Saturday, November 02, 2019

Some interesting links

Here are some interesting links I ran across this week, as we race toward winter.

First off, a look at a new high-tech helmet for bicyclists. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I'm not a fan of helmets—and this summary paragraph gives one of the biggest reasons:

And before you strap on your connected helmet, keep in mind that in so doing you’re also helping absolve drivers of responsibility, because the more gimmicky safety gear they try to foist on us the easier it is for them to blame us if we don’t use it. They already say we “come out of nowhere” because they can’t be bothered to look for us, so just wait until they’re not required to see you at all unless you’ve got a personal locator beacon in your helmet. You might as well program your Matrix dot display to read, “I surrender.”

Designing better bike helmets is a worthwhile goal, and we’re finally seeing some much-needed advancements in materials and design. As for making them “smart,” connecting our helmets to our phones seems far less urgent than getting drivers off of theirs.

OK, it was two paragraphs. Next up, what about giving all those calculators to kids in grade school? I remember back in the 1980s when Chicago announced they would be issuing calculators to kids and I thought it was a bad idea. Anyway, Times Higher Education summarizes a new study, which isn't pretty.
New research suggests that students’ reliance on technology could be undermining some of their basic mental and critical thinking skills after many failed to spot major errors in simple mathematics calculations.

The study programmed an on-screen calculator to “lie” by changing the answers displayed on certain problems and tracked whether students explicitly reported suspicion, overrode the errors or rechecked their calculations.

Upshot: basically blind trust in the calculator : ( OK, it's time for a feel-good story! This, from NPR. He won a million dollar grant and started a nonprofit. Final question in the interview and his answer are priceless, too:
What will you be talking about at the New York City Food Tank Summit this weekend?

I'd like to ask the world to involve us, the farmers, in the decisions and in building the solutions for feeding the world.

Yep. Rather than letting big-Ag set the agenda, ask the farmers who do the actual work. But, of course, that might mean less profits for the 1 percent, so it won't happen. OK, color me cynical, but I really do believe in original sin.

And, over at Jesus Creed there's a good post on being the alternative to right or left:

So, how about you? Will you join me in trying to avoid these two extremes and walk that much more demanding middle path? (Warning: you tend to get shot at by both sides when you trod the middle path.) Will you try to be a broad-minded person who transcends the barbed-wired ideological silos, avoids the religious and political echo-chambers, and intentionally reads and listens to diverse people and perspectives; while at the same time remaining tethered to some system of morality higher and greater than your own fluctuating feelings and opinions? Can we strive to become more generous in spirit as we grow more passionate in our convictions?

I know this is asking a lot. But the future of Western civilization may hang in the balance (and certainly our sanity on social media!). Moreover, for people like me who want to represent the spiritual path Jesus paved for us, we absolutely must learn to walk this third way. As we do, people will begin to experience a Christianity worth considering as they encounter people who, like Jesus, are overflowing with both “grace and truth” (John 1:14). Who’s with me?

Michael Bird takes a look at white privilege in view of Paul's letters—he's an Aussie, so he doesn't know how to spell : )
In the end, the best thing white majority churches can do to divest themselves of their privileges is to implement the ecclesial corollaries that follow on from Paul’s remarks ruling out diastolē (“distinction”) between believers (Rom 3:22; 10:12) and prosōpolēmpsia (“favouritism”) before God and within the church (Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; 1 Tim 5:21). Paul’s gospel calls us to imitate Christ in his divestment of privilege with a view to serving others rather than consciously or unconsciously merely absorbing and baptizing the resident prejudices that we live among. That is at least part of what it means to have the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).
While Righting of America asks how much of Leviticus people really want when they selectively grab portions of it:
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to advocate for stoning to death a man and women found in adultery?

If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to accept Leviticus 25, which says that every 50 years is a Jubilee to the Lord. This is a practical, actual, literal economic revival. All debts are forgiven. All prisoners are released. All land is given back to original owners. In Jubilee, the poor come to get their stuff back. The radical teaching of Jubilee insists that the practice of the economy shall be subordinated to the well-being of the neighborhood. Are evangelicals – many of whom are raising hell about food stamps and welfare – willing to take Leviticus 25 as seriously as they take Leviticus 18:22?

And he lists more. Personally, I hold to the traditional view of marriage, but also would love to see some redistribution of wealth, because, well, original sin. The wealthy will just keep on squeezing the poor until collapse happens (look at history)—or government forces them to give it over in the form of taxes. Or maybe we should adopt the Athenian way of doing things and have some of the wealthiest people fully supply a few aircraft carriers or battleships from their personal wealth! I suspect they would become less-hawkish in their views!

How do you get evangelicals to believe in human-caused (and therefore reversible) climate change? Well, this Evangelical PhD is doing a good job.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Amen and amen! Good preaching! And Warren Throckmorten digs up a book from the 1950s on demagoguery that seems only too appropriate to our time:
Allport’s question haunts me. I think he has the situation diagnosed but I don’t believe our psychology or our policies have kept up with the pace of social and technological change today. Panic and fear drove a sufficient number of presidential voters to elect a spectacularly ill-equipped reality television actor and businessman of questionable success. Panic and fear appear to be driving a defense of Trump’s abuse of power based on something other than reality. Evangelical placation of everything Trump does is almost certainly driven by panic and fear. Surely they are not walking by faith.
That sums it up, doesn't it? Fear. Problem is that fear sells.

Finally, what about those high-visibility conversions that fail? Stephen McAlpine says it's not them, but the celebrity-seeking Christian leaders (he calls them D-Listers) that are why people are repelled from Christianity. He quotes from 3 John 9, about Diotrophes, and concludes:

My hope over the next few years is not that a bunch of A-listers become Christian and influence the church. If they do, so be it, and may God get the glory from them that they so carefully crafted for themselves for so long. That’s a hard road for them, if we believe Jesus words about camels and eyes of needles.

My hope is that over the next few years the church will be brave enough to purge itself of self-glorying D-listers who, for the sake of a few small crumbs of influence and fame among those living in a Christian bubble, by their actions deny the very Lord who called them.

OK, one last post, on the supposed death of the printed book, by the CEO of academic publisher Bloomsbury (so he knows a bit about these things):
We know from conducting focus groups and our ongoing conversations with librarians, faculty, and students that print, particularly in the humanities, is still very much in demand. What we’ve heard repeatedly — and this seems to be very much in line with our peers — is that students enjoy the ease of search and discoverability of electronic resources but then often request print for more immersive reading. And maybe the greatest surprise here is that that is just as true of those matriculating now, the so-called born digital generation, as it is for those who preceded them. So there is clearly something inherently “human” about the print format that seems more nature than nurture. As someone who has always loved the printed book, I find that comforting.
Yep. that's what I'm sensing from all the people I talk to in academia. OK, I'm done for this week. Happy reading!

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