Science, Police, and Pigs

Photo by George W. Ackerman

The Intellectual Vocation.” Josh Hochschild reviews three recent books—by Scott Newstok, Zena Hitz, and Alan Jacobs—on liberal education:

All three books, by testifying to fruitful intellectual life, remind us we still have a choice about how to cultivate the minds of young people. We can educate students to make them ready for specific careers but—like the alienated achiever Mattie Coulter—unintelligible to everyone, including their own parents. Or we can educate in a way that makes us all, despite and even through upheavals of culture, economy, and politics, more intelligible to each other and to ourselves.

Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science.” Yuval Levin calls us to set aside partisan reflexes and take up “habits of humility” in responding to the unfolding reality of COVID-19.

We Often Accuse the Right of Distorting Science. But the Left Changed the Coronavirus Narrative Overnight.” Thomas Chatterton Williams warns elite flip-flopping has lasting consequences:

Public health experts – as well as many mainstream commentators, plenty of whom in the beginning of the pandemic were already incoherent about the importance of face masks and stay-at-home orders – have hemorrhaged credibility and authority. This is not merely a short-term problem; it will constitute a crisis of trust going forward, when it may be all the more urgent to convince skeptical masses to submit to an unproven vaccine or to another round of crushing stay-at-home orders. Will anyone still listen?

‘We Don’t Actually Have that Answer Yet’: WHO Clarifies Comments on Asymptomatic Spread of COVID-19.” Andrew Joseph reports on the conflicting statements that the WHO released this week. When public health institutions like the WHO undermine their own credibility, they cultivate the soil in which disinformation and conspiracy theories thrive.

Moving the Chains.” The American Compass has a symposium on how policy makers could encourage companies to bring manufacturing back to America.

American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go.” David French describes how adopting a little girl from Ethiopia changed his understanding of structural racism.

Is It Time to Hit the Reset Button on Policing?” #DefundThePolice might sound like a dumb hashtag, but Charles Marohn argues strong towns require public safety organizations that actually serve their communities—and that might mean many police departments need to be dismantled.

On the other hand, many in Chicago are mourning the destruction that looters caused there. Heather Cherone and Paris Schutz report on a call the major held with the town aldermen, and Corey Brooks, a pastor in Chicago, says his predominately-black neighborhood has been set back decades by the recent violence. Instead of defunding the police, he suggests implementing six reforms to improve policing. Matters on the ground are always more complicated than hashtags make them seem.

Justice and Race: What We Can and Cannot Change.” Matthew Loftus talks about policing as the tip of the iceberg, and he explores several dimensions of racial injustice in our society.

The Ends of Anti-Racist Protest.” Jonathan Tran describes racism not as an information problem, but as a species of commodification and exploitation:

Racism functions as justification for violent exploitation. It greases the wheels of processes that commodify—“thingify” Martin Luther King, Jr., said—others for our benefit. We colonize and genocide others not because we confuse them with something less than human. We colonize and genocide because doing so, somehow, proves handy. Racism is a matter of convenience. We exploit those we can, and racialization (categorizing others racially) helps the “can” along. Racism facilitates domination, and domination facilitates exploitation.

His analysis here parallels the argument Wendell Berry makes in The Hidden Wound. There are many forms this commodification takes, and they are all insidious and destructive.

The Dignity and Grit of the Appalachian Hill Women.” Gracy Olmstead reviews Cassie Chambers’s Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains and finds it uneven, but nonetheless concludes it is “a lovely book about family, community, and place.”

Struggling Farmers Are Selling Midwest Hogs Ad Hoc and Online.” Lisa Held reports on the pig market, which sounds like an absolute mess. When we treat animals as industrial commodities rather than creatures, these are the kinds of situations that result. I’m reminded of the argument Norman Wirzba makes in From Nature to Creation about the need to rename and reimagine the world: not as raw materials we can manipulate as we see fit, but as a given creation for which we should be grateful.

In Praise of Hunting, Especially Today.” Michael Horton hopes that COVID-19 meat shortages will encourage more people to hunt: “More hunters will not only mean more funds for conservation, but more women and men who pay close attention, even briefly, to the natural world.”

The Cost of Food in America.” Gracy Olmstead shows how the pandemic has revealed the pervasive cruelty of our meat-production system. If anything can break America’s addiction to cheap meat, perhaps it will be the coronavirus.

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