Links from the last week (Sep 11, 2017)

OK, maybe if I write these little collections on Sunday night and set them to publish on Monday I will have time to write them, and people might find them at a time they are actually inclined to read such things!  Reminder I am more active on Twitter, but personally I enjoy reading blog-things over lunches, especially, and thought I’d put together a weekly collection of things online I found interesting, that others might find them as well, with the added benefit that maybe I can find them more easily myself if I want them later.  That said…

1. BBC Horizon The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out

And by golly the first thing I link isn’t an article.  If you have fifty minutes to kill, this is quite a delightful 1981 BBC interview with physicist Richard Feynman.  I don’t agree with him on everything (especially religion) but he has plenty to say about science and thinking that is still quite relevant in 2017.  I doubly-endorse his comments to the effect that really knowing something is hard work.  Our world today is filled with fluffy thinkers who do not know they are fluffy thinkers – go straight for the data, bypass the media reports if you can, find out what that study actually did and the data it actually obtained.  You shouldn’t have any fear of the data… at least, I have no fear of the data, maybe you’ve built your house on sand and you should fear the data!  If so rebuild the house somewhere else.  Then you needn’t fear the data.  It might just be hard to really get to it.

And now the embed…

2. Irma and Harvey Should Kill Any Doubt That Climate Change is Real

I wasn’t going to share this article but it’s actually on a related note to #1… I’m not a climate scientist, so I am generally quite happy to stay out of climate change debates on that level.  But I am enough of a scientist to see and be upset by attempts to mislead people.  Two data points do not a climatological argument make – if they did, shouldn’t a decade of no major storms an even better argument make?  But they can’t help themselves – and I have noticed this trend of grandstanding in the headline (as here), and then walking it back in the “fine print”.  Why?  Because they’re smart people, they know they can’t pin any single event on climate change, but they really really want to.  And so you end up getting statements like “well, we know climate change contributed to…”, and they don’t really make that case either, but “contributed to” could mean anything.  How much?  A 0.000002% contribution?  Should we be worried about that?  And so they get to make their big claim in the headline, and then protect themselves from rebuttal by almost entirely walking it back in the fine print.  I would call it dishonest, and they’re really hurting their own cause at this point.

3. Jon Haidt Defends Amy Wax

I hadn’t followed this Amy Wax story from the beginning but you can kind of get caught up on it here – 33 of Wax’s colleagues signed onto a letter that, in what appears to be an increasingly common trend, didn’t refute what she said, but did denounce her for it.  I especially appreciated Haidt’s point here (bold text is my own):

I have gone to great lengths to show that Wax’s central claim about culture is probably correct. But the choice to denounce or not denounce should not really hinge on whether Wax was correct; it should hinge on whether she was making an argument in good faith using methods of argumentation that fall within the normal range of her part of the academy. There are no footnotes in a opinion essay, but in Wax’s other writings on family law it is clear that she knows and is informed by the relevant social science research. Do Wax’s colleagues believe that her essay in constituted a profound violation of professional ethics, akin to data fabrication or taking a bribe? Or do they just believe that she was wrong?

4. Here Is Every Crazy Title IX Case Betsy DeVos Referenced

I guess we’re on a theme here – DeVos was attacked by many for her plans to (try to) reform some of the ways Title IX is implemented.  Generally those attacks did not actually bother trying to deal with the details of the cases she mentioned – here are those details.  Because good thinking is in the details.

5. Protecting Due Process in Sexual-Assault Cases on Campus

And on a still related note…

According to Emily Yoffe, Harvard has 55 full- and part-time Title IX coordinators.

For an undergraduate student body under 7,000, imagine that.  And you know, I appreciate stories like this in the Chronicle, because I suspect there are plenty of university administrators who would rarely or never read perspectives like this – except they do read the Chronicle.

6. Critical Theory and the Unity of the Church

You won’t find the “big names” of the Nashville Statement here, but happy to see a group of pastors and professors in the Reformed community speaking carefully on this somewhat neglected topic.

Some in the conservative Reformed community evince a laudable desire to overcome racial injustice, but they often seek to understand racial divisions by relying on categories drawn from the “critical theory” of secular academia (e.g., notions of “white privilege,” “white guilt,” “intersectionality,” and more broadly the power-analysis tradition that stems from Marx, Foucault, and others) rather than from Scripture and the Christian tradition.  As a result of this uncritical borrowing, some in the church are falling headlong into the divisive identity politics that now plague the broader culture and particularly higher education.

7. ‘Old Believers’: A World Out Of Time

Quoting a New Yorker story

…a Russian bell is not a musical instrument but, as Father Roman puts it, “an icon of the voice of God.” A Russian bell, he said, must sound rich, deep, sonorous, and clear, for how can the voice of God be otherwise? It must be loud, because God is omnipotent. Above all, Russian bells must never be tuned to either a major or a minor chord. “The voice of a bell is understood as just that,” he said. “Not a note, not a chord, but a voice.”

8. Air Taxi Startup Lilium Raises $90 Million For Electric Mini-Jet Service

End with something fun – watch the video if you can, that must be the most legitimate looking “flying car”, if you will, I’ve seen yet.  And $90 million ain’t pocket change.  We’ll see.

This week’s post brought to you by a red Moon from mid-Michigan because of wildfire smoke from the western US and Canada.