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More Links For October 2014

Bad Conlanging Ideas Tumblr, or best conlanging ideas Tumblr?

No, Aristotle is not your dumb straw man opponent of empiricism.

One thing you have to learn in every freshman biology course, and the better sort of freshman philosophy course, is that evolution doesn’t necessarily go “from worse organisms to better organisms” or even “from less complex organisms to more complex organisms” in any meaningful fashion. On the other hand, organisms from more “evolutionarily deep” areas are more likely to invade less “evolutionarily deep” areas than vice versa. So maybe there’s something to the idea of evolutionary “progress” after all, albeit probably not in the way a lot of people would think.

Last links post I made fun of Russia’s wood shortage by saying it was like Saudi Arabia having a sand shortage. Alyssa Vance helpfully informed me that Saudi Arabia did, in fact, have a sand shortage.

Andrea Rossi’s e-Cat cold fusion machine passes another round of probably rigged tests, including one where it was able to change isotope ratios in a way that would have been very impressive had it not been almost certainly rigged. Less Wrong Facebook is taking bets on replications – but they’re less “think it will” vs. “think it won’t” and more “1% chance it will” vs. “0.0001% chance it will.” Rational Conspiracy sums up some of the discussion, but note that Robin says (privately, on Facebook) that this is seriously misrepresenting him, so the post should be taken only as a survey of the issues involved and not as accurate about Robin’s personal position. Also, I ask about some of the patent issues it raises on Tumblr.

There’s now a claim that along with everything else gut microbes can contribute to the pathogenesis of eating disorders. Haven’t investigated to see if it’s true yet because I know very little about these conditions and am hoping Kate Donovan will do the hard work.

Speaking of aetiology of mental disorders, here’s the best Grand Unified Theory Of Autism I’ve seen this week: autism stems from a prediction deficit. Also glad the importance of prediction to the brain’s architecture is getting some much-deserved media attention.

Second best Grand Unified Theory Of Autism I’ve seen this week: Neural stem cell overgrowth, autism-like behavior linked, mice study suggests.

In the slightly more reality-based fusion community, Lockheed Martin announces that they expect to have a truck-sized fusion reactor ready in ten years, making the joke that “fusion is always twenty years off” somewhat obsolete. The polywell people have also mentioned the ten years number. But more sober scientists are doubtful.

My old Biodeterminist’s Guide said it was “likely” that exercise increased fetal IQ but didn’t have a good study to point to. Now the evidence is in to confirm that hypothesis.

Yxoque is starting rationalist-tutor.tumblr.com to try to teach some basic rationalist concepts to people who for some inexplicable reason possibly involving their head being screwed on backwards don’t want to read the Sequences. If you’re on Tumblr you may want to follow.

The libertarian talking points on California’s water shortage. Seems legit.

Songs From A Decemberists Album Where Nobody Gets Murdered, including “The Boy Who Joined A Guild And Worked Hard,” “Let’s Not Strangle The Dauphin,” and “Life As A Chimney Sweep Is Difficult But I’d Certainly Never Start Murdering Sex Workers Who Remind Me Of My Mother Just To Relieve The Stress.”

Ezra Klein’s been getting a lot of flak over a recent article, and I’m not usually someone to defend what THE ENTIRE WORLD seems to be denouncing as extreme over-the-top feminism – but in this case it looks like he’s taken a reasonable position on what unfortunately happens to be a taboo tradeoff.

Weird fluctuation in x-rays from the sun may be first direct detection of dark matter axions.

Want to live somewhere cheap? Try New York or San Francisco. Really? Yes, really.

A new paper finds that immigration neither increases unemployment nor increases growth. (h/t Marginal Revolution)

Of all the crappy things the Saudis do to women, one I didn’t know before was that women who have finished their jail term have to be picked up by a male relative. No male relative who wants to pick you up, no release from jail, ever. Seriously, screw Saudi Arabia. I hope the entire country collapses of chronic sand shortage.

The world’s first fully vegetarian city bans animal slaughter and the sale of meat within city limits. Only one problem – it doesn’t look like they asked the residents, who are kind of miffed.

Iran, when challenged on homosexual rights, famously declared that it had no gays. But did you know that when asked to host the Paralympics, the Soviet Union declined because it had no disabled people?

In keeping with our tradition of ending with a link to an interesting, funny, or surprising textbook: I kind of actually want to read this.

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472 Responses to More Links For October 2014

  1. lmm says:

    The narrative that our current sexual culture is imposed on women by men seems questionable to say the least. I’ve encountered at least one woman who was really quite unhappy that I wanted to hear affirmative consent from her.

    Ultimately that doesn’t matter as long as the norm changes, I guess. I’m just afraid of a culture where everyone technically breaks the law and it becomes something you’re expected to trust your partner enough to not worry about. (I mean, some people take that view on condoms)

    • Army1987 says:

      (I mean, some people take that view on condoms)

      Would you elaborate?

      • lmm says:

        That in the context of a stable relationship you should trust your partner not to sleep around, and so wanting to use a condom (when there is other birth control in play) is rude. Perhaps not the best analogy, but it was what came to mind.

        • John Hartman says:

          It should be mentioned that the pill by itself is far from 100% effective, so if you’re super risk averse then using condoms as well might not be a bad idea. That being said, other birth control methods like the Implanon are really *really* effective – in which case, yeah, condoms aren’t necessary at all (if you trust each other)

    • Wirehead Wannabe says:

      “I’m just afraid of a culture where everyone technically breaks the law and it becomes something you’re expected to trust your partner enough to not worry about.”

      I find this especially worrying given that the current culture seems to punish you for asking, getting you labeled as the sort of person who can’t read nonverbal signals.

      • 27chaos says:

        Men who have ambiguous sex are not going to be much deterred by what they’ll perceive as a low risk the women will consider them a rapist and then go through with reporting. The sex will be immediate and tangible, but the threat far off and highly questionable.

        So there is a risk that men who are good will be hurt by the law due to seeming tone deaf while men who are bad will not. However, I don’t think this risk is overwhelming. If the majority of people in California think that a consent standard is a good idea, this law will serve as a Schelling point that allows the standard to come out into the open despite some initial awkwardness. I think that what happens among undergraduates in the next few weeks will be important. We need to persuade as many attractive Californian college men to begin using this standard as we can. Perhaps prostitute actors should be hired.

        More seriously, although I do want a consent culture, if we want to lower the rape rate we’ll eventually need to deal with the role of alcohol on college campuses, somehow. That will be a huge challenge.

    • Deiseach says:

      Take this line from Klein’s article:
      Whether you can ask male colleagues out for a drink to talk about work.

      You know what that made me think of? That episode of “Babylon 5” where Ivanova, trying to sound out the new officer on whether he’d be likely to become part of their resistance or inform on them all to EarthGov, asks him back to her place after work for a ‘getting to know you’ chat.

      Ivanova means this in a purely professional context. The guy, however, thinks she’s hitting on him and this is a date, and he turns up at her door complete with bunch of flowers. Quote from the episode “Exogenesis”:

      After Ivanova asks Corwin over to her place [for the purpose of determining the extent of his loyalty to Earth to see if he could be added to the command staff’s little conspiracy] he goes to the Zocalo to buy flowers…he walks away with 40 credits worth of synthetic roses. Salesman: “Hi! Something I can help you with?” Corwin: “I don’t know, I was thinking…flowers.” Salesman: “Thinking flowers is good, giving flowers is better. What’s the occasion?” Corwin: “I’m not sure, but I think I have a date.” Salesman: “She asked you out?” Corwin: “She asked me in, her place.” Salesman: “Works fast. Is she aggressive?” Corwin: “You could say that.” Salesman: “Hah. Lucky guy.” Corwin: “It’s not like that. Well, it’s not like that yet…I think.”

      THAT’S THE JOKE. It gets elaborated on a little more later on, but the bones of it is this: woman asks man to meet her. Woman thinks it’s clear this is professional meeting. Man thinks woman wants to jump his bones.

      In real life, it’s not so funny. The least risk you run is getting a reputation amongst your colleagues and peers as some kind of bitch who sends out false signals and then shoves the blame on the guy for misreading her; the worst risk you run is the chance of physical or even sexual assault if he doesn’t take the misunderstanding well.

      • RCF says:

        I’m a guy, and if a guy asked me to his place to discuss “business”, I’d be rather nervous about accepting.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, it’s not confined to asking a male co-worker back to your place; if that were all, it would be easy to establish “Asking someone back to your domicile is not the same as meeting them in a neutral space”.

          But say you’re all at a conference or on a business trip or even it’s after an ordinary working day – for a woman to ask a man to meet her for a work discussion over drinks – and since in Ireland pub culture is the only culture there is, this is very applicable in my country – is very risky. My own instinct would be (a) don’t do it at all (b) if you really need to meet outside of work, ask another person along, either another male co-worker who is working on the same thing, or a female colleague. Anything to avoid giving any signals that could be misread.

          And Ezra Klein’s point, and my point, is that two male colleagues don’t usually have to think of the same “I’d better not be sending out any ambiguous signals here” parsing that women in general have to do.

          It starts when you hit puberty and you get told “You shouldn’t play with the boys anymore” and when you want to get a reason why you can’t climb trees or kick balls around with them like you did last year, it’s just intimated that it isn’t the done thing, it’s not ‘what girls do’. Nobody comes right out and says “Because now you’re menstruating and your breasts are growing and you’re now visible as a female, where before there were no signs of sexuality”.

          And it goes on from there, and it’s just so damn tiring to always be worrying about “I’d better sit on the outside seat on the bus in case a random guy sits down beside me and starts squeezing my knee and trying to run his hand up my leg” (yes, that happened to me). Sounds paranoid? Yes, and believe me, I’m as sick to the back teeth of it as you are. All men are not like that? Sure, but the ones who are like that unfortunately don’t come with a forehead tattoo that says “Creep”.

          Maybe it’s all diffrerent now in This Modern Age and twenty years old (plus0 women don’t have the same worries or concerns. I really hope so. But consent culture can’t hurt more in the long run than the kinds of school rules about “girls must make sure their bra straps never peek out if they’re wearing sleeveless tops on a hot day because that distracts the poor helpless boys from their lessons. Remember, girls, it’s YOUR responsibility not to distract or entice boys, not the boys’ responsibility to do their class work!”

          • Sniffnoy says:

            And Ezra Klein’s point, and my point, is that two male colleagues don’t usually have to think of the same “I’d better not be sending out any ambiguous signals here” parsing that women in general have to do.

            Depends. If you’ve spent lots of time in feminist places on the internet, you can easily end up afraid, reasonably or not, that any ambiguous signals will get you read in the worst way possible i.e. as a creep and you’ll be shamed and ostracized for it.

          • JB says:

            I presume that two female colleagues also don’t have this issue.

            Personally speaking, I do pay a lot of attention to how to invite a female colleague to have a professional conversation outside of work, without having it be seen as anything other than professional. It’s a vexing problem and I would love, love a culture shift that makes everything more explicit and less ambiguous, so that if I say “do you have time to grab some tea and look these over?”, it won’t be anywhere close to being read as harrassment.

            Meanwhile, I can invite my male coworker over to my house and help him look over his scholarship application and play board games and nobody has to worry at all about misread signals. I have many female coworkers who I’m on equally good terms with and yet I would never even consider doing the same, since there’s just no way of doing it.

            The status quo is awful.

      • Harald K says:

        Looking at it from the guy side, you risk hugely public embarrassment + being labeled as unable to read signals (and thus a threat), or loneliness + being labeled as unable to read signals (and thus a threat).

        I’ve actually been in this situation two times that I can recall. I bet most men have. Both times I chose to err on the moderately safer side, and not see it as an advance.

        Now I am quite sure we come from different cultures, so your mileage may vary. But where I come from, I’m confident that the risk of violence or sexual assault in these situations is tiny. The vast majority of people who fail to read your signals wish you no harm whatsoever. (This is especially true if you are both awkward teenagers, new to both the sending and interpreting of romantic signals bit.)

        There is, however, a social risk for women too. That is that the guy will badmouth you. It’s a sort of relationship MAD – his own reputation will suffer if he does that, but your will too.

        • Hainish says:

          Looking at it from the guy side, you risk . . . being labeled as unable to read signals (and thus a threat).

          This isn’t the threat. Being able to read signals too well, and ignoring them, is the threat.

    • Vanzetti says:

      >The narrative that our current sexual culture is imposed on women by men seems questionable to say the least. I’ve encountered at least one woman who was really quite unhappy that I wanted to hear affirmative consent from her.

      This doesn’t mean the sexual culture is not imposed.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’m just afraid of a culture where everyone technically breaks the law and it becomes something you’re expected to trust your partner enough to not worry about.

      I could be wrong, but isn’t this explicitly the goal of the law ? The idea is that such a culture will lead to a power shift from men to women (who are currently severely underpowered, according to the crafters of the law) in the short term. In the long term, the hope is that this culture of constant legal threat will permanently reduce the number of undesirable sexual encounters, thus establishing a new waterline for what counts as normal, everyday sex.

      I’m not saying I endorse the law, merely that I think I understand the intent behind it.

      • 27chaos says:

        The stated goal of the law is to encourage people to talk explicitly about consent. Having people never talk about consent and sometimes get arrested would not fulfill that goal.

    • Quite Likely says:

      “I’ve encountered at least one woman who was really quite unhappy that I wanted to hear affirmative consent from her.”

      This seems bizarre to me, any additional info on why?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        This woman has made and erased several attempts to answer that.

        A standard such as Saying ‘No’ is not required, because the victim may be afraid of serious physical injury if she says ‘No’ seems appropriate in cases such as ‘stranger rape’. The stranger, who hopes to escape unidentified, has little to lose by adding bruises to the crime he is already committing. But in dating within a close circle of acquaintances (or fellow students or workers) the date is very unlikely to risk doing visible or inarguable physical damage. So “No means No” is a reasonable standard ETA: in that close acquaintance situation, imo.

        ETA 2: With 5 minutes of edit time, this will be clumsy. The distinction I’m making is not between kinds of assent but kinds of men/situations. “Scared to say No because he might break my arm” is reasonable when the man would have nothing to lose by that. But when the man would have a lot to lose, such as friends’ regard or his position in school, a date will not be likely to do visible physical injury.

        • ozymandias says:

          I believe one reason for affirmative consent standards is that it is relatively common for people to freeze up during rapes.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I think some meanings got swapped here. As I understand it, lmm is talking about a woman who was opposed to affirmative consent in the strong sense, but houseboatonstyx is against affirmative consent even in the weak sense. Ozy then replies with a good reason to support affirmative consent in the weak sense, which is useful as a reply to houseboat but irrelevant to lmm’s original comment. We really need to distinguish these!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I have ETAed my comment.

            Your link is about situations where physical rape, or at least intimidation, has already begun.

            But on a date with a schoolmate (both within the circle of close friends), there’s a friendly or seducting stage (at least) when a No is safe, and effective if actually spoken.

          • Setsize says:

            I can remember a few occasions during makeouts when I noticed that my date partner had become rather passive. I usually respond to this by dialing back and verbally checking in. In most cases they just weren’t emitting their enthusiasm along the channels I receive on (typical mind fallacy and all).

            In one case it turned out to be a sign of sensory overload, brought on by just lightly stroking the back of their neck in a certain way–which I had been doing because the initial response to it seemed very good, but with prolonged application they froze up.

            The point here is that whether it felt safe to say “stop” didn’t really enter into it, because the output routines had been disabled at a lower level than the judgement of safety operates on.

      • lmm says:

        She felt her signals were obvious, that I should have known, that I was being too clinical and that clearly this meant I wasn’t that attracted to her. Being charitable I think her cultural background made it particularly hard for her to talk about anything sexual; a few minutes earlier she’d asked me to check her breasts for lumps because she was worried about cancer.

        We were both pretty young and inexperienced, and I’m sure I’d be smoother now, but if it’s a law aimed at college students then how college students experience it is important.

        • veronica d says:

          Can we agree that a fumbling attempt at sexual contact between two (I assume) teens, which thankfully did not lead to assault, but which was awkward, does not justify a weak notion of consent.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Why some people/some women would be bugged by affirmative consent seems pretty obvious to me. If sex is more than a purely physical transaction, it has to have some element of *connection* between the parties, some kind of innate sympathy or understanding. Approaching sex with a checklist suggests that there isn’t.

        You see the same phenomenon in all sorts of relationships. Like guy friends insulting each other. The disjunction between what is said and what everyone understands is friendship fuel. It signals trust, mutual understanding, thick relationship, and trust in the other’s trust.

        A lot of culture works that way. Rationalists have done a lot of interesting work on signaling behavior but lack of signaling is itself a signal. If you don’t know what to do without being told, it brands you as an outsider.

        The teleology of sex is the creation of a two-person culture, which affirmative consent could disrupt by branding yourself as an outsider.

        I don’t mean to say that affirmative consent is always and everywhere wrong. But there are decent reasons why someone would resist having the relationship be shunted off into that mode.

    • Kevin says:

      Personally, I’m a big fan of affirmative consent. As someone with little relationship experience, I appreciate the reduction of ambiguity. However, with the past two girls I’ve dated, trying to get affirmative consent was like pulling teeth. They were reluctant to respond when I asked what they wanted, what they liked, etc. It’s frustrating, and it creates some undesirable incentives.

      • Hainish says:

        They were reluctant to respond when I asked what they wanted, what they liked

        I often respond the same way when someone is asking me about food or movies. Try asking questions to which yes/no are acceptable responses.

      • veronica d says:

        Okay, so time for a consent culture 101 class. Some scripts:

        “Hey, so like last night was kinda awkward. You wanna talk about that?”

        “So, I find you super attractive, but last night you got so quiet and stuff, and I need to know you really want me to proceed in a situation like that. I didn’t stop because I don’t like you. The opposite. I like you very much, but I need to know you really want this. Is there a way we can better communicate here?”

        “Is there stuff you know you don’t want to do? Is there stuff you definitely want me to do?”

        “It looks like this conversation is making you uncomfortable. Maybe we can talk about it later. I really like you and want this to work.”

        Look, I’ve been the woman who could not talk about it — because at the time I was going though a serious mental crisis, including therapy, and when discussing sex with partners I would completely dissociate, in a really painful way.

        IT FUCKING SUCKED (more than all-caps can properly convey).

        But that was something I needed to work through. And I did.

        If you are dealing with a partner who has these kinds of issues, who cannot even discuss sex, do you think pushing forward while she dissociates is a good idea?

        Affirmative consent is a great system. This is a great law. I hope we get more like it.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I think you are missing the point.

          The point is not whether you understand consent, the point is how do you prove in a college court that you had, in fact, obtained consent, and the consent was “affirmative and ongoing”.

          If you are presumed guilty until proven innocent, and there is no realistic way to prove your innocence, then this is a very bad law.

          Look, I’ve been the woman who could not talk about it — because at the time I was going though a serious mental crisis, including therapy, and when discussing sex with partners I would completely dissociate, in a really painful way.

          So, I hope that you never had sex while you had this problem, because if you did, and failed to obtain verbal consent from your partner, then according to this law you are a rapist.

          Does this law still look good when used against you?

          • veronica d says:

            I’ve always had the consent of my partners.

            (Edit: plus I was responding to Kevin, not you, so I don’t see why you should day I was missing the point? That seems presumptuous.)

          • vV_Vv says:

            I’ve always had the consent of my partners.

            And if one of them accused you raping them would you have been able to defend yourself in a college court under the “ongoing affirmative consent” system?

            (Edit: plus I was responding to Kevin, not you, so I don’t see why you should day I was missing the point? That seems presumptuous.)

            It’s a public discussion and you were commenting on the law.

          • veronica d says:

            @vV_Vv — Do you really want to have the “which sucks more, false allegations or being raped” conversation?

            Which, well, it’s all pretty tedious and I’d rather skip it.

            On the other hand, people who want to discuss how affirmative consent actually works, and how they can use it themselves, I’m here to talk.

          • Zorgon says:

            And here it is, at last: The Worst Argument In The World.

            He (I’m assuming he) asked you if you’d prefer to be subjected to the preponderance of evidence standard or the proven-guilty standard regarding your own encounters. Not whether you’d rather be accused or raped.

            On an object level this isn’t about whether it’s worse to be raped or accused of rape, at all. and I’m relatively certain you know it isn’t. Please stop doing that.

          • AJD says:

            I’ve always had the consent of my partners.

            And if one of them accused you raping them would you have been able to defend yourself in a college court under the “ongoing affirmative consent” system?

            Does the “ongoing affirmative consent” standard differ from any other (consent-related) standard in this respect? If not, I think this question is a red herring.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @veronica d

            Do you really want to have the “which sucks more, false allegations or being raped” conversation?

            I notice that you didn’t answer my simple question: would you be able to prove “affirmative and ongoing” consent in a court?

            On the other hand, people who want to discuss how affirmative consent actually works, and how they can use it themselves, I’m here to talk.

            That’s what we were discussing. How do you use “affirmative and ongoing” – notice the word “ongoing” – in order to avoid an unjust conviction?

            Do you think that a legal system which allows to convict essentially anyone without substantial evidence is preferable to a system which holds the accused innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt?

            @AJD

            Does the “ongoing affirmative consent” standard differ from any other (consent-related) standard in this respect? If not, I think this question is a red herring.

            It depends on how the courts are going to interpret the law, and the law has enough ambiguity to allow for a wide range of interpretations.

            I’m not a laywer, but IIUC, under the usual standard (the one used in criminal trials), the prosecution has to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the putative victim was either unable to consent, or able to consent and did not consent. It is generally assumed that consent can be implicit, provided that the accused had a “reasonable expectation”. The exact interpretation of “reasonable expectation” may vary, but in general if the putative victim had a chance to say no, and did not, then it is assumed that consent was given.

            Under the “affirmative and ongoing consent” standard, at least under the worst-case interpretation, once the complaint is made, the accused is assumed to be guilty unless they can prove to the court satisfaction that the putative victim had given verbal consent and the consent was “ongoing”. “Ongoing” is particularly problematic: even if there is a video recording of the whole incident where the putative victim states “I hereby consent to sexual intercourse with [the accused’s name].”, it is theoretically possible that the putative victim silently withdrawn consent 3 seconds later. Since the burden of proof is on the accused, even if the accused can prove that consent was given, how are they going to prove that it has not been withdrawn?

            Of course this is the worst-case interpretation. What is actually going to happen is that the law will give to college courts ample room to do whatever they want. Any given court can even apply different standards in different cases, depending on political considerations (e.g. the social status of the people involved, whether the administration want to appear “tough on rape”, etc.)

          • AJD says:

            Does the “ongoing affirmative consent” standard differ from any other (consent-related) standard in this respect? If not, I think this question is a red herring.

            I’m not a laywer, but IIUC, under the usual standard (the one used in criminal trials), the prosecution has to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the putative victim was either unable to consent, or able to consent and did not consent.

            This is true of an an ongoing-affirmative-consent standard as well; the only difference is that criteria by which the condition “did not consent” is considered to obtain are different.

            The exact interpretation of “reasonable expectation” may vary, but in general if the putative victim had a chance to say no, and did not, then it is assumed that consent was given.

            This is not a good assumption, for reasons discussed elsewhere (e.g., someone might “have a chance” to say no, but panic and not have the presence of mind to do so), and is the reason for changing the standard.

            Under the “affirmative and ongoing consent” standard, at least under the worst-case interpretation, once the complaint is made, the accused is assumed to be guilty unless they can prove to the court satisfaction that the putative victim had given verbal consent and the consent was “ongoing”.

            …In what way does this follow from an affirmative-ongoing-consent standard?

            If what you’re really objecting to is where the law in question places the burden of proof, or how it defines the standard of proof (i.e., a preponderance-of-evidence standard, rather than a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard—though keep in mind the law in question is not about criminal trials), then I think you should state that explicitly. But the standard of proof and the question to be proved, though part of the same law, are logically independent of each other, and saying that an affirmative-ongoing-consent standard automatically places the burden of proof on the defendant seems incoherent to me.

          • veronica d says:

            [tw: graphic description of the subject]

            @vV_Vv — You do realize that someone can falsely accuse someone else of rape right now, even lacking an affirmative consent standard. It’s easy. Watch.

            “He held me down, and I kept trying to say no, like, but he held his hand over my mouth. Then he said he’d kill me if I made any noise. He slipped his hand around my throat. I was really scared.”

            Sounds horrible. But see, I’m lying. That has (thankfully) never happened to me.

            So if your concern is false accusations, this changes very little.

            The point of the affirmative consent is to define what is actually rape, and a person lying still, terrified, unresponsive, overwhelmed, dissociated, while someone else has sex with them is rape. This law defines that.

            And note, regret after the fact is not covered by the standard. “I was totally into it at the time, but like the next day I though, ewwww!” — that according to this law is not rape.

            Of course, the person can lie. They can lie without the law. See the above scenario.

            Now, all that said, there do seem to be people confused about how affirmative consent works. There are people asking, “Well, good grief, how can I ever have sex?”

            I can answer that.

          • Matthew says:

            Veronica:

            I think there are two possibilities here:

            a) The law doesn’t meaningfully change the burden of proof given an accusation. In this case, it seems unlikely to deter rapists while simultaneously making things more awkward for everyone else.

            b)The law does meaningfully change the burden of proof given an accusation. In this case, you’re likely to see more true rape accusations (because the victims perceive it to be more worth the risk), but you’re also likely to see more false rape accusations (because bad people also perceive it to have less downside).

          • vV_Vv says:

            @AJD:

            This is not a good assumption, for reasons discussed elsewhere (e.g., someone might “have a chance” to say no, but panic and not have the presence of mind to do so), and is the reason for changing the standard.

            I seriously doubt that this kind of thing actually happens to any significant extent in non-violent incidents, and I’m going to need some references before accepting that claim.
            But even if that thing happens, then it would count as “not being able to consent”, provided that the prosecution could prove it. Having sex with somebody who is unconscious or catatonic is certainly already illegal.

            …In what way does this follow from an affirmative-ongoing-consent standard?

            There is the combination of “preponderance of evidence” and the fact that the law is enforced only if the accuser makes a complaint, and the fact the accused can’t prove that they had knowledge of a particular state of mind, or lack of change of state of mind, of the accuser if this is not supposed to entail an observable effect and the complaint of the accuser is considered prima facie evidence.

            The selective enforcement combined with “preponderance of evidence” can imply, depending on the interpretation, that the burden of proof is on the accused, and the difficulty in proving “ongoing” consent, if lack of a negative response is not considered sufficient, can imply that it is essentially impossible to provide exculpatory evidence.

            @veronica d:

            You do realize that someone can falsely accuse someone else of rape right now, even lacking an affirmative consent standard. It’s easy.

            You can make the accusation, but without evidence it would probably not lead to a conviction.

            Under an affirmative and *ongoing* consent standard the accusation itself can be considered, depending on the interpretation, prima facie evidence, and it it is very difficult for the defendent to provide exculpatory evidence.

            The point of the affirmative consent is to define what is actually rape, and a person lying still, terrified, unresponsive, overwhelmed, dissociated, while someone else has sex with them is rape. This law defines that.

            That’s already covered by the usual criminal law standard. Somebody who is “lying still, terrified, unresponsive, overwhelmed, dissociated” is overtly unable to consent, hence it is illegal to have sex with them.

            And note, regret after the fact is not covered by the standard. “I was totally into it at the time, but like the next day I though, ewwww!” — that according to this law is not rape.

            According to the affirmative and ongoing consent law, this is probably punishable as rape, provided that a complaint is made and the court feels like punishing it.

            Seriously, real rape is already illegal. Meddling with the definition of consent serves most likely only to enable women to punish pretty much any men they had sex with, provided that they can muster enough political clout.

          • veronica d says:

            @Matthew — Consider, it’s not a one-dimensional burden of proof. It might change in some ways but not others. There are rape cases where “well, she did not say no” is used as a defense. This changes that.

            My point is this: this is the proper definition of rape. Thus that is what the law should read.

        • Kevin says:

          I appreciate the response. Half of your suggestions are things that I have tried in some form. Maybe it’s a problem of delivery.

          If you are dealing with a partner who has these kinds of issues, who cannot even discuss sex, do you think pushing forward while she dissociates is a good idea?

          Here you have read something into my post that was not there. Specifically, you appear to assume that I was the one pushing forward. That certainly was not the case.

          I don’t know the relative frequency of women undergoing mental crises versus, e.g., women expecting men to confidently take charge or instantly interpret their desires, nor do I think those are the only possible explanations. However, I don’t think we have sufficient evidence at this point in the conversation to consider any of those frequencies to be negligible.

          • veronica d says:

            Here you have read something into my post that was not there.

            Oh, yeah, I was kinda switching to a more general frame there. I did not mean to imply you would do such a thing. What I meant was more like, in the worst case this could happen and surely you would want to avoid that. Which I’m sure you would. It was a clumsy rhetorical tactic. Sorry.

            Note that I am on record in believing that non-verbal consent exists and is fine. In fact, I think it is quite normal. I’ve done it. Most people have. Which is why these standards are affirmative consent and not verbal consent. This fact gets mentioned ad naseum, but still seems to get lost in the conversation.

            (I am aware that there are people who have difficulty reading body language and such. For such people, yeah, they might have to be more verbal.)

            Anyway, for your situation, yeah, I won’t give more advice. If the 101 stuff didn’t work for you — well, it might not be you. Instead it might be them. In this world there are people, both women and men, who are completely messed up about sex. For them I suggest working things out in the fetish scene, where there a structures for safely pushing the boundaries of consent, and for them to leave the non-fethishy, just-want-fun-cool-normal-sex people alone.

            (For the record, I’m in the fetishy camp. But I know this and I don’t dump my unusual kinks on folks who are not expecting them.)

          • Patrick says:

            “Which is why these standards are affirmative consent and not verbal consent. This fact gets mentioned ad naseum, but still seems to get lost in the conversation.”

            It gets lost in the conversation because these statutes/rules generally impose a duty to ensure that you have affirmative consent. This is the law’s usual way of saying that if it turns out that you thought you had affirmative consent and you were wrong, it is your fault.

            Which implies that you have a strong obligation to be absolutely sure that you have consent BEFORE you do anything for which consent is required. Non verbal consent generally happens during sexual acts, not before. So it may not help.

            TLDR, by the time you can be 100% certain from her reaction that she’s definitely into it, you’ve probably committed sexual assault.

          • veronica d says:

            @Patrick — All I can say is that is not my experience, nor is it experience I am familiar with from those I know. For me, things range from detailed discussions at fetish events all the way to frantic kissing with someone I just met on a dance floor.

            Honestly I wonder what sexual initiation looks like to some of you all. I mean, are you imagining your only two options are either to just grab them outright and kiss them or else to have a lengthy pre-scene negotiation? There is so much in between. Like, for example, eye contact. Or hand holding. Or stepping close, grinning in that sorta bashful way.

            And I get it! Eye contact is hard for some people. Some of you are really awkward.

            But you want affirmative consent, right?

            These are solvable problems.

          • Patrick says:

            Scenario that actually happened- my wife and I worked different shifts, and one evening we were finally home together. I moved to embrace her and kiss her. The air conditioner was broken, and it turns out she hates close physical contact when we are sweaty. Like, really, really, REALLY hates it. She reacted by pushing me away, waving her hands frantically in the air, and snapping at me. I did not see that coming. I was doing something that I thought had done before and that she liked, but in retrospect, I hadn’t done it under those specific circumstances.

            Well, I’m pretty sure I touched a boob. Affirmative consent standard, ho! Lets use California’s. I did not obtain affirmative consent for that sexual contact. The statute imposes an affirmative duty on me to do so, and I clearly did not.

            Please note that even if my advance had been welcomed, I would not have obtained affirmative consent from her reaction until after I’d already done something I can’t lawfully do to a stranger on the street.

            Further, I thought my behavior was justified by past relationship and past sexual history. But the statute specifies that these “alone” never indicate consent, and it isn’t clear what they’d have to be combined with to add up to consent.

          • veronica d says:

            @Patrick — You clearly made her uncomfortable enough to push you away. So, yeah, you fucked up. Don’t do that again. Or at least have a conversation with her about how you two want that stuff to go in the future.

          • Patrick says:

            I absolutely agree that I shouldn’t do it again! If that’s where you think the sticking point is between affirmative consent and regular consent culture, you’re pretty far off track.

            The question is whether I committed sexual assault. The other question is whether I would have committed sexual assault regardless of her response, since affirmative consent punishes failure to obtain affirmative consent, and not the act of sexual contact with someone who isn’t consenting. And the inference is that this is why people think affirmative consent requires asking for verbal consent- because how else are you to avoid this scenario?

          • veronica d says:

            @Patrick — Well, you could touch her shoulder lightly, move close, but not press in, and observe her reaction. If she “opens up” to you, continue. If not, back away.

            Or you could just ask, if you prefer.

            Which is to say, non-verbal communication is possible. If that is what you and your partner want, if that is what seems to fit the mood, you can get affirmative consent non-verbally.

            But, sure, sometimes verbal might be better. This is not a bad thing.

          • Patrick says:

            Aargh.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            I think the relevant question at this point is, if Patrick did have a conversation with his wife, what she would say. She may not be against rapid spontaneous escalation at that level in general. My girlfriend has explicitly told me that she approves of similar.

            However, I can’t imagine anything analogous at the level of intercourse, so I’d advocate a legal distinction based on the level of contact.

          • Patrick says:

            ADifferentAnonymous- It’s not hard to come up with a similar scenario involving penetration. Just use a rape case where the alleged victim consented to getting into bed naked with the alleged perpetrator and engaging in oral sex and manual genital stimulation. The alleged perpetrator believes he is engaging in foreplay, so he moves naturally from foreplay to penetration when the moment seems right. She reacts negatively.

            Unless her negative reaction is clear enough, there’s a good chance penetration will have occurred before her reaction can be noticed, interpreted, and her partner can respond. If her reaction is “silence” or “lack of resistance,” both of which affirmative consent rules focus on, they will be particularly hard to notice and we should expect lag time. Under an affirmative consent rubric, we might say that the guy reasonably believed that he had affirmative consent from her positive response to his foreplay. But his belief was incorrect. So he failed his duty to ensure he actually had ongoing affirmative consent, and engaged in at least a few moments of penetration before noticing his partner’s silent “lack of yes” and stopped.

            Or just imagine a scenario where a woman consents to sexual penetration, then changes her mind while penetration is ongoing. Per affirmative consent rules her partner has an ongoing affirmative duty to have affirmative consent at all times, and “silence” and “lack of resistance” are not consent. Lets assume that she does not verbally communicate (that is, is silent), and does not clearly non verbally communicate (resist). At best, she has a negative expression on her face (though the scenario doesn’t even require that). There will presumably be lag time between the changing of her mind and the point where her partner figures it out.

            Veronica d will no doubt continue to spin scenarios of two people reaching tremulously, haltingly towards each other, maintaining eye contact, and sharing an unspoken bond that makes each completely and reliably aware of exactly what the other welcomes. But some of us have sex without vulcan mind melds- awkwardly, clumsily, doing our best, communicating, MIS-communicating, and apologizing when we get it wrong.

            You’d think that someone in the kink community would be more concerned about a rule that effectively prohibits reliance on safeword systems, but whatevs.

  2. suntzuanime says:

    The criticism I heard of Ezra Klein’s article was that he had an amateurishly bad grasp of legal concepts, screwing up things like standards of evidence and what “due process” is. This seems like a more concrete concern than just making a taboo tradeoff.

    His claim that “preponderance of evidence” was a higher standard than “beyond reasonable doubt” jumped out as factually inaccurate even with my lack of formal legal training. And certainly I do not find it at all difficult to believe that Ezra Klein would write an article without knowing what the fuck he was talking about.

    • princess_Stargirl says:

      Where does he say this? Is the link Scot put up an edited version?

      In this article he explicitly says: “Are you sure you want make it impossible for colleges to expel potential rapists where the preponderance of evidence shows them to be responsible for repeated sexual assaults, but it can’t quite be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s not a standard, for instance, that we think employers should meet.”

      I also lack legal training but his legal analysis seemed more or less ok to me. I agree with him the reason we need a very high standard of evidence for criminal convictions is that going to jail for years is an incredibly harsh punishment. Especially given the hellish state of US jails and the prospects after being released from jail. Being falsely accused of rape and kicked out of school is horrifying but its certainly not nearly as bad as being falsely accused of rape and thrown in a US jail.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yes, it is an edited version, as you’d see if you scrolled all the way to the bottom. Props to him for at least noting the corrections made instead of just silently changing the article like many bloggers would.

    • RCF says:

      The article is exceedingly dishonest. He claims that Jonathan Chait said that the law is “”trampling due process”, but that phrase appears in the introductory portion of Chait’s article, that discusses the general trends in treatment of rape on college campuses, not this law specifically. Moreover, Klein later admits that the law does, in fact, urge a preponderance of the evidence standards, which makes his claim that “The Yes Means Yes law just doesn’t have much to do with procedural due process.” not very honest.

      One point I’ve seen made before is the basic idea behind civil actions is that there is a certain loss, and it simply remains to be determined who is to bear it. For instance, if you and I are in a car accident, and my car suffers $1000 worth of damage, someone is going to suffer $1000 of loss. The question is not whether the loss is to occur, but who is to incur it. I want you to bear it, and you, by defending yourself against my suit, are trying to get me to bear it. Thus, the preponderance of evidence standard makes sense because it simply means that whoever has the weaker case has to bear the loss.

      In disciplinary cases, however, what is at issue is not to whom loss is to be apportioned, but whether loss will occur at all. Thus, the standard should be more than “Does the school have a stronger case than you?” And yes, I do oppose the preponderance of evidence standard in other types of cases.

      I also disagree with the claim that the “consent tax” is paid exclusively by women. While I certainly am not claiming that men pay as large as a portion as women, there are negative effects on men. Not only do men have to worry about being perceived as consenting to what they have not consented to, but also, any time a woman refrains from doing something with a man, for fear that she will be perceived as giving consent for more, the man is also missing out on that.

  3. Michael Mouse says:

    I always suspect those empiricists hating on Aristotle of simply having the wrong guy: *Plato* is the one they’re after.

    This might be true for, say, Hawking, but it is hard to pin that on Russell, who had read quite a lot of both.

    • Nick says:

      Russell for all his reading should have known better, but he was no stranger to embarrassing mistakes about the history of philosophy. Cf this passage from his Why I am Not a Christian:

      Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

      • 27chaos says:

        What is the mistake? I think that asking why God is an exception to the idea causality works that way is a good question. A Christian can respond that God was never created but simply always existed. But the obvious atheist response is that the same is true of the universe.

        (In this understanding the Big Bang would not be the creation of something from nothing but rather the creation something familiar from something unknown. This is perfectly compatible with the evidence and since it doesn’t involve a personality or omniscience and omnipotence it is more probable than God.)

        • Nick says:

          There’s a couple things about the passage that make it very embarrassing for Russell.

          The first is that it’s embarrassing as an autobiographical statement. Russell wants to have us believe that he was “was debating these questions very seriously in my mind,” and that he “for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause” until he “read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?’” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause.”

          Now I’m familiar with hindsight bias and, but really, I find it very hard to believe he could be debating these questions “very seriously” in his mind if this objection never occurred to him. Like, this is the go-to objection for everyone to the first cause argument. Everyone! Even the people who have never heard of it or never read J.S. Mill or never did philosophy in their lives! Russell the future logician and philosopher apparently found nothing wrong with such an ill-formed argument until he read the simplest and most ubiquitous response.

          The second is that the argument Russell presents is not just a basic or abbreviated or simpler form of the First Cause argument, but rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere. Really, go read the arguments of Aquinas or Leibniz or whomever and you won’t find anything like this. More importantly, you won’t find anything like the the proposition that “Everything has a cause.” Nearly every caricature of the First Cause argument starts with that premise, then asks the obvious question of how or why God could be an exception. But the obvious answer is that no philosopher who is actually familiar with these arguments is stupid enough to defend a premise like that. Rather the arguments rely on something like “Everything that begins to exist must have a cause,” which is itself a consequence of the metaphysics the philosopher has already argued for, or Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason, which doesn’t necessarily concern itself with cause. Again, Russell had allegedly read all these people. He should know better.

          The third is that Russell should seriously expect that comparing it to that silly “turtles all the way down” story, or presenting it in sum the way he has, has anything more than cheap rhetorical force. I’m not even being unfair here: notice that right after all that Russell says “The argument is really no better than that.” Now look at what he’s done here up to that point: he’s given us a caricature. Then he’s told us a narrative about how he used to believe such a foolish thing, but the “philosophers and men of science” came along, the scales fell from his eyes, and now he understands it for what it is. Then he gives us a facile objection, beats on the strawman (or tinman, I suppose). Then he tells us a funny story. All that done, we’re primed to believe that it “really is no better than that,” but finally notice that, to someone familiar with the actual First Cause argument rather than the caricature, this is an insultingly bad treatment of it. The really damning sign is that we aren’t given any reference to real treatments of it—if you go read the Mill’s Autobiography, for instance, all you get is a face-palming passage about how Mill’s father gave him that answer and then had him go pay special attention to the writers of the Reformation as the “great and decisive contest against priestly tyranny for liberty of thought.” Presumably Mill was consequently so freed from thought that he never took recourse to reading those tyrannical old priests and finding there’s more to it than the silly caricature. And Russell is doing worse to us than Mill’s father did to him!

          So to put a very long story short, Russell gave us a strawman, then told us that he sincerely believed that strawman before being disabused of it by the most obvious possible objection, and had since read the real arguments, but made no attempt to fix this. His treatment has an obvious polemical nature and makes no recourse whatsoever to any sources. So I think I’m justified in saying that this passage is very embarrassing for Russell and that he should have known better. Consequently I think the author of the Aristotle article is probably justified going after Russell there, because after all, it’s not like it would be the first time Russell propagated embarrassing myths about the arguments of famous philosophers whom he had himself read!

          • Creutzer says:

            I think you’re misunderstanding the context and target audience of Russell’s essay. It’s not an academic paper. It wasn’t intended as an engagement with the history of philosophy, but calculated for social impact. I also think he simply wasn’t aiming for auto-biographical accuracy. The whole thing about “pondering the question seriously in my mind” was obviously rhetorical flourish. I can easily imagine Russell giving this talk with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes, to an audience knowing that he really wasn’t and thought the conclusion was obvious.

          • RCF says:

            “The second is that the argument Russell presents is not just a basic or abbreviated or simpler form of the First Cause argument, but rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere.”

            That is an exceedingly false statement. Here’s just one example, from Dinesh D’Souza’s “What’s So Great About Christianity”:

            Whenever you encounter A, it has to be caused by some other B. But then B has to be accounted for, so let us say it is caused by C. This tracing of causes, Aquinas says, cannot continue indefinitely, because it f it did, then nothing would have come into existence. Therefore there must be an original cause responsible for the chain of causation in the first place. To this first cause we give the name God.

            “But the obvious answer is that no philosopher who is actually familiar with these arguments is stupid enough to defend a premise like that.”

            Is this a No True Philosopher argument? While I agree that D’Souza is quite stupid, and not much of a philosopher, the fact remains that he tried to palm that argument off on his readers.

          • Nick says:

            Creutzer, as far as I can tell the target audience was the public at large. Russell delivered it as a talk and then published it as a pamphlet. I think you’re right that he was intending it to have social impact and rhetorical power–but that’s what makes such a big historical mistake all the worse to me. I wouldn’t excuse a Christian for making a mockery of history either, like if Robert Sungenis gave a talk about his “the Church was right about geocentrism” book. And I want to emphasize that it’s fine if Russell wants to criticize Christian arguments, or just polemicize against them or whatever, he genuinely believed they were wrong after all, but his being intellectually dishonest about it doesn’t win him any points from me.

            RCF, my statement can hardly be exceedingly false if the only example you can point to is an apologist called out countless times by the atheist community for being exceedingly dishonest. I don’t have any problem at all with agreeing that D’Souza is stupid and not a philosopher at all.

            In fairness to other Christian apologists, though, they wouldn’t know the issue with the First Cause argument unless they were actually trained in apologetics or widely read. Since the caricature is almost all one runs into outside of academic or classical literature (there have been attempts to change this; I can link to more modern defenses on the Internet if you want), it’s all that the Christians themselves would be familiar with, and so they come up with ever more implausible defenses of it. Shame on them, but belief in belief does that to people.

          • Deiseach says:

            Also, if you push it to the absurd extreme, Mills’ argument leads to doubting the existence of his father. After all, the question “Who made me?” can be answered by “my father”. Oh yes, and who made him? And who made his father? All the way back up the line.

            There’s no reason for Mills to believe this person claiming to be his creator; after all, as long as Mills has existed, he remembers being in existence, and does not remember “coming into being” one day. The argument that “Look around you at how babies are born” has no value, because suppose Mills is to ordinary babies as the universe is to the things within it?

            🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            (1) I wouldn’t believe Dinesh D’Souza if he told me grass was green (2) If you want to know what Aquinas said, there’s an English translation of the Summa online.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I doubt Russel was cribbing from Dinesh D’Souza. There’s really no excuse for the guy who literally wrote The History of Western Philosophy to be unfamiliar with/fail to engage with the strongest version of the argument as presented by Aristotle/Aquinas/Anselm/anyone else.

          • 27chaos says:

            I don’t think Acquinas’ or anyone else’s version of the argument is significantly stronger than that. It is just nuance, really, that only has meaning within a very specific philosophical framework. But debating an entire framework to get at one specific issue is unwieldy. In talks to the public, it is perfectly justified to simplify ideas. Only when talking to someone who believes in Acquinas’ ideas is one burdened to address Acquinas’ version of the argument specifically.

            If he wasn’t exaggerating, I agree it’s a bit silly to seriously engage the argument like he claims. However, I don’t think that confessing to being silly in his youth counts as embarrassing or much justification for ignoring other parts of his work.

          • Nick says:

            27chaos, the caricature has a premise that directly contradicts the conclusion. I can’t emphasize that enough: “everything has a cause” is not compatible with “God is uncaused.” No amount of nuance can fix that, and no amount of nuance does: the arguments as they already were for thousands of years relied on different premises, supported by an existing and elsewhere defended metaphysics, that don’t fall prey to such blatant logical fallacies. Maybe the arguments are wrong, but they aren’t wrong for any reason that Russell would have you believe.

            I don’t think this is a controversial point at all, so it frustrates me that you’re continuing to defend the use of it. Let me illustrate by way of analogy: no one worth listening to accepts that “basically, some time ago a human was born from a monkey” is an okay simplification of evolution, no one worth listening to accepts that “basically, reality is made up of wiggling shoelaces” is an okay simplification of string theory, and if any of these were told to the public, for obvious polemical reasons, by a researcher or practitioner of that very field, there is every reason to castigate them.

            To get to the larger point: before this caricature gained prominence, arguments embedded within a system just were all there was to engage. Aquinas and Avicenna and Leibniz and whoever else all formulated arguments from their own philosophies. But that doesn’t mean that it’s unwieldy to debate these things from within. Several modern skeptical philosophers of religion have done it and done it well, like Mackie in The Miracle of Theism and Oppy in Arguing about Gods. And, outside of the very examples we’re discussing, is there any reason to think that the guy who wrote A History of Western Philosophy was incapable of doing the same?

            Lastly, I’m sure that I’m overstating my case about the story of his youth. Really, that part I’ve always just found funny: when I explain my problem with the passage to others, I always cast it as embarrassing in a funny way, not as some kind of dark mark on Russell’s life. And really, it is funny, though not in the way Russell intended it: I can just imagine him a university student first encountering Mill in the library, and saying, “Oh… oh God, I never even considered that…”–deciding right there that his whole career in logic will be an atonement of sorts for that mistake.

            Anyway, to bring all this home, remember that this example is still pretty similar to the one in the Aristotle article: Russell propagated a myth he definitely knew better about. But none of this really comes as a surprise to me; according to Wikipedia, in Russell’s own words about his history textbook (i.e., from his autobiography): “I was sometimes accused by reviewers of writing not a true history but a biased account of the events that I arbitrarily chose to write of. But to my mind, a man without bias cannot write interesting history — if, indeed, such a man exists.” So, take it from Russell himself that he can hardly be trusted on historical matters!

          • RCF says:

            @Nick

            “RCF, my statement can hardly be exceedingly false if the only example you can point to is an apologist called out countless times by the atheist community for being exceedingly dishonest. I don’t have any problem at all with agreeing that D’Souza is stupid and not a philosopher at all.”

            It’s hardly the only example. And even if it were, it would be sufficient to show that you claim is false. You said that it was “rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere.” But I have shown that it is, in fact, an argument that has been defended. The least you could do is have the decency to admit that you were wrong.

            “In fairness to other Christian apologists, though, they wouldn’t know the issue with the First Cause argument unless they were actually trained in apologetics or widely read.”

            How is that a defense of them? That doesn’t change the fact that they are presenting a silly argument. Furthermore, you are now directly contradicting yourself. Earlier you said that no one defends this argument, and now you’re admitting that it is, in fact, the popular form of the argument. If this is in fact the form that the argument takes, then presenting it in that form is not a “caricature”, and you are simply being dishonest by inserting that derogatory term into your posts over and over again. The argument being common is not a defense at all for a the apologists who insist on presenting it, but it IS a defense for the detractors who argue against it. Yet you insist on pretending the reverse, that it ubiquity is somehow a defense for apologists, but does nothing to contradict your condemnation of it as a “strawman”. If it is the most common form of the argument, then attacking it is the OPPOSITE of a strawman attack.

            ”27chaos, the caricature has a premise that directly contradicts the conclusion.”

            IT IS NOT A CARICATURE!!! Do you think that D’Souza deliberately sabotaged his own argument?

            “I don’t think this is a controversial point at all, so it frustrates me that you’re continuing to defend the use of it.”

            How is 27choas defending it?

            “no one worth listening to accepts that “basically, some time ago a human was born from a monkey” is an okay simplification of evolution”

            If prominent defenders of evolution were saying that, then it would be completely legitimate to present arguments against it, and such arguments would not be “caricatures”.

            “To get to the larger point: before this caricature gained prominence”

            Once again, you’re contradicting yourself. If this argument is indeed a prominent tactic of theists, then it’s not a caricature.

            @Deiseach 
            “Also, if you push it to the absurd extreme, Mills’ argument leads to doubting the existence of his father.”

            You are confusing “Mills’ argument leads to” and “My feverish imagination, determined to come up with a criticism of Mills, no matter how ridiculous”. Mills never said that this is an argument for why God must not exist, he simply said that this invalidates an argument for why God must exist.

            “(1) I wouldn’t believe Dinesh D’Souza if he told me grass was green”

            Huh? The fact that D’Souza presented the argument is established by me quoting him presenting the argument. D’Souza credibility doesn’t come into it

            @Jaskologist
            “I doubt Russel was cribbing from Dinesh D’Souza.”
            That is irrelevant. Nick claimed it was “rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere.” That is false.

          • Harald K says:

            “it’s not like it would be the first time Russell propagated embarrassing myths about the arguments of famous philosophers whom he had himself read!”

            My sad impression after I started to read history of philosophy, was that this was completely common. Everyone seemed to tell a story of how everything was problematic until they (or their school, for the marginally less self-aggrandizing ones) swooped in and fixed things.

            For instance, it was a shock to me to find out how many of the criticisms of Descartes he had already anticipated, and defended at length.

            (Don’t even get me started on late 20th century ethicists!)

            I think this is in large part due to the institutions of philosophy, where self-promotion and an elaborate game of networking plays a big part in who gets to actually keep doing this.

          • Nick says:

            RCF,

            Let me back up here and give an account of how I take an argument with an intellectual tradition.

            Clearly influential proponents and critics of the argument arise throughout history. For the cosmological argument Aristotle, the Muslim philosophers, Aquinas, and perhaps Leibniz and Clarke. Hume and Kant are remembered as major critics of the argument. But among the proponents remembered through history, you won’t find the caricature. So, the caricature does not appear to have a very direct relationship with the cosmological argument as it has come down to us. So, I would say, and as far as I can tell very rightly, that it does not belong to such a tradition, no matter how much resemblance in words some of the premises have.

            That is not to say it’s never been used. The converse of Poe’s Law is true as well: there can always be found a proponent for any sufficiently bad argument. Give me long enough and I will find you some crackpot biology teacher or twelve year old on an Internet forum who defends evolution by explaining that it means that some time ago a monkey bore a human (but please don’t inflict that on me). That doesn’t mean it is remotely fair to associate this sort of thing with the arguments passed down by the intellectual tradition of the scientific community. The reason it is important to distinguish this from the tradition is that these arguments were passed down by tradition because they passed the test, so to speak; not that they were true or even valid, but sufficiently interesting to merit treatment through the ages. There is no indication that that which I have been calling a caricature could pass this test.

            Really, it seems to me that what this comes down to is you’re stamping your foot at the idea of a tinman. Did you not see in my original post where I called the argument a tinman? Did you not read Scott’s post Weak Men Are Superweapons? When I called it a tinman, I was acknowledging, from the start, that it has been used seriously, but that that doesn’t mean it should be taken seriously. Seriously, how am I having this argument on this blog of all places?

            So to respond at last to your first objection, this does not come down to my having or not having the intellectual decency to admit I was wrong, because I wasn’t. To your second objection, I was clearly referring to its being defended within said intellectual tradition to which I referred immediately afterward when I requested it be found in it. To your third, I objected so strongly to 27chaos’s post because it seemed to me that he was making excuses for Russell’s putting that which I have been calling a caricature forward: in other words, that he was defending the use of it.

            Lastly, I want to put in a word for Christian apologists, in part because I skipped over this part of your response and in part because I think you’re onto something in that I didn’t defend what was going on there very well.

            When something like what I have been calling a caricature gains prominence in spite of itself, and is the go-to argument to be ridiculed by its opponents (cf. that fundamentalist pastors will attack the “humans come from monkeys, huh?” “argument”), that will always spur the ignorant to its defense. I would wager that’s half the reason a tin man is ever defended at all, and Christians are not excepted from this. That doesn’t mean that I think it is okay that they should defend these arguments, but I think it’s understandable to. Like I already said, belief in belief does that to people: in defense of the ingroup, we’ll do anything, and it often looks like bad form to find something wrong with an argument it seems one’s ingroup is defending. And so it propagates not only among its opponents but among it proponents who just don’t know any better. Again, though, I’m surprised I should have to be explaining this. Isn’t this a standard lesson of LessWrong, à la Politics is the Mindkiller, Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided, and so on?

          • 27chaos says:

            I can see how the statement is sloppy now, he shouldn’t have advanced the argument in a form where the premises contradicted the conclusion. I agree academics should do better even in informal settings. That said, despite its history I have no real respect for the argument.

          • RCF says:

            @Nick

            “But among theproponents remembered through history, you won’t find the caricature.”

            First of all, I’ve already told you to stop using the word “caricature”. The fact that you continue to use the word loudly speaks to your dishonesty. Secondly, arguments as to who are recognized by ivory tower intellectuals aren’t really relevant to what’s happening in the real world.

            “So, I would say, and as far as I can tell very rightly, that it does not belong to such a tradition, no matter how much resemblance in words some of the premises have.”

            Well, la-di-da. People are making an argument that does not belong to your high falutin’ “tradition”. So what?

            “That is not to say it’s never been used.”

            That does not say that it’s never been used, but you saying that it’s never been used does say that it’s never been used.

            “That doesn’t mean it is remotely fair to associate this sort of thing with the arguments passed down by the intellectual tradition of the scientific community.”

            Then you should say “It isn’t fair to associate this sort of thing with the arguments passed down by the intellectual tradition”, rather than saying “No one ever says this”, and then engaging in a bunch of evasive bullshit when someone points out that people do, in fact, say this.

            “The reason it is important to distinguish this from the tradition is that these arguments were passed down by tradition because they passed the test, so to speak; not that they were true or even valid, but sufficiently interesting to merit treatment through the ages.”

            And why is that important?

            “Really, it seems to me that what this comes down to is you’re stamping your foot at the idea of a tinman.”

            First of all, “tinman” is not a term with a well-established meaning. Second, the phrase “stamping your foot” constitutes you accusing me of immaturity. Is it too much to ask for you to respond to my posts without gratuitous personal attacks?

            “When I called it a tinman, I was acknowledging, from the start, that it has been used seriously, but that that doesn’t mean it should be takenseriously.”

            You first called it a strawman, which means that no one has actually made the argument. Then you added the parenthetical term “tinman”. If you want to acknowledge that it has been used seriously, maybe you should do so explicitly, rather than adding parenthetical terms with no clear meaning.

            “Seriously, how am I having this argument on this blog of all places?”

            What the fuck is that supposed to mean? You are so obviously right that no rational person could disagree?

            “So to respond at last to your first objection, this does not come down to my having or not having the intellectual decency to admit I was wrong, because I wasn’t.”

            You said “The second is that the argument Russell presents is not just a basic or abbreviated or simpler form of the First Cause argument, but rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere.”

            That was wrong. You were wrong. And you refuse to admit it.

            “To your second objection, I was clearly referring to its being defended within said intellectual tradition to which I referred immediately afterward when I requested it be found in it.”

            Here’s a hint: if you want to be “clearly referring to its being defended within said intellectual tradition”, the way to do that is to say “rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended within said intellectual tradition”, rather than saying “rather not a First Cause argument as it has ever been defended anywhere.”

            I really don’t have much patience for people who go around posting false statements, and then when called on them, say “Well, obviously I meant this other statement.” This is classic motte bailey bullshit.

            “When something like what I have been calling a caricature gains prominence in spite of itself, and is the go-to argument to be ridiculed by its opponents (cf. that fundamentalist pastors will attack the “humans come from monkeys, huh?” “argument”), that will always spur the ignorant to its defense.”

            The point is that you see Christians making an argument, and atheists criticizing that argument, and you automatically assume that the latter is the cause of the former, rather than vice versa. You’re going out of your way to come up with the interpretation most favorable to Christians, based on nothing but your desire for it to be true. And in the cases that I have actually encountered, it has not been the case. For instance, D’Souza was free to take whatever arguments he felt were the strongest and put them in his book. The idea that he came across an atheist explaining how fallacious the “everything has a cause” argument is, recognized that it is fallacious, but included it in his book anyway, simply out of tribal solidarity, is absurd.

            “And so it propagates not only among its opponents but among it proponents who just don’t know any better.”

            So, any propagation by atheists is due to their dishonesty, while any propagation by Christians is due to them simply falling prey to defense mechanisms in response to those perfidious atheists.

            “Again, though, I’m surprised I should have to be explaining this. Isn’t this a standard lesson of LessWrong, à la Politics is the Mindkiller, Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided, and so on?”

            And *I*, again, wonder what you mean by that. Is it a standard lesson of Less Wrong that one should find the interpretation that is most favorable to your side?

          • BenSix says:

            Can it be agreed that it is not strictly true to say that no one has defended First Cause arguments in such terms but that criticising their form in the hands of D’Souza and such populist hacks as if one is criticising the entire tradition would be wrong?

            Consider a parallel: A proclaims that idiotic Darwinists believe that humans evolved from monkeys. B points out that evolutionary scientists has always maintained otherwise. C observes that some popular science writer has indeed affirmed that notion. Well, perhaps, but that says little about evolutionary science as a field or evolution by natural selection as a fact claim. A common-or-garden creationist whose only exposure to science is ill-informed friends and popularisations might be forgiven for not appreciating this but anyone with sceptical ambitions should read further on.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nick, it is simply not true that Russell claims that the first cause argument claims “everything has a cause.” Really, go back and read the passage that you quoted.

          • RCF says:

            @BenSix

            “Can it be agreed that it is not strictly true to say that no one has defended First Cause arguments in such terms but that criticising their form in the hands of D’Souza and such populist hacks as if one is criticising the entire tradition would be wrong?”

            What does this “tradition” stuff have to do with it? If someone presents a bad argument, then I’m going to point out that it’s a bad argument. I’m not going to sit around worrying whether it’s part of some “tradition”, and is merely a corrupted version of some other argument. Nick is trying to get away with making a false statement, but couching it in a context such that disagreeing with the literal statement looks like disagreeing with a larger claim.

            “Consider a parallel: A proclaims that idiotic Darwinists believe that humans evolved from monkeys.”

            That’s not much of a parallel.

        • Andrew says:

          It’s unfair to call Russell “the guy who literally wrote The History of Western Philosophy” here. He wrote that history book something like 5 decades later than the statement you’re talking about. So the statement was _not_ written by the guy who wrote that book.

          What is literally true is that Russell is talking about a conclusion he came to when he was a teenager.

          • Protagoras says:

            Though his History of Western Philosophy is riddled with egregious errors. Russell had a number of virtues, but sympathetically and accurately interpreting other philosophers was never among them, at any point in his life.

            * I find the discussions of Plato and Nietzsche especially bad, but philosophers more familiar than myself with other bits of philosophical history tell me he misrepresented plenty of other figures too, including some where hostility doesn’t seem to be the motive. He seems to have liked Spinoza, but Spinoza scholars assure me he still got Spinoza totally wrong.

          • Nick says:

            Wow; I checked the chronology now and you’re right, Russell published this lecture about twenty years before his history book. I apologize for the misleading argument to that effect and retract it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Now I’m curious about where the following story fits into the timeline:

            For two or three years…I was a Hegelian. I remember the exact moment during my fourth year when I became one. I had gone out to buy a tin of tobacco, and was going back with it along Trinity Lane, when I suddenly threw it up in the air and exclaimed: “Great God in Boots! — the ontological argument is sound!”

            I know when I first ran into the ontological argument, my reaction was “well, this is obviously absurd!” Then as I actually became familiar with philosophy and Aristotle, it came to seem very, very compelling. (N.B. If you find an argument put forth by Descartes is obviously absurd, you’re wrong. He’s much smarter than you, and he thought more about it.

            I know that technically we’re talking about the Cosmological Argument, but I actually think that’s just a specialized version of the Ontological. I guess Russel later changed his mind; I’d be interested in knowing why.

          • Anonymous says:

            Timeline: Russell read Mill when he was 18, about 1890. The Hegelian story is his 4th year at Cambridge, the 1893-1894 school year. He wrote about the first incident in 1927. He wrote the history in 1945. He wrote about the second incident in his autobiography, probably 1967.

        • Anonymous says:

          The answer to that is that it is not that everything has a cause, but that some beings are of a nature to require a cause, and the universe is one of them, but not all beings can be in that class for anything to exist.

          Russell’s argument, in fact, bears a startling similarity to the anti-evolutionarists who thinks that evolution means a monkey gave birth to a human baby once.

          • Protagoras says:

            But the standards for which things are supposed to be of the nature to require causes and which things aren’t are quite contrived and arbitrary, so that the move of claiming the universe is of a nature to require a cause and God isn’t seems to people like Russell to be a desperate, ad hoc move.

        • Anonymous says:

          “A Christian can respond that God was never created but simply always existed. But the obvious atheist response is that the same is true of the universe.”

          prove it.

          I point out now that physics points firmly to the “no it didn’t” school of thought. The first and second laws of thermodynamics together add up to the universe can’t be infinitely old, since new energy can not be created in an orderly state, and old energy is continually becoming disorderly, we would not be here because it would have hit the heat death infinitely long ago.

          It is conceivable that the laws aren’t all encompassing, but the burden of proof for that is definitely on the atheist, as there is no evidence for it.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      People complain about Aristotle and empiricism because he made claims about natural philosophy and Plato did not.

  4. BenSix says:

    The Aristotle link was really good, though it strikes me that “Hey, girl, can I examine your teeth?” would be among the least romantic chat-up lines in history.

  5. princess_Stargirl says:

    Erza Klein got flack for that article? I really don’t understand. The article is pro the feminist position. Let much less extreme than many feminist articles that get regularly published without comment (outside the manosphere).

    This really makes no sense to me. Regardless of one’s political beliefs this article seems more moderate and considerate of both sides than average.

    Of course all political articles result in criticism of the author. But presumably you meant “he got more criticism than usual” when you said he got criticism?

    • beortheold says:

      I think Klein’s article is an unintentional example of “Agree and Amplify”, which the feminists recognized. Klein agreed with the mainstream feminist opinion on the issue, but he also attempted to justify that opinion logically, which exposed much of the weakness in the mainstream feminist position.

    • ozymandias says:

      As a feminist, my objection was to the idea that people regularly have sex that doesn’t involve affirmative consent. Either Ezra Klein is confused about what affirmative consent means, or he believes there are a lot of people who just sort of lie there and have sex done to them but are still genuinely consenting. I am more aware than most feminists of the Typical Mind Fallacy, so I at least have “non-sex-positive people actually do the lying there thing and it is a fine and enjoyable part of their sex lives, as bizarre as that seems” as a hypothesis, but a lot of feminists don’t.

      • Anonymous rapist says:

        The law as written also includes a variety of common activities that people in relationships do which don’t have explicit consent steps.

        For example, according to the law, either my girlfriend or I raped the other one a few nights ago. I don’t exactly remember what happened – I went to bed with my girlfriend, we snuggled, then I was mostly asleep. Sometime later I was awake and giving her oral sex. After I gave her oral sex we had intercourse. I never explicitly consented to oral sex, nor did I ask her consent for intercourse.

        According to the law, we probably raped each other.

        In my experience, a significant portion of relationship sex falls into categories like this. No explicit consent, just the implicit consent that comes from being in a relationship.

        Apparently it’s now illegal. Guess I need to put on my victim hat.

        • Deiseach says:

          Implicit consent because in a relationship was the argument against making marital rape a crime, because the view was that rape within marriage was impossible, since by entering into marriage you had given implicit consent to always be available for sex.

          Want to add that feather to your victim hat: you can’t be raped if you’re married (or a prostitute, I guess, since the same notion applies – you make yourself available for sex so whatever I did, it wasn’t rape)?

          • JB says:

            I think that’s a different argument — correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that more about rape being impossible even if the partner said ‘no’? IE, that marriage was not just implicit consent, but ironclad, non-revokable consent. So I don’t think it’s necessarily equivalent to the situation being discussed here.

            (For what it’s worth, I don’t think that being in a relationship counts as implied consent either.)

      • Randy M says:

        “there are a lot of people who just sort of lie there and have sex done to them but are still genuinely consenting.”

        According to popular culture, these are called wives.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        As I’ve said elsewhere — it seems a little odd to claim that Ezra Klein is confused about what “affirmative consent” means, seeing as how the phrase means only what people use it to mean and understand it to mean. I mean, if his usage seriously defied standard usage, it would make sense, but it doesn’t; usage is split. Your use is not the one standard.

        There’s this notion, among certain proponents of affirmative consent laws, that the idea that affirmative consent means anything more than, say, active participation, is just a strawman made up by the opponents of affirmative consent. But this is not the case! Now, Ezra Klein is pretty unusual here; I haven’t seen anyone else take his position of “this law will criminalize normal sex but we should adopt it anyway”. But I have seen plenty of people pushing for a standards of very explicit (typically verbal) consent and asserting that this is how you should be having sex anyway.

        Rather than repeat everything I wrote earlier, I’m just going to link to what I think is a good Freddie deBoer post on the matter.

      • ozymandias says:

        Anonymous rapist: As written, the bill says “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” This does not require verbal agreement. Things like smiling, nodding, participating actively in sex, etc. can certainly qualify as affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement, in much the same way as if I grin and start eating when someone puts food on my plate I have affirmatively agreed to eat the food. I agree that requiring verbal agreement would make many ordinary sex acts legally rape. I also think that initiating sex while sleeping can, in fact, be consensual if all parties have previously agreed to it, so in that sense the bill is criminalizing a non-rape sex act.

        • MugaSofer says:

          I honestly thought this was the meaning of “implicit consent”.

        • I’m deeply confused now. What you describe as “affirmative consent” seems to me to be identical with what I called “implicit consent”, and furthermore it seems that it solves precisely none of the ambiguities of consent that the current standard has.

          If your reading of the meaning of the term is correct, then I don’t see what this bill changes or why we should pass it.

        • RCF says:

          “I also think that initiating sex while sleeping can, in fact, be consensual if all parties have previously agreed to it, so in that sense the bill is criminalizing a non-rape sex act.”

          The bill concerns administrative action in response to rape accusations. AFAIK, it does not affect any criminal proceedings. Case law implies that California already does not recognize pre-consent.

          Also, smiling is an involuntary reaction, and is ambiguous, and so there’s a strong argument that it would not qualify.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Don’t forget, the affirmative consent has to be “ongoing,” too.

          The mere fact that nobody seems entirely sure what “affirmative ongoing consent” means, and that the bill does not define it, itself makes this a bad bill.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        > or he believes there are a lot of people who just sort of lie there and have sex done to them but are still genuinely consenting

        That approach seems to treat sex as a monolith. Suppose someone consents to make outs but not intercourse, or intercourse but not kissing. Those boundaries still count, right? But when you think in terms of individual acts, there are lots in which one partner does them and the other lies there and has them done.

      • vV_Vv says:

        The bill requires the affirmative consent to be “ongoing”, therefore, depending on how the courts decide to interpret it, you may ride a guy for 10 minutes, then switch positions and lie back, and he would still have to obtain your explicit verbal consent, and then presumably keep doing so every 5 seconds just to make sure that something didn’t snap inside your mind and you are now frozen by fear.
        (In principle, you would have to do the same while riding him, but of course we know that this law is intended to be primarily used against men).

        The truth is that the purpose of this law is to set a witch trial-level standard of evidence, allowing to prosecute and convict essentially anyone, regardless of the facts.

        When not bound by the facts, the decisions to prosecute and convict become political decisions: low-status men, and perhaps some low-status women, are going to be used as scapegoats while high-status people will get away with pretty much anything.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Some high status men may be charged if some other high status persons find out that the woman (who was happy and had no complaints) did not consent/assent noticeably enough at all points; so (for office politics reasons) they bring the charge.

          • AJD says:

            I can’t tell whether when you guys say “high-status men” it has any meaning other than “men with whom a given woman at a particular point in time wants to have sex”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @AJD

            It is assumed that “men with whom a given woman in at a particular point in time wants to have sex with” is highly correlated among women such that most of the women want to have sex with a small minority of men. This factor is also highly correlated with various traits the man might have such as tall, attractive, fit, has a good job/lots of money, is socially adept and is a leader of and admired by other men. High-status describes this cluster of highly correlated traits.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In my comment above, October 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm, and the one I was replying to, ‘high status’ means ‘in objective positions of power (such as authority or wealth) which give them influence on the police or the university administrators as to which cases to prosecute)’.

        • Harald K says:

          “low-status men, and perhaps some low-status women, are going to be used as scapegoats while high-status people will get away with pretty much anything.”

          This is what Fredrik deBoer complains about. I sympathize (and disapprove of the law) but I don’t quite buy it. This is one of the times when status isn’t quite one-dimensional.

          Sex scandals are regularly a problem for high-status men. There are plenty of genuine scandals, but we also know that manufactured scandals of this type has existed long enough that the Russians have a word for it. This is precisely because this is such a good way to get at men who are otherwise untouchable on account of their status.

          So, it’s not usually going to be the random black guy on campus who becomes the victim of overzealous prosecution this law seems to mandate. They’re not that tone deaf. His background, normally not an advantage, can become one in this narrow circumstance.

          It is the openly scorned groups who are in trouble, not the acknowledged victims of institutional discrimination.

          • vV_Vv says:

            So, it’s not usually going to be the random black guy on campus who becomes the victim of overzealous prosecution this law seems to mandate. They’re not that tone deaf. His background, normally not an advantage, can become one in this narrow circumstance.
            It is the openly scorned groups who are in trouble, not the acknowledged victims of institutional discrimination.

            There can be a difference between who people claim to be the acknowledged victims of institutional discrimination and who actually is a victimo of institutional discrimination.

            The random black guy in an American campus is probably not a random black guy from the ghetto, he is the son of middle-upper class black parents who can afford to pay for his college education, and he is also the recipient of institutional benefits such as affirmative action selection policies (whether he needed them or not). This guy is going to be pretty high status compared to other students, expecially in the minds of SJW gender-studies professors and administrators who are going to run the show at college courts.

  6. i guess i'll be alone in my utopia says:

    for some inexplicable reason possibly involving their head being screwed on backwards don’t want to read the Sequences.

    The unfortunate tendency of people to call them by the bizarre name “The Sequences” and say “read the Sequences!” in a way that smacks of religious-nut, instead of, say, “go read this Yudkowsky guy’s interesting essays on _______”, might be a factor.

    I’ll never understand why you guys enjoy making everything you do so unappealing to people with decently tuned cult-detectors or charlatan-detectors.

    • beortheold says:

      I suggest the Less-wrong guys write some condensed versions of the sequences to make them more accessible to the wider public. They should be called manifestos.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Giving things TITLES means we’re a cult now? Now you’re just looking for reasons.

      • Anthony says:

        Giving writings which are the core beliefs of the group a title which gives no clue as to the content, and which sounds vaguely like a course of indoctrination will set of lots of people’s cult-detector.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I know you were being sarcastic, but you can add me as another data point. When I first heard of “The Sequences”, my cult detector went off the scale. I was actually quite surprised to find out that such a weighty and ponderous title — the title of a work that I shall be required to read in order to join a small community of the elect — actually referred to the collection of pithy essays that I was already halfway through reading.

        You might argue that only a mentally biased non-rationalist would have that kind of a reaction to the title, and you may be right… but mentally biased non-rationalists are, in this case, your target audience.

        When you are repeatedly told that your strategy is not working, it’s time to re-examine the strategy.

        • Ken Arromdee says:

          There is a higher probability that a group is a cult when the title sounds cultlike than when it’s not. In other words, cultlike titles are Bayseian evidence for the group being a cult. Rationalists are entirely correct to interpret the title in a negative way.

          Also, telling someone to read any work in response to an argument is often a sign that the person telling you to read it cannot defend it himself, either because he doesn’t understand it well enough, or because he can’t defend its flaws.

          • MugaSofer says:

            In my experience – so, typical mind fallacy or whatever ahoy (small sample sizes? social bubbles?) – it’s more usually an attempt to say “there is inferential distance here, I don’t have time to go through every step in the chain, but it’s laid out in this handy document and once you’ve read it we can have a much more productive discussion.”

            It’s not a very successful tactic, for obvious reasons.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            What typically happens is that the material is seriously flawed/incoherent. Because the material is flawed, the believer is unable to defend it successfully. However, because he is a true believer, he doesn’t attribute his inability to defend it to there being flaws in it; rather, he prefers to believe that the material is just hard to explain. So yes, the believer thinks that he’s having trouble because of large inferential distance, but that’s not really the case.

        • 27chaos says:

          Me too.

        • Rob Miles says:

          I was trying to remember if I was put off by the title, and I think I must be an outlier because I read everything Eliezer wrote between 2006 and 2010 before I remember hearing anything referred to as “The Sequences”. I just read a bunch of posts on LW and thought “Hey, so far this guy has been interesting and insightful with perfect reliability. I may as well read the lot”. Note that the ebook is titled “Eliezer Yudkowsky Blog Posts 2006-2010, an Unofficial Compendium”.

          Highly recommended reading, btw.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Note that the ebook is titled “Eliezer Yudkowsky Blog Posts 2006-2010, an Unofficial Compendium”.

            You should have seen the original cover. It was titled The Book of Eliezer: The Teachings of Rationality and the Light of Bayes. In fact, I think I still have a copy of that somewhere…

            Ah, there we go.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            @Jaimeastorga2000,

            the original title is more over the top, therefore less culty-sounding. Cults not being known for self-deprecation.

          • Nornagest says:

            Neither one reads as especially culty to me, though for different reasons. (“Unofficial Compendium” sounds academic/self-consciously boring, “Book of Eliezer” sounds tongue-in-cheek.) “The Sequences” pushes more in that direction, but still doesn’t approach the level of something like, say, “The Real Science of Rationality”.

        • Nornagest says:

          You might argue that only a mentally biased non-rationalist would have that kind of a reaction to the title, and you may be right…

          …or you could call it a “prior” instead of an “initial reaction”, and thereby receive the blessings of Thomas Bayes (PBUH).

          Snark aside, the whole point of grounding this nonsense in Bayesian methods is to have an epistemology that still works when instantiated on people harboring all sorts of random biases and superstitions and psychological transients. There is no such thing as a mentally unbiased rationalist, and if the LW community is targeting them, it’s actually going to pick up people, and only people, that’re deluded or unreflective about their biases.

          Unfortunately I’m starting to think this is exactly what’s happened.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Well, giving it a non-descriptive title like “The Sequences” — it’s like “The Bible” (“The Book”). It’s not a title, as such, like “Sequences on Rationality”. It’s a lack of a title — an indication that the thing is so important it doesn’t need a specific title.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Dear Scott, please don’t defy the data in this case. If people think something is creepy, it’s creepy.

        It’s not just having a title, it is this particular kind of title, coupled with the way the stuff is treated in the community, coupled with the way people are encouraged to read the stuff.

        edit: I meant ‘creepy’ in the appropriate sense of ‘smells like Emperor Xenu’ here, not ‘creepy’ as a low status nerdy male marker in a dating/romantic context.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          A more useful modifier might be ‘off-putting’. As with the Dr. Who ‘cult’, there seems no entry point, no perspective to see the whole thing from. All insiders talking to insiders.

          To me, not ‘off-putting’ in the sense of ‘distasteful’ or ‘sinister’.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Just to add: “cults that prey on high income, fairly high IQ middle class types that are based in California” are a thing. Aside from Scientology, which is obviously silly, see also the Fellowship of Friends (they are also silly but much less obviously so, and they had thoughtful enough people and enough organization to do real things, e.g. publish books, and make good wine).

          So people might be ?overly? skittish because they are aware of a real pattern.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Also the Church of Synanon, the Unification Church (founded in Korea, but quite popular in the Bay Area), arguably Est/Landmark.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      What exactly is a “decently tuned cult/charlatan detector”?

      Cult is a silly word because it seems to just mean something along the lines of “small totalitarian (for lack of a better word*) religion”. If you remove the small requirement then many major religions have been and/or are currently cults (Islam in modern Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, seems to have all the aspects of a cult except size. Historically Catholicism also seems to qualify). How to detect a cult? Is it a small totalitarian religion? If not, no. If so, yes.

      A charlatan seems to mean someone saying something they think is wrong for personal gain. The way to detect that their claims are probably wrong is to evaluate the evidence for their claims, but theirs not really any good way to examine the “think it’s wrong and for personal gain” parts unless their caught doing something blatantly hypocritical.

      *totalitarian is a problematic word for a variety of reasons, all possible high scarcity era societies are totalitarian economically (especially “free market” ones), and socially everyone has different standards of what people should be allowed to do based on their different moralities, making it’s usage very subjective (this puts it in the same category as words like “evil”. Good to have them but useless in descriptions to others).

      • Vulture says:

        Cult is a silly word because it seems to just mean something along the lines of “small totalitarian (for lack of a better word*) religion”.

        I don’t know if you’re American, but in the United States the word “cult” has a lot more baggage than that. See here for the tip of the iceberg.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          Oh, I’m aware of the connotations of the word (thus the “totalitarian” part). It’s just that “cults” resemble many mainstream religions throughout history on a smaller scale, which makes the use of the word rather odd.

          Also I have no idea why people think Less Wrong is cult-like. They resemble neither the literal or connotative meanings.

          • Gavin says:

            I think this is an example of Argument from My Opponent Believes Something which makes the cult accusation possible. Any group of passionate people who have beliefs outside of mainstream thought appear to be a cult.

            Yudkowsky’s beliefs are in direct conflict with mainstream wisdom, therefor any group which he started would necessarily be compared to a cult.

            The fact that there are a number of additional superficial similarities (“The Bayesian Conspiracy,” mysterious names, non-mainstream sexual practices) doesn’t help.

            This point has been argued back and forth many times. I think it’s starting to become more of a political (as in mind killer) discussion, because admitting that there are some cultish elements to the LessWrong community seems like admitting that they’re doing something wrong or might be deluded.

            I say this as someone who would be basically on board for a cult, if there were one and it had good dental benefits.

      • no one special says:

        Today on Answering Rhetorical Questions:

        The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (Because figuring out if you’re in a cult should be elementary.)

        Now I want someone to do this for, say, Less Wrong, Scientology, Landmark, The Catholic Church, GamerGate, and the Tea Party. I think comparing some of them would be educational.

        • Anonymous says:

          Looking at this, LW scores very low on all of these measures of cultishness except perhaps wisdom/knowledge claimed and wisdom/knowledge credited which are medium at highest. Plausibly a couple of points for dogma as well since they don’t like relativism, but I think that is it.

    • a person says:

      I could see this being a factor. I think another factor could be that the Sequences have no obvious starting point, which is a big trivial inconvenience. And once the reader pieces together where he is supposed to start, the most likely answer is “The Simple Truth”, which is overly long and weird and confusing imho, and not likely to “hook” people. Another early post is “An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem”, which is a lot of math, the implications of which are hard to spot.

      • Zorgon says:

        I very much agree with this. My first encounter with the Sequences was The Simple Truth, which while gloriously entertaining to my rather algorithmically-oriented mind, did seem to meander around its central point rather than actually get to it.

        Some long time later I read the How To Actually Change Your Mind sequence at a friend’s suggestion and was hooked. Even then, great as it is, that title still sounds like the kind of thing that shows up on banner ads at bottom-tier websites.

        The first one I remember reading that I didn’t feel mildly embarrassed talking to others about was Map And Territory, which probably marks the point where I started “getting it”, you might say. And I think a lot of the reason for that was the pinging of my own charlatan detector by the titles. Up until that point, the whole thing reminded me quite strongly of Scientology, and I have a strong negative bias towards that specific cult and ones like it.

    • gattsuru says:

      It’s worth noting that the Sequences are not terribly well-organized. The closest to an Index page is the Wiki page, which comes across as both rambling and somewhat randomly jumps from quantum mechanics to community management to fun theory. There’s a reasonable argument for doing so when you need to tell one story in order to tell the second, but even the Map and Territory Sequences gets twisted by The Lens that Sees Its Own Flaws.

      ((And many of the Sequence posts are heavily mired in specific context or statements that don’t look terribly good outside of it. The Rube versus Blegg post keeps sticking in my mind because it’s really important in a lot of ways, and the actual post ends in “so we’re not a cult, really” that was relevant at the time but looks terrible as part of a Sequence.))

      There was a movement to make an official MIRI ePub, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of it in the last five months or so.

      • MIRI plans to release most of the material from the sequences (and some from Eliezer’s other 2006-2009 writings) a few months from now as an eBook, titled ‘Rationality: A to Z’.

        I agree about having a canonical order. People can always choose to read posts in a different order, but having a default order that isn’t completely bizarre is important for reducing decision fatigue and terror-at-the-length-of-the-sequences.

        • Nick says:

          Thirding the request for a canonical order, and if the ebook has a recommended reading order (“definitely start with chapter one, you can skip chapter three if you’ve read A, definitely don’t skip chapter five,” etc.) then I hope that replaces the order on the wiki. Part of the reason I spent so long before making a serious attempt at reading the Sequences was that every time I tried to, I look at the listing on the wiki and was like, where the hell do I begin? I ended up coming up with an order of my own based on what requires which previous Sequences to be understood (which is ofc how I’d like a real canon to be done), but I imagine it’s still not ideal.

        • Joe from London says:

          If MIRI is expending energy on writing up rationality material, http://lesswrong.com/lw/cbs/thoughts_on_the_singularity_institute_si/ might be relevant. (search the page for “superior general rationality.”)

          Names other than “The Sequences” might be better optimised for “not seeming like a phyg”.

          • Nornagest says:

            For fuck’s sake, call a cult a cult. This “phyg” nonsense is about the worst idea the community ever came up with.

          • Joe from London says:

            Kinda agree, but I tend to use the term ‘phyg’ when I am criticising LW, because it’s a way to get people to think of me as part of their in-group.

  7. John Hartman says:

    My gripe with affirmative consent is that it’s supremely unrealistic. *So* many people have and enjoy drunk sex, and will continue to enjoy it. While it’s unlikely to be enforced, Yes Means Yes means that *anybody* who has had consensual drunk sex is, in the eyes of the law, both a rapist and a rape victim. This *severely* diminishes the meaning of what rape *actually is* – and frankly, nobody will take it seriously. People will continue to assume the current meaning of consent regardless of the existence of affirmative consent laws – because in the eyes of anyone who’s ever had drunk sex, the line where sex becomes rape will still be the point at which she says no – not the point where she’s just intoxicated.

    • Anonymous says:

      People might not take it seriously but colleges/the law certainly will. And because this law will only be enforced selectively, it will inevitably just be turned into a weapon wielded primarily by women against men who, when they wake up in the morning without the beer goggles, realize they did not want to fuck after all.

      For all Scott’s talk of a taboo tradeoff, it is worthwhile to note that this tradeoff basically trades off the utility of Ezra Klein’s/feminism’s outgroup for the utility of Ezra Klein’s/feminism’s ingroup. Funny how that works.

      Also, I don’t see how this law would even do anything in he-said she-said cases all that will happen is that they will move from:
      “She gave implicit consent” “I did not give implicit consent”
      To:
      “She gave affirmative consent” “I did not give affirmative consent”
      Which is in essence no different to the current situation.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Also, I don’t see how this law would even do anything in he-said she-said cases all that will happen is that they will move from:
        “She gave implicit consent” “I did not give implicit consent”

        The only way I see a verbal assent requirement helping, is if there is a voice recorder somewhere. Which is actually possible, and can be a tiny keychain spy recorder, as some people use for recording lectures etc. Assuming one places the keychain in a good location.

        • Anonymous says:

          The only way I see a verbal assent requirement helping, is if there is a voice recorder somewhere. Which is actually possible, and can be a tiny keychain spy recorder, as some people use for recording lectures etc. Assuming one places the keychain in a good location.

          California is a two-party-consent state for recordings (as opposed to one-party consent): it is illegal to record a private conversation unless all parties consent (as opposed to illegal only if no party consents–i.e., eavesdropping).

          Therefore, if you want to obtain evidence of verbal consent for sex, you should: obtain consent from your partner to record your conversation, start recording the conversation, ask your partner to repeat their consent to be recorded, and finally obtain verbal consent for sex.

          I hate this state.

          • Anonymous says:

            Admittedly, we are told that getting explicit consent for each step is super-sexy, so getting extra consent for the recording of consent should be super-super-sexy, right?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            California is a two-party-consent state for recordings (as opposed to one-party consent): it is illegal to record a private conversation unless all parties consent (as opposed to illegal only if no party consents–i.e., eavesdropping).

            Assuming that the person would not reveal the existence of the recording unless unless the penalty for making it were greater than some consequence of not revealing it, consider these situations:

            If a man needs evidence that consent was given, then privately informing the other party of its existence, or playing it for zim, might not require the police to know about the recording.

            If a woman needs evidence that she did not consent … also as above.

      • haishan says:

        Thing is, it’s much easier to (wrongly) believe that “she gave implicit consent” than it is to wrongly believe that “she gave affirmative consent.” So it’s a cultural change, like Klein says.

        • 27chaos says:

          I do not think it is easier to believe one than the other, given the examples that are provided by Ozy above as common practices acceptable under implicit consent.

    • Deiseach says:

      And if she’s too drunk to say “no” (or he is? Works all ways, not just for guy/girl pairs). “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”, after all, and there have been times when men have tried to get women drunk so they could get into their knickers, purely because they thought the sober woman would say “no” for whatever reason.

      People do a lot of things drunk that they regret when they’re sober. Again, the “Yes Means Yes” law is probably too broad, but the notion of a ‘consent culture’ will and should protect everybody, both the person asking for sex and the person not willing at the moment. I also think people should be more careful about getting so drunk they’re not sure what they’re doing, but that’s my own opinion. “I was drunk, I couldn’t help it” is not regarded as an excuse any more in most situations (most particularly drunk driving) so I don’t see why it should be a screen for either party when it comes to ‘morning after regrets’.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        So are you saying that if two people get drunk and have sex, with as clear and enthusiastic consent as they can express, they should both be expelled from college and generally treated as rapists by society?

        • Bugmaster says:

          No, only one of them will be expelled and generally treated as a rapist; and only if the other person complains (and/or is female). As far as I understand, the intent of the law is to make sexual encounters more dangerous, thus requiring a much higher level of mutual trust — thus greatly reducing the instances of rape, which can occur only in absence of mutual trust.

          • Anonymous says:

            Even if this is a worthwhile tradeoff, this only works if men (let’s be real here, they are the only ones who are going to be punished under this law) actually follow incentives in this way. I doubt that some drunk and horny fratboy making out with a girl at a houseparty will really change his behavior to account for the slightly higher risk of facing a rape accusation and being expelled, and this is even if he knows about the new laws being instituted at his college (I am not american so I have no real idea how visible this law change is to the average college student). So, in essence, all this law will do is ruin the life of occasional random males while doing extremely little to reduce rape.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >instances of rape, which can occur only in absence of mutual trust.

            Eh? This seems the opposite of true.

          • 27chaos says:

            If sex occurs only when there is a high amount of trust, there will be fewer rapes due to ambiguity, is the argument.

          • Princess_Stargirl says:

            What if one person is just abusive? People frequently get raped by people they trusted. They might also get falsely accused of rape by people they trusted.

            My take on this issue s based on the assumption that women are not more morally trustworthy than men by an order of magnitude. Nor men more trustworthy than women. Though the evidence would suggest women are probably significantly more trustworthy than men (going by crime rates) putting total trust in women is probably going to be a disaster.

        • Deiseach says:

          No, I mean if you’re both getting so sloppy drunk and hooking up that either or both of you are liable to wake up the next morning regretting it, and please remember this applies to guys too – how about the ‘chew your arm off’ and ‘beer goggles’ jokes? – then everyone, male and female, should reconsider getting themselves into such a state of incapacity.

          It’s not just the chance of rape accusations, it’s the chance of pregnancy or disease as well.

          As for the attitude that seems to be percolating up in these comments that this law is a plot by women to stop men having fun and make all men everywhere, even the innocent ones, go around under the cloud of suspicion of being pre-emptively labelled rapists – well, gentlemen, I am glod to know that if someone persuades you when you’re drunk off your face to empty out your bank account and give every penny to them, you won’t be having recourse to the law because it was consensual, nobody was holding a knife to your throat and there aren’t any bruises! you knew what you were doing! you said yes! there are witnesses who will testify you said yes when you were asked to loan that person ten dollars, and ‘lend me ten bucks’, ‘give me all your money’, what’s the difference? There was implicit consent and surely nobody needs to stop every five seconds and keep asking for a ‘yes’?

          • AndR says:

            The simple solution is to not get drunk off your face. Or if you’re planning to get drunk off your face, don’t take your bank access card with you. Or to take friends you trust to prevent you from doing something *that* stupid.

            You’re still responsible for the decisions made while drunk, unless you didn’t become drunk willingly.

          • Zorgon says:

            And for roughly the millionth time, “feminist activists” and “women” don’t actually mean the same thing.

      • MugaSofer says:

        This has always bugged me: isn’t the reason most people drink to make themselves do things they wouldn’t do when sober? The most common example being approaching the opposite sex?

        I honestly think this is a really bad idea, but it seems inconsistent to be OK with this notion of “social lubricant” yet hold the “standard” position on drunk consent equaling rape.

        • suntzuanime says:

          No; it feels nice to be drunk.

          • Protagoras says:

            When I used to drink, I think it was more for the reducing my own anxiety and inhibitions than because it felt good, so more what Mugasofer said. Of course, people’s motivations vary.

        • Liskantope says:

          Richard Carrier brings this up in this article on Michael Shermer’s rape accusations. In his view, if a woman (or a man) makes it clear while sober that they want to decrease their sexual inhibitions by drinking, then saying “yes” while intoxicated still counts as consent. I think this is a reasonable view, except that it doesn’t really address the case of a woman (or man) who chooses to decrease their sexual inhibitions this way without having made this clear to their intended sexual partner beforehand.

    • Quite Likely says:

      Wasn’t anybody who had drunk sex already a rapist in the eyes of the law? I was under the impression that even without this rule being drunk means you can’t give consent.

      • gattsuru says:

        Taboo “drunk”.

        It is /generally/ not rape to have sex with someone who has had a single sip of alcohol, barring other environmental actions. Indeed, it’s generally not rape to have sex with someone who is too drunk to drive a car or operate heavily machinery. It is almost always rape to have sex with someone who is so incapacitated by alcohol that they have blacked out. (Some fetishists of sleeping sex or drunk sex try to work around this by stating consent before getting that drunk, but it’s not clear this actually works from a legal perspective: see R v. JA 2011 in Canada for a Western example where consent did not maintain through non-responsiveness).

        The exact demarcation point depends on legal jurisdiction and caselaw. In some states only full incapacity or “physically helpless” (blackout) can not (obviously) give consent. In other states the limit is “reasoned consent” or otherwise dependent on the impact of the alcohol. It may also depend on whether the victim provided the alcohol themselves or whether the accused rapist gave them the alcohol, and whether they knew they were drinking.

        I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, and I really advise against having sex with people who imbibe significantly to start with. Providing evidence of state is very, very difficult. While not against the statute itself, sex with a drunk person is often socially discouraged.

        • anon1 says:

          I think you meant “passed out,” not “blackout.” A blackout is a state of drunkenness in which short-term memories aren’t making it into long-term storage. It does not imply physical helplessness, and it’s often not obvious to an observer since short-term memory is enough to do things like carry on a normal conversation.

    • ozymandias says:

      The California affirmative consent law says that it counts as rape if “the complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.”

      Admittedly, I do not drink, so it is possible others are better informed than I about the psychological consequences of alcohol, but it seems like there are many states which qualify as “drunk” which still leave one understanding the fact, nature, and extent of the sexual activity. It seems unlikely to me that two people who both don’t understand that they’re having sex would have sex, and if they did I would be perfectly willing to consider them both rape survivors.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re missing the forest for the trees. Since we don’t have time traveling mind readers, it is impossible to prove whether someone was “just drunk” or “too drunk to understand what was happening.” I can give you complete assurance that the effects of alcohol include making people act in very strange ways that are very, very open to interpretation.

        What this standard does is introduce more arguments that the prosecution can use to convict someone. As such you should hold it in very bad regard, because it is an avenue for conviction that cannot be based on solid fact in the majority of cases where it will be used.

        • ozymandias says:

          Morally, I am perfectly willing to endorse the claim that if you’re uncertain whether your partner is incapable of understanding that they’re having sex then you should not have sex with them.

          “An avenue for conviction that cannot be based on solid fact in the majority of cases where it will be used” is also true of literally all rape law, including no means no, because the accused can say “he said yes!” and the accuser can say “no, I said no!” It proves too much.

          • MugaSofer says:

            > I am perfectly willing to endorse the claim that if you’re uncertain whether your partner is incapable of understanding that they’re having sex then you should not have sex with them.

            There is a difference between “uncertain whether they understand” and “uncertain I can prove they understood in a court of law”. The latter is a much stricter standard. So I’m not sure why you said this.

            The point about unverifiability is a good one, though.

          • 27chaos says:

            If you think that all of rape law requires we act without access to solid facts, I think that is just evidence rape law is scary, not an argument defending the law.

            I think the “proves too much” argument has become too popular around these parts, it proves too much. I think “proves too much” operates like the fallacy fallacy when arguing with other people, and so it’s best used as a rough personal heuristic and not as anything more.

          • ozymandias says:

            MugaSofer: Yes, that is why I specified “morally.” In a court of law, you don’t have to prove anything, they have to prove you not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (In a college campus, it’s different, because the biggest punishment they have is expulsion.)

            27Chaos: Okay, but it’s still true that either you should endorse non-stranger rape being legal on the grounds that it is unenforceable, endorse rape of people too drunk to consent being illegal, or come up with a reason why these two situations are different.

          • 27chaos says:

            I think the facts are clear at least some of the time, and you are exaggerating. Wanting to use evidence based convictions is not the same as wanting to legalize nonstranger rape.

            In cases where the facts are muddled, throwing people into jail based on someone’s accusation is a bad idea. I’m aware that my stance means rape will be more common. But what else is the Justice system supposed to do, just lock up anyone they’re asked to?

            I think significantly lowering rape through the court system is probably impossible through any pragmatic means. Rape needs to be stopped by changing our culture and improving the mental health of individuals who might be inclined to rape. Additionally, women who act defensively around men are right to do so. It is unfair that women are in a situation where they have to do this, but despite the unfairness it is still important that they do it. All of these are imperfect solutions, but that is just a sad necessity in my eyes.

          • MugaSofer says:

            @Ozy,:

            I know what you said.

            But it’s very different to what this _completely anonymous_ person said, so I’m not sure why you said it. You’ve always been pretty charitable, I thought perhaps I’m missing something?

          • Anonymous says:

            >“An avenue for conviction that cannot be based on solid fact in the majority of cases where it will be used” is also true of literally all rape law, including no means no, because the accused can say “he said yes!” and the accuser can say “no, I said no!” It proves too much.

            Which is why, as other posters pointed out, the justice system isn’t very well suited for combating rape! You ought to have been clued in by the incredible rate of sexual violence in prison. Why are you assuming that we *have* to just accept laws that lead to people being thrown in jail on someones else’s word alone?

            If I had to assume technology will not advance or will be restricted in court, I would say that the thing to do is stop making “rape” a crime in and of itself and roll it into “assault.” Those rapes where there’s physical evidence for “assault,” which will presumably be the worst of them, will still be provable based on physical evidence.

            Given the fact that everyone is carrying around sensitive radio-microphone-trackers 24/7, I think technology can provide an out from the he-said-she-said situation. But recording people will have to stop being a social taboo/illegal/not accepted as court evidence. And we will have to make sure that *only* in those cases where there is genuine, recorded evidence can someone be prosecuted for having sex with someone who said “no” without any other violence taking place. Under those circumstances, it should be acceptable to you that rape is a crime in and of itself.

            Otherwise you should be firmly against it being a crime in and of itself – not because it isn’t bad, not because you don’t dislike it, but because the protecting innocents from the so-called “justice” system should matter to you more than vengeance. Disabuse yourself of the notion that you are doing anything to help prevent victimization by (if you’re lucky) sending predators into “pound-me-in-the-ass prison” (guess where it got the name?) and if you’re unlucky sending innocents to go get pounded in the ass.

            Of course, society is perfectly fine with this because it (theoretically) exchanges female victims for male victims in prison. You should be very aware that you’re playing for that side of the court in your appeals to shift the burden of proof still further onto the accused.

          • Zorgon says:

            The moment I realised that other supposedly “left-wing” writers were actually saying that protecting innocent people from being imprisoned was less important than increasing the rate of conviction for specific crimes (and only for specific crimes, of course) was almost certainly the moment I realised that what is now calling itself the “left” is no longer recognisable to me as a lifelong leftist.

            Someone recently brought up the whole authoritarian left thing, and figuring that out has made me feel a bit better about it all, but I’m still struggling to recenter my worldview. The realisation that an awful lot of authoritarian leftists are extremely comfortable middle-class people helped rather a lot, I must say.

          • AJD says:

            I would say that the thing to do is stop making “rape” a crime in and of itself and roll it into assault.”

            Streetlight law enforcement? Decide what actions to ban based on how easy they are to detect?

          • Anonymous says:

            Zorgon: This facet of the left should not have been surprising to you at all! The thing is that sticking to principles is difficult and often thankless, while white knighting for sympathetic demographics is far easier. Even if you don’t do any good at all you’re still “fighting the good fight” – and it’s easy to find people to blame if things go wrong.

            At its best, the left is about truly egalitarian goals and principles – essentially, poverty reduction and amelioration. The left does a fair amount of this, for sure, but the problem is that you face powerful opponents that are difficult to demonize, with little thanks or help from those you’re trying to help. It is much, much easier to fight racists and sexists.

            The problem is that “fighting racists” does NOT automatically mean “helping minorities,” and the same goes for “fighting sexists.” In general when you set out to fight something instead of setting out to build something constructive, you do little to no good and no small harm.

            For an example of the former I’ll point to the Boston bussing crisis. The goal – integrate white students with black students. The result – even greater segregation as white families flee to the suburbs, while minorities still get to go to minority schools except with a long, pointless bus ride. For an example of the latter I’ll just point to feminism.

            The real achievements of the left are huge, and incredibly important – the government institutions created by the New Deal and Johnson’s War on Poverty. Recently, the Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies for the poor. Those are real institutional constructs that help people – notable for helping *people,* not “women,” not “minorities,” *people,* whatever their sex or race. When the left sets out to help people, the good that it does is staggering.

            When it goes out to fight the big bad racists or the big bad sexists, it wastes an incredible amount of energy, produces an incredible amount of enmity, and does little to no good and/or actually causes harm. And, tragically, it seems to enjoy itself much more. Excising this dark cancer that afflicts the left probably ranks high on the most important things to do for humanity’s sake.

          • Anonymous says:

            >Decide what actions to ban based on how easy they are to detect?

            Decide what actions to prosecute based on whether they can be *proved,* yes. Basing conviction on proof is an incredibly important thing.

          • AJD says:

            Basing conviction on proof is an important thing, yes, even though it means that unproven crimes must go unpunished. But that falls far short of saying that difficult-to-prove crimes aren’t crimes at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            >But that falls far short of saying that difficult-to-prove crimes aren’t crimes at all.

            I don’t think it does. Whether something is criminal should never (in an ideal world) be based on whether it is *bad,* but on whether it fits certain criteria for being practical to make illegal. Any crime that is based purely on state of mind/spoken word does not fit those criteria (until we get to the technical ut/dys topia where everything is recorded.)

            I think one’s opinion of this sort of thing depends on how idyllic your conception of the justice system is. I am well aware of the deficiencies in assuming that a group of my “peers” will understand logic and evidence. As such, I take a much more jaundiced view towards what should be considered criminal, that has nothing to do with how bad or not bad the potential “crime” is.

            If you live in a pretend world where emotional manipulation isn’t a huge part of court “arguments,” then you’ll be fine with making everything bad a crime – after all, that way you catch the edge cases where it actually *can* be proven! But I think it is absolutely clear that those cases are overwhelmed by cases where people with no understanding of “beyond a reasonable doubt” make the wrong decision because that’s what their gut told them to do.

          • 27chaos says:

            AJD, I have never advocated that rape be made legal. That was only Ozy’s exaggeration of my argument. When the evidence is not weak, rapists should go to prison.

          • AJD says:

            AJD, I have never advocated that rape be made legal.

            No, the anon I was replying to appeared to be doing that.

          • Matthew says:

            @Zorgon

            A sort of similar story for me. I still identify as blue, as I refuse to cede the territory to SJWs. But one of the reasons I stopped calling myself a feminist was the eerie parallel between feminists who wanted to treat (alleged) rapists as guilty until proven innocent and Republicans who wanted to treat (alleged) terrorists as guilty until proven innocent.

  8. Carinthium says:

    Given this site’s relation to rationality, I think it’s fair to ask around here: To what extent was Aristotle rational or irrational? Obviously the latter to a large degree, but requesting clarification on the precise extent.

    • Michael Mouse says:

      Wow. For me the answer seems very obvious he was extremely rational. Consider his context and the sorts of nonsense people could believe without it being obviously baloney. Even the Plato v Aristotle ideal-forms v empirical observation was not something that was easily settleable before we had 2,000 years of dramatic success with the latter approach.

      • Carinthium says:

        I knew he made progress- that’s not in dispute. I’m comparing his level of rationality to, say, a modern rationalist to ask about the extent of the deficiency.

        • Michael Mouse says:

          Ah, I think I see what you’re getting at. Compared to modern rationalists, he was obviously pretty irrational. But only in the same sort of sense that I can claim to be way better at physics than Newton. *Writing stuff down* was a new and controversial thinking aid in Aristotle’s times. If you resurrected him now I’m pretty sure he’d be outstandingly rational, same way he was in his own era.

        • H says:

          Aristotle would have had us all beat.

        • Nick says:

          This is actually a really hard question to answer in a satisfying way. Much of the problem is that we don’t know for sure what makes a good rationalist, and we don’t know how Aristotle would take a lot of things anyway. For instance, does agreeing with Eliezer’s QM interpretation make you a better rationalist? And how could we possibly know whether Aristotle would or not anyway? Worse, what if Aristotle consumed the Sequences, then published a Sequences 2.0 that in his opinion optimized on it in a bunch of places? Does that make him a better rationalist than us, or just a different thing altogether, since he’s going off and adopting a different philosophy? It’s not like that’s even terribly unlikely, either, since he was a polymath of his day who took metaphysics, ethics, etc., in a very different direction than, say, Plato.

          I don’t like to do this, but I would just say it’s not the sort of question we can expect to find a good answer for.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Frankly, I think the Rationalists here tend to fall into exactly the same Aristotelian trap of preferring pretty head-models to dirty observation. Note that even the excellent Meditations on Molochcontained a bunch of Malthusian thought experiments, rather than Malthusian real-world examples.

      The Rationalist fear of delving into current politics is the same. Yes, I know politics is the mind-killer, but what that really amounts to is “all this training will be useless when you really need it.”

      • Lambert says:

        It can be seen more like:’Yes, you have been trained to fight well with a knife, but no, you can’t just run and attack a giant robot dragon with laser eyes on your own. (You should ignore all the other people attacking unarmed.)’
        Sort of the Drunning Kreuger effect. (‘If I am wise, it is because I know myself to be a fool.’)

        • Jaskologist says:

          That’s a strong point. I wish Rationalists showed the same humility when tackling religious questions.

          It does bring back to mind something I’ve been wondering for a while: What have Rationalists produced that demonstrates the strength of their approach? Is there any significant evidence such that a skeptic/newb would “update their prior” in favor of Rationalism as a method?

          • CAE_Jones says:

            The LessWrong bragging threads might be a place to look, for not-organization-level things. I was directed there the last time I asked.

  9. Herpaderp says:

    Straight from my favorite pundit, we have Jonathan Chait’s counter-response to Klein here : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/10/lets-argue-some-more-with-ezra-klein.html

    “The function of the law will be to technically define a large proportion of sexual encounters as rape, with the understanding that charges will never be filed because neither party actually considers them rape… That is to say, the function of the law will be to shift the presumption of most investigations from innocence to guilt.”

    I’m… not sure how mucking around with our legal system and rights under due process qualifies as a reasonable position given a taboo tradeoff. I mean, the entire point of having inalienable rights is that you don’t have to worry about them getting taken away whenever the majority doesn’t like them. You can’t trade off against it because the value comes from the fact that it’s a precommitment. You can also think of it as a Schelling Fence about how we get to treat our outgroups in society (college-age young males? hell yes that’s an outgroup, and will be until “bro” stops being a pejorative), and that’s another way to think about why sometimes you actually don’t want to adjust your tradeoffs in response to sufficiently small changes in your incentives.

    While I do like my arguments above, I should also note that I am a college-aged male who’s not having any sex anyways, so I’m officially the male counterpart of the fat feminist.

    …Or maybe the feminists are unattractive in the first place because they’re too scared of men to want to bother with attracting them, similarly to the way I wonder how my behavior would adjust if I actually felt like we lived in a sufficiently patriarchal society and not one missed cue away from some girl telling everyone what a horrible person I am if I’m so lucky as to avoid a sexual assault accusation.

    Sufficiently patriarchal – Imagine that women are actually privileged over men by a margin. Do we expect to find that all women enjoy more status than all men? No, because it’s going to be a distribution where the average woman outranks the average man, and if men are higher-variance than women we’ll still see some men having superhumanly high levels of status… just like we see now. The rest of the men, as a disempowered class, will be denigrated by the dominant ideology with terms such as “creep.” Wow, pseudo-Marxism is fun, I could see why feminism is so popular if I thought they were all half-joking like I am.

    Of course, the above analysis loses some persuasiveness when we remember that we can actually allow men to be privileged above women, and that we don’t have to posit that men are higher-variance, and we can still see a subgroup that will get labeled creep.

    Blah. I’m skeptical about the concept of creep anyways (I think you all just actually have high standards! You’re not as desperate as the guys who actually get the girls and the girls can tell *and they want a man who will invest energy*! You know there’s more to life *and this is a bug-not-a-feature for the sufficiently unspecial girls which make up the majority of the population because they don’t understand refinement and would want you to be invested*!), but I’ll post this anyways.

    tl;dr : If it were a choice between depriving women of the ability to make themselves vulnerable (and all relevant related rights) and overturning our system of due process in order to cut down on rape, then the latter would be by far more revolutionary and possibly detrimental to our society. Yes, person-who’s-instantly-disagreeing, I know women’s rights are a big deal, I’m suspecting it’s you who’s not understanding my concerns about what happens if we take the institutions that give us democracy and economic growth and protected civil rights and blow them up.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      • coffeespoons says:

        Could you tell me what was valuble about that post? To me it either didn’t make sense or seemed bitter and mindkilling.

        [Also, most men are not called creeps! It is true that that term is used to bully men, but I believe a minority of men are actually thought of as creepy. I think manosphere men are probably more likelyt than average to have had the term directed towards them, so they are likely to think it happens more often that it does].

        • Herpaderp says:

          Yeah, I was meaning to imply that everything I wrote using the term “creep” was fundamentally flawed given that I think the term is actually either not A. true or B. useful depending on the definition.

          The implication is that if there’s no such thing as a creep, that my worries about being found to be a “creep” are unfounded, then my subconscious is basically giving my conscious the runaround with my fears of being found to be a creep.

          Why would my subconscious do this? In my experience, it does this quite a lot, and I’m sure it’s doing this to the rest of y’all too. If there’s something I don’t want to deal with as a whole, then what’s going to happen is that I’m going to invent reasons why that something isn’t true.

          Example: it could be that everyone around me is actually in love with me because I’m just that awesome (what do you mean I’m not that awesome?). This seems like the sort of thing that would or could be scary or unsettling. Thus, I would expect my mind to start shouting “Everyone hates you!” or “Everybody is apathetic towards you!” in an effort to allow me to not deal with everyone being in love with me for a while. More specifically, until such time as the (expected or intuited) benefits of the false mind-shout beliefs are outweighed by the (expected or intuited) costs of giving my conscious false beliefs.

          This also explains why people are resistant to belief changes. If they’ve, on one level, already chosen their beliefs to be comfortable, then presenting them with different facts is going to change their minds if you can’t outweigh the discomfort as well.

          My theory of depression (of which I think I just fairly narrowly avoided a diagnosis) has a lot to do with the idea that depression is what happens when the costs start to outweigh the benefits, so everything that the depressed person has been repressing isn’t really repressible any more. Suddenly, they have a crapload of issues to deal with, and this results in a lot of the standard symptoms. Willpower and energy are being taxed continually to deal with the issues, so a lot of body things just go wonky.

          Probably won’t post more though.

          • Ialdabaoth says:

            A sometimes useful exercise:

            Request that all sides unpack the word “creep” (and derivatives ‘creepy’ / ‘creeper’ / etc.) whenever it appears, then engage directly with the underlying components.

            The results are fascinating. They are especially fascinating when one side in particular adamantly refuses to unpack the word when asked to.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >My theory of depression (of which I think I just fairly narrowly avoided a diagnosis) has a lot to do with the idea that depression is what happens when the costs start to outweigh the benefits, so everything that the depressed person has been repressing isn’t really repressible any more.

            Well that’s the scariest thing I’ve read in a while.

          • coffeespoons says:

            I think I was a bit unfair perhaps – I replied when I was angry – sorry.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Yeah, OK. Bits I liked:

          The point that “inalienable rights” have their value as a precommitment not to trade them off against other things. I tend to be too dismissive of people who talk about “rights” that can’t be traded off against anything, this is a good steelman.

          That crack about college-age males being in most people’s outgroup was interesting.

          The analogy between women and men who are, for whatever reason, worried about interacting with the opposite sex and so are stereotyped as unattractive. It might be spurious, but it’s useful for empathy.

          The lighthearted analysis of whether the existence of “creeps” proves various points. Kind of pointless, but amusing as a discarded hypothesis.

          Also, I misread the section at the end about creepiness and high standards, and it gave me an interesting idea via the noise-is-our-most-valuable-resource principle. So there’s that.

        • 27chaos says:

          I was called a creep regularly just for not having friends in high school. I didn’t interact much with anyone, let alone attractive girls.

        • Zorgon says:

          … did you just make a negative status claim about people who bring attention to the use of negative status terms?

          Ew.

          • Nornagest says:

            Seems reasonable to think that those who spend a lot of time thinking about social mechanics might be disproportionately likely to have been screwed over by those social mechanics in the past. Insofar as “creepy” is status-linked, then yes, that does seem to imply that the people who’re concerned with its use might be more likely to have occupied low-status roles at some point in their lives. Symmetrical arguments apply to all forms of identity politics, of course.

            On the other hand, I’ve noticed before that “creepy” as it’s used in feminist circles covers a rather broader space than it tends to in manosphere circles, and that it does sometimes get used to describe high-status moves. YMMV on how common this is.

          • Zorgon says:

            Good point, actually – since being able to negotiate social situations with outward ease is a high-status signal, that would suggest that openly analyzing status mechanics is in itself a low-status act.

          • coffeespoons says:

            @zorgon So I also think that people who hate smoking bans are more likely than average to be smokers, women who complain about lack of flattering bras in large sizes are more likely to have large breasts than average, people who campaign for cycle lanes are more likely to be cyclists and yes, people who worry about men being called creepy are more likely than average to be men who have been called creepy.

            I am not sure what you read but I fail to see how this merits an “ew.” And I also think you asking me to clarify before saying that would have been polite.

          • coffeespoons says:

            Thinking about this, I was angry and triggered when I replied to the post so I was probably unfair and not expressing myself well – it’s not surprising that people misinterpreted what I meant. Sorry about that :(.

          • Zorgon says:

            Having looked at the sentence again, I will happily acknowledge that it can be interpreted either way (negative status claim or incidence prediction), accept your apology and extend my own.

            I have a somewhat reflexive strong negative reaction to apparent negative status claims in response to an argument someone doesn’t like. I still can’t decide if it’s a useful alief or not; arguably it’s a large part of the reason I’m a rationalist at all, but at the same time it occasionally causes things like this.

            Sorry too. But no hugpile 😉

      • Vulture says:

        Is that your new catchphrase?

        • Randy M says:

          Maybe he just likes getting mail. Anonymous manifestos would beat the box-clogging ads and other junk I get, I suppose.

    • Quite Likely says:

      Chait pretty badly misunderstands what this law actually does.

  10. Deiseach says:

    RE: Aristotle and the snide “Despite being married twice, he never counted his wives’ teeth to back up his notion that men have more teeth than women.”

    Actually, he may very well have done so. There’s an old wives’ tale that “women lose a tooth for every baby”, based on the fact that (in days before everyone – at least in the West – got enough nutrients and nutrition), the developing foetus leaches calcium from the mother’s system. This would mean teeth and bones get brittle, and teeth are more likely to be lost.

    If Aristotle or those whose observations he was relying upon were counting the teeth of women who had been pregnant (if we take Bertrand Russell’s advice to “count your wife’s teeth”), then it’s quite possible they found “Mrs X has fewer teeth than her husband Mr X even though they’re both the same age and social class.”

    It’s not alone permissible, it’s correct to point out the errors of the past. But pleae, not by making the assumption that people Back Then were so dumb they believed all kinds of crazy shit and never bothered to try checking it out for themselves, until The Renaissance/the Enlightenment/19th century REAL SCIENCE (choose your favourite era of progress and fluffy bunnies) got hit with the thunderbolt of “Hey, let’s look for ourselves at the visible world and its contents!”

    • Typhon says:

      I love this comment and wholeheartedly agree with the notion that people in the past were not dumb. The fact of the matter is that the real world is *extremely complicated*.

      I wonder how many of the people who relay such stories bother to check things out for themselves right now, in spite of the fact that the internet made it much easier than at any point in History.

      • cassander says:

        >I love this comment and wholeheartedly agree with the notion that people in the past were not dumb

        I wonder about this sometimes. If malnutrition is common enough that people are losing teeth, it’s common enough to lower IQ. Impossible to say how much, but it seems almost certain that large swathes of the population were substantially dumber in the past.

        • Deiseach says:

          Which is at least a fixable problem (get more nutrients into people). But the assumption – or at least, how it presents itself in practice – comes across as Russell’s smug, self-congratulatory tone of “I’m way smarter than Aristotle, who is considered to be a Big Cheese, simply because I’m way smarter”.

          Picking things that seem ridiculous and holding people up to ridicule without first trying to understand “Well, why would anyone think that? Is there a reason they might have thought that?” isn’t about advancing science or rationality or progress or better ways of thinking, it’s patting yourself on the back for the advantage of chronology, which is nothing to do with you.

          I doubt Russell himself carried out a survey of female versus male dentition by going out and counting women’s teeth; I imagine he relied just as much on authorities (looked up textbooks, asked a doctor or dentist friend) for his information about teeth.

          Indeed, I did not know till now that in horses, stallions have more teeth than mares. Thank you for educating me on that fact, Aristotle!

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          If malnutrition is common enough that people are losing teeth, it’s common enough to lower IQ. Impossible to say how much, but it seems almost certain that large swathes of the population were substantially dumber in the past.

          And, perhaps, their elites were better nourished than ours, and more of their highest elites had more leisure for accomplishment. Thus their bell shaped curve would include lower lows and higher highs than ours, with more people at both ends.

    • Patrick says:

      No, they were dumb back then. Sure, people lose teeth, and women may have lost disproportionately more teeth than men. Lets say that’s true. And lets add that wisdom teeth can render the number of teeth in a mouth variable. But childless young women still exist. And lost teeth weren’t some dark secret that no one knew about. If your investigation of the visible world involved looking at the mouth of one person WHO YOU HAVE EVERY REASON TO KNOW MAY BE MISSING TEETH and noticing that they have less teeth than you, you’re not smart.

      The best you can say in defense of the ancients and the dumb stuff they believed in spite of it being incredibly easy to notice that the stuff they believed was dumb… is that people today believe some pretty dumb stuff too.

      But that doesn’t make the ancient’s less dumb, it makes us more dumb. The narrative of “everyone was dumb until REAL SCIENCE showed up” is unassailable. Just look at how fast we revert to being really dumb when we stop paying attention to the REAL SCIENCE.

      • drethelin says:

        let’s not call people not bothering to research something that has next to no impact on their lives “dumb”. I know it’s traditional to make fun of the past, or rural Americans who can’t point to Ukraine on a map, but really who give’s a rat’s ass? It’s not irrational to be ignorant of trivial crap.

        • Patrick says:

          As soon as you go back in time and convince the people in question not to become leading historical intellectuals since the stuff the “knowledge” they’re famous for is “trivial crap” they never really cared about, I’ll concede your point.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yes, but men also would have lost teeth. If you rule out “guys who are professional boxers for a living” and the likes, and compare men with women, and find that on average women have fewer teeth, it may seem reasonable to you to conclude that (just as women don’t in general grow beards, even if there are a few exceptions) then women in general have fewer teeth than men as a physical trait – if you don’t understand how pregnancy works and the role of calcium and the other ninety-nine things we know NOW.

        Is it a mistake to make such a conclusion from the data? Yes. Are you necessarily a stupid, credulous idiot if you draw such a conclusion? No.

        Is mocking someone from the past for bad science a way of spurring on good science? If it depends on “They were dumb but we are smart”, then no, it isn’t.

        Besides, I find it amusing that persons who insist that humans are no different from other animals, and who draw examples from other animals (e.g. incidence of same-gender sexual behaviours) to apply to humans, then turn on Aristotle for applying traits drawn from animals to humans (e.g. in these species, the males have more teeth than the females, so since humans are animals too, this applies to us in the same way).

        • Patrick says:

          Aristotle: “Males have more teeth than females in the case of men, sheep, goats, and swine; in the case of other animals observations have not yet been made: but the more teeth they have the more long-lived are they, as a rule, while those are short-lived in proportion that have teeth fewer in number and thinly set.”

          Also “Why have men more teeth then women?
          By reason of the abundance of heat and blood which is more in men than in women.”

          Please note that the reason Aristotle gives for why women allegedly have fewer teeth is the same reason he gives for why women don’t have semen. It is directly related to his theory on how creatures physically grow, develop bones and muscle, etc. You remember your Aristotelian biology, right? The body produces blood, which converts itself to semen, which converts into bones, flesh, etc? This is all online. It is why young men don’t have semen- they have it, but its all being used up making them grow. Once they’re grown they have semen to spare. Men are more “hot” than women so they produce semen where women cannot, semen is the body’s nutrient that best helps you grow new body parts, teeth are body parts… It isn’t hard to trace his reasoning if you just read it in context of his overall view of biology.

          So enough with the just-so stories.

          As far as I can tell, horses display sexual dimorphism in tooth count. The other species do not. As tempting as it might be to rescue Aristotle by investing a just-so story that subtly changes what he wrote to refer to a statistical approximation of average tooth-count after age and tooth-loss, nothing in the text supports that. And given Aristotle’s other wacky views on science (all helpfully written down and able to be perused at your leisure online), this seems more likely to just be another wacky Aristotle error.

          This isn’t to say that a modern-born person, deprived of education and placed in an environment similar to Aristotle’s, wouldn’t do as badly or worse. But Aristotle did screw up pretty hard on a lot of things, and restricting his wild speculation about bodily fluids to things he could actually document would probably have done him a world of good.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vital_heat

    • JB says:

      Actually, this might sound dumb, but… do women have the same number of teeth as men? For that matter, do all people have the same number of teeth, regardless of gender? How do I think I know what I think I know?

      I don’t actually know the answer to this question, and it also occurs to me that I couldn’t off the cuff tell you accurately how many teeth I have.

      I think I’m going to go count them now…

      • Jaskologist says:

        The number of wisdom teeth is variable, with four being the average (ignoring that we usually pull them).

      • Lambert says:

        Aside from wisdom teeth, 32: 8 insiscors, 4 canines, 4 premolar, 16 molars.
        Children have 20 (52 including the adult teeth underneath).

        • Kiya says:

          I just counted my teeth and got 28 (my wisdom teeth have been taken out). So I think 32 must include the expected 4 wisdom teeth.

  11. Navin Kumar says:

    For me, Ezra Klein’s problem wasn’t that he made a taboo trade off. It’s that he didn’t establish that a trade off existed. He went straight from “campus take is a huge problem” to “we must use the affirmative consent standard” without stopping at “here’s how affirmative consent will prevent rape”. It was a remarkable example of the Appleby Fallacy.

    • Error says:

      I’m not sure how it will prevent rape either. Legalizing prostitution seems like the low-hanging fruit here. If I remember right, New Zealand has some good statistics on the effects. It would be an easier change than instigating a universal cultural shift, more effective at the ostensible goal of reducing rape and sexual assault, and do it by providing better routes to satisfy desires rather than extra punishment for the use of bad ones. I don’t really think of myself as a utilitarian, but it seems like it wins on utilitarian grounds hands down. Lower costs, better benefits, and fewer tradeoffs.

      I don’t think it would help with what Klein calls the “consent tax”; the idea that a woman has to restrict her actions to avoid the interpretation of an invitation. That seems like a real thing to me, a bit like constantly having to avoid eye contact with beggars, only with much higher stakes. I’m not sure there is a solution for that. If a man wants to have sex with you, he will be actively looking for reasons to believe that you want to have sex with him. It’s not a cultural problem, it’s just Motivated Reasoning 101, and neither my suggestion nor the Yes Means Yes thing will make it go away.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Ok, so imagine that we are super-powerful aliens, and we gave every woman a magical nanotech drone that hovers right above her head. Whenever a man makes a sexual pass at a woman, the woman can send a mental command to the drone, which will instantly fire an electrolaser bolt at the man — inflicting extreme pain and possibly crippling injury.

        In such a society, men would still desire to have sex with women; however, they will be extremely less likely to act on such desires. Over time, acting on one’s desire (without the woman’s explicit and heartfelt promise to forgo electrolasering you) will in fact be seen as abnormal, because the vast majority of men would never do anything like that (and thus the few who would are some sort of weird freaks). As the result, the “consent tax” will be eliminated.

        As far as I understand, that’s the intent behind the law — only we’re using lawyers and social ostracism instead of drones, because we can’t build those yet.

        I personally do believe that the law, as it stands today, has a good chance to achieve its goals (assuming I understand them correctly). Of course, one could be concerned about all the other undesirable effects such a climate of fear will achieve; however, at this point it’s just a matter of your core values, which are not subject to debate because they are essentially axiomatic (though different for each person).

        • Sniffnoy says:

          This seems a good point to remind everyone that for those of us men who are trying to be good people according to feminist rules, this is to a large extent already the case. We’re not talking about anything new here; we’re just talking about the spread of this to the larger population (or the beginning of such).

          • Reaver says:

            Except this time with actual legal sanctions rather than just moral ones.

          • 27chaos says:

            Law is limited to college campus expulsions. Perhaps this will not stay true for long, but such an argument should be made explicit. Campus expulsions are significant, of course.

        • DrBeat says:

          Of course, one could be concerned about all the other undesirable effects such a climate of fear will achieve; however, at this point it’s just a matter of your core values, which are not subject to debate because they are essentially axiomatic (though different for each person).

          It is very, very frightening to me that you consider it “up for debate” whether or not giving women to power to cause devastating harm to men in order to prevent men from doing things that make them uncomfortable is a good idea.

          If ever I needed something to point to to show how women’s feelings are considered more precious than men’s lives, here it is. Women might feel pressured into having sex? Instead of expecting them to be adults and express their desires, let’s give them the power to unilaterally send men to prison to be raped and have their lives utterly destroyed. Then men won’t make them feel uncomfortable!

          • Bugmaster says:

            Actually, my last point should probably frighten you even more than it already does, because a person’s core, terminal values are not “up for debate”; they are axiomatic.

            Thus, if a person values women extremely highly (as compared to men), then bringing up all the ways this law will hurt men is pointless; it’d be like saying, “Look, I know your garage is infested with wasps, and they are stinging you as we speak, but please put down the insecticide ! Wasps have feelings too, please don’t hurt them !” That kind of argument sounds incredibly silly to anyone who is not already a Jain.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I thought the idea was that, in such an extreme situation, men would ensure they were never in such a compromising situation.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Yeah, that’s the hope. Shifting the standard from “what did you think would happen, when you went out dressed like that?” on women to “what did you think would happen, putting moves on her alone before anyone saw her consenting to be with you?” on men.

            With luck it’ll clear out the ambiguous areas and make sexual situations more bimodally assenting/non-assenting.

            (This won’t always be enough, of course – I have a friend who has a ton of casual sex, but he backs off immediately when the girl isn’t enthusiastic about it. He’s still dealing with a false rape accusation. Luckily it’s turning out okay for him, because of all the women he’s slept with who can support the “he backs off the moment I indicate I’m not into it” story. Affirmative consent culture ftw!)

          • princess_Stargirl says:

            @Tad

            What do you mean by shift? If you mean the current standard is too far in the direction of “what were you doing going out like that” then I agree.

            But the tone of your post caused me to consider that maybe you consider:

            “what did you think would happen, putting moves on her alone before anyone saw her consenting to be with you?” on men.

            To be a good standard. Do you actually believe this? You think men shouldn’t feel safe having sex with women unless the women clearly consented to sex publicly? And idk what “put the moves on her” even really means. Men aren’t the only sex that initiates sexual activity. This just seems like swinging so far in the other direction we just get an alternate, but still very damaging, sexual standard.

            Ideally there would be some way that neither gender faced an uneven burden.

            Though again I might be wrong and you consider the “men should feel afraid not women” possibility equally terrible to women feeling afraid.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Nah, I’m being somewhat snarky in pointing at a reversed situation for what is today a common response to rape claims. I absolutely cannot find it now (and my search history now looks *terrible*), but it was intended as a callback to the funny chart about “how men can avoid being accused of rape” with tips like “don’t let yourself get caught alone with a woman”, paralleling the “advice” often given to women on how to avoid rape situations.

            I apologize for it being less than useful.

          • DrBeat says:

            I thought the idea was that, in such an extreme situation, men would ensure they were never in such a compromising situation.

            Name any situation, real or theoretical, where you would be okay with giving men the legal power to inflict grievous harm on women to incentivize women to change their behavior.

          • DrBeat says:

            What do you mean by shift? If you mean the current standard is too far in the direction of “what were you doing going out like that” then I agree.

            Why?

            What is the reason you have for believing this is an undue burden on women in particular and/or in cases of rape in particular, that it needs special alterations to law just to change it? This behavior follows every form of victimization, it’s the just-world fallacy and it is how people prevent themselves from being consumed with fear, by finding a reason why THEY will not be victimized because their behavior is not like that of the victim.

            Like every form of violent crime, rates of rape have plummeted in the past twenty years. What is it that makes it such an outlier that it HAS to be addressed by new laws in a way armed robbery or assault doesn’t have to?

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Bugmaster:

            You can’t probably persuade extremists who have terminal values different than yours, but you can make their values explicit, disrupting their ability to use a motte-and-bailey strategy.

            In the case of the SJW feminists, the motte is that “feminism is the radical notion that women are people”, that they just want equality and everybody who criticizes them is a misogynist. The bailey is that they care for women’s welfare much more than they care for men’s welfare.

            If you successfully publicly argue that the policies they support are only consistent with the bailey and not with the motte, then either they stop supporting these policies and retreat to the motte, or stand by them and burn down the motte, or be seen as inconsistent hypocrites.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >Name any situation, real or theoretical, where you would be okay with giving men the legal power to inflict grievous harm on women to incentivize women to change their behavior.

            Women’s prison.

            Male anti-rape drones that detect “raping” instead of “flirting” with their magical drone powers.

            A society where all men are slaves (viva la revolution!)

            Abortion clinics, maybe?

            This’d be easier if it weren’t gender-segregated … which, of course, anti-rape laws aren’t (at least in theory.)

            Oh! And if it turned out that the flirting-drones thing actually worked, (it probably wouldn’t) then it should work just as well with men, I think. women aren’t noticably worse at coordinating than men.

        • Error says:

          In such a society, men would still desire to have sex with women; however, they will be extremely less likely to act on such desires.

          Hrm. Okay, agreed; and in that context I suppose I can see how YMY would reduce the sexual assault rate.

          …but I still think it’s a more difficult, less effective, and more unpleasant-tradeoff-y method of doing so than mine.

        • Princess_Stargirl says:

          This is genuinely horrifying to read. I am badly creeped out.

          You even included “possible crippling injury.” I am no MRA but I agree with Dr. Beat. You are literally saying its “reasonable” to argue for the worst “strawman” of feminism MRAs are accused of presenting. Until read this comment I would have thought no one could actually believe we “maybe” should be willing to totally screw men over if it means better safety for women.

          Do you actually think women are magically 100 times as moral as men? If not how could you possibly think trusting either gender with this kind of power is a good idea. This is basically morally equivalent to thinking we shouldn’t have rape laws at all, since women could falsely accuse men. Which is a position that s radically even by redpill standards.

          This is worse than James Doland shit in terms of arguing for horrible bad ideas.

          Edit: Another of your comments suggests maybe you don’t believe this is actually reasonable? Surely no one could argue that is “reasonable” to value men so little?

          I am pretty confused. Was the point of your post to advocate for something sinister to squick people out. If so good job, worked on me. Maybe this was a rhetorical point to show how dangerous some people (Who really would support the alien laser plan) really are?

          • Vulture says:

            I think Bugmaster was pretty clearly just pointing out that under a sufficiently perverse moral system, the policy is reasonable. Since this is true of literally any policy, I’m not sure what the point was supposed to be.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Right, my laser-drone solution is meant to be over the top. My goal was to point out that the following attacks on the proposed law are unlikely to succeed :

            “The law does not accomplish its goals”: if the goal is to reduce the number of unwelcome sexual advances, as well as sexual encounters, then I believe the law is effective.

            “The law causes too much collateral damage to men”: as you said, someone who values women sufficiently highly would even endorse my dronest proposal. It all depends on the relative value one places on women relative to men; and I believe that this ratio is a terminal value that cannot be altered — at least, not through debate.

            You cannot say that it’s “reasonable” or “unreasonable” to value men so little, because your terminal values are the basis of your reasoning, not its outcome. It would be like telling a paperclip optimizer, “hey, you know, it’s unreasonable to value paperclips so much”.

            Given that the above is true (and obviously I could be wrong), I’m not sure what kind of an attack on this law — or rather, on the reasoning behind it — could succeed.

          • DrBeat says:

            Given that the above is true (and obviously I could be wrong), I’m not sure what kind of an attack on this law — or rather, on the reasoning behind it — could succeed.

            Though people value the lives of men much less than those of women, they don’t like to admit it, because to admit it is to admit not only that you are sexist, but that sexism against men is possible. For value systems sufficiently outside what the mainstream claims/wants to believe it finds acceptable, all you have to do is expose the existence of the value system underlying the proposal to get it to back off.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >It all depends on the relative value one places on women relative to men; and I believe that this ratio is a terminal value that cannot be altered — at least, not through debate.

            I strongly disagree; it seems extremely likely that this is based on estimates of how much harm rape causes vs. droning.

            … and possibly an outgroup/ingroup-esque sterotype-based tendency to systematically undervalue male suffering. But that’s a bias and can’t survive in daylight.

            (Also, “dronest proposal”? Very nice.)

          • Vegemeister says:

            While in this case you may be tilting at windmills, it’s nice to see someone express genuine empathy for men. The SJWs won’t give you a cookie for being a decent human being, but I will:

          • Vegemeister says:

            I couldn’t figure out how to edit that last post, but there was supposed to be a U+1F36A after that colon. Apparently this comment system eats unicode.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can do 🍪 🍪

            or &127850; 🍪

            Usually it accepts unicode, but apparently not the cookie.

        • MugaSofer says:

          … huh, that’s actually a very convincing analogy. Updating in favor of this being a good idea.

          • Princess_Stargirl says:

            What? I don’t understand what is much different about this position and getting rid of rape laws (possibly with the exception of if you first kidnap the woman). After-all women can falsely accuse men. Except that getting rid of rape laws requires absolute faith in men. And the laser scenario requires absolute faith in women.

            Both scenarios should horrifying imo. In addition though the primary (and numerous) victims of the lasers would be men and “no rape laws society” would be women the other sex suffers also. Either set of laws would result in much less sex. Since most humans enjoy sex drastically reducing sex is not a good plan.

            Also on another WTF point you said “unless she gives a heartfelt promise to not electro-laser you.” How a promise good enough. The lasers were described as potentially crippling. People lie. I am sure lots of rapists have promised that they would never rape anyone. They probably promised this to some of their victims.

            I sure would not want any law tat gave men that kind of power. I would guess most women would be badly creeped out by the thought of giving men that level of ability to abuse women. Why is it less squicky to consider giving that ability to women?

          • Bugmaster says:

            As far as I understand, feminists believe that, in our current society, men already wield an enormous amount of power over women (due to the male privilege, patriarchy, etc.). That is, we already live in a society where every man has a built-in laser-drone. Giving one to women is not excessive, it’s just a way of evening the playing field.

            I’m not a feminist though, so it’s possible that I am misinterpreting their position.

          • 27chaos says:

            Superweapons!

          • Zorgon says:

            So our situation becomes this:

            – Feminists claim that men have institutional power, analogised as a large number of electro-zap drones assigned to the gender as a group.
            – Feminists then push for all women to be issued with an electro-zap drone each, in order to balance the situation.

            … Once again I find myself wishing that people were taught things like map and territory distinctions at primary school level.

            If we apply charity and assume the initial claim is correct, then there’s still no recognition that all the electro-zap drones representing institutional power are concentrated in the hands of a very small minority of men, while the electro-zap drones representing effective legal impunity regarding rape accusations are to be issued to every single woman.

            So not only does that leave a whole lot of men getting electro-zapped with no recourse at all, but it also means that women adversely affected by the massed electro-zap capability of elite men have no real recourse either, given they have only one and the men in question have thousands each.

            (I will once again note how uncanny it is that so many feminist projects end up primarily impacting low-status men and having almost no effect whatsoever on the elite.)

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Zorgon:
            To be fair, I’m not a feminist, so it is entirely possible I am misinterpreting their position.

            That said though, what if we programmed the drones so that they only worked on college campuses, and could only be wielded by / targeted at college students ? I believe doing so would greatly weaken your objection, since it would eliminate many of the confounding factors. Elite or not, all college students are pretty much in the same boat — minus the institutionalized power imbalance, per feminist theory.

          • Zorgon says:

            As I mentioned below, the argument that this “only applies on campus” ignores the overwhelmingly negative effect of a rape accusation even on men who are found innocent.

            To use your analogy, this would be like claiming it didn’t hurt men because while they might suffer lifelong heart problems as a result of being zapped, the zaps themselves only occur on campuses.

          • MugaSofer says:

            @Princess_Stargirl:

            Obviously, I’m not in favor of issuing half the population with magic laser drones. Especially not if, as I think was implied, it was socially impossible to punish them for it (since presumably society gave them the drones in the first place.)

            If this did happen, then it seems unlikely that men could co-ordinate well enough; based on history we would almost certainly end up as a hilariously-oppressed underclass with some flimsy excuses propping it up. (If it weren’t for Moloch, we would end up as a separate country co-operating with woman-land to get both countries laid as safely as possible.)

            But, while male-on-female rape would still exist – yes, really, they would lobotomize their targets – it really would significantly decrease male-on-female rape.

            This made it clear to me that some of my arguments that this affirmative-consent law was a stupid idea were proving too much.

          • Zorgon says:

            Extracting and freezing large quantities of sperm from adolescent boys before physically castrating them would also greatly reduce the number of all rapes apart from female-on-female.

            “How many of the Official Victim Class does this help” is not the only important measure here.

        • Hainish says:

          Whenever a man makes a sexual pass at a woman, the woman can send a mental command to the drone, which will instantly fire an electrolaser bolt at the man — inflicting extreme pain and possibly crippling injury.

          So…we’ve replaced the human women in this scenario with aliens?? Does this sound like something that humans would actually *want*? Do you hear people around you saying, “Gosh, I sure wish I could inflict extreme pain and possibly crippling injury to whomever made a sexual pass at me”? Because that doesn’t sound like it would result in *anyone* getting laid.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Do you hear people around you saying, “Gosh, I sure wish I could inflict extreme pain and possibly crippling injury to whomever made a sexual pass at me”?

            Well, if instead of “pain and injury” you substitute “shaming and ostracism”, and instead of “whomever” you substitute “socially clueless people”, then they don’t say they wish they could, they just say it’s the appropriate thing to do!

          • Hainish says:

            As a socially clueless person, this makes me sad.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Sniffnoy:
            Yes, exactly.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            @Hainish: Is this new to you? Do I need to link Scott’s “Meditations” series again? 😛

          • Hainish says:

            Meditations, other than On Moloch? There’s a series? Interesting…do link.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Yes, this is from his old blog. The first one is here; you can use the next/previous entry buttons to navigate among them, except that the crucial 4th one has been taken down, but here’s an archived copy (it’s OK, I asked him if it was OK to link to the the archived version).

            (Not Scott, but also on a similar topic.)

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I’d like to express that I got the rhetorical point of this proposal and didn’t get hung up on its extremism. Frequently, extreme policies that would be terrible ideas to enact can clarify a certain effect that might be achieved through more moderate means, and it kind of annoys me when they mindkill people.
          (Though on communication consequentialist grounds you probably should try to avoid them)

      • Anthony says:

        In fact, legalizing prostitution may raise the “consent tax”, by making any sexual display possibly be interpreted as advertising of services available.

        • ozymandias says:

          I… don’t think that’s how prostitution works.

          • 27chaos says:

            That would be pretty cool if it was though. Economic transactions and sex being considered as practically the same thing by a society? Sounds like an awesome short story.

        • Vulture says:

          But you have to pay for a prostitute’s services, right? “I thought she was a prostitute!” isn’t much of a defense if there was no attempt made to offer payment. And anyone trying to buy the services of someone who was not, in point of fact, a prostitute, would probably be quickly disabused of that confusion.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Yes, but most women don’t want to be mistaken for prostitutes.

          • Vulture says:

            I think that “women would be irritated more often by people mistaking them for prostitutes” is an acceptable externality of legalizing prostitution.

          • Hainish says:

            But if prostitution were legal (and safe), prostitutes could signal that they are, in fact, prostitutes, largely eliminating this as a source of potential confusion.

          • Anthony says:

            Is having to repeatedly reject random men who offer money for sex actually better than what women experience now?

            Hainish –

            It would be rather easy to make that distinction for indoor prostitution, saving lots of non-sexual massage therapists quite a lot of hassle. But how does a prostitute signal that she is, in fact, sexually available to anyone for a price, rather than sexually available to certain select men?

          • Vulture says:

            @Hainish Good point. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

          • Hainish says:

            But how does a prostitute signal that she is, in fact, sexually available to anyone for a price, rather than sexually available to certain select men?

            Er…isn’t the former pretty much the default for prostitution? I’d think that the latter situation would require some sort of special arrangement – perhaps a matching service for clients and companions.

          • Anthony says:

            Hainish – you’ve missed the point. How does an outdoor (or hotel/bar/etc) prostitute distinguish herself from a woman who is dressed up for a night out hoping to find a compatible man to have sex with? There’s a certain level of revealing and trashy that tends to indicate “prostitute”, but it’s not foolproof, because some women actually dress that way without intending to find paying customers. I’ve seen women on the street that I was fairly certain were prostitutes by the way they acted, but if they’d been acting a different way, their clothing would not have stood out as particularly advertising sexual availability for money.

          • 27chaos says:

            Anthony, the women would seek to distinguish themselves from the prostitutes and the prostitutes would seek to distinguish themselves from the women. Maybe the prostitutes all wear pink clothing, who knows. But it would be easy for it to happen. It would start off slowly based on small existing correlations, and then grow from there. This kind of pattern happens all the time, it is why rich people do not dress the same as poor people.

          • Hainish says:

            Anthony – You seem stuck on the idea that women would need to use their choice of clothing to indicate status as a prostitute, and that said clothing would need to be trashy/revealing/girly in order to signal what they want to signal. There are other possibilities.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Hainish

            It is of course true that any arbitrary systematic difference could be used, but historically clothing differences have generally been the actual method used to differentiate.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I imagine that, if sex work was legal and safe, prostitutes would distinguish themselves from regular women through the use of signs such as “best sex work at lowest prices; ask me about my Tuesday discounts”, or something to that extent. Of course, independent prostitutes would be quite rare, as most of them would instead choose to work for McSexy’s, or Sexway, or some other national chain.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Some sort of badge seems the obvious solution, but I can’t recall ever hearing of this being done in real life. Coordination problems, perhaps, although that seems a bit extreme – red light districts exist, after all.

            Am I just ignorant, or do places where prostitution is legal still use the “standard” method of signalling prostitute status?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, MugaSofer, you are correct. Legal streetwalkers are not very different than illegal streetwalkers.

            Brothels are rarely legal. Where they are fully legal, they are often clear. In New Zealand before 2003, they were required to pretend to be massage parlors. In the short period of Rhode Island legality, they chose to pretend to be massage parlors and be continually raided for not having massage licenses.

      • Anonymous says:

        Prostitution has never been illegal in New Zealand.

        For the other thread: prostitution is legal in a lot of places and legality does not cause them to send more obvious signals.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s not the desire that is the problem, it’s the cultural conditioning that ‘no’ doesn’t really mean ‘no’, it means ‘try harder to persuade her’ or ‘she’s just playing hard to get’ or ‘good girls don’t say yes right off’.

        I don’t think the Yes Means Yes law is the greatest example of legislation in the world, but the broader attempt to change the culture so that ‘no’ gets respected as a valid answer (it doesn’t mean anything bad about you if you get refused, nobody has the right or deserves to have sex with someone merely because they want it, positive consent is different from merely not saying ‘no’ and it will be better for EVERYONE if we manage to clear up these ‘blurred lines’) is, I think, a good thing.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m curious why you’re privileging an initial response as the true indicator of consent. One can withdraw consent in an instant, on a whim. It seems sensible that one can provide consent in an instant, on a whim.

          Perhaps you offer me a beer. I don’t particularly feel like it, so I decline. But, you tell me, it’s a really unique aged stout. Convinced, I accept the offer. Alternatively, unconvinced, I decline once again. Why are these run-of-the-mill decisions suddenly totally unacceptable in the case of sex?

          Personally, I think there are a gigantic number of factors which influence whether I interpret a “no” as a “no” versus “maybe a yes if you try harder”. For example, if I were to decline your offer of beer by saying, “I’m sorry, but I abstain from alcohol,” I would almost certainly file it under “no”. The particular category that any particular instance of “no, thank you” gets filed under depends highly on contextual clues and what I already know about you (…and in the case that I don’t know much about you, stereotypes are actually important for providing contextual clues (the reason why “I’m sorry, but I abstain from alcohol” has as much to do with filing the category of “people who abstain from alcohol” under various versions of “moral/health concerns, which tend to be strongly held,” rather than any particular knowledge that your abstinence is strongly held)).

    • Quite Likely says:

      Isn’t the justification “men will be more wary of putting pressure on women to have sex with them, or taking an ambiguous signal as a yes”?

  12. Salem says:

    Of all the crappy things the Saudis do to women, one I didn’t know before was that women who have finished their jail term have to be picked up by a male relative. No male relative who wants to pick you up, no release from jail, ever. Seriously, screw the Saudis. I hope the sand shortage destroys them all.

    This is beneath you. You would never dream of saying “I hope all Ugandans die in a fire because their laws on homosexuality are unfair” or “I hope all Chinese people are destroyed because their government enforces One Child Per Family.” You would recognise these statements as appallingly racist and condemn them accordingly. But for some reason, racism against Arabs is permissible in rationalist circles, and so you perhaps don’t even realise what you’re doing.

    Please stop. Reconsider. You write one of the best and most charitable blogs on the internet, but statements like this make me feel unwelcome, and undermine your bona fides. You, more than anyone, should be aware that it is possible to condemn the policies of the Saudi government without wishing ill on the people.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I am pretty sure that this was meant in jest, because the actual sand shortage is (while less ridiculous than it initially sounds) still pretty ridiculous, and in no imaginable way an existential threat to Saudi Arabia.

      I can see how, if you’re used to hearing non-jesting desires for nations or groups to all perish in fire (or in the absence of sand), the ridiculousness would not be as blatant on first reading, however.

      • Salem says:

        Of course it was meant “in jest.” Of course that isn’t the point.

        What would you think of someone who said that he hoped all African-Americans choked on their watermelon? Of course he doesn’t seriously mean it, and of course watermelons are in no imaginable way an existential threat, but it’s still a horrid thing to say. It is bigotry, and it’s a loud signal – you are not welcome here. Now suppose an African-American called the speaker out on his language, and gets told “Lighten up, he’s only joking.” That’s you, by the way. You’re the enabler. I suggest you stop digging.

        Bigotry frequently works through the medium of humour or light-hearted comments. Sometimes it’s because of plausible deniability, but more often it’s because the joker genuinely doesn’t consider what it’s like to be on the other end of the “joke.” I don’t think our host is a moral monster. I do think he wrote that without considering how it would read to an Arab. It was hurtful and offensive. He is normally better than that.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Hmm. Out of the blue, “I hope all the African-Americans choke on their watermelon!” does seem like it might come from bigotry. In the context of African-Americans running a nation with harmful, regressive policies and following an interesting factoid on the relative choking deaths of watermelon versus other fruit? Seems considerably likely.

          After consideration, in the context, I have to disagree that what was posted was actually that horrible a thing to say. Optimal? Probably not, by my judgement. Sufficiently harmless in context that calling it bigotry seems a bit Noncentral-Fallacy-y? Probably so, by my judgement.

          Actually, now that I think about it, I’m now wondering at what point you can ascribe the motivations of a government to its people. To what extent does the many and varied demographic-based arrest and sentencing disparities reflect badly on Americans? Again, I’m having trouble parsing “Your police shoot how many people? With that few investigations? And this is legal and accepted by most of your population? Wow, fuck Americans.” as particularly harmful bigotry. Again, non-optimal, but it doesn’t seem particularly harmful to me.

          • anonymous says:

            Was the “I hope the sand shortage destroys them all” true, necessary, or kind–much less two of the above?

          • 27chaos says:

            It was hilarious, which I think deserves consideration as an optional fourth gate.

          • Eli says:

            In the context of African-Americans running a nation with harmful, regressive policies and following an interesting factoid on the relative choking deaths of watermelon versus other fruit?

            Excuse me, but the Saudi Royal Family are such a tiny and abnormal clique of the population that it is bigoted to talk about all Saudi citizens as if they were anything but oppressed subjects of cruel tyrants.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Wait, is it due to the actions of the Saudi royal family that for 35% of the female prisoners who’ve completed their actual sentences, their families are unwilling to pick them up from jail, because of honor?

            I mean, being the oppressed subject of a brutal tyrant in no way stops you from turning and and gleefully participating in the brutal tyranny of others. Given that, I do feel pretty comfortable saying “Fuck everyone who’s comfortable with this working-as-designed legal nightmare.”

            Now, I also admit great ignorance of the actual social structures of Saudi Arabia. For all I know, most of the population is working against the laws and they are expected to be repealed in a year or two, or that the Saudi family sponsors honor police who go and lock up families who care more about their wives, sisters, and daughters than showing purity to the community. Is this the case? Is this behavior being imposed on the people of Saudi Arabia externally, such that we shouldn’t assume from the numbers that it reflects a common attitude among the people there? (I’m not asking rhetorically here. Does anyone have this kind of data?)

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Perhaps by “Saudis” he didn’t mean “the residents of Saudi Arabia” but rather “the House of Saud.”

          I don’t think its particularly offensive or bigoted to not be too keen on Saudi Arabia’s ruling clan.

          Just like someone saying they hate Spartans could mean everyone in the area, including the helots, but probably just means the Spartiates.

      • Eli says:

        I can see how, if you’re used to hearing non-jesting desires for nations or groups to all perish in fire (or in the absence of sand), the ridiculousness would not be as blatant on first reading, however.

        That’s a bit of an anti-Arab zinger right there, in itself. Mind, it is true that this kind of bombastic rhetoric is far more normal in the Arab countries…

        But then again, nothing I say about Arab countries should be taken without a shaker full of salt, since I’m an Israeli Jew.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      I think by “Saudis” he meant the government and just worded it poorly. But you definitely have a point.

      • Anonymous says:

        “The Saudis” is a good name for the government, because it is the Saud family.

        • Nornagest says:

          The -i suffix indicates “of or belonging to”. Saudi Arabia is the part of Arabia that belongs to the Sauds. You wouldn’t say the Saud family are Saudi in this sense any more than you’d say Billy-Bob Johnson is “Johnson’s”.

          (You might say “Johnson’s boy”, but there’s a different grammatical form for that in Arabic.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Would you feel the same way about statements like “I’m very upset with North Korea” or “the Iranians have really crossed the line”? Isn’t that pretty much all you ever see on the news?

      I think using the name of a country as metonymy for that country’s policies and government is pretty well-established here. And I’m not actually expecting anyone to die of sand shortage.

      • lmm says:

        I would get pointed at “the Iranians have really crossed the line”. No, Iran has really crossed the line; many of the Iranians had little choice in the matter.

        (To the extent that you believe Iran is a democracy it becomes more acceptable, because citizens in a democracy really are responsible for the actions of their governments)

      • Salem says:

        But that’s not what you wrote, is it? Do you really not see the difference between “I’m upset at North Korea” (acceptable metonymy) and “I’m upset at all North Koreans” (something else entirely)?

        • mayleaf says:

          Yes, this exactly. Count me as another data point, Scott — I found that wording to be jarring and uncharacteristically cruel-sounding. Phrases like “Of all the things the Saudis do….” and “Screw the Saudis” parse as attacks on individual Saudi people. These sound very different from saying “Of all the things that the Saudi Arabian government does…” and “Screw Saudi Arabia”.

          Kaj also has really good point below.

      • Kaj Sotala says:

        “I’m very upset with X” or “X has crossed the line” sounds rather different than “I wish everyone in X would die”. And while I know that you didn’t actually wish everyone in X to die, I feel like this is kinda of like your example about antisemitism:

        The big news story is about a Jewish man who killed a Christian child. As far as you can tell the story is true. It’s just disappointing that everyone who tells it is describing it as “A Jew killed a Christian kid today”. You don’t want to make a big deal over this, because no one is saying anything objectionable like “And so all Jews are evil”. Besides you’d hate to inject identity politics into this obvious tragedy. It just sort of makes you uncomfortable.

        Although you’re not actually seriously saying that everyone in Saudi Arabia should be killed, you’re still making the kind of comment that’s re-centering the category of “people in Saudi Arabia” towards “the kind of people who all hate women and deserve to be killed”. And yes, I know that you mean it in jest, but does the random person who reads this article know that? Likely some proportion of your readers doesn’t realize it, especially ones who aren’t regular readers but just happen to come across this article because their friend linked to it on Facebook or whatever, and their feelings are likely to be shifted more.

        I think Salem, above, seems pretty much in the position of the Jew in your example. You’re not actually saying that all people in Saudi Arabia should be killed, you’re just saying that their rulers are bad people who treat their women badly. And the “treat their women badly” part at least is true, so Salem has some difficulties objecting to it, but it does make him uncomfortable. But if he doesn’t object, Saudis will end up becoming boxed in by a set of individually harmless but collectively dangerous statements.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Yeah, I think there’s a distinct difference between “I’m very upset with North Korea”, “I’m very upset with those North Koreans”, and “I’m very upset with Kim Jong-un”.

        I parsed your joke as the third type, but re-reading the second type is actually the most obvious interpretation. The first type comes a distant third.

    • Elissa says:

      I understand why this would make you feel unwelcome, I think that’s crappy, and I’m sorry.

  13. Doug S. says:

    The most important difference between Saudi Arabia and North Korea is that Saudi Arabia has oil and North Korea doesn’t.

  14. MK says:

    If I was asked to design the cover of a texbook named “Methods for Solving Incorrectly Posed Problems”, I would rather do it like this: http://imgur.com/lVcu6OR

  15. Re: the article on the affordability of San Francisco, I suspect it’s highly misleading if you don’t have the kind of skills necessary to get one of the high-paying jobs that pushes average income in the Bay Area so high. Certainly the people who do have those skills whine too much about high cost of living, but if you get a job waiting tables in San Francisco and don’t have rent control, expect to be living in like half a bedroom in Oakland.

    • Anthony says:

      I was going to say something about the distinction between median and mean, and how that could skew the analysis, but I discovered a more fundamental issue. The report says that the “typical household renting in New York City” is paying $14,700 a year, or just over $1,200/month. Now it’s possible that the median renter in NYC is rent-controlled and really isn’t paying a lot of rent, but therefore the “typical” rent is irrelevant to someone considering moving to NYC, as they won’t get that deal. (San Jose is about $1,500/month, which is even less believable because San Jose doesn’t have rent control.)

      • Hainish says:

        Anthony, I can’t tell if those numbers strike you as too high or too low (I’m guessing too low?). I’ve lived in both NY and Seattle, and they strike me as plausible, depending on the definition of “household.” If they define a single person paying $600/mo for a bedroom in a shared apartment as one household, then that would bring the average down.

        • Anthony says:

          They define “typical’ households, which seem to be mostly two-earner-with-kid(s) households, depending on location.

          • meyerkev says:

            Two-earner-with-kid(s) means that it’s too low.

            (Disclaimer: There is the property bubble from hell going on right now for the usual CA reasons. In some places, rents have gone up more than 100% in 3 years, and a house is a million. If you picked up a “million-dollar house” for half that on the last downswing, then you have an extra $4-5K/month that isn’t going to mortgage. Which is one of the big reasons for the disconnect between “I make way too much money and it all goes to rent” new techies and “I bought my house 10 years ago for $300K, and now it’s worth $1.2 Million, so my mortgage is half your rent” people).

            A house is a million. If it’s not a million or within rounding error of, it’s probably a rotted-out shack or an hour+ commute to work even without traffic. (Or both).

            A 1 BR apartment is going to start at ~$1500/month, jump up to $5K on the high end, with an average somewhere around $23-2500 if my quick perusal of padmapper is correct. (And since as a single person making enough money to afford to blow $5K/month on a 1 BR, you pay a LOT of taxes, this is basically a $100K/year pre-tax income apartment). This is burbs, but like Sunnyvale/Mt. View/RWC 2nd-to-3rd tier, but still very nice burbs. You want cute little downtown next to transit, it’s looking more like $3K, but I’m not sure how much of that is that the new construction is just all high-end stuff (So in Mountain View, there’s the $4-5K/month brand new construction across the street from the station, a bunch of $2500/month stuff 10 minutes out, and then an entire neighborhood of houses whom are willing to rent their spare bedroom for $1500-ish 20 minutes out).

            2 BR is probably going to be 50% more than that (with the occasional “A 2 BR rents for $200/month more than a 1BR” weirdness, like I have in my current place) and if you’re 2-earner with kids, you want your own place, so you’re talking $3K low end to $8K high-end, where a house is a million. So $3-10K/month.

            The city is EVEN stupider just by virtue of being the city, center of the universe, and home to the 8 MPH mass transit so everyone has to cram into really tiny portions of the city to get anywhere.

            Now is the average renter paying that amount? Well, no, the average renter (even the techies) got roommates because even if you CAN afford your own place, getting roommates will save you a good $1000/month at minimum. And since World Series tix are starting at about $750/pop, by getting roommates for 2 months, you too can afford to go see the World Series in the worst seats in the park. (If you so chose. Just giving this as an example of “What you can do if you have roommates, even if you don’t need to have roommates because you make an extra $18K/year after tax more than I do”.).

            So there’s a distinction to be made between “The average apartment costs” and “The average renter pays”.

            /And of course, the reason why we make such huge amounts of money is the combo of “Netflix replaced an entire industry with 2000 people. There’s some money there” and “Hey, I blow a paycheck on rent every month even with roommates on my 2%er income”.
            //Also, if you’re introverted, getting this mildly extroverted roommate who will let you tag along on Friday nights is a great way to make friends.

          • Hainish says:

            “I bought my house 10 years ago for $300K, and now it’s worth $1.2 Million, so my mortgage is half your rent”

            Is this the case because rents are twice as high? If not, can you explain how this works? (I’m assuming subsequent changes in market value don’t affect mortgage, which would have been determined when the house was bought.)

          • meyerkev says:

            Guy bought a $500K house in 2003. Call it $4000/month mortgage. For house with yard. That’s doable. Especially given that CA wages are a lot higher because the housing stock is so stupidly expensive. Go back 20 ears pre-dot-com bubble and it’s probably more in line with present Midwestern prices and he’s been paying $2K/month in mortgage for the last forever.

            New Kid walks out of college making $100K. $40K of THAT goes to taxes.

            Roommates is $1500. His own place is more like $2500 on the low end to $5K high. Almost double that if you head up to the city. That same house that our long-term resident friend is paying $2-44K/month for gets you a fairly nice, solid, 800 sq. ft. 1 BR apartment in the burbs, or roommates in the city. Which is why even the $100K/year techies have roommates. Because $100K becomes $60K, at which point, you can’t afford to burn $30-50K of that on your own apartment. (Remember, it’s CA. A beer is $6).

            Except that because Prop 13 means that there’s no penalty to running up the property values indefinitely, you have a bunch of “AH, I make $100K/year. How is it that I can’t afford my own apartment? Wait, a mortgage is $10K/month post-tax. That’s $200K/year pre-tax!!”* techies on one side, and a bunch of house-poor people (because Prop 13 encourages house-poor-dom) for whom their property values ARE their retirement who’ve watched their investments ~triple in the last decade or so and very carefully work to ensure that nothing ever gets done to resolve the otherwise intensely-zero-sum housing crisis, where the people paying 20% of market rate desperately try not to starve to death and techies trying to buy any housing at all drive them out with fire and sword money. (On the high end, a house just sold for $5 Million that was paying $2900/year in property taxes – http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2014/04/the_descendants_and_city_fare_well_in_presidio_heights.html)

            *Of course, this really distorts their view of money, especially if they’re at a point where they can’t quite make the leap to the next level of housing. So on the one hand, the guy making 6 figures has a roommate. On the OTHER hand, since having a roommate makes him $1500/month in “whatever the heck I feel like” money, blowing $300 on a 1st class upgrade is literally a weeks pocket change. So that was my Christmas gift to myself. I will never own a house. You could triple my income and I still probably wouldn’t own a house. And just saying that is so incredibly freeing because “Ok yeah, I blew $50 on Uber last night when I went out with friends” isn’t a problem. It’s not even worth noticing.

  16. Ada says:

    Yxoque is starting rationalist-tutor.tumblr.com to try to teach some basic rationalist concepts to people who for some inexplicable reason possibly involving their head being screwed on backwards don’t want to read the Sequences. If you’re on Tumblr you may want to follow.

    I mean, the *very specific* style of the sequences does make them cognitively inaccessible for some people. (Is that what’s meant by “their head being screwed on backwards”?) The style of the sequences also may just not be to everyone’s taste (e.g. me).

    • AspiringRationalist says:

      Yxoque is starting rationalist-tutor.tumblr.com to try to teach some basic rationalist concepts to people who for some inexplicable reason possibly involving their head being screwed on backwards don’t want to read the Sequences. If you’re on Tumblr you may want to follow.

      I mean, the *very specific* style of the sequences does make them cognitively inaccessible for some people. (Is that what’s meant by “their head being screwed on backwards”?) The style of the sequences also may just not be to everyone’s taste (e.g. me).

      I was pretty sure Scott was being sarcastic in the sentence you’re quoting.

      • Ada says:

        Ah probably. I’m quite bad at the sarcasm.

      • Nick T says:

        Data point: I also missed this (but was confused, because the non-sarcastic reading doesn’t sound like Scott), and don’t think I’m especially bad at sarcasm.

        • Hainish says:

          I don’t think he was being sarcastic. I think he genuinely believes that the sequences have a great deal of utility and can’t really understand why someone wouldn’t want to read them. (If so, I’m not offended by the reference to “their heads screwed on backwards.” FAIK, both my head and my body might be simultaneously screwed on backwards.)

        • Susebron says:

          To me, the non-sarcastic reading sounds like Scott. He’s just humorously exaggerating.

  17. Douglas Knight says:

    Cold fusion researchers have been altering isotope ratios from the very beginning.

  18. Protagoras says:

    Even these days, I seem to encounter more feminists in person than on the internet, which I suspect is part of the reason I have a higher opinion of them than Scott does (it does seem to be a general rule that internet people behave worse than real people). Since in some cases I know them well, I know that at least some real life feminists know how sex actually works. And yet, despite showing an understanding of social reality in navigating their own lives and talking about their peers, they do sometimes say pretty stupid things about consent (much more often online than in person). I wonder if what’s partly going on (not consciously, of course) is that they think their friends, being generally enlightened, can be trusted to be sensible about things. On the other hand, the unenlightened masses show by countless examples that they can’t be trusted, so they must have clear, bright lines with no ambiguity, lest they abuse and exploit any vagueness. I have sometimes read feminists in the course of some of the more extreme consent discussions even say things like that of course anyone who just had respect for women wouldn’t need all these rules to figure out how to avoid raping someone, which seems to fit into this theory.

    I should add that the affirmative consent issue here doesn’t necessarily seem to me to be one of the excessive cases (like Scott, I think Ezra may be right about it being more reasonable than it is portrayed as being), but I have, to give a clear, extreme example, read feminists on the internet who seemed to think that someone who’s even slightly buzzed from alcohol can’t give meaningful consent. Of course, it’s possible that someone who says that is just a non-drinker with weird ideas about alcohol and people who drink, but that just fits into my theory about people proposing rules for strange others that they don’t really understand, and erring on the side of strictness in proposing rules for such people.

    • Tarrou says:

      My biggest problem was that Klein’s whole thesis was that the entire male sex must be made to live in fear of being imprisoned for life on a (possibly false) rape charge, every day of their lives, in order for society to be better.

      This article of his is outgroup revenge fetishism. “Women have to live in fear pf physical violence every day, so we should change society so it is MEN who must do the living in fear!”

      Sorry, but men are not my outgroup. I don’t want them all punished. THAT is the vile underbelly of Klein’s piece.

      • Zorgon says:

        Klein himself, of course, is high-status and therefore does not believe that his posited Reign Of Constructive Terror will negatively affect him in any way.

    • 27chaos says:

      Most of the feminists who I have met in real life are people who think “oh, feminism, of course I support that” and who then proceed to advocate for any cause that gets the feminism label attached. Not mean or evil, but rather populist and guided by gut moral reactions.

      Also, I haven’t met any radical feminists, but I’ve met a couple politicized ones, people who think a man’s opposition to some feminist cause or a man’s belief that radical feminism exists is strong evidence the man is a MRM woman hater.

  19. drethelin says:

    I know this isn’t an open thread but it’s come up a couple times in people’s replies here so I think it’s a relevant topic: Do people really think all rudeness/meanness should be obliterated? Is being rude about a country that is doing things you think is evil completely out of place? Is it mandatory to NEVER express distaste for people who are pissing you off? I don’t think trying to have a MAXIMALLY WELCOMING environment is a worthwhile tradeoff, but I’m curious what other people think.

    • anonymous says:

      Scott himself has set up a standard that statements can be unkind (rude being a subtype of unkind) as long as they are both true and necessary. I think most rudeness wouldn’t fit that standard.

    • blacktrance says:

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to obliterate it altogether, but it should be seen as a weapon – when someone is using it, they’d better have a really good reason.

    • lmm says:

      Yes, I really think all rudeness/meanness should be obliterated.

  20. Matthew says:

    I can’t recall the name of the book, but there was also a fairly notably one about the Soviet round-up of all the Moscow prostitutes before the foreigners arrived for the 1980 Olympics, because officially there was no prostitution in the Soviet Union.

    And let us not forget this hilarious 1986 episode, in which a Soviet woman tells the West that, “In the Soviet Union there is no sex.”

    • Bugmaster says:

      I think it’s pretty clear from the context that the Soviet woman actually meant, “we don’t have sex in advertisement” (of the kind her American interlocutor described). If you listen closely (and can understand Russian), you can hear a younger woman immediately correcting her: “We’ve got sex, it’s advertisements that we don’t have !”.

      • Matthew says:

        Well, sure, but that didn’t stop the line “В Советском Союзе секса нету” from becoming a running joke for years afterward in the Soviet Union/Russia.

        • Anonymous says:

          I always thought that joke had been much older than 1986, e.g., consider the lyrics

          Буржуазная зараза там всюду ходит по пятам.
          Опасайся пуще сглаза ты внебрачных связей там.
          Там шпионки с крепким телом, ты их в дверь – они в окно.
          Говори, что с этим делом мы покончили давно.

          I’d assumed this is making a reference to that joke?

          • Bugmaster says:

            Huh, I never thought to connect the lyrics to the event, good catch… that said, though, IMO it’s more likely to be a coincidence.

          • Matthew says:

            The song is new to me, but if I’m interpreting the given lyric correctly, “этим делом” is a reference to extramarital sex, not all sex. (Still an amusing claim, but not quite as extreme as the 1986 quote.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Why did you mention the book? Is there some significance to it, or did you just want a citation?

      This claims that Berlin and Beijing also deported prostitutes, but that lots of other cities have stepped up enforcement of existing laws.

      • Matthew says:

        For the benefit of anyone who happens to find that sort of thing fascinating, so that they could go look for it.

  21. Nate Gabriel says:

    I can’t say that the actual reason for the patent thing is that if the invention doesn’t work then you automatically fail the “included enough information for someone to use it” requirement, but that’s the reason judges cite.

    Mainly the question doesn’t come up because nobody questions that patents are only for things that work, and the stated reason feels like a post-hoc rationalization. But in Rossi’s case it still wouldn’t matter, because the patent office can totally accept proof that’s not shown to anyone but them.

    • Charlie says:

      And besides, the consequences might be more like “Rossi has to be slightly more creative in finding an excuse to not allow inspection.”

  22. Head Stomp says:

    Here’s a “reasonable position on what unfortunately happens to be a taboo tradeoff”: The state declares all date rape cases non-justiciable. It encourages people to arm themselves and be wary of who they associate with and what they ingest.

    • ozymandias says:

      Most date rapes are already de facto non-justiciable, insofar as it is an extremely rare date rape that is provable beyond a reasonable doubt. Do you have evidence to believe that making them de jure non-justiciable would change people’s behaviors more?

      In addition, I highly doubt I would be capable of shooting my boyfriend or my father or my best friend, even if they seemed about to rape me, because I love them. This seems likely to be a factor in many cases of non-stranger rape.

      • Head Stomp says:

        Tbh, my intention isn’t to support this position but to mock Klein’s and Scott calling it reasonable.

        I agree. The level of evidence that I could offer is the same as Klein’s, a general argument about changing people’s behavior by removing moral hazard.

        Much like with Klein’s position, the intention is to change mate selection behaviors over the long term by creating a culture of fear. In this instance, the fear that an associate can rape you and the justice system won’t do a damn thing about it.

        Imagine The Girls of Old Town from sin city. Wait, maybe this ain’t such an unreasonable idea after all.

        • Anthony says:

          In this instance, the fear that an associate can rape you and the justice system won’t do a damn thing about it.

          I’ve been seeing this message going around for a *long* time – it’s one of the reasons feminists consistently give for making rape prosecutions easier.

          And because of it, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I should have been “careless about women’s boundaries” when I was in college – I’d likely have had a lot more sex, with essentially no consequences.

          • Protagoras says:

            Some people are good at getting away with things; they know how to find the right victims, and what stories to tell, and are good at telling them convincingly. Even apart from the fact that it would have been evil to do as you suggest here, it isn’t necessarily the case that it would have worked out as well for you as it does for the typical rapist. You may not have the right skills.

          • Anthony says:

            Oh, I didn’t have the right skills to get away with it.

            On the other hand, there were then (and probably still are now) plenty of women who would get drunk so they could avoid taking responsibility for their sexual choices. In one specific incident, I was practically invited to rape a woman. I declined, but on reflection, it was clear that she wanted me to do so, because she wanted to have sex with me but not be blamed for “cheating” on her sort-of-boyfriend at the time.

          • Princess_Stargirl says:

            You should be careful with women’s boundaries because you don’t want to hurt them. The worst that happens if you are too timid is the two of miss out on sex. This is lame. However if there is a misunderstanding and she feels raped the damage she experiences might be very serious and long lasting. Do you really want to risk fucking up a person’s ability to function or be intimate? The damage you do might last years of forever. if she experiences something as rape she might not recover for a long time (and maybe never fully). Please be careful. Though I don’t support norms that make sex very difficult (sex is very important to most people’s emotional well-being) but the cost of type1 vs type2 errors are not even close to the same.

            In addition there are “egoist” reasons to be careful. Even if you figure sex while “ignoring boundaries” is going to result in a rape accusation 1% of the time and a legal conviction .1% of the time it might be a bad idea. if you get sent to prison in the USA for rape you life is basically over. You will be sent to a hell-hole for years and when you get out you can never re-enter civilized society. Be careful for yourself too, though you shouldn’t want to have sex unless you are pretty sure you are not hurting anyone. And these are lower bounds imo.

          • 27chaos says:

            Princess, your argument assumes people are teetering on a thin line between rape and good consensual sex. But I think that there is a very thick zone between the two, not a mere line, and that most ambiguous sex that gets prosecuted for rape is done by bad people (notable exception: sex while drunk). Consequently, I do not think there is much justification for advocating more conservative attitudes towards consent. Almost everyone already has sufficiently conservative attitudes, except the rapists. It would be nice if we ended up getting a culture of consent, but it would only be slightly nice, not the best thing ever for sex or a strong way to fight rape, or anything like that.

          • I agree with Princess Stargirl’s reasoning, and my experience resembles hers. Most friends I talk to who have experience mulling over consent agree that it’s fraught and complicated and badly in need of more clear-cut norms (especially ones favoring honest and open communication).

            Complications include: non-evil people frequently have nonconsensual sex and otherwise overstep each other’s physical and emotional boundaries; some people deliberately seek out nonconsensual sex; nonconsensual sex does not always result in harm to anyone; nonconsensual sex does frequently result in large amounts of harm to people, even when all partners were basically well-intentioned non-psychopaths; words like ‘rape’ obscure how nonconsensual sex usually manifests, because our prototype for ‘rapist’ is an evil mutant stranger in the bushes.

            My data (and preferences) may be biased; I know a lot of people with turn-ons, relationship preferences, disabilities, cultural backgrounds, or lacks-of-cultural-background that cause them to run into serious problems when guess culture is the norm, many of whom have complicated but positive relationships with ask/tell/consent culture. I’m not sure I know how to solve this problem, but I’m pretty sure the problem exists and is rarely kind enough to give us crisp thick black lines.

          • 27chaos says:

            I agree that the idea of consent is not simple. Nonetheless, I think that most people realize this already, and so they are highly unlikely to engage in rape accidentally. I think that although verbal explicit consent is not the norm, people pay a lot of attention to consent anyways through things like body language.

            The scenarios you describe occur frequently enough that they are recognizable. But they aren’t common. Despite the complications of consent, most people go without ever committing such accidental rapes. The vast majority of sex is not rape which suggests rape is anomalous for some reason. That reason is that the difference between sex and rape is visible to anyone willing to look for it in the moment.

            Part of my stance is that I think some, perhaps many, people who say they had ambiguous sex are just lying to others and sometimes themselves about whether they are rapists. I don’t think we should apply this to any specific individual case, but as a heuristic I believe it.

          • Zorgon says:

            In my experience, only two of my female partners have ever sought any kind of indication of consent from me.

            Arguably speaking, by this standard, an overwhelming majority of my sexual partners have repeatedly raped me, right?

            (Of course I’m not nearly stupid enough to think that this law is in any way intended to protect men from women. This is purely an exercise in presenting the object-level idiocy of the law.)

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Zorgon:
            I believe that a feminist would say that, as a man, you wield a great amount of privilege which makes it very difficult for a woman to rape you. Therefore, the amount of consent women should expect you to give is dramatically lower than the amount of consent you must acquire from women.

          • Zorgon says:

            So by their terms I get to have my consent devalued (to the point of dismissal) on the basis of an immutable non-selected trait.

            It’s amazing how the effective definition of “privileged” seems to overlap with “non-human”, isn’t it?

          • “I believe that a feminist would say that, as a man, you wield a great amount of privilege which makes it very difficult for a woman to rape you.”

            That isn’t quite the way I’d standardly expect a feminist to respond. I’d expect a standard-issue feminist to say that men are expected to take the initiative and tenaciously pursue women who play ‘hard to get’. Songs, movies, peers’ relationships, etc. all reinforce that men should take charge, which can harm men as well as women (when men would prefer to be the pursued, when it undermines communication and reciprocity in relationships, etc.). Men rape women more than the other way around, on this model, because men are expected to initiate the sex-acts, while women are expected to play hard-to-get and keep their cards close to their chest.

          • Zorgon says:

            Of course, if you take the CDC’s NISVS seriously, then there is no greater risk of rape amongst women and the disparity is instead caused by rape of men not being taken seriously by anyone (including the CDC).

            That said, I have to disagree. Actual attempts at answering the question seem rare amongst most feminists I’ve encountered; the majority of reactions would be likely to draw a blank on a real answer and resort to the dehumanizing “privilege” response suggested above.

          • 27chaos says:

            I think that you are using the word consent in a way different than I am using it. If you’re making out with your girlfriend and engaging in physical contact that escalates to sex, consent has been given in my eyes. I don’t really know what you mean by consent, I guess. I find it very unlikely two of your partners failed to seek your consent, it seems more likely that you just didn’t notice because you can’t read minds.

          • “If you’re making out with your girlfriend and engaging in physical contact that escalates to sex, consent has been given in my eyes.”

            I’d say consent has been giving in some but not all of those cases. ‘escalates to sex’ is the important step here, and your description doesn’t specify how the ‘escalation’ happens (e.g., whether the partners take turns escalating) or what kind of ‘sex’ is involved (whether it’s a kind that requires active participation from both partners, whether it’s a kind these particular partners have engaged in a dozen times before, etc.).

            This may sound like nitpicking, but that’s unavoidable for evaluating the thesis that a lot of nonconsensual sex is caused by subtle variations in ambiguous signals. Most rape of women (51%) is by an intimate partner, the rest (41%) mostly by acquaintances. If rape by partners is underreported, this number could be even larger. Regardless, the bulk of our advice and policies re rape should be directed at situations where the rapist and victim have had sex plenty of times before. I’d expect a nontrivial number of partner rapes (and for that matter acquaintance rape) to begin with mutual, consensual acts like fondling, holding hands, or making out, which then ‘escalate’ to rape.

            My mental prototype for what typical rape looks like is similar to Ezra Klein’s:

            “imagine a party where the man and the woman go home together, and they’re both pretty drunk. They’re making out, and the man wants to go further. She says, ‘I’m not sure I want to do that,’ but she doesn’t quite say no. He’s persistent, though. Not forceful, but persistent. Five minutes later he tries again. Again, she says something that’s not quite ‘stop!’, or maybe she says nothing and simply moves his hand away. And five minutes after that, he tries yet again. Eventually, she shuts downs somewhat, lets him do what he wants. What happened here?

            “It’s perfectly possible that the guy thinks nothing happened. She was a bit reluctant, and he persuaded her with his incredibly hot sex moves. Or maybe he thinks she wasn’t reluctant, and she was just saying no to show she’s not that kind of girl, and he did exactly what she wanted. In either case, he probably believes that she gave him implicit consent when she let him go forward. He’s a nice guy. He would never, ever assault a woman.

            “But to her, it might look entirely different. She was exhausted, and drunk, and maybe far from home. She was in a room with a man who outweighed her by 70 pounds and was insistent on going further than she was comfortable with. She tried to warn him off twice and he still kept pushing. Maybe she was feeling too drunk to fight. Maybe she read his tone as threatening. Maybe she thought that if she said ‘no,’ the situation would turn violent. Maybe, sometime around his third pass at something she didn’t want to do, she stopped thinking he was a nice guy, and began thinking he was a dangerous guy.”

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Except this is, as best as I can tell, not actually true, despite us having been warned about it constantly! This is not actually a huge danger we need to be defending against!

            …mind you, escalation still seems like a hard problem in general, but not to such an extent.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m not being unclear about consent here. That’s because I know that the majority of my partners have initiated sex with me when I didn’t actually want to have sex on at least one occasion. Likewise, at least one has continued after I’d asked to stop (due to having pulled a muscle) and, well, one was my rapist.

            Only two of my partners have been as careful in every encounter to ensure I actually wanted to proceed as I am with all my partners (and one of those says she learned that from me).

            In addition, many were students. Again, by these standards if there was a preponderance of evidence to what happened, my partners would be liable to be thrown out of university.

            … well, no, they wouldn’t be, because I’m only referring to the ones with vaginas here, and there is no way in hell this law will ever be used to prosecute a woman and we all know it. But sticking to the object level, this is an illustration of how far removed these standards of consent are from those practiced by the majority of women I’ve ever encountered.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If you’re making out with your girlfriend and engaging in physical contact that escalates to sex, consent has been given in my eyes.

            What do your eyes matter? Can you be certain that this matches the eyes of the court or the law which requires “ongoing affirmative consent” without anywhere defining what that means?

            To use SSC terminology, this is motte and bailey legislating.

          • 27chaos says:

            I have no idea how this is supposedly a motte and bailey situation. The jargon on this site is getting out of hand, I hope this place isn’t turning into LessWrong. When I use phrases like “in my eyes”, that is simply a way for me to make claims about the truth without sounding overconfident, not anything else. You’re rude and dumb.

            The links given by Sniffnoy are excellent. They support my position. It’s not that rapists are just confused by an ambiguous situation. They know that the women are extremely drunk and aren’t capable of good decisions, they just do not care about it at all except insofar as they appreciate how easy it makes rape. (If the rapists are themselves drunk, that can be an exception to this.)

            Similarly, Zorgon, in your examples, it sounds to me like your girlfriends were not confused about whether you consented, but rather they just did not care about your consent.

          • Zorgon says:

            I disagree, 27chaos. I believe that all of them cared about my consent, and that all of them (including my rapist) thought they had it by default.

            That is what I mean when I say that this standard is different from that held by the majority of women. I would also wager that the majority of the people in support of these measures also do not practice consent on the level they propose.

          • 27chaos says:

            Since you were there, I will of course defer to your experience in you own case. I am uncertain whether to draw broader lessons from your own case. It is hard for me to imagine that sex with presumed consent would occur that frequently, but I might be suffering from a just-world bias.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            She says, ‘I’m not sure I want to do that,’ but she doesn’t quite say no. He’s persistent, though.

            This kind of exchange could fit a lot of non-sexual, non-abusive situations between Direct Speech Culture and Indirect (aka Ask/Hint cultures). In Hint Culture, “I’m not sure I want to do that” is a polite but clear “No”. (How strong a No depends on the melody of the sentence.) If the Ask person does persist, that almost forces the Hint person to give in, or make what the Hint person would consider quite a rude scene, requiring loss of temper and an adrenalin rush, and a complete break off of whatever they had been in rapport about before, ruining the whole evening.

          • Nornagest says:

            In Hint Culture, “I’m not sure I want to do that” is a polite but clear “No”.

            Many hint cultures have strong taboos against directly accepting things you want — you may be expected to refuse a gift one or more times before “grudgingly” accepting it, for example, even if you are in fact delighted to receive it. In such a situation the person offering the gift, far from taking the hint and backing off, is expected to recognize the demurral’s insincerity and persist in making the offer. How many times you have to go through this before accepting depends on the culture, on the value of the gift, and on the strength of the refusal: something really strong like “get that the hell away from me” would be immediately understood (at the cost of being rude), while casting yourself as too humble to accept, or unsure without any reasons given, is likely to be read as a tacit yes even after a few iterations.

            I’ve never personally participated in a culture that applied this pattern to sex, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that such a culture existed.

          • Jadagul says:

            Content warning: discussion of really fucked up approaches to consent, especially on the part of women.

            Nornagest: allegedly some cultures in the US 40-50 years ago had exactly those norms for women surrounding sex. An older friend of my quotes a rather problematic joke:

            “What’s the difference between a diplomat and a lady? If a diplomat says yes he means maybe, if he says maybe he means no, and if he says no, he’s no diplomat. If a lady says no she means maybe, if she says maybe she means yes, and if she says yes she’s no lady.”

            Similarly, I read a very interesting blog post a few months ago about one of the problems developing a consent culture in certain sectors of high-school-and-college-age evangelical Christianity. Namely, (some) people who want to have sex are apparently using some combination of “I didn’t mean to” and “I didn’t intend to” and “it just happened” and “I never agreed to it” to soothe their ethical impulses. And so you develop a culture where everyone understands that most people want to have sex, and can’t admit it, so you have to seduce people over their objections because those objections aren’t real…

            See also Rousseau in the footnote to an essay that I can dig up later if you want me to explaining that raping a woman is doing her a favor, because she gets what she actually wants without having to sully herself by explicitly consenting to sex.

            I’d like to repeat that these notions are really fucked up. But enough people have had them, and have claimed that they’re ubiquitous, that I’m fairly confident that there have been cultures that at least in effect work this way. The big problem, of course, being that then there’s no way to credibly signal that no, you actually don’t want to have sex, so this winds up legitimizing a lot of actual rape and is a horrible social convention.

        • ozymandias says:

          Sorry, it is impossible to tell apart satire and neoreaction.

  23. Paul Torek says:

    Our study provides evidence that immigration does not cause host economic conditions (unemployment and income per capita)

    Aha, just as I thought, they mean growth per capita. But then they should say so. Overall growth is important in its own right. If nothing else it makes downturns like the one that still hasn’t ended (especially for Europe) easier to get out of.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wait, since immigrants tend to be lower paid than natives, doesn’t mean the gains are mostly accruing to natives and that immigration makes them richer than they would be in its absence?

      • 27chaos says:

        Is lumping all the native inhabitants together a good idea? Maybe the rich native inhabitants benefit from cheap labor a lot, and the immigrants benefit a little because their homes were so awful, and the middle and lower class inhabitants are hurt. Given the right numbers and diminishing marginal utility, this could mean that immigration is a net negative even though everyone’s acting according to their incentives.

        I don’t think that’s actually the case because I don’t think rich people have the ability to extract so much happiness out of immigrants. But, plausibly they do, given that immigrants don’t have access to legal protection often.

        Cool, I kind of just steel manned “they’re stealing our jobs”.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Oooh, good point, thanks.

  24. gattsuru says:

    Want to live somewhere cheap? Try New York or San Francisco. Really? Yes, really.

    Well… not really.

    The study looks at housing costs and transportation costs, then compares them to income for the average household. That doesn’t tell you much about things like food, entertainment, gas, cooling, or heating. It doesn’t tell you about how available the average income is, or even what extent the average housing is available. New York City’s low-income housing is much less expensive than you’d expect, but actually paying those low housing costs is impossible, because 55% of rental housing is either rent-controlled or public housing, and has become largely unavailable for someone intending to simply move in.

    New York also has special-case costs if you’re raising children, because pretty much no one wants to be in the public education system of New York City. Some related quality of life things likewise distort these numbers : New Yorkers have roommates at ages where everyone else is buying a house, and pay a massive time-cost on public transportation. If you’re willing to pay these non-monetary costs in New York City, it’s not terribly clear why they’re preferable to pay within the city limits as opposed to outside of them.

    The San Francisco and Washington DC numbers are more interesting, but it’s far from clear that the average person moving to SF or (especially!) DC would make the median income.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even disregarding these questions, I would never think that “cost of living” (or “live somewhere cheap”) might pertain to how much money you make there. I thought it unambiguously referred only to how much you pay. Is that understanding wrong? (English is not my mother tongue)

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Cost is always relative to income; we usually talk about housing costs as a percentage of income. If you make $40k/year, a $100k house is affordable but not cheap; if you make $200k/year, the same house is trivial to pay for.

        • lmm says:

          I make 90k arbitrary units and just bought a 264k flat, so I’m getting a kick &c.

          (And I thought taxes were supposed to be higher this side of the pond. Maybe a cultural difference in how much is “reasonable” to pay for housing?)

        • Anonymous says:

          What if your income is not tied to location? What is the right way to express the thought which I would have expressed by saying, “After I turn 65, I’m planning to move somewhere with low cost of living and live off of my 401k”?

  25. pxib says:

    The article is absolutely right about California’s water shortage, but agriculture is extremely politically powerful here and I can practically guarantee that nothing substantive will be done.

    Check out how slanted the Wikipedia article is. First of all it includes most of the water the state lets past its dams as “environmental” water use, and then it compares acre feet of agricultural use to gallons of urban use. An acre foot is almost 326,000 gallons.

    At 34 million acre feet, California agriculture is using 11 trillion gallons a year. If we assume that the 23,275 gallons listed per home is a fair average, and that there are as many homes as there are census households (12.4 million, probably overstating the case by including apartments) then that only totals 290 billion gallons a year… roughly 1/38 as much. In other words, increasing agricultural water efficiency by 2.5% would almost double the water available for home use.

    Alternately, if Californian households stopped showering, stopped watering their lawns, and moved entirely from public sewers to pit privies that would only cut California’s water use (counting those “environmental” wastes like wetlands and salmon habitat) by a bit more than a percent.

    • Anonymous says:

      The 23,275 gallons per home is per month, not per year like the other numbers. However, it must indeed be an overestimate to multiply by the census households, since that gives 10.6 million acre-feet per year, whereas the article states that “Municipal and other, non-agricultural industrial users consume about 10% of the water, or around 8,700,000 acre feet”.

      What we can say is that agricultural use is 80% of non-environmental use, but we don’t have a breakdown on the remaining use from that article, just a 20% upper bound.

  26. gattsuru says:

    Andrea Rossi’s e-Cat cold fusion machine passes another round of probably rigged tests… Also, I ask about some of the patent issues it raises on Tumblr.

    I expect that after being granted a United States patent, Rossi would ferociously guard the secrets of his technology and justify such by pointing to the serious risks of theft or third-party replication-and-patent. Patent law, after all, isn’t perfect or even terribly good proof against such things, especially with such large numbers in play.

    Which… uh, kinda raises the question of why he’s not living in an undisclosed bunker. I mean, let’s ignore the giant corporations or governments that might find a financial value to cheap energy or a lack of cheap energy. The human costs of conventional energy just in power plants are massive, Fermi estimate at a hundred of thousands of lives per year (probably very low). Rossi claims to have been sitting on this since 2011, or three years.

    I’m not /that/ sort of utilitarian, but if there were a 0.0001% chance of there being anything there, /that/ sort of utilitarian should be willing introduce a minimum of ten clones of Rossi to rubber hose cryptoanalysis per year he delays.

    ((I’ll leave the math for benefits of probability of “beating up a con man” as an exercise for the viewer.))

  27. fubarobfusco says:

    One point of Klein’s article is that the issue here is suspension and expulsion from university, not criminal penalties; and that universities are already permitted to expel a student on “preponderance of the evidence” standards for offenses such as vandalism or plagiarism.

    Universities may expel students for things that are not crimes at all, such as many forms of plagiarism or academic dishonesty. They may expel students for misdemeanor property offenses. And they may do so without a court proceeding, a jury trial, or a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    It’s rather like “at-will” employment, where either party to an employment contract may terminate it arbitrarily; or the right of the owner of a public establishment (like, say, a restaurant) to ban a customer for almost any reason. The law restricts employers and public establishments from firing employees or banning customers on the basis of, e.g., race — but does not prevent them from doing so on the basis that they are ill-mannered or have poor hygiene. Nor does the law require that an employer or a restaurant owner make a public showing of the offender’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    It seems to me that people who are hostile to the university system are likely to try to hold it to higher standards than they expect of other institutions, such as employers or public establishments.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Here’s a pretty darn big difference:

      If I get fired from my job, I stop receiving new paychecks for a little while (possibly a very little while) until I find a new job. Unpleasant, but that’s why I save a moderate amount of money in a bank account.

      If I get thrown out of a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” restaurant, I walk next door and get food there.

      If I get expelled from my school, I have $120,000 in loans I still have to pay back, with interest, non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. While simultaneously having no degree that would allow me to secure a job those loans were predicated upon. And no chance of gaining admittance to an equivalent school, because they won’t accept someone who has been expelled.

      • Zorgon says:

        The pretense that the only negative effect of a rape accusation (or in this case, conviction, albeit in a lesser court) is the primary punishment handed down is either naivete or deliberate minimising.

        Rape is, despite the claims of some people, probably the most broadly loathed crime in Western society. Just being accused of rape involves at least several years of on-going abuse from members of your community; moving and changing your name (sometimes to a middle name, as with a friend of mine) is not an uncommon requirement even for people found not guilty.

        Do people really think that a person found guilty of rape in a campus court isn’t going to have their life effectively ruined by that? Who exactly is going to employ them when that’s the first result in a Google search? Where are they going to live that the vigilantes won’t come after them?

        The argument that “it’s OK to use a lesser standard of evidence because the worst punishment they can inflict is expulsion” is not just untrue but frankly hateful in its lack of empathy.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I think there’s a strong libertarian angle here that has to be explored.

      In particular, if libertarianism worked, and men expected false accusations to be a real risk, they should go to colleges with reasonable policies for dealing with them.

      But this seems like exactly the sort of thing that libertarianism doesn’t work for, because people don’t check for how safe they will be in case of low probability events before doing something (also, the signaling cost of looking up how severely your university punishes rape is pretty high).

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not sure it’s libertarianism not working, but rather the prestige/status of the college outweighing pretty much all other factors. Also, people may systematically underestimate the risk because nobody really thinks of themselves as a rapist and most college students are likely to be feminists of some description nowadays and feminism systematically denies the existence/prevalence of false rape accusations so they will be working from biased information in any case. But mostly I think it’s the status thing really.

        “(also, the signaling cost of looking up how severely your university punishes rape is pretty high)”
        huh? Isn’t there the internet nowadays?

  28. Tab Atkins says:

    I just came across a nice piece on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law. In particular, I found this quote interesting:

    Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of Yes Means Yes and a frequent speaker on college campuses, said that “yes means yes” isn’t so much to educate rapists out of raping, but to create a baseline for good sex, which only makes sexual assault all the more obvious.

    This position seems to be good for two different groups: MRAs commonly talk about women claiming rape when they just regretted the sex afterwards, and sex counselors I know often talk about women not really knowing how they should act in sexual situations and allowing themselves to be coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.

    A campaign of highly affirmative consent helps both of these parties, by reducing the number of people in the “gray zone” of regret/coercion, and making it much easier to tell “had sex” from “was raped”. In other words, it attempts to shut down the Sorites problem in questionable sex situations by making the distribution of sex quality more bimodal.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      This kind of relies on “strong affirmative consent” though, doesn’t it? Just another illustration of the split among the supporters of “affirmative consent”…

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Yes, which is the entire point. I’m somewhat confused by your response, which indicates that one or both of us misunderstood the other.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Sorry, let me clarify — I’m not substantially disagreeing with your comment (though I would not support that sort of “strong affirmative consent”). I just wanted to contrast this with upthread where we have others insisting that “affirmative consent” means “weak affirmative consent”. 🙂

          If there’s an actual point I’m making here, it’s that “affirmative consent” is an entirely ambiguous term, and that if we want to have serious discussions about either of the notions it refers to, we should really start using unambiguous terms!

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Ok, I think I got you.

            Like you, I think a lot is confusion about what “affirmative consent” is supposed to mean.

            I’ve heard of several rape cases where judges interpreted “consent” very broadly (no idea about relative incidence or whatever, these came from shaming posts from feminist blogs); having a better/stronger legal definition of consent might help with this.

            Also, one of my good friends is a sex counselor, who helps teens anonymously deal with sex/relationship issues, and he complains *all the time* about kids who fundamentally don’t know how consent works (on both sides). Using a law to shift public attitudes like this is probably ham-fisted, but if it works, it’ll help a lot of kids.

    • DrBeat says:

      This position seems to be good for two different groups: MRAs commonly talk about women claiming rape when they just regretted the sex afterwards, and sex counselors I know often talk about women not really knowing how they should act in sexual situations and allowing themselves to be coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.

      This is not good for MRAs because it is a free pass for women who regretted sex, or who just want to cause someone harm for some other reason, to falsely accuse with no consequences whatsoever. Making it so there are no consequences to false accusation will not reduce false accusation; it is absurd on its face. Women are people. People do what they can get away with. If you have a law that says “Women, you are guaranteed to get away with falsely accusing an ex-partner of rape”, they are going to do that more often.

      The second point doesn’t follow. You can say that is what a culture of positive consent would do, but that doesn’t mean that is what this law does. The only behavior change this incentivizes for women is to be more willing to falsely accuse people of rape; there is no incentive to change their behavior to be more assertive, proactive, or clear about their boundaries. If men stop approaching them, and nothing else is in place to incentivize a change in behavior, they are probably going to do what they have done in the past: employ shame and ridicule for men who are too timid to initiate with them. This is what they call “creepy” NOW, why would they stop if given no reason to?

      The end result is NOT a “positive consent culture”, the end result is that every man has a bomb strapped to his head, every woman he has sex with is given the code to the detonator, and if he’s too afraid of being blown up to initiate sexual contact, then he’s a horrible creepy unmanly cowardly misogynist who should kill himself.

      • Bugmaster says:

        The end result is NOT a “positive consent culture”, the end result is that every man has a bomb strapped to his head, every woman he has sex with is given the code to the detonator…

        A more charitable way to phrase that would be, “the end result is a culture where men are dramatically more reluctant to approach women for sex”. This would be a very desirable outcome for those women who feel that men approach them with sexual propositions way too often — and, according to the designers of the law, this is in fact true of the vast majority of women.

        • lmm says:

          The point is that it’s not going to do that. High-status men with good social skills will continue approaching women as before, confident they won’t be accused. (Occasionally they’ll be wrong, but low-probability deterrents don’t work). Low-status men will however be even more nervous about approaching women, and probably do less of it.

          …which may in fact be what women want. Huh.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is this what women want, or what feminists want? On average feminists seem much more neurotic about men and being approached by men than normal woman, probably due to reading media which endlessly signal-boosts accounts of men doing evil things to women and therefore vastly overestimating the actual probability of being harmed by a random man.

          • veronica d says:

            You guys realize that talking about feminists who are too nervous about men is rich when coming from men who are obviously bitter and resentful toward women.

            I’m not sure what to do about this. I’d love to see this conversation move forward, which is hard. You guys are not helping.

            But to answer your question, affirmative consent principles are not some evil plot to emasculate nerdy men. Instead, they are good principles that actually work. And nerds can use them too. In fact, nerds use them widely. They are business-as-usual these days in many kink spaces, which are nerd heaven.

            I don’t know what to do about your lonely hearts, those of you who have lonely hearts. Nor do I know how to answer your persecution complexes, except to suggest seek help. But regarding your “evil feminists” fever dreams, please stop.

          • Zorgon says:

            In fairness, if everyone had some measure of your remarkable skill at reading people’s minds even over electronic media, consent wouldn’t be nearly such an issue.

            … OK, that’s a little cruel. But it’s extremely easy to declare something a non-issue and those in opposition to be suffering from “persecution complexes” when it’s not you the measure is aimed at. Indeed, I believe there are entire websites and hashtags devoted solely to that phenomenon… well, at least for women.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @lmm:

            Low-status men will however be even more nervous about approaching women, and probably do less of it.
            …which may in fact be what women want. Huh.

            As far as I understand, according to Ezra Klein, that is exactly what women want. They are experiencing a massive cognitive burden due to receiving unwelcome sexual advances all the time (be they implicit or explicit). Women desperately want to reduce this burden, by reducing the number of unwelcome advances. Presumably, advances from high-status men would be welcome (or, at least, tolerable), so the YMY law is aimed at the other ones.

          • Nornagest says:

            @veronica — Imm and DrBeat aren’t doing themselves a favor by couching their objections in manosphere jargon, but I can’t say they’re wrong. The basic objection here seems not to be that consent cultures aren’t awesome*, but that the law isn’t meaningfully tailored to foster consent cultures: in fact, I doubt if most of the people who’re going to be implementing it know what a consent culture should look like at anything more than the most superficial level, if that. There’s a very clear punitive focus: colleges are supposed to prosecute sexual charges using an affirmative consent standard following these criteria, and such-and-such is no excuse. But prosecution’s a very blunt instrument, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll lead to the cultural changes you want. In fact I’d bet money it won’t.

            I don’t think Imm et al. are quite right about the effects this will have either, though. Let’s be real here: only a minority of men (the law’s language is gender-neutral, but I think we can safely assume case handling won’t be), low-status or otherwise, are liable to be anxious about the possibility of being accused of rape somewhere down the road when they ask someone out or hit on someone at a party, and I very much doubt specific policy wording will much effect how anxious they’ll be. The media coverage of this controversy might, but that won’t last.

            My take on it? There are enough holes in that law to drive a truck through. Campus policy is not required to conform to full legal standards of due process, but the law only imposes hard requirements on those policies in one fairly narrow case. (The “reasonable steps” criterion is so vague as to be useless.) With that in mind I’m pretty sure policy handling after this will end up converging on the status quo ante, rendering this whole little circus not much more than an expensive and divisive waste of time.

            * I do have some reservations regarding consent culture as implemented in e.g. the West Coast kink scene, but this isn’t the place.

          • AJD says:

            As far as I understand, according to Ezra Klein, that is exactly what women want. They are experiencing a massive cognitive burden due to receiving unwelcome sexual advances all the time (be they implicit or explicit). Women desperately want to reduce this burden, by reducing the number of unwelcome advances. Presumably, advances from high-status men would be welcome (or, at least, tolerable), so the YMY law is aimed at the other ones.

            This is probably another use of “high-status men” to mean neither more nor less than ‘men from whom sexual advances are unwelcome (or, at least, tolerable)’, right?

          • veronica d says:

            @Nornagest — Well, I guess the law has two parts: the affirmative consent part and the standards of evidence part. They can be debated separately.

            On affirmative consent, I think this law will help, insofar as my desire is not to turn each person into a 100% sex-positive kinkster, but instead to help clarify where the line gets drawn. To say clearly that the absence of “no” does not equal “yes” is a fine thing. To my view, it is absolutely the right standard.

            And this is a real issue that comes up in real rape cases, so it is worth putting down black letter.

            Regarding the “normal people don’t need this” idea, sure, fine. But that is true of many laws. I suspect most people kinda get affirmative consent now, cuz it is for most people just normal decent behavior. So great. Like most laws, this is for the bad actors.

            Anyway, all the sex I’ve ever had has been with affirmative consent. I don’t think I’m wildly atypical.

            Regarding the standards of evidence, I am fine with colleges using a preponderance of the evidence standard. They will have to weigh each story, what is said by whom in what way. But they have to do this now. Let us lay it out as clearly as we can. These are (the article claims) the same basic standards used for plagiarism cases.

          • Nornagest says:

            @veronica — Whoops. I missed the article about the preponderance of the evidence. Updating on that, I no longer believe that this is a mildly bad law. I now believe that this is a tremendously bad law.

            On affirmative consent, my main issue is that the law doesn’t do enough (or, really, much of anything that wasn’t already there) to outline what affirmative consent should look like. Saying that “lack of resistance or protest does not equal consent” is fairly unobjectionable, but there’s plenty of room to be more specific than that, and all the specifics are going to be left up to college policy — with the threat of revocation of funding hanging over the college if it’s not stringent enough. You can see which way the incentives point here, and I don’t trust colleges to reliably get it right. The people deciding this, remember, generally aren’t going to have participated in any kind of consent culture you’d recognize, and they will be more interested in covering their own asses than in protecting their students’ interests.

            That’s a relatively minor issue by comparison, though. If the law was limited to that, I’d grumble a bit (as I have above) but I wouldn’t make any strong statements. Preponderance of the evidence, on the other hand, is a much bigger deal.

            Preponderance of the evidence, in a legal context (IANAL, etc.), means that there’s a 51% chance or better that the evidence presented — which, importantly, is not required to be all the evidence available — points to guilt. It’s the criterion we use for civil cases, and it generally works fine there because most legal cases cover relatively explicit questions like whether a party did or did not break a contract. Sexual assault cases are inherently a lot vaguer. It’s not unlikely — for example if the accusation covered events more than a few days in the past — that the only evidence considered will end up being the fact of the accusation, along, if allowed, with circumstantial stuff like the personalities and sexual histories of the parties involved.

            What does the preponderance of the evidence standard mean in that circumstance? It means that if an accusation is more than 50% likely to be true, then the governing parties are bound to find fault. Now, as it happens — the manosphere will likely disagree with me here, but so it goes — I do think that more than half of all rape accusations do, in fact, report an actual rape. More to the point, I’m certain that college judiciary boards will generally have been told that. Meaning that finding of fault — which generally means a mandatory expulsion — is almost a certainty, unless there’s some truly impressive countervailing evidence in play. And I’m extremely uncomfortable with handing that kind of power to anyone.

            Anecdote time: I’ve never been in a situation where this would affect me; I’m on good terms with all my exes and I trust them. But I do have a good friend (a woman, incidentally) who was accused of rape by her ex-boyfriend a while back, during the course of their breakup. It didn’t go to court, but it did get her kicked out of their friends group and may have affected her career. I’ve heard the details from both sides, and while I’m fairly certain that she acted ethically, I’m nowhere near certain that a college judiciary board that didn’t know the parties involved would have come to the same conclusion by preponderance of evidence. Particularly since kink was involved.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nornagest, preponderance of evidence is already required of colleges by the federal government. In legal cases, “preponderance of evidence” does not mean 51%. It means that you instruct the jury “preponderance of evidence,” no more, no less. Since the word “preponderance” is not in the jury’s vocabulary, it really doesn’t mean anything. The odds that it is in the vocabulary of a college administrator are greater than the odds that it is known to someone on the jury, but not very high, maybe 25%.

        • DrBeat says:

          according to the designers of the law, this is in fact true of the vast majority of women.

          For one, is there any reason to believe that they are correct in this?

          For two, if women continue to shame men as “creepy” for being too timid to approach them, which is what they do now, why should we believe it will wind up any differently than it is now?

          • Viliam Búr says:

            Shaming men for not approaching women… that’s also a kind of “rape culture”, isn’t is? Like, the man is allowed to say “no” to any specific woman, but not allowed to say “no” to the whole group around him.

            On the other hand, I don’t understand how requiring affirmative consent is “a free pass for women who regretted sex”. In situations of type “he said / she said”, is there a difference between claiming “she didn’t say no / I said no” and claiming “she said yes / I didn’t say yes”? The same situation, just different words. So the only difference would be for men who admit that “she didn’t explicitly say yes, but according to my reasoning, she implicitly consented”. Which is probably a good thing, because the reasoning about “implicit consent” is often heavily motivated.

  29. Alyssa Vance says:

    “Note that Robin says (privately, on Facebook) that this is seriously misrepresenting him, so the post should be taken only as a survey of the issues involved and not as accurate about Robin’s personal position.”

    FWIW, I object to this characterization. Robin banned me from his Facebook wall so I couldn’t see anything he said, posted a reply on Facebook, and then blamed me for misrepresenting him because I didn’t include his reply, which he had just finished banning me from seeing. As I’ve already told Robin, I’m happy to include his reply (either as a comment or by editing the post itself), but I can’t because he hasn’t told me what it says. So far, he hasn’t taken me up on my offer, but I do hope he will.

  30. Tab Atkins says:

    Re: Bad ConLanging Ideas

    Aw man, I totally did #44 in high school, with my Shoshaga conlang. (Shoshaga breaking up into, iirc, “purity”, “people”, and “tongue”, roughly translating to “the language of the best people”.)

    I wish I still had the notes for that, as I’d gotten through all the base phonemes and core grammar, and had started filling out a lexicon haphazardly from phrases friends asked me to translate.

    • Nick says:

      I love that, thanks to the modern preponderance of conlangers, coming up with an alphabet of human thought has become a project the scope of which scared even Leibniz to something that high school students do in their free time.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        This was actually before I ran across other conlangers! This was just me and my nerdy friends having fun. We started with the simplest conlang ever, a kind of Pig-Latin, that we put together on a bus-trip back from some sort of quiz bowl. I got bit by the language bug, and started working on scripts, again starting with “near english” and gradually branching further out. Shoshaga came at the end, because I felt like I wanted something more “foreign”, so I started from the morphosyntactics of Japanese and played with it.

        • Nick says:

          I attempted mine after I heard about Leibniz and Wilkins and John Quijada’s Ithkuil, but before I’d heard about conlanging at large. Eventually I put the project on hold, and then my freshman year of college (that is to say, last year) I read Umberto Eco’s The Search for the Perfect Language, and that was the nail in that coffin….

          Lucky you, to have friends to do it with! My friend Justin from high school became interested in it too, and we’re both working on other conlangs now, but what I wouldn’t give to have someone at my college interested in it.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        To be fair, Leibniz tried to do a good job.

  31. Anonymous says:

    In case anyone cares, the original term was “problème bien posé” which was translated into English as “well-posed problem” but into Russian as «correctly posed problem» (корректно поставленная задача), often shortened to «correct problem.» The opposite is “mal posé,” “ill-posed,” and «incorrectly posed» (некорректно поставленная).

    I am shocked to learn that the original French publication (1902) appeared in the Princeton University Bulletin.

  32. Nick T says:

    I posted this on a discussion of the “Yes Means Yes law” (a very misleading name) on Eliezer’s Facebook wall, in response to seeing lots of discussions that don’t seem clear on what either the new or the existing law actually says:

    One, the new law doesn’t affect the definition of rape as a criminal offense, it just requires colleges that receive state funding to use an affirmative consent standard in disciplinary proceedings. I don’t know about anyone else, but I only just found this out, despite having been seeing conversations about the law for a while.

    Two, the existing criminal law in California and some other states already uses something like an affirmative consent standard. From http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/9/25/date-rape-debate-deja-vu-the-script-is-20-yrs-out-of-date.html:

    “In fact, the standard California is mandating for university disciplinary proceedings— “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity”—is not meaningfully different from the one that already exists in California penal law (“positive cooperation in act or attitude” conveyed “freely and voluntarily”). If there’s a problem with the current standard, this one won’t fix it.

    Three, calling it the “Yes Means Yes law” is very misleading, given that it doesn’t say a verbal “yes” is required. From the same link:

    In addition, an “affirmative consent” standard… does not require an “explicit ‘yes’ ” in order to support a finding of “consent”. What sorts of words and behavior count as communicating “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” are for the jury or administrative factfinder to decide.

    The whole blog post those quotes are from is worth reading; for instance, it goes into the evidence about how little effect formal definitions of rape or other crimes can have.

  33. Doug S. says:

    Should papers be retracted if one of the authors is a total asshole? (Literally.)
    The True Story of Stronzo Bestiale

  34. Anonymous says:

    As an autistic person myself who has surveyed high-functioning autistic/aspergers friends on several theories of autism, my intuition when presented with this “autism as a disorder of prediction” theory was that it was plausible, but explained things less well than the hypothesis that autism is a disorder of sensory gating. One of my friends, when asked, told me immediately in strong terms that he thought the notion that autism was a disorder of prediction was /not/ /even/ /wrong/.

    I don’t know if we have different types of autism from the people who were studied – it’s very possible autism stems from multiple causes and has multiple manifestations – but it’s got to explain what it feels like to be autistic, and so far this one just isn’t cutting it.

    • Richard says:

      In the pile of introduction literature I received when my twins were diagnosed with mild autism, it was claimed that autism is probably both; You can’t filter inputs so that you get everything with the same high priority and you have problems predicting the outcome of things. Combine those two and you get a strong incentive to withdraw from the world. I have no idea if this is correct or not, but it’s what they are assuming when they come up with treatment programs and exercises.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      “When the world becomes ‘too real’: a Bayesian explanation of autistic perception” (link missing because it looks like it triggered a spam filter; Google it) explains autism as both a disorder of prediction and sensory gating. The brains of neurotypical people learn what parts of incoming sensory input are most useful for correctly modeling and predicting your environment, and process the input accordingly, filtering out some parts of it and making others more salient. In the brains of people with autism, this learning and prediction process is impaired, leading to a less processed and filtered input.

      The MIT press release mentions something similar: Impaired prediction skills would also help to explain why autistic children are often hypersensitive to sensory stimuli. Most people are able to become used to ongoing sensory stimuli such as background noises, because they can predict that the noise or other stimulus will probably continue, but autistic children have much more trouble habituating.

      This aligns with some currently popular theories within cognitive science arguing that sensory perception is prediction, or at least inference: the sensory data that reaches your consciousness is basically a prediction of what your environment is probably like, given the raw sensory data your organs received (and which your conscious mind never perceives directly). That prediction is modulated by our past experience: as one example, some people who’ve grown up in non-industrialized cultures are immune to the kinds of optical illusions that trick typical Westerners, because the typical shapes of their environment were different and their visual system learned to make different kinds of predictions about the correlation between a raw input and the true shape of an object.

    • 27chaos says:

      One slight problem with the idea is that autistic people can be very smart, while intelligence obviously involves a lot of predictive ability.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Not necessarily, and importantly, not necessarily in the intervals that they’re talking about.

        The article discusses how the lowered prediction skill would cause autistic people to prefer jobs which are more rule-based than prediction-based, like math or computer science.

        As well, they are talking about prediction skills on the order of seconds, which covers predicting people’s behavior, not predicting the behavior of complex systems you’re developing. (The article also briefly mentions the effects that prediction failures on smaller timescales would have.)

  35. Sniffnoy says:

    As long as this is links time: Just saw this on Hacker News, thought Scott would find it interesting — The Arsenic Easters of Styria.

  36. Eli says:

    It was too easy for me to see the disruptions and dangers embedded in the change and too hard for me to see the rolling catastrophe of the status quo.

    Can I have this framed, graphic-designed, and made into propaganda posters I can stick up literally everywhere?

  37. Watercressed says:

    I have an ethical injuction, you have a taboo tradeoff, he is a deontologist

  38. Meh says:

    Percent of household income seems like a terrible definition of cheap/expensive.

  39. Ana says:

    Hi! I’m the mod of Bad Conlanging Ideas – thanks so much for the link!

  40. AlphaCeph says:

    “Affirmative consent” standards would be a good idea if everyone followed them. Other people have mentioned that it’s in everyone’s interest to eliminate grey areas in consent.

    In fact one could go one stage further with “proactive consent” – people (mostly women) should proactively and preemptively give consent to men they want to have sex with, i.e. “if you want to have sex with me now that would be OK”.

    Then we could develop a culture where it is forbidden for one party to initiate sex without getting such a clear verbal statement. You could go further with phone apps or recording devices to try to minimize any ambiguity.

    The problem is that whilst such an arrangement would be optimal for preventing rapes and false rape accusations, people of both sexes have other goals in mind when they have sex.

    I actually think that women are the big barrier to starting a culture of unambiguous verbal consent, because in my opinion and experience being “chased” and “taken” by a high status man is a big part of the sexual thrill for many or even most women. They wouldn’t want to have to give him permission.

    There is no best-selling book called “50 shades of Mr nice guy who asks for continued consent every 5 seconds” – and for good reason. When you look at erotica that straight women read, it doesn’t talk about nice caring men who ask for permission.

    Men, on the other hand, are mostly attracted to physical beauty and probably wouldn’t be put off by asking for consent. The reason they mostly don’t is because they’re frightened that the woman would think they were weird or just be turned off by it. If you’ve got a good thing going with a woman and you’re kissing, taking each others’ clothes off etc, you probably don’t want to pour water on the flames of passion by stopping and saying “by the way, do I have your affirmative permission to be doing this?”.

    So overall we have yet another example of politically correct feminists totally ignoring the very real differences between the two sexes and the realities of the interactions between them. Of course as others have pointed out, the legal implications of this have been overblown, but I think the cultural influence is what’s important.

    • Jaskologist says:

      In fact one could go one stage further with “proactive consent” – people (mostly women) should proactively and preemptively give consent to men they want to have sex with, i.e. “if you want to have sex with me now that would be OK”. Then we could develop a culture where it is forbidden for one party to initiate sex without getting such a clear verbal statement.

      Maybe we could even have a big ceremony around both parties giving preemptive consent, witnessed by members of the community who can hold them to account.

    • Viliam Búr says:

      Navigating ambiguous social situations successfully is one way of signalling high social skills. Unfortunately, having social situations sufficiently ambiguous for this to serve as a useful signal, by definition means that some people will fail to navigate them successfully.

      So if we give up ambiguous social situations, we will lose one method of easily detecting people with high social skills. I personally don’t mind, since my social skills are not very impressive. But other people may hate to lose their comparative advantage; or to lose the ability to easily detect something they want to detect.

      Also, some people just love drama, and the environment without drama would be too boring for them.

    • a person says:

      If you’ve got a good thing going with a woman and you’re kissing, taking each others’ clothes off etc, you probably don’t want to pour water on the flames of passion by stopping and saying “by the way, do I have your affirmative permission to be doing this?”.

      The last time I had sex I asked her “should I put it in?”, and I don’t think it came off as awkward or low-status at all. I don’t think it really takes all that much creativity to get affirmative verbal consent in a non-awkward way if you feel like you have to.

      • AlphaCeph says:

        Well good on you!

        • Tab Atkins says:

          The point that “a person” was trying to make, I think, is that while it’s easy to make up ridiculous situations where someone asks an awkwardly phrased question in the middle of a sexy moment, in reality it’s quite easy to ask in ways that don’t sound ridiculous or break you out of the moment.

          Pretending that it’s always going to be hilariously awkward doesn’t help the conversation.

          • RCF says:

            Just because one person was able to ask in one situation, that doesn’t prove that it’s not an issue.

          • AlphaCeph says:

            If there’s a risk that your question will be perceived as weird or awkward, then it’s still hurting you to ask.

            And “a person” didn’t get *continued* affirmative consent..

    • JME says:

      In fact one could go one stage further with “proactive consent” – people (mostly women) should proactively and preemptively give consent to men they want to have sex with, i.e. “if you want to have sex with me now that would be OK”.

      Is this intended as humor?

      If it’s serious, I find the framing a little strange. Why is it proactive consent, rather than just expressing sexual interest? It seems like the idea is that guys who want to bang say “I want to bang you (but of course if you don’t consent, then I won’t)” whereas gals say “I consent to you banging me (but of course you don’t have to avail yourself of my consent if you don’t want to).” (And some guys in same-sex relationships might also express proactive consent? Although what decides whether a gay guy who wants sex with another guy expresses conventional “I want to have sex with you” sexual interest or expresses “I pre-emptively consent to sex if you want it” proactive consent?)

      Is this just a way to try to get women to initiate more while using some verbal trickery to try to make them think they’re not really initiating?

      Or perhaps it was subtle humor.

      • AlphaCeph says:

        Well if women initiated more, or even exclusively, it would substantially reduce the “grey area”.

    • RCF says:

      ““if you want to have sex with me now that would be OK”.”

      That doesn’t sound like enthusiastic consent.

  41. Ghatanathoah says:

    The autism links have brought up a disturbing line of thought I’ve been having for a while:

    We tend to like things we are good at and dislike things we are bad at. One of the autism theories states that autistic people like structure and dislike disorder because they are bad at handling disorder. There are lots of other examples, like how people who like athletics and invest a lot of time on it are people who are the oldest in their peer group and have a slight advantage in athletic competitions. Our likes and dislikes shape who we are and are a core part of our personalities.

    Does this mean that in a transhuman society where everyone had been improved technologically so that we were all equally good at everything, everyone would be the same? No one would have unique and interesting personalities, because we would all pursue the same interests?

    Now, obviously this would be mitigated to some extent by the fact that many people have a conscious desire to be unique, and would cultivate a unique personality even if it wasn’t what they were best at. Plus, it may sometimes be that the “good at stuff” feedback loop starts a step earlier: people like something, so they work at it, which makes them good at it, so they like it more.

    Still, it’s odd to think that maybe in order to avoid a boring world where everyone is the same, a transhuman society would have to deliberately weaken some of its members during their formative years. It also reopens that moral dilemma about whether or not we should cure young children of deafness and other handicaps. I think in the case of severe handicaps we can argue that the suffering they cause outweighs the diversity they create. But what about minor handicaps?

    • Nornagest says:

      Seems there are analogies from industrialization and the transition to what’s somewhat glibly been called an information economy that we could draw on to answer this. We can probably throw out anything highly capital-intensive, but what about those that aren’t? Do proliferating smartphones, for example, flatten social differences by universalizing access to information?

      I haven’t thought about this in detail, but I suspect the answer is “no”, and I suspect the reason is that our differences are driven at least as much by inclination and past experience as by talent — inasfar as there’s even such a thing as domain-specific talent independent of inclination. I don’t see that going away with any amount of transhumanism.

    • Bugmaster says:

      It depends, how transhuman are we talking ? If everyone becomes omniscient and omnipotent (or something close to that), then yes, people would pretty much be interchangeable. But if a one’s resources are still limited, then each person could still choose to allocate them in a different way, depending on what one’s interests are.

  42. Shmi Nux says:

    I hope Yes means Yes will reduce the incidence of playing hard to get when it comes to sex, because men would refuse to play along.