Author: Clay Routledge

From Academia to Hollywood: An Interview with Tony Tost

Tony Tost is a television writer and producer. He was the creator of Damnation, which Tost describes as a “Clint Eastwood western set in the world of John Steinbeck.” The show (streaming on Netflix) fictionalizes the labor wars of rural America in the 1930s. Before creating Damnation, Tost spent five seasons writing for Longmire (also on Netflix). He just wrapped working as a writer and producer for The Terror: Infamy, which will air August 12 on AMC. Before breaking into screenwriting, Tost was a poet and academic. Below is an interview I recently conducted with Tony about his personal background and his experience in both Hollywood and academia. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: You are now a successful Hollywood screenwriter but that is not the world you come from. In fact, as you know, we grew up not far from each other in Southwest Missouri. Would you discuss your background a bit and how it has influenced your work? Tony Tost: I prefer “working” to “successful” as a screenwriter modifier, but sure: I started …

Religious Faith and the Family: An Interview with Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox

Bradford Wilcox is a professor of sociology and the lead author of a recently released report entitled The Ties that Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family? As part of my research on the psychology of meaning, I study religious beliefs and practices, so I was curious to learn more about the research in this new report. Below is an interview I conducted with Dr. Wilcox for Quillette about the report and his broader work on marriage and family. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: I’ll start by asking you to answer the question posed in the title of your report. Is faith a global force for good or ill in the family? Bradford Wilcox: In the main, religion is a force for good in the families we examined in this report—from 11 countries ranging from Mexico to Canada, from the United States to Ireland. Partners who attend religious services together tend to do better than their secular peers and their peers in nominally religious, or religiously mixed, …

Meaning Matters

Everyone seems to be talking about meaning at the moment. Many appreciate that our lives need some kind of existential structure—cultural worldviews, social roles, and goals that give us purpose. Some speculate that we are suffering a crisis of meaning in the modern Western world for a variety of reasons including increased social alienation, automation, and the decline of religion. Others believe that meaning comes from within the individual, that we can abandon traditional beliefs, duties, and attachments and fashion our own existential framework. Some argue that meaning isn’t really that important at all and that we should instead focus solely on practical concerns such as physical health, economics, education, and the environment. As a behavioral scientist who has spent nearly two decades conducting research in existential psychology, I have some thoughts on why we should care about meaning and how modern life challenges our search for it. First, meaning is important. Perceptions of meaning in life influence a wide range of life outcomes. People who have a strong sense of meaning in life, compared …

Thank You, APA

People who don’t live in northern climates may not realize that construction doesn’t stop even in the coldest months. I live in North Dakota and was driving by a building site just the other day and saw a bunch of men stoically working in subzero temperatures and generally miserable weather conditions. I then started thinking about the other difficult and dangerous jobs that are dominated by males such as logging workers, fishing workers, roofers, and iron and steel workers. For some strange reason, men seem to be uniquely willing to do dangerous jobs. In fact, economist and American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark J. Perry has documented a gender occupational fatality gap. Turns out that even though men make around 53 percent of all workers in the United States, they account for about 93 percent of workplace fatalities. Thanks to the new guidelines from the American Psychological Association (APA) for practice with men and boys, male psychology is no longer a mystery and mental health professionals are now equipped with the tools they need to combat …

How the Self-Esteem Myth Has Damaged Society and Us—An Interview with Will Storr

Will Storr is an award-winning journalist and novelist. His work has appeared in outlets such as the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the New Yorker, and Esquire. His latest book is Selfie: How We Became so Self-Obsessed and What it’s Doing to Us. As a psychologist who studies the self and related topics, I was excited to read the book and was not disappointed. I highly recommend it. Below is an interview I conducted with Mr. Storr about Selfie.  Clay Routledge: What made you interested in researching and writing a book focused on the self? Will Storr: My previous book, The Unpersaudables, was an investigation into how intelligent people come to believe crazy things. It focused on the ways we become intellectually stuck. I concluded that we don’t really choose the things we believe—at least not those things that are core to our worldview. What we believe is just part of the accident of who we are. In an important way, our core beliefs and our self are indivisible. But this was also a slightly unsatisfying …

From Astrology to Cult Politics—the Many Ways We Try (and Fail) to Replace Religion

If you count yourself among the secularists cheering for the demise of religion, it isn’t hard to find comforting statistics. Nearly every survey of the state of religion in my own country, the United States, presents a similar picture of faith in decline. Compared to their parents and grandparents, Americans are less likely to self-identify as religious, attend religious services, or engage in religious practices such as daily prayer. Full-blown atheism is still a minority position. But the ranks of the “non-religious”—a broad category made up of those who reject traditional conceptions of God and religious doctrines, or who express uncertainty about their beliefs—are growing. Even those who self-identify as Christians are less inclined to talk publicly about God and their faith than their predecessors. Indeed, many Americans are Christian in name only—using the term more as an indicator of their cultural background than as a declaration of a spiritual life committed to the teachings of Christ. And the rest of the Western world is even farther ahead on this same path. But secularism advocates …

Our Fast Food Social Media Diet

If you want to become a miserable partisan who spends more time being angry at people you have never met than enjoying the company of friends, neighbors, and loved ones, then Twitter is the place for you. Social media platforms can be useful. I have made a number of personal and professional contacts on Twitter. And, if calibrated correctly, it offers valuable exposure to a wide range of ideas. But Twitter is also, as the cool kids say, a dumpster fire. It is too frequently an arena in which professional adults throw emotional and bigoted tantrums that most parents would not tolerate from very young children. And Twitter is certainly not the only platform for this kind of behavior. The more I learn about Facebook as a company, the more I dislike it. I deactivated my account. Intoxicated by feelings of moral righteousness, we yell past one another while our tech overlords busy themselves with hacking the human brain and annihilating any trace of cognitive freedom. It isn’t hard to get people to agree that …

Social Justice in the Shadows

My 42 years of life can be divided roughly into two periods. The first began with my birth in West Africa to Christian missionary parents. Though my family was forced to leave Africa when my siblings and I became deathly ill with malaria, our missionary-style life continued in Missouri’s Ozark region. My father pastored small churches and ended his career in ministry as a hospital chaplain, retiring only when the neurodegenerative disease that ultimately took his life rendered him unable to perform his duties. In addition to providing spiritual guidance and comfort to congregants, hospital patients and grieving families, my father conducted a separate business as the owner of rental houses. This not only helped my dad support our large family, it also provided him a way to informally share the teachings of Christ through his day-to-day actions. He would allow renters to pay what they could, when they could, even if they fell months behind on their payments. He would drive renters who didn’t have their own transportation to doctor’s appointments, court dates and …

The Academy Needs to Confront the Danger Within

For its own sake if nothing else. Pew Research Center recently released survey data showing that 58% Republicans and Republican-leaning Americans believe US colleges and universities have a negative impact on our nation, a number that has been steadily increasing over the last several years. Only 19% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Americans hold such a negative view. Many social commentators and academics have been quick to blame conservative media for this changing view among Republicans by arguing that right-leaning outlets have unfairly portrayed colleges as places of radical left activism and hostility toward conservatives. What exactly have Republicans learned from conservative media? They have learned that there is a vanishingly small number of conservative and centrist professors, especially in the social sciences and humanities. They have learned that certain academic fields are becoming increasingly activist-oriented, pushing an ideological agenda that ignores empirical data. They have learned that when the social justice agenda and truth collide, the social justice agenda typically wins. They have learned that professors who offer divergent perspectives are often ostracized and silenced, …

Why Social Scientists Should Not Participate in the March for Science

Many social scientists are excited about and poised to participate in the upcoming March for Science, which is being described by the organizers as a “celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.” I realize that this will be a controversial position, but I believe the best way social scientists can contribute to the March for Science is to quietly sit this one out. I am very much pro-science and share some of the concerns people have about cultural and political threats to science. That being said, in my opinion, the social sciences are currently too compromised to help the cause. Even those who have the best intentions risk doing more harm than good. Why? For one, there is very little political and ideological diversity in the social sciences. It is true that many academic fields lean left, but this especially the case within the social sciences. Check out Heterodox Academy for details. In many social science departments it is easier to find a Marxist than a …