Links Post 14/01/2017

Links from the past week.

Matt Lee Anderson recently reminded me of this sobering quotation from T.S. Eliot on Liberalism:

That liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards, something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and the destination is likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in imagination. By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

Older post on Amish principles for technological adoption. I was reminded of this piece by someone’s dismissive remark on Sousa’s concerns about recorded music. While some of Sousa’s concerns may seem ill-founded in retrospect, recorded sound has definitely changed our relationship to music as a society. The task of making music and song has largely been outsourced to professionals and electronic devices. Most families and communities no longer gather together to sing and make music. Our folk music traditions have been profoundly weakened. The recorded voice increasingly substitutes for that of our families, friends, and neighbours. We increasingly sing in imitation of recorded artists, rather than in our own voices. See also: Amish buggies are more high-tech than you think.

When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites

Students want universities to act like parents, but they won’t like the results. I don’t believe that this is quite accurate. Rather, the university is increasingly becoming more like a business and students, rather than submitting to institutional ends that transcend and challenge them, are expecting a more pleasant experience as entitled consumers.

Qu’ran passage denying the deity of Christ recited in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Swiss town denies passport to vegan anti-cowbell campaigner ‘for being annoying’

The sexual habits of Parisians

Burke Was No Conservative

Heuristics Work Until They Don’t

Interesting hypothesis about the measles vaccine: amnesia for the immune system

Why Killer Whales and Humans go through Menopause

Do you have a boy under ten whose interest in science you want to encourage? Scientists are building an animal fart database.

Scientists use light to trigger killer instinct in mice

Fascinating dual function hypothesis for sex differences in the brain

Women Killed By Superbug Resistant to All 26 American Antibiotics

Jake Meador on the Liturgies of Soccer. See also Karl Ove Knausgaard on Life, the Beautiful Game.

The Gender Wars and Domestic Stress

Gender differences in the benefits of having a pet

Association between delay of child-bearing and education largely mediated by family environment

Charles Hodge’s Famous Footnote on Friedrich Schleiermacher

In praise of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy

Explorers find disease-cursed City of the Monkey God and nearly lose their faces to flesh-eating parasite

20 cent centrifuge made of paper

The failure of the Implicit Association Test, a favoured test for racism

Zwingli and the rise of Reformed expository preaching

James Hoffmeier on the Bible and immigrants

The Devil and Hilary Mantel

The Extraordinary Size of Amazon in One Chart

David Bowie presciently discusses the Internet in 1999

Some Blue Collar Workers Probably Shouldn’t do Pink Jobs

Effects of concussion upon the brain

The Internet as a machine of passing judgment

Drug helps rotten teeth regenerate

Freddie deBoer on the importance of criticizing people. When you take people seriously, you don’t pat them on the head.

Cracking the case of Shakespeare’s identity

Brexit as identity politics

Yes, Biology Helps Explain Why Boys and Girls Play Differently

The Radical Calm of Alex Honnold. On the famous free climber.

Discussion of the work of social psychologist Roy Baumeister

Tim Keller Goes For a Walk

Derek Rishmawy reviews N.T. Wright’s latest on the atonement

Trying to imagine what a longsword duel should be like:

Salvaging a sunk ship and 1,400 cars:

Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?

The comments of this thread are also free for you to:

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Over to you!

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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18 Responses to Links Post 14/01/2017

  1. Ian Miller says:

    I have to admit, I say I love swordfighting, but I really dislike the trend of swordfighting in the films these days to emphasize punching and kicking. My favorite swordfight, in The Princess Bride, does have a couple of punches and kicks, but is mainly bladework. I really started noticing the trend to include tons of punches and kicks and wrestling when George Lucas decided to add this to the lightsaber choreography in Revenge of the Sith, which I thought made lightsabers and Jedi much less cool (adding to the incredibly decrease in cool that the prequels had already created). Perhaps such is more realistic, but I don’t watch swordfights for realism, but for the same reason I watch gymnastics. Eh.

  2. Joshua says:

    Longswords are no joke. Swords in general are a LOT harder to use for extended periods of time than the movies suggest. Weapons in general tire you out quite quickly.

    The princess Bride is a garbage movie, tho.

  3. Joshua says:

    On an unrelated to any of these links note, the wife and I have been watching Sabrina, the teenage witch, and it is fascinating how perceptive the show is when it comes to the social aspect of high school – the formative years, I guess we’d call them. The incredibly complex layers and hierarchies of relationships that are established and have to be navigated is really something of a marvel.

  4. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I have a few thoughts about your link to Peter Ould’s article (on Ian Paul’s blog page) about the Qu’ran passage denying the deity of Christ recited at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.
    I think that the following statement by Peter Ould is spot on:
    ‘…this is an issue that goes way beyond inter-faith hospitality, respect or education. It’s one thing to share an example of Muslim scriptures in a non divine service context, It’s another to specifically incorporate them into Anglican liturgy. What we pray is what we believe after all.’ When I read elsewhere that Kevin Holdsworth, the Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, had lodged a complaint with the police about hate-mail he had received following the publicity about the inclusion of this Qu’ran reading at the service, I decided to read the Provost’s article in response to criticisms he had received. I expected this article to include some details about the criticisms and the Provost’s responses to these criticisms and it did indeed answer some of the questions I had in my mind, but it also left me with some unanswered questions.
    Kevin Holdsworth explained the background to this inter-faith service and I appreciated his words, ‘One of the features of local life in Glasgow in recent years is growing friendship amongst people of different faiths’, words which were followed by a number of instances of how these friendships have grown. He then explained that he contacted the police because he and the Vice Provost received ‘…Islamophobic and other hate filled messages…’ He also wrote this:
    ‘The same Qu’ranic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is a Cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a woman? Clearly those things are a factor as they feature in some of the abuse.’ I agree with the Provost that the mail he described is totally unacceptable.
    However I do find it disconcerting that the Qu’ran reading, described by the Provost as a ‘recitation’, seemed to be included as an integral part of the service. On this point I endorse the statement made by Peter Ould, which I quoted above.
    What intrigued me was not only the fact that the Provost’s comments on the ‘hate mail’ and the ‘recitation’ were not mentioned until later in his article, but also the fact that this statement came near the beginning: ‘If there was any controversy on the evening it was over the tune I’d picked for Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning, which may have taken some people by surprise.’ We sang that wonderful hymn at our 9.00 a.m. service on 8th January and I played (on the digital piano) the tune ‘Epiphany Hymn’ by Joseph Thrupp, because that is the tune most of our congregants know best. I wondered which tune the Provost had chosen, but I did not need to wonder for long – he chose ‘the correct one’! Here is the closing paragraph of his article:
    ‘And to have the last word about the service itself, the tune we used for Brightest and Best was the correct one. No arguments.’ I had no idea that there was a ‘correct’ tune for Brightest and Best – different churches choose different tunes, and I believe that there are at least six different tunes. Was Kevin Holdsworth’s final comment a tongue-in-cheek comment? Why did he choose to make the choice of tune the ‘Alpha and Omega’ of his article? Can we hope that he might become equally emphatic about using correct Anglican liturgy in future? I don’t know!

  5. cal says:

    The piece on Mantel and Cromwell was interesting, but absolutely frustrating. It was psychoanalysis on Mantel viz. linking her two books and functioned as a reason to explain why she is so mean about Thomas More. Even if Mantel is wrong, the author hardly offers a better solution. Even though the author’s very creative and got a great knack for writing, but I felt like I got tricked into the ending. But it’s in accordance with First Things: there’s that easy slide from Mantel’s bizarre autobiographical experience with the demonic to, ergo, Cromwell was a bad man, a God-hater, and a vindictive malignant against poor ol’ St. Tom. I’m never sure whether she’s criticizing Mantel’s depiction or the historical actors themselves, it gets fuzzy.

    I liked Wolf Hall, but I guess I also never really like A Man for All Seasons, either.

    • Yes, there’s a certain kind of Catholic who prefers the More of faith over the More of history, and Mantel annoys them. The article raises some really stimulating discussions for me, but they are tangential to much of its argument.

      • cal says:

        What were those questions? Even if it was annoying, it was riveting to read and I got this spooky sense throughout it, like watching one of those dark detective shows about the relatively mundane evil right around the corner and right under the surface.

      • Some of the major questions it raised for me concern the way that experience of the demonic is a lot more common than we might think and yet our society doesn’t really offer us much of a vocabulary or framework in which to talk about it.

  6. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    The most prescient of Sousa’s concerns was that the advent of mechanically recorded and distributed music could create a brutally stratified caste system that would involve producers and consumers of music that would damage amateur activity. While I don’t think amateur activity declined to the levels Sousa seemed to fear the stratification of professional and amateur musical life definitely happened. Paul Hindemith’s mid-20th century put-down of American musical education as that it was only good at producing music teachers who produced music teachers and filled kids with dreams of how any one of them could be the “next Beethoven”. Of course Hindemith thought Americans were ultimately pretty dumb but that’s another topic itself.

    One of Sousa’s other concerns was that the advent of a recorded music industry would completely homogenize musical culture in the mainstream and on this issue it would seem a majority of mainstream music critics might actually agree. It DOES seem like all the pop songs start to sound the same after a while. Sousa clearly didn’t anticipate that a countervailing impulse in the age of recorded music would be the indie/hipster/alterative/underground form of consumption. Nor did Sousa’s address factor in how extra-musical coding has never left music. The advocates for absolute music have always failed because we keep imputing social meanings and functions to music even when none seems to be given.

    But there are advantages to recorded music. We can listen to Britten and Hindemith playing their own music. We can preserve, as far as possible, the entire recorded history of music. it has limits, but being able to conceive of music across a millennium and covering the entire planet is quite a feat.

    One of my pet peeves in the last five years has been how music history and education tends to presuppose differences between “high” and “low” that I think are less a “real thing” and more a function of branding. There’s no inherent reason that using chromatic median chord cycles and octatonic bass lines has to be confined to either Stravinsky and Scriabin on the classical side or to Stevie Wonder’s chorus to “Living for the City” on the other. My beef with the kind of identity politics narratives music styles have been getting is that it can distract us from a more exciting possibility that the age of recorded music and analysis could open to us, the idea that the putatively inherent boundaries between musical styles and forms are quite a bit more permeable than academics have led us to believe. It’s the basic point I didn’t see getting discussed enough in the no-jazz-at-Yale controversy from a couple of years back.

  7. jacobther says:

    Hi, I would like to make a bold prediction. I think it is highly likely that Alastair will be elevated to ‘rockstar’ theologian status with the release of his theology of sexuality book. It will be such a breath(blast, rather) of fresh air.Hope he gets time to continue blogging!!

  8. shawniana says:

    Hello! Actually if you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering how you come across so many articles across such a diverse spectrum of websites. Do you gradually amass them and add them to your feed or do you bookmark them and visit them weekly? (I’m trying to increase my scope of reading) Thanks so much!

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