From the DG blog:
What is righteousness? Should churches be involved in social issues? How does one practice law to the glory of God? At an event on June 12 hosted by the Alliance Defense Fund, Pastor John spoke with with a group of law students about these important issues:
[Update: I had to remove the video due to problems in having it embed correctly; to see the video, click through to DG.]
Time markers for the questions:
18:25 — Would you agree with the definition that “righteousness seeks the good of the community?” How do you define righteousness?
23:57 — How do developing countries counter the prosperity gospel?
27:46 — How can we maintain our zeal for God’s glory throughout our work?
36:20 — Should churches be involved in social issues, or individual Christians?
41:07 — What is the method of discerning whether an institution is a result of hallowing God’s name?
Very, very, very fascinating. Here’s the description of Thomas Sowell’s latest book Intellectuals and Society, from the front flap:
This is a study of how intellectuals as a class affect modern societies by shaping the climate of opinion in which official policies develop.
The thesis of Intellectuals and Society is that the influence of intellectuals is not only greater than in previous eras but also takes a very different form from that envisioned by those like Machiavelli and others who have wanted to directly influence rulers.
It has not been by shaping the opinions or directing the actions of the holders of power that modern intellectuals have most influenced the course of events, but by shaping public opinion in ways that affect the actions of power holders in democratic societies, whether or not those power holders accept the general vision or the particular policies favored by the intellectuals. Even government leaders with disdain or contempt for intellectuals have had to bend to the climate of opinion shaped by those intellectuals.
Intellectuals and Society not only examines the track record of intellectuals in the things they have advocated but also analyzes the incentives and constraints under which their views and visions have emerged.
One of the most surprising aspects of this study is how often intellectuals have been proved not only wrong, but grossly and disastrously wrong in their prescriptions for the ills of society — and how little their views have changed in response to empirical evidence of the disasters entailed by those views.
So intellectuals in modern times have been shaping society not by shaping rulers directly, but by shaping the climate in which their policies develop. This has largely been to society’s detriment because most of these intellectuals’ viewpoints have had a poor track record when put into practice — and yet these intellectuals refuse to change even on the basis of empirical evidence. This is both ironic and anti-intellectual.
The first paragraph of the preface goes on to flesh out a bit more why intellectuals have been able to exert such a large influence in this way:
There has probably never been an era in history when intellectuals have played a larger role in society. When those who generate ideas, the intellectuals proper, are surrounded by a wide penumbra of those who disseminate those ideas — whether as journalists, teachers, staffers to legislators or clerks to judges, and other members of the intelligentsia — their influence on the course of social evolution can be considerable, or even crucial.
Sowell is one of my favorite authors, and I’m really looking forward to reading this book. What Sowell might not cover, but which just might be the story of the next 50 years, is the power the internet has to change this dynamic.
On the one hand, the internet can be another mechanism to disseminate bad ideas of misguided intellectuals. But on the other hand, the internet means that you don’t need to have a Ph.D. or a professorship to be an intellectual any more. You are an intellectual if you generate ideas. The web gives everyone the power to make known their ideas now, and to amplify their efforts on a large scale.
Granted, a lot of people do this poorly and simply end up generating and/or disseminating bad ideas. But if people with quality ideas step up and keep stepping up, we are no longer in a top-down world where the ideas of the intelligentsia will have the power they once did. Good, compelling, and true ideas from all sectors can make a greater difference as they are amplified by the power of the internet, thus counteracting the influence of the misguided intellectuals.
I made note of these two interesting points when I read the original Freakonomics a few years ago, to remember whenever buying and selling a home. They are from pages 7-9 and 71-76.
1. On Incentives
Incentives not aligned between seller and real estate agent—if the agent sells your house for $10,000 less, they lose only $150 in commission, while you lose $10,000. Thus, the incentives create a motivation for quick sales, and $150 or so is a small price to pay.
2. On Code Words
Real-estate agent code: Descriptive words (granite, state-of-the-art, corian, maple gourmet) mean it is a good house, and are associated with a higher selling price and used by agents when selling their own homes. Empty adjectives (fantastic, spacious, charming, great neighborhood, !) are code for “not much worth describing.”
- Fantastic and charming = not much worth describing
- Spacious = impractical
- Great neighborhood = this house not that great, but there are nice ones around
- ! = real shortcomings
- Granite, gourmet, corian, etc. are specific and straightforward. If you like granite, you might like the house; but even if you don’t, granite certainly doesn’t connote a fixer-upper.
From Fast Company: “A team of MIT mathematicians has developed a model that describes how and under what conditions such jams form, which could help road designers minimize the odds of their formation.”
I’ve made it back from China and spent the last week or so catching up on some things. It was an excellent trip. I really like China and its people, and we learned a ton.
One of my colleagues on the trip is an incredible photographer. If interested, he has posted some of his pictures online. His shots are amazing not only for capturing some of the feel of China, but also as examples of excellent photography in themselves.
I’ve posted some of my pictures also. They aren’t even in the same ballpark in terms of quality, but here they are.
Our guide during our time did a superb job showing us around, teaching us about the culture, and setting up very good meetings with various people. She also maintains a very enjoyable blog on life in China that is worth checking out.
I probably won’t blog much else on the trip itself, although you can see my real-time twitter posts on my twitter page. Here would be two brief observations/lessons:
- The impact of economic freedom. The reforms that went into place beginning in the 80s to give the Chinese people greater economic freedom completely transformed the nation. They brought it from poverty to stunning economic prosperity. Obviously there is still a ways to go, but the economic transformation of China is a testimony to how capitalism, not socialism, enables a nation to support itself and then prosper. This provides real jobs for people and opportunity. It is unfortunate that many in our nation want to go the opposite direction, and utterly ironic that a communist nation sees the value of economic freedom more than some of the leaders here.
- The productive value of getting up super early. Early in the trip I would wake up at 3 am. It is amazing how much you can accomplish by getting up that early. But, it’s hard to sustain. When this happened again once I was back, I found it more exhausting than productive. But now that I’m back to normal in my sleep patterns, I may try this again sometime.
- Chopsticks are awesome.
Fast Company has an interesting, short slideshow of the 13 most creative cities in the world. Some of the cities on here were surprising.
From Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, which I read last fall and really enjoyed:
In today’s mass societies, it takes only 1 percent of people making a dedicated choice — contrary to the mainstream’s choice — to create a movement that can change the world. (p. xiv)