4795
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
8 hours 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
10 hours 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 
14 hours 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 
15 hours 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 
16 hours 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
yesterday
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
yesterday
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.
atheism 
yesterday
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
2 days 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
2 days 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 days 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 
6 days 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 
6 days 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 
7 days 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.
theory 
7 days 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
7 days 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
7 days 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 
8 days 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
8 days 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
8 days 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.)
Catholic 
9 days 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 
9 days 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
10 days 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
12 days 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
12 days 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.

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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.

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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 
16 days 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.
politics 
16 days 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
16 days 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
16 days 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
16 days 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
16 days 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
16 days 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.
Europe 
20 days 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.
work 
21 days 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
22 days 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 
22 days 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.
Europe 
23 days 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 
24 days ago
America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People
In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.
[And you don't have to spend much time on Twitter to see what utter contempt the FTE sector has for the other 80% of Americans]
economics  politics 
24 days ago
Opinion | If We Are Not Just Animals, What Are We?
"There is something in the human condition that suggests the need for special treatment. Almost all people believe that it is a crime to kill an innocent human, but not to kill an innocent tapeworm. And almost all people regard tapeworms as incapable of innocence in any case — not because they are always guilty, but because the distinction between innocent and guilty does not apply to them. They are the wrong kind of thing.

We, however, are the right kind of thing. So what kind is that? Do any other beings, animal or otherwise, belong to it? And what follows? These questions lie at the center of philosophical inquiry today, as they have since the ancient Greeks. In a thousand ways we distinguish people from the rest of nature, and build our life accordingly. We believe that people have rights, that they are sovereign over their lives, and that those who live by enslaving or abusing others are denying their own humanity. Surely there is a foundation for those beliefs, just as there is a foundation for all the moral, legal, artistic and spiritual traditions that take the distinctiveness of human life as their starting point."
from instapaper
24 days ago
Neutral vs. Conservative: The Eternal Struggle
"Look. I read Twitter. I know the sorts of complaints people have about this blog. I’m some kind of crypto-conservative, I’m a traitor to liberalism, I’m too quick to sell out under the guise of “compromise”. And I understand the sentiment. I write a lot about how we shouldn’t get our enemies fired lest they try to fire us, how we shouldn’t get our enemies’ campus speakers disinvited lest they try to disinvite ours, how we shouldn’t use deceit and hyperbole to push our policies lest our enemies try to push theirs the same way. And people very reasonably ask – hey, I notice my side kind of controls all of this stuff, the situation is actually asymmetrical, they have no way of retaliating, maybe we should just grind our enemies beneath our boots this one time.

And then when it turns out that the enemies can just leave and start their own institutions, with horrendous results for everybody, the cry goes up “Wait, that’s unfair! Nobody ever said you could do that! Come back so we can grind you beneath our boots some more!”

Conservatives aren’t stuck in here with us. We’re stuck in here with them. And so far it’s not going so well. I’m not sure if any of this can be reversed. But I think maybe we should consider to what degree we are in a hole, and if so, to what degree we want to stop digging."
from instapaper
24 days ago
Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously
What are this generation’s reactionaries reacting to? They’re reacting, as they have always done, to modernity. But their current reaction is proportional to the bewildering pace of change in the world today. They are responding, at some deep, visceral level, to the sense that they are no longer in control of their own lives. They see the relentless tides of globalization, free trade, multiculturalism, and mass immigration eroding their sense of national identity. They believe that the profound shifts in the global economy reward highly educated, multicultural enclaves and punish more racially and culturally homogeneous working-class populations. And they rebel against the entrenched power of elites who, in their view, reflexively sustain all of the above.

I know why many want to dismiss all of this as mere hate, as some of it certainly is. I also recognize that engaging with the ideas of this movement is a tricky exercise in our current political climate. Among many liberals, there is an understandable impulse to raise the drawbridge, to deny certain ideas access to respectable conversation, to prevent certain concepts from being “normalized.” But the normalization has already occurred — thanks, largely, to voters across the West — and willfully blinding ourselves to the most potent political movement of the moment will not make it go away. Indeed, the more I read today’s more serious reactionary writers, the more I’m convinced they are much more in tune with the current global mood than today’s conservatives, liberals, and progressives. I find myself repelled by many of their themes — and yet, at the same time, drawn in by their unmistakable relevance. I’m even tempted, at times, to share George Orwell’s view of the neo-reactionaries of his age: that, although they can sometimes spew dangerous nonsense, they’re smarter and more influential than we tend to think, and that “up to a point, they are right.”
politics  reactionary 
24 days ago
The Snowden Affair - Education & Culture
What we might perhaps best contemplate at this point in our history is the idea of providence, in the simplest and most open version: good produces goods, both material and nonmaterial. I was at Harvard in 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I knew a brilliant Chinese biochemistry PhD candidate, who had only the usual student visa. Shortly after the catastrophe, I heard he had permission to stay indefinitely as a political refugee, though he had never been politically active, as far as I knew. He and thousands of other Chinese studying in the US seem merely to have declared their real fear of returning, resigned themselves to not seeing their families again for years, if ever, and settled down to science and technology careers. After my acquaintance graduated, he joined the Harvard Society of Fellows, perhaps the world’s most prestigious post-doctoral institution. I didn’t follow his career afterwards, but it’s probable that with discoveries, patents, collaborations, and students taught and supervised, he was a billion-dollar value to the US even if he remained only a researcher in the academy. All we had to do to secure him was to behave decently while another country behaved outrageously.

All we would have had to do to prevent the Snowden affair was to have a slightly more accountable intelligence community—say, with less nepotism. Snowden’s credentials waiver, which allowed him into the CIA, is an utter mystery unless it was courtesy of his grandfather, a high-level FBI official. But I think we are years away from taking responsibility together, as a nation, so as to be able to do anything as obvious as adopting and keeping fairer and more practical rules.
politics  surveillance 
24 days ago
Liberals' free-speech amnesia
This appears to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy on the part of Baer, because the freedom of speech requires no "balance" or "obligation to ensure" anything, primarily because someone would have to determine when sufficient "balance" had been achieved. Who does Baer think should be the arbiters of such balance? Why, right-thinking administrators like himself, who breathlessly determine that "there is no inherent value to be gained from debating" certain ideas in public.

Australian professor Robert Simpson, in a recent article at Quartz, also advocated for benevolent authority figures separating "good speech" from "bad speech." After cursory nods to the value of the right to free expression unencumbered by government interference or violent mobs ("Free speech is important … However, once we extrapolate beyond the clear-cut cases, the question of what counts as free speech gets rather tricky"), Simpson argues for putting "free 'speech' as such to one side, and replace it with a series of more narrowly targeted expressive liberties."

Like Baer and Dean, Simpson assumes that those in power will always be as right-thinking as he, and that if the price of squashing the Ann Coulters of the world is abandoning the principle of universal free speech so long as it doesn't rise to direct threats or incitement to violence, well, that's a price they're willing to pay.
freespeech  academentia  from instapaper
25 days ago
Why not Le Pen?
Finally, it is true that a Le Pen victory would likely be welcomed in Moscow and in Washington, and would be a terrible blow to those who see themselves as the liberal vanguard. But there are other threats to liberal democracy than populist nationalism, and the technocratic order that Macron runs to vindicate may well be one of them. Brussels rules not so much with the consent of the governed as with the conviction that it alone is capable of properly balancing the continent’s manifold interests — which is precisely what ordinary democratic politics is supposed to be for. Is it so unthinkable to prioritize the latter threat over the threat of populism?

And consider the contrasts between Le Pen and her fellow populist-nationalists alongside their similarities. Le Pen is not Donald Trump. She's not a lazy, narcissistic, ignorant con artist. She's been at this for years and she knows her stuff. Nor is she Putin, or Erdogan, or even Viktor Orban of Hungary. She's not running to lead a fragile, young, shallow democracy. She's not out to restore a lost imperial glory, nor has she advanced a program for colonizing the state and turning it into an instrument of her party. Of the major exemplars of populist nationalism, she may well be the best of the bunch. [...]

In the end, I can't say that I actually hope for a Le Pen victory. But I can say that I don't really look forward to a triumph by Macron. The future is not a fixed star, and the center will only hold if it is responsive to the concrete needs of the people, and not merely the abstract demands of a hypothesized future. Before he wins, I'd like to see Macron acknowledge that. And if he won't, well ... why not Le Pen?
Europe 
25 days ago
Why Everyone Loves the Alpha Girl
"a fascinating study led by Allen and published in 2014 in the journal Child Development, titled: “What ever happened to the ‘cool’ kids?” For that paper, Allen and his colleagues interviewed a group of teenagers — including the “high-status” ones, otherwise known as the popular kids — when they were seniors in high school, and then tracked them down and reinterviewed them ten years later. “And a decade later,” Allen tells me, “they’re not doing so well. They’re doing less well in romantic relationships, they’re more likely to have problems with alcohol use and criminal behavior.”

If you are an alpha in high school, in other words, you are not necessarily an alpha for life. The social skills the cool girls (and guys) learned in high school tend not to work very well after they leave. “They’ve gotten so much reward for this skill set and this way of acting among others [that] they become fixated on status as a measure of their worth,” Prinstein explained. “They see everything through a lens of status, constantly thinking about their relationships in a hierarchal way — am I dominant, or not?” Even ten years after graduation, he tells me, the cool kids are still “constantly looking for those signs and signals. But the rest of the world has moved on.”"
sociology  psychology  from instapaper
26 days ago
By the Way, Which One Is Pink?
In a strange way, I think Obama will be remembered both as one of America’s better presidents—he wasn’t a letch, he wasn’t a moron, and he managed to keep the sub rosa hum of our endless imperial wars ever so slightly abstracted from the persona that occupied the office—and one of its most disappointing. While he could never have been the radical break with the recent past that he appeared to promise, there was some minor hope—I even held it weakly myself—that his judicious temperament and his rarely used but still welcome capacity to occasionally prick the swollen edifice of his office, to laugh at it, might mean that he was something very slightly different than we’d seen before. Well, his defenders say when you start bitching about the money from the bank, everyone else has done it. To which the obvious reply is: yes, exactly.
politics 
28 days ago
LRB · Tim Parks · Thunderstruck: ‘Les Misérables’
For all Bellos’s insistence that Hugo did careful research and has his facts right, we are very far from realism. To turn to Madame Bovary, published six years before Hugo’s novel and equally interested in the hypocrisies of the middle classes, is to find oneself in a world of social and psychological subtlety that simply isn’t there in Les Misérables, isn’t attempted. Essentially, Hugo has split society into innocent and loveable victims (viewed in great detail), callously complacent middle classes (who remain, for all their proper Christian and surnames, an anonymous chorus) and magnificent (Hugo-like), strangely powerful saints. While Valjean oscillates from victim to saint, one or two anomalous figures – Javert, the Thénardiers – are given the task of rendering the saintliness of the saints ever more visible. Coincidences abound. Hugo isn’t embarrassed by them; they allow for endless turns of plot with just a few central characters who never stop meeting, harming and helping one another. This is why Les Misérables is so successful not just as a film, but as a musical, in a way that Anna Karenina, Middlemarch and the many other fine novels of the time never could be.
fiction  lit  from instapaper
29 days ago
Why String Theory Is Still Not Even Wrong
Mathematics is in a much healthier state than theoretical physics. One reason for this is that it has never been driven by experiment, so is immune to the problem of technological experimental barriers. Absent experiment to point the way forward and keep everyone honest, mathematics has developed a different culture than theoretical physics, one that emphasizes rigorous clarity about the dividing line between what one understands and what one doesn't. This clarity makes possible agreement on what is progress: that which moves the dividing line in the right direction. I believe that in its current crisis, theoretical physics could benefit a lot from behaving more like mathematicians. (I've had no luck though in getting physicists to agree with me).
physics  math  science  from instapaper
29 days ago
The Kekulé Problem - Issue 47: Consciousness - Nautilus
So what are we saying here? That some unknown thinker sat up one night in his cave and said: Wow. One thing can be another thing. Yes. Of course that’s what we are saying. Except that he didnt say it because there was no language for him to say it in. For the time being he had to settle for just thinking it. And when did this take place? Our influential persons claim to have no idea. Of course they dont think that it took place at all. But aside from that. One hundred thousand years ago? Half a million? Longer? Actually a hundred thousand would be a pretty good guess. It dates the earliest known graphics—found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa. These scratchings have everything to do with our chap waking up in his cave. For while it is fairly certain that art preceded language it probably didnt precede it by much. Some influential persons have actually claimed that language could be up to a million years old. They havent explained what we have been doing with it all this time. What we do know—pretty much without question—is that once you have language everything else follows pretty quickly. The simple understanding that one thing can be another thing is at the root of all things of our doing. From using colored pebbles for the trading of goats to art and language and on to using symbolic marks to represent pieces of the world too small to see.
thinking  language  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Nostalgia for Now
That is, we can’t talk about the recent shrinking of the nostalgia gap without discussing the concomitant explosion of the historical archive — the Internet, which has allowed the past to catch up with us. We have come down with what Reynolds calls a “delirium of documentation,” and philosopher Jacques Derrida calls Archive Fever. To have this fever, Derrida says, is to “burn with a passion” for archiving.
It is never to rest, interminably, from searching for the archive right where it slips away. It is to run after the archive, even if there’s too much of it, right where something in it anarchives itself. It is to have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement.

Fever does seem to be the right word for our obsessive need to catalogue every bit of our lives, no matter how trivial. As a result, Reynolds says, we have degraded the archive into an anarchive: “a barely navigable disorder of data-debris and memory-trash.”"
information  data  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The March for Science was eerily religious.
Let’s start with my contention that most “pro-science” demonstrators have no idea what they were demonstrating about. Being “pro-science” has become a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which liberals (and other members of the cultural elite) engage in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it. On any given day, many of my most “woke” friends are quick to post and retweet viral content about the latest on what Science (and I’m capitalizing this on purpose) “says,” or what some studies “prove.” But on closer look, much of what gets shared and bandied about is sheer bullshit and is diagnostic of one thing only: The state of science (and science literacy) in this country, and most of the planet for that matter, is woefully bad. For example, the blog IFLScience (IFL stands for “I f---ing love”) seems singularly committed to undermining legitimately good science half the time, while promoting it the other half—which, scientifically speaking, is a problem. Here’s a neat one that relays news about a study that suggested that beer hops may protect against liver disease. I’ll be sure to mention that to the next alcoholic with hepatitis and cirrhosis that I treat. To date that article has been shared 41,600 times. Very few of those readers, I should mention, were mice, though the research was carried out in, you guessed it, mice. [...]

Indeed much of the sentiment of the March for Science seemed to fall firmly in the camp of people espousing a gee-whiz attitude in which science is just great and beyond reproach. They feel that way because, so often, the science they’re exposed to feels that way—it’s cherry-picked. Cherry-picking scientific findings that support an already cherished and firmly held belief (while often ignoring equally if not more compelling data that contradicts it) is epidemic—in scientific journals and in the media.

Let’s face it: People like science when it supports their views. I see this every day. When patients ask me for antibiotics to treat their common colds, I tell them that decades of science and research, let alone a basic understanding of microbiology, shows that antibiotics don’t work for cold viruses. Trust me, people don’t care. They have gotten antibiotics for their colds in the past, and, lo, they got better. (The human immune system, while a bit slower and clunkier than we’d like it to be, never seems to get the credit it deserves in these little anecdotal stories.) Who needs science when you have something mightier—personal experience?
science  scientism 
4 weeks ago
What Baer Gets Wrong About Free Speech
The free speech rights of minority groups are the easiest to suppress in a democratic system that is not committed to protecting the rights of those with whom we most fundamentally disagree. Europe has been far more willing to restrict offensive or hateful speech. Accordingly, some of our European allies have also been quick to repress minority rights in the name of the common good. The French burqa/veil ban is the most obvious example. In our own history, First Amendment protections have been vital to progressive causes. The Civil Rights Movement relied on the Supreme Court’s defense of the First Amendment (in cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan) when opponents tried to restrict press coverage of racist incidents. Young people don’t know this history; their civic knowledge is low and declining with each generation. Yet, academics should certainly understand the historical context and the importance of free expression to progressive movements.
freespeech  academentia  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
We Have Been Here Before | Easily Distracted
I am not that far from what Andrew Hacker said in 1964. The worst talk by the worst person on a campus can be endured, even by the people whom it hurts. In part because colleges are not bubbles or pocket utopias, any more than homes are castles or fortresses. If there is a bad person out there, then the call is already coming from inside the room. But it is also always worth saying to anyone who would think they wanted to hear the worst talk by the worst person that they should think again, for the exact same reason. That causing pain now in the belief that you need to do that in order to explore your own freedoms is a kind of gateway drug. That there’s almost always a way to hear and see and think about the things you’re interested in from someone more thoughtful, more genuine, more careful, more respectful. So I suppose in that sense that I sound even a bit like Hook or Kirk or any number of other stentorian establishment liberals who thought and said, “You could do better than inviting that person into a community that has higher and nobler aspirations”. The humbling thing about the history of controversies over speakers-on-campus is that sometimes we’ve shown that kind of disdain towards people whom we should have embraced, towards people who were in fact colleagues or peers, towards people who were more thoughtful or important than we knew, or towards people who were frankly kind of trivial and unworthy of any exertion by anybody.
freespeech  academentia  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Video Games Are Better Without Stories
The true accomplishment of What Remains of Edith Finch is that it invites players to abandon the dream of interactive storytelling at last. Yes, sure, you can tell a story in a game. But what a lot of work that is, when it’s so much easier to watch television, or to read. A greater ambition, which the game accomplishes more effectively anyway: to show the delightful curiosity that can be made when stories, games, comics, game engines, virtual environments—and anything else, for that matter—can be taken apart and put back together again unexpectedly.

To dream of the Holodeck is just to dream a complicated dream of the novel. If there is a future of games, let alone a future in which they discover their potential as a defining medium of an era, it will be one in which games abandon the dream of becoming narrative media and pursue the one they are already so good at: taking the tidy, ordinary world apart and putting it back together again in surprising, ghastly new ways.
games  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
How do you sell God in the 21st century? More heaven, less hell | Meghan O’Gieblyn | News | The Guardian
One of the biggest lessons of the past week, he began by saying, was that “evil is alive and well”. It was the first time I’d heard the word from his pulpit. He proposed that the evil we’d experienced was not limited to the men who flew the planes. He alluded to the terrorists’ accomplices and the people in other countries who were shown celebrating the tragedy. The pastor paused for a moment, and then said, “Let’s bring it close to home – what about the evil in me? Because boy, I felt it this week.” Hybels described his own anger when he was watching the news footage, his immediate craving for revenge. “What is it in us that makes some of us want others to pay a hundred times over for the wrong done to us?” he asked. “Well, that would be evil, and I felt it in me. Did you feel it in you?” With regard to the military response, he argued that Jesus’s teaching to not repay evil with evil was just as relevant at a national level. The vindictive rage we felt watching the attacks from our kitchen televisions was the same emotion that was creating hell all over the world.

I don’t know what prompted Hybels to diverge from the market-tested optimism that day, but it was a powerful sermon – people at Moody were talking about it all week. At the time, I didn’t appreciate just how radical it was. In speaking about his own capacity for revenge and hatred, he had opened up a possibility, a way of talking about evil that felt relevant and transformative. It wasn’t fire and brimstone; it wasn’t condemning the sinner as some degenerate Other. Rather, he was challenging his congregation to exercise empathy in a way that Jesus might have, suggesting that he among us without sin should cast the first stone. (Two weeks later he invited Imam Faisal Hammouda to speak at the Sunday service – an act that led to a huge backlash. People began to find tolerance tedious).
Christianity  violence  evil 
4 weeks ago
What The Free Speech Debate Misses
The irony comes when the defenders of these totalitarian enclaves must defend their stance to the larger society. Normal people and other elite critics shout “What about free speech?” And so the secular priests contort themselves into pretzels trying to make the case that their censorship is somehow consistent with some nonsensical notion of a “higher principle” of what free speech is. They can’t be honest and say, “We have a heckler’s veto for anything that smacks of heresy and we’re not afraid to use it.”

So much of the arguments about free speech would be better served if they skirted the issue of “rights” and stuck to old-fashioned notions of decency, good manners and sound judgment. But such antiquarian considerations don’t do the work the left wants them to do. Those standards won’t keep Charles Murray & Co out (though they might leave Richard Spencer in the anonymity he deserves). Worse, such values stem from a mainstream tradition of what college is supposed to be and how democracy is supposed to work, and in the new time religion, those wellsprings have been rendered off-limits.
freespeech  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
the Official Dogma of Education (version 1.0)
What follows is my first crack at articulating what I call the Official Dogma of Education. The Official Dogma is a set of presumptions and values that operate in the background of our educational discourse and which are accepted as true by most everyone without often being voiced out loud. The Official Dogma is ideology, in the old sense – that is, these are political stances that are not recognized as such; they are human points of view that are unconsciously accepted as truths of the universe. The idea is not that any individual person has ever expressed these beliefs explicitly. Indeed, the point of the Official Dogma is that its tacit nature helps to make it impossible for us to examine and critique it. The Official Dogma and its constituent elements are not universally accepted by all individuals, but an embrace of something like the Official Dogma is bipartisan, cross-ideological, and generally uncontroversial in contemporary American life. In particular, the Official Dogma is the doctrine of institutions. It is the philosophy of the nonprofits, the corporations, the political parties, the unsigned editorials and the corporate mission statements, the institutional cultures of organizations that shape policy. The Official Dogma, in other words, is the educational philosophy of managerialism, which is the truly dominant ideology of our times.
education  academe  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
To Fast Again | Eamon Duffy
The ritual observance of dietary rules—fasting and abstinence from meat in Lent, and abstinence from meat and meat products every Friday, as well as the eucharistic fast from midnight before the reception of Communion—were as much defining marks of Catholicism before the council as abstention from pork is a defining characteristic of Judaism. The Friday abstinence in particular was a focus of Catholic identity which transcended class and educational barriers, uniting “good” and “bad” Catholics in a single eloquent observance. Here was a universally recognized expression of Catholicism which was nothing to do with priests or authority.

But instead of seeing this as one of its greatest strengths, it was often used as an argument against Friday abstinence. Bad or badly instructed Catholics—who it was thought drank their wages or beat their wives, yet who were nevertheless punctilious in eating fish on Fridays—were adhering to the mere externals, it was claimed, while ignoring the essence of “real” Christianity. What was needed was a more spiritual sort of religion that offered no such crutches to lame practice.

So fasting is now confined to a derisory two days of the year, and compulsory Friday abstinence has been replaced by a genteel and totally individualistic injunction to do some penitential act on a Friday—an injunction, incidentally, that most Catholics know nothing about. What had been a corporate mark of identity has been marginalized into an individualistic option. [...]

At the heart of Catholicism for a millennium and a half lay a dialectical dividing of time, a rhythmic movement between the poles of fast and feast, Lent and Easter, renunciation and affirmation.

Catholics shared that rhythm with most of the world’s great religious traditions, a fact which ought to have suggested that there was something essential about fasting not only for our specific identities as Catholic Christians, but as religious human beings. But since 1967 what was once a truly corporate observance, reminding us of the passion of Christ, of our own spiritual poverty and, even more concretely, of the material poverty of most of the human race, reminding us what it was like to be hungry, has become another individual consumer choice, like going on a diet. Though we pay liturgical lip-service to the old dialectic, and still nominally observe Lent, in practice all our time now has become “ordinary time,” and there is nothing in this respect to distinguish Catholics from anyone else. [...]

The theological and practical shift represented by this abandonment of an ancient part of the tradition was not merely a matter of theological emphasis, and more, too, than a question of whether ascetical exercises like fasting are good for the character. What was also at stake was the Church’s prophetic integrity: its claim to solidarity with the poor. Considered from this perspective, compulsory fasting and abstinence, practiced regularly, routinely, and in common, was a recognition by the Church that identification with the poor and hungry, with those who know themselves to be needy before God because they were needy among men, is not an option for Catholics, but a necessary and definitive sign of their redemption, as essential in its way as attendance at Mass. The Church has always linked personal asceticism and the search for holiness with this demand for mercy and justice to the poor; the Lenten trilogy of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is both fundamental and structural. By making fasting and abstinence optional, the Church forfeited one of its most eloquent prophetic signs. There is a world of difference between a private devotional gesture, the action of the specially pious, and the prophetic witness of the whole community—the matter-of-fact witness, repeated week by week, that to be Christian is to stand among the needy.
christian  discipline  poverty  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The French, Coming Apart | City Journal
A process that Guilluy calls métropolisation has cut French society in two. In 16 dynamic urban areas (Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Rennes, Rouen, Toulon, Douai-Lens, and Montpellier), the world’s resources have proved a profitable complement to those found in France. These urban areas are home to all the country’s educational and financial institutions, as well as almost all its corporations and the many well-paying jobs that go with them. Here, too, are the individuals—the entrepreneurs and engineers and CEOs, the fashion designers and models, the film directors and chefs and other “symbolic analysts,” as Robert Reich once called them—who shape the country’s tastes, form its opinions, and renew its prestige. Cheap labor, tariff-free consumer goods, and new markets of billions of people have made globalization a windfall for such prosperous places. But globalization has had no such galvanizing effect on the rest of France. Cities that were lively for hundreds of years—Tarbes, Agen, Albi, Béziers—are now, to use Guilluy’s word, “desertified,” haunted by the empty storefronts and blighted downtowns that Rust Belt Americans know well. [...]

The laid-off, the less educated, the mistrained—all must rebuild their lives in what Guilluy calls (in the title of his second book) La France périphérique. This is the key term in Guilluy’s sociological vocabulary, and much misunderstood in France, so it is worth clarifying: it is neither a synonym for the boondocks nor a measure of distance from the city center. (Most of France’s small cities, in fact, are in la France périphérique.) Rather, the term measures distance from the functioning parts of the global economy. France’s best-performing urban nodes have arguably never been richer or better-stocked with cultural and retail amenities. But too few such places exist to carry a national economy. When France’s was a national economy, its median workers were well compensated and well protected from illness, age, and other vicissitudes. In a knowledge economy, these workers have largely been exiled from the places where the economy still functions. They have been replaced by immigrants.
Europe 
4 weeks ago
The Benefits of Solitude
As the urban revolution reaches a head and humans become more citified than not, “nature deficit disorder” blooms in every apartment block, and the crowds of urbanity push out key components of human life that we never knew we needed to safeguard. Nature activists like Richard Louv use less poesy and more research to prove that cities impoverish our sensory experience and can lead to an impoverished identity, too—one deprived of “the sense of humility required for true human intelligence,” as Louv puts it.

But what really happens when we turn too often toward society and away from the salt-smacking air of the seaside or our prickling intuition of unseen movements in a darkening forest? Do we really dismantle parts of our better selves?

A growing body of research suggests exactly that.
nature  walking  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Philosophers have a new job: coaching Silicon Valley executives to question everything
Still, practical philosophers like Taggart insist philosophical inquiry is the essence of an executive’s job. Philosophy, unlike other fields, offers no assumptions, just relentless inquiry. By subjecting every belief to critical reflection, Taggart’s clients start down a path of inquiry that can lead to genuine understanding, better business decisions, and, eventually, happiness. But that only happens after a painful period of reflection, which will often involve abandoning the deceptive stories we tell ourselves.

“Philosophers arrive on the scene at the moment when bullshit can no longer be tolerated,” says Taggart. “We articulate that bullshit and stop it from happening. And there’s just a whole lot of bullshit in business today.” He cites the rise of growth hackers, programming “ninjas,” and thought leaders whose job identities are invented or incoherent.
philosophy  solutionism  tech  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The Beginning for the American Church – In a State of Migration – Medium
The data bears out as well that poor Liberal Protestant retention is the actual direct source of the growing unclaimed population. Pew Research finds that only about 45% of people born into Mainline denominations remain there today, vs. 65% for Evangelical Protestants, 59% for Catholics, 53% for Orthodox, 70% for historically black protestants. Jews, Muslims, and Hindus all have higher retention, while Buddhists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite low. Of those raised in each group, Mainline Protestant kids are the 3rd most likely to end up Unaffiliated, at 26%, behind Jehovah’s Witnesses (35%) and Buddhists (40%). Evangelical and Black Protestants are the least likely to become unaffiliated. So, yes, it really is the collapse of mainline denominations that gives rise to the large unclaimed or unaffiliated population and, to a lesser extent, reaffiliation by Catholics. For Millennials, just 37% of Mainline-raised remain in the Mainline, vs. 61% for evangelical protestants.

So to be clear: this isn’t just a question of demographic transition and aging. This is a question of some denominations doing systematically worse at retaining and attracting people over the last few generations.
Christianity  church  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction, a Movement
Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder. Many of us have trouble sleeping and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, he could be a pain, but still I'm lucky to have known him.

This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.

Join us.

Resistance is futile.
ethics  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Troubled times: How “The Plague” infects the modern political mood | The Economist
Ultimately, the disease passes and Oran is once again open up to the world. The narrator reminds us in the book’s final pages that the celebrating townspeople clapped unaware that “the bacillus Plague never dies or vanishes entirely, that it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing, that it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers and perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.”

Some would argue that the day has come, or is dawning. Written as an allegory for life in occupied Paris, Camus’s novel is not an up-close portrait of evil or domination. Instead it acts a guide to the victimhood and despondency of an uncontrollable crisis; it is why it resonates as strongly as anything else published during the midnight of the last century. Today the futility of Rieux’s efforts may speak to those with a creeping fear that good ideas are no longer considered valuable by angry and iconoclastic electorates. Suddenly millions of people are once again looking at their passports and wondering where and when they might be welcome. The usual prescriptions of facts, rational arguments and appeals to empathy merely underscore the impotence of being earnest. As of yet, there is no known antidote. Luckily our redemption is as true now as it was 70 years ago when Camus’s protagonist concluded that “there are more things to admire in men than to despise.” 
politics 
5 weeks ago
it turns out we’re all locked up in here together
So many campus controversies are represented as clashes between different kinds of people – liberals vs. conservatives, activists vs. educators, the black bloc vs. the alt right. But all of those groups, ultimately, are powerless within the system. Neither Milo Yiannopoulos’s little brood nor the black hoodies that came to meet them will decide the future of college. The 21st century university is owned by the chief litigation officers, by the media liaisons, by the marketing department. Whose values will win? What do values have to do with it? Somebody’s crisis response manual somewhere, carefully put together through the actuarial science of risk prevention, says who wins and who loses on campus. I hate to say I told you so.

People ask me questions. How are the kids these days, really? Are they principled activists or coddled children of affluence? Are they really so deeply opposed to free speech and intellectual freedom? When I read some strategic action plan, put together by a consultant who learned about intersectionality from a PowerPoint at a conference about cultivating the alumni donors of tomorrow, I feel compelled to answer back… what’s the difference?
academentia 
5 weeks ago
The Battle for France | The American Conservative
We could easily include Finkielkraut’s friend Pierre Manent, author of Situation de la France, which lays out a blueprint for coming to terms with an Islam that was invited, without preconditions, into France. He suggests flexibility on headscarves; accommodation for separate hours for girls and boys in gym; firmness in rejection of the face-covering hijab; and absolute support for freedom of speech. At the same time, he bemoans the reality that France’s adherence to the EU deprives the state of the strength and flexibility needed to facilitate a deeper assimilation. Others in this new school of French cultural identity include the historian Jacques Julliard, the famous onetime revolutionary theoretician Régis Debray, and prominent writer Pascal Bruckner—all major intellectuals, all now labeled reactionaries. Last year Eugénie Bastié observed in Le Figaro that Nov. 13, 2015, the date of the Bataclan massacre, marked a decisive breaking point for French intellectuals, generating a dichotomy between, on the one hand, those who thought it essential to see the world as it truly was; and, on the other hand, those who doubled down on the cause of anti-racism because they thought it was just and because, above all, they must not “play the game” of the National Front. Some described this as a battle between “the Good and the True.” This split will certainly endure after this May’s presidential election, whatever the outcome. But it can’t be denied that the influence of those bent on “seeing things as they truly are,” represented in some form by Zemmour, Finkielkraut, and Houellebecq, among others, had grown tremendously over the past five years. [...]

While this is just one aspect of the growing concern within French society about the seemingly intractable assimilation issues facing the country, it is a significant one. Beyond it is a host of more general popular fears and cultural anxieties focused on the France of old and what will be lost when it is gone. It is not surprising, therefore, that we are seeing in French intellectual circles a fresh appreciation for the habits, culture, virtues, and even flaws of the historical French republics. No one should be fooled into thinking that this intellectual ferment in France, centered on the protection of the country’s traditional culture, is a phenomenon peculiar to this particular European nation. Just as we see echoes of Le Pen’s National Front in the politics of other Western countries, including the United States, we are likely to see a growing intellectual focus on such political controversies. A powerful new debate has opened up in the nations of the West, and writers, thinkers, essayists, and polemicists of various stripes and viewpoints will be pulled into it. But France is the country to watch because it is the vanguard.
Europe 
5 weeks ago
Yahoo’s Demise Is a Death Knell for Digital News Orgs
Jason Kint, the CEO of Digital Content Next, estimates that Facebook and Google accounted for about 99 percent of all advertising growth in the third quarter of 2016—54 percent of the pie for Google, 45 percent of it for Facebook, 1 percent for everybody else. (That’s based on numbers from the each company’s public financial records and data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group for advertisers.)

For everyone other than Facebook and Google, Kint tweeted in December, it’s a “zero-sum game.”

Many investors have reached this conclusion, too. “The ad-tech market will go the way of search, social, and mobile as investors and entrepreneurs concede that Google and Facebook have won and everyone else has lost,” the venture capitalist and blogger Fred Wilson wrote in January. “It will be nearly impossible to raise money for an online advertising business in 2017.”
Facebook  google  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
A Father’s Final Odyssey
One night, after we’d traipsed around a ruin in the southwestern Peloponnese which is known as “Nestor’s palace”—Nestor is an elderly comrade of Odysseus’, whom Telemachus visits in Book 3, looking for news of his father—he turned to the group around the piano.

“Obviously, I’m glad I got to see the places and be able to make a connection between the real places and what’s in Homer,” he said.

People nodded, and he went on. “If I would have read Book 3 now, for instance, I would know exactly what the seashore of ‘sandy Pylos’ looks like”—he wiggled his fingers to indicate that he was quoting verbatim—“where Telemachus landed. And now we all have a sense of Troy, the way it’s sited, how it looks out with the water in the distance. That’s great. But for me it’s a little bit empty compared to the story. Or maybe half-empty. It’s like these places we’re seeing are a stage set, but the poem is the drama. I feel that that is what’s real.”
lit  poetry  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Lecky on superstition
Many superstitions do undoubtedly answer to the Greek conception of slavish 'fear of the Gods,' and have been productive of unspeakable misery to mankind ; but there are very many others of a different tendency. Superstitions appeal to our hopes as well as our fears. They often meet and gratify the inmost longings of the heart. They offer certainties where reason can only afford possibilities or probabilities. They supply conceptions on which the imagination loves to dwell. They sometimes impart even a new sanction to moral truths. Creating wants which they alone can satisfy, and fears which they alone can quell, they often become essential elements of happiness ; and their consoling efficacy is most felt in the languid or troubled hours when it is most needed. We owe more to our illusions than to our knowledge. The imagination, which is altogether constructive, probably contributes more to our happiness than the reason, which in the sphere of speculation is mainly critical and destructive. The rude charm which, in the hour of danger or distress, the savage clasps so confidently to his breast, the sacred picture which is believed to shed a hallowing aud protecting influence over the poor man's cottage, can bestow a more real consolation in the darkest hour of human suffering than can be afforded by the grandest theories of philosophy. . . . No error can be more grave than to imagine that when a critical spirit is abroad the pleasant beliefs will all remain, and the painful ones alone will perish.
history  religion  superstition  from notes
5 weeks ago
When did modern philosophy begin? - On 'The Age of Genius' by A. C. Grayling
Tangled debates about the meaning of “modernity” aside, there can be no denying that something very special happened in philosophy in the seventeenth century – and especially in natural philosophy, what we now call science. Roughly between 1600 and 1700, there emerged new ways of thinking about the world and about the human being’s place in nature, in society, and in the cosmos. Here is how Grayling puts it: “At the beginning of the seventeenth century the mind – the mentality, the world-view – of our best-educated and most thoughtful forebears was still fundamentally continuous with that of their own antique and medieval predecessors; but by the end of that century it had become modern”. He calls it “the greatest ever change in the mental outlook of humanity”. [...]

Grayling also claims that the Church was against both the occult and the scientific (“it did not distinguish them”) and that “enquiry into nature . . . was vigorously opposed by the Roman Catholic Church”. This is just plain wrong, as much recent scholarship has shown, and only perpetuates the long-standing myth that the Church categorically opposed science and the advancement of knowledge. For an obvious and significant counter-example in this period, one need look no further than Galileo’s ecclesiastic judge. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine was not an enemy of “enquiry into nature” as such, and put his foot down only when natural philosophy appeared to undermine Christian doctrine. And what does Grayling think the mathematically skilled astronomers at the Vatican-sanctioned Jesuit Collegio Romano were up to? Contrary to what Grayling concludes, the priests were not always villains: Father Mersenne, as Grayling’s narrative itself shows, is excellent evidence for this.
philosophy  modernity 
5 weeks ago
IQ With Conscience | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
I'm an IQ realist, all the way. IQ tests aren't perfect, but they're an excellent proxy for what ordinary language calls "intelligence." A massive body of research confirms that IQ predicts not just educational success, but career success. Contrary to critics, IQ tests are not culturally biased; they fairly measure genuine group differences in intelligence.

Yet I've got to admit: My fellow IQ realists are, on average, a scary bunch. People who vocally defend the power of IQ are vastly more likely than normal people to advocate extreme human rights violations. I've heard IQ realists advocate a One-Child Policy for people with low IQs. I've heard IQ realists advocate a No-Child Policy for people with low IQs. I've heard IQ realists advocate forced sterilization for people with low IQs. I've heard IQ realists advocate forcible exile of people with low IQs - fellow citizens, not just immigrants. I've heard IQ realists advocate murdering people with low IQs.
intelligence  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Climbing Out Of Facebook's Reality Hole
The Facebook CEO took the stage at the company's annual F8 developers conference a little more than an hour after news broke that the so-called Facebook Killer had killed himself. But if you were expecting a somber mood, it wasn't happening. Instead, he kicked off his keynote with a series of jokes.

It was a stark disconnect with the reality outside, where the story of the hour concerned a man who had used Facebook to publicize a murder, and threaten many more. People used to talk about Steve Jobs and Apple’s reality distortion field. But Facebook, it sometimes feels, exists in a reality hole. The company doesn’t distort reality — but it often seems to lack the ability to recognize it.

The problem with connecting everyone on the planet is that a lot of people are assholes. The issue with giving just anyone the ability to live broadcast to a billion people is that someone will use it to shoot up a school. You have to plan for these things. You have to build for the reality we live in, not the one we hope to create. [...]

But Facebook made no nods to this during its keynote — and realistically maybe it’s naive to expect the company to do so. But it would be reassuring to know that Facebook is at least thinking about the world as it is, that it is planning for humans to be humans in all their brutish ways. A simple “we’re already considering ways people can and will abuse these tools and you can trust us to stay on top of that” would go a long way.

Instead Facebook went into the reality hole. It touted Facebook Spaces, a new social virtual reality thing that helps you escape the world while experiencing it, too. As Rachel Rubin Franklin, who used to be executive producer of Electronic Arts’ “The Sims" game and now runs Facebook’s social VR efforts, said of Spaces: “When your friends and family join your space, it’s just like really being together.”
Facebook  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Design, Complexity, and Freedom - Bleeding Heart Libertarians
Some of the problem of design has to do with complexity and how people react to complex environments. The problem with hospital birth is that too often the environment is too complex for people to make good decisions. When that happens, as Shah points out, people will revert from high-resistance modes of operation (waiting for a woman to give birth vaginally) to a low-resistance mode of operation (surgery). Rarely are the providers aware that they are doing this. They are reacting to complexity and to the situation in which they find themselves and they’re trying to find a simple way to deal with that complexity. Same thing for the Ferguson residents who don’t show up in court to deal with traffic tickets. Faced with a bewildering bureaucracy, logistical difficulties, and the high likelihood of further entanglement with the law, they choose the path of least resistance and skip their court date, inadvertently triggering an arrest warrant. Jacobs finds a similar pattern in urban design. City planners clearing slums inadvertently prevent people from solving their own housing problems and instead force them into public housing or other kinds of living arrangements they would not choose for themselves.
design  complexity  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
It might be time to begin experimenting with geoengineering schemes to test what works
It would work like this: Fleets of large drones would crisscross the upper latitudes of the globe during winter months, sprinkling the skies with tons of extremely fine dust-like materials every year. If Mitchell is right, this would produce larger ice crystals than normal, creating thinner cirrus clouds that dissipate faster. “That would allow more radiation into space, cooling the earth,” Mitchell says. Done on a large enough scale, this “cloud seeding” could ease global temperatures by as much as 1.4 °C, more than the planet has warmed since the Industrial Revolution, according to a separate Yale study.

Big questions remain about whether it would really work, what damaging side effects might arise, and whether the world should risk deploying a tool that could alter the entire climate. Indeed, the suggestion that we should entrust the global thermostat to an armada of flying robots will strike many as preposterous. But the real question is: preposterous compared to what?
climate  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
There is a blind spot in AI research
“People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” This is how computer scientist Pedro Domingos sums up the issue in his 2015 book The Master Algorithm. Even the many researchers who reject the prospect of a ‘technological singularity’ — saying the field is too young — support the introduction of relatively untested AI systems into social institutions. [...]

A social-systems analysis could similarly ask whether and when people affected by AI systems get to ask questions about how such systems work. Financial advisers have been historically limited in the ways they can deploy machine learning because clients expect them to unpack and explain all decisions. Yet so far, individuals who are already subjected to determinations resulting from AI have no analogous power.

A social-systems analysis needs to draw on philosophy, law, sociology, anthropology and science-and-technology studies, among other disciplines. It must also turn to studies of how social, political and cultural values affect and are affected by technological change and scientific research. Only by asking broader questions about the impacts of AI can we generate a more holistic and integrated understanding than that obtained by analysing aspects of AI in silos such as computer science or criminology.
AI  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Jürgen Schmidhuber on the robot future​: ‘They will pay as much attention to us as we do to ants'
Given his interest in sci-fi, has he never worried that robots will enslave and rule over us once they become self aware? Schmidhuber shakes his head. “We won’t be enslaved, at the very least because we are very badly suited as slaves for someone who could just build robots that are far superior to us.” He dismisses The Matrix, in which imprisoned humans are used to power AIs: “That was the most idiotic plot of all time. Why would you use human bioenergy to power robots when a power station that keeps them alive produces so much more energy?”

But in that case won’t robots see it as more efficient to wipe out humanity altogether? “Like all scientists, highly intelligent AIs would have a fascination with the origins of life and civilisation. But this fascination will dwindle after a while, just like most people don’t understand the origin of the world nowadays. Generally speaking, our best protection will be their lack of interest in us, because most species’ biggest enemy is their own kind. They will pay about as much attention to us as we do to ants.”
AI  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Netflix's biggest competitor? Sleep
Sometimes, tech firms have a different view of their competition than everyone else because of the sheer scale on which they operate. Google may think Google+ is a Facebook competitor, for instance; but Facebook thinks its competitors are video games and TV. You aren’t going to leave Facebook for another social network, and it knows that, so its job is to maximise the amount of time you actually spend using it. For that, it needs to be more compelling than all the other things you could be doing with your time.
tech  socialmedia  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Deregulation in Higher Education
Here there are things conservatives can do to fight against the homogenizing efforts of our administrative class. For one, break the monopoly of the regional accrediting associations. For another, make accreditation much less intrusive. More generally, the national government should just give our institutions a lot less to comply with. The result might be the laying off of a lot of compliance offers, an important cause of administrative bloat, and the national government would no longer be facilitating efforts to inhibit authentic diversity. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos trumpets school choice as a way of making quality education available to everyone, not just rich folks. A huge menu of choice is already available on the level of higher education, because the market is national and competition for the scarce resource of the residential student continues to gets more intense. Once again, we conservatives should be for the right kind of deregulation, deploying libertarian means in the service of non-libertarian ends.
academentia 
5 weeks ago
Interview with Cardinal Ratzinger :: Catholic News Agency
Raymond: And that sense of sacrifice and worship that you’ve talked about so eloquently, how do you see that being restored concretely?  Will we see a return to the ad orientem posture, facing the East, the priest facing away from the people during the Canon, a return to the Latin, more Latin in the Mass?

Cardinal: Versus orientem, I would say could be a help because it is really a tradition from the Apostolic time, and it’s not only a norm, but it’s an expression also of the cosmical dimension and of the historical dimension of the liturgy.  We are celebrating with the cosmos, with the world.  It’s the direction of the future of the world, of our history represented in the sun and in the cosmical realities.  I think today this new discovering of our relation with the created world can be understood also from the people, better than perhaps 20 years ago.  And also, it’s a common direction – priest and people are in common oriented to the Lord.  So, I think it could be a help.  Always external gestures are not simply a remedy in itself, but could be a help because it’s a very classical interpretation of what is the direction of the liturgy.  Generally, I think it was good to translate the liturgy in the spoken languages because we will understand it; we will participate also with our thinking.  But a stronger presence of some elements of Latin would be helpful to give the universal dimension, to give the possibilities that in all the parts of the world we can see “I am in the same Church.” 
liturgy  Catholic 
5 weeks ago
Habermas and the Fate of Democracy
Habermas’s life-long interest in the nexus between democracy and capitalism, however, remains. Müller-Doohm devotes nearly a quarter of his thick volume to a discussion of Habermas’s cosmopolitanism, a longstanding component of his thinking that in recent decades has taken on a central role. Habermas has always expressed sympathy for Immanuel Kant’s idea of a perpetual peace founded on cosmopolitan law. Structural Transformation posited that modern means of mass destruction underscore the need to transcend the “state of nature in international relations” that is “so threatening for everybody.” His early security-centered call for a new post national politics was then supplemented in the 1990s by the thesis that economic globalization outstrips the nation-state’s capacity to regulate its own affairs. Like many on the left, Habermas has become increasingly worried about global-level economic transformations that make it difficult especially for small and medium-sized states to maintain a generous welfare state. This diagnosis has motivated him to provide an account of how best to move towards the post national order he thinks we need.

Against those on both left and right who seek what he views as a retrograde rolling back of globalization, Habermas wants political decision-making to be scaled up to our globalizing economy. Democracy and the welfare state not only need to catch up to globalization if they are to survive, but can only do so when reconstituted in new and more inclusionary ways beyond the nation state. He considers it a mistake to try to shore up the nation state with outdated ideas of political identity based on common ethnicity or far-reaching cultural or linguistic sameness, and he attacks nationalists and populists for doing so. For today’s Europeans, he believes, only a more democratic and politically robust European Union (EU) can navigate economic globalization’s rocky waters and preserve democracy’s social presuppositions. And only in a stronger more democratic EU could more porous and tolerant political identities flourish.
politics  cosmopolitanism  democracy  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
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