Links from the last week.
‘The Great Shame of Our Profession’. Brilliantly scathing piece on an immensely important issue:
You have asked me to speak to you today about literary criticism, and so we might note that the conditions ravaging our profession are also ravaging our work. The privilege of tenure used to confer academic freedom through job security. By now, decades of adjunctification have made the professoriate fearful, insular, and conformist. According to the AAUP, adjunct faculty are about half as likely to undertake risky research projects, and the timidity moves up the ladder. “Professionalization” means retrofitting your research so that it accommodates the critical fads that will make you marginally more employable. It means cutting and adding chapters so that feathers remain unruffled. Junior faculty play it safe—conceptually, politically, and formally—because they write for job and tenure committees rather than for readers. Publications serve careers before they serve culture.
Akhilesh Pillalamarri: Must We Have a ‘Melting Pot’? A thought-provoking piece. However, I have a few reservations about his arguments. Perhaps the greatest of these is the failure to distinguish between the very different sorts of diversity that pertained in more traditional societies and the diversity of modern individualistic multiculturalism. For instance, traditional sorts of cultural diversity were seldom about diversity as such, but about the socially choreographed interactions between certain very specific cultures, each of which had to keep in its proper place relative to the others. There were typically clear regional, class, caste, professional, or other boundaries between cultural or religious communities, boundaries that would be enforced by the state and other parties. Different cultures would also have legal, cultural, political, and geographic spaces in which to retain their distinctions.
There would often also be an imperial hegemony of one particular group over all others. It is also noteworthy that societies that protect a very specific interplay of distinct cultures are often among the most sceptical of and resistant to diversity and multiculturalism as such, or to indiscriminate immigration. National ecosystems can be fragile things and the interactions between the distinct groups within them can be radically unsettled by the influx of other parties.
Via Scott Alexander, Why We Culturally Profile. A long post calling for scepticism towards Muslim immigration, especially in its European form. Even beyond the security state and stifling of public life that have been encouraged by large scale Muslim immigration and the terrorism that has tended to accompany it, this raises difficult questions. The fact that there is such a groundswell of opposition to Muslim immigration in Europe is not an accident. Cultural and religious differences are real and don’t seem to be vanishing. Many Europeans are justifiably troubled and cynically accusing them of being racist or Islamophobic for drawing attention to uncomfortable realities is not an answer. Until we can honestly and directly address the particular concerns that people have about Muslim immigration and Muslim immigrant populations in particular, forthrightly wrestling with the facts and the prudential challenges that exist in this area, parties on the further right in Europe will continue to rise. What we really seem to need is a more pragmatic form of liberalism that recognizes the particularity of our historic cultural identities, the importance of liberal values for our societies, recognizes the importance and particularity of the socio-cultural foundations for those values, recognizes the challenge Muslim immigration presents to those foundations, while also recognizing that Muslims are already a part of our societies and are our neighbours. The right, for its part, must recognize that, even if immigration stopped overnight, Europe has been demographically transformed and we must make the new reality work for everyone, rather than nostalgically yearning for the past. Whatever injustices and failures might have led to this point, there are millions of Muslims who belong in our countries as our compatriots. While this does not mean that our countries’ native and historic cultures should be denied or reduced to just one option in a multicultural society, it does mean that we should beware of speaking in ways that either invalidate the rights of our Muslim neighbours that have been legally obtained or which fundamentally compromise our duties of hospitality and neighbourliness to them. For their part, the progressive left must recognize the empirical challenge to its orthodoxies about diversity and universalism and start to appreciate its own cultural contingency and that of liberal values more generally. This requires something beyond what either the left or the right are generally currently offering.
Interview with the historian Robert Tombs, on, among other things, British identity post Brexit.
4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump. This piece gets certain important dimensions of the gender dynamics wrong, but it gets a lot more right and is well worth a read.
These Conservative Christians Are Opposed to Trump—and Suffering the Consequences. I have mixed feelings about this piece, especially reflecting on what it does and doesn’t mention. Someone like Russell Moore would seem to be an obvious person to mention here, but it focuses almost exclusively on much less prominent women, which makes me wonder whether there is an implicit—and perhaps rather tendentious—story behind the story.
‘Every Racist I Know Voted For Donald Trump’. Particularly worth reading for Daryl Davis’ advice for changing opponents’ minds.
Donaeld the Unready’s Twitter account is a hoot.
Ben Sixsmith: A.C.’s Failings. ‘Appeals for reason are paper darts on the walls of human behaviour.’
Womanhood Redefined. Interesting exploration of the collision of transgenderism and certain forms of feminist ideology.
Spotted Toad: Hubel, Wiesel, and Sensitive Periods. Some interesting reflections on the process of learning.
Emmett Rensin: You Don’t Know Hannah Arendt. Criticizing facile appeals to Arendt in the current political context.
Reconstruction of a Train Wreck: How Priming Research Went Off the Rails. Make sure that you read Daniel Kahneman’s response in the comments too: it is a notable example of scientific virtue.
Watching Wikipedia’s extinction event from a distance. Wikipedia as a dying coral reef.
Maryland ponders dangerous ‘affirmative consent’ proposal. The modern concept of consent in relation to sex is an increasingly problematic one.
Stop Freaking Out About CRISPR! (Except For One Thing). Although organisms in the wild are developing resistance to gene drives.
Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies. The ethical myopia attending many of these new developments is concerning.
Dear Warren: Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2017 Annual Letter.
8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year. If you are really serious about reading more books, what are you doing looking at this list of links?
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra: The Story Behind John Piper’s Most Famous Attack on the Prosperity Gospel
Douglas Wilson: When Envy Tells
Scot McKnight: The Soul of Evangelicalism: What Will Become of Us?
Matt Smethurst posts the video of Sam Alberry addressing the Church of England General Synod earlier this week
Matt Colvin: Focalization in Genesis 8
J. Budziszewski: Is Toleration a Virtue?
Jake Belder: On not calling people ‘nominal’ Christians
Derek Rishmawy: Perichoresis in Aquinas: Fruit, Not Foundation
Alan Jacobs has a stimulating series of posts on the building of the tabernacle and Temple, en route to a theology of technology. Lots of thought-provoking observations and arguments, although I disagree strongly with some of them. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Science of Division
Time Out of Joint
Art, Divine and Human
Passivity and Freedom
Architecture of Fancy
Anthropology of Deficiency
On Separating Church and State
The State After ’68
Keeping Up With the Kattarshians—Live Kittens! Here’s one of their camera views:
Weta Workshop Sculptor’s Labyrinth Model
Will Arnett: LEGO Batman Toy Shop Prank (I’m seeing LEGO Batman tomorrow and am rather excited about it…)
Incredible LEGO Wall Installation
Primitive Technology: Forge Blower
Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?
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