May 1, 2014 / From the Editor, Uncategorized
Each Friday we compile a list of interesting links and articles our editors find from …
April 11, 2014
Each Friday we compile a list of interesting links and articles our editors find from across the web. Here’s what’s catching our eye this week.
At the New York Times, the well-known Barbara Ehrenreic, writes on a personal mystical experience from the point of view of an atheist:
But something happened when I was 17 that shook my safely rationalist worldview and left me with a lifelong puzzle. Years later, I learned that this sort of event is usually called a mystical experience, and I can see in retrospect that the circumstances had been propitious: Thanks to a severely underfunded and poorly planned skiing trip, I was sleep-deprived and probably hypoglycemic that morning in 1959 when I stepped out alone, walked into the streets of Lone Pine, Calif., and saw the world — the mountains, the sky, the low scattered buildings — suddenly flame into life.
Russ Douthat considers her opinion in separate Op-ed:
The trouble is that in its current state, cognitive science has a great deal of difficulty explaining “what happens” when “those wires connect” for non-numinous experience, which is why mysterian views of consciousness remain so potent even among thinkers whose fundamental commitments are atheistic and materialistic. (I’m going to link to the internet’s sharpest far-left scold for a good recent polemic on this front.) That is to say, even in contexts where it’s very easy to identify the physical correlative to a given mental state, and to get the kind of basic repeatability that the scientific method requires — show someone an apple, ask them to describe it; tell them to bite into it, ask them to describe the taste; etc. — there is no kind of scientific or philosophical agreement on what is actually happening to produce the conscious experience of the color “red,” the conscious experience of the crisp McIntosh taste, etc. So if we can’t say how this ”normal” conscious experience works, even when we can easily identify the physical stimulii that produce it, it seems exponentially harder to scientifically investigate the invisible, maybe-they-exist and maybe-they-don’t stimulii — be they divine, alien, or panpsychic — that Ehrenreich hypothesizes might produce more exotic forms of conscious experience.
Fare Forward provides an interesting essay on the child-like faith references in the gospels:
The second reading—like [he receives] a child— arguably makes more sense in light of the immediate context of Luke 18 and Mark 10. There is little in the passage on how the children receive the kingdom, except that their parents bring them. Interpretations of the passage based on the idea that we are to receive the kingdom as children receive it will be as varied as perceptions of children are, and this is hermeneutically shaky ground. On the other hand, Christ clearly tells his disciples to receive the children, so the alternative interpretation does not require the same interpretive leaps.
A few weeks back we posted an essay lamenting the state of music criticism. Here Steven Hyden responds:
It was hardly an outrageous (or uncommon) observation. As a professional dispenser of opinions about popular musical artists, I hear some variant of this complaint at least once a month. I sort of see where these people are coming from, but I never understand what exactly they’re asking for. Do they really want record reviews to be more pedantic and inscrutable? Is their ideal for pop criticism “less jokes, more guitar tablatures”? Do they also hassle film critics about talking too much about the actors and not enough about the gaffers?
The WSJ sits down the women who wrote “Plato at the Googleplex”:
After three years of research and writing, Dr. Goldstein—whose previous work includes the 1983 novel “The Mind-Body Problem” and eight other books—has so absorbed her main character that she hears Platonic discourse even over lunch at the Manhattan restaurant Il Cantinori. “To my right, they’re talking about what it is to have a good life,” she exclaims as she nods at two women talking nearby. “They’re talking about how important [personal] connections are,” she adds. “I had to shut up and stop myself from saying, ‘Here’s what Plato would say.’ “
A new biography on Updike has sparked good reviews. Here is one at The American Scholar:
Yet, for all the detail about his subject’s unpleasant tendencies, Begley does admire Updike, for the same reason that many of us who grew up reading him do: the fiction itself. Updike was a star at Harvard, as both a student and a writer, and soon after graduation The New Yorker first published him and then offered him a job. His elegant and fluid prose (he once said he wrote faster than he read) and his eagerness to take as his subject the ordinary life of his time—these also deserve Begley’s attentive admiration, and our own. And there is Updike’s extraordinary work ethic and output, driven by his determination to be a writer who mattered.
Grantland on the horribly named, Washington Redskins:
In October, Dan Snyder wrote a letter to his season-ticket holders explaining (again) why he declines to change the team’s nickname to something a little less racially vicious. In that letter, Snyder cited Lone Star Dietz without naming him, which seemed a little unfair. In the months that followed, the Washington Redskins have continued to be one of the sports world’s noisiest carnivals, and the National Football League is notoriously averse to unsanctioned carnivals in its ranks.
Don’t quit The Other Journal but the internet is ruining your marriage:
Humans now are trained to scan for the most important bits of information and move on, like how we read online. But that’s not how you’re supposed to read Moby Dick, or Middlemarch. Longer sentences require concentration and attention, not a break to check Twitter every 45 seconds. The Internet, and how it has changed our reading habits, is making it difficult for people, particularly young people, to read classic works of literature because our brains are trained to bob and weave from one piece of writing to the next. And 600 pages is just so many pages, you know? Pagination is like, the worst thing to happen to my life, and without a “Read All” option? Melville definitely needed a UX developer
Who killed JFK? According to new research half of Americans believe one conspiracy theory:
Have you heard what’s really behind the shift to compact fluorescent lights? It turns out the government has mandated their use because its research (unpublished, of course) has found such bulbs make people more obedient and easier to control. If this is your first exposure to that particular conspiracy theory, don’t fret that you’re out of the loop: It’s the invention of University of Chicago researchers Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood. In an attempt to discover just how prone Americans are to believe in unseen plots and schemes, they included it in a list of more familiar conspiracy theories as part of a 2011 survey.
This past week was the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s homerun that broke Babe Ruth’s record. It was an important moment for not just baseball, but also the history of race in America:
Hank Aaron has the letters tucked away in his attic, preserved these last 40 years. He’s not ready to let them go.
He almost has them memorized by now, but still he carefully opens them up and reads every word, as if he wants to feel the pain
“You are (not) going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it,” one of them reads. “Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move.”
Yes, Aaron even saved the death threats, the ones that vowed to end his life if he dared break Ruth’s cherished all-time home run record.
“I wouldn’t have saved those damn things,” says Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who grew up in Aaron’s hometown of Mobile, Ala. “I would have burned them. I had a few of them myself over the years. I don’t save stuff like that.
And this brought to mind the decreasing amount of African-American’s playing baseball today:
Moving the A’s to San Jose would symbolize the way baseball is moving away from black Americans as a whole. Every year, baseball makes a fuss over “the percentage,” that is, the percentage of African Americans who are playing the game, which has been in decline for two decades, even as the game gets more racially diverse by pulling in more players from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Rim. MLB has made efforts to reverse the decline — like the Breakthrough Series to showcase young African American talent to scouts — with some success. But baseball’s problem may be larger than any one program.
David A. Garner