Sunday, 9/17/17

  1. Game faces for the big 500th
  2. Is the putative effect really the cause?
  3. Nutrient collapse
  4. Dare ESPN discipline?
  5. Free speech’s cost
  6. Conservative Dungeons & Dragons
  7. Retweetable


As the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation approaches next month, a substantial number of Protestants from various have taken semi-seriously their centralmost scandal:

The most obvious effect of the Reformation—which celebrates its 500th anniversary this year—is division.

It is estimated that more than 33,000 different Christian denominations now exist throughout the world, and much of this is blamed on the Reformation. While some are making the case that difference does not necessarily constitute division in Protestantism and the global church, the plethora of denominations is a source of concern for Protestants, who are the heirs of Martin Luther’s movement that has tended to create new churches rather than reform existing ones.

The “Reforming Catholic Confession,” released today, aims to demonstrate that—despite “denominationalism”—Protestants are remarkably unified.

“Remarkably unified”? Then why the freudian slip that describes the “group behind the confession [as] an unlikely alliance“? Or the tacit signals of my added emphases in this:

“I finally understood the meaning of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants,’” said Vanhoozer. “The process of incorporating suggestions and revising my carefully wrought prose was a healthy and humbling exercise not only in word craft, but also spiritual mortification, insofar as it required making myself (almost) nothing in order to let other voices sound through.”

Gwenfair Walters Adams, professor of church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a member of the drafting committee, was impressed with the spirit of cooperation exhibited in the drafting process. In an email shared with CT, Adams wrote to her fellow committee members:

“It has been a privilege to be a part of this group, to learn from all of you, and to watch you all engage with grace with each other and with me, even on highly controversial issues that have divided the church for centuries. I’m accustomed to collegiality from my seminary colleagues, but to see it also on an inter-seminary and international level, especially in relation to such a strategic and potentially ‘flammable’ project has warmed my heart. ”

Sounds to me more like “let’s put on our ‘game face’ and show some unity here, guys!”

And they did a pretty good job of it. The statement they produced, A Reforming Catholic Confession, is a nice try, demonstrating that Protestant academics are almost infinitely more conversant with Church history (and less obsessed with prophecy porn) than the laity. I’m gratified that they looked back and acknowledge the Creeds, without which their try would not have been nice at all, and tried to reckon with the fissiparousness as a scandal and not as a brilliant marketing ploy (seriously, I’ve heard that — “a church for every taste”).

It is a fallacy to argue that the divisions that followed from the Reformation were its inevitable consequences. The accidental truths of European history should never become necessary conclusions about the spirit of Protestantism. Nevertheless, it is particularly to be regretted that the early Protestant Reformers were unable to achieve an altogether common mind ….

I’m not sure what “accidental truths of European history” this explanation refers to, though I’m aware that Protestantism was exploited by aristocrats eager to cast off Church authority in the service of what eventually became nation-states. Whether that was a good trade-off aside, I’d be more sanguine about “the spirit of Protestantism” if it would just once show some centripetal impulse (other than desperate merging of dying denominations).


Eureka! I am humbled by this core insight into hookup culture:

The core problem isn’t the alcohol. The core problems are the big lies about sex itself. The need for alcohol betrays the existence of the lies. Consider the contrast between the hookup culture — the ultimate expression of transactional sexuality — and sex in committed relationships. Booze is the common denominator of the hookup, but its presence typically diminishes the greater the bond between the man and the woman. Ask a happily married couple if they need bourbon before sex and they might look at you like you’re insane.

(David French) I omitted some other really good stuff to let this transcendent paragraph, which made angels sing, stand in all its glory.


Disturbing news:

Zooplankton are microscopic animals that float in the world’s oceans and lakes, and for food they rely on algae, which are essentially tiny plants. Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished. But it didn’t work out that way. When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem?

Loladze used his math training to help measure and explain the algae-zooplankton dynamic. He and his colleagues devised a model that captured the relationship between a food source and a grazer that depends on the food. They published that first paper in 2000. But Loladze was also captivated by a much larger question raised by the experiment: Just how far this problem might extend.

“What struck me is that its application is wider,” Loladze recalled in an interview. Could the same problem affect grass and cows? What about rice and people? “It was kind of a watershed moment for me when I started thinking about human nutrition,” he said.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow …

It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”

(Helena Bottemiller Evich, The Great Nutrient Collapse, Politico)


Merely interesting as compared to disturbing stuff:

Two days after the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that tweets by an ESPN host disparaging President Trump were a “fireable offense,” she added on Friday that the network “should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard.”

Any disciplining of the host, Jemele Hill, however, might be out of legal bounds for ESPN. The network is based in Bristol, Conn., and a Connecticut statute provides free-speech protections beyond the First Amendment, making it illegal for ESPN to punish Hill, according to some labor lawyers.

The Connecticut Constitution’s free-speech provision largely mirrors the United States Constitution’s and is concerned with actions of the government, not private employers. Connecticut is one of many at-will states in this country, which means private employers can generally (with some exceptions) fire employees for any reason, or for no reason at all.

But Connecticut also has General Statute 31-51q, which reads in part that any employer, including private employers, “who subjects any employee to discipline or discharge on account of the exercise by such employee of rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution” is liable for damages caused “by such discipline or discharge.”

“That statute would prohibit ESPN from disciplining or discharging her based on that speech,” said Todd Steigman, a partner at Madsen, Prestley and Parenteau who was part of the team that tried a major case defining the scope of the statute.

(Kevin Draper, New York Times, emphasis added)

Sitting here in Indiana, and riding my galloping horse at 30,000 feet of altitude, I might incline at first glance to view “the exercise by such employee of rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution” narrowly enough not to protect an outburst on an ESPN Twitter account (it that’s what the Twitter account was).

But I find it so obnoxious that the press secretary of the President of the United States of America should call for the firing of a black critic who engaged in a bit of hyperbole that I will give Jemele Hill my unofficial Joe Arpaio Pre-Emptive Pardon®, acquired for the price of a box of CrackerJacks.


Ben Shapiro spoke unimpeded Thursday night on [the UC Berkeley] campus, but the university had to spend $600,000 to provide adequate security …

The security costs will grow later this month, when the university hosts Free Speech Week. The arriviste Milo Yiannopolous claimed in a news release that the lineup will include Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, Pamela Gellar and other controversial speakers he hand-picked. Already, more than 200 faculty are calling for a boycott, claiming the event imperils students’ “physical and mental safety.”

We wish Berkeley’s students were hearing from conservatives who seek to persuade more than merely provoke like the Milo Gang. The Berkeley Patriots, the student group behind Free Speech Week, have yet to provide Ms. Christ with signed speaker contracts or the basic information campus police requested, though the deadline is fast approaching. The success of Mr. Shapiro’s speech showed Ms. Christ’s good faith, and the Berkeley Patriots need to show some mutual respect.

(Wall Street Journal Editorial Board) Seriously, campus “conservatives”: won’t the game you’re playing undermine free speech by forcing big security bills to protect jackasses and jennies?


Conservatism in this country — the vast billion-dollar enterprise of think tanks, magazines, websites, television channels, books, endowed professorships, fellowships, fundraising groups, pundits, columnists, and hangers-on — resembles nothing so much as what philosophers and techbros call an “augmented reality game.” Like Pokémon Go, it is a kind of collective role-playing experience in which millions of players interact with one another and objects; it is like a session of Dungeons and Dragons that has been played uninterrupted since 1964, with changing dungeon masters, hundreds of thousands of new players, and very few real dragons slain.

This is a game that is played for its own sake. Of course the base really wants to get the federal government out of health care and end the Fed and build the wall and never surrender to amnesty and cut everyone’s taxes and get rid of federal department after federal department. Geeks sitting around tables across this country also really want to save the princess and get the magical amulet — taking the whole thing as seriously as possible is essential to the enjoyment of the game. As Tom Hanks once discovered in an ’80s TV movie, the ideal role-playing session is one that is indistinguishable from reality.

Many Washington power brokers have understood the nature of the game despite never having played it. This is especially true of the Republican establishment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, like so many Republican leaders before him, is happy to make a killing selling 20-sided dice and lurid monster manuals, but no one expects him to sit down and make a character sheet, much less dress up as a level 15 female elf barbarian.

(Matthew Walther, Trump’s fiercest supporters don’t actually want him to be president)



* * *

Professors do not need to sit through diversity training. Most of them need free speech sensitivity training. Remedial civics.

— Mike S. Adams (@MikeSAdams) September 16, 2017

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

One thought on “Sunday, 9/17/17

  1. Two observations about the “Reforming Catholic Confession”:

    First, for a document that is expressly intended to “mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” it seems to have remarkably little support among Lutherans and not all that much Lutheran content. It is as if Luther’s original protest were little more than a preamble to the “real” Reformation with Zwingli, Calvin, and company a few decades later. Of the nearly one thousand signatories of the confession to date, only about half a dozen are Lutheran.

    Second, there is precious little that is Catholic about it, despite the title. Its claim to be “Catholic” reminds me of Peter Leithart’s similar claim a few years back (which you noticed <a href="; here and I commented on (long-windedly) here). They use the common gloss of “Catholic” as simply “universal” (which is itself highly problematic), but in reality “Catholic” in their usage resolves to merely “pan-Reformed.” Not even “pan-Protestant” since the content of their confession is not really consistent with Lutheranism.

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