Links from last week (March 26, 2018)

Perhaps I will again try these written-on-Sundayish posted-on-Mondayish collection of some links I found interesting the week before.

1. Peeranormal

Just a podcast put together by Michael Heiser where he (and his co-hosts) look at “paranormal” phenomenon through the lens of peer-reviewed literature.  Listened to part of the “Bible Codes” episode – immediately, upon realizing (or remembering) that there are textual variations between the manuscripts we have, it is almost impossible to believe in a Bible Code.  (Single letter differences that don’t affect content might not matter if you’re just reading the Bible, but if you’re treating it as some kind of code, they suddenly do.)  On the other hand, in another episode where they consider reports of organ transplant recipients who claim to have memories from those who donated the organs, they seem to come away believers…

2. The Post-Truth Civilization

Rod Dreher shares an extended quotation by R.G. Collingwood’s 1940 book, “An Essay on Metaphysics”.  But it made me think of, actually, something from the day before, when I attended a lecture about the history of Roman Catholicism in Lansing.  One point made by the speaker was that the KKK repeatedly caused trouble for Catholics, including a 1920s push to outlaw parochial schools.  They were opposed, in that case, by Protestants and Catholics alike.

But that made me wonder if we could see the same sort of push in the future in the United States – there are plenty of people in America who don’t like the existence of religious schools and, especially, homeschooling.  If you don’t believe me just read some of the replies in response to posts about the Austin bomber.  But I also think… unfortunately, we are more sophisticated now.  We’ve figured out that straightforwardly banning things just creates alarm, provokes rebellion, and generally looks bad.  You don’t want to do that.  What you want to do instead is pass rules and regulations to just gradually make life more and more difficult for the other team, and also require them to gradually act more and more like you.  And eventually you’ll accomplish almost what you would have accomplished with a ban, and a lot of people won’t even realize it happened.  Which has some parallels to this excerpt:

Next let us suppose that the tissues of the civilization invaded by this irrationalist disease are to a considerable extent resisting it. The result will be that the infection can progress only by concealing its true character behind a mask of conformity to the spirit of the civilization it is attacking. The success of the attack will be conditional on the victims’ suspicions not being aroused. Thus in educational institutions an explicit proposal to abandon the practice of orderly and systematic thinking would only bring those who made it into disrepute, and discredit them with the very persons they were trying to infect. But so long as nothing like a panic was created, liberties could be taken which would quickly have proved fatal among persons whose faith in scientific thought had not already been weakened. Let a sufficient number of men whose intellectual respectability is vouched for by their academic position pay sufficient lip-service to the ideals of scientific method, and they will be allowed to teach by example whatever kind of anti-science they like, even if this involves a hardly disguised breach with all the accepted canons of scientific method.

3. Science Olympiad

I have helped out with Science Olympiad every year at LCC and thoroughly enjoyed myself, made me look into the history of it a little bit – of course the first National Tournament was at Michigan State University.  Just like with FIRST Robotics, for whatever the reason (perhaps the industrial history of the state), science programs are big in Michigan.

4. Student at Providence College Attacked for Sharing Catholic Teaching

I don’t need to comment on this article, except to say – it continues to astound me that people who will rip down someone’s display, and then make enough of a commotion that campus security feels the need to escort that someone away because they fear for his safety, can then proudly proclaim that they “welcome everybody”.  And actually (near as I can tell) believe it.  Like I’ve said before, America (and especially academia) is chock full of people who love to draw lines and declare people to be heretics, who are firmly and proudly convinced that they are not like those terrible people who draw lines and declare people to be heretics.

5. Cambridge Analytica Is The Juicero Of Political Data Firms

If you believe what you read, the Cambridge Analytica story is a blockbuster. It is a tale of intrigue and data breaches and manipulation on a mass scale, the sort of thing ripped from the type of paperback spy thriller you discard without a thought after a plane trip — except real. But if you ask anyone from the world Cambridge Analytica tried to inhabit — the highly competitive world of data consulting — about what Cambridge was offering campaigns, the story that emerges is very different. It is transformed into a story about our increasingly credulous media — apparently incapable of understanding how Facebook, the very entity that drives so much of their traffic, actually works — and how journalists are eager to believe the worst about anything, even humdrum data mining, in the age of Donald Trump.

And on a related note…

6. Why the Techlash Won’t Go Away

One, Quillette has a lot of good pieces today if you don’t know about them.  Two – I do wonder if we are living through one of those (minor) historical moments where a good thing (people generally remembering that all that stuff they share online is visible to people they aren’t thinking about, and being smarter about it), is done for perhaps not the most rational of reasons (the idea that there was anything especially unusual about what Cambridge Analytical was doing).  Hey, I’ll take it.  I also wrote a post sharing some of the internet privacy/etc. tools I find personally helpful.

7. Lessons in Leadership Lost

Old link, but came back to mind.

A good leader can do a lot of good, but it takes a very long time. As I’ve said before (it probably didn’t originate with me), young people tend to overestimate the good that they can do in 5 years and underestimate the good that they can do in 50 years. If you think, “I’m going to go change the world this summer. Just give me three years—by the time I’m thirty”—no, you’re going to do a lot less than you think you will. But to faithfully plod along for 50 years and look back and see all the good that God has done for you—that’s remarkable.

This week brought to you by Geology field trips to the Michigan Capitol.

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