“The Cross and the Machine.” Paul Kingsnorth narrates his unlikely conversion to Christianity in a very Porcher key:
I realized that a crisis of limits is a crisis of culture, and a crisis of culture is a crisis of spirit. Every living culture in history, from the smallest tribe to the largest civilization, has been built around a spiritual core: a central claim about the relationship between human culture, nonhuman nature, and divinity. Every culture that lasts, I suspect, understands that living within limits—limits set by natural law, by cultural tradition, by ecological boundaries—is a cultural necessity and a spiritual imperative. There seems to be only one culture in history that has held none of this to be true, and it happens to be the one we’re living in.
(Recommended by Doug Sikkema.)
“How Science has been Corrupted.” Matthew Crawford ruminates on a key distinction we need to make in discussions of “science”: “The pandemic has brought into relief a dissonance between our idealised image of science, on the one hand, and the work “science” is called upon to do in our society, on the other. I think the dissonance can be traced to this mismatch between science as an activity of the solitary mind, and the institutional reality of it. Big science is fundamentally social in its practice, and with this comes certain entailments.”
“The Wuhan Lab-Leak Hypothesis Deserves Relentless Investigating.” Noah Millman warns that politicizing the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is counterproductive for actually finding out the truth. As he notes, for other comparable events, “the importance of how the accidents happened, not only in order to assign blame but in order to prevent recurrence, was obvious from the get-go. Why hasn’t the same been true, consistently, for the origins of COVID–19?”
“The Bully Platform.” Jonathan Askonas reviews Senator Josh Hawley’s The Tyranny of Big Tech and weighs both its historical claims and its political possibilities.
“Air Pollution from Farms Leads to 17,900 U.S. Deaths per Year, Study Finds.” Sarah Kaplan reports on a study of air pollution that attempts to quantify the human toll of CAFOs and other unhealthy forms of agriculture: “Gases associated with manure and animal feed produce small, lung-irritating particles capable of drifting hundreds of miles. These emissions now account for more annual deaths than pollution from coal power plants.”
“Is Musa Al-Gharbi the Last Academic Who Can Tell the Truth?” B. Duncan Moench profiles a heterodox academic who is trying to chart a path toward new political coalitions: “Since the collapse of the New Deal coalition in the late 1960s, the incompetence of the boomer political class in fighting for better working conditions—and its support for exporting working-class jobs overseas—has driven American working people further to the cultural right, regardless of race, sexual preference, or other identity issues that white American leftists obsess over.”
“Is Capitalism Killing Conservatism?” Ross Douthat responds to the recent demographic numbers and parses how much responsibility we should lay at the feet of free-market capitalism.
“Free Ride.” Addison Del Mastro reviews Matthew Crawford’s Why We Drive and, while he finds much to praise, he also warns against idolizing the car as an icon of freedom.
“I Became a Mother at 25, and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait.” Elizabeth Bruenig beautifully articulates “the truest thing about having children, which is that it isn’t a chore but a pleasure, not the end of freedom as you know it but the beginning of a kind of liberty you can’t imagine.”
“‘Dedicated’ Makes the Case for Choosing Something and Sticking With It.” Jennifer Szalai reviews Pete Davis’s Dedicated. Stay tuned for a review of this book at FPR next week.
“To Plow His Furrow in Peace.” Nathan Beacom writes about the life and work of the French painter Jean-François Millet: “To this day, his works remain a reminder of the worthiness of the ordinary worker who lives an ordinary life.”
“Tim Cook Is Not a Hypocrite.” Michael Brendan Dougherty describes the moral costs of Apple’s business model, a model shared by many large corporations.
“The Curriculum Needs Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, not ‘Decolonization.’” Jon Schaff casts a positive vision for education: “A university starts with a curriculum but has as its end people. When we view our curriculum through the lens of power struggle it will not be long before we start to see our students and each other in the same manner.”
“Intellectual Diversity Is Not All Academia Needs.” In a similar vein, James Matthew Wilson reminds us that true wisdom begins in wonder: “One can only wonder about the world because the world is first wonderful; the wonder of things existing precedes our wondering about them. The world compels us to philosophy; our desire for knowledge is merely a response to what the world first demanded.”
“Amazon and Us.” Kyle Edward Williams reflects on Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America and considers what Amazon’s dominance of the American economy and culture says about us.
“We Don’t Need a ‘Moonshot’ for Faux Burgers—We Need To Hold ‘Big Meat’ Accountable.” Sophia Murphy argues that meat per se isn’t the problem; the economic system around raising and processing animals in the US is: “Cheap meat is a problem. The much-loved (recently mythologized) hamburger is brought to us by an extractive industry whose recent record profits come on the backs of disadvantaged workers, animal cruelty, mountains of manure, and a whole lot of public subsidies. But even the quickest, most superficial look at today’s U.S. food system shows the solution to the mess is not public subsidies for petri-dish proteins that will inevitably be produced (or at least funded) by a handful of large, vertically integrated food and feed companies.”