Marvin Olasky

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture


On Desperate Remedies

Olasky Books September 2022
Doctors are supposed to live by the Latin phrase generally translated as First, Do No Harm: Primum non nocere. Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness (Harvard University Press, 2022) is a history of purported cures for mental illness that have often been worse than the disease. Desperate Remedies is so important and readable that for the first time I’m Read More ›

Homeless Encampments and Mental Illness

Fifty-one years ago I bicycled from Boston to Oregon. I was a Marxist then and looking for evidence of the American empire falling apart, but during the whole ten weeks on the road I didn’t see the one tourist attraction that would have delighted my propagandistic self: homeless encampments. Now every city seems to have them.

On How the World Really Works

In Austin, 29 of the 31 days of July featured triple-digit heat. Thus, far be it from me to joke about global warming concern — but reality makes cutting back on oil and natural gas very difficult. Vaclav Smil in How the World Really Works (Viking, 2022) notes that the best offshore wind turbines generate power only 45 percent of the time. Read More ›

A Look at Community First! Village in Austin Pt. 2

I wrote last week about Community First! Village, located on relatively cheap land just east of Austin and getting national applause as the coolest homelessness project in what some call America’s coolest city. There’s plenty of hype in both characterizations, especially since many laudatory magazine articles focus on the tiny homes at CFV that draw admiring eyes, and not the dramas occurring within them.

On Homelessness in America

Olasky Books July 2022
Stephen Eide’s Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022) is an excellent overview. I’ll write more about it next month in my weekly column at the Fix Homelessness website, but I’ll just note here what Eide writes about “Housing First” tendencies to emphasize roofs rather than root causes: If we define a homeless, mentally Read More ›

Do Homeless Lives Matter? Nine Fatal Minutes, Two Years Later

Today’s police are trained not to take chances, said one retired SFPD who was on the force for 30 years: “Officers are now primarily reactive; there is very little of the self-initiated activity that was once common, appropriate and encouraged. They have become risk-averse, disinclined to go hands-on with suspects. This is a factor in the bigger picture of what is going on in American policing.”

On Admiral Hyman Rickover

Olasky Books June 2022
Marc Wortman’s Admiral Hyman Rickover (Yale University Press, 2022) is a tightly-written biography of brilliance: Rickover at age six came to the U.S. from Poland, gained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, and set a record by serving in the Navy for 63 years. He oversaw the invention of the world’s first practical nuclear power reactor by essentially abolishing rank Read More ›

Learning From History

In helping the homeless we should be both generous and discerning. If we only provide material help in a way that enables addiction and overlooks mental illness, our generosity may be selfishness that gives ourselves a warm glow but hurts others.

On God, Human, Animal, Machine

Olasky Books May 2022
A long time ago one little-known band claimed we all live in a yellow submarine. Now, Elon Musk and others have said we probably live in a simulation — an environment constructed by our far-distant descendants using ultra-powerful computers, or maybe by aliens. Wired columnist Meghan O’Gieblyn reports in her new book, God, Human, Animal, Machine (Doubleday, 2021), that “the theory’s popularity Read More ›

On Bullies and Saints

Olasky Books April 2022
Before I became a Christian at age 26 I would have protested the title of John Dickson’s Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History (Zondervan, 2021). I would have told evangelicals, “You’re a bunch of bullies.” A decade ago I might have complained the other way: “We’re flawed saints battling against the left, Read More ›