Past Present Podcast: Facebook Philanthropy, Baby Names, and Prayer Shaming


On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic gift, the history of baby names, and “prayer shaming.”

Facebook Philanthropy

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced they would donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charity, totaling some $45 billion. Some observers have been critical of the couple’s decision. Niki pointed to Napster founder Sean Parker’s manifesto, “Philanthropy for Hackers” as a precursor to this debate. Natalia mentioned that books like Matthew Bishop’s Philanthrocapitalism have applauded the way billionaires are devoting themselves more to charitable giving and thereby reshaping the world. We recommend reading the history of philanthropy blog, HistPhil, for more. As a starting point, check out Benjamin Soskis’s essay on the Ford Foundation and the Gospel of Wealth.

Baby Names

The most popular baby names of 2015 have been released, and gender-neutral options and names inspired by Instagram filters have made the list. Natalia reminded us that the bestseller Freakonomics has a chapter devoted to the economic consequences of what parents name their children. Niki shared the baby name generator that allows you to see what your name would be if you had been born at different points in history.

Prayer Shaming

In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, the New York Daily News devoted its cover page to attacking Republican politicians who offered “thoughts and prayers” instead of political solutions to the nation’s gun crisis. Conservatives lashed back, decrying the rise of liberal “prayer shaming.” But Neil argued against the false dichotomy of a religious right and secular left in this debate, pointing out many liberals had offered their prayers while several Christian conservatives had criticized the thoughtless habit of extending “thoughts and prayers” on social media.

What’s Making History

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