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

1. Sprites Lightning

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

2. The Day Martin Luther’s Father Died

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Keeping Faith Without Hurting LGBT Students

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

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

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

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

8. The End of the Liberal Tradition?

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

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


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