Hollywood as “artistic excellence.”
politics  history 
13 days ago
Bob Dylan - Nobel Lecture
I had all the vernacular down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head – the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries – and I knew all the deserted roads that it traveled on, too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day. When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.
dylan  music  lit  bloggable 
13 days ago
What Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt Can Teach Us About Evil Today - Los Angeles Review of Books
The first letter Scholem wrote Arendt after reading her book — the initial broadside in an exchange that was ultimately made public — began with a number of concessions to Arendt’s position on the Jewish role in facilitating the operation of the Holocaust. Having spent the past 50 years occupying himself with Jewish history, Scholem declares, he is well aware of the abysses in this narrative: “a demonic decay in the midst of life, insecurity in the face of this world […] and a weakness that is perpetually confounded and mingled with debasement and with lust for power.” It’s invariable, he asserts, that in times of catastrophe these tendencies come to the fore. The question that the young were asking in Israel of how all those millions could have allowed themselves to be killed was valid, he allowed. Arendt was right to want people to reflect on such matters. What he cannot countenance is the idea that such a harrowing dilemma could be resolved with a snappy formula. What is unbearable to him, Scholem writes, is the “malicious tone” Arendt has adopted to discuss matters of such profundity. It is Arendt’s “light-hearted style,” the note of “English flippancy” she has favored over that of pity for Eichmann’s victims — just as she has preferred snarkily caricaturing Eichmann himself to seriously analyzing his character — that repulses Scholem.
history  ethics  evil  politics  war 
13 days ago
Our Common Creed: Secular Humanism, Reimagined - @theosthinktank - Theos Think Tank
The strange fact is that secular humanism is rooted in Christianity. Its moral universalism is an adaptation, or mutation, of Christianity. And it is not just the humanism that is rooted in Christianity: the secularism is too. It is a paradox: secularism has Christian roots. And it is this interestingly paradoxical story that can give the creed solidity. Because of its surprising religious roots, secular humanism is not the bland obviousness that it is assumed to be.
Let’s put it this way. Our public creed, secular humanism, has two major problems. It seems vague, insubstantial, it melts into air. And it is difficult to articulate one aspect of it, its secularism, without alienating religious believers. These problems are largely solved when it is seen as a tradition deriving from Christianity. This story of its origins thickens it up, and involves rather than alienates religious believers. [...]

We must tell and retell this simple yet paradoxical story. Christianity gave rise to a post-religious creed, secular humanism. This story used to be widely accepted in some form: it was basic to the Whig worldview, and to British socialism (Tony Benn, for example, often highlighted the origin of socialism in the biblical prophets and radical reformers). Perhaps it is implied in the British constitution, which is narrative-shaped: religious unity gradually gives way to post-religious liberty. But increased secularization and multiculturalism edged it aside, made it seem a defunct assumption. And of course it was the sort of narrative that postmodernists competed in rubbishing. To some extent, such developments were healthy: the story of Christianity-begets-humanism had become complacent, unconsidered, stale. Clumsy versions of it had to be cleared away. But what other story do we have? If we do not tell this story, we have no serious story to tell about the nature and origin of our values. We either imply that they arise naturally, if people are rational (which is false), or we evade the issue altogether.

Our task is to find new freshness in this story. Only so can our shared creed be solidified, built up.

Will this task fall to Christians? To a large extent yes (semi-Christian agnostics might lend a hand, and so might Jews and others). But such Christians must defy the majority Christian view, which disparages secular humanism. The relationship between secular humanism and Christianity is inevitably tense. For secular humanism has an air of superiority: it is a non-religious form of moral universalism, and this allows it to be more fully universalist, in that it overlooks religious difference in asserting fundamental human unity. Of course this makes Christians wary: this creed seems to imply that religion is superseded, exposed as limited, divisive. But Christians should resist this reaction. The proper Christian attitude to secular humanism is to affirm it as the right public ideology, but to say that it is nevertheless thin, that it has no strong account of life’s meaning and purpose, but gravitates to an evasive shrug. It cannot say why we should affirm this moral universalism; it does not understand that this vision derives from the thicker narrative of religion. In other words, the right public (or political) ideology is necessarily thin. So the Christian should think on two levels: secular humanism is the right public creed, for the unifying of a diverse nation, and yet Christianity is very much still needed, as it provides meaning on a deeper level.
humanism  secularity  Christianity 
13 days ago
Hilary Mantel: why I became a historical novelist | Books | The Guardian
The pursuit of the past makes you aware, whether you are novelist or historian, of the dangers of your own fallibility and inbuilt bias. The writer of history is a walking anachronism, a displaced person, using today’s techniques to try to know things about yesterday that yesterday didn’t know itself. He must try to work authentically, hearing the words of the past, but communicating in a language the present understands. The historian, the biographer, the writer of fiction work within different constraints, but in a way that is complementary, not opposite. The novelist’s trade is never just about making things up. The historian’s trade is never simply about stockpiling facts. Even the driest, most data-driven research involves an element of interpretation. Deep research in the archives can be reported in tabular form and lists, by historians talking to each other. But to talk to their public, they use the same devices as all storytellers – selection, elision, artful arrangement. The 19th-century historian Lord Macaulay said, “History has to be burned into the imagination before it can be received by the reason.” So how do we teach history? Is it a set of stories, or a set of skills? Both, I think; we need to pass on the stories, but also impart the skills to hack the stories apart and make new ones.
history  fiction 
13 days ago
Analysis finds significant drop in humanities majors but gains in liberal arts degrees at community colleges
Most of the data released today will likely depress humanities professors. But those at community colleges may have reason to celebrate an analysis released on their institutions.
Much of the data about associate degrees at community colleges does not break out majors with the same granularity as can be found for bachelor's degrees. So the data that follow use a combination of degrees, including the popular liberal arts and liberal studies degrees, to track trends in the humanities at community colleges. Almost all of those programs involve substantial instruction in humanities disciplines.
Using that definition of humanities, the study found that 2015 saw a continuation of a trend in which associate degrees conferred in the humanities have increased in number every year since 1987, by an average of 4.3 percent per year.
humanities  academe 
13 days ago
Notes From An Emergency
Given this scary state of the world, with ecological collapse just over the horizon, and a population sharpening its pitchforks, an important question is how this globalized, unaccountable tech industry sees its goals. What does it want? What will all the profits be invested in?

What is the plan?

The honest answer is: rocket ships and immortality.

I wish I was kidding.

The best minds in Silicon Valley are preoccupied with a science fiction future they consider it their manifest destiny to build. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are racing each other to Mars. Musk gets most of the press, but Bezos now sells $1B in Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin. Investors have put over $8 billion into space companies over the past five years, as part of a push to export our problems here on Earth into the rest of the Solar System.
politics  tech  internet 
13 days ago
Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here - Scientific American
We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.
Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.
science  water 
13 days ago
How to Worry about Climate Change | National Affairs
A more dispassionate placement of climate change alongside a range of worrying problems does not mean there is nothing to worry about. But it points away from sui generis mitigation at all costs and toward an existing model for addressing problems through research, preparation, and adaptation. It suggests that analytical exercises that would never be applied to other worrying problems, like assigning a "social cost" to each marginal unit of carbon-dioxide emissions, are as inappropriate as estimating a "social cost of computing power" as it brings humanity closer to a possible singularity, or a "social cost of international travel" as it elevates the risk of a global pandemic. Taxes on any of them are closer to political statements than efficient corrections of genuine externalities, and each would be more likely to stall meaningful economic and technological progress than to achieve a meaningful reduction of risk.

Lessons might run in the other direction as well: We are not focusing as much on other challenges as we should. And perhaps, if climate change were consigned to its rightful place in the crowd, some additional attention might be available to concentrate elsewhere. If the level of research support, policy focus, and international coordination targeted toward climate change over the past eight years had gone instead toward preventing and managing pandemics, imagine the progress that could have been made. For a fraction of the cost of de-carbonizing an industrial economy, it could be hardened against cyber attacks; with a fraction of the attention corporations pay to their own purported climate vulnerability, they could make real strides in their own technological security.
13 days ago
The New Idolatry: On the (Mis)Uses of Diversity in Academia Today – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Yet precisely this is what the prevailing use of diversity stubbornly fails to recognize. The underlying problem here is that even as the concept of diversity serves manifestly normative (moral) purposes, it does so in an environment - that of contemporary, liberal-secular academia - characterized by fierce, indeed irrational resistance to all forms of normativity. Yet where normative assumptions shape moral claims and administrative decisions, even as normativity is routinely disavowed and disparaged as so much metaphysical backwardness, the result is not knowledge but idolatry.

It is this destructive habit of equivocation, whereby moral claims are routinely advanced and enforced even as their normative foundations are strenuously disavowed, that is particularly troubling. For it prevents us from understanding and prioritizing the metaphysical foundations on which, modern liberal-secular protestations notwithstanding, a just and humane community will always depend.

The present generation of faculty, administrators and public intellectuals ought to resist the temptation of catechizing the next generation into an idolatrous parroting of political notions such as diversity, while simultaneously refusing to scrutinize their normative foundations. Otherwise, modern academia will end up corrupting its core values of research and teaching, reflection and dialogue, values that today no less than in Plato's Athens or thirteenth-century Paris remain the foundation any authentic intellectual community.
13 days ago
In Defense of Cultural Appropriation - The New York Times
In 1955, Emmett Till’s mother urged the publication of photographs of her son’s mutilated body as it lay in its coffin. Till’s murder, and the photographs, played a major role in shaping the civil rights movement and have acquired an almost sacred quality. It was from those photos that Ms. Schutz began her painting.

To suggest that she, as a white painter, should not depict images of black suffering is as troubling as the demand by some Muslims that Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” should be censored because of supposed blasphemies in its depiction of Islam. In fact, it’s more troubling because, as the critic Adam Shatz has observed, the campaign against Ms. Schutz’s work contains an “implicit disavowal that acts of radical sympathy, and imaginative identification, are possible across racial lines.”

Seventy years ago, racist radio stations refused to play “race music” for a white audience. Today, antiracist activists insist that white painters should not portray black subjects. To appropriate a phrase from a culture not my own: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
ethics  politics  art 
13 days ago
Bernie’s Relativism Test Is Bad for Muslims and All Religious Believers | Public Discourse
Vought’s critics have accused him of “demonstrating a clear hostility to religious pluralism.” For them, this supposed “hostility” lies in Vought’s assertion that his own religious beliefs are true and that others’ are false. On the contrary, it is his critics who are hostile to religious pluralism. They do not simply object to the way he expressed himself, but to the fact that he expressed himself. They seek to allow in the public square only those who believe as they do: that all religious beliefs are equally true. The notion that all beliefs are true, otherwise known as relativism or postmodernism, is of course a creed in its own right, holding that nothing is objectively true or false, and that there is no absolute right or wrong. Requiring all government officeholders to be relativists is precisely the opposite of what was intended by the framers of the Constitution.

The obvious irony is that if this were the case, Muslims themselves would be banned from public office—at least if “Muslim” means a believer in a religion rather than simply a member of an amorphous identity group. The Qur’an states: “And whoever desires other than Islam as a religion, never will it be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers” (Qur’an, Ali ‘Imran 3:85). This verse is as far from relativism as Vought’s comments that Muslims are condemned. Thus, any Muslim unwilling to repudiate the belief that Islam is objectively true and that other religions are, at least in critical respects, objectively false, would be unqualified to serve under Bernie’s relativism test.
politics  religion 
13 days ago
Outskirts by John Grindrod review – life in the green belt
Grindrod’s evocative and intelligent exploration of the green belt and its place in our national consciousness is part history and part memoir. He deftly weaves the two together, transforming what might otherwise have been a dry, technical discussion of planning and housing policy into a heartfelt narrative. The author of Concretopia, a celebration of postwar British architecture (“I do love a bit of concrete”), Grindrod considers the green belt to be “as much a part of the postwar city as tower blocks, flyovers and streets in the sky”. But the idea of a green buffer between town and country is not new. It reaches back to Thomas More’s Utopia, with its towns separated from each other by swaths of countryside in which citizens could “walk abroad in the fields”. In 1580 Elizabeth I tried to impose a green belt on London to curtail the city’s growth. But her diktat was ignored by the wealthy and merely increased the population density within the city, making life worse for ordinary Londoners – plus ça change.
nature  city 
13 days ago
A church of divine mission: Will we die for communion?
God does not call us merely to submit to the counsel of our friends. That would be too light a thing, and hardly cruciform. He calls us to submit to the oppressive, perhaps even arbitrary and mysterious, judgment of our enemies, even if they are our Christian sisters and brothers, baptized all. God does not call us merely to live within the constraints of communion. He summons us to come and die for those who would deny communion, in this way to give our Yes to every No — dying to self, dying to and for the world, dying for the sake of our enemies, taking up our cross and following him. Only then, perhaps, will he raise again the weeping ruins of our division. And so I close with a final set of questions: How far will we go in pursuing communion? Will we go even to the cross?
13 days ago
Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature | Robert Alter
Reading Job with Christian, typological eyes, Frye asserts that “Job lives in enemy territory, in the embraces of heathen and Satanic power which is symbolically the belly of the leviathan, the endless extent of time and space.” Every element of this statement happens to be false. There are no heathen in this scrupulously monotheistic book. There is equally no “Satanic power” in Job: the Adversary or Prosecuting Attorney (he is never designated with a proper name in the Hebrew) is not the Satan of Christian demonology and has no “territory” or power independent of God. A figure of ancient Near Eastern folklore rather than of mythology proper, he is one of a vaguely conceived crowd of benei elohim, divine beings, with a specific function of oppositionalism in the narrative. It is only later tradition that will develop him into the Prince of Evil. The Book of Job is concerned obsessively with man’s finitude and not at all with endless time and space, and I fail to see by what mental gyration Job could be said to be living in the belly of the leviathan.

Yet Frye goes on to conclude about the ending of the book: “The fact that God can point out these monsters [leviathan and behemoth] to Job means that Job is outside them, and no longer under their power.” Frye of course exhibits an archetypal kneejerk response to leviathan and behemoth, assuming, because leviathan is elsewhere mythological, that they must both be mythological and demonic creatures in the Book of Job. But, if one really bothers to read the context, it is perfectly clear that these two strange beasts are part of a grand zoological catalogue, that they are the crocodile and the hippopotamus, quite realistically rendered in many respects, though with a degree of poetic hyperbole that draws on mythology for heightening effects. The poet’s point is that both are exotic and uncanny beasts dwelling along the Nile, far from Job’s observation, and thus are vividly part of that vast panorama of creation beyond his ken. In any case, they are not represented in the poem as evil; on the contrary, they are objects of God’s providential supervision as Creator; and in no sense could anything that preceded lead us to imagine Job was ever in either of their bellies, figuratively or otherwise. One could hardly have invented a clearer case in which the adhesion to archetypes has led a gifted mind to drastic misreading.
bible  reading  Job 
15 days ago
No Mandate For Britain | The American Conservative
It strikes me as wildly implausible that the British people were, as of a few weeks ago, solidly behind Red Toryism, and are now suddenly enamored of 1980s-vintage Socialism. These wild swings are evidence, rather, of how shallowly held any such beliefs are, and how restless the public is for someone who can speak to their anxieties in a language of confidence. In that sense, I suspect May’s original theme was pretty correct as an expression of what the British people want, and the problem is that confidence collapsed that she could deliver it. But a few slips and mistakes would not cause a collapse of confidence of this magnitude and rapidity if that confidence were not itself shallow in the first place.

That lack of confidence is pervasive, and it’s due to the fact that nobody, left, right or center, really has an answer for the deep forces ripping apart the fabric of Western societies. The rise of hundreds of millions of Asians into the middle class, the huge increase in migration from South to North, the severing of cultural and economic ties between city and countryside — these trends are stronger than individual states, and simply declaring yourself against them or their effects is not the same as having a response.
politics  Europe  Brexit 
18 days ago
London Terrorist Attack Draws Indecent Media Response | National Review
The reason the subject changes so quickly from the people dying in the street to the potential victims of backlash is obvious. Islamist terror is politically inconvenient for advocates of mass migration from the Islamic world. To talk about it honestly might lead people to notice that the Czech Republic, which doesn’t have mass migration from the Islamic world, also doesn’t have Islamist terror attacks. And because of that, Czechs also typically don’t engage in these self-criticism sessions over Islamophobia.

But there is a deeper reason why so many in the media reach for car accidents and lightning bolts and other disasters that have no moral content. They know that deep down they really don’t share a society with the Islamic extremists. Their fellow citizenship exists only on paper, not as a social reality, and it gives them no authority to speak into that subculture, nor any hope of using their public platforms to reason with its members. They have admitted by this evasion the very fact that they wish no one to acknowledge: that these fellow citizens are alien to us.
politics  Europe 
20 days ago
76 Reasonable Questions to ask about any technology by Jacques Ellul
What are its effects on the health of the planet and of the person?
Does it preserve or destroy biodiversity?
Does it preserve or reduce ecosystem integrity?
What are its effects on the land?
What are its effects on wildlife?
How much, and what kind of waste does it generate?
Does it incorporate the principles of ecological design?
Does it break the bond of renewal between humans and nature?
Does it preserve or reduce cultural diversity?
What is the totality of its effects, its "ecology"?

Does it serve community?
Does it empower community members?
How does it affect our perception of our needs?
Is it consistent with the creation of a communal, human economy?
What are its effects on relationships?
Does it undermine conviviality?
Does it undermine traditional forms of community?
How does it affect our way of seeing and experiencing the world?
Does it foster a diversity of forms of knowledge?
Does it build on, or contribute to, the renewal of traditional forms of knowledge?
Does it serve to commodity knowledge or relationships?
To what extent does it redefine reality?
Does it erase a sense of time and history?
What is its potential to become addictive?

What does it make?
Who does it benefit?
What is its purpose?
Where was it produced?
Where is it used?
Where must it go when it's broken or obsolete?
How expensive is it?
Can it be repaired?
By an ordinary person?

What values does its use foster?
What is gained by its use?
What are its effects beyond its utility to the individual?
What is lost in using it?
What are its effects on the least advantaged in society?

How complicated is it?
What does it allow us to ignore?
To what extent does it distance agent from effect?
Can we assume personal, or communal responsibility for its effects?
Can its effects be directly apprehended?
What ancillary technologies does it require?
What behavior might it make possible in the future?
What other technologies might it make possible?
Does it alter our sense of time and relationships in ways conducive to nihilism?

What is its impact on craft?
Does it reduce, deaden, or enhance human creativity?
Is it the least imposing technology available for the task?
Does it replace, or does it aid human hands and human beings?
Can it be responsive to organic circumstance?
Does it depress or enhance the quality of goods?
Does it depress or enhance the meaning of work?

What aspect of the inner self does it reflect?
Does it express love?
Does it express rage?
What aspect of our past does it reflect?
Does it reflect cyclical or linear thinking?

Does it concentrate or equalize power?
Does it require, or institute a knowledge elite?
It is totalitarian?
Does it require a bureaucracy for its perpetuation?
What legal empowerments does it require?
Does it undermine traditional moral authority?
Does it require military defense?
Does it enhance, or serve military purposes?
How does it affect warfare?
Is it massifying?
Is it consistent with the creation of a global economy?
Does it empower transnational corporations?
What kind of capital does it require?

Is it ugly?
Does it cause ugliness?
What noise does it make?
What pace does it set?
How does it affect the quality of life (as distinct from the standard of living)?
21 days ago
Unsolving the City: An Interview with China Miéville – BLDGBLOG
Miéville: Some really interesting stuff has been done with psychogeography—I’m not going to say it’s without uses other than for making pretty maps. I mean, re-experiencing lived urban reality in ways other than how one is more conventionally supposed to do so can shine a new light on things—but that’s an act of political assertion and will. If you like, it’s a kind of deliberate—and, in certain contexts, radical—misunderstanding. Great, you know—good on you! You’ve productively misunderstood the city. But I think that the bombast of these particular—what are we in now? fourth or fifth generation?—psychogeographers is problematic.

Presumably at some point we’re going to get to a stage, probably reasonably soon, in which someone—maybe even one of the earlier generation of big psychogeographers—will write the great book against psychogeography. Not even that it’s been co-opted—it’s just wheel-spinning.

BLDGBLOG: In an interview with Ballardian, Iain Sinclair once joked that psychogeography, as a term, has effectively lost all meaning. Now, literally any act of walking through the city—walking to work in the morning, walking around your neighborhood, walking out to get a bagel—is referred to as “psychogeography.” It’s as if the experience of being a pedestrian in the city has become so unfamiliar to so many people, that they now think the very act of walking around makes them a kind of psychogeographic avant-garde.
geography  city 
24 days ago
THEATER - The Gospel According to Alec McCowen - NYTimes.com
While he played the lead in Peter Shaffer's ''Equus'' in New York and toured Britain as Shakepeare's Antony, Mr. McCowen learned St. Mark, three verses early each morning for 16 months; but without much belief in the project's ultimate success. When Mr. McCowen finally summoned up the pluck to deliver the Gospel to four friends, they disconcerted him by going into a huddle afterward and discussing Jesus's character, oblivious of his presence. ''Do you think it will work?'' he asked. ''Well, of course,'' they replied impatiently, and continued their debate.

As he later realized, their reaction was actually a compliment. And when in 1978 he gave his first public performance of ''St. Mark's Gospel'' for a nervous management in the northern city of Newcastle, there was definitive proof of the Gospel's power to arrest and intrigue. The key moment came when a little old lady seized him after he had finished one evening and said with open astonishment what critics and audiences were soon to be repeating all over England and America: ''It was as good as a play.''
27 days ago
Devotion at home, the vindication of Anglicanism
At the turn of the year, we sat down with our kids and asked them how they wanted to pursue at a closer relationship with God in 2017. My daughter, Clare, said that she wanted to pray for the nations at dinner every day. My son, Luke, said that he wanted to wake up every morning to pray the daily office with me. I said Sure, thinking that like most New Year’s declarations it would not last the week. But my eight-year-old set his alarm clock at 6:15 a.m. and has been with me almost every morning in 2017 (well at least Monday through Friday; piety has its limits). This has made skipping Morning Prayer impossible for me. Yes, my son has encouraged me to pray more!

Sometime in February, Clare decided that she wanted to wake up too. The psalms move a little slower now and the responses are more halting, but we are happy to have her. So, most mornings you can find the three of us downstairs on the couch, usually groggy and sometimes grumpy, praying the office. This may seem like an exercise in a parent bragging on the faith of his children (we take the victories when we can). But it is not. Something deeper stirs in me when I see that my children have for the most part memorized the creeds, prayers, and confessions. It is a vindication of Anglicanism. It is why I came into this tradition in the first place.
Anglican  christian  from instapaper
27 days ago
How Google Book Search Got Lost – Backchannel
Machine-learning tools that analyze texts in new ways are advancing quickly today, Sloan notes, and “the culture around it has a real Homebrew Computer Club or early web feel to it right now.” But to progress, researchers need big troves of data to feed their programs.

“If Google could find a way to take that corpus, sliced and diced by genre, topic, time period, all the ways you can divide it, and make that available to machine-learning researchers and hobbyists at universities and out in the wild, I’ll bet there’s some really interesting work that could come out of that. Nobody knows what,” Sloan says. He assumes Google is already doing this internally. Jaskiewicz and others at Google would not say.

Maybe, when some neural network of the future achieves self-awareness and find itself paralyzed by Kafka-esque existential doubts, it will find solace, as so many of us do, in finding exactly the right book to shatter its psychic ice. Or maybe, unlike us, it will be able to read all the books we’ve scanned — really read them, in a way that makes sense of them. What would it do then?
google  books  information  from instapaper
27 days ago
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
Flexner’s story was not just one of scientific progress, but also a history of how scientists and other scholars have cobbled together the funding they have needed, often from wealthy patrons of the arts and sciences. In the twentieth century, essentially for the first time, researchers became dependent on what seemed, for a while, to be a consistently growing federal research budget. Now, as the government sinks further in debt, and as other priorities clamor for attention, researchers need to figure out what to do when the government does not answer their calls. The answer is that they need to study Flexner’s enormously successful methods.

One of the best reasons to reissue The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge today is to remind us of how many path-breaking and life-changing discoveries have been made possible by philanthropic support. To help today’s researchers learn how to tell that story as well as Flexner did, Princeton University Press could perform an important service by adding his other Harper’s essay to the next edition. Titled “Adventures in Money-Raising,” it is both a chronicle of how he established some of America’s greatest medical schools and a first-class primer on how to ask people to part with large sums in the interest of worthwhile causes. Those of us who believe that basic research is such a cause need to emulate the entrepreneurial Flexner so that useless research will continue to change the world in unexpected ways.
education  from instapaper
27 days ago
Reinhold Niebuhr, Washington’s Favorite Theologian
Do Comey, Obama, and other powerful people read Niebuhr because he tells them to act with humility and caution? Or is it because Niebuhr tells them that moral men have to play hardball? The most likely answer is both, and we should find that more than a little troubling.
politics  theology  from instapaper
27 days ago
Research Institutions Now Cater to the Prejudices of Wealth
The question Drezner doesn’t ever ask explicitly is: What is the ideas industry’s real product? If the plutocrats who dominate the market demand ideas that are already congenial to them, then they aren’t evaluating ideas based on their efficacy — as, indeed, they have little incentive to do if they are insulated from their consequences. It’s probably not an accident that the industry Drezner describes frequently sounds like a luxury brand of entertainment, the ideas akin to the witty confections served up by Louis XVI’s courtiers in the French film “Ridicule.”

I make the comparison advisedly, for looming in the background of Drezner’s narrative is Donald Trump. Drezner calls Trump the “brassiest thought leader in existence,” but this is to stretch his own definition of the term beyond utility. Trump won the presidency substantially by running against the entire edifice of ideation that Drezner’s book describes, both traditional academic experts and the Davos and think tank sets. He may well be a consequence of many of the trends Drezner identifies. It remains to be seen just what ideas, if any, that consequence has.
ideas  from instapaper
28 days ago
Martha C. Nussbaum Jefferson Lecture
The Greeks and Romans saw a lot of anger around them. But as classical scholar William Harris shows in his fine book Restraining Rage, they did not embrace or valorize anger. They did not define manliness in terms of anger, and indeed, as with those Furies, tended to impute it to women, whom they saw as lacking rationality. However much they felt and expressed anger, they waged a cultural struggle against it, seeing it as destructive of human well-being and democratic institutions. The first word of Homer’s Iliad is “anger”—the anger of Achilles that “brought thousandfold pains upon the Achaeans.” And the Iliad’s hopeful ending requires Achilles to give up his anger and to be reconciled with his enemy Priam, as both acknowledge the frailty of human life.

I believe the Greeks and Romans are right: anger is a poison to democratic politics, and it is all the worse when fueled by a lurking fear and a sense of helplessness. As a philosopher I have been working on these ideas for some time, first in a 2016 book called Anger and Forgiveness, and now in a book in progress called The Monarchy of Fear, investigating the relationship between anger and fear. In my work, I draw not only on the Greeks and Romans, but also on some recent figures, as I shall tonight. I conclude that we should resist anger in ourselves and inhibit its role in our political culture.
philosophy  politics  from instapaper
28 days ago
Conservative Postmodernism - The Imaginative Conservative
The modern world has now ended only in the sense that we have now seen enough of it to judge it. Although we have reason to be grateful for the wealth, health, freedom, and power that modern achievements have given us, we know that the individual’s pursuits of security and happiness will remain always pursuits—and not possessions. So even as the modern world continues to develop, we can be free of its characteristic delusion, its utopianism. We can speak of its strengths and its limitations from a perspective “outside” modernity, and that perspective is the foundation of conservatism today. Conservatives can be (perhaps the only) genuinely postmodern thinkers. The reason we can see beyond the modern world is that its intention to transform human nature has failed. Its project of transforming the human person into the autonomous individual was and remains unrealistic; we can now see the limits of being an individual because we remain more than individuals. The world created by modern individuals to make themselves fully at home turns out to have made human beings less at home than ever.
politics  conservatism  postmodernism  from instapaper
28 days ago
Where Did the Great Hollywood Baseball Movie Go? - The New York Times
Baseball, more than any other American sport, has an extensive visual archive, and the change in imagery — the sharpening of focus, the addition of color — always created a sense of progress across eras. Babe Ruth winks in grainy, flickering black and white. In the 1951 home run known as “the shot heard round the world,” you can see Bobby Thomson’s swing, but the camera that tracks the ball out of the park is so jumpy, unsteady and late to the trajectory that it looks as if it were shot on an iPhone by someone six beers in. Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax come through in blurry, bright color, but you can rarely see their faces as they wind up and throw. By the 1975 World Series, when Boston’s Carlton Fisk seems to will the ball to stay fair with his flapping arms until it’s a home run, you can see the “27” on Fisk’s back and the square outline of his jaw, but the field still looks as if it were lit by mosquito zappers. Baseball nostalgia is tied to the way the game looked at any given moment in the past; the progress of the game is told, more than anything else, by the changes in its imagery.

Last week, I watched a replay of David Ortiz’s game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 of the 2004 A.L.C.S. It happened nearly 13 years ago, but it could have been last October, the way the scene was presented: the HD video, the score at the top of the screen, Joe Buck calling balls and strikes. We may be past the point when the only way to distinguish among coming eras will be by the change in uniforms. In terms of action and detail, the post-HD eras are likely to all look the same — our eyeballs can’t take in much more than what’s being beamed out to today’s 4K and 1080p televisions. Baseball’s visual clock, which once kept time for a changing country, now seems frozen.
28 days ago
When People Were Proud to Call Themselves ‘Neoliberal’
"To Lippmann and his peers, such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, neoliberalism was meant as a new kind of liberalism that espoused, contrarily to what was expected of liberals, laissez-faire capitalism. The free market was thought to have conditioned the Great Depression, and came to be associated with the reviled assumption of Republicans such as President Herbert Hoover who had assumed that the economy would right itself. To these “new” liberals, the interventionist, state-directed policies of the New Deal instituted by Franklin Roosevelt had revealed themselves as equally unwise, and neoliberalism sought to strike a middle ground.

Lippmann and the other neoliberals disagreed as to just where that middle should be, but the general idea was that to be a neoliberal was to be on what intellectuals and social-justice activists would, or at least might, consider to be the proper side. The economist Milton Friedman took up the cause and became a respected celebrity, with a hit PBS series outlining his principles. Starting in the late 1970s, a cadre of writers at The New Republic, which Lippmann had helped to found, proudly bore the neoliberal label. They saw themselves as opposed to, rather than allied with, conservative organs such as the National Review."
from instapaper
28 days ago
Mission Control 101: How to Use Multiple Desktops on a Mac
"Mission Control is one of those Mac features that’s easy to ignore but makes everything better once you learn about it, mostly because of the multiple desktops feature. Master using those, and the quick ways to switch between them, and you’ll wonder how you ever used your Mac any other way."
from instapaper
28 days ago
Fusionism Once and Future
"“Natural conservatism” had to be supplemented with rational criticism, Meyer insisted, because so many recent changes had been destructive of inherited wisdom and prudential norms. In order to respond to those errors, “Today’s conservatism cannot simply affirm. It must select and adjudge. It is conservative because in its selection and in its judgment it bases itself upon the accumulated wisdom of mankind over millennia, because it accepts the limits upon the irresponsible play of untrammeled reason which the unchanging values exhibited by that wisdom dictate.”

Because “conscious conservatism” required distinctions between desirable and undesirable changes, the opposition between reason and tradition was a false dichotomy. Instead of rivals, the two sources of knowledge were intertwined in a productive tension that Meyer characterized as “reason operating within tradition: neither ideological hubris creating Utopian blueprints, ignoring the accumulated wisdom of mankind, nor blind dependence on that wisdom to answer automatically the questions posed to our generation and demanding our own expenditure of mind and spirit.”"
from instapaper
28 days ago
Angela Merkel’s blunder, Donald Trump and the end of the west
The final flaw in Ms Merkel’s approach is that it displayed an uncharacteristic deafness to the echoes of history. One of the truly impressive things about modern Germany is that, more than any other country I can think of, it has thought hard about the lessons of history, and learnt them with thoroughness and humility. So it is baffling that a German leader could stand in a beer-tent in Bavaria and announce a separation from Britain and the US while bracketing those two countries with Russia. The historical resonances should be chilling.

None of this is meant to suggest that Ms Merkel is on the same moral and political level as Mr Trump. The US president has repeatedly displayed contempt for core western values — from freedom of the press to the prohibition on torture and the support of democracies around the world.

As a result, some have even proclaimed that the German chancellor is now the true leader of the western world. That title was bestowed prematurely. The sad reality is that Ms Merkel seems to have little interest in fighting to save the western alliance.
28 days ago
Can States Be Christian? | Comment Magazine
So the key point here is that nations don't have agency. In order to "be Christian," you have to have agency. And nations aren't agents. But states do have agency; so they can as a matter of fact aspire to be Christian, and there are such things as Christian states. As an empirical fact, that's true. The question is, is that legitimate? Here's my argument: states that aspire to exercise corporate religious agency are doing something illicit. They're reaching beyond their proper bounds of competence. Religious agency is not something that states should aspire to express. They are political and legal agents, and they should stay within that remit. This remit does not include defining or endorsing religious identity or religious confession. This is partly simply because most states—perhaps all states—contain religiously plural populations so that a single state-endorsed identity or confession could not as a matter of fact embrace every citizen. That's an empirical point. But I want to go further and say that, normatively, seeking to act as a confessional agent is a breach of the state's proper constitutional competence. [...]

There's this terrible fear, I think, in a lot of Christians, that if we let go of the formal constitutional ties, and even historical non-constitutional privileges, that somehow the fabric of society will unravel beyond our control. The fact is, it already unravelled beyond our control decades ago! What I'm calling for is a recognition that that age has gone and it's not going to come back. And further, that normatively we should not seek to restore it.

Another reason is this: I wonder if part of the fear derives from a suppressed awareness that if the church were to lose its remaining public privileges, then it would be all up to us as Christians to work to keep Christianity in the public square. It would involve the hard slog of working from the grassroots, from the bottom up, over the long term, doing public theology over ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, with many failures but perhaps a few successes. The fear is that it's all going to come down to that hard, and possibly unsuccessful, work, and that we're not going to get any help from the state in that task of missional transformation. People I think at some visceral level cannot quite bear that thought.
politics  christian  religion 
4 weeks ago
Andrew Sullivan: The Pope and the Pagan
If Trump were to issue his own set of beatitudes, they would have to be something like this

Blessed are the winners: for theirs is the kingdom of Earth.

Blessed are the healthy: for they will pay lower premiums.

Blessed are the rich: for they will inherit what’s left of the earth, tax-free.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for oil and coal: for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciless: for they are so, so strong.

Blessed are the liars: for they will get away with it.

Blessed are the war-makers: for they will be called very, very smart.

Blessed are those who support you regardless: for theirs is the Electoral College.

Blessed are you when others revile you and investigate you and utter all kinds of fake news about you. Rejoice and be glad, for the failing press is dying.
4 weeks ago
Facebook Doesn't Understand Itself
"Facebook is unconstrained by centuries of interpretations of constitutions and legal precedents. It could do whatever it wanted.

They could systematically aim for harm minimization not speech maximization. That change of assumptions would lead to a different set of individual guidelines on posts. The popular children's online world, Club Penguin, for example, offered multiple levels of language filtering as well as an "Ultimate Safe Chat" mode that only allowed pre-selected phrases to be chosen from a list. At one point, a thousand words were being added to the software's verboten list per day. But “allow[ing] as much speech as possible” has been part of the ideology of this generation of social media companies from the very beginning.

Getting people to post more, as opposed to less, is the core of Facebook’s mission as a company. It is no surprise that the companies built on sharing that have been the most successful come from the United States, which is the most pro-free speech country in the world."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Power of Patience
"Given all this, I want to conclude with some thoughts about teaching patience as a strategy. The deliberate engagement of delay should itself be a primary skill that we teach to students. It’s a very old idea that patience leads to skill, of course—but it seems urgent now that we go further than this and think about patience itself as the skill to be learned. Granted—patience might be a pretty hard sell as an educational deliverable. It sounds nostalgic and gratuitously traditional. But I would argue that as the shape of time has changed around it, the meaning of patience today has reversed itself from its original connotations. The virtue of patience was originally associated with forbearance or sufferance. It was about conforming oneself to the need to wait for things. But now that, generally, one need not wait for things, patience becomes an active and positive cognitive state. Where patience once indicated a lack of control, now it is a form of control over the tempo of contemporary life that otherwise controls us. Patience no longer connotes disempowerment—perhaps now patience is power.

If “patience” sounds too old-fashioned, let’s call it “time management” or “temporal intelligence” or “massive temporal distortion engineering.” Either way, an awareness of time and patience as a productive medium of learning is something that I feel is urgent to model for—and expect of—my students."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The National Endowment for the Humanities Isn't Shutting Down
"“NEH is not in the process of shutting down,” Wasley told me over email. “As an agency of the Executive Branch of the Federal government, NEH answers to the President and must support his proposed budget, including his request that Congress eliminate the agency.”

In other words, the NEH (and, presumably, the NEA) requested the money to pay for its closure because it had to. And if it hopes to survive this assault, it probably plans to continue following procedure and remaining nonpartisan. The NEA has been only slightly more vocal about Trump’s budget plans; it hasn’t released a statement this week, but when the proposal to eliminate the agency was first formally announced in March, NEA Chairman Jane Chu expressed her team’s disappointment, then went on to note: “As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.”"
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Open Society And Its Enemies - K.R. Popper - Google Books
The whole problem of educating man to a sane appreciation of his own importance relative to that of other individuals is thoroughly muddled by these ethics of fame and fate, by a morality which perpetuates an educational system that is still based upon the classics with their romantic view of the history of power and their romantic tribal morality which goes back to Heraclitus; a system whose ultimate basis is the worship of power. Instead of a sober combination of individualism and altruism (to use these labels again)—that is to say, instead of a position like ‘What really matters are human individuals, but I do not take this to mean that it is I who matter very much’—a romantic combination of egoism and collectivism is taken for granted. That is to say, the importance of the self, of its emotional life and its ‘self-expression’, is romantically exaggerated; and with it, the tension between the ‘personality’ and the group, the collective…

It is under the influence of such romantic ideas that individualism is still identified with egoism, as it was by Plato, and altruism with collectivism (i.e. with the substitution of group egoism for the individualist egoism). But this bars the way even to a clear formulation of the main problem, the problem of how to obtain a sane appreciation of one’s own importance in relation to other individuals. Since it is felt, and rightly so, that we have to aim at something beyond our own selves, something to which we can devote ourselves, and for which we may make sacrifices, it is concluded that this must be the collective, with its ‘historical mission’. Thus we are told to make sacrifices, and, at the same time, assured that we shall make an excellent bargain by doing so. We shall make sacrifices, it is said, but we shall thereby obtain honour and fame. We shall become ‘leading actors’, heroes on the Stage of History; for a small risk we shall gain great rewards. This is the dubious morality of a period in which only a tiny minority counted, and in which nobody cared for the common people. It is the morality of those who, being political or intellectual aristocrats, have a chance of getting into the textbooks of history. It cannot possibly be the morality of those who favour justice and equalitarianism; for historical fame cannot be just, and it can be attained only by a very few. The countless number of men who are just as worthy, or worthier, will always be forgotten.

The romantic historicist morality of fame, fortunately, seems to be on the decline. The Unknown Soldier shows it. We are beginning to realize that sacrifice may mean just as much, or even more, when it is made anonymously. Our ethical education must follow suit. We must be taught to do our work; to make our sacrifice for the sake of this work, and not for praise or the avoidance of blame. (The fact that we all need some encouragement, hope, praise, and even blame, is another matter altogether.) We must find our justification in our work, in what we are doing ourselves, and not in a fictitious ‘meaning of history’.

History has no meaning, I contend. But this contention does not imply that all we can do about it is to look aghast at the history of political power, or that we must look on it as a cruel joke. For we can interpret it, with an eye to those problems of power politics whose solution we choose to attempt in our time. We can interpret the history of power politics from the point of view of our fight for the open society, for a rule of reason, for justice, freedom, equality, and for the control of international crime. Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it; and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning.
politics  history  democracy 
4 weeks ago
Kathryn Tanner - David Brown's Divine Humanity
If classical christologies have the tendency to allow the divinity of Christ to push out or evacuate his humanity, the problem has more to do with the way divinity is attributed to Christ and where one looks for divinity in Christ's own life. And in this classical christologies would fail to follow through on the implications of their own most basic claims. On my understanding of those basic claims, Christ is divine because God has given rise to a fully human life which remains God's own. God is the one living this human life for that reason – because this strictly human life remains God's own in unity with it, because this is God's own life in virtue of God's being one with the humanity of Christ in assuming it to itself – and not because Jesus has a divine subjectivity or centre of consciousness and agency something like a human one, just better, to replace or supplement his human one. What makes Christ divine is that activity of God by which God remains united with what God is not, lying behind and giving shape to the whole human existence of Christ; Christ is not divine because one can isolate within his life certain divine powers or capacities comparable to human ones and existing alongside his human ones – although often classical christologies suggest something like that. Instead, what reveals the divinity of Jesus’ human life is the way the whole of that life is being made over according to a divine pattern, rather than any discrete divine aspects one can pick out within it. Divinity is apparent in Jesus’ life not from any particular superhuman characteristics or activities which might well suggest that in those respects Jesus is no longer human; divine power appears, instead, in and through every human act and power of Christ insofar as they have saving effects. Jesus saves us from death, for example, by dying in just the way any human being would. His death isn't any different, exhibiting in itself any extraordinary powers; it is a simply human death in that sense. What's different about it is the fact that it saves – its unusual effects – and that is what prompts one to say God that is at work there – in those simply human events – with power.

The fundamental problem, then, lurking behind the docetic tendencies of classical christology which kenotic theologies lament, would be the temptation to look for Christ's divinity in a divine nature comparable to his human one. As Schleiermacher argued, I believe effectively, the transcendence of God means that God doesn't have a nature like that to be put in any simple relations of comparison and contrast with human nature, along some single, shared continuum (and this would hold whatever one means more specifically by nature – properties, entities, or powers and capacities). God does not, for example, have a mind in any way like a human mind, just bigger and better, knowing everything completely, rather than some things and only partially. Only when anthropomorphised in that way do divine attributes threaten to push out or render redundant Christ's human capacities and characteristics. Although Christ is divine (for the reasons mentioned above), one should therefore say that the only nature Christ has, strictly speaking, is a human one.

By misdiagnosing the problem with classical christologies, kenotic ones merely repeat it. They too think of the divine nature along a continuum with a human nature; and that is what sets up a competitive relation between such natures – the more there is of the one, the less of the other. Rather than have the divine nature overwhelm Christ's human one, kenotic christologies would rather see constraints put on the divine nature so that Christ can lead a fully human life. The better choice clearly, especially given modern developments in biblical criticism and human psychology, but a choice hamstrung by the very same set of assumptions shared with its opponents. In classical christologies the temptation to evacuate the humanity of Christ has nothing fundamentally to do, in short, with affirmations of divine impassibility or coercive divine power; it is rooted, instead, in ideas with which kenotic theologians agree.
theology  christian 
4 weeks ago
Rob MacSwain - Introduction - Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture
As for method, Brown’s openness to divine action, grace, truth, religious experience, and even revelation outside of Scripture, orthodox tradition, and the Christian community raises natural concerns about normative criteria, especially when he speaks of the ‘limitations of biblical insights’ being ‘corrected’ by later tradition. For example, Kathryn Tanner states that Brown’s ‘belief that the incarnation endorses human creativity—more strongly, that here God has abandoned Godself to a tradition of interpretation—seems wildly lopsided and quite inadequate soteriologically’. This concern about criteria has been raised in almost every review of Brown’s five volumes, is considered in detail in various chapters in this book, and is the focus of a promised forthcoming monograph from Brown, so it will not be treated at length in this introduction. It is indeed a major issue and, for many, a stumbling block in the reception of Brown’s project.

It may, however, be helpful to observe that even if Tanner’s statement is a correct summary of Brown’s position (which he denies), it is also a paradigm example of what Brown would (rightly or wrongly) consider criteria ‘set in advance’ that fail ‘to grapple sufficiently with the way the world is’. But if careful historical study leads to the conclusion that the best way to construe the Christian tradition in all its bewildering diversity and remarkable development is what Brown calls ‘divine accommodation’, then the soteriological (p.8) implications will just have to sort themselves out accordingly. In other words, as Brown sees it, although he indeed defends the distinction between ‘historical original’ and ‘theological truth’, the relation between them must be carefully and continually negotiated, and in particular doctrinal considerations such as soteriology cannot drive our historical interpretations willy-nilly. [...]

Brown worries, however, that the persistent failure of Christians to accept the fallible and messy character of Scripture, the Church, and human knowledge in general means that ‘Christianity is now progressively entering into a world of self-deception where it must inevitably seem less and less plausible in the modern world.’ This is, of course, a familiar apologetic concern, and one that is soundly dismissed by certain schools of theology. But as Brown sees it, the problem is not that religious belief requires ‘rational’ support in the face of secular sceptism, but rather that the Church and its theologians have embraced instrumental reason and a utilitarian value-system, both of which undermine the real reasons why people actually believe and come to faith.

Thus, according to Brown, the ‘fundamental thesis’ underlying all five volumes is that ‘both natural and revealed theology are in crisis, and that the only way out is to give proper attention to the cultural embeddedness of both’. So, as indicated above, the focus on biblical revelation and Christian tradition in the first two volumes shifts to the trilogy’s concern with religious experience mediated through both nature and human culture in all its forms: (p.9) art and architecture, place and pilgrimage, gardens and sporting events, food and drink, music and dance, sacrament and liturgy, metaphor and drama. These are all aspects of life that were once central to Christian theology, but which have become peripheral, and Brown seeks to reconfigure theology so that these matters are once again integral to the discipline.
theology  Anglican 
4 weeks ago
John Webster, a year on | Shored Fragments
He taught us, though, to approach that history with a different orientation. We were not studying a genealogy, not attempting to understand how we had got to here, whether ‘here’ was regarded as a good place to get to or not; instead, we were reading theologians as theologians, women and men engaged in the shared task of explicating divine truth. A couple of years back in the graduate seminar he had us all reading Ritschl, whose ideas were perhaps as far from John’s as any ideas could be. But we did not study Ritschl as Barth would have done, as a chapter in a narrative of decline; we read Ritschl as last year we read Kate Sonderegger, as someone who was seriously trying to understand the gospel, and so someone to be read seriously

There is challenge here: assigning writers to ‘their place in history’ is a way of refusing to consider their claims on our thinking. This is what John would never do, not with writers with whom he shared a great deal, and not with writers with whom he disagreed profoundly. As theologians, they were attempting to speak of the reality of God, and of all else in the light of that reality; as theologians, they deserved to be taken seriously, not relativised; they should be voices which can challenge us, not merely specimens to be studied.
theology  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Letting Trump Be Trump
Reading Steyn’s argument brings to mind the 1980s-conservative cry of “let Reagan be Reagan!,” issued whenever the Reagan administration disappointed their ideological hopes. But in that era you had a president who had spent years and decades arguing for and debating and honing the set of ideas called Reaganism, and so when his White House strayed from those ideas an appeal to the president’s true beliefs was a reasonable response. Whereas today “let Trump be Trump!” is a much emptier appeal, because on the available evidence this emptiness simply is Trump: A talented mountebank with zero policy knowledge who exploited a set of ideas with underappreciated appeal but lacks the aptitude or zeal to implement them, preferring to rage against his cable-news coverage while House backbenchers write “his” budget and the Pentagon conducts “his” foreign policy and the Freedom Caucus amends “his” health care bill to make it still more politically toxic.

If this is the case then it’s correct but also a little beside the point to complain about how the wreckers and establishment types and Ryanists are all betraying the voters by submarining Trumpism. The betrayal starts at the top, with a president who doesn’t care enough and probably never really did.
politics  election2016  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Why I don't believe in God - Marginal REVOLUTION
That all said I do accept that religion has net practical benefits for both individuals and societies, albeit with some variance.  That is partly where the pressures for social conformity come from.  I am a strong Straussian when it comes to religion, and overall wish to stick up for the presence of religion in social debate, thus some of my affinities with say Ross Douthat and David Brooks on many issues.

5. I am frustrated by the lack of Bayesianism in most of the religious belief I observe.  I’ve never met a believer who asserted: “I’m really not sure here.  But I think Lutheranism is true with p = .018, and the next strongest contender comes in only at .014, so call me Lutheran.”  The religious people I’ve known rebel against that manner of framing, even though during times of conversion they may act on such a basis.

I don’t expect all or even most religious believers to present their views this way, but hardly any of them do.  That in turn inclines me to think they are using belief for psychological, self-support, and social functions.  Nothing wrong with that, says the strong Straussian!  But again, it won’t get me to belief.
4 weeks ago
Living 'The Handmaid's Tale' — courtesy of the secular liberal elites of L.A.
Finally, the Handmaids. As in the fictional Gilead, real-life elite-class Wives have something of a fertility problem, although it’s related not to environmental degradation but delayed marriages and childbearing attempts of women who pursue high-power careers. Thanks to 30 years of advances in egg-transfer technology since Atwood published her novel, today’s gestational surrogates don’t have to get into embarrassing “threesome” sexual positions with the Commanders and their Wives in order to do their jobs. And they tend to be drawn not from the ranks of political dissidents, but from the financially strapped Econowife class (military bases are common surrogate-recruiting centers) who are willing to put up with a year’s worth of uncomfortable hormone treatments and possible pregnancy problems for the $40,000 or so that they receive.

Still, as in Gilead, there is definitely a class of female pariahs on whom the elites heap condescension, contempt and, when they can, punishment for holding views at variance with what the elites deem correct. They’re not called Handmaids, of course. They’re called Deplorables.
politics  feminism  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Education Technology as 'The New Normal'
Education needs to change, we have long been told. It is outmoded. Inefficient. And this “new normal” – in an economic sense much more than a pedagogical one – has meant schools have been tasked to “do more with less” and specifically to do more with new technologies which promise greater efficiency, carrying with them the values of business and markets rather than the values of democracy or democratic education.

These new technologies, oriented towards consumers and consumption, privilege an ideology of individualism. In education technology, as in advertising, this is labeled “personalization.” The flaw of traditional education systems, we are told, is that they focus too much on the group, the class, the collective. So we see education being reframed as a technologically-enhanced series of choices – consumer choices. Technologies monitor and extract data in order to maximize “engagement” and entertainment.

I fear that new normal, what it might really mean for teaching, for learning, for scholarship.
edtech  academe  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
In Defense of the Reality of Time
Why might one think that time has a direction to it? That seems to go counter to what physicists often say.

I think that’s a little bit backwards. Go to the man on the street and ask whether time has a direction, whether the future is different from the past, and whether time doesn’t march on toward the future. That’s the natural view. The more interesting view is how the physicists manage to convince themselves that time doesn’t have a direction.

They would reply that it’s a consequence of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which holds that time is a fourth dimension.

This notion that time is just a fourth dimension is highly misleading. In special relativity, the time directions are structurally different from the space directions. In the timelike directions, you have a further distinction into the future and the past, whereas any spacelike direction I can continuously rotate into any other spacelike direction. The two classes of timelike directions can’t be continuously transformed into one another.

Standard geometry just wasn’t developed for the purpose of doing space-time. It was developed for the purpose of just doing spaces, and spaces have no directedness in them. And then you took this formal tool that you developed for this one purpose and then pushed it to this other purpose.
philosophy  physics  science  time  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The Parable Of The Talents | Slate Star Codex
The obvious pattern is that attributing outcomes to things like genes, biology, and accidents of birth is kind and sympathetic. Attributing them to who works harder and who’s “really trying” can stigmatize people who end up with bad outcomes and is generally viewed as Not A Nice Thing To Do.

And the weird thing, the thing I’ve never understood, is that intellectual achievement is the one domain that breaks this pattern.

Here it’s would-be hard-headed conservatives arguing that intellectual greatness comes from genetics and the accidents of birth and demanding we “accept” this “unpleasant truth”.

And it’s would-be compassionate progressives who are insisting that no, it depends on who works harder, claiming anybody can be brilliant if they really try, warning us not to “stigmatize” the less intelligent as “genetically inferior”.
intelligence  genetics 
5 weeks ago
“Janesville” and the Costs of American Optimism - The New Yorker
“Janesville” is haunting in part because it’s a success story. In the face of vast forces—globalization, automation, political dysfunction, the Great Recession—the people of Janesville do nearly everything right. Reading “Janesville,” one is awed by the dignity and levelheadedness of its protagonists, who seem to represent the best of America. At the same time, the narrative of “Janesville” unfolds within a larger, more fatalistic context. Matt Wopat’s efforts at retraining are inspiring but, from the beginning, doubtful: if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be books like “Janesville.” The steel industry in Gary, Indiana, began its decline forty years ago; how likely is it that, forty years from now, Janesville will have escaped Gary’s fate? Goldstein is a talented storyteller, and we root for her characters as, moment by moment, they try their hardest. In truth, we’re inspired by the same narrative of hope that politicians draw upon when they talk about job training, and which Forward Janesville uses to attract new businesses to town. It’s sobering to think that the autoworkers, too, are caught up in this story.

From time to time, “Janesville” pauses to acknowledge the mostly immovable reality in which its characters are enmeshed. When Matt realizes that there are no jobs at the power company, Goldstein writes, “his mind churns on this jam he is in.” The government is paying to retrain him; G.M. is honoring its union contract; he is trying his best to find better work. When he asks himself “the exceedingly hard question of whether he missed a clue, whether he overlooked some narrow passageway that would have led him out of the maze,” he concludes that he has not. There is no way out of the maze. This is a hard fact for Matt to acknowledge. If we’re to confront the full scale of the problems he faces, we need to acknowledge it, too.
politics  economics 
5 weeks ago
Federalism for the Left and the Right - WSJ
For her part, Heather Gerken of Yale Law School, the leading advocate of “progressive federalism,” argues that in contested areas ranging from health care to the environment, the states and federal government govern best when operating shoulder-to-shoulder. “Take a look at telecom, the AFDC [antipoverty program], Medicaid, drug enforcement, workplace safety, health care, immigration, even national security law,” she writes. “In these integrated regulatory regimes, the states and federal government have forged vibrant, interactive relationships that involve both cooperation and conflict.”

A respect for federalism and state autonomy is perhaps the only way that all sides can peacefully coexist in today’s political environment. With dysfunction now reigning on Capitol Hill and federal courts increasingly ready to strike down the unilateral action of presidents, Americans will at least be able to take some comfort in local autonomy and control. In these polarized times, citizens who strongly disagree with each other may be able to unite around the goal of making federal power less intrusive and national politics less of a contest where the winner takes all.
politics  subsidiarity 
5 weeks ago
Foucault investigates – Duncan Kelly on Oeuvres, I & II
Here, then, is one major way to align Foucault’s astonishingly fertile projects that developed during the 1970s. The combined plans for and histories of sexuality, alongside the histories of various ways in which bodies and states were classified, disciplined and punished, were all part of a related concern to construct overlapping genealogies of the Western self and its soul, and his own self and soul as part of that general process or optic. As he had written in Surveiller et punir (1975), the soul is both “an effect and an instrument of a political anatomy”. It is “the prison of the body”, and the object of his book was a “correlative history” of this “modern soul and a new power of judgement”, underpinned by a juridical-scientific apparatus, that had come to manage it. This might help to pinpoint his own very particular engagement with the conceptual opposition, so central to post-war French thought, between the political (le politique), and the sphere of politics or government (la politique) where law intersects. His focus on what he called a hermeneutics of the subject worked across both fields. This sort of interest, which Stuart Elden has recently discussed in Foucault’s Last Decade (2016), requires us to recognize that although his canvas was vast and his corpus extensive, his work always and self-consciously remained partial even in its very capaciousness. It was continuously supplemented rather than replaced or rejected. Foucault was neither a lumper nor a splitter, but an inveterate tinkerer. He well knew the impossibility of going beyond contexts or frames of reference to the writing of anything like pure history, untainted by prejudice, self-interest or present-mindedness on one side, or of providing a complete account of epistemologically self-contained practices on the other. There never was any one pure moment of rupture (coupure) that could fully explain change, conceptual or otherwise, a thinly veiled blow directed towards his contemporary Althusserian colleagues who were busy formulating the idea of Marx’s epistemological rupture towards a new, anti-humanist and therefore scientific analysis of capital. Foucault demurred, because he wanted to show that “the history of thought could not have the role of revealing a transcendental moment” (“l’histoire de la pensée ne pourrait avoir ce rôle révélateur du moment transcendental”). It was better seen, “in short, as a kind of historical phenomenology” of particular moments. This in turn made sense of his claim that “at the deepest level of Western knowledge”, Marx introduced no real dis­continuity.
5 weeks ago
500 years after Luther, the law/gospel insight remains almost true
Zahl, of course, knows this. Indeed, there is an attempt to first grant a limited or biblical definition of terms before adopting Luther’s theologically expansive abstraction. But it does not seem to matter:

What most of us think of when we think of “the law” in religious terms is the capital-L Law of God, the Oughts and Ought Nots that we find spelled out in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount (emphasis added).

The problems here are several. First, in Paul’s actual use, nomos cannot be reduced to the Ten Commandments, though they make a useful summary of Torah in certain respects. But it is much more problematic to count the Sermon on the Mount as “law,” and one gets there only by a precarious hermeneutical sleight of hand. No, the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of our Lord’s “moral instruction” are but one of many iterations of the “gospel of the kingdom.” It is hard to overstate the unfortunate consequence of calling the gospel law, not least as though St. Paul had authorized the exchange. [...]

No less significant, the law/gospel hermeneutic is insufficiently Pauline because it highlights a single thread of controversy — justification apart from works [of the law] — and treats it as a center, yea, bulwark. Missing in this picture is Paul’s generous new-covenant/new-creation anthropology that renders redeemed persons able to rejoice in the imperatives of Scripture as gospel, as signs of the fulfilment of our eschatological participation in Christ. Just as conspicuously absent is the Pauline pneumatology, whereby once-captive-failing-and-[possibly-]despairing persons are granted the new covenant promise whereby enmity turns to love, rebellion to holy desires, and disobedience to joyful obedience. The once righteousness-wanting are now those wanting righteousness. We awake in Christ to find not that we must but that we can, and raised with Christ we find that we had always wanted to.
theology  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
A Brief Introduction to Law & Gospel
Remember that Law and Gospel are necessarily related and therefore cannot be separated. This is why Lutheran Christians prefer to talk about “distinguishing” or “discerning” Law and Gospel, rather than separating Law from Gospel. Just as the words of the Bible are bound up into a single authoritative and holy scripture, so, too, are the words of law and gospel bound up into a single divine Word that does what God wants it to do (see Isaiah 55:11-12). Biblically speaking, faithfully confessing, you can neither have law without gospel, nor gospel without law. If you read and apply the word of God as law only, you get legalism. If you read and apply the word of God as gospel only, you get antinomianism (the belief that the law has no use).
theology  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Humans Accidentally Created a Protective Bubble Around Earth
According to satellite data, the inner edge of the belts is much further from Earth now than it was in the 1960s, when humans sent fewer VLF transmissions. Scientists suspect that VLF wasn’t around, the radiation belts would hover closer to Earth.

The researchers believe the bubble could help protect Earth from solar flares, which release huge amounts of energy, or coronal mass ejections that discharge hot material called plasma. Both events send can radiation particles into Earth’s atmosphere, which could disrupt radio waves and overload electrical power grids.

The bubble also extends the reach of human influence on this tiny dot in the universe. Technology has, in a very short time, left a mark on the landscape of the Earth in countless ways, diverting whole rivers, razing forests for farmland, and pumping enough gases into the atmosphere to alter the global climate. In the early 1960s, the U.S. military tried to build an artificial bubble of its own, and launched billions of whisker-thin copper wires into orbit. Scientists hoped the material would coalesce into a ring around the Earth that would protect the nation’s communications systems—crucial in the fight against the Soviets—from solar storms. It didn’t work, though. The key, it appears, is a little help from the universe itself.
science  climate 
5 weeks ago
Which are the British institutions that matter most? - CapX
"And I think this was a great mistake made by the architects of the EU – the mistake of thinking that nationalism was the cause of the World Wars and that the answer to the avoidance of war was to redefine loyalty so the nation state had nothing to do with it.

It is true that there is this passionate thing called nationalism which we have seen exhibited by the Nazi Party in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as well, and versions of this extreme, quasi-religious devotion to the national idea do crop up here and there all across the world.

But national identity as a form of loyalty is not like that and this is where we should distinguish nationalism as a quasi-religion from ordinary, decent patriotism, which is loyalty and devotion to a particularly national identity which one has inherited."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
How to Follow a Twitter Feed in Your RSS Reader
"RSS readers are a great way to keep on top of the news. Unfortunately, a lot of sites have moved away from RSS and towards just publishing all their articles on a Twitter stream. This isn’t so good if you want to make sure you keep up to date with a particular site; anything they post will get buried in your timeline with a million other Tweets. What you can do, however, is convert their Twitter feed to an RSS feed. Here’s how."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
RORATE CÆLI: Latest statistics: seminarians down in the USA and the world
The summary notes that "In 2015 there is decline in the number of priests from the previous year, thus reversing the upward trend that characterized the years from 2000 to 2014." To be exact, there were 415,656 priests in 2015, compared to 415,792 in 2014. (Looking into reports from previous years we find that there were 405,178 priests in 2000 -- when the upward trend began again -- 406,411 in 2005, 408,024 in 2007, 412,236 in 2010, and 414,313 in 2012.) Tellingly the decline from 2014 to 2015, while slight, is attributed to the decrease in the number of priests in Europe (less 2,502) outweighing the increases in the rest of the world (up by 2,366). Although the Vatican report does not mention it, it is no secret that very large numbers of European and North American clergy are in the age range of late 70's to 90's, which explains why the official statistics for priests in Europe and North America have little to do with the actual (and much reduced) number of priests available for, or capable of, pastoral duties on the ground. As these priests -- the last of those ordained in the period between 1945 and 1965 --continue to die off in even greater numbers due to illness and extreme old age within the next decade or so, we expect that the negative effect on worldwide priesthood numbers will become even more pronounced. (According to the summary, priests in Europe account for 43% of priests worldwide.)
5 weeks ago
The Invention of Numbers - Education & Culture
Everett chronicles a great deal of evidence suggesting that humans are hardwired in the brain to distinguish one, two, and three, but no more. There are unwritten languages that can mark nouns and verbs as singular and plural but also trial—but none that mark the “four-al” or beyond. Hunter-gatherer people’s languages tend to have “real” numbers for just one, two, three, and four, with four often being something like “two-two.” Note that even in English, we say not “one-th,” “two-th” or “three-th” but have irregular, one-off forms: first, second, and third, where first and second have no sign of one and two and third is only forcedly relatable to three. After that, however, come the predictable fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on. Babies are best at distinguishing one, two, or three things; beyond that, it gets messy. Roman numerals had simple strokes up to three, but then detoured into subtractive complication with the IV for four.
math  thinking  neuroscience  language 
5 weeks ago
Mobile - Matt Gemmell
"I was just blind to the fact that computers (as in desktop-type machines) were a temporary, strange, niche case; an artefact of immature technology. Pointing devices and pixel-precision, with very high information and interaction density to squeeze the most out of limited and low-resolution screen space, complete with minuscule text and navigational elements. But things have moved on. We have a vast majority of non-expert users, and touch interaction, and high-resolution large displays, and human-scale presentation.

It’s time to stop worshipping at the altar of the Weird Machine, because almost nothing else in the world is designed or used like computers are.

The real world is mobile. Simple, task-centric interfaces, used under suboptimal ergonomic conditions, amidst distractions. That’s our daily experience; it’s our life-context. It took me this long to make the trivial realisation that traditional computers are the glaring exception."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Sending Jobs Overseas
"lobalization used to be called a “miracle.” It resembled one. It showered certain people with blessings they had not expected, in ways that could not be explained by logic. How could Nike be the world’s most successful shoemaker when it owned scarcely any shoe factories? Globalization’s cheerleaders, from Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, made arguments from classical economics: by buying manufactured products from people overseas who made them cheaper than we did, the United States could get rich concentrating on product design, marketing, and other lucrative services. That turned out to be a mostly inaccurate description of how globalism would work in the developed world, as mainstream politicians everywhere are now discovering.

Certain skeptics, including polymath author Edward Luttwak and Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, put forward a better account. In his 1998 book Turbo-Capitalism, Luttwak gave what is still the most succinct and accurate reading of the new system’s economic consequences. “It enriches industrializing poor countries, impoverishes the semi-affluent majority in rich countries, and greatly adds to the incomes of the top 1 percent on both sides who are managing the arbitrage.” Left unexplained was what had happened to make trade suddenly produce consequences so widely divergent from those it had produced for centuries."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think
"You might think that the mind-expanding enterprise of education would reduce prejudice. But according to another presentation at the SPSP meeting, it does not. It does, however, teach people to cover it up. Maxine Najle, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, asked people if they would consider voting for a presidential candidate who was atheist, black, Catholic, gay, Muslim or a woman. When asked directly, participants with an education beyond high school reported a greater willingness to vote for these groups than did less-educated participants. But when asked in a more indirect way, with more anonymity, the two groups showed equal prejudice. “So higher education seems to instill an understanding of the appropriate levels of intolerance to express,” Najle told me, “not necessarily higher tolerance.”"
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Religion's truce with science can't hold | Julian Baggini | Opinion | The Guardian
One of the most tedious recurring questions in the public debate about faith has been "is religion compatible with science?" Why won't it just go away?

I'm convinced that one reason is that the standard affirmative answer is sophisticated enough to persuade those willing to be persuaded, but fishy enough for those less sure to keep sniffing away at it. That defence is that religion and science are compatible because they are not talking about the same things. Religion does not make empirical claims about how the universe works, and to treat it as though it did is to make a category mistake of the worst kind. So we should just leave science and religion to get on with their different jobs free from mutual molestation.

The biologist Stephen Jay Gould made just this kind of move when he argued that science and religion have non-overlapping magisteria (noma). In Rock of Ages, Gould wrote that science deals with "the empirical realm: what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry." In short, science is empirical, religion is ethical.

A version of this strategy was also adopted by the physicist John Polkinghorne and the mathematician Nicholas Beale in their book, Questions of Truth. As they put it: "Science is concerned with the question, How? – By what process do things happen? Theology is concerned with the question, Why? – Is there a meaning and purpose behind what is happening?"

It sounds like a clear enough distinction, but maintaining it proves to be very difficult indeed. Many "why" questions are really "how" questions in disguise. For instance, if you ask: "Why does water boil at 100C?" what you are really asking is: "What are the processes that explain it has this boiling point?" – which is a question of how.


Critically, however, scientific "why" questions do not imply any agency – deliberate action – and hence no intention. We can ask why the dinosaurs died out, why smoking causes cancer and so on without implying any intentions. In the theistic context, however, "why" is usually what I call "agency-why": it's an explanation involving causation with intention.

So not only do the hows and whys get mixed up, religion can end up smuggling in a non-scientific agency-why where it doesn't belong.

This means that if someone asks why things are as they are, what their meaning and purpose is, and puts God in the answer, they are almost inevitably going to make an at least implicit claim about the how: God has set things up in some way, or intervened in some way, to make sure that purpose is achieved or meaning realised. The neat division between scientific "how" and religious "why" questions therefore turns out to be unsustainable.

Consider, for example, anthropic fine-tuning, which the religious physicist, Paul Davies, calls "The Goldilocks Enigma": the conditions in the universe are just right for life to have evolved, and had a few things been just slightly different at the Big Bang, none of us would be here. At the moment, there is no generally accepted scientific explanation for why or how this is so. Taking off his physicist's coat and donning his theologian's hat, Polkinghorne answers the "why" question by saying that the life-enabling laws of physics are "graciously provided by the creator". Not only does this introduce agency-why where we'd normally just look for scientific-why, it is also a claim about how the universe came to be this way, namely, by divine fiat. It trespasses onto the "how" territory of science, but since it cannot explain the mechanism by which God intervened, nor test the hypothesis that he did so, it is no substitute for a proper scientific answer.

Of course, there are ways of understanding religion that do not fall into this trap. A Spinozistic "God-or-nature" could act with a purpose that was, at root, simply the playing out of natural forces. But the theistic God is "behind" what happens, not simply part of it.


Alternatively, you might say – indeed many do – that religion is not about belief at all, and so never explains anything in terms of agency-why. I'll be saying more about this approach in future posts. But for the moment, we can say that any religious belief that involves an activist, really-existing God and claims that religion has something to say about why things happen, must also be encroaching on questions of how they happen, too. And if that's true, the easy peace which many claim should exist between science and religion just isn't possible.

The religious believer could bite the bullet, accept that religion does make some empirical claims, and then defend their compatibility with science one by one. But the fact that two beliefs are compatible with each other is the most minimal test of their reasonableness imaginable. All sorts of outlandish beliefs – that the Apollo moon landings never happened, for instance – are compatible with science, but that hardly makes them credible. What really counts, what should really make the difference between assent and rejection of an empirical claim, is not whether it is compatible with science, but whether an evidence-led, rational examination of a view supports it better than competing alternatives.

So the fact that science is compatible with religion turns out to be a comforting red herring.

The less comfortable wet fish slapped around the face is that how easily science and religion can rub on together depends very much on what kind of religion we're talking about. If it is a kind that seeks to explain the hows of the universe, or ends up doing so by stealth, then it is competing with science. In such contests science always wins, hands down, and the only way out is to claim a priority for faith over evidence, or the Bible over the lab. If it is of a kind that doesn't attempt to explain the hows of the universe, then it has to be very careful not to make any claims that end up doing just that. Only then can the science v religion debate move on, free from the illusion that it rests on one question with one answer.
science  religion  twocultures 
6 weeks ago
After Comey Firing, Congress Gives Up on Checks and Balances - Hit & Run : Reason.com
So it is hardly surprising that following the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Trump justified with reasoning that is contradictory and difficult to believe, Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, responded by dismissing calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the president. A few Republicans, including Rep. Justin Amash and Sen. John McCain, had expressed support for an outside investigation, but McConnell rejected the idea. "Today we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation," he said in a speech this morning, "which can only serve to impede the current work being done."

McConnell's statement is not only cynical. It is detrimental to his own institution, the Senate, and to the American system of government. It does not portend a constitutional crisis, yet. But it does suggest a willingness to continue to slouch into constitutional weakness and dysfunction.

McConnell is effectively arguing that an independent investigation should not be pursued because it would bog down the legislative agenda of President Trump and the Republican party. It is an argument that Congress should not play its constitutional role, but should instead function as a partisan lackey operation for the executive branch. That is a worrying view under any president. Under a self-dealing president with sketchy affiliations such as Trump, it is even more dangerous.
6 weeks ago
Ecclesia and empire: a church historian and the Benedict Option | The Spectator Australia
"In his acclaimed End of Ancient Christianity, the late Catholic church historian Robert Markus describes the two-fold change that came over Christianity as the late ancient world became that of the early middle (or ‘dark’) ages: first, an ‘ascetic invasion’ of the Church, whereby the culture of the whole Church came to be defined in terms of what had been just one movement within it; secondly, the vast increase in the power of the Church in society as specifically secular institutions (school, city, and, in the West, empire) either withered and collapsed or were recast as clerical.

From this angle, we owe the medieval flowering of Christendom not so much – or at least not only – to the monks who turned their back on the messy post-Roman world as to the very much in-the-world labours of the offspring of the old Gallo-Roman senatorial class who stepped with gusto into the power vacuum left by the fifth-century implosion of the Roman state and incorporated its responsibilities into those of episcopal office. Indeed, in comparison to the East, for centuries after Rome’s collapse the challenge the Western Church continued to face was not the strength of secular culture but its weakness."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Polis/Counter-polis: On the Civic Benedict Option - Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
"Above all, we must not regard Christians as a tribe, whose tribal interests are opposed to those of the the non-Christians who share their territory. Christians are not an identity group according to the modern practices of identity politics, in which each group seeks legal favors and status with the state, seeks market share. Political life proper is that which precisely does not operate on this basis, but operates as we seek the common good. The feuding of families in a thirteenth century Italian city that tears apart the fabric of that city is not, shall we say, the all-time best model for contemporary politics.

Even if this were a proper way for tribes to behave in political life, Christians are not an ethnicity. They are not the same as The West, a deadly confusion which we must be careful to avoid. They are simply humans who have accepted what Christ has done for the whole of the human race. And here, as Christians in the West, we live as men and women among those who don’t share our beliefs, and we are not aliens to them, nor they to us. They are our friends and our families, and our fellow-citizens, and we have to them all the ties of affection and friendship that common grace and human nature have given. And while the cities in which we live are not the New Jerusalem, still, what they are, they are: each, potentially, an icon of it, as each human family can be an image of the family of God. None of the good that we do here will be lost."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Christian Politics Is the Benedict Option Now | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views
"Again, seeking just such communities is what we political animals do by nature, but we do not usually do it consciously and we do not always do it well. Dreher’s “Benedict Option” is therefore not a suggestion that we withdraw from political life, but rather that we live out our political natures even more fully, variously, and consciously, by seeking to build up those moral communities that will actually help us to become, in Maritain’s words, ever more fully human. Trips to the ballot box always played a small role in our political life, but the sooner we realize how small that role really is, the sooner Christians will discover how many different strands of political life require our care so that the faith is endure even into the next generation. Dreher reminds us in a more desperate language of what Maritain reminded us long ago and with whose words I would leave you:

There is for the Christian community, at a time like ours, two opposite dangers: the danger of seeking sanctity only in the desert, and the danger of forgetting the necessity of the desert for sanctity . . . Christian heroism has not the same sources as other heroisms; it proceeds from the heart of a God scourged and ridiculed, crucified outside the gates of the city"
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Telling the story of my departure from American evangelicalism
"Everybody’s story is different. Of course millions of American Christians remain quite happily situated in Southern Baptist and/or evangelical Christianity. I wish them only the best, and am done fighting with them.

But millions of others have made their exits, or had their exits made for them, and now wander in a kind of exile. I think that my story might connect with that of many others who find themselves post-all-of-that, perhaps helping chart a way forward.

I now believe that incommensurable differences in understanding the very meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the interpretation of the Bible, and the sources and methods of moral discernment, separate many of us from our former brethren — and that it is best to name these differences clearly and without acrimony, on the way out the door.

I also believe that attempting to keep the dialogue going is mainly fruitless. The differences are unbridgeable."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Andrew T. Walker » “Incommensurable Differences” and the Future of the Christian Church’s Sexual Witness
"Gushee is gambling with high stakes; unreasonably high stakes in my opinion. He’s asking the church — and by extension, the global church — to repent of two thousand years of biblical teaching. He’s asking us to journey with him accepting that the church’s entire witness, including the words of Jesus himself, have been misunderstood or wrong for the entirety of church history. He’s asking us to trust him on his journey and those like him — highly educated and predominantly Western social progressives — to speak univocally for the entire church.

This is the stark reality that evangelicalism must come to grips with. There is no “third way” possible. Everyone is going to have to pick a side. Sitting on the fence might be convenient for some people’s career, but the trajectory of where the West is headed will not countenance moderation when the canons of social justice require nothing short of celebrating LGBT orthodoxy."
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray review – gentrified xenophobia | Books | The Guardian
More surprising, however, is the author’s inability to define the culture supposedly in jeopardy. If Europe should more aggressively defend its unique identity, the least one might expect is a clear definition of this precious thing it’s supposed to be defending: the values, experiences and ideas in danger of being lost. But apart from beer and churchgoing, padded out with scorn for anyone trying to distinguish between Islam or Muslims in general and Islamist terrorists in particular, there’s little here to cling to. At one point the author is reduced to suggesting that he thinks the future Europe will stand or fall on its “attitude to church buildings”.

The frustrating thing is that Europe isn’t perfect. It has struggled to cope with unprecedented flows of migrants in recent years, and to integrate those already here. It is confused in some ways about what it stands for. It is politically fractured, most recently by Brexit – which this book doesn’t really cover – but before that by the euro crisis, its treatment of Greece and the alienation of many of its citizens from creaking, remote political EU institutions that do not seem up to the huge economic challenges ahead. Europe isn’t dying, but it isn’t ageing well, and all that is ripe for critical analysis. Sooner or later, someone will write a terrific book about that. This isn’t it.
7 weeks ago
Let’s just admit it: the French are simply better than us | The Spectator
Every small town in France has at least one independent bookshop that sells real books, including the French classics. The only bookseller in my small town, W.H. Smith, sells mainly books by celebrities or about celebrities, or both, often discounted, as well as tales of childhood sexual abuse. There are no books about celebrities or sexual abuse in the two bookshops in the small town near my French home, which is of the same size as my English town. One cannot attribute the much higher cultural level in France to bookshops alone, but at the least they help to maintain it. I can buy Pascal locally in France, but I cannot buy Shakespeare locally in England.

Bookshops do not an economy make, of course; but the efficiency and intelligence of French work is evident, even in small things. The way the roadside drains are cleared every year in my very isolated part of the country is a joy to behold. The work is done not only quickly, but beautifully, as if the men doing it think it the most important thing in the world.

The attention to detail in shops is another painful contrast with Britain (for a Briton, that is). A florist in France gives the impression of being a specialist in flowers, not of someone who sells flowers faute de mieux or merely as a sideline. He or she wraps the blooms with an aesthetic consideration for the flowers themselves, with matching coloured tissue, for example. This raises the price, no doubt, but also the quality; and this constant concentration on detail raises the level of the florist’s, or his employee’s, practical intelligence. This is also true of the sale of fruit, fish, meat, cheese, bread, pâtisserie, etc. And all this adds to the enjoyment of life, though like any virtue it can go too far and become mere pettiness.
7 weeks ago
Today’s College Freshmen Are…
• More confident in their open-mindedness: In 2008, 65 percent of incoming freshmen said they rated themselves “above average or better in terms of … ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective”; today that number is 77 percent. Similarly, there has been seven point uptick in the share of freshmen who say they are more tolerant than average of people with different beliefs. Needless to say, the self-assessment of these students has been … called into question by some of the campus antics of the past few years.

• More confident in their academic ability: 73 percent of students said they were above average academically in 2016, compared to 69 percent in 2006 and 67 percent in 1996. It’s probably true that most people going to college do have above average academic skills compared to everyone else their age, but the steady increase testifies to a cultural shift.

• Less spiritual: 36 percent rated themselves at least “above average” in terms of spirituality, a figure that has been more or less consistent since 2010. But around the turn of the century, it was significantly higher; 45 percent rated themselves more spiritual than average in 2000. This tracks the decline in religiosity in America as a whole—a decline that, as Peter Beinart argued last month in the Atlantic, has probably made our political debates more corrosive."
academe  university  from instapaper
7 weeks ago
Is dark energy an illusion? | Science | AAAS
For the past 20 years, physicists have known that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, as if some bizarre “dark energy” is blowing up space like a balloon. In fact, cosmologists’ well-tested standard model assumes that 69% of the content of the universe is dark energy. However, there may be no need for the mysterious stuff, a team of theorists claims. Instead, the researchers argue, the universe’s acceleration could be driven by variations, or inhomogeneities, in its density. If so, then one of the biggest mysteries in physics could be explained away with nothing other than Albert Einstein’s familiar general theory of relativity. Other researchers are skeptical, however.

“If it’s right, somebody is going to have to take back Nobel prizes” awarded in 2011 for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe, says Nick Kaiser, a cosmologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Tom Giblin, a computational cosmologist at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, who has worked on a similar analysis, says, “I would love if inhomogeneities explained dark energy.” However, he says, “I don’t see any evidence from our simulations to expect it to be as big an effect as they see here.”
physics  science 
7 weeks ago
The European Crisis - The New York Times
It may be that Le Pen is still too much like her father, or too much like the anti-Islam monomaniac Geert Wilders or the bumptious Nigel Farage or even Trump himself, to be entrusted with the leadership of an important Western power. And if you read some of the stinging responses to my column — for a relatively kind example, I recommend Yascha Mounk’s piece for Slate — you will find this case eloquently made.

But I still think it’s generally made in a way that doesn’t quite reckon with the scale of Europe’s problems, and the wider political environment in which parties like the National Front exist.

I completely agree, for instance, with Mounk’s critique of Le Pen’s secularism-on-steroids approach to public religiosity, which would try to suppress Islamic identity (and Jewish identity) in various ways, from bans on head scarves to rules against kosher and halal slaughter. I think that France would be much better served by a combination of reduced immigration and the kind of accommodations to its Muslim citizens that the Catholic French philosopher Pierre Manent has proposed, in which secularism gives ground to religious pluralism even as it firmly demands certain forms of assimilation.

I also agree with Mounk that their authoritarian inclinations and ugly historical roots are good reasons to fear what far-right parties might do with real power.

But from my perspective — as, yes, a religious conservative, and therefore someone already far outside the official European mainstream — the evils of right-populism are not some wild outlier in an otherwise harmonious and liberal Europe. They are instead dangers to be weighed against the myriad evils of the status quo.
7 weeks ago
The Authoritarian Dynamic - Karen Stenner
Some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy. How they got to be that way, what consequences it has for the rest of us, and the conditions under which we will feel those effects are the subjects of this book. This work focuses on a particular type of person: one who cannot treat with natural ease or generosity those who are not his own kindred or kind, who is inclined to believe only “right-thinking” people should be free to air their opinions, and who tends to see others’ moral choices as everybody’s business – indeed, the business of the state. It is about the kind of people who – by virtue of deep-seated predispositions neither they nor we have much capacity to alter – will always be imperfect democratic citizens, and only discouraged from infringing others’ rights and liberties by responsible leadership, the force of law, fortuitous societal conditions, and near-constant reassurance. [...]

Within cultures, too, though there will be peculiar varieties and manifestations of authoritarianism among subgroups of the population, the structure and character of the “system” remain the same. To isolate just a couple of examples from the contemporary U.S. experience, we can recognize Nation of Islam authoritarianism among African American men adhering to a particular strain of the Muslim faith transfused with ardent black nationalism, and “super-patriot” authoritarianism among whites believing our federal government to be the pawn in some “Zionist” plot to institute “One World Government.” Again, while there is variation in “us” and “them,” and some fungibility in regard to the content of right and wrong, authoritarianism exists in the fact that there is stark designation of friend and foe, and demand for absolute obedience to the rules and rulers of some normative order.
politics  authority 
8 weeks ago
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