Open Mic Thread 17


The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
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  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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65 Responses to Open Mic Thread 17

  1. thrasymachus33308 says:

    Fred Phelps may have been in the essentials, right-

    My thesis is that Phelps accidentally discovered that the sexual abuse of children was quietly tolerated in Topeka, Kansas. We are seeing more and more these days instances of sexual abuse by the rich and powerful. While everyone claims to think it is horrible, it seems when it comes to making people feel uncomfortable, especially the powerful, people look the other way.

    Defenders of homosexuals will say they don’t abuse children any more than heterosexuals, but they don’t seem to put a lot of stock in things like age of consent.

  2. whitefrozen says:

    I finished and have been going back thru ‘Theologys Epistemological Dilemma’, which has been quite a good book.

  3. Just finished Esther L. Meek’s Little Manual for Knowing this week. Intoxicating little book.

    I’ve been working through her larger, more scholarly work Loving to Know: Covenant Epistemology for awhile now and I’d highly recommend it

    She’s pulling together Polanyi’s Subsidiary Focal Integration and Michael Williams’ work on “covenant” and interacting w/ the prevailing faulty epistemic default of knowledge-as-information and casting a different, “more healthy” way. It’s weird because it’s a kind of realism that not quite like any other account I’ve ever seen.

    Her work is highly recommended!

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    While I agree with Peter Leithart here that Romans 1:18 can be read as saying that the truth has been publicly suppressed, presumably by those with power, I can’t really see how that reading makes sense of the following verses.

  5. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    In general, the review of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road sums up quite nicely the problems with the book, and the whole “rebellion, revolution, and criminality lead to enlightenment” idea generally.

    And yet, something always nagged at me, reading the review. The modern version of being a good, responsible citizen/worker/consumer really is pretty stultifying and meaningless. I can totally understand why people would react against it.

    The only possible solution, of course, is a return to genuine religion, but most people in the West aren’t interested in that right now. So, we get bland suburban conformity coupled with occasional bursts of (now ritual) outrage against that, but in the end nothing really changes.

  6. quinnjones2 says:

    I see that Rob Bell is in the news again – here are some thoughts from me, as a lay-person!
    I find it all a bit of a yawn, but I also feel that I need to be able to converse reasonably sensibly with one of my friends, who thinks Bell is ‘quite interesting’, and another friend, who thinks he’s very inspiring.
    It was in response to the friend who thinks highly of Rob Bell that I read ‘Velvet Elvis’ a few years ago.
    My first hurdle was getting past the title – unlike many of my contemporaries, I was never an Elvis fan :-). I soon found Bell’s meanderings tedious because I got the impression that he was trying to take the reader (in this instance, me!) by the hand, as if to say, ‘Follow me’… and this reader was thinking, ‘But I follow Jesus; I follow the scriptures.’ I waded to the end of the book because I wanted to understand my friend’s great enthusiasm for it. I ended up saying to my friend that I found the book interesting and that I think it’s good to meditate on the scriptures, as there is always something to learn and we none of us know everything. Then I commented that Jesus seemed to say quite a lot about hell, and I wasn’t really ‘with’ what Bell seemed to be saying about it. Thankfully, this friend is still ‘searching’, and reading ‘Velvet Elvis’ is part of his search.
    The main thing for me was that feeling I got that Bell was suggesting ‘Follow me’, and my own response of ,’Well, no.’ I had the same response to reading ‘The God Delusion’. I read that because a member of my family, a ‘devout humanist’, is a great fan of Dawkins. I got through about 20-30 pages of that and by then, I felt as if I was trying to walk through toffee, and I gave up. A church leader helped me out my lending me Alister McGrath’s ‘The Dawkins Delusion.’ The best I can offer now to Dawkins fans is ‘ Oh, I prefer Alister McGrath.’ There was a bonus with this – a gas plumber, who came to do a safety check at my house, noticed the McGrath book on a table and got interested, and got talking about his own beliefs and doubts.
    The ‘Follow me’ thought is a good litmus test for me when I read anything about the Christian faith. If I can see that the writer is inviting the reader to follow Jesus and the scriptures, then I read on, with interest, although I may neither understand, nor agree with, some of it .

  7. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    My thoughts on the Freddie de Boer piece on race science:

    1. I came to think that the cause of underperformance by certain measures of specific non-white groups has a significant genetic component, because it is hard to reconcile certain facts with any social explanation. Controlling for IQ, American blacks make 98% of what American whites make and the IQ gap between those groups shows up as soon as we can measure it. So, racism in the U.S., which I don’t deny exists, is apparently powerful enough to severely impair the intelligence of black infants or very small children, but seems utterly powerless to prevent them from earning almost 100% compared to whites with similar intelligence. I suppose that’s possible, but it doesn’t seem terribly likely.
    2. All people like DeBoer ever really point to as evidence that it is racism which is keeping down many non-white minorities are differences in outcome. But, of course, there are other potential causes. These arguments seem to line up like this: We did terrible things to group X in the past and they are underperforming by some measure now, so the one must be causing the other. That is certainly plausible at first look. But it doesn’t necessarily follow. We could have done something awful to group X and their underperformance could have some completely unrelated cause. Or, we could even be doing something bad to group X now and their underperformance could again be caused by something completely unrelated.
    3. We’re going to know one way or another for sure in the next 10 to 15 years. More studies like this are going to come along. The data on genes is out there, and being looked at for other relatively uncontroversial reasons.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I also find him a bit starry eyed on the ability of the justice system to (eventually) deal with rape. Rape is a hard crime to prove because it usually takes place away from other witnesses, is often indistinguishable physically from consensual intercourse, has victims who are reluctant to come forward, and is a crime with a non-trivial number of false accusations.

      Laying aside the dubious statistics on rape at colleges and universities, I do think there are a large number of rapes, particularly among the lower classes, that are going unreported and unprosecuted. It’s just a hard crime to prosecute and deal with adequately more generally.

      So, there is a real problem here, and people want to do something about it, but there doesn’t seem to be anything obvious that can be done.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      BTW, false rape accusations seem to be around 2-8%. That is under a system that is fairly harsh to rape victims. If we just uncritically believed the story of every alleged rape victim, I don’t see how that number wouldn’t rise quite drastically.

    • Matt Petersen says:

      I work in social sciences, so perhaps I can respond briefly to your points:

      1) I’d be careful putting too much weight into IQ. What is being measured? Does the fact that we have attached a number to something mean that there is an underlying reality that is measured? Then: Are the tests themselves, perhaps, favorable toward middle class white people: Are there reasons that we tend to do well–for instance; familiarity with testing environments; an English on the tests that more closely matches the English we speak; a Black perception that the tests measure whiteness that makes them uncomfortable with the tests and so perform more poorly; the tests measure a type of activity valued in the white community more than in the black community; etc.

      2) I’m not sure that’s accurate. What happened is: For 200 years, the white community stole from the black community. We stopped stealing, but we haven’t made any restitution. That is, we continue to profit from the theft, with interest. Thus, for instance, the median black college graduate has less wealth (roughly net worth) than the median white high school dropout; and at equivalent income levels, white people have more wealth than black people.

      Additionally, there remains large levels of segregation (, with the effect that poor white people generally live in middle-class neighborhoods, and so have “successful” friends, family and neighbors, whereas poor black people tend to live in poor neighborhoods, and so tend to have poor friends, family and neighbors; with the effect that there is more of a safety net for white people than for black.

      Finally, there are active differences in treatment of people from both communities. For instance, crimes by black people are often treated as far worse than crimes by white people. (I can find examples when I have time.) And crimes against white people as worse than crimes against black people. We see this with the treatment of Eric Garner. Perhaps more importantly, the war on drugs is disproportionately waged against black communities (white drugs aren’t targeted, black drugs are), with the result that many black men are forcibly removed from their community and locked up for five or ten years. And when they re-enter society they go back to their troubled neighborhoods. Etc. Etc.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        1. IQ highly correlates with a wide, wide variety of real world results that wouldn’t seem to have much to do directly with what the tests test. It’s measuring something real.

        2. The alleged cultural bias of IQ tests is wildly exaggerated. For example, the difference is greater on non-verbal tests than verbal tests. The difference also shows up in tests like the backwards digit span, which no culture teaches anyone to do.

        3. The exactness of IQ’s explanatory power is also something that never seems to get answered. If IQ wasn’t measuring something real, or was somehow culturally biased, you shouldn’t have things like near identical results between races when you control for IQ. It should be more random. But it isn’t.

        (I mean really, the absolute precision with which the alleged effects of racism matches up with what happens when you control for IQ is unnerving.)

        4. The children of middle class blacks parents living in middle class neighbourhoods show significant regression to the mean. Which again suggests genetic causes.

        5. The crime issue was recently dealt with well here. Racism in the criminal justice system exists, but it doesn’t seem nearly enough to account for what you want it to account for.

        (In further comments, you should assume that I know the literature in this area better than you, despite whatever credentials you may have.)

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I’ll add that stereotype threat and other priming effects tend to disappear under high stakes conditions.

  8. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi TMWW and Matt,
    I have read your above posts with interest and I wonder where black Caribbean males fit into this? I have limited general knowledge about this, but I do have a ‘slice of life’ from teaching in some tough Coventry schools and (on short-term supply) in one very tough Birmingham school. I found that black Caribbean teenage boys treated me with much more respect than they treated some of my male colleagues. On one occasion, a male colleague was trying to contain a near-riot in the adjoining classroom and a large group of Caribbean lads in my group made a bee-line for the door of our room because they wanted to join in.I managed to get to the door first and stood there with my hand on the handle. I had no way of restraining them physically – they out-numbered me, of course, and were towering over me height-wise. The best I could do was to plead with them and tell them I’d be very upset if they joined in. Their response was, ‘We don’t want to upset you, Ma’am. We wouldn’t hurt you’, and they sat down again! Someone told me they have a matriarchal society. [Is Lenny Henry typical? :-)]I received far less respect from Asian boys and was told, by an Asian colleague, that this was because theirs is a very patriarchal society.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      IQ doesn’t seem to be a particularly malleable trait through purely social means (though nutrition during development appears to have a significant effect). However, many other behavioural traits can be formed through instruction/example/punishment/stigma etc.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I have been wondering if the outcome with Eric Garner might have been different if the police officers had been women – might he have responded to them differently?
      RE IQ – just briefly – I think it’s a potential which may or may not be used fruitfully and may or may not be measurable. [Mine is genius level, by the way ;-)]

      • The Eric Garner arrest was supervised by an African American woman.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        The Garner story may be an example of police brutality, but the racial angle seems a stretch.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I won’t comment further on IQ and race after this (apologies to Alastair for bringing such a controversial topic here), but my two main points stand: 1. Don’t be totally shocked if studies show different genetic potential for things like intelligence in different ancestry groups. 2. We’re going to know the definitive answer to these questions one way or another within the lifetime of most of us here.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I guess in my roundabout way, I was saying the DeBoer’s original piece was a bit of unwarranted bravado, and there are likely to be some shocks and/or severe disappointments for anyone who takes a position like him.

  9. quinnjones2 says:

    But the ‘chokehold ‘ officer was a man, and as far as I can see in the video, the officers surrounding Eric Garner were men. So Eric Garner’s initial resistance was to men. I don’t know if he could actually see the woman supervising officer. It also seemed to me that one male officer was trying to pull the ‘chokehold’ officer away from Eric Garner, but despite viewing the video several times, I still find it difficult to see all the details of what happened.

  10. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi TMWW Re: your comment posted Dec. 5th 2014 at 7.34 pm. Yes, I think the ‘chokehold’ officer used excessive force.I also think the officers waited patiently while Eric had his vociferous and self-righteous outburst. I just wondered if Eric might have had a more moderate response to a woman (as those Caribbean lads did to me ) – trying to make excuses for Eric!How the police might have responded to a similar altercation with a white person, I do not know.

  11. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Patton Oswalt on Lucky Charms breakfast cereal and its relation to Christianity and paganism. Language warning.

    (BTW he’s talking about a potential conversation he might have with his new daughter if he hadn’t given up LSD.)

  12. quinnjones2 says:

    Just getting on my soap-box for a minute or two – I just read on Sky news that a government advisor, Graham Wilmer, has described child sex abuse as a ‘National Health Epidemic’. I would describe it as a social cancer. It is rooted in duplicity, injustice and cruelty, the opposite of truth, ,justice and mercy , which we Christians value so highly.
    Satan must be laughing his socks off.
    Back to Ephesians 6 – and praying that the government will take heed of what Mr. Wilmer has said.

  13. Matt Petersen says:

    A more fun response to Anidjar. (Albeit, to a different book.)

  14. Matt Petersen says:

    Have you read Beyond Sacred Violence? Jon Levinson recommends it, and it’s excellent.

    It’s a comparative treatment of Jewish and Vedic sacrifice, paying particular attention to vegetal offerings, and liquid offerings, and arguing that death is often only incidental to sacrifice.

  15. whitefrozen says:

    Anyone following the CIA torture investigation/reports? I wont post links due to graphoc content – you can follow it easily enoigh online – but yikes. Yikes.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Hi Whitefrozen,
      I have read some of your RT’s about it. It’s harrowing, and beyond my ken how the interrogators thought up some of the atrocities -they also brutalized themselves by behaving as they did. I suppose the only good thing about it is that it has finally come to light.I just hope there won’t be too much backlash against USA authorities in the wake of this news.

  16. quinnjones2 says:

    Does celebrity matter more than Christ?! I’ve just seen VB’s RT ’25 courageous #LGBT celebs who came out of the closet this year.’ I don’t know how many of these ‘celebs’ are Christian, but I’m
    getting a bit wound-up… time for a deep breath…and deep prayer 🙂

  17. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I know she’s your friend, but that Elizabeth Stoker Breunig piece was awful. Actually I think her analysis has things backwards. The main thing the left has going for it is a bunch of sob stories. It is actually people on the right, both libertarians and social conservatives, that are usually better at structural analysis. Has she ever heard of Bastiat’s What is Seen and What is Not Seen? The left has almost no recognition of how their preferred policies can fray the social fabric.

    The sheer breathtaking cluelessness of the article was awesome!

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Leftist “structural” analysis often comes in a couple forms:

      1. Handwaving to disguise the fact that the “structure” that is problematic is human nature.
      2. Mystifying perfectly clear and well understood problems to make them sound more insidious than they really are. For example, a leftist will often talk about vague ‘structural’ problems that result in, for example, poor people being more likely to be convicted of criminal offenses than rich people when charged with the same crimes. Well, the ‘structural’ problem there is that the poor can’t afford as good a lawyers. There are various possible remedies for that problem, but none are without their trade offs.

      • These are certainly common problems with leftist structural analysis, but they are hardly universal. Nor are they at all exclusive to left wing analysis. For instance, people on the right who speak about the problem of ‘fatherlessness’ in African American communities are, in my experience, often oblivious and inattentive to the sort of factors that contribute to this. Also, ‘human nature’ or ‘sin’ are also typically used in a handwaving and vague fashion, distracting from close and serious analysis of specific issues in no less unhelpful a manner, treating particular social injustices—not merely injustice in general—as a sort of fatalistic necessity.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      The use of “cultures of rape” is also problematic. Aside from some outright criminal organizations, I don’t think there actually are any cultures that socialize men to rape or even encourage them to think that it isn’t a big deal. Certainly not any with any social standing in our society.

      What you do sometimes have is unsupervised and unsocialized men who get out of hand. I severely question the wisdom of allowing very young men and women to supervise their own group drinking. But even being in favour of such foolishness just isn’t the same thing actually encouraging or even being indifferent to rape.

      • As you can probably imagine, if you have not already seen me write on the subject, I have many problems with the manner in which the concept of ‘rape culture’ is employed, even though I believe that there are many real social evils that are highlighted in such critiques. I think that feminists and their allies overplay their rhetorical hand in many of their accounts of ‘rape culture’, in a manner that leads to important concerns being dismissed.

        What is being described is not so much the socialization of men to rape or even the suggestion that it isn’t a big deal. Rather, it is more a matter of society’s failure adequately to socialize certain men not to rape, the various messages and practices that put society into the position of passive bystander in situations where rape occurs, and the ways that the rapist is treated as if an entirely natural evil that our society is powerless to address in any manner beyond placing responsibility upon potential victims.

    • I think that Bruenig’s piece was on target in its fundamental point, about the danger of over-reliance upon individual narratives. However, I think that she was mistaken in treating this as if it were primarily a fault on the right. It isn’t. As you suggest, even though they definitely don’t have a monopoly upon them, the actually existing left depends extremely heavily upon individual narratives. Although there is an attempt to engage with systemic issues, the systemic issues are often distorted as they are refracted through the distorting lens of individual cases. The article wasn’t clueless, just partisan in a way that scuttled any possibility of the sort of even-handed criticism that it could have engaged in. That said, I suspect that, if pressed, Bruenig would be quite prepared to grant this. It seems to me that her caricature was adopted more for the rhetorical end of recalling a partisan audience to its best self than for the purpose of descriptive honesty.

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