The Politics of Premature Rule

I’ve just posted over on the Political Theology Today blog, on the subject of the Fall as a story of premature rule:

The example of the adam and his wife should be a cautionary one for us, encouraging us to exercise a great deal more trepidation in our approach to politics and rule. Too often in our exercise of political theology, we may proceed under the blithe assumption that we are suited for rule in the wider world, without having first attended to the more rudimentary and far less glamorous task of learning wisdom through faithful obedience, lessons learned in the small things of life.

In our day, the church can, in an overweening desire to wield influence on the national stage, neglect or abandon the immediate tasks given to it, forsaking the serving and guarding of the various gardens in which it has been placed for the dangerous promise of a prominence and a power for which it is not prepared. As in Eden, the result is shameful exposure of guilt and insufficiency.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Ethics, Genesis, Guest Post, OT, Politics, Theological | 6 Comments

Links Post 25/02/17

Links from the last week. This will be the last such post for a while, as I won’t be posting any over Lent.

Putting Work in Its Place. An immensely stimulating discussion of the current problems with work in the light of Hegel’s understanding of the state. Don’t let that put you off.

Hegel’s basic point is that the concrete way in which individuals win distinction as members of the economy should be the basis for their participation in the common good. Rather than do away with all partial associations at the level of the state (which was Rousseau’s solution and still the model for contemporary French republicanism), Hegel’s state gives them equal recognition. In contemporary terms, a system that accords a representative role to all elements of civil society, not just powerful ones such as Wall Street and big business, could relieve the problem of state capture by special interests. By acknowledging all guilds, vocations, and professions, the state enables them to transcend their purely individual, self-interested character. By bringing representatives of each profession face to face for the purpose of deliberating on matters of public concern, they come to know and respect each other as distinctive parts of the common good. The state can thus be seen to recapture a kind of family spirit at the level of society as a whole, but in a way that preserves rather than dissolves the differences of civil society.

Nicholas Eberstadt: Our Miserable 21st Century. How work, health, and social mobility are all languishing.

The Religious Origins of Fake News and ‘Alternative Facts’. A lot of truth to this, I think.

Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. Worth exercising some caution in reading such articles. Research in some of these areas has faced embarrassing replication issues.

With recent developments, a number of us have unfortunately been given occasion to ruminate on the phenomenon of Milo Yiannopoulos. Ross Douthat gives some thoughts on the meaning of Milo. Ben Domenech argues that everyone is wrong about Milo and CPAC. I’ve commented here and here. Peter Leithart posts a great quotation here:

East Asia values discipline, concentration, long years of practice and utter mastery; with an exceptional head start and rare talent, Yuja Wang has earned the imperial right to conjure up Beethoven as a kindred spirit and transgress in his giant footsteps. The West values offhandedness, improvisation, luck and self-made celebrity, the qualities that make Milos Yiannopoulos a figure of admiration for the Right and an object of obloquy for the Left. In whose hands are the great accomplishments of the West more secure?

Tom Owolade: Violent protest is not the answer. It doesn’t work and it is unjust.

Scott Alexander steelmans some people who he believes get an unfair share of criticism.

Robert Verbruggen on criteria for immigration: Give Us Your High Achievers. Another interesting piece I recently reread on that subject by Lyman Stone, who argues that we should restructure and raise immigration. I have disagreements with both arguments, but they are important grist for the mill.

They won’t admit it in Stockholm, but Donald Trump is right about immigration in Sweden

Spotted Toad has some thoughtful reflections on the recent Mere Fidelity podcast with Yuval Levin. He also writes on why everything is a problem.

On that subject, Mark Zuckerberg is making presidential noises. We should all be very worried.

Alan Jacobs on the difference between Twitter and reading a book and why you should be using RSS. He’s absolutely right. I use feedly and would recommend it. It’s how I manage to read widely enough to fill links posts like this!

Adam Roberts on the appeal of Roald Dahl for children.

Preschool can provide a boost, but the gains can fade surprisingly fast

Larry Cahill has a superb treatment of the subject of sex differences in the brain. Cordelia Fine et al respond to it here.

Are girls really better at reading than boys—or are the tests painting a false picture? In keeping with the gender similarities hypothesis.

Steve Sailer has an interesting discussion of women’s sports, arising out of a recent story about a woman in the WNBA bullied for being straight. As one of the commenters remarks: ‘Genuinely popular men’s sports are more like battles; genuinely popular women’s sports are more like beauty contests.’

Universities admit students who are ‘almost illiterate’, lecturers warn

Students to be offered degrees over two years

Research finds that psychotherapy generally brings about undesirable changes in personality

The Power of Tribes. Why businesses need to think in terms of large cultural zones.

Trevor Phillips: political correctness ushered in the populist wave

Are Liberals Helping Trump?

Sarah Perry has produced a diagram of human universals

Why I won’t let any male babysit my children. A highly controversial and, I believe, extreme position, but not an irrational one. Worth discussing.

A Frank Talk With Jessa Crispin About Why Modern-Day Feminism Is Full of S**t. I’m not much of a fan of feminism in any of its iterations (although it has been responding to real injustices in many cases), but I can at least take this sort of feminism more seriously. Contemporary feminism, like much else in our society, seems to have fallen prey to the culturally asphyxiating capitalist exaltation of self-expression over all else. Provided that there is no external constraint upon your choices, you are supposedly expressing your individuality and that should be celebrated. Given liberalism’s universalism, individuals are all essentially the same and so all of our differences are ultimately indifferent representations of the fundamental reality of the self and its will. The problem is that, even in our ‘free’ choices, we are expressing things that are greater than the self and either elevate or diminish us. Second wave feminists get this, for which they have my respect.

Do You See What I See? On differing colour perception between cultural groups.

The Monk Who Saves Manuscripts From ISIS

Thousands of horsemen may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local population

Everyone was dead: When Europeans first came to B.C., they stepped into the aftermath of a holocaust

Desert people evolve to drink water poisoned with deadly arsenic

When it comes to heart attacks, women are different from men

Brain computer interface advance allows fast and accurate typing by people with paralysis

Germany unveils zero-emissions train that only emits steam

Where did England’s counties get their names?

Big females rule in the animal kingdom

Can there be war without soldiers? Older but disturbing piece.

Texas graduate student discovers a Walt Whitman novel lost for more than 150 years

Teens were bored so they built a backyard rollercoaster

Was ‘Weird Al’ the real star all along?

Kelly Baker’s recent Political Theology Today post, The Contingent Campus—Adjunctification And The Growth Of The Academic “Precariat”, is the first instalment in a series. Hussein Rashid’s Dehumanizing the Humanities—When Social Justice Becomes Injustice is the second.

John Murdock writes about the underwhelming reception for the film Silence for First Things. Listen to our podcast on the film here.

Anthony Esolen: Free Our Churches From the Ugly and the Stupid.

Emma Green has an article discussing Rod Dreher’s ‘Benedict Option’ in the Atlantic, especially focusing on the place of LGBT persons within it. Dreher responds here. Matthew Loftus interacts with Green and Dreher here. Alan Jacobs responds to Loftus here. Jake Meador offers some reflections here.

Ed Feser on the perverted faculty argument

Killed for Christ in the Amazon. Jim Elliot’s daughter recounts the story of her father.

The Hipster Conservative on how to sneer.

Charles Chaput: Redemption of the Erotic

Justin Taylor: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About “Jane Roe”

Jake Belder argues that Christians are not called to fill their time with church activities. He also posts some thoughts relating to the edifying purpose of liturgy and symbol in dialogue with Brad Littlejohn’s introductory volume on Richard Hooker.

Ben Blackwell: Christology between the NT and Nicaea: Justin Martyr

Derek Rishmawy: Basil of Caesarea on the Holy Spirit in the works of the Son

Andrew Wilson posts on Substitution in the Church Fathers. He also posts a diagram of the Jewish Calendar.

Joshua Gillies reviews Aaron O’Kelley’s book, Did The Reformers Misread Paul: A Historical Critique of the New Perspective

Alan Jacobs continues his discussion of building in the Old Testament, treating the diaspora period. He also tackles reductionism in From Disneyism to Onlyism.

Fred Sanders has a discussion of Pascal’s understanding of the process of persuasion in Make Good People With It Were True. He also offers a free e-book, Pro-Nicene Theology.

Peter Leithart:
Passive Creativity
All Great Art is Praise
Mass v. Manners

Simon Gathercole on the geography of the NT:

How the BBC makes Planet Earth look like a Hollywood movie:

Miyazaki Dreams of Flying

And, having linked an article on Weird Al earlier, I thought I’d end with a video of Hardwire Store, which demonstrates his musical genius:

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

The comments of this thread are also 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
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Over to you!

Posted in Links | 40 Comments

Freeing Speech: Free Speech, Milo, and the University

A few weeks ago, before more recent events, I wrote an article on the subject of the current struggle for free speech, which has just been published over on Mere Orthodoxy. Within it I argue that the focus of the struggle for free speech upon figures like Milo Yiannopoulos is unhelpful and that the struggle we face is far wider ranging and deeply structural than we typically appreciate. The greatest obstacles to free speech are not so much illiberal individuals as our poorly designed and compromised institutions and platforms.

It is common in discussions of freedom of speech to seek to apportion blame to particular parties who are supposedly attacking other people’s negative liberty of speech. There are occasions where such blame is largely merited. However, one of the purposes of my argument here is to discourage such a rush to judgment. What I have attempted to show is that a great many of our problems of speech arise neither from malice nor from direct opposition to freedom.

Rather, they are a product of weak institutions, of poorly designed technologies, of disordered societies, and of the unchecked power of the market. While exacerbated by various parties and individuals, they are, at their most fundamental level, systemic problems. As such, they will only properly be addressed on a systemic level. Social justice warriors, so-called Millennial ‘snowflakes’, no-platforming universities, ideologically conformist academics, and also the trolls and professional provocateurs are all merely players in a perverse game. It is upon the reforming of the game that our efforts must primarily be expended.

Read the whole piece here.

Photo: Newtown Graffiti
Posted in Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, In the News, Politics, Society | 8 Comments

Difficult Straits—Milo Yiannopoulos, SJWs, and the Treacherous Passage into Adulthood

The following are some quickly assembled and loosely joined together thoughts on the recent (temporary?) fall of Milo Yiannopoulos and some of the responses.

Provocation and Hypocrisy

A few days ago, recordings of Milo Yiannopoulos joking about and suggesting the possibility of consensual sexual relations between adults and young teens resurfaced, provoking outrage, shock, and dismay. His invitation to speak at CPAC was withdrawn, Simon and Schuster cancelled his book, and he had to resign from Breitbart.

The fall of Milo is a welcome development for many of us, although I fear it may be short-lived. The growing prominence of such a crass provocateur and libertine in conservative circles was a depressing sign of the degree to which the movement has become defined by reactive opposition to progressive liberals.

Milo’s antics were not without positive effects, although those effects were largely incidental to his apparent quest to produce a cult serving his narcissism, trolling the left for his anarchic pleasure. Milo’s provocations and the social justice left’s response to them revealed the power of progressive sacred cows as obstructions to public speech in universities. The violence that Milo’s opponents on the left increasingly resorted to in responding to him and his followers exposed something of the ideological vulnerability, hypocrisy, and menace of prevailing social justice dogmas.

People who make their living by giving offence are always at risk of taking a step too far, and that is exactly what Milo did in speaking about sexual relations with minors in the way that he did. The fact that his remarks about feminism and women, trans persons, and people of colour were applauded by many people on the right as praiseworthy instances of free speech in the cause of truth-telling, while these remarks were deplored may demonstrate some element of hypocrisy on the right’s part. Gleefully engaging in speech that is pointedly hurtful to members of outgroups is celebrated, while a very clear line is drawn when speech that threatens vulnerable members of the ingroup occurs. This is a rather ugly double standard.

This certainly does not mean that we should not engage in speech that hurts people’s feelings. While we should not fetishize feelings, neither should we be unmindful of—let alone delight in being vicious towards—them. Speech is a volatile and a dangerous thing and, precisely because freedom of speech is important, it must be treated with care, wisdom, respect, and responsibility. The true defenders of free speech should be people who appreciate its weightiness and power, not those who treat it as a light or empty plaything.


On ‘Dangerous’ Truth

There are many falsehoods and misconceptions that lurk behind social taboos, sacred cows, socially protected ideologies, and dogmas. Milo, who has made a living of attacking these things, made the mistake of challenging a taboo that is also widely held on the right. Laurie Penny writes:

Delicious as you might find it to see karma come for Yiannopoulos, what he actually said about gay relationships and child molestation was less offensive than a great many bigoted things he has come out with — in part because, for once, it seemed just a little bit true to his experience. When he spoke about consenting relationships between adult men where there’s a large age gap, he was talking about something that is a real and meaningful part of romantic experience for a lot of gay men — and something that American conservatives seem to have no problem with when the participants are heterosexual or, indeed, presidential candidates. His mangled age-of-consent comments and crass priest jokes are a bridge too far, especially for the conservative mainstream, which has so far held performative racism, transphobia, sexism, and xenophobia as well within the bounds of free speech. Today, absolutely nobody, from his publishers to his former tour promoter, is defending Yiannopoulos’ right to consequence-free speech. This is not liberalism winning the day. This is the victorious far right purging the brownshirts.

There is definitely some measure of truth to this claim. Like feminism, transgenderism, and race issues, the matter of age of consent is an issue surrounded by taboos, behind which lurk a great number of falsehoods. As in the case of feminism, transgenderism, and race, the taboos tend to exist primarily to protect people from being hurt and to maintain social order. Not all truths are ‘safe’; some truths are like highly reactive elements that are explosive under certain conditions. While characters like Milo, for whom the truth was always a convenient means to the end of self-publicity and entertainment, might enjoy the coolness and the frisson of being ‘dangerous’, the mishandling of certain truths can expose some people to serious harm. Although we may often need to get around the taboos in order to address the unhealthy falsehoods that lie behind them (as being unmindful of or blindly denying dangerous truths can expose us to great risk in the long term), the approach that Milo and his fellow provocateurs offer is akin to performing surgery with an axe.

The notion of consent and, by extension, that of an age of consent are social constructions, and highly variable and contestable ones at that. The belief, for instance, that all sexual interactions with persons of 13-16 are non-consensual and abusive does not hold up well under cross-examination. Much of the evidence that we have seem to contradict this idea. A mature society that values free speech and open contestation of ideas will find ways to have a conversation about this fact that is attentive to the evidence, while being mindful of the fact that, although any notion of age of consent will be a somewhat arbitrary social construction, over-determining a far more messy reality, this need not mean that it is any less of a necessary one. Although it is important that we don’t prevent such conversations from taking place, we must also appreciate that carrying out such an important conversation irresponsibly puts vulnerable children at risk.

Similar concerns should shape our response to the many falsehoods, misconceptions, and errors that can be found in feminism, gender theory, and critical race theory, theories that have often tended to grow up around people’s shared woundedness, rather than genuine openness to discovery and the challenge of reality (how many gender studies academics are in any way conversant with and receptive to extensive recent research in the biology of sexual difference?). A great many important issues in our society have come to be surrounded by human shields, with sensitivities, vulnerability, and victimhood preventing us from addressing errors or encountering inconvenient truths (the Norwegian comedian Harald Eia’s documentary series, Brainwash, in which he tackles issues of gender, parenting, sexuality, violence, sex, race, and nature/nurture provides many entertaining examples of the ways ideologues try to escape threatening truths). We must find ways to dismantle these human shields, while protecting people from the harm that they fear when their sacred beliefs, taboos, and ideologies are challenged.

While we need to make space to wrestle with difficult truths, people are not irrational to feel uneasy about evidence pointing towards behavioural differences between the sexes with far-reaching consequences for social outcomes, differences in aptitudes between people of different ancestry, genetic predispositions to violence, the limits to the power of parenting to change character, the problems with admitting the natural and healthy character of all sexual and gender identities, the biological foundations for conditions such as paedophilia, and the social dysfunctions that often accompany immigration and increased cultural diversity. It is irrational to flail against and repeatedly deny the strong evidence for certain dangerous truths, but I think we should recognize that such truths are not easy for many societies and individuals to metabolize in a healthy manner. For instance, official sanction for some of the inconvenient truths about the effects of immigration in Europe could merely intensify existing social tensions and antagonisms and exacerbate our problems. The truth needs to be recognized and grappled with, but it also needs to be expressed with the greatest of care and with especial concern for those persons who could be hurt were it addressed irresponsibly.


On Lost Boys and Girls

Laurie Penny has a long article on Milo and the ‘lost boys’ that surround him, from which the earlier quotation was excerpted. The article is pretty much what you’d expect from Penny: what she gives with one hand, she tends to take with the other. There is an element of compassion, but the ‘lost boys’ are ultimately slotted into her narrative of struggle with the patriarchy, in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of the divide. Scott Alexander has some helpful remarks on Penny and the approaches of other feminists like her to ‘lost boy’ types here and here. There are similar issues with this recent piece by Dale Beran, the problem is patriarchy and gender roles and the solution for such boys seems to be bowing the knee to feminism and adopting more feminine ways of dealing with their emotions. Beran writes:

The left does more than simply declare their opposing viewpoint wrong, the radical idea of sex/gender-as-illusion denies their viewpoint an existence. To the left, a complaint stemming from being a man is null space, lying outside the realm of what it will acknowledge as true.

The irony here, of course, is the radical idea of sexual-difference-as-illusion is meant to solve the deplorables’ problem. It was created to liberate those who are oppressed by the concept of sexual difference by dispelling it as a cloud of pure ideas. But to these powerless men, it’s as if the left were addressing their issue by saying in an Orwellian manner, “There’s no such thing as your problem! Problem solved!”

There is little recognition on the left of the fact that these lost young men have an unfed hunger for manliness that feminism really cannot feed, and is in large measure responsible for starving. Sexual difference cannot simply be ‘dispelled … as a cloud of pure ideas’ as Beran or Penny would like: it has an obstinate and insistent presence in our natures. Young boys have a natural yearning to become men and, when society provides them with at most a treacherous and uncertain passage into secure manhood, many will be left adrift in dangerous waters of fragility and resentment.

Of course, Laurie Penny is/was herself the quintessential ‘lost girl’ of feminism, with all of the hallmarks of the condition. When she was around the age of the ‘lost boys’ she is writing about, she was in recovery, having been hospitalized with extreme anorexia. She has had the characteristic confusion about her sexuality and identity, the same tattoos and hair styles that tend to mark out a young woman struggling to shore up an uncertain sense of her embodied self, the same mental health issues, the sexual promiscuity and poor sense of boundaries, and the same childish shrillness coupled with a precocious linguistic ability that is not uncommon among the young social justice left, whose highly developed faculty of self-expression and ideological obfuscation is an unsettling contrast to the disarray of their personal lives.

We definitely should care about lost and wounded young people, but there is, as Scott Alexander has observed, something of a contrast between the way that we treat the lost boys and the lost girls of the world, and neither are well served as a result. Lost girls like Laurie Penny and many other leading Millennial feminists can become mainstream commentators and columnists, frequently invited onto serious programmes (even when they are clearly out of their depth), partially overcoming their lostness, but also normalizing, validating, and reinforcing it in other respects.

By contrast, the lost boys are more likely to be ridiculed and treated as social outcasts. This is perhaps on account of the fact that society doesn’t take male victimhood as seriously as female victimhood and is far less protective when it comes to males. Male victims are often harder to sympathize with and are far more likely than female victims to externalize their dysfunctions, wounding people around them in abusive behaviours, making them less likeable. Male weakness can be stigmatized, despised, and ridiculed by both men and women as both can expect them to be strong or refuse to acknowledge the possibility of men being weak in ways that threaten the tidiness of whatever their gender ideologies. More typical masculine ways of dealing with weakness through attempts to establish self-control and agency—things that really work for many men—can be pathologized because they don’t conform to a feminized notion of what emotional health looks like and because genuine manliness is perceived to be a threat to feminism.

They can feel further marginalized as the few reservations in which they could attain to a sense of shared masculinity are closed down by women entering into them, insisting on the governing institutions changing the culture and pathologizing them (this is why Gamergate so resonated with many of the lost boys). They can be labelled as ‘Nazis’—because ‘it works’—and open season can be declared upon them. Milo granted such lost boys a vicarious sense of identity and some public voice.


Navigating a Treacherous Passage

While sympathizing with the plight of the lost boys, it is very important that we do not validate the dysfunctional, escapist, and often abusive ways in which they are trying to attain to a sense of masculinity. The social justice warriors or SJWs, the bêtes noires of the lost boys, are in many respects their sisters. Like Milo’s lost boys, the SJWs are in large measure persons who have been blown off course on the passage into adulthood. As in the case of the lost boys, many of them will find some path to a maturity, but others will vanish into the mist.

Human beings are resilient and adaptable and the consequences of even significant mistakes are seldom as bad as we might fear. Nonetheless, many lives and relationships are damaged by our inattention to the traversal of the necessary but challenging human passage from adolescence into mature adulthood. This journey has become a particularly dangerous one in our present age, as it is increasingly undertaken without reliable guidance and in highly treacherous economic and social conditions.

There is nothing unusual about people making the passage from adolescence into young adulthood being vulnerable, thin-skinned, and insecure in their identities. This is not a novel phenomenon, nor are Millennials some exotic new species. Rather, the chief differences between Millennials and previous generations are to be found in the difficult conditions in which they must accomplish this passage. They are increasingly socially and geographically uprooted from robust intergenerational communities and they face uncertain and precarious economic and employment prospects.

The movement into young adulthood is a gendered movement. While gender roles are a social construct, they are also a necessary one, a means by which societies help their young people to take their place as adults in their midst. Gender roles answer to the natural contours of gendered yearnings, tempering and tailoring them for the common good. Ideally they are accommodating and affirming of variety, while also placing clear limits upon the tyranny of self-assertion. Feminism and the LGBT movements have attacked and dismantled many traditional gender roles, but they haven’t really provided workable alternatives. Particular forms of gender roles can be oppressive and restrictive, but some form of gender roles are needed if young people are to make a safe passage into adulthood. Young men, for instance, need the promise of the dignity of manliness: deep down almost all know that maturity must be a gendered reality.

The gender neutralizing of society, the drive to desegregate the gendered workplace, the changing shape of the economy and the insecurity of employment, the attack upon forms of healthy homosociality, the atomization and uprooting of a footloose young workforce, the postponing of fertility, the hyperperformativity of online identity, the shallowness and narrowness of the bonds of the nuclear family, the demise of a robust marriage culture, and the weakening of given bonds and of intergenerational society are all ways in which winds that once blew in the favour of those making the passage into adulthood now blow against them. What it means to be a man or a woman in such a world is a very open question, and a disturbing one for many. Where no clear path presents itself and the very authority figures who should be assisting with their transition are conspiring with their disorientation, it is not surprising that both men and women should jury-rig ever more bespoke, yet ever more vulnerable makeshift identities and communities.

The failure of older generations is a very important part of the problems that Millennials face on these fronts. The passage into adulthood is one that cannot easily be made alone, but which requires support, orientation, institutional structures, and guidance from those who have made the passage before, pilots who can help to steer young lives through dangerous hidden shoals and reefs. Unfortunately, this passage is increasingly one that is undertaken by young people without clear adult direction. Many of the most prominent voices directing us are themselves lost boys and girls. Instead of functional gender roles and wise older exemplars to help us to attain to them, guiding us into the maturity of our full stature, we have gender studies departments filled with disoriented persons who have clearly lost their direction, the dominance of young people in conversations about gender, and the vicious resentment of online feral masculinity.

A healthy society is one that adapts towards maturity and strength, rather than towards weakness and dysfunction. While such a society accommodates and protects the weak and the immature, it seeks to strengthen them and to overcome their weakness. The vulnerability and fragility of young people should be treated with care and compassion, yet they must be strengthened and matured through challenge.

Institutions such as universities or churches are supposed to be institutions of formation, institutions that serve to fashion mature minds and characters from the immature and unformed minds and characters of those who first enter them. The generational struggle that we currently face results in part from the failure of our institutions—often on account of structural inability, rather than wilful omission or neglect of duty—to play their part in the process of formation. Instead of patiently, kindly, yet determinedly helping young people grew out of their immaturity, dysfunctionality, and weakness and into maturity, functionality, and strength, they have pandered and adapted themselves to some of their weakest and most immature members. This has occurred in large part because universities and churches have ceased to function as formative institutions and have become consumer-oriented organizations.

The weakening and disruption of the processes of generational formation and passage are not a problem to be solved by recriminations. Both the ‘lost boys’ and the ‘SJWs’ are largely victims of the treacherous straits between adolescence and healthy young adulthood, and the consequences of their being blown off course may be playing themselves out for decades to come. They have been let down by their institutions, by the collapse of intergenerational community, and by the failure of their societies to offer robust and validating roles and structures in which young people can attain to a mature and fitting sense and expression of their manhood or womanhood. It is to the restoration of these that we must commit ourselves, if we are to rectify the situation.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, In the News, Sex and Sexuality, Society | 14 Comments

Podcast: The Fractured Republic, with Yuval Levin


Mere FidelityOn this week’s episode of Mere Fidelity, Derek, Matt, Andrew, and I are joined by a very special guest, Yuval Levin. We discuss some of the issues raised in his superb new book, The Fractured Republic, and his vision for a healthy future for the conservative movement and for America more generally.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Podcasts, Politics, Society, What I'm Reading | 4 Comments

Links Post 18/02/17

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.

John Milbank: The Problem of Populism and the Promise of a Christian Politics

‘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.

Scott Alexander follows up his post on Cost Disease with a post with highlights from its comments, accompanied with a few of his own further reflections.

Spotted Toad: Hubel, Wiesel, and Sensitive Periods. Some interesting reflections on the process of learning.

How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children

Emmett Rensin: You Don’t Know Hannah Arendt. Criticizing facile appeals to Arendt in the current political context.

Terrorism Denial on the Left

Young People and Free Speech

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.

Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report

Stop Freaking Out About CRISPR! (Except For One Thing). Although organisms in the wild are developing resistance to gene drives.

How the Battle Lines Over CRISPR Were Drawn

Major report prepares ground for genetic modification of human embryos

Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies. The ethical myopia attending many of these new developments is concerning.

Could we one day make babies from only skin cells?

Anxious Chinese parents cause gene testing boom as they try to discover young children’s talents

Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age

Rolls-Royce plans to launch crewless ships by 2020

The Science That Could Make You Crave Broccoli More Than Chocolate

Via Scott Alexander: Scientists Have Confirmed a Brand New Phase of Matter: Time Crystals

Humans Killed the Aral Sea. Now It’s Come Back to Life.

Scientists discover ‘Zealandia’—a hidden continent off the coast of Australia

In one year, 12 trillion locusts devastated the Great Plains—and then they went extinct

Collapse of Aztec Society Linked to Catastrophic Salmonella Outbreak

Dear Warren: Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2017 Annual Letter.

Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups

Guildford Cathedral faces ‘probable closure’

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?

Momentous Historical Firsts That Happened Way Before Most People Think They Did

Bad Map Projection: Time Zones

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?

Ian Paul:
Church Teaching and LGB Mental Health
On Synod, Sexuality, and not ‘Taking Note’

Matt Smethurst posts the video of Sam Alberry addressing the Church of England General Synod earlier this week

Andrew Wilson:
Trinity and Akedah
10 Reason You Should Read Fleming Rutledge’s ‘The Crucifixion’
What Happened to the Absurd?

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

Peter Leithart:
Science of Division
Time Out of Joint
Art, Divine and Human
Passivity and Freedom
Descartes, Nihilist
Living Sacrifices
Architecture of Fancy
Slow Grow
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:

See also the work of Tiny Kittens and their live videos here.

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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Posted in Links | 19 Comments

Podcast: Reviving the Worship Wars

Mere FidelityOn this week’s episode of Mere Fidelity, Derek, Matt, Andrew, and I discuss the place that music and song have within our worship as the Church. We explore the divisive character of music in the Church, its proper telos, and how we could improve our practice.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Controversies, Liturgical Theology, Music, Podcasts, Theological, Worship | 7 Comments