Harper’s Notes (4/9)

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: chess, church, the Constitution, and more.

The editors

April 9, 2024

Catho-Locke Church: Under the guidance of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has liberalized its attitude toward LGBT members. But discrimination remains in myriad and persistent forms, including a recent holding that gay couples are “morally unacceptable from an objective point of view.” In the latest Harper Review essay, Evan Wells argues that the exclusion of LGBT members from the Church violates the religious contract between God, the Church, and its people. Returning to the political theory of John Locke, Wells argues that the Church has no authority to exclude LGBT members. Any exclusion usurps the Church’s God-given mission to bring men out of the state of nature and minister to their religious and spiritual needs.

Divination class: Will your BA in English be coveted 15 years down the line? Will your computer science minor remain profitable? Maybe. Who’s counting, anyways? Future Café is counting. This undergraduate conversation series run by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory will ask students to imagine “The Future of the University” on April 10. The conversation will entertain a wide variety of theories, given that educational trends can transform to reflect the social milieu of their time. Pizza is promised, along with discussion about the role of artificial intelligence, humanities and STEM fields, public policy, and private corporations in the future of higher education.

Queen’s gambit: Studies show that men and women are equal in terms of average intelligence. Why, then, do men dominate elite chess rankings? Is male overrepresentation in chess the result of innate differences between the sexes, or of harassment and discrimination? In her fascinating new essay for Quillette, evolutionary biologist and former Harvard University professor Carole Hooven explores these questions. According to Hooven, intelligence alone is insufficient to explain success in chess or many other “brainy” pastimes. Spatial ability, willingness to memorize games and positions, and an obsessive drive to win are equally important. But are these traits inherent or learned? See what Hooven has to say on the matter in her essay at the link.

American idolatry: Mark your calendars! On May 9, Aziz Rana, legal scholar and Provost’s Distinguished Fellow at Boston College Law School will visit campus to discuss his recently published book, The Constitutional Bind: How Americans Came to Idolize a Document that Fails Them. In The Constitutional Bind, Rana, perhaps best known for writing The Two Faces of American Freedom, explores the origins and impact of what he views as excessive veneration of the Constitution in American political discourse. Through a mix of historical and legal analysis, Rana tracks the consequences of America’s shifting views on the fallibility of the Constitution, and how those attitudes have affected policy at home and abroad. Rana will be joined in conversation by William Baude, the Faculty Director of University of Chicago’s UChicago’s Constitutional Law Institute.

Mendelssohn reborn: Felix Mendelssohn was known during his lifetime as an exceptional musical prodigy and his reputation as a great romantic composer persists today. Thus, it is a great shame that despite producing a considerable oeuvre spanning various forms, his music—outside of his Violin Concerto in E Minor and his incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream—does not reach a great proportion of today’s public. Thankfully, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform Mendelssohn’s Elijah, a towering epic of an oratorio, from April 11 to April 13. Take this opportunity to experience the biblical story of the prophet Elijah, interpreted in all its grandeur and gravity by the German master.