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Links 1/2014: Link, For You Know Not Whence You Came Nor Why

This blog sometimes discusses how ideas which weren’t originally religious can evolve into a semi-religious form. But even I was flabbergasted to see Chinese peasants offering bowls of pig blood to statues of Mao on his birthday (h/t Spandrell).

Speaking of Chinese religion, here’s yet another Christianity Is Exploding In China article. This makes me think: China is a big and powerful dictatorship with weak traditional religions and widespread concern about decaying values and social decadence. It’s a lot like the late Roman Empire where Christianity originally took off. I would really like to see someone knowledgeable write an analysis of what the unexpectedly rapid spread of Christianity in China can tell us about the unexpectedly rapid spread of early Christianity and why the religion took off at all.

23andMe finally gets a business plan that the FDA can’t torpedo – selling genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. Key statistic – a single drug company deal is worth as much as doubling their current consumer base. Probably a good thing for anyone who wants to advance personal genomics or drug discovery.

The effect of the tsetse fly on African development finds that modeled fly population predicts some of the underdevelopment of the region before colonial times. The theory is that fly-borne disease decreased farming output and thus population density, making it difficult for strong states and economies to form except in rare fly-free areas like Great Zimbabwe. H/t Marginal Revolution.

Belgian serial rapist requests euthanasia in place of his life sentence on the grounds that he is facing “unbearable psychological suffering” in prison; government originally agrees, but cancels due to lack of a doctor willing to perform the procedure. Before you argue about how refusal to permit prisoner euthanasia successfully draws a bright line that will one day protect prisoners’ rights, keep in mind that the families of the man’s victims have been petitioning against it on the grounds that he deserves unbearable psychological suffering rather than “a swift release”. I know this’ll be unpopular, but I’m pretty in favor of changing the appropriate UN conventions to specify that any country where prisoners who request euthanasia can’t get it gets charged with torture.

A new experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis: destroy the immune system with chemo, then build it back up again.

Israel Won’t Recognize Armenian Genocide, Says Ambassador. Apparently it wants better relations with Turkey, which I get, but the irony of Israel of all countries being willing to compromise genocide-recognition for its short-term goals is really really sad.

Scientists develop computer program that can always win at poker. I was originally confused why they published this result instead of heading to online casinos and becoming rich enough to buy small countries, but it seems that it’s a very simplified version of the game with only two players. More interesting, the strategy was reinforcement learning – the computer started with minimal domain knowledge, then played poker against itself a zillion times until it learned everything it needed to know. Everyone who thinks that AI is nothing to worry about, please think very carefully about the implications of a stupid non-generalized algorithm being able to auto-solve a game typically considered a supreme test of strategy and intellect.

A US Air Force team including a young Carl Sagan spent the 1950s trying to nuke the moon for extremely shaky reasons including “a possible boosting of domestic morale”.

India’s new ruling party is trying to hack through its legendary government bureaucracy. Minor victory of the month – a government employee who did not show up to work for twenty-four years has finally gotten fired.

A Career In Science Will Cost You Your First-Born. I’d like to see a really good analysis by someone who understands economics of why the science job market is so terrible. Is it that lots of bright-eyed idealistic young geniuses have so much non-monetary attraction to the idea of going into science that labs and universities can make the career as awful as they want and still have a ready supply of takers?

Authorities Suspect A Shark Tried To Eat Vietnam’s Internet is a deliberately clickbaity title, but there is no way for me to stay mad after watching a video of a shark eating the Internet.

Quiz: Anatomical Feature, Or Obscure Tolkien Reference? I have been preparing my entire life for this moment. And I still got three of them wrong.

Language Log finds the most perversely pronounced monosyllabic word in all human language – and, no surprise, it’s Gaelic.

It’s been recognized for a while that school choice programs can improve standardized test scores, but a new study finds that they can also result in more higher education, greater salaries at age 30, and less dependence on government handouts.

I’ve been saying for a while that BPA is probably bad news, and now there’s some evidence that it alters fetal brain development in fish, which are sort of like humans in that they are both animals. Supposed BPA-free substitute plastics don’t fare any better. I’m hoping this will eventually result in a ban. Until then, you can try avoiding canned foods and plastic water bottles, but that’s not going to prevent the pipes that bring water to your home from often being lined with the same stuff.

The first big randomized controlled trial of police body cameras shows they very dramatically reduce incidents of police misbehavior. Previous studies were unable to distinguish between better officer behavior and fewer frivolous complaints by citizens, but this one provides some strong evidence it’s mostly the officers who are changing.

The Impending Collapse Of Venezuela looks pretty grim, with the only plus side being hopefully this will encourage them to get a competent government and end up better off. I feel like we’ve already been over the whole “no, really, socialism doesn’t work” thing, but I guess some people always need more reminders.

Speaking of which, 538 draws the obvious-in-hindsight conclusion that this is why Cuba, whose economy is heavily dependent on Venezuelan aid, is suddenly cozying up to the US – they realize that their lifeline is about to be cut off, and that once that happens their government is in big trouble. A better question – why is Obama choosing to deal with them now, rather than waiting until they’re desperate or just letting them collapse so he can help pick up the pieces? Maybe because he’s a nice guy and my cutthroat geopolitical instincts aren’t very healthy in the real world?

Vox: Paul Ryan isn’t running for president. He’s after something even bigger. TL;DR – Paul Ryan is the Petyr Baelish of the USA.

I try to train myself to remember that blindly debating a factual question is dumb, because some responsible scientist has already investigated it much more thorougly than I have. This is a remarkably hard habit to stick to, and I always like reminders. So – did you know people have formally investigated whether or not austerity worked in Europe?

Robin Hanson suggests selling cities to people or corporations. Sounds familiar.

A new study finds that underrepresentation of women in a field is closely linked to perception of that field as requiring lots of innate talent or “genius”. The news sites explain to us that “women avoid fields full of self-appointed geniuses”, that genius-intensive fields “punish” women, and ask whether “the genius stereotype is holding women back”. The researchers recommend that genius-heavy academic fields “examine the culture they have about how much brilliance influences success”. I hereby give everyone involved in this discussion the prestigious Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses.

Ritual Circumcision Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism In Young Boys (EDIT: Highly dubious)

This is big news – Attorney General Eric Holder has limited police ability to take money from people for no reason, which surprisingly was not limited until now. Between this and the camera study, I feel like we’re finally heading towards the right track with policing.

Publishers pull best-selling religious inspiration book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven after the boy in question admits he did not, in fact, come back from Heaven. Alex Malarkey (nominative determinism!) said that the story was “all made up” and “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention”. Interesting for its implications about other paranormal claims. I am adjusting my view of the median case somewhat away from “the brain does weird things sometimes in states of great stress or illness” and towards “people often lie”.

I’ve been trying to avoid talking about Charlie Hebdo because it seems like classic toxoplasma. It’s something everyone should agree is terrible, and instead we’re desperately trying to figure out how to turn it into a controversy / a stick to hit one of various out-groups with. But I was impressed by some of the discussion of French double standards – a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist who said something mildly anti-Semitic was recently fired by the magazine, then charged with ‘inciting racial hatred’ by the government. And a Middle Eastern comedian who used some arguably inflammatory language to describe how he felt about the attacks was charged and faces seven years in prison. If I had to justify the existence of Charlie Hebdo to a French Muslim, I would want to be able to say “Look, I know it offends you, but we hold freedom of speech absolutely sacred and we want you to join us in that”. Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”. It’s good that this incident has gotten everyone excited about free speech, but now the French need to start making sure the realities match their newfound ideals.

Related: If Charlie Hebdo Had Been Published In Britain.

That Korean company I linked to a while back that everyone suspected was trying to clone a mammoth? They’ve admitted they’re trying to clone a mammoth. ETA seems to be a couple of years.

OLD: Psychedelic use causes mental disease. NEW: Psychedelic use doesn’t cause mental disease. NEWER: Psychedelic use may protect against mental disease.

My spirit animal might be the confused flour beetle

Relevant to our interests: the Handbook of Relationship Initiation. Unfortunately seems more academic than practical, but still probably really interesting. Now I want a practical one of these.

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642 Responses to Links 1/2014: Link, For You Know Not Whence You Came Nor Why

  1. Pingback: Links 1/2014: Link, For You Know Not Whence You Came Nor Why | Neoreactive

  2. Fnord says:

    Chess was also once thought of as a supreme test of strategy and intellect; I’m not sure I’d put much more weight on poker (though they way they did it is, as you say, more interesting).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The problem is that in forty years, someone will be saying “Yes, conquering Europe used to be seen as a supreme test of strategy and intellect, but now that computers can do it the real test of original thinking is something less tractable. Like Go.”

      • lmm says:

        Are people really saying that poker is a better test of strategy and intellect than chess is? That seems… odd. Not at all in line with the stereotypes I have about players of both, nor with how they seem to be portrayed in the media.

        Go is probably the last defensible hill – more ancient than chess, and perhaps more intellectual – and I expect it to fall in much less than forty years.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          So as I understand it*, things like Checkers, Chess, and Go are just a big search space**. More importantly, they’re a big search space where all information is known to both sides at all times. If you throw better pruning algorithms and more computing power at them, the AI gets better. There’s no point where you have to deal with “That guy has 2 cards that I can’t see. What can I learn based on the fact that he just raised me $20?”.

          Which is really hard and a completely different type of problem to solve entirely.

          Is it the smartest or hardest game on the planet? No.
          Is this a completely different type of problem as far as reasonably-solved games go? Yes.

          *This should be read: I probably do not understand this, am definitely not an expert in the field or actually working in the field at all, and expect to learn a lot more from the replies by people who do/are.
          ** As I also understand it, pretty much everything AI-related that we’ve solved is now described as “A great big search space solvable by lots of hardware and a few special purpose algorithms”, and everything we haven’t is described as “The next frontier of AI”.

          • Randy M says:

            What I don’t get (and probably would if I was interested/not lazy enough to click through) is how playing against another computer could teach it how to read humans, which is as I understand it the real distinguishing feature of pro poker players. Sure, I bet it cleans up in online play, but at a table?

            (Now I have the mental image of sexily dressed women leaning on a tower computer as it sits at a poker table and beeps like R2D2…)

          • Anonymous says:

            “That guy has 2 cards that I can’t see. What can I learn based on the fact that he just raised me $20?”. Which is really hard and a completely different type of problem to solve entirely.

            If the game has clearly specified rules, in principle you can still solve it using search by including nodes representing the random outcomes in the search tree: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expectiminimax_tree

            In practice, the branching factor tend to be high (there are 8 * 10^67 permutations of a deck of 52 cards), which is why computer poker is more difficult than computer chess. Still, poker bots good enough to be profitable on online poker sites exist, and it’s only a matter of time before they’ll become essentially unbeatable by human players.

            On the other hand, a problem like “conquering Europe” is much more open-ended and full of “unknown unknowns”. It can’t be really formalized as a search problem except perhaps at the lowest level as something like AIXItl, which doesn’t work in practice.

          • vV_Vv says:

            ^
            (cookie monster hit again)

          • mrspey says:

            Randy M:

            The computer doesn’t read an opponent. It plays a version of poker where the raises are not unlimited. From what I understand you can either bet a fixed amount or fold. So there’s really no reading of your opponent, just playing the odds of your hand (more or less).

          • RCF says:

            @mrsprey

            Surely you can check?

          • Arthur B. says:

            @Anonymous

            Nope, expectimax works to account for the randomness, but it doesn’t help you with partial information, i.e. information your opponent have but you don’t.

            The solution devolves into linear programming to find the Nash equilibrium, and it gets really ugly.

          • david condon says:

            Randy m and mrspey:
            Most reading is based on betting patterns; not on facial expressions. Heads-up limit poker definitely does require reading the opponent. This is how most online poker players win. They have a set algorithm they start with then modify based on the information gleaned from the other players’ patterns of raising , checking, and folding. A player who always checks the flop is very different from a player who always the raises the flop. Against the latter, low probability high value starting hands are relatively more valuable such as low pocket pairs. Against the former, high probability decent hands such as high connectors are more valuable.

        • JRM says:

          OK, I have some expertise in this field; I’m a good poker player and a better bridge player. I’ve played against computer versions of both (and offered a $10K bet against a bridge program vendor 10 years ago that his program couldn’t beat me about now. He said it could, but he didn’t bet – and he was right not to.)

          This type of poker seems like it might be solvable. Multiple players would be harder; no limit is just a lot harder. I’ve been trying to play the poker program for the last half hour, but it’s wigging out; my guess is it’s broken right now but might get fixed.

          I am not yet convinced it has solved the thing; I am at some disadvantage because I didn’t pay to read the article. If I were them, I’d test it this way: Offer $10K to beat it over 1,000 hands. Publicize the hell out of the challenge match(es). Make sure you can cover.

      • Symmetry says:

        The signs actually aren’t looking too good for Go. Conventional search can’t handle Go’s high branching factor but that isn’t the only tool in the AI bandoleer.

        • Anonymous says:

          Most Go players are well aware of computers quickly becoming stronger and stronger. Typical reaction is: “big deal, we’ll just play on the bigger boards (21×21 and more)”. You can enlarge the Go board in a way you can’t enlarge the chess board without changing the rules much, or at all. I guess the only real downside would be that the game on 21×21 might take you all day.

          • Nick says:

            Go doesn’t already take you all day? 😉

          • Anonymous says:

            That depends on the play-style. If you play seriously and think hard, a game can easily go for hours. Most people who play online prefer to blitz like crazy though, so a game can be over in 20 minutes or less.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >we’ll just play on the bigger boards

            But computing power increases exponentially, right? That seems like your would still be overtaken eventually.

          • Anonymous says:

            The idea is that for a computer playing on a bigger board is harder, but for a human the size of the board makes very little difference, because for the human players it’s all about heuristics and “macroing” and seeing the big picture. We don’t actually search through all the possible moves.
            Obviously there were many attempts to program computers to play go the way people do it, but those actually proved less efficient than the relatively dumb Monte-Carlo brute forcing.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Wait, Go doesn’t get harder for humans the bigger the board?

            Yeah, I was assuming that we would eventually be outpaced, whereas machines can just go on improving. But if we’ll never be outpaced by increased board sizes, or at least not for a while … hmm, I’d kinda like to see some really big Go games.

          • Error says:

            Most people who play online prefer to blitz like crazy

            This actually frustrates me a lot, because I hate losing (or even winning) by the clock. For that reason I don’t play Go nearly as often as I’d like. 🙁

      • Anonymous says:

        General intelligence, by definition, generalizes. It seems fairly reasonable to say that performance on any single specific task (especially when the specific task only came to our attention when computers solved it!) isn’t the real test of general intelligence.

      • Anonymous says:

        I mean, what exactly is the use of a computer that can “conquer Europe”? It’s a very very silly idea, also trivially done *now* if you have the resources – just hook up the thing to enough nukes and press ‘go,’ which you have to do anyway against nuclear countries. Really, we’ve had the ability to create automatic nukers for a long time now, and we don’t want them. They’re incredibly powerful, arguably unbeatable opponents in a war, we can build them – and they’re also worse than useless. Certainly better than humans at winning, and the last thing anyone wants, because winning is meaningless if it costs you more than you gain.

        The very idea of a computer that does stuff like you doomsayers seem to be worrying about is absurd. We don’t want autonomous actors, it’s not *hard* to build a device that doesn’t do what you tell it to, it just doesn’t make any sense. Of course computers can ‘take over the world’ if they’re given autonomy and enough resources, so can humans with similar resources. ‘OMG they’ll be so brilliant’ – since when, exactly, has that mattered in the way you seem to think? Conflict is about what you have and want far more than what you know, and there’s no reason to even provide computers with the capacity to ‘desire’ anything outside very narrow, specialized realms, or the resources to do anything that isn’t related to their job. I want a nuke strategy computer, yes, and maybe I want a stock market computer, yes, and a prospecting computer, but I wouldn’t want to put a computer in charge of all those things simply because there are massive, almost un-exaggeratably big benefits to specialization both in hardware and in software.

        However good you ‘AGI’ is, a completely specialized computer at the same technology level will be much much better. For unimportant things it’s great to have a generalist – I want a robot that can take out my trash and clean the kitchen and cook me breakfast and give me a handjob – but for crucial things where performance is more important than convenience, you’re not going to have the damned household robot running up with a gun, you’re going to have a tank-robot that can’t do much but be a tank but is really really good at it. That applies for both the software and the hardware, and it’s important to note that application specific circuits – much more powerful than general purpose computing hardware at their specific task – will mean that the line isn’t as clear as you might think.

        • MugaSofer says:

          >I mean, what exactly is the use of a computer that can “conquer Europe”? It’s a very very silly idea, also trivially done *now* if you have the resources – just hook up the thing to enough nukes and press ‘go,’ which you have to do anyway against nuclear countries.

          … how, exactly, are defining “conquer”?

          I don’t think most people would consider triggering a global nuclear exchange “conquering” anything, or indeed “winning” in any meaningful sense. (Insert War Games reference here.)

          Conquering Europe is about controlling it, not destroying it; why would you want to destroy Europe?

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you conquer nuclear powers without them using their nukes? If you’re not using force, you should choose a different word. In any case, plenty of people would survive a nuclear exchange, and people can be replaced. Europe would be up for grabs after you nuked all major European military installations, there’s little doubt of that. The price is, they probably use their nukes in the way they think will hurt you the most. A victory, but too costly to be worthwhile.

          • John Schilling says:

            How do you conquer nuclear powers without them using their nukes

            Preemptive counterforce strikes, effective missile and civil defenses, decapitation, “let’s you and him fight” and other forms of misdirection, infiltration, dispersal, extortion, intrawar deterrence, just off the top of my head. People have been thinking about this for a long time; that no human mind has yet come up with a plan that can be implemented without risks human commanders find unacceptable is not proof of impossibility.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >How do you conquer nuclear powers without them using their nukes?

            How do you beat a grandmaster at chess? By being smarter than them, in this particular domain.

            More specifically: you could assassinate everyone with nuclear codes simultaneously, or credibly precommit to destroying them IFF they fire first, or intercept their attacks before they hit, or quietly blackmail their government with your military arsenal (which, yeah, I would consider “use of force”), or just invade on foot and call their bluff, or … I obviously don’t know which, if any, of these ideas would work, or I’d be ruling Europe, but that’s just off the top of my head. [EDIT: And I see I’ve been ninja’d with even more ideas] Mutually Assured Destruction is really not a perfect defence …

            … and, of course, that doesn’t matter, because it was just an example.

            How about a narrow AI that can “only” persuade people to do whatever you want based on their data footprint, or “only” enforce laws better than any human could escape, or “only” design unbeatable superweapons? Those seem plenty dangerous in the wrong hands, even if they aren’t GAI, right?

          • Fnord says:

            Oh, it’s absolutely dangerous. But it’s a different kind of dangerous. The “in the wrong hands” danger is not the kind of UFAI danger that (eg) MIRI talks about.

      • Jeremy says:

        Personally I feel like their work raises more questions than it answers. I copied their algorithms to get 2nd place at a poker bot competition at MIT. Essentially their work is a massive Nash equilibrium solver. They import a huge game tree and solve for the equilibrium exactly, the main innovations being storage and computational speed. They do not in any sense adapt to their opponent in game. What they require is a massive game tree to start with. For variations of poker like no limit, that have large numbers of similar bets a human has to artificially tell the machine things like “treat all bets between $50 and $55 exactly the same”. This is to cut down on the game tree size. They try to choose the bucketing of bet sizes to maximize performance, but this is all done by hand or by very rough statical analysis of human games. What would be really cool, and deeply impressive, would be a computer that adjusted the buckets on the fly as it computed the Nash equilibrium, maximizing it’s efficiency within a preset total memory limit for the final game tree.

        • RCF says:

          Doesn’t applying the Nash Equilibrium mean that you’re indifferent to what your opponent plays?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes absolutely. I was just trying to be extra clear that what they are doing is a very large initial computation all in advance of the game. They need a game tree in outed in advance, and they are getting very good about solving and storing very large game trees. I think an interesting question that seems very promising is how to automatically generate the proper abstract game tree.

      • Dan Simon says:

        I have absolutely no idea what it could possibly mean for the problem of “conquering Europe” to be something that “computers can do”, but even if it could somehow be made meaningful, I still wouldn’t be the slightest bit worried about a hyper-intelligent computer doing it. I would, however, be worried about a team of engineers–or, more likely, a government employing such a team of engineers–developing non-intelligent domain-specific software to do it, and then applying the solution themselves. Doesn’t that seem like a much more likely (although still pretty implausible) scenario?

      • Sam says:

        If a computer can conquer Europe, then a 4X game with realistic diplomatic interactions should be possible. Worth it?

        One wonders whether the algorithm that can conquer Europe will be developed at Paradox as the strategic AI for Europa Universalis 25.

        • Alexp says:

          Ha, Paradox making a huge advance in AI. That’s a good one.

          • Susebron says:

            Well, by the time EUXXV comes out, maybe. The real problem is that the EU timeline doesn’t include nuclear weapons. A Paradox AI will only be able to take over the world when they release a game involving major entrenched nuclear powers. So we don’t have to worry about a world ruled by Paradox until they release EvW.

      • baconbacon says:

        “The problem is that in forty years, someone will be saying “Yes, conquering Europe used to be seen as a supreme test of strategy and intellect, but now that computers can do it. . .”

        I think this is the most optimistic I have been about the human race is ages.

        http://sebwassl.blogspot.com/2015/01/great-news.html

      • Harald K says:

        I find computer Go more interesting than computer Chess because the method used in recent years, Monte Carlo Tree Search, is a far more general search strategy than the ones employed for Chess.

        MCTS has revolutionized computer Go. It used to be the case that even an advanced beginner could beat them. Now they are at the level that if you dedicate six years to getting good at Go, and become a top tier club-level player, you might be able to beat it. Provided they haven’t improved it further in six years. Which seems unlikely.

        But to illustrate the power of MTCS, it has also revolutionized general game playing. These are competitions where programs compete in games they have not been exposed to before.

  3. BD Sixsmith says:

    It’s something everyone should agree is terrible, and instead we’re desperately trying to figure out how to turn it into a controversy / a stick to hit one of various out-groups with.

    I would suggest that it might be indicative of limits to the toxoplasma thesis in that it has shed light on genuine and serious differences. Granted, almost everyone agrees that gunning down cartoonists is a crime, but people diverge on the question of whether it is morally and legally acceptable to mock and criticise each other’s faiths, and that conflict was bound to bubble to the surface when it came to writing the obituaries. Granted, this disagreement has often been expressed in gratuitous tones – with the apparent implication that one had to like the cartoons to support their freedom to exist – but the toxoplasma of rage often influences conflicts rather than creating them.

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      I wrote this comment before going out and as I left the house I thought, “You used the word “granted” twice.” Inexcusable.

      • Randy M says:

        Also, your first “it” is ambiguous over whether you mean the thesis or the attack.

        • BD Sixsmith says:

          It follows on from the quote in which the “it” is the attack.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but a new noun was introduced in the intervening clause, so unless I’m missing a rule or common use of grammar, my confusion was warranted, I think.

        • RCF says:

          Do you mean the second “it”? The first “it” (not including the quoted material) is “I would suggest that it might be indicative of limits”. I don’t see how that would refer to “thesis”, since the word “thesis” has not yet appeared.

    • MugaSofer says:

      The main reaction I’ve seen has been “I disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it”. Almost every commentator I’ve read has said the cartoons were gratuitously offensive and rather low-quality, but this obviously does not justify the use of force.

      … could you maybe link to some of this disagreement you’ve been seeing? I may be in a bubble.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        It was based on nothing more substantive than “people on Twitter” I’m afraid – who were by no means in the majority. (Others, of course, were smearing the victims before their bodies were cold.)

      • Emile says:

        Almost every commentator I’ve read has said the cartoons were gratuitously offensive and rather low-quality

        I’ll disagree with the low-quality part – while some cartoons were definitely in bad taste, and some artists were not very good, some of the victims were legends in French cartooning, especially Cabu and (probably to a lesser extent) Wolinski. And Charlie Hebdo were probably the best at biting satire.

        So my reaction to this isn’t “they sucked but they didn’t deserve this”, but more like “they killed the guys who made those comics I liked as a kid”. And I feel like crying every time I think about it (I’m not the only one)

  4. Anonymous says:

    ///in Russia that includes sexual fetishes, pathological gambling, and being transgender
    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/health-ministry-says-transsexuals-can-still-drive-in-russia/514313.html

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you – link deleted. I can’t believe after everything I am still falling for social justice scare/outrage stories.

      • Anonymous says:

        People seem willing to believe practically anything about Russia, no matter how crazy it sounds. The propaganda war is yet again going strong.

      • Anonymous says:

        And really, seeing the whole “Russian economy is collapsing […] the ruble is quickly plummeting to toilet-paper-level lows” in this blog of all places makes me seriously concerned about how effective propaganda has become.

        • Sam says:

          Let me get this straight: you are concerned about the pernicious effects of government propagandists controlling democratic countries’ perception of current events, but the marginal level of critical thinking among media consumers that triggers your concern is Scott Alexander’s?! Making some attempt to get inside your head: “Man, they tricked the American public into the Iraq War, torturing some folks, taking off they shoes for no reason, blah blah blah… *yawn*. What? Those scoundels have misled Scott Alexander about the state of the Russian economy? This shall not stand!

          • Anonymous says:

            Scott is a very popular person.

          • Anonymous says:

            You overthink it. Scott is one of a few rational people I read, so when he falls for the kind of lie that is really obvious from where I sit it hits close to home. I have little idea how (or if – remember, propaganda?) “they tricked the American public into the Iraq War, torturing some folks” etc, but I have some about “the state of the Russian economy”

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In this regard, Scott is the opposite of a miner’s canary.

  5. Anonymous says:

    ” The researchers Ritual Circumcision Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism In Young Boys.” broken link

    • Nita says:

      The end of the genius section seems to be eaten by an HTML bug, too.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah. Looks like the href for ‘https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/attitude-not-aptitude-may-contribute-gender-gap’ did not have a closing quotation mark:

        The researchers recommend that genius-heavy academic fields “examine the culture they have about how much brilliance influences success”. I hereby give everyone involved in this discussion the prestigious Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses.

  6. One does not simply “check” to see if austerity worked in Europe.

    Economists can’t agree on what austerity means, how it should be measured, how it interacts with monetary policy, what policy it is being compared to, what would have happened counterfactually, and on and on and on. You can only call it “factual question” that one can “check” if you have already adopted a whole lot of theoretical assumptions.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Well, that’s kind of what the paper concludes.

    • PGD says:

      Yeah, I can’t believe that Scott would say that “debating a factual question is dumb, because some responsible scientist has already investigated it” and then follow up with a link where the ‘responsible scientists’ in question are economists. Economics is not a science, it is basically a way of arguing about policy where people give mathematical structure to their assumptions and then try to arbitrate between competing assumptions based on observational data — better than just yelling at each other but there are near-infinite ways of jiggering the assumptions and the data to accord with your preconceptions.

      This Alesina paper is a particularly poor candidate for blind trust because it’s so simulation-based, so the assumptions involved are particularly numerous and hard to penetrate. E.g. they have to assume that the simulation model they estimate based on past data continues to be predictive for events during and after the financial crisis (that the crisis did not change the parameters). Blanchard and Leigh disagree so they note up top:

      “Blanchard and Leigh (2013) argue that the costs of fiscal adjustments have been higher in recent years than previously estimated and therefore expected. The difference between our results and theirs depends upon the fact that we construct forecast errors which are conditional only upon deficit-driven fiscal consolidations. Instead, the forecast errors constructed in Blanchard and Leigh are conditional upon a scenario for all the exogenous variables that enter the IMF forecasting model. ”

      Ummm, OK, thanks guys, but I don’t think I’m ready to totally outsource my views on whether it’s better to raise taxes or cut spending to the economists…

      • Anonymous says:

        To take a break from contrarianism, I will just agree with the above. The gulf between psychology&economics and physics&chemistry can hardly be understated, as far as trustworthiness within their respective domains goes.

        It is very unfortunate that the former are borrowing from the reputation of the latter, by virtue of masquerading as sciences. Distinguishing between soft and hard sciences is a good start, but somewhat maligned nowadays.

        Note that psychology and economics generally deal with much more complicated problems than physics and chemistry, which is the root of the problem.

        • Nicholas says:

          While I cannot speak to Economics, what component of psychological research practice do you not find to be “structured empirical investigation, followed by statistical analysis and peer review”?

          • Anonymous says:

            The Achilles heel of psychological research is an utter failure to reproduce results. See the priming controversy for illustration:

            http://www.nature.com/news/disputed-results-a-fresh-blow-for-social-psychology-1.12902

            The crux of the problem, however, isn’t that psychologists fail to adhere to the scientific method, per se. The problem is that applying the same method to orders of magnitude more convoluted questions does not automatically produce useful results.

            The subordinate problem is that, if somebody goes against the consensus on priming in psychology without holding a relevant PhD, people tend to equate it with not believing in gravity and evolution. Climate sciences try to pull the same sort of trick.

          • Nicholas says:

            Ah, so it’s the “statistical analysis and peer-review” part. With the File Drawer problem being the specific issue. It’s actually a very well-publicized issue: it’s discussed even in Psychology for the non-major courses. I’m not sure though that “Epistemologically unusable results not published, science journals biased toward novelty” are specifically Psychology problems, or even problems that constitute unscientific practice.
            (Bad scientific practice, but not unscientific practice.)

          • Setsize says:

            Allow me to state my annoyance with the common identification of a certain strain of the study of social behavior with the entire field of psychology.

            When people first started to approach psychology as an experimental science (rather than, say, a branch of philosophy,) it was spearheaded by physicists and physiologists like Hermann von Helmholtz, Gustav Fechner, and Ernst Weber, who approached understanding human perception and behavior in the same way as one would approach understanding and calibrating a piece of lab equipment. Much if not most experimental psychology being done today descends from this thread, but it is severely underrepresented among work that you would find written about for a popular audience, or even in undergraduate psych curriculums.

            For example: the physicist J.C. Maxwell is famous for working out that electromagnetism and light are the same thing. But this was a tough pill to swallow, since Maxwell’s theory supported a continuum of wavelengths of light, while it was established since Newton that the appearance of “colors” could be reproduced with just three components — a leading theory was that there were three discrete kinds of light, not, as we now know, three types of cones in the retina. Establishing that Maxwell’s theory really explained light required explaining the subjective, psychological appearance of color as a consequence. Maxwell and Helmholtz constructed careful perceptual psychology experiments to establish that the appearance of color produced by light of any wavelength could be explained in terms of three receptors.

            The interesting thing is that the “replication crisis” has more or less left the perceptual/sensorimotor/psychophysics branches of psychology more or less untouched. All the more so when you consider that your typical psychophysics paper reports data from N=3 subjects, one of whom is the author!

            The answer to this apparent paradox is that N=(number of subjects) is the wrong N. Psychophysics papers are constructed quite differently from social psychology experiments; their hypotheses are driven by strong predictive models, and the experiments are constructed so that even the designer of the experiment running it on themself can’t really game it too much. While a social psychology paper might collect a few dozen data points each from a few dozen people, in psychophysics you typically collect something like N=10^5 data points from a few subjects — enough to totally test your hypothesis as it applies to one subject, and the other two subjects are essentially built-in replications. Integrating data across multiple subjects is a lot more fraught with complication when you consider the number of free parameters it takes to define a person…

          • oops. ignore this comment.

          • I don’t think the perception of color is simply a matter of the cones in the eye, though that’s where to start. The brain strongly influences what colors are actually perceived.

            How to See Color and Paint It teaches that people misperceive color unless they look at it in small patches.

            For example, you can look at someone wearing a colored t-shirt, and it’s very easy to think of the shirt as a single color. More careful attention will show that only a small fraction of what you’re seeing is actually close to that color, and the rest is highlights and shadows.

          • Setsize says:

            In that example, you need to call “the sensation that we are naming when we look at a red shirt and call it red” and “the physical distribution of light reflected from the shirt” by different words, one of them not being “color,” or you will become confused. “Color constancy” is the term in psychology to name how the first is surprisingly robust under variations in the second.

            Anyway, I’m not sure where you are reading “the perception of color is simply a matter of the cones in the eye.” If you have a colored t-shirt, I can create a shirt of the same appearance by dyeing a white shirt with a mixture of no more than three stock pigments. That “no more than three” is what turns out to be entirely down to cone types. All the interesting stuff happens after the cones, but none of it can undo the information bottleneck down to three degrees of freedom.

        • Emile says:

          Eh, I’d still take economists over any other group as a source of understanding of economic policy.

          • Cauê says:

            Yes. I haven’t quite been keeping count of how often criticisms of economics as a science end with “therefore I am justified in supporting the economic policies I was already emotionally invested in”, but my guess is it’s more than half.

            I see more than a passing resemblance to “science has a lot of problems, therefore this specific branch of Christianity is exactly right”.

          • Unfortunately, on most questions “taking the economists” leaves you exactly where you started, because there’s almost always an economist with a convincing argument for why whatever policy you liked in the first place is actually the best.

            There are some places they agree, like on the benefits of trade and immigration, and we’d all do well to heed them on that. In general we cannot rely on economists to adjudicate economic policy debates.

          • Anonymous says:

            Lawrence: there’s an important difference between “take a point of view, and see if there are any economists defending it”, and “go find some economists, and see what point of view they are defending”. Pretty much any position can claim to have economists on their side (especially once they start quote-mining, using misleading terminology, and using a broad definition of who qualifies as an “economist”).

            And I’m not expecting economists to “adjudicate”, just to provide analysis.

            (this is Emile by the way)

          • Emile says:

            (The above was me)

          • Emile: I agree with that distinction, I just don’t think it turns out to useful in adjudicating most real policy disputes. Most policies with significant popular support somehow manage to grow their own economists.

            Almost everyone can claim that their favored position is supported by a significant fraction of reputable economists. Nobody feels like they are cherry picking the expert that agrees with them. Yet somehow the expert advice that most people find credible is unreasonably predictable by a single ideological parameter. Most of them have to be cherry picking most of the time.

            “Deferring to the experts” simply isn’t an epistemic choice that is available to you, because it is functionally identical to deferring to your own naive priors. At least half the experts aren’t just wrong, they are wrong with arguments that are evolved and selected to be deceptive enough to fool experts.

            I’m not quite advocating epistemic nihilism for economics, rather extreme epistemic paranoia, bordering on nihilism.

          • Cauê says:

            Are you familiar with the argument that the lack of consensus among economists is overstated?

            http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com.br/2013/01/is-economics-divided-into-warring.html
            http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~gdahl/papers/views-among-economists.pdf
            http://users.nber.org/~jwolfers/Papers/OpinionsofEconomists.pdf
            http://freakonomics.com/2012/07/25/the-secret-consensus-among-economists/
            http://www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

            I would also recommend Bryan Caplan’s “The Myth of the Rational Voter” – whatever disagreements economists might have, it’s still possible to identify several issues in which there’s an unmistakable difference between the positions of economists and those of the general public.

          • Cauê: Thanks for the links! I’ve seen Noah Smith’s and Bryan Caplan’s version of this point before. I don’t really disagree with anything they’re saying, I just don’t think it really applies to politics much. So what if economists are 100% anti gold standard? Nobody is going to put Ron Paul in charge anyway. Were they 100% against the gold standard when the gold standard was a politically realistic possibility?

        • Protagoras says:

          My general impression, in the case of both economics and psychology, is that there’s a lot of good research going on, but the research that actually attracts publicity is, on average, an extremely low quality subset of the whole.

  7. David Moss says:

    The “genius” theory is intuitive. There’s been a lot of criticism from within Philosophy of the adjective “smart” which is taken to refer to a similar kind of ephemeral, natural ability that is hard to pin down and it’s suspected just attributed to people on the basis of how much flair and traditional rhetorical ability they have in discussion, which points to this research.

    OTOH it seems a bit weird, because to me, English Literature and literary criticism in general seems to really exemplify this cult of the “genius.” The top literary critics, like like Gayatri Spivak, are seen as ‘gurus’ more so than in any field I know. Yet English Literature is a notoriously female-dominated (right up there with Psychology for number of PhDs by gender). Maybe people going into the area just don’t think of it as requiring genius, even though the top people are viewed, much more than in other areas as geniuses, e.g. maybe they just think “Well, I can definitely criticise a book, how hard can that be?”

    • Anonymous says:

      Or maybe there simply are relatively more male geniuses. Variance is the key thing here, not the mean.

      • lmm says:

        Still doesn’t explain why there would be more men in mathematics than in english literature. You could have some theory that men are higher-variance in mathematical ability and women are higher-variance in literary criticism ability, but that’s a rather complex hypothesis and doesn’t fit the “men are higher-variance in everything because they are higher-variance in number of children” evolutionary justification.

        • gwern says:

          Well, for that you can just appeal to the gender differences in verbal vs visuospatial ability. A combination of small average differences in those, some differing attitudes & preferences, plus differing variances in general seems to explain a lot of gender patterns nicely.

          • mrspey says:

            You can a lot of gender differences with innate differences between the populations, but you’re usually not allowed to.

        • Anonymous says:

          Or maybe there is no such thing as literary criticism ability.

          In mathematics, whether a proof you produced is correct is an objective question.

          In literary criticism, you produce some output and there is no measure of its value other than that other people like it or not. For all we know, it could be a pure popularity contest / politics.

          • Anonymous says:

            >>>For all we know, it could be a pure popularity contest / politics.

            What we know is that it is. 100%, unquestionably.

          • What we know is that it is. 100%, unquestionably.

            I’m not a fan of lit crit by any stretch of the imagination… but is there any research you have in mind?

          • RCF says:

            Is getting people to like you not an ability?

          • Nicholas says:

            Sort of.
            The issue at hand is that within the field of literary criticism there are multiple models of what a good LC is meant to accomplish. Therefore you can write your conclusion first by determining which model would grade this LC highly, and then use that one to ‘objectively’ grade the work.
            Imagine if you will a world where three different equations existed for measuring p=, that all three output a different value from the same data analysis, and that all three were contemporaneously viable in publishing physics research.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          doesn’t fit the “men are higher-variance in everything because they are higher-variance in number of children” evolutionary justification.

          I thought the relevant theory was “men are higher variance in everything because they only have one X chromosome whereas women have two”.

          In other words, being a super-nerdy-programmer type could easily be based on a rare recessive trait, just like colorblindness is. Whatever weird combination of genes gives people that quality, women need to obtain TWO copies of it rather than one, so they get it less often.

          • Nita says:

            If a woman gets only one copy, half of her cells will be super-nerdy-programmer cells, and the other half will be normal.

          • lmm says:

            That’s a mechanism. Most things aren’t on the X chromosome a priori.

          • Anonymous says:

            This is almost certainly not the whole story. The fundamental difference between male and female is very different parenting investments which ultimately lead to high variance being a better gamble for males than females.

            In theory, the duplicated X-chromosome in women could be the whole explanation, but note that for instance crocodiles do not have sex chromosomes, yet show pronounced sexual dismorphism.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Imm wrote:

            That’s a mechanism. Most things aren’t on the X chromosome a priori.

            They’re not? Are you sure? I would have said that essentially everything that makes us human is coded for on the X.

            Are you granting me the possibility of something like a Super-Programmer Gene (an unusual recessive genetic sequence that makes people better programmers at the expense of other abilities) but merely debating that it would be on the X chromosome? If so, I really don’t think that produces the conclusion you want.

            Consider: If the trait were on the X and exactly as common as red-green colorblindness, it would only show up in full force for (in caucasians) ~8% of men and ~0.5% of women. Which does put women at a substantial disadvantage in the relevant profession. But if the trait is on the Y that is even WORSE for women, because women don’t GET a Y chromosome. If the trait is on the Y, then ONLY men (or the occasional transwoman) can have that trait. In that world, great programming ability would be exactly as much a sex-linked characteristic as having a penis.

            Is that really what you want to claim?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Nita said:

            If a woman gets only one copy, half of her cells will be super-nerdy-programmer cells, and the other half will be normal.

            Sure, and that would make her better than somebody with only normal cells, but having a characteristic at half-strength probably doesn’t make her competitive with people who got it at full strength.

            Let’s imagine the gene’s incidence is 1 in 10 and you can’t program AT ALL without at least one copy. Then what we’d see is: 90% of people can’t program at all; 10% of men are great programmers; 1% of women are great programmers, and 9% of women are merely okay programmers. In that world, 90% of the highest-paying programming jobs go to men even though just as many women as men have SOME ability, because most of the people who have A LOT of ability are men.

          • Nita says:

            @Glen Raphael

            Um, I’m not sure what position you think I’m defending in this discussion, because all I did was share some amusing biological trivia.

            However, if you insist… Your single-gene model is not impossible, but unlikely, and insufficient to explain the entire picture. For instance, where do normal, non-super male programmers come from?

            Also, lmm is right that not every trait with some difference between the sexes has to be caused by a gene on the X or Y chromosome. There are sex-limited and sex-influenced genes, epistasis — and, well, the environment.

          • Anonymous says:

            Glen Raphael:
            > I would have said that essentially everything that makes us human is coded for on the X.

            So what do you think the other 22 chromosome pairs do, exactly?

          • Ellie says:

            So what do you think the other 22 chromosome pairs do, exactly?

            Generic mammals.

            I don’t have the background to really evaluate the claim, but ‘everything that makes us human’ is a small part of our genome. The claim that it’s less than 1/23 is not surprising

          • anon1 says:

            Less than 1/23 of genetic material would not be surprising at all. All of the special bits being segregated onto one chromosome, though, would (a) be incredibly improbable compared to a more or less even distribution between chromosomes and (b) slow down selection for said, since being on the same chromosome means that they’re distributed less independently of each other.

            If one parent is (aa, BB) and the other is (AA, bb), and both genes lie on the same chromosome, and the capital-letter alleles give a large advantage in some way, then offspring can be (aA, bB) but (AA, BB) will be much less common, only being achieved via crossing-over, which does recombine genes within a chromosome but is again less likely to reshuffle genes that are close together on the same chromosome. It should thus take substantially longer for (AA, BB) to reach fixation if both genes are located on the same chromosome. I am not a biologist and don’t know how large this difference is, but there is definitely some difference.

          • Anonymous says:

            Or it could be that having two X chromosomes functions more like moderating effect, sort of like the “warrior gene(s)”. Having only one allows for more variance and having two keeps things more controlled.

            It’s not that men having greater variance *only* means that men are “smarter” than women; men also outnumber women on the stupid as fuck side of the scale as well.

        • ryan says:

          I have the most cynical explanation of them all!

          In professions requiring excessive mathematical ability success is meritocratic and gender neutral, it’s just that men outnumber women in the category of having excessive mathematical ability.

          In Literary Criticism, men and women are in equal numbers at the high end, but bias and cultural stigma keep men out of the highest ranks.

    • Anonymous says:

      The study agrees that Lit Crit believes in genius; English is an outlier, its proportion of women not well predicted by its FAB, “Field-Specific Ability Beliefs.”

      The FAB range of the 30 subjects is 3.72 (Anthro) to 5.11 (Phil).

      The subjects with the highest FAB are Philosophy (5.11), Math (4.67), Music Theory & Comp (4.45), English (4.42), Physics (4.41), Econ (4.37), Classics (4.34), Engineering (4.29), CS (4.29), Comp Lit (4.28), Biochem (4.25). That’s the top 11. 19th place is at 4.00.

  8. Darcey says:

    People often claim the Roman empire collapsed because of brain damaged caused by the lead in the pipes. Then, other people inevitably reply with “come on, don’t be silly, the Romans would have noticed that lead causes brain damage, and stopped using it”.

    The whole BPA thing is making that counterargument seem a lot less plausible.

    • JohannesD says:

      I’m pretty sure the Romans would have had no way of figuring that out. It’s not like one day the water pipes were laid in place, and after that, everybody started getting intellectually challenged. They didn’t have the scientific method, they didn’t have the required statistical techniques, they didn’t have a way of measuring intellect – even if they noticed the effect, which I doubt, they would have no reason to suspect the water pipes had something to do with that.

      Besides, even if someone figured it out, the cynic in me says there were probably powerful people with vested interests in continuing the production of lead pipes. After all, we, the modern industrialized society, more-or-less happily added lead to gasoline for decades even though better alternatives were available from the start due to powerful people with vested interests and because the damage it was causing couldn’t be readily quantified.

      • Harald K says:

        “I’m pretty sure the Romans would have had no way of figuring that out.”

        They searched for lead deposits by looking for sickly plant life, and they were aware of what lead exposure did to their mining slaves. The crucial fact they did not know was that lead is bioaccumulating. They probably assumed lead as a poison worked more or less like the plant poisons they were used to such as belladonna.

    • Davide says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning#History

      They knew it was bad for their health, in some way. They still used it, however.

      Hardly different from lots of things today that people agree are unhealthy, but still utilize.

      • JohannesD says:

        Thanks. My claim in the sibling comment that they wouldn’t have realized the issues seems to have been rather baseless.

    • What if BPA improves brain function?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Come on, don’t be silly: lead in drinking water is trivial compared to lead as a dessert topping.

  9. Morendil says:

    A Charlie Hebdo cartoonist was “recently” (five years ago, in 2009) “charged with ‘inciting racial hatred’ by the government”: citation needed. The charges were brought by a non-profit, as I recall.

    In this particular instance Siné’s right to free speech was eventually upheld by French courts, who awarded a tad under a hundred thousand euros in compensation for being fired without cause, and struck down the racial hatred claims.

    The thing about bullets, as opposed to unjustly firing people from their jobs: you can find another job, you can get monetary compensation for lost salaries, and reputational damages diminish over time. Compensating people for lost lives, that doesn’t work so well.

    Some “double standards” appear so by virtue of equating reference classes that superficially look alike, but where the facts are quite different. (In the comedian’s case, we don’t have all the facts yet as the case is ongoing; perhaps it’s prudent to wait until how it all shakes out?)

    We could similarly agree to avoid muddles in discussion of “free speech” by recognizing from the outset that “free speech” may mean different things to different people in different contexts. For magistrates, it has a specific and technical meaning, with explicit exceptions and restrictions according to various countries’ laws. We’re going to run into predictable difficulties if we fail to distinguish this legal meaning of the phrase with the everyday, overbroad meaning of “being able to say what I think without fear of consequences”. There are many edge cases where this everyday meaning must yield to a more technical interpretation. (My freedom to tell people “you’re fired” must be limited to some extent, as the phrase isn’t just speech, it’s also a “speech act” which carries consequences beyond expressing the idea that someone sucks at their job.)

    • Jiro says:

      Compensation is always incomplete. You can’t give people back time, if you ruined a couple of months of their life.

      • RCF says:

        Hence, no one has a job.

        • Jiro says:

          People take jobs because failure to do so will them to starve, not have shelter, or other things which also can’t be compensated. Someone who gets enough money that he no longer needs a job will typically stop working.

          • RCF says:

            People take jobs because they are compensated for their time. Playing the “nothing is commensurable” game isn’t productive.

          • Jiro says:

            People take jobs because they have no choice but to give up one thing that they can never get back (time at the job) in order to have other things that they would never get back (not living on the streets, not starving). Their pay is compensation because they need the pay for such things.

            Stealing several years of reputation from someone and then paying to make up for it doesn’t compensate them unless they also need the money for similar things. If they don’t, you’ve taken time and replaced it with money that is not as good. (And in a free market, they would not voluntarily agree to give up that reputation for that money, which also shows that it doesn’t compensate them.)

          • Shieldfoss says:

            Stealing several years of reputation from someone and then paying to make up for it doesn’t compensate them unless they also need the money for similar things. If they don’t, you’ve taken time and replaced it with money that is not as good. (And in a free market, they would not voluntarily agree to give up that reputation for that money, which also shows that it doesn’t compensate them.)

            Time is adequately compensated by money if the recipient feels it is. I would happily trade e.g. the next five minutes of my time for a million dollars, even if “minutes” and “dollars” are different classes of thing.

            You can argue that he did not get enough money to make up for his losses, both monetary and otherwise, but you reach far past my reference classes if you argue that it is impossible to compensate, unless you lost something both unique and irreplacable. If I lose half an hour, but my compensation is high enough that I can pay somebody to do half an hour of work for me plus some additional money, I have made a net profit.

          • Jiro says:

            If I lose half an hour and am compensated by enough money that I can hire someone for half an hour (or more likely, that I can work for a half hour less than I otherwise need to), I really have been fully compensated, because I actually have the half hour back.

            But that doesn’t extend to loss of reputation. If I lose my reputation for a year and my wife divorces me or I’m forced to miss my son’s graduation, I can’t use the compensation to undo the divorce or retroactively go to my son’s graduation. It also doesn’t extend to long periods of loss of time, for similar reasons.

    • Landstander says:

      Muslim or not Muslim, Dieudonne’s charges are pretty bullshit, though. Like I’ve spent the past week being a pretty hardcore Charlie Hebdo defender (on legal and substantive grounds), and Dieudonne is just an asshole, but I completely see how people could see a double standard there.

      In fact, from looking him up a few months ago, Dieudonne seems to be a completely witless anti-Semite who has precisely one skill – being cheeky about it and tap-dancing around the ways the French government has tried to censor him. His case is a great argument against hate speech laws.

  10. B.B. says:

    Scott Alexander said:
    And a Muslim comedian who used some arguably inflammatory language to describe how he felt about the attacks was charged and faces seven years in prison.

    Dieudonné M’bala M’bala isn’t a Muslim. Glenn Greenwald also made this claim in a recent article and later issued a correction.

    • like wearing live-strong bracelets and doing the ice bucket challenge, tweeting Je suis Charlie is another way for the dull masses to experience some form of transitive kinship without having to actually do anything.

      • Jason Zimmerman's Biographer says:

        Try not referring to groups of people as “the dull masses.” It’s not a good look.

      • Anonymous says:

        How brave! How contrarian!

        • Kees says:

          But then, on this blog, so are you. Pointing out that someone is doing a bravery debate.

          And so am I. Pointing out that someone is pointing out a bravery debate.

          In fact it is meta turtles all the way down.

  11. Avantika says:

    Is it that lots of bright-eyed idealistic young geniuses have so much non-monetary attraction to the idea of going into science that labs and universities can make the career as awful as they want and still have a ready supply of takers?

    Yes.

    It’s not just attraction to the idea. Plenty of people on the science track remain genuinely attracted to their jobs even during and after the awful parts. That’s why many of them stay.

    • Will says:

      Also, sunk costs. A TON of effort goes into preventing people from understanding the full horror of the science job market until they’ve already spent at least 4 or 5 years training. Notice in the link the author didn’t meet a postdoc until his first year of graduate school.

      Up until the last few years, it was very common to see articles about shortages of scientists, but there has been a job shortage (at least in physics) since the mid-70s.

      • ryan says:

        Not a scientist, didn’t pursue a PhD, had friends who did or are getting one.

        I have a suspicion that 3-5 years of basically being a professor’s slave for 12 hours a day and “living” on $20,000 a year acclimates young people to the misery of laboratory jobs.

        A corollary theory I have is that this in part explains why a recent”Center for Talent Innovation” http://www.talentinnovation.org/ survey found that women are much more likely to leave STEM jobs in the first year than men, and much more likely to leave them overall. The finding was that when women leave a STEM job it’s usually on the scale of months after starting, whereas with men it’s a few years.

        My theory is that all of the social engineering efforts about aimed at getting women into STEM fields work just as intended. Girls applying for college think it’s important for them to major in Engineering or whatever. The tutoring programs and support systems keep their grades up, keep them in the major and help them graduate. The calls to technology companies to hire some damn women why don’t ya succeed in getting them to do so.

        And then the social engineers finally let go. And our theoretical young woman, now a bit more in control of her own agency, starts out her exciting new career as a bench monkey. About 3 hours in she thinks to herself “THIS. JOB. FUCKING. SUCKS.” because it does. And 3 or 4 months is not the average amount of time it takes for sexism to force the poor girl out of the profession, it’s the amount of time it takes her to find a different job.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          What about boy bench monkeys? Do they stick it out and work their way up, perhaps with faster promotions? Or do boys get offered jobs better than bench monkey to start with? Or … what?

        • Anonymous says:

          This doesn’t explain the lack of women in fairly cushy fields like software, though. You’d think that’s right where they would go after leaving a PhD program, if they’re leaving to find another job.

  12. Steven says:

    Yes, well, I suspect there are lots of people in the Israeli establishment who are waiting to get back to the close and cooperative relationship Israel used to have with secularist-run Turkey (just as soon as the secularists win an election), and since the secularist movement is historically associated with the Armenian genocide . . . well.

    But it’s not going to happen. Unlike the secularists, Erdogan doesn’t hold the opinion in Western capitals high enough to actually loosen his grip on the state if they pretend they’ll let him in the EU. All the EU demands for democratization in Turkey have managed to do in the long run is replace who is managing the elections that won’t be allowed to change who is in power – to the detriment of the interests of the EU.

  13. Deiseach says:

    (1) Re: Mao – euhumerisation. Someone with the power of a god-emperor who behaved like a god-emperor is treated as a god-emperor in his native village? I’m more surprised at your surprise 🙂

    (2) Re: Tolkien or anatomy? Ha ha, you wasted your life studying medicine when you should have wasted your life reading all twelve volumes of the History of Middle-earth! Some of the anatomical terms I recognised from secondary-school biology classes, but I concentrated on the Tolkien and got them all correct. Yes, including the trick question!

    (3) Re: Irish pronounciation. I disagree; I’d pronounce ‘bhfaighidh’ as “vie-hid” (I learned Munster Irish, Waterford dialect). To get “wee” or “vee”, it would need to be the word “bhí”. I have to wonder what dialect the person who told him that was the pronunciation spoke; Ulster Irish elides a lot of words, and Connacht Irish (to my Munster ears) slurs its words, e.g. in Ulster Irish “lámh” (hand) is “lie-ooh”, in Munster Irish it is “law-ivh”.

    In that case, being careless/rapid in your speech, you could reduce “bhfaighidh” down to “vie” (e.g. “an bhfaighidh me é anois?” worn down to ” ‘bhfaighidh ‘nois é?” when speaking very quickly and informally); I don’t know how you’d get “wee” out of it, because I don’t speak whatever dialect that is.

    Translation of the two sentences of the Myles na gCopaleen sketch mentioned in the comments (spelling English as if it was pronounced as Irish):

    Sheán Buidhe: Tabh iú famhnd ánaigh mór seidisius dochúmaints bitheighnd deir Teairli.
    Poiléismeán Bairlí: Bucats obh dem Sur.

    Yellow John (a contemptuous epithet for English officials): Have you found any more seditious documents behind there, Charlie?
    Policeman Barley: Buckets of them, sir.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m pretty sure he meant he has studied Tolkein and medicine extensively.

      • Deiseach says:

        And based on that, I’m pretty sure that yet again I have failed to make a joke 🙁

        Explanation: I was not saying he had wasted his time studying medicine. I was “joking” that instead of “studying medicine” he should have “studied Tolkien” then he could have “passed the test” by getting “all the answers based on Tolkien references correct”.

        Obviously I failed in turning that into a humorous remark.

        • Noumenon72 says:

          It would be a perfectly acceptable joke directed to a doctor who’d only studied medicine, but not to one who’s already also studied Tolkien. Or else I still don’t get your joke even when it has quotation marks inside it.

          • Deiseach says:

            I was not disputing he’d studied Tolkien, I was trying to be funny about that if he’d devoted more time to Tolkien instead of medicine…

            … You know what? This horse has been sufficiently flogged.

            Scott, I apologise for any insinuations or aspersions that you are not a supreme doctor, Tolkien scholar, and god amongst men.

          • Anonymous says:

            Scott, I apologise for any insinuations or aspersions that you are not a supreme doctor, Tolkien scholar, and god amongst men.

            Scott fact: Scott took (pun intended) a Tolkien/medical quiz once. The quiz got 3 of them wrong.

          • Jason Zimmerman's Biographer says:

            Wouldn’t someone who studies half and half do worse on the quiz than someone who studied one of the two so completely that they can figure out the other half through process of elimination?

    • MugaSofer says:

      Well I found it funny, anyway.

    • Forge the Sky says:

      I got the joke!

      I got ’em all too. In spite of studying, I assume, less biology than Scott has, though still a fair deal. (Not a Tolkien scholar just a good fan, but I’m not sure how I stack up there.)

      For me, I think it actually has a lot to do with linguistics rather than recognizing Tolkien references. Some things just sound like Tolkien, other sound like a discoverer’s name with a metaphorical description of a structure. That’s really vague I know, but maybe the difference is not really teachable – some people just pay an inordinate amount of attention to the ‘sound’ of things. I’m always speculating about the etymology of obscure words in the back of my head; maybe in this small, useless example task it gives me an edge, more than even a high level of explicit knowledge.

      This actually seems kind of relevant to the stuff people were talking about earlier, about AI solving games like Poker and Go. How much explicit/mathematical knowledge is needed to overcome how much ‘intuition?’

      • Deiseach says:

        Possibly we have similar lámatyávë? 🙂

        Though perhaps there’s a serious point hidden under the joke; the assumption would be that in a list of “anatomical feature or fantasy name?” a trained doctor would have an advantage, but this turns out not to be the case; in fact, counter-intuitively, you might do better if you know less about anatomy and more about fantasy language construction? Or the particular universe from which that language arises?

        What that might have to do with the rise of an AI I can’t tell, save that perhaps yes, the real threat would be a generalist intelligence that is not a super-specialist in one area but which knows a little about everything and can learn more?

        • Anonymous says:

          I hadn’t heard that word lámatyávë! I really like it. Thanks.

          To go out of topic entirely, this is possibly an argument against credentialism and the tendency for increased specialization in medicine; I prefer the approach of the ‘functional medicine’ movement, which tries to integrate a (possibly less deep but broader) understanding of many processes and factors in biology and life circumstance to figure out diagnosis and treatment, rather than honing in really well on single isolated factors. The emergent phenomenon is something we call intuition.

          I work in healthcare and people tell me all the time I have an intuitive understanding of their problems/illnesses. This helps with treatment. I can’t point to any specific knowledge base that creates that effect, I know less than all the doctors they also see. So I often wonder what, precisely, creates this effect. And I imagine it’s an emergent effect of having a small amount of knowledge about many things and a lack of bias toward a certain knowledge base. I don’t really study AI, but it’s interesting for me to read up occasionally on it and see how people are thinking to replicate the kinda grey logic space that leads to insight and intuition.

          Anyways, in this case I suppose a greater anatomical knowledge may actually be a hindrance – not because of the addition of explicit knowledge, which would be weird, but more because it leads to a bias towards solving the problem using the greater source of knowledge – anatomy – rather than the less-studied but much easier task of basing your evaluations on language sound.

          Sorry to textwall ya.

      • Nornagest says:

        I got them all right except for 13, which I assumed was an anatomical term because it sounded like Latin. It was Latin, as it turned out — a Latin word that Tolkien had borrowed as an epithet of a minor hobbit character. I’m at best a casual Tolkien fan, and I’ve never studied anatomy formally although I’ve picked up a good bit by osmosis. But the feel of Tolkien place and character names is different from those of anatomical terms, in ways that’re difficult to articulate.

        Examples might serve well here. Let’s take 2 and 3, starting with “Crypt of Morgagni”. Etymologically, “crypt” just means “cavity, hidden place” — it’s common in scientific and medical terminology in that sense. But it’s super culturally loaded — too loaded, in fact, for Tolkien to go for it. He liked the obscure, the archaic, the invented-but-evocative (“Foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!”), not the straightforwardly ominous: as a fantasy placename, “Crypt of Morgagni” sounds more Robert Howard. So it’s anatomy: small depressions in the urethra, as it happens.

        “Caves of Androth”, on the other hand, has to be Tolkein. “Cave” isn’t a word that shows up in science to denote anything other than a cave; it’s too plain, too straightforward, too Germanic to be used in the metaphorical ways that “crypt” is. “Caverns of Androth”, “Hollow of Androth”, or “Labyrinth of Androth” could have been anatomical features, but the Caves, Wikipedia informs me, fall under the Mountains of Mithrim, wherever that is.

        Oh, and “Groin” is both a dwarf’s name and, you know, your groin. I don’t know why I know that.

      • Harald K says:

        “Some things just sound like Tolkien”

        Well, in that case I have a harder challenge for you is it a drug or is it a pokemon? By my eye, those are really hard to distinguish on euphonics!

        • Nornagest says:

          That is harder. I was scoring at less than chance before I got bored.

          Speculate that this is because both sets of names are generated by roughly the some process: “create an English-sounding invented word that sounds evocative, and that might obviously be based on something but looks different enough to be independent for copyright purposes”. And there’s no Tolkien with his highly distinctive writing style on either side.

        • nydwracu says:

          100% 😐

          I got four wrong on the Tolkien one, but I’ve never read any Tolkien and I haven’t studied anatomy.

        • Anonymous says:

          I went 0/20 before I gave up/called shenanigans.

          Responding honestly don’t work here because someone with an ear for the euphonics cherry-picked the drugs that sound most like Pokemons and the Pokemons that sounded most like drugs.

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    Big HTML hiccup with the “genius” part. The problem is a missing quote mark at the end of a URL in an <a> tag. That part should read:

    A new study finds that underrepresentation of women in a field is closely linked to perception of that field as requiring lots of innate talent or “genius”. The news sites explain to us that “women avoid fields full of self-appointed geniuses”, that genius-intensive fields “punish” women, and ask whether “the genius stereotype is holding women back”. The researchers recommend that genius-heavy academic fields “examine the culture they have about how much brilliance influences success”. I hereby give everyone involved in this discussion the prestigious Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses.

    Ritual Circumcision Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism In Young Boys.

  15. NRK says:

    Ok, I feel bad for lecturing an American on european politics, because, hey, you can’t help not knowing too much about it.
    So, for starters, Charlie Hebdo did caricaturize (is that a word?) all religions pretty much equally, including judaism, which, at least in France, isn’t considered the same thing as antisemitism, for which you will get into just the same kind of trouble as you will for any kind of racism (a term which, again, doesn’t seem to capture religious prejudice in Europe).
    Dieudonne is well-known for being antisemitic, and given that he basically said he could identify with the person who killed the customers in a kosher supermarket, he’d probably get in trouble anywhere in the west, and then some. If anything, jews are the ones under constant attack in France, and not by caricatures, but by actual murderous violence. Which, obviously, does get prosecuted, but still doesn’t cause any semblance of the outrage or solidarity people have expressed over CH.

    • Steve Brecher says:

      caricaturize (is that a word?)

      No — the verb is the same as the noun: caricature.

    • suntzuanime says:

      In the United States, which is AFAICT the only nation that actually believes in freedom of expression to any significant degree, saying you can identify with murderers is legal. Chris Rock has a pretty good stand-up bit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8TqhBIEbWA

      • Anonymous says:

        The US seems, on the contrary, to have much stricter laws on hate speech than e.g. France. Also, Dieudonne didn’t just say he couldd identify with a murderer, but, nota bene, with a guy that was presently in the process of murdering jews for being jews.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Could you explain what you mean by “the US seems, on the contrary, to have much stricter laws on hate speech than e.g. France”?

          • NRK says:

            It’s more of a cultural observation, really, concerning what counts as hate speech. Virtually all voices calling the CH cartoons racist, or instances of hate speech, seem to have come from the US, or for that matter the larger Anglosphere, whereas virtually no one in continental europe sees them that way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the laws are stricter, just that they get interpreted in a stricter manner due to a different cultural point of view.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That cultural observation misses the crucial point that hate speech is not illegal in the United States. There are no laws to be interpreted in a stricter manner.

            This probably seems really weird to someone outside the US, like not having a law against murder or theft or adultery, but that’s why I say the US is the only nation that actually believes in freedom of expression to any significant degree. They believe in freedom of expression so much they don’t make laws against it!

          • Anonymous says:

            @NRK

            “Some liberals say they’re racist” and “the government will lock you up for printing them” are two enormous, mind-bendingly large worlds apart. They aren’t even in the same universe.

          • Nita says:

            Personally, I was surprised to learn that in 1942 the official interpretation of the US free speech laws was like this:

            “There are certain well-defined and limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise a Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous and the insulting or “fighting” words – those which by their very utterances inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

            …which sounds remarkably similar to Pope Francis’ recent comments.

            Later, they decided to make nice with the KKK and narrowed it down to “inciting imminent lawless action” (and only if the incitement is likely to actually work).

            Of course, all this is more relevant to the original cartoons than to anyone’s statements of identification.

  16. TheAncientGeel says:

    On the same thread (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2015/01/why-not-sell-cities.htm) Hanson has seemingly called for euthenasing the indigent. Well, since he doesn’t like being misrepresenteed, here is the exact quote:

    “Actually difficult people don’t have to live anywhere. If people are so difficult that the sum of what they can earn plus their assets plus what charity others will give them still isn’t enough to get any place to take them, it isn’t clear that they should exist.”

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Come on, this is Robin we’re talking about. He’s probably thinking that difficult people should be uploaded so they will be cheaper and easier to assist, or that they should live on marginal land away from cities if no productive city will take them, or at most that we should not be creating more people like them (which may seem obvious to you, but Robin Hanson considers it morally positive to create people whose lives are worth living even when it leads to repugnant conclusion scenarios).

      Dr. Hanson is a well-respected figure in the rationalist community. If you think he is advocating killing a bunch of people, the least you can do is assign a non-trivial probability that you are missing something and ask him to clarify his position.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        I have asked him to clarify his position, and he has not yet responded.

      • Deiseach says:

        Okay, but in the mean time before we can upload people into a different state, where do you put the difficult people? This is a genuine problem we face in my job (social housing).

        It’s fine to say “marginal land!” Yes you can put someone living in a cottage out in the country. And then what? If (as a lot of the difficult are), they suffer from some form of mental illness, then they’re isolated and have a harder time accessing the resources for the treatment of their illness, which means they probably get worse, which means they get hospitalised or die for various reasons, suicide among them.

        The difficult ones who are criminals?

        The difficult ones who are the equivalent of the nerds everyone on here was being so tender about their feelings? Yes, there are socially awkward people who don’t read social cues very well and can’t mix in mainstream culture because they come off as creepy, weird, or odd – but unlike the nice nerd guys, they don’t have the bonus or privilege of being able to work in IT/computer programming. No (relatively) good job earning (relatively) big wages – so they don’t count?

        Oh, but weren’t women feminists being lectured all over the place about how nerds don’t have privilege, all of them are not necessarily in high-paying or high-status jobs, etc?

        So when Dr Hanson says about difficult people that “it isn’t clear that they should exist”, what about the nerds?

        Or what exactly is he advocating we should do with the difficult?

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, the above comment is mean-spirited. Ignore it.

          What I should have said is that I think it’s perfectly possible to make cities profitable, and perfectly possible to make cities more pleasant for their inhabitants, but I don’t think you can do both – or at least, only for a small section of what the owners of the rights at auction consider to be the productive city-dwellers who will help drive up the value of their investment by adding to the profitability of the city and thus make it possible (a) for them to show a profit on the running expenses over the twenty years (b) sell the rights on for more than they paid to the new bidder at the next auction.

          The unproductive, the ones who cost money, the ones who aren’t investment bankers and film stars – they can live elsewhere. Preferably far enough away not to bring down property prices in Auction City, though they can always be bussed in to work (the key workers who need the London Living Allowance or London Weighting to make up for the fact that their wages won’t permit them to live in London – solution: let them live in dormitory towns that service Auction City, and so what if they have excessive travel times to and from work and are not legally permitted in the city outside their work hours?)

          There have been previous attempts to let corporate bodies set up and run towns. This is not a new idea in itself.

      • MugaSofer says:

        >Come on, this is Robin we’re talking about […] Dr. Hanson is a well-respected figure in the rationalist community. If you think he is advocating killing a bunch of people, the least you can do is assign a non-trivial probability that you are missing something and ask him to clarify his position.

        Yeah, this Robin Hanson. The guy who’s enthusiastically in favour of “switching off” unprofitable brain emulations?

      • haishan says:

        “Come on, this is Robin we’re talking about. He’s probably thinking that difficult people should be uploaded so they will be cheaper and easier to assist”

        IIRC this is pretty much what Moldbug suggests, so it’s already quite far out there.

      • RCF says:

        I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a joke. Dr. Hanson is “well-respected”, therefore we should contort ourselves into knots to come up with an acceptable interpretation of his words, even going so far as to posit that he is saying that an nonexistent technology should be employed?

      • Multiheaded says:

        Dr. Hanson is a well-respected figure in the rationalist community. If you think he is advocating killing a bunch of people

        The rationalist community is PRECISELY the kind of place which would applaud a tongue-in-cheek, oh-so-economic veiled suggestion to deliberately prevent some people from living (who are implied to be the people of the lowest status in its eyes). I have seen it time and again.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t think he is saying that they should be killed but he does seem to be saying (even as a joke) that they have no right to exist.

          Thou shalt not kill, but need not strive/Officiously to keep alive.

          Though it may indeed be meant as a joke and we’re over-reacting in exactly the way we’re supposed to do.

        • MugaSofer says:

          There is an important difference between “preventing people from existing” and “killing people”. I’ve seen rationalists say we should consider curing some things, and even eugenics, but killing the undesirables?

          (Note also that the discussion here has largely centred on how probable it is that Hanson would say anything so obviously false and evil.)

          Ironically, though, Hanson would disagree. So I doubt that’s what he meant.

      • cypher says:

        Really, what this comes down to is that there is a long-standing opinion among certain political factions that if you cannot be supported on your own property and abilities plus charity, then too bad, you starve and die.

        This statement sounds like it fits roughly into that group.

        The argument is often, but not always, that it would be immoral to coerce others into paying for your upkeep.

        Since it’s the world killing you through resource deprivation, while all individual actors take no action that violates the moral code, then this is considered to have no guilty party and… is somehow rendered outside moral scope?

        Others, obviously, disagree.

        • Noumenon72 says:

          This is steelmanned. I believe this.

        • Andrew says:

          “Since it’s the world killing you through resource deprivation, while all individual actors take no action that violates the moral code, then this is considered to have no guilty party and… is somehow rendered outside moral scope?”

          Of course, it’s individual police who enforce the deprivation from resources on behalf of “the world.”

    • mrspey says:

      Robin has written in the past about how he approaches his academic job differently than most academics, especially now that he has tenure. I wonder sometimes if he treats having tenure as an experiment itself, testing just how protected he is from being fired for his research and conclusions. If not, he’s a perfect example of just how awesome tenure is and how other tenured professors should treat having tenure.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s true; there are people you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to live with or beside. This is not the indigent, necessarily.

    • Anonymous says:

      Robin Hanson is deliberately provocative, sometimes to the point of absurdity, that’s why he is so interesting to read 🙂

      • anon says:

        He’s the most stereotypical economist I know of. Only an economist could look at a scenario where every economic, social and cultural niche currently occupied by humans is taken over by thinking machines with vaguely humanoid characteristics, and consider it good because it leads to gains in output. And that’s awesome.

    • James Miller says:

      We currently live in a world in which lots of people die because they lack resources. Hanson’s position isn’t radical, just honest

      • Anonymous says:

        In a time of universal deceit, honesty is radical.

      • RCF says:

        Your second sentence doesn’t follow from your first.

        • Anonymous says:

          In previous threads, people have brought up the thing whereby everyone agrees that we should, say, buy mosquito nets and send them to Africa, but it’s a bad idea to spend your entire life merely earning money to buy more mosquito nets. This is a tacit acceptance that some of those mosquito nets aren’t going to be bought.

          It seems to me that both he and Hanson are saying the same thing: if some portion of the population absolutely cannot secure their own survival, and the charity given by others still isn’t enough to make up the difference, then those people don’t survive. This is, in fact, how the world already works.

          • Nita says:

            Hanson is proposing a new policy that would result in “difficult” people being exiled from the cities where they currently live. That’s not the same as failing to help them.

          • RCF says:

            I would hope that simply saying “is-ought” would be sufficient to constitute a rebuttal.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Robin Hanson isn’t making a sufficiently strong case for his existence to us difficult people.

      • Deiseach says:

        So where do you put the difficult people? If they don’t have a right to live anywhere, especially not in their native city (and Dr Hanson seems to be pouring cold water on the very idea of attachment to any place; don’t say “I’m a New Yorker”, say “I live where it is most advantageous to me to live”), then where do they live? If you set up a place for difficult people, you can profiteer – charge them more than market prices for inferior services because where else are they going to go, none of the auction cities will take them in and the state has handed over running cities and provision of services to the auction model.

        Perhaps in a libertarian world, profiteering is perfectly acceptable business practice – the market charges what the market will bear, and you pay the price or go without. Especially when you don’t have a right to exist.

        And who is a “difficult person”? Remember, we’ve just had a huge debate on here about nerds, how they are often neuro-divergent, how they often have trouble reading social cues, and how they are victimised.

        Nerds can be “difficult people”. According to this measure, the feminists are correct to call for their exile from the body politic.

        The less than able-bodied and able-minded are difficult people, too. If you can’t make up for your deficiencies by being a genius programmer or whiz at investments or writing musicals that make millions in profit over their long runs, then you can go and live wherever you can find shelter, but not in our maximised-for-returns-on-investment city.

        • Jiro says:

          We already “profiterr” from the disadvantaged, in the sense of charging them more money for things. If you live in a high crime area, your insurance rates will be high. If you live in a poor area you will probably have to pay more for food. It will cost more for you to do many things simply because they don’t exist in your neighborhood and you have to travel to get to them. The fact that people where you are have few skills mean that the skilled job market will be low….

          These things have several causes, but they boil down to the fact that nobody will sell things unless they can make a profit.

          • Mary says:

            Nonsense. They pay more for insurance and for food because of the higher costs involved in insuring them and supplying them with food. Just because food is shop-lifted for instance doesn’t mean that the shop-keeper doesn’t have to pay for it. That’s no more profiteering than charging a higher price for a car than for a bike.

            Profiteering would require a higher profit margin than for non-poor people.

        • Andrew says:

          There are some groups of people that I think are vastly more relevant to this point than “nerds.” Specifically, those would be the people whom Social Security and Disability protect from poverty: old people, blind people, those with incurable or degenerative illnesses, etc..

          The world is currently structured so that most of the working class in most countries fails to acquire sufficient assets to live indefinitely from capital income by the time they have to stop working.

          In other words, _most_ people become “difficult” people _eventually_. It’s not some rare occurrence that only applies to freaks. Elderly poverty rates were huge before Social Security.

    • Montfort says:

      The part of that quote referring to charity is important.

      If you think about it, all he’s saying is that he’s not sure people in general have a right to exist, so if society as a whole decides someone should die (or those who would save them can’t spend enough to do so) then he’s fine with it.

      I am having difficulties distinguishing this from the status quo, except that in this hypothetical world the process might be a little more visible.

      • Deiseach says:

        If people in general have no right to exist, then laws against murder are unconstitutional, since when I murdered you, I did not deprive you of any right to continue living that you possess, but by locking me up in prison the state does deprive me of my right to liberty.

        • Anonymous says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_rights

          Besides, in this world, “society as a whole” is de facto allowed to do much more than people are allowed to do as individuals. For example government (which, of course, is not “society as a whole”, but let’s assume that it is) is allowed to take money from individuals if it passes the law allowing itself to do so. Some governments perform death penalty. You may not be allowed to take another person’s life, but the government might give itself such right.

    • pliny says:

      Anyway, I don’t understand how you “sell all the land and immobile property in an urban region.” Would this be constitutional in the US?

      • Nornagest says:

        IANAL, but the place to look would be the last clause of the Fifth Amendment: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”. This governs eminent domain powers, which allow governments to take land and other assets after providing payment to the owner but without the owner’s consent (I believe the UK calls this “compulsory purchase”, which is probably a better term), but those powers have limits: the assets seized, for example, typically have to be used for public purposes, like building a road or a firehouse.

        On occasion the power’s been stretched to allow resale of the land to private entities building stuff that’s deemed to have public, generally meaning large-scale economic, benefits, like a tourist hotel or a football stadium (…yes, I know). But this would be a rather spectacular example of eminent domain and falls well outside its traditional uses.

        • John Schilling says:

          According to Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Constitution does allow the forced sale of one person’s privately-held land to another for the purposes of planned economic development. So, yeah, of Omni Consumer Products has the master plan to revitalize Detroit, the state of Michigan can sell or give them the entire city notwithstanding the wishes of the current owners/residents.

          Or at least they could have, once upon a time. Kelo v. New London was such a massively unpopular ruling that many states, including Michigan, went and passed state-level laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting such things. In the states where it is still legal for the government to do so, it would likely be political suicide to do on a city-wide scale (targeting specific blighted neighborhoods is still OK-ish).

        • Thad says:

          Do you know of any cases where the stadium lands were sold to a private entity? I live in a place that is contemplating building a new stadium in the near future. The local paper has been writing about this for the past few days. The impression I got was that in NY eminent domain for a stadium has only occurred when the state owns the stadium, with no mention of whether or not the property has been sold in other states.

  17. Anonymous says:

    A new study finds that underrepresentation of women in a field is closely linked to perception of that field as requiring lots of innate talent or “genius”. The news sites explain to us that “women avoid fields full of self-appointed geniuses”, that genius-intensive fields “punish” women, and ask whether “the genius stereotype is holding women back”. The researchers recommend that genius-heavy academic fields “examine the culture they have about how much brilliance influences success”. I hereby give everyone involved in this discussion the prestigious Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses.

    Related: Is Math A Gift?: Beliefs That Put Females at Risk and Praise For Intelligence Can Undermine Children’s Motivation And Performance.

  18. Char Aznable says:

    If I had to guess why Obama isn’t waiting for a Venezuelan regime collapse to engage with Cuba I would say it’s a legacy thing. Even if he just gets the ball rolling for whoever the president is that plucks that plum he’ll get recognition for laying the framework. It’s also something difficult for Republicans to violently resist because they have to get ready for an election and pissing off Hispanics on a nation-wide scale isn’t a great move.

    • Gbdub says:

      I think that’s probably true. It would also be much harder to take credit for improving US-Cuba relations AFTER it’s obvious that Cuba is desperate, since at that point Obama would just look lucky.

      A bit more cynically, Cuba becoming desperate would appear to “prove” that sanctions “worked”. Considering that sanctions are currently more popular on the Right, this would make Obama look bad.

      I object to your last sentence though – most Cuban-Americans are in one way or another refugees of the Castro government and many are pro-sanctions. So opposing this move would not piss of Hispanics universally. That’s actually a pet peeve of mine, the assumption in US politics that all Hispanics are Chicanos, when really there are several distinct blocs of Hispanic immigration.

      • ryan says:

        The thing that irks/confuses me is how anyone with a Spanish last name is lumped into the group. For example a lot of the kids I went to high school with in New Mexico and some friends in Texas had families which had roots in the area going back hundreds of years. They didn’t land on the Southwest United States, the Southwest US landed on them.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I came here to say essentially what NRK said: you have to see the common thread in those two Charlie-related convictions, which is anti-semitism. It’s not that Muslims are unfairly persecuted, it’s that in a lot of places in Europe, anti-semitism is specifically interdicted in a way that no other expression is. The reason is hopefully fairly obvious, but in ther case of France specifically it’s probably worth spelling out that many French people were and some remain virulently anti-semitic in a way their official narrative doesn’t reflect at all. Modern France likes to portray the Vichy regime as a small number of Satanic collaborators, and the rest of the country as represented by the heroic Resistance, but this (of course) is a massive, even gross, idealization and oversimplification.

    The truth is that in the ’30s, the main obstacle to widespread French adoption of Nazi ideology was that it was German.

    Anyway, for Muslims to be disproportionately victimized by the laws in question here, Muslims would have to be disproportionately anti-semitic. Although I don’t know that they actually are disproportionately victimized, I have to say that my supply of sympathy if that is the case is limited. European anti-semitism is far from solved; in my estimation it’s a much deeper-rooted and more serious problem than stigmatization of Muslims, almost anywhere. A lot of left-wing media especially will still take the tack of being very defensive of Muslims and denouncing anything that seems like collective responsibility, while simultaneously shrugging their shoulders at anything that happens to Jewish people because “what can you expect, with the way Israel acts?”. I’m talking here about things like stones thrown at anyone wearing a kippa, burned synagogues… Although I would have hoped this was obvious, I want to make sure it’s understood that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with defending Muslims per se, it’s the powerful double standard.

    (The European Left, especially the hard left, has a serious, historical problem with anti-semitism (“The Jews are secretly running international capital!” isn’t something designed to provoke murderous hatred in someone who likes international capital or meritocracy; it only induces admiration or perhaps jealousy) which they are far from dealing with, because they remain convinced that the best method is total denial. I don’t think there’s anything like this at all in American politics, or perhaps even Anglophone politics. In some ways Britain isn’t very European. Although certainly the Guardian… Well, this is turning into a tangent of a tangent. ENDUT! HOCH HECH!)

    • NRK says:

      As far as France is concerned, Muslims seem indeed to be the biggest perpetrators of antisemitic violence, at least when it comes to high-profile attacks where people die, like the shooting of jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, or the attack on the jewish museum in Belgium by a french muslim.
      Other reports do indicate that most attacks still come from the far right, though.

      • Dain says:

        Other reports? Where was the first one? I’m curious about this, I’ve read that Muslims are way disproportionately responsible for anti-Semitic vandalism and violence in Western Europe. Maybe even responsible for a majority of it. Though I don’t think this is the case in Eastern Europe, unsurprising given fewer Muslims in that region.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Jealousy has historically been plenty good enough to provoke murderous hatred.

      • NRK says:

        Jealousy you say? Well, that’s probably often part of antisemitic sentiment, but doesn’t explain it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Has jealousy of someone who played a game you approve of better than you do historically been better at provoking murderous hatred than jealousy of someone who owns something allegedly-unfairly paired with a sincere belief that they’re part of a secret cabal to ruin your whole world for their own benefit has been?

  20. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    It’s been recognized for a while that school choice programs can improve standardized test scores, but a new study finds that they can also result in more higher education, greater salaries at age 30, and less dependence on government handouts.

    Woah what? A 6% average increase in salary? I find this hard to believe. Can anyone more savvy in analyzing economics papers comment on whether this likely to be true?

    The most obvious weakness of the study is that it is case controlled – its comparing cohorts enrolled in the program to cohorts in nearby districts not enrolled in the study. Since those cohorts were different to begin with (students in the district enrolled in the study had different age 30 salaries than students in the control group), the authors tried to look at how the differences between these two groups changed; and attribute some (or all?) of that change to the choice program. Which is a bit weird but they said that they have statistical ways of checking whether this is robust.

    I’m going to suspend judgement.

    • Randy M says:

      I think educational Realist would point out that school choice enabled private schools are still able to choose to enroll or expel pupils in ways that public schools can’t.

      (Full disclosure: I’ve worked in public school, and my kids are home schooled)

      • Nita says:

        If you don’t mind me asking, how old are your kids? Did you do it on your own, with other parents, with tutors?

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        If the schools enrolled in the school choice program get better results because they are private, then they would have already been better for that reason before the school choice program. But the study is measuring an additional effect – the gap between the candidate school choice schools and the control group widened after the school choice program was implemented. And this gap remained consistent when using different control groups (and there were probably some other corrections, I didn’t read it super carefully).

        Full disclosure, I think public schools are horrible for non-neurotypical people (like myself) because they are an emotional drain, not because they reduce earning potential. If they do reduce earning potential I’d really like to know – I didn’t think they did, but now I don’t know what to think.

      • As Steve, Murray, and the others said, there is a limit to how much we can boost scholastic achievement with programs because of the role of IQ.

  21. too many links so little time

    Fly causes poverty? Everyone is on board. Low IQs? Nope. Can’t go there.

    Everyone who thinks that AI is nothing to worry about, please think very carefully about the implications of a stupid non-generalized algorithm being able to auto-solve a game typically considered a supreme test of strategy and intellect.

    But algos have been beating humans at chess for decades. This is not strong AI, but specialized AI. Ultimately, AI will never pose a threat because will will always have the ability to turn it off. Self-replicating AI that consumes the earth (grey goo) is science fiction. We can barely make miniature drones, let along anything miniature that self replicates Just nto something to lose sleep over, or at least no in a loong, long time.

    • roystgnr says:

      We often don’t even have the ability to turn off dumb viruses that subvert thousands or millions of computers. Self-replication turns out to be much easier when you’ve got a billion waiting hosts with lousy defenses.

    • ryan says:

      Lets get meta:

      High IQ is caused by the selective pressures unique to the environments of advanced civilizations (advanced here being of course a relative term, the Romans were quite advanced compared to Australian aborigines at the time).

      • Harald K says:

        That’s a nice just-so story, but in the blip of human evolutionary history that had advanced civilizations, the evolutionary pressure was overwhelmingly towards infectious disease resistance and diet tolerance (because well-nourished people survive diseases better). If you’re already dead before reproductive age from measles, you don’t die again from your lack of brains.

        And before you tell me about how smart people know how to avoid diseases, read those quite valid arguments against anti-vaxxers again: to survive infectious diseases, herd resistance is far more reliable than individual prudence.

  22. Vague says:

    >>>Apparently it wants better relations with Turkey, which I get, but the irony of Israel of all countries being willing to compromise genocide-recognition for its short-term goals is really really sad.

    The purpose of Israel is to be a shelter for Jewish people, not some kind of genocide prevention installation for the benefit of humanity.

    PS. And the correct lesson to learn from the Holocaust is “don’t be a victim”.

    • BerryPick says:

      >>The purpose of Israel is to be a shelter for Jewish people, not some kind of genocide prevention installation for the benefit of humanity.

      While it would certainly be cool if there were a “genocide prevention installation for the benefit of humanity”, you are correct in that that is not one of the stated goals of the State of Israel. However, adherence to the spirit and letter of the UN Charter is a stated goal as per the Declaration of Independence and would seem to completely contradict your point since it includes things like: Taking appropriate actions to foster and strengthen world peace; Striving to solve international humanitarian issues; Promoting basic human rights and liberties without distinctions of race, sex, language or religion.

      >>PS. And the correct lesson to learn from the Holocaust is “don’t be a victim”.

      Yes, Scott seems to have forgotten that the Holocaust was a learning experience. For shame, Scott.

      • Vague says:

        >>>However, adherence to the spirit and letter of the UN Charter is a stated goal as per the Declaration of Independence

        This was before UN turned into an organization primarily devoted to manufacturing resolutions against Israel. 🙂

        >>>Yes, Scott seems to have forgotten that the Holocaust was a learning experience. For shame, Scott.

        People seems to get their panties in a bunch when Israel behaves like any other country. “Oh noes, how could you, remember the Holocaust!!111”. Yes, Israel remembers the Holocaust, that’s why it has nuclear weapons.

        • creative username #1138 says:

          >>>>People seems to get their panties in a bunch when Israel behaves like any other country. “Oh noes, how could you, remember the Holocaust!!111″.

          Israel itself does just as well as its’ adversaries in instrumentalizing the holocaust for political gain.

    • MugaSofer says:

      So strange watching people with near-identical icons and formatting talk to each other.

      (Also, “don’t be a victim”? Really? You don’t think non-victims could possibly learn anything else from what happened? Even perfectly selfish people could learn from the Nazi’s terrible tactics, for Pete’s sake.)

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      >>>Apparently it wants better relations with Turkey, which I get, but the irony of Israel of all countries being willing to compromise genocide-recognition for its short-term goals is really really sad.

      The comment this is quoting seems lost in the misty heights.

      Another irony here. Some Jews may have their own opinions about which historical events rate the term ‘genocide’.

    • Anonymous says:

      It seems to me that the historic relevance of the Holocaust to Israeli politics is overrated:
      Zionism is a 19th century nationalistic ideology, largely homologous to other 19th century European nationalistic ideologies. The purpose of these ideologies was to create and maintain ethnocentric nation states. Implementation typically results in ethnic cleansing, persecution, and in the most extreme cases, genocide.

      Israel is one the last surviving implementations of a nationalistic ideology that has maintained substantial ideological purity. The Israelis condemn the Holocaust not because they believe in the general principle that genocide is bad, but because it happened to people they consider part of their nation.
      (NAIALT of course, but given that Israeli politicians in the majority coalition can call for an outright genocide of the Palestinians without causing a scandal, it is obvious that the sentiment is widespread.)

      • Nita says:

        The purpose of these ideologies was to create and maintain ethnocentric nation states. Implementation typically results in ethnic cleansing, persecution, and in the most extreme cases, genocide.

        Are you really saying that establishing an ethnocentric nation state typically results in ethnic cleansing? That seems a little far-fetched.

        • JE says:

          It does when the country isn’t homogenous to begin with. So it happened in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, but mostly not in Western Europe.

          Colonial nation states (Pied-noir Algeria, South Africa, Israel, Rhodesia, etc) tended to be more horrible than most. But luckily most of those are gone, and history isn’t over yet. *crosses fingers*

        • osberend says:

          I’m not sure if I’d go as far as JE, but repression of ethnic minorities is pretty standard. There’s a reason that a lot of Alsatian and Breton nationalists collaborated with the Nazis during WWII, and just as good of a reason that Alsace attempted to secede from the German Empire as an independent state at the end of WWI.

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought the concept was the right to self-determination, enjoyed by all western nations. 20% of Israelis are Arab and a recent poll shows 60% are proud to be Israeli! a higher percentage than democrats who say they’re proud to be american.

        Israel does no ethnic cleansing. They’re amazingly honorable an d self-controlled in the face of Islamic torture, kidnapping and murder. Remember most Israelis have guns, yet in 64 years, there’ s been one revenge shooting of a crowd of Muslims, and tht was decades ago. Their moral record is awesome.

        • JE says:

          When Israel was founded there was a lot of ethnic cleansing. Now, why would they? They already achieved their goal of getting rid of enough Palestinians to make a securely Jewish state.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Israel does no ethnic cleansing.

          It doesn’t do it now, at least on large scale, but it certainly did back when it established itself. Where do you think the Palestinian refugees come from?

          And even today they keep expanding their settlements in the West Bank and keep Gaza under duress to limit population growth.
          Clearly the long-term goal is to eventually displace all the non-Israeli Palestinians and seize control of all the land “from Dan to Beersheba”.

          And even the Israeli Arabs are not exactly liked by the Jewish majority.

          • JE says:

            Wait, they impose that squalor on Gaza to *limit* population growth? That sounds stupid even for a country that does stuff like insult the heads of state of countries they want to be allies with for fun.

      • Anonymous says:

        Where did you get the idea Israeli Knesset calls for genocide? What a piece of hateful propaganda.

        • Nita says:

          Dear various Anonymouses (Anonymice?), please choose unique names. You don’t have to log in. You can even use a different name in each thread. But this is getting confusing.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I was referring to Ayelet Shaked in particular. Now I see in the Wikipedia page that she claims that her remark was mistranslated. I don’t know if it is true.
          Even if we charitably assume that she didn’t call for genocide, her party clearly has a strongly ethnocentric platform.

    • Multiheaded says:

      And the correct lesson to learn from the Holocaust is “don’t be a victim”.

      What a coincidence, Germany thought that this was the one and only lesson it could take home from Versailles. Look how well *that* turned out.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        To be fair, neither of them were wrong.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Japan has been in submissive victim mode since the end of WWII, and it seems that it is working for them.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Submissive victim mode” glosses over a hell of a lot. Japan’s been militarily passive since the end of WWII, though even that has to be squared with one of the largest defense budgets in Asia, but it’s been anything other than submissive in most other respects.

            I can see where you’d get that impression — kawaiisa and all that — but while you could make a good case for those cultural shifts as the products of a crisis of national confidence, it’s important not to overstate what’s going on.

  23. doe says:

    Reposting because the previous comment is somehow missing: The moment prisoners get a legal right for euthanasia at will, suicidal people will start committing crimes severe enough to get into prison. Does that mean you’re also in favor of legalizing euthanasia for everyone? I guess you could have been joking as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      I, for one, am in favour of legalizing euthanasia for everyone.

    • suntzuanime says:

      If you’re willing to commit serious crimes in your desperation to die, suicide-by-cop is already an option. (At least in some jurisdictions.) I think many suicidal people are more willing to harm themselves than others.

      • doe says:

        That’s silly; trying “suicide by cop” has a higher chance of leaving you alive (in a pretty bad situation) than dead.

      • haishan says:

        Suicide by cop might actually work pretty well if you’re black but it seems iffy otherwise.

        • John Schilling says:

          Doe’s point is that most shootings, by police or anyone else, and regardless of the race of the victim, are not fatal.

          “Suicide by cop” most likely leaves the victim alive, seriously injured, in a locked ward, on suicide watch, and with all of their prior problems remaining. And probably unrecognized except for a sound bite on the local news; non-fatal shootings don’t usually bleed enough to lead.

          Not recommended.

          • RCF says:

            But is the set of all shootings the proper reference class for suicide by cop?

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s a much better reference class than one linked anecdote. Or any plausible number of anecdotes, given the real sample size and the selection bias for the anecdotes. Absent any non-anecdotal basis for claiming that cops shooting black men are significantly more lethal than the usual sorts of shootings, I thing it reasonable to use the broader reference class. We may suspect that cops are secretly racist murderers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and in this context they are competing mostly with actual murderers.

            Or attempted murderers at least; criminals explicitly trying to kill people with guns, usually fail. If existence has become unbearable, don’t bet your death on a cop doing more than crippling you and calling an ambulance.

          • RCF says:

            I said “suicide by cop”, not “black”. Most people who get shot by a cop are not optimizing for dying; this strikes me as a rather relevant issue with regard to reference class.

          • haishan says:

            I meant that it’s easier to get shot in the first place if you’re a black man. I have no idea if such shootings are more lethal than other police-involved shootings.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anybody who actually wants to get shot by a cop, will have no difficulty arranging that. You can be a clean-shaven white man in a tailored suit with an upper-class British accent; if you buy a realistic imitation gun on the internet, point it at a policeman, and shout explicitly lethal threats while refusing to put down the gun, you’ll be quite reliably shot before too long.

            You probably won’t die, even if you want to. Once you are unconscious or otherwise disabled, that’s out of your hands, and that point usually comes before you are mortally wounded.

        • Rose says:

          “One allegation is that 15-to-19-year-old black males die at the hands of the police 21 times as often as do white males of the same age. Another claim is that blacks commit violent crimes no more than two to three times as often as whites do.

          By combining these two claims, some journalists conclude that police still kill young blacks at least seven to 10.5 times as often as they kill young whites.

          But the original 21-fold claim is based on worse than unreliable data. ProPublica acknowledges that the data on justifiable police killings are “terribly incomplete. . . . Vast numbers of the country’s 17,000 police departments don’t file fatal police shooting reports at all.”

          But they don’t make it clear that literally only a couple hundred police departments (217 in 2012, just 1.2% of all the departments in the country) report these numbers.

          Even worse, the very few police departments that do report are predominately urban areas, which tend to have much higher concentrations of blacks. This skews the numbers to over-represent black deaths.

          ProPublica justifies its use of the flawed data by quoting David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor. However, Klinger told me that he told ProPublica that the FBI Uniform Crime Report data on justifiable police homicide is “no good,” a common view of those who work with the data. (One ProPublica author, Ryan Gabrielson, denied to me that Professor Klinger told them this.)

          If you’re going to correctly compare the rates at which police kill black and white male teenagers, you have to compare teenage crime rates. You can’t just compare crime rates among the entire black and white populations. The rate that these teenagers commit murder, not including rape and other less serious crimes, also provides a somewhat better measure of the perceived threat that they might pose to police.

          Among blacks, teenage crime is much more prevalent. Based on the most recent available FBI crime numbers, black male teenagers were nine times more likely to commit murder than were their white counterparts. That’s right, nine times, and the gap in these urban areas is undoubtedly even larger.

          After adjusting for murder rates, black male teenagers are still killed by the police 2.3 times as often as whites. This is a considerable difference — but again, over-representation of urban areas in the data set could be a big part of the explanation.”

          from: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/john-lott-dangerous-distortions-cops-shooting-black-men-article-1.2030545

          If the data is from only 1% of police departments, I don’t think it is legitimate to make any statement about rates at all, do you?

          • John Schilling says:

            Also conspicuously missing from these statistics is the rate at which police shoot young black males without killing them.

            Simplistically speaking, if you don’t want to get shot by the police, the odds of your being shot by the police are small if you are a black male and very small if you are white.

            If you do want to get shot by the police, the odds are close to 100% that you will get shot by the police, regardless of race.

            If you get shot by the police, you will probably (80-90%) not die. There is no reason to believe that this is strongly influenced by race or intent, but we could use some good evidence on this point. But the evidence we are looking for, necessarily includes the non-fatal as well as fatal shootings.

            Or we could just not advise people to seek suicide-by-cop in the first place, regardless of their race.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >The moment prisoners get a legal right for euthanasia at will, suicidal people will start committing crimes severe enough to get into prison. Does that mean you’re also in favor of legalizing euthanasia for everyone?

      For steelmanning purposes or whatever:

      I think Scott is, in fact, in favour of legalizing euthanasia for, y’know, people who are in a bunch of pain; so this sounds like an easy bullet for him to bite.

      But, this logic would still apply to people whowe would rather get psychiatric treatment – such as clear-cut, treatable cases of depression – who I believe are much more numerous?

      • haishan says:

        Even if you weakmanned it to “legalize euthanasia for anyone, any time, for any reason,” this would still be more palatable to almost any given person than a solid 20% of policy/political beliefs held by SSC commenters.

    • Jaskology says:

      This sounds like an excellent way to bring back the death penalty. Enduring decades of appeals and delays can be tough on the victims’ families. It would likely be much easier to make the perpetrator’s stay in jail so hellish that he requests death himself.

      • Jaskology says:

        “This man raped, tortured, and murdered toddlers.”

        “Killing him would barbaric, and make you no better than he is.”

        “Also he is sad.”

        “KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL HIM!”

        • Deiseach says:

          The horribly vindictive part of me (yes, I have one) thinks that if this person finds life unbearable and would rather be dead than continue living, it’s a pity he didn’t do this before raping and murdering his victims.

          People don’t like you? Prison is horrible? The guards and your fellow-inmates are nasty to you? Well, yes, that’s rather what happens when you rape, torture and murder children – for some odd reason, people seem to unreasonably take against these perfectly ordinary habits.

          Is he sad because he’s locked up, or is he sad that he can’t continue raping and murdering? I don’t see that anyone is obligated to making his life more comfortable for him by making him feel better about himself. If he has now come to realise that he did commit horrible crimes, and that he was a wicked person, and that realisation is agony for him – that is part of his punishment. How he manages to live with that, and what he does, is his problem. Providing him with a means to avoid confronting that by an escape into death is not the responsibility of society.

          I don’t think he, or any prisoner, should be treated so badly they would rather die; I think prisoners should be given treatment for mental and physical conditions; I do accept that there is a lot of untreated mental illness and other problems suffered by prisoners; I think prison should be for rehabilitation as much as for retribution; but in some cases I don’t see how there can be rehabilitation.

          My vindictive part will now shut up.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >Is he sad because he’s locked up, or is he sad that he can’t continue raping and murdering?

            Well, he claims it’s because he was denied treatment, so: neither. Or, hmm, I guess maybe that’s “sad because he’s locked up”?

            >If he has now come to realise that he did commit horrible crimes, and that he was a wicked person, and that realisation is agony for him – that is part of his punishment.

            I … don’t … think so?

            I mean, if someone is genuinely repentant, do they need to be locked up? We do generally take that sort of thing into account when reducing someone’s sentence. That’s what rehabilitation means. (Although, hmm … is a guy who committed such a horrible crime almost certainly a sociopath anyway?)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            US context here: paroles, early releases, continuing (and/or escalating) the serial.

            My vindictive part is much smaller than my “Good riddance forever ASAP” part.

          • Ialdabaoth says:

            Posit the following least convenient scenario:

            Someone desperately, desperately wants to NOT rape and kill toddlers, but they occasionally experience psychotic episodes during which they do exactly that. They are horrified by this, find their lives and their willpower reserves significantly diminished by their constant fight against this, and cannot find help for their condition because their boots have no straps by which to pull themselves up.

            So, while trying to eke out a meager existence without hurting anyone, various socioeconomic stressors converge and they find themselves homeless. Then they black out, and come to a few days later only to discover that they have raped and killed some kids, and are now on trial.

            They admit to it and are now in prison forever, living with the knowledge of their crime and the constant enmity of their prison guards and fellow prisoners.

            They would rather be put to death. Should they be allowed this?

            If they should, then how do you prevent unrepentant sociopaths who LIKE to kill kids from feigning the same thoughts in order to get a free ticket to oblivion?

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d suggest they kill the Alpha Werewolf.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t follow, unless what you’re basically saying is “psychotic episodes and urges that can’t be controlled only happen in fiction”?

      • Wirehead Wannabe says:

        Yeah that was my first thought too. As much as I’d love to grant the right to suicide, I have no idea how you would do so without creating an incentive to torture people into asking for it.

    • RCF says:

      Why would that be preferable to just, you know, committing suicide?

      • Mary says:

        If he tried to commit suicide, they would probably try to stop him. Also such suicide means as he can come up with are less reliable.

        • RCF says:

          Who are “they”, and on what basis are you claiming that other means would be less reliable? Putting a gun to your heads strikes me as much more reliable than petitioning the government to do it for you.

          • Tom Womack says:

            The man referred to is in prison. The availability of guns to prisoners is understandably remarkably low, because of an expectation that they would not be used exclusively for suicide.

          • JE says:

            “They” presumably means the guards, who tend to work very hard to make sure you don’t have access to guns in prison.

          • RCF says:

            “The moment prisoners get a legal right for euthanasia at will, suicidal people will start committing crimes severe enough to get into prison.”

            Clearly, the people in question are not already in prison, otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to get in.

          • doe says:

            Oh, not everyone has access to a gun and shooting yourself is actually far less reliable and probably humane in comparison to how we euthanize.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      The moment prisoners get a legal right for euthanasia at will, suicidal people will start committing crimes severe enough to get into prison.

      / attempts to calibrate sarcasm meter /

      Thus starting with attempted suicide by cop, would give two chances?

      Does cream of tarter in a martini really work?

  24. mrspey says:

    A career in science doesn’t always cost you your first born. Biology is especially bad, which I suspect is partly due to so many pre-meds majoring in biology. Several of my fellow grad students in my Material Science program went right to work at national labs after getting their PhDs. Others got jobs in industry. Same with Chem Eng and Mech Eng people I knew.

    One of the problems with the academic pipeline is that it pushes people to go into academia. Once you accept a post-doc position it’s hard to transition out. It’s easier if you’re just earned your PhD, but even then since you’re in an academic program they’re often not set up to help you with a non-academic job hunt.

    • Randy M says:

      I do wish someone had mentioned that a degree in biology isn’t particularly enabling if one isn’t planning on pursuing additional schooling.
      “Buyer Beware” applies to university.

    • Ben says:

      My first thought on seeing that link, “its going to be about biology.”

      Biology is a tough field because you have a massive oversupply and it isn’t exactly clear what you do with that degree other than get more schooling which just pushes the oversupply up the chain. For every article about starving Biology PhDs there is an unwritten article about engineering PhDs who go right into into industry or national labs without too much trouble.

      If my institution is any indicator the new big thing is biomedical engineering. You take a similar set of courses as a traditional biology major so if you want to go to med school you still have the right background but you also mix in some circuits and embedded devices courses, and some mechE and chemE courses to help solve the “now what” question after graduation. Worst case scenario you can do a masters in some engineering field and come out pretty well qualified in 6 years.

      • ryan says:

        One factor I think is missing from any STEM debate is that Biology is the “STEM” major of choice for kids who don’t like math. Analysis which blinds itself to the distinct nature of that field has a good chance of missing the point.

        • Nita says:

          http://xkcd.com/435/

          Math is the odd one out.

          Also, work in the hot new branches of biology involves programming and applied statistics, which are usually considered mathy enough by “hard science” fans.

          • ryan says:

            That comic is great. I just sort of wish there was an engineer off to the side saying “while you all bicker we’re doing something useful with your work.” Not exactly true but fits the spirit I think.

            Side note on pure math majors. My good friend was one for 3 years before changing to English. One year I was home for Christmas complaining about what a pain in the ass it was to use Excel to approximate the solution to non-linear differential equations and his response was “what’re those?” We then had a conversation about exactly what he was studying and I was honestly surprised how little math was involved.

          • Anonymous says:

            >I was honestly surprised how little math was involved.

            Surely you mean how little APPLIED math was involved?

          • youzicha says:

            @ryan So what did the pure math major study if not math?

          • Jadagul says:

            Ryan: we study math. We don’t study _arithmetic_.

            That said, not having heard of nonlinear differential equations is mildly embarrassing, if he actually wasn’t familiar with the term.

          • ryan says:

            @all

            Yes, applied math. Which from my perspective is math. But from another perspective is a vacation.

            @jadagul

            Heard of them, didn’t realize anyone would want to find a way to approximate solutions.

          • Nita says:

            This story is funny because differential equations is more strongly motivated by practical applications (in physics and engineering) than most other areas of mathematics.

          • Jadagul says:

            Still embarrassing, then, though less so. There are some applied mathematicians who study convergence and how to do good approximations, but I do think of that as being sort of engineering’s bailiwick.

    • the personal sacrifices STEM majors make is admirable.Only a small percentage of Americans are smart enough and determined enough to pursue that line of work . That’s why we need more STEM immigration because we shouldn’t limit our labor options in a free market. Of those who are smart enough to excel at stem, many choose other careeers. .

      • John Schilling says:

        …because there aren’t enough STEM careers to go around? Because the marginal STEM jobs that are available are as headcount in cube farms, doing work that anyone smart and knowledgeable enough to fill the position recognizes is of no social value? Because the people actually planning to employ the proposed influx of STEM immigrants aren’t interested in doing more innovative or otherwise useful work but in bidding down the labor costs of the work already being done?

        These are the hypotheses most consistent with the biology infographic, with my own experience on the engineering side of STEM, and with most of the evidence I have seen elsewhere. The limiting factor in the amount of STEM work done is the number of funded research labs and similar facilities. If you admire the sacrifices of STEM majors, I think most of us would like you to see if there’s anything you can do about that. Because increasing the geographic mobility of the existing global surplus of STEM workers isn’t likely to help.

        • Nita says:

          Isn’t it obvious that “grey enlightenment” wants STEM to work just like Hollywood and sports — enormous numbers of young people “admirably” sacrificing their time and opportunities, so that we can rest assured that our needs for entertainment and knowledge will be served by the very best?

        • Deiseach says:

          What you say is interesting to me, because the government here is pushing for more students to take STEM courses and more graduates in STEM fields, on the grounds that industry and business is crying out for such graduates.

          Are you saying the field is over-supplied and that these jobs are illusory?

          • John Schilling says:

            “STEM” is a very broad term, but largely yes. And particularly so for entry-level STEM jobs suitable for recent college graduates.

            To the extent that there are real shortages, it is of people with specialized knowledge and training, the proverbial “must have 5 years experience with the hot programming language du jour” – because the breakdown of the de facto lifetime employment contract means that if you take on newbies and give them that five years’ experience, they’ll likely as not jump ship. Everyone wants to be the poacher, not the poachee.

            I know a fair number of people who run small businesses doing innovative research; I used to be one of them. There has never been any general difficulty finding ambitious college STEM grads looking for an alternative to the cube farm.

            Derek Lowe’s “In the Pipeline” blog is mostly chemistry-specific, but gives decent coverage to STEM education and employment issues in general, e.g. here. And, basic economics. If there were a real shortage at the entry level, you’d be seeing six-figure salaries for recent graduates. There are a few corners of STEM where that is the case, e.g. petroleum engineering at least until last year, but mostly no.

            But if we can get enough STEM grads, we can bid them down to minimum wage plus epsilon, as the alternative will be joining their former classmates as Starbucks baristas for minimum wage, period. Industry “crying out” for this? Perish the thought.

      • Mrspey says:

        As someone squarely in a STEM field since undergrad, I’m not sure what sacrifices you’re referring to. Any majors or grad programs in any field that require noticeably less work than mine would have insufficient rigor to be taken seriously. There’s nothing wrong with studying in the humanities, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing plenty of work.

        • Nicholas says:

          The article discusses that continuing education in certain hard sciences and the available jobs in those fields result in long hours with low pay. Thus the people working in those fields have no economic incentive not to leave the field, but are rather involved in the field as a labor of love. Hence, sacrificing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve heard some pretty terrible things about the physics pipeline, although I get the feeling that their problem is more “absence of academic research jobs” and they have much better options of leaving that track for industry.

      I’m doubtful that the pre-meds influence biology much, since they should ditch the field as soon as they finish undergrad and get into medicine. Unless you’re saying that lots of people start biology as pre-meds, don’t get into med school, and then decide they might as well stick around and pursue research careers.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Tenure-track faculty” is almost by definition a tournament profession regardless of field. The average professor has many graduate students over his or her career, of whom approximately one can expect to fill the opening created by the average retiring professor.

        The extent to which your chosen field has rewarding jobs outside of academia is critical, because you are almost certainly going to wind up doing one of those jobs.

        • Anonymous says:

          “The average professor has many graduate students over his or her career”—how true is that? Many professors teach at colleges with no PhD programs, and some teach at universities with no PhD programs in their field.

      • Mrspey says:

        I was assuming a fair number of bio majors were pre-med, don’t get in, and then wander into grad school. It matches my anecdotal evidence. Bio is a major that doesn’t lead to great jobs after graduation, at least among STEM fields, so pre-mess who major in it are left in the lurch when they don’t get in. And med school is so competitive that tons of people with great grades and MCAT scores don’t get in.

        As for physics, it seems to attract people who are especially obsessive about it, so physics students end up competing with people who do and the about nothing but physics. I’ve certainly never met a “normal” physics major.

        There a tremendous amount of inertia leading smart people into grad school.

      • Ben says:

        On biology that is exactly what we’re saying. Biology is in this tough position where no one really needs undergrad level bio majors in the same way they need undergrad level computer scientists or engineers. While obviously very few people come out of undergrad ready to go to work immediately someone with say a EE background (using for personal familiarity) and some basic coding experience, some embedded systems experience and maybe some signal processing work can get a pretty good job really quick. Similarly while undergrad level CS classes often teach a more academic computer science and don’t put enough emphasis on software engineering (I’ve met a lot of about to graduate CS students who don’t know what version control is) a decent background in coding and algorithms is enough to get a decent, albeit somewhat soul crushing, code monkey style job. You could repeat this exercise for most of the engineering disciplines but its a lot harder for many of the hard sciences. For instance you are generally better going into ChemE then you are getting a Chemistry degree.

        Biology however is heavily propped up by folks who were, at least when they started interested in medical school and they aren’t all going to make it. A quick google search turns up a consensus number of ~40% acceptance rate for medical schools. I haven’t tried to trace the original source down but it seems pretty reasonable so I’m going with it. If med school was the primary plan for a decent chunk of that 60% then you’ve got a pretty sizable group of people each year hitting the work force with an undergrad degree that per the Hamilton Project’s numbers (http://hamiltonproject.org/earnings_by_major/) have an earning’s curve much more similar to humanities majors (and overall college graduate earnings) than engineering majors.

        This isn’t a problem on its own but if you come from that high achieving background and/or were partially interested in medicine due to the earning potential (a decent population based on my anecdotal experience) grad school looks like a very appealing direction and if you ask your professors for advice a lot of them will say very nice things about grad school because it worked pretty well for them (this is very similar to one of the major complaints you see from many humanities grad students)

        There are certainly a lot of ifs and fuzzy/unquantifiable numbers here but the story seems at least quite plausible and explains why I see this form of article much more often from biology or “wet science” folks than engineers. Incidentally this entire discussion is why talking about STEM as a monolith is so silly. Many STEM jobs are in high demand, but not all are and talking about them as a single group obscures a lot of potential information.

      • Will says:

        The industry path for physics phds is to leave physics and go into finance or insurance or programming.

        This leaves a situation where there are good paying jobs in industry that you can get, but to get them you have to be ok with never doing physics again. Most people who spend a decade training aren’t really ok with that, so they stick around trying to get an academic position which makes the academic situation less tenable.

        But physics and biology aren’t the only fields with these problems. Chemistry is bad and getting worse, and math is having problems as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        Opportunities for physicists vary a fair amount by subfield, but in general we’re much better off than biology. In my own field, high energy experiment, relatively well-paying postdocs are easily available. Permanent academic jobs are rare, but we have a pretty good path to data science, finance, etc.

        • Will says:

          Sure, but those job opportunities in data science and finance require never doing physics again, which is hard.

          Many subfields of biology have just as easy a time finding work in data science as physicists do (bionformatics people, geneticists).

          Also, when I was in physics, a postdoc paid 35-50k depending on experience. So a “high paying” postdoc was basically what the median college grad makes.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve actually read a German article about careers in science and the consensus was pretty much that the options look way better in the US, where a lot of people leave to. Granted, the whole issue with student debt isn’t nearly as much of an issue over here but the US model was still upheld as an example for how to do it right at least after graduation. Whether or not it’s actually “good”, this isn’t the worst situation around.

  25. Lambert says:

    Mandatory moon-nuking link:
    https://xkcd.com/1291/

  26. Steve Brecher says:

    “Can always win at poker”? Or as your source puts it, “virtually never loses”? Uh, no. There’s a significant random element in poker: the cards dealt. So a player can at best have an edge. In a single session against a capable human opponent, that edge cannot be large enough to say anything like “always” or “virtually never.” Only for a very long series of games — in terms of human endurance, months if not years — can “almost always” or “virtually never” be applicable.

    By the way, anyone who expresses any surprise that a computer player bluffs, as does the source (“it even knows how to bluff!”), betrays ignorance of a fundamental aspect of the game. Bluffing is not an exotic optional tactic. Rather, occasionally bluffing is intrinsic to any reasonable strategy. The alternative, never bluffing, is very easily beaten.

    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t have free access to Science, but the linked article seems to suggest that the claim of Cephesus having “beaten poker” is based on play between various iterations of Cephesus. That’s strong evidence of a local optimum, less so for a global optimum. Has anyone here read the original publication?

      • Steve Brecher says:

        The local/global distinction is not applicable here. The technique used converges on a Nash equilibrium strategy for the game — an optimum in game theory terms. From the Supplemental Materials to the paper:

        CFR [counterfactual regret minimization, the iterative technique] is guaranteed to converge to a Nash equilibrium in any two-player, zero-sum game with perfect recall …

    • Anonymous says:

      Von Neumann wrote a paper proving that bluffing is necessary. (in a simple model of poker, just complicated enough to require bluffing)

  27. Quite Likely says:

    “I try to train myself to remember that blindly debating a factual question is dumb, because some responsible scientist has already investigated it much more thorougly than I have. This is a remarkably hard habit to stick to, and I always like reminders. So – did you know people have formally investigated whether or not austerity worked in Europe?”

    Unfortunately the paper in that link is by Alberto Alesina, most famous for a 2009 paper that was seized on by policy elites to justify austerity back then, before being dismissed once people took the time to actually read it, in an only slightly less embarrassing dress rehearsal of the next time that happened with a paper supposedly justifying austerity (Reinhart-Rogoff).

    So yes, people have really studied austerity and made some solid conclusion about what effects it has. Alesina is not one of them.

    • yeah even though I lean republican, the Reinhart-Rogoff paper was bunk

    • Anonymous says:

      Sometimes austerity is the only choice. Large countries with strong ratings can choose their policy, because nobody expects them to default even if when they borrow a lot of money. Small countries without strong ratings cannot choose their policy, because nobody lends them money during crisis. In that case not implementing austerity is suicidal. People should stop thinking that the same thing must either work or don’t work for all countries. Countries are different. If you think that Eastern European countries are just like US, but smaller, you are mistaken.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you’re borrowing in a currency you can print, then what happens when the bond vigilantes attack is that your currency weakens and your exports become more competitive.

        Source.

  28. Wrong Species says:

    > A better question – why is Obama choosing to deal with them now, rather than waiting until they’re desperate or just letting them collapse so he can help pick up the pieces?

    It might actually be easier to do it now. I’ve heard that the reason Iran and the US haven’t had a deal yet is that because Iran doesn’t want to seem weak right now(because of the oil prices.) Maybe striking a deal before they collapse is simpler.

  29. Anonymous says:

    > Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a significantly reduced odds of past month psychological distress (weighted odds ratio (OR)=0.81 (0.72–0.91)), past year suicidal thinking (weighted OR=0.86 (0.78–0.94)), past year suicidal planning (weighted OR=0.71 (0.54–0.94)), and past year suicide attempt (weighted OR=0.64 (0.46–0.89)), whereas lifetime illicit use of other drugs was largely associated with an increased likelihood of these outcomes.

    I’m really tempted to say that the drug has nothing to do with it, and the association exists because psychedelic users are free spirited “open to experience” hippie types to begin with…but that same argument has been used in the precisely reverse way with marijuana’s negative effects. (Not that drugs don’t often have different demographics).

  30. Jiro says:

    23 and Me didn’t “finally get” a business plan of selling their customer information to pharmaceutical companies. The idea that the information they collect is especially valuable and can be sold is one which a lot of us have figured out long ago, and if we can figure it out, so can the company. Selling the information is the whole point of their business and always has been; they just didn’t tell you about it.

  31. “[…] and my cutthroat geopolitical instincts aren’t very healthy in the real world?”

    A bit of a shame the comments on that article are closed, since you mention conworlds are a bit of a mirror of the soul. I’d have to confess to the current conworld I’m writing a novel in that’s been with me for roughly twenty years of my life (and young me wrote a few novels in, actually, but I want to write one that isn’t stylistically terrible), which, no matter how you spin it, would paint me as a very troubled individual that’s either sadistically authoritarian or thinks the world as a whole is out to get her and she has no chance of turning the tide. 😉

    (Please read the above in an amused tone, by the way; I am not actually trying to claim that’s what you mean when you say it says something about the person making the conworld.)

    I think all sort of roleplaying says a lot about the people doing it on a fundamental level, if not necessarily in a straightforward manner. I’m more of a traditional freeform roleplayer, as you know, since I never did get active in Micras, and in fact was far more interested in expanding on Dark Arcadia in Wildcard than I was around Shireroth.

    But then, Dark Arcadia was/is more of an abstract micronation than a roleplay setting or an exercise in worldbuilding, so I never had any urge to think it through to the end. While it calls itself meritocratic, it’s a stone’s throw away from being anarchic, which is probably what makes it difficult in a Micras context. I just didn’t think I would do anything other than make a fool of myself, that much I recall, but the company was fantastic. 🙂

    Has anyone tried (any flavour of) anarchy on Micras? I would think so, but I don’t actually know. (I’m shamefully asking instead of trying my luck at Googling because if the answer is ‘yes’, I would genuinely greatly prefer to hear anecdotes to just dry, factual, historic details. Feel free to tell me to do my homework instead.)

  32. Anonymous says:

    80 comments in and I’m the first to point out..its 2015 not 2014 😀

    • Nornagest says:

      I blame technology. I hardly ever write paper checks anymore, and the dates on those were the only thing putting pressure on me to keep track of the year, so now I’m adrift.

      Is it 2012? 2015? 2025? I don’t know.

  33. Ronak says:

    I tried the handbook of relationship initiation a while back. Everything in it (that I got through; I don’t remember precisely how much) is between
    a) Extremely context-specific, or
    b) Completely useless for the purpose of replication.

    This is mostly because a scientific view of interactions is bad for understanding the internal processes involved; our understanding of interactions is not good enough to be constructive while eschewing vagueness.
    As a concrete example, it more than once set off the “if I did this I’d look creepy” light in my head.

    I highly recommend the more humanities-ish approach of Mark Manson’s book Models instead, which has non-trivially helped me get better at both friendship and romantic relations. It’s basic ideas are:
    a) High risk, high reward
    b) Having the willingness to play, and the ability to feel comfortable while playing, the high risk high reward strategy (he calls it vulnerability) helps you in the meta-game, because your actual comfort in that region is something people can detect by edge behaviours and the people who are comfortable are high-status ones (causal arrows pointing both ways here).

    • veronica d says:

      Wow. I like his “vulnerability” article. I think I might read this book.

      (I mean, I’m not a dude, but I do date women, so there is that. Plus, well, I have a perverse fascination with dating advice.)

      • veronica d says:

        So I got the Kindle version and I’m like 25% in. I think I like it. As a queer feminist I have some minor objections, namely to how he presents female attraction. On the other hand, I think his model is probably right for quite a number of heterosexual women and men, and at least he acknowledges some variation. Furthermore, he outright rejects the Redpill type garbage as being unhealthy resentment from men who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures. Which is totally correct.

        As a model for contemporary masculinity, I think the book pretty much gets it right. A book “for men by a man” is not going to be the book a feminist woman would write. Nor should it be. We gals are working to figure out our own shit. Men need to do the same. His models for masculinity are values based, self-improvement based, and very modern.

        I can see how a man might read this book and emerge as a callous, shitty person. However, that would only reveal what he was already to start with. I imagine decent men (by which I mean most men) would emerge from his system being happier, more effective people who are a positive force on the world around them.

        So, yay. I hope Scott takes a look.

  34. gattsuru says:

    Is it that lots of bright-eyed idealistic young geniuses have so much non-monetary attraction to the idea of going into science that labs and universities can make the career as awful as they want and still have a ready supply of takers?

    A repeated theme in the complaints seems to focus around asymmetrical information : the labs and universities have pressed the idea of careers in science as both highly demanded and, if not highly remunerative, at least more secure and stable than the fully private sector. And in the 70s (when many of today’s big names entered the field) that may have even been the case, enough to allay suspicions or concerns. Students entering the field don’t hear about these complaints, and those who remain within it are often cloistered away from them until they’re in too deep to easily drop the sunk costs.

    There’s probably also something to that “big costly ritual encourages cohesion” concept you were passing around a while back, but a lot of it seems just to be inertia from when things weren’t quite so harsh.

    A better question – why is Obama choosing to deal with them now, rather than waiting until they’re desperate or just letting them collapse so he can help pick up the pieces?

    If we’re looking for more cutthroat causes, I expect the big concern is that the first government to help ‘wins’ — ie, if China or Russia make enough earlier and more significant overtures, the Cuban government will likely be far more willing to work with them than the US government would prefer.

    I try to train myself to remember that blindly debating a factual question is dumb, because some responsible scientist has already investigated it much more thorougly than I have.

    There’s an essay going around to “beware the man with one study”. I’ve seen more than enough people certain of the failures of austerity that have their own pet research examples. This trick seems like a good way to go a meta-level up — but I’m far from convinced that discussing the objectivity and accuracy of individual studies are better tools for understanding than discussing the underlying data.

    At a deeper level, it’s probably going to be completely impossible to avoid outsourcing one’s evaluation systems… but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should invite it.

    Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”.

    This seems more like a good case-study in how offense is acceptable when it comes from the well-entrenched — the magazine itself had made a number of cartoons offensive to Jewish groups, or used violent imagery, and indeed pretty much every other sort of behavior that other groups would be prosecuted for. We’re even seeing a number of these things floating around during the coverage.

    Which, uh, is probably *worse* than simply targeting a single vulnerable group, but something I’d expect French Muslims can and should recognize just like everyone else.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am skeptical of economic explanations that require millions of very smart people to have failed to do a Google search on whether the career they are devoting their life to is terrible or not.

      • Jiro says:

        Readily available Google has not been around forever.

        Furthermore, many people are, in fact, stupid. People believe in all sorts of scams, for instance, even though you can figure out that they are scams by using Google.

      • onyomi says:

        As someone who’s been in the liberal arts wing of academia for about a decade, scientist not being a lucrative career is news to me…

      • Whateverfor says:

        If you’re really interested in this you should look at the law school situation of the last decade: law school was an absolutely terrible decision for the vast majority of people for quite a few years before the knowledge really got out to the broader public. When I was looking at law school ~2009 the first thing I did was look on the internet and all I saw was people saying not to go to law school and pictures of piles of burning money, but attendance didn’t really collapse until last year.

        It’s really hard to convince someone who’s been a 90+% achiever in every group before that they probably won’t be in the 20-30% of winners in a much more competitive situation. That and some people are just delusional.

        • Anonymous says:

          This. Plus people absorb all kinds of pro-science memes and they build their identity around being scientists. Also sunk cost fallacy.

      • gattsuru says:

        My hypothesis is less that folk neglect to Google, and more that Google will tell you everything but what you want to know. There’s a lotta descriptions about shortages in STEM sector jobs, or how you only really have to crunch during your college career before you get more self-guided options, before you get to Derek Lowe pointing out that those shortages aren’t in the actual research labs or Mr. Skylar pointing that the scientist-in-training phase lasts for two decades.

        And it’s hard to escape cached thought mode. Even — especially — if the last real evaluation of the numbers is decades old.

        I very nearly made this sorta mistake myself, even after having tried to do the research, and it was only due to a happy accident that I avoided that type of fate. I don’t want to fall to the typical mind fallacy, but at the same time I’ve heard a number of other folk who’ve gone down that path.

      • RCF says:

        It’s not like Google can tell you whether a career will be terrible or not. Also, this is a decision that many people make as teenagers.

      • Ronak says:

        I’m a grad student in one my country’s best research institutes, and I can tell you I haven’t met more than two people who know about the issues with academic jobs, and I know they didn’t get there by doing this ‘googling your career’ thing.

      • Wirehead Wannabe says:

        Um, you’re basically describing me right now. It’s super easily to get won over by the propaganda. I look at careers, but everyone I talked to did oversell the amount of opportunities in bio. I also did google it, but nothing really came up other than poorly researched op-eds.

      • Eli says:

        Scott, sometimes “smart” people really do make very stupid decisions. Just because they’re quick to induce accurate models from descriptions of such (ie: able to follow classes well) doesn’t mean they have the habit of extensively researching their life decisions before making them on limited data. Smart != rational.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sometimes the internet lies. My profession, dentistry, consistently comes up as one of the best jobs in the US. Objectively, that may be true. I work 4 days a week and make $300,000+ / yr.

        It’s much harder to find dentists on the internet baring their souls about how much physical and mental pain the field causes. I don’t know of any dentist who makes it to age 40 without chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain.

        But far worse than the physical pain, is the emotional drain. It is a job you go into with the cliched goal of “wanting to help people”. Instead you are greeted with a daily chorus of “I hate dentists”, “I hate you” and various other self-image boosting conversations. Sociopaths easily brush these things off, but it hurts normal humans to hear those things. Depression and self-loathing are pretty much par for the course after just a few years of practice.

        I could go on for a full page, but already most of you are thinking “cry me a river” because I shared you with you how much money I make. So most dentists don’t share these things with anybody but other dentists. It comes across very poorly.

        A google search is not going to give you a detailed discussion of the real price to be paid. I’m sure there are similar issues with most professions. It is high status to talk about the benefits of your career, but talking about the downsides just makes you look like a whiner.

        • Nita says:

          you are greeted with a daily chorus of “I hate dentists”, “I hate you” and various other self-image boosting conversations

          What, seriously? I know many people are afraid of dentists, but that’s just mind-boggling.

        • Anonymous says:

          > I work 4 days a week and make $300,000+ / yr.

          I apologize if this is a common response, but for that I would put up with everything you do.

          Why don’t you just retire in five years? Or work part-time if you have a family? (unless you have an obscene amount of debt, both of those are very reachable goals)

  35. MugaSofer says:

    >Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”.

    Well, yeah. This is the country that keeps banning “Muslim” dress based on different flimsy excuses, remember?

    … wait, do the US media report that?

    >Belgian serial rapist requests euthanasia in place of his life sentence on the grounds that he is facing “unbearable psychological suffering” in prison; government originally agrees, but cancels due to lack of a doctor willing to perform the procedure. Before you argue about how refusal to permit prisoner euthanasia successfully draws a bright line that will one day protect prisoners’ rights, keep in mind that the families of the man’s victims have been petitioning against it on the grounds that he deserves unbearable psychological suffering rather than “a swift release”. I know this’ll be unpopular, but I’m pretty in favor of changing the appropriate UN conventions to specify that any country where prisoners who request euthanasia can’t get it gets charged with torture.

    … shouldn’t they be charged with torture anyway for subjecting this guy to “punishment” so bad he would rather die? (He was denied treatment, which he cites as the reason for his suicidality.) Making this dependent on euthanasia seems like a really terrible idea.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If we charge countries with torture for having prisons whenever prisoners say their suffering is unbearable, a lot of prisoners are going to say their suffering is unbearable and it’s unclear if countries can continue to have prisons.

      • MugaSofer says:

        I actually meant that, if anything is that bad, that thing should already be classed as torture. Letting people hide their torture by giving the victims an “out” of killing themselves does not stop it from being torture.

        … but if we were going to just declare a general rule, rather than use people’s reactions as evidence for whether something is torture … then the rule would be “doing anything that causes your prisoners to attempt suicide, including suicide by doctor, is torture”, not “doing anything that causes your prisoners to complain is torture”.

      • John Schilling says:

        On the other hand, encouraging[*] prisoners to suicide seems likely to encourage prisons to become horrific in every non-obvious way by removing a critical source of feedback and focus for empathy.

        Consider solitary confinement in a bare cell with a Bible (or other culturally-relevant texts) and a cyanide pill. To religious introverts, inside or out, that’s not too bad. To religious extroverts on the outside, well, criminals are sociopaths so they don’t need human contact the way decent folk do. To extroverts on the inside, that cyanide pill looks mighty attractive – which makes them look like either weak-willed cowards or self-sacrificing stoics. Leaving nobody to complain, and nobody to feel sorry for.

        More generally, forcing people into circumstances that are likely to cause them to commit suicide, ought to be considered morally equivalent to homicide. Which may be justified under some circumstances, but the suicides ought to be considered a strong negative feedback by the relevant policymakers. Seeing “voluntary” euthanasia as a mercy is likely to short-circuit that.

        [*] The plan may be, “allow euthanasia as a strongly discouraged last resort”. As implemented by actual prison guards, it will be “suicide strongly encouraged”.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          On the other hand, encouraging[*] prisoners to suicide seems likely to encourage prisons to become horrific in every non-obvious way by removing a critical source of feedback and focus for empathy.

          On the other hand, prisons in the U.S. are increasingly industrial profit centers. A dead prisoner is no longer a revenue source.

      • Anonymous says:

        >a lot of prisoners are going to say their suffering is unbearable and it’s unclear if countries can continue to have prisons.

        Quite a notion!

  36. James Babcock says:

    The science job market is terrible because of the combination of three things:

    (1) Many people are saying that being a scientist is virtuous and pushing hard to increase the number of scientists;
    (2) The total amount of money spent on scientific research is relatively fixed and not related to the number of scientists trying to get it; and
    (3) The market must clear, so any force that increases the number of scientists must be exactly balanced by decrease in wages plus other forces driving scientists away.

    And so perversely, science is a terrible career because people want there to be more scientists.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      The same is true of every career, but it’s one of the reasons this whole STEM push is so silly. The reason people are poor in first world countries is that their capitalist economies use a division of labor involving a lot of low-pay jobs, not that people are undereducated. What works on an individual level does not on a societal one.

      The obvious solution of ensuring the large and growing low wage fields (i.e. service sector) provide people working in them a good standard of living – whether through unionization and laws easing that or a high minimum wage or transfer payments – is too horrible for policy makers to contemplate. Instead, they throw more money at science and create another over-saturated field.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think private sector STEM jobs are still quite lucrative, even if academia isn’t.

        • Anonymous says:

          Private sector T and E jobs are fine, some M jobs are fine.

          The problem is there aren’t enough private sector S jobs to go around, at all. After you’ve spent more than a decade training, it really sucks to never get to work in your field again. That is the current reality.

          Lumping “STEM” together like its one thing is just a way to turn shortages in IT and programming into a push for more scientists.

          • Anonymous says:

            Are you sure that STEM isn’t just a way to turn people’s generally high regard for science and that sentiment’s value as a status signal into support for more H1b indentured programmers and engineers?

    • Julie K says:

      Adam Smith describes a similar situation in Wealth of Nations- people wanted there to be more clergy so they established scholarships to encourage men to enter the field, resulting in a situation very similar to today’s predicament of large numbers of Ph.D.’s competing for a few tenure-track positions.

    • Gbdub says:

      The real problem with the STEM push is that we’re trying to increase the number of STEM grads while keeping science funding flat and cutting defense. Where are all these grads supposed to work? For better or worse, the tech industries are highly dependent on the government for basic science and developing marginal technologies. In some sense the military is the ultimate early adopter – do we need a huge military to defend ourselves? Maybe not, but a huge military certainly keeps our tech sectors chugging.

  37. Anonymous says:

    If someone stumbles upon a pdf of the handbook, could they share it?

  38. mrspey says:

    >>A better question – why is Obama choosing to deal with them now, rather than waiting until they’re desperate or just letting them collapse so he can help pick up the pieces?

    From an international politics perspective, the US goes around wearing a t-shirt that says, “I Cooperate in Prisoners Dilemmas”. The US benefits from more trade and open relationships with nearby countries. They’re certainly not getting anything out of the embargo anymore. It’s an easy way to make a friend and help them out before they turn into a Colombia or Iraq or Afghanistan right next door. The last 15 years has taught the US that picking up pieces of wrecked countries is harder than it looks.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      I will endlessly be happy that the T-Shirts I made on a whim have turned into a common metaphor on this site. It’s also really fucking weird.

  39. Sieben says:

    On what basis can a rapist object to torture?

    “… but people have rights, you know!”

    As far as I can see, he can’t mount a coherent rights-based argument against much of anything.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would having rights be contingent on being able to non-hypocritically argue for them?

    • MugaSofer says:

      >On what basis can a rapist object to torture?

      … the same basis as anyone else? The same reasons you, I would hope, object to torture?

      Seriously, though: if rapists can’t object to torture, can they object to rape?

      (Which is, y’know, a form of torture?)

      How do you know the person he raped wasn’t themself a rapist? If they were, is he absolved of guilt?

      And if he can’t object to torture, does that mean his torturers can’t object to torture either? Or is it OK for them, because he was totally asking for it?

      • Jiro says:

        How do you know the person he raped wasn’t themself a rapist? If they were, is he absolved of guilt?

        No, because we have crimes of “attempted X”, regardless of whether X succeeds. And even if he knows the other person is a rapist and he would not have raped that person otherwise, we also have laws against vigilantism.

        Try all of your arguments with “kidnapping” substituted in. If someone is a criminal, it *is* considered okay to kidnap him (we call it jail)–even though it would not be considered okay to just kidnap a person off the street, and even though we don’t let you go around as a vigilante kidnapping criminals.

        Why doesn’t that work with rape/torture?

        (I can think of reasons why we don’t punish criminals by torturing them–but none of these reasons would be “torturing someone is a violation of his rights and we’re not allowed to violate the rights of someone just because he’s a criminal”, because we manifestly are allowed to do just that.)

        • MugaSofer says:

          Oh, I don’t believe in rights. I’m a utilitarian. Torturing people reduces utility, regardless of whether they are “bad guys”; and banning it is an effective Schelling Point.

          And, indeed, this idea that some people have “forfeited” their rights are one reason why I don’t like rights-based theories of ethics.

          However, those people I’ve spoken to who do believe in rights also believe in something they call “proportionate response”. They would reply that imprisoning people is a proportionate response, while, say, torturing them to death is using excessive force. Violating the rights of criminals is acceptable IFF it is necessary, just as killing in self-defence is necessary, but not if you can get away with “merely” beating people up in self-defence.

          This is because the people I talk to about ethics are generally opposed to torture, whether because they’re decent human beings, or just liberals.

          If, on the other hand, criminals have forfeited their rights and we may do with them as we wish, then we’re clearly using this valuable resource inefficiently.

          • Jiro says:

            Why is torture not a proportionate response, though? If torture is 20 times as bad as killing, but someone has killed 20 people, is it then proportionate enogh to torture him? Whatabout the initial example of a rapist–rape often causes a lot of psychological harm, making it equivalent to torture; would it then be proportionate to torture a rapist (or just to rape one)?

          • Nita says:

            @Jiro

            The idea is that we may inflict the minimal sufficient amount of harm, and no more. The current model seems to be “the worse your crimes are, the more time is needed for you to reconsider, and for us to trust you again”. If you want to add torture to this model, you need to justify it somehow.

          • Davide says:

            Would every utilitarian agree that torture is a NET loss of utility for society, though?

            Yes, torture does reduce the utility of the tortured…but that’s the point, isn’t it?

            (No, I am not an utilitarian trying to justify torture; I am bringing up that it seems surprising to suggest torure is intrinsically anti-utilitarian)

            Also, the idea that some actions result in a loss of rights may still be repellent to most, but one advantage is that, unlike some extreme utilitarian philosophies I am referencing, you won’t end up justifying the torture innocents if the net gain is good.
            (granted, this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea; but I think it’s a better model than the utilitarian one here)

          • MugaSofer says:

            >it seems surprising to suggest torture is intrinsically anti-utilitarian

            Yeah, it’s not intrinsic. There are situations where (some) utilitarians are OK with torture: the “ticking-time-bomb” scenario, where you torture the location of a bomb out of a terrorist before it explodes.

            However, torturing someone because they’re a bad person who “deserves” to be tortured is … well, you could create a utility function that values the pain of a certain class of people, but in practice most utilitarians don’t. Valuing everyone’s utility equally isn’t required to be a “utilitarian”, but it is common to most utilitarian approaches.

          • Jiro says:

            However, torturing someone because they’re a bad person who “deserves” to be tortured is … [not utilitarian]

            But that also applies to deciding that someone is a bad person who deserves to be put in jail. Yet you don’t think we need to get rid of all jails.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I disapprove of people who think we should give criminals over-long and excessively uncomfortable prison sentences because they think these people “deserve it”, too. They’re wrong, and in harmful ways.

            But at least they’re not violating a major schelling point that prevents our society from committing atrocities, or suggesting that criminals deserve literally no moral consideration.

          • Mary says:

            “I disapprove of people who think we should give criminals over-long and excessively uncomfortable prison sentences because they think these people “deserve it”, too. They’re wrong, and in harmful ways.”

            Overly long for what? Excessive by what standard? If you mean that it’s more than they deserve, that’s quibbling about details.

            If you object to the notion of desert, as you suggest by the scare quotes, you are advocating a horrifically dangerous idea. First, last, and always, the punishment must be what the criminal deserves. Any other purpose in the sentence must be admitted only if it is compatible with that.

            Otherwise you are handing over the state the unlimited right to punish us as it wishes, because there can be no other criterion by which it is limited. Witness that those who are found not guilty by reason of insanity spend, on average, twice as long locked up as those who are found guilty. Do we all wish to be treated as if insane?

          • Susebron says:

            Excessive in that they’re longer than necessary for deterrence or rehabilitation. Furthermore, the criterion of “deserving” things stretches further than you seem to be claiming.

          • Anthony says:

            Hypothetical question: Assuming properly convicted rapist, is it worse to torture the rapist for a short period of time (a day or a week, perhaps) then let him go, or to lock him up in a prison for a decade or more?

            Short brutal punishment may not be any more effective at convincing the offender to not re-offend than a long prison sentence, while returning the offender to society at a significantly higher age will, just from age effects, reduce his propensity to re-offend. However, a decade of confinement among primarily other violent men may counteract that.

            From a rights perspective, and from the perspective of the effects on the punishers, long-term confinement may be as bad as short-term torture.

            Politically, though, I’d generally oppose such a change, as it’s likely we’d end up with the worst of both worlds instead of cleanly switching from one model to another.

            (On the other hand, offering drunk drivers the opportunity to plead guilty, get caned with 30 strokes the next morning, and go free *instead of* the usual consequences might be a net gain for society, as the likely 2 to 8 weeks in jail can really impair someone’s ability to recover, probably increasing their chance of re-offending.)

          • Cauê says:

            People have given different reasons for punishing crimes over the ages. It would probably be useful to specify which function it’s serving when we’re considering what kind to use.

            – first, there’s punishment for punishment’s sake, which is only good for satisfying our reciprocation/just world psychological modules. Always popular. In principle, any “bad thing” should work, given proportionality.

            – Then there’s scaring people away from commiting crimes. Any bad thing could work, too, and proportionality isn’t necessarily required (or necessarily desirable).

            – Then there’s “taking criminals off the street”, so they’re physically unable to do it again. Prison, death, maybe some mutilations would work here, depending on the crime. But not short term physical punishment or torture, nor fines, etc.

            – Finally, there’s the ideal of rehabilitation, which is a whole lot more complicated.

          • Mary says:

            “Excessive in that they’re longer than necessary for deterrence or rehabilitation. ”

            Now that is evil.

            Using criminals for deterrence is evil because it is using them solely as a means to your own purposes. Subjecting them to rehabilitation is evil because it is trying to remodel their personality against their will. If deterrence is the sole criterion, there is no possible argument against public torture of jaywalkers if it deters others and prevents them from jay walking again.

            The only criterion by which you could criticize it is that they do not deserve such penalty. Making vague claims about ” stretch[ing] further than you seem to be claiming.” — or, for that matter, insulting ones about “only good for satisfying our reciprocation/just world psychological modules” (which could also cover the other two with the right modules) — does not give you any exit.

            Do you think Martin Luther King Jr. should have been kept in Birmingham jail until he died? It’s clear that his sentence neither reformed him nor deterred others. And you don’t get to say he didn’t deserve it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            More significantly, if deterrence is the only reason for punishment, then the punishment can be applied to anybody. It is not important to punish the actual wrong-doer; instead, the effort that goes into finding the guilty party would be more profitably employed convincing the public at large that he was guilty.

          • Cauê says:

            Identifying what function each punishment is performing, or what punishment would serve each function, doesn’t say anything about whether those functions are valid, the punishment desirable, or if other considerations are more important.

            >The only criterion by which you could criticize it is that they do not deserve such penalty.

            No, you can decide this would have negative utility.

            (also: insulting?)

            ETA:
            >More significantly, if deterrence is the only reason for punishment, then the punishment can be applied to anybody. It is not important to punish the actual wrong-doer; instead, the effort that goes into finding the guilty party would be more profitably employed convincing the public at large that he was guilty.

            Deterrence only works if it’s a consequence of the undesired behavior. You get punished when you’re found to have commited a crime, so you’re less likely to decide to commit crimes. If you’re randomly punished or not regardless of what you do, you might as well decide as if punishment didn’t exist.

    • Kaminiwa says:

      Just because he violated the rights of others in one way, doesn’t mean it’s hypocritical for him to argue that he has a different set of rights….

      I mean, if nothing else, the state is *punishing* him for what he did to those women. If we consider the two acts to be morally equivalent, then the state should also punish itself for what it did to him.

      • Jiro says:

        This is yet another argument that you could make for prison, and kidnapping.

        “Just because he violated the rights of others in one way (committed a crime), doesn’t mean it’s hypocritical for him to argue that he has a different set of rights (the right not to be kidnapped). If nothing else, the state is *punishing* him for the crime, so if the two acts are equivalent, the state should punish itself for kidnapping.”

        And it gets even better if the crime is also kidnapping, since it’s not even a different set of rights any more, it’s the *same* set of rights.

        • Mary says:

          Yeah. If you want to watch an opponent of capital punishment who says, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show people killing people is wrong?” fall into incoherence, point out that prison is kidnapping, fines are theft, corporal punishment is assault and battery, etc.

          Normal response is, alas, to pontificate that they are different because the punishment is legal, and a complete mental disconnect between that and the notion that the same rule apply to capital punishment.

  40. onyomi says:

    I always found Gaelic spelling super annoying until just now when I actually thought about it and realized it’s probably a linguist’s treasure trove in that it preserves all kinds of weird, probably ancient phonemes, thereby allowing us to see how one pronunciation elided into a bunch of other pronunciations over time, probably due to what are called “markedness” constraints (that is, the theory that some sounds are universally more work to produce and therefore tend to get dropped except when needed to preserve a semantic distinction).

    In this sense, Gaelic seems almost like Chinese, where one written language (which does have a weak phonetic component) comes to be pronounced in a million different ways while the writing stays the same, but uniquely unhelpful at letting you guess how it should be pronounced in any given place 3000 years after its development.

  41. onyomi says:

    In defense of the Chinese, they have a long history of apotheosizing historical figures in a way which, to a Westerner, seems weird. It’s like “so you worship this Lord Guan guy because…?” “Because he was a loyal retainer and a great warrior?” “But did he have, like, magic powers or anything? Was he the son of a god or something? Did he espouse a really compelling metaphysics??” “No, he was just a really great guy?”

    Then again, are we sure we don’t do this at all?
    http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/gallery/files/2011/10/jobs4.jpg

    • Steven says:

      It doesn’t seem particularly weird to me — but then, I was raised Catholic (saints), and know about the ancient Greek hero cults.

      • onyomi says:

        Well, I guess the difference is that saints are generally believed to have performed miracles, and people don’t make “sacrifices” to them of so visceral a nature as pig’s blood, but they do, of course, “offer” (as opposed to sacrifice) candles, flowers, etc. so the underlying impulse is probably the same.

        Don’t know as much about Greek heroes, but don’t most of them have at least a little divine ancestry, like Odysseus being the great-grandson of Hermes, to say nothing of the demigods? Was it typical for them to worship or make sacrifice to guys who were just really great, but had no particular divine quality (though I guess most super-great people were retroactively fitted with divine origin stories)?

        I guess the Chinese case is interesting to me because there’s no need for the person to have been holy or divine in life, or to have had special origins (though again, they are often retrofitted with them), in order to merit worship after death, though this may have to do with the Chinese conception of the afterlife being like a bureaucracy in which outstanding people could get “promoted.”

        Related, I was watching a documentary about an eye doctor traveling to North Korea to perform cataract surgery. He performed something like a thousand surgeries while he was there, most of them apparently pretty successful. The first thing all the patients did when they opened their eyes and saw for the first time in many years was to stare at the portrait of “dear leader” and praise him to the heavens for restoring their sight. There was not even a whisper of “thank you, mister foreign doctor.” It was very reminiscent of someone giving thanks to God for a blessing in the West, except God gets less credit than Dear Leader.

        Of course, much of it may have been performance for others to see how loyal they were, but at a certain point performance blurs into reality. Very creepy.

        • RCF says:

          At least in Catholic theology, as I understand it, what happens is people pray to someone saying “I’d really like to be cured of cancer”, and then if that person is in heaven, they say to God “Hey, this guy would like be cured of cancer”, and if they lived a good life, then God says, “Well, since you are such a great guy, I’ll listen to who you think should be cured of cancer”, and then God cures the guy’s cancer. On the other hand, if you pray to someone who’s in hell, that doesn’t do crap. So if praying to someone causes miracles, then that someone must be in heaven, so they’re a saint (in Catholic theology, everyone in heaven is a saint; the canonization process doesn’t “make” someone a saint, it just says “It’s so obvious this person is in heaven that we can say for certain that they’re a saint”). Saints don’t actually perform miracles, they just “intercede” on your behalf, talking God into performing miracles. They’re like celestial lobbyists.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I understand that one doesn’t technically “worship” saints, but rather implores their “intercession,” so to speak, but this seems very much to me like a retrofitted theological explanation designed to square common, traditional practice with monotheism.

            In practice, people do “worship” the Virgin Mary like a mother goddess, Jesus as a different figure from the father, and so on.

            Not strange that it should be so, of course, whether one is a theist or an atheist: if a theist, there can only be one spiritual reality, so it isn’t strange that different cultures and traditions approach it in similar ways. Even if an atheist, it seems clear there is some sort of religious impulse in the human mind, so it should not be strange to see it manifesting in similar ways cross-culturally (though believing in the biology of that impulse does not preclude theism, either).

          • Mary says:

            “In practice, people do “worship” the Virgin Mary like a mother goddess, Jesus as a different figure from the father, and so on.”

            On what grounds do you make this assertion?

          • onyomi says:

            Growing up in a city with lots of Catholics. Going to a Catholic high school. Visiting many Catholic churches.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            On what grounds do you make this assertion?

            I grew up as a Catholic in a Catholic family in a Catholic country, and this matches my memories pretty well. Sophisticated theologians may make a careful distinction, but as far as the masses are concerned, the Roman Catholic saint system is just polytheism lite.

          • Cauê says:

            “On what grounds do you make this assertion?”

            Well, speaking from Brazil, the assertion looks not only true, but obvious.

            (my mother is a lay catechist)

          • Mary says:

            Please be more specific. In particular, how would you tell whether it’s veneration or worship?

          • Cauê says:

            Can you clarify the distinction?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            ‘Worship’ is easier to spell.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Please be more specific. In particular, how would you tell whether it’s veneration or worship?

            If veneration is different from worship, I would expect there to be some difference in the practices of Catholics and polytheists, but they seem virtually identical to me. Both build little altars to their preferred saint/god using pictures or effigies and offer candles and incense and flowers and prayers and stuff in return for favor. Their language is also the same; Catholics always talk about saint so and so granting a miracle, never about saint so and so interceding before God to convince him to grant a miracle. You could say that this is just figure of speech, but I bet that if you went up to most normal Catholics and asked them about it they would not be aware of the official theological justification for how praying to saints causes miracles.

            Again, I’m talking about the rank and file Catholics here. Likely most to all priests and nuns and their superiors are perfectly aware of how veneration is supposed to be different from worship. It’s like the germ theory of disease; a few highly intelligent and educated people understand the causal mechanisms for microbial pathogen transmissions and can make successful predictions and interventions based on it, but for most people washing their hands and boiling their water might as well be rituals warding off the evil spirits that cause illness.

  42. suntzuanime says:

    Nuking the moon makes perfect sense to me. A nation that can nuke the moon can nuke damn near anything, and vividly demonstrating that you can nuke damn near anything is a good way to put fear in the hearts of your geopolitical rivals.

    The bit about “boosting domestic morale” is a thin hypocritical cover, because it’s not polite to talk openly about blowing up the moon so that all will cower in fear. It’s not too much worse a cover than sending dudes to the moon “because it’s hard”, though. A nation that can send dudes to the moon could send a nuke to the moon, a nation that can nuke the moon can nuke damn near anything, and it’s worth risking a few lives so that we are only alluding to blowing up the moon instead of doing it openly.

    • Deiseach says:

      I would very strongly object to destroying the moon because the moon is beautiful, and what good does destroying beauty do?

      But it means we have devices that can kill more people at one time than anyone else ever had before!

      And this is something you would wish to boast of? It’s something you should be ashamed of, like someone who says “I skin and eat people!”

      • suntzuanime says:

        In a nice, friendly, civilized environment, a reputation for skinning and eating people is something to be ashamed of. In a cutthroat environment, it’s a good way to protect yourself, because nobody’s going to want to fuck with the guy who skins and eats people. Geopolitics during the Cold War was more the latter scenario than the former (but still the former enough that we sent guys to the moon instead of nuking it outright).

        • Deiseach says:

          If no-one wants to mess with the guy who skins and eats people, then it becomes in a perverse way a badge of status to be a people-skinner-and-eater, and then it becomes admirable behaviour, and then those who don’t skin and eat people are the weird, strange, weak wusses who deserve to be skinned and eaten.

          Anyway, even if the U.S. wanted to be the biggest dog eating the little dogs, it would still be a wrong act depriving the universe of a real good for it to destroy the moon, and it would still be shameful even if we were a world crawling in our own filth.

          • satanistgoblin says:

            No one is talking about destroying the moon. It would require insane amount of energy and probably kill us all. Only exploding nukes on the moon.

          • Moloch says:

            If no-one wants to mess with the guy who skins and eats people, then it becomes in a perverse way a badge of status to be a people-skinner-and-eater, and then it becomes admirable behaviour, and then those who don’t skin and eat people are the weird, strange, weak wusses who deserve to be skinned and eaten.

            Moloch notices that you have found one of his Coordination Problems, and decided not to provide a solution.

            Moloch appreciates this.

      • MugaSofer says:

        >I would very strongly object to destroying the moon because the moon is beautiful, and what good does destroying beauty do?

        Nuking the moon would not destroy it.

        >And this is something you would wish to boast of? It’s something you should be ashamed of, like someone who says “I skin and eat people!”

        Well … from a purely altruistic perspective, if everyone’s cowering in fear then you can pretty much rule the world, right?

        The flaw in this plan is, of course, the existence of other people with nukes.

        • Deiseach says:

          How is it altruistic to have everyone cowering in fear? They’re scared because you’re so nice and going to do so much good for them?

          Yes, that’s why we hide under our beds on Christmas Eve and parents threaten their children “If you don’t behave, Santa Claus will give you a present!” 🙂

          This is the Futurama version of Santa, right?

          • MugaSofer says:

            >How is it altruistic to have everyone cowering in fear?

            Think Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, more than Futurama.

            Or maybe colonialism? Let’s conquor the world so we can fix all the bits we don’t like, that sort of thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        I would very strongly object to destroying the moon because the moon is beautiful, and what good does destroying beauty do?

        Well, this, but that’s a fairly restricted benefit.

        More seriously, as others have noted, the proposal was to put a small crater on the Moon while producing a barely-visible flash of light. Actually destroying the Moon would require several billion times the total yield of all the nuclear weapons ever produced, and that only if you could bury them arbitrarily deep in the lunar core.

        There is a tendency to treat “nuclear” as a synonym for “infinitely destructive”. Really, nuclear weapons are barely noticeable on astronomical or even geological scales.

        • Mary says:

          Basically this, a little toned down by the decreased mass:

          Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

          You’ve seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You’ve heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.

          Fools.

          The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you’ve had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

          more here:
          http://qntm.org/destroy

          • Deiseach says:

            But Mary – global warming! Are you a climate change denialist? HERETIC! BURN HER AT THE (CARBON-OFFSET PURCHASED) STAKE!!!! 🙂

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, not destroying the moon – good.

          Doing something to show “We can’t destroy the moon but we can destroy you” – not so good.

          Using the moon to be assholes – still not approving of this, I’m afraid.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          More seriously, as others have noted, the proposal was to put a small crater on the Moon while producing a barely-visible flash of light.

          That would be even easier to fake than the Apollo landing was.

      • RCF says:

        There is a rather large distinction between “I am capable of skinning and eating people” and “I skin and eat people”, much like there is a distinction between Mitt Romney’s actual comment that he prefers to have the option of firing someone if they’re not doing their job, and the allegation that he enjoys firing people.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think I’m beginning to be scared of the rest of you, given that the tenor of this part of the thread seems to be “No, it wasn’t about blowing up the moon, we can’t do that (unfortunately) but wouldn’t it be cool if we did because our geo-political entity could rule the entire world through fear? But only in a benevolent way, of course!” 🙂

          Also, do any of you have a personal sense of beauty or aesthetics to go along with whatever ethical system you adopt? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “This is my favourite artist” or “This painting/piece of music/natural phenomenon pierces me with so plangent a sense of beauty, I weep”?

          • MugaSofer says:

            There’s the whole Rationalist Fiction community on Reddit? And I remember HPMOR getting some pretty lovely, abstract “fanart” music.

            Then again, the Moon ain’t all that. Just a big sky-circle 😛

          • Nick says:

            What, no mention of architectural beauty?! 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            I must be completely unsuited to be a rationalist, given that by all descriptions of HPMOR I’ve seen, I would rather poke my eyes out with sporks than read it 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            Nick, one person’s architectural beauty is another person’s hideous carbuncle 🙂

            Some of the modern vanity projects, like The Gherkin, or the “Who can build the tallest building in the world okay so we stuck an extra three inches on our antennae we win”, strike me as having less to do with concepts of beauty and more to do with, um, whipping it out and going for the measuring tape 🙂

            Though by comparison with The Shard, The Gherkin looks positively home-like and welcoming. Oh look, someone decided to have a go at creating their version of Isengard!

          • Nick says:

            Hey, I’m no fan of The Shard, but the Gherkin is actually pretty nice! But I have a soft spot for a lot of ultra-modern skyscraper architecture; I’m one of those crazy skyscraper enthusiasts Scott is so afraid of.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “It’s not polite to talk openly about blowing up the moon so that all will cower in fear” is the best sentence I have read all day.

    • AR+ says:

      I don’t think that’s a valid point in this context because it is much easier to prove that you can nuke anywhere by putting something into orbit. This is why Sputnik was so distressing, and which basically proved that entire point all by itself. After that, it’s a question of stockpile size and resilience, for which going to Luna proves nothing. Indeed, the US and USSR let each other inspect their stockpiles to make their point w/o having to, say, put a certain number of 200 kiloton nukes into the Pacific every year.

      There is still the general point of, “we’re so much more advanced than you that we put someone on Luna!” Or perhaps also, “we have so much money that we can spend 1% of GDP on something totally useless!” But in terms of demonstrated capability, it proves nothing directly.

    • Jaskology says:

      Everybody here seems to think we need a complex reason to nuke the moon, but the real reason is simple: it would be friggin’ awesome.

      I propose a series of nukes, such that the resulting craters spell out “CHA”

    • Limi says:

      To quote Mr Show (which I would link to if I weren’t on my phone at the moment) ‘We’re Earthlings, let’s blow up Earth things!’

  43. youzicha says:

    Re the Mao sacrifices, note that Chinese folk religion involves regular sacrifices of food items to ancestors. So rather than analyzing this as “treating Mao as a god”, you could perhaps analyze it as “treating Mao as an important dead family member”.

  44. Paul says:

    Venezuela’s the fifth largest oil-exporting country, and the price of oil has fallen by more than half in the last 6 months: http://www.nasdaq.com/markets/crude-oil.aspx?timeframe=1y

    If they were a capitalist country, their economy might still have collapsed given the sudden loss of oil profits. Socialism and massive spending of oil profits on infrastructure probably didn’t help, but aren’t necessarily the only cause.

    • Tarrou says:

      Venezuela was facing serious economic problems before the price of oil tanked, and was instituting price controls and government sanctioned looting of businesses for the past several years. The price of oil is not their problem, although it is the proximate cause of their current issue. They have a system of government that cannot survive oil at below $75 a barrel. That is not an oil problem, it’s a governance problem.

    • McMonster says:

      If the primary cause of Venezuela’s woes are the price of oil, why haven’t the four higher oil exporting countries also faced similar economic conditions?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think the chain of events is Venezuela has terrible economy -> Venezuela props themselves up using oil -> price of oil collapses -> chickens come home to roost.

      • Zac says:

        Yeah, Norway also spends its massive oil revenues on infrastructural improvements but it’s in zero danger of economic collapse. Like others have said, it’s the difference between good governance and corruption.

        • Shieldfoss says:

          Doesn’t hurt Norway that the US government haven’t been doing sphere-of-influence style interventionist policy up there.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I’m not sure what list you’re working from, so I can’t go country by country. but one may note that Venezuela’s a (flawed) democracy whose ruling party legitimizes itself based on improving the standard of living for the long-neglected poor majority, while many of the major oil exporters are viciously repressive authoritarian regimes, often with an Islamist bent and a religious instead of economic legitimacy.

      EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply to McMonster’s comment.

    • Cassander says:

      A large reason for declining oil production, which had been happening for several years, is the Chavez regime diverting money from maintaining the oil infrastructure into vote buying schemes. That, and staffing the national oil company with inept cronies.

  45. Ben says:

    Ritual Circumcision Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism In Young Boys.

    Holy crap there is no way they even got close to controlling for most of the relevant confounders…

    • JYS says:

      ^^ This. 1,000x. This.
      This study needs to be repeated in a country where ethnicity and other lifestyle choices are less tightly coupled with circumcision. (In the developed world, the Unites States would be a reasonably good pick.)
      Also, there falsification testing sucked.
      (http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/methods-falsification-tests/)

    • Mary says:

      Is there anyone here who didn’t think of that instantly on seeing that headline?

      • lmm says:

        Yep. Too busy hoping there was finally a good objective reason to ban that barbarism to think critically about it.

        • No one special says:

          If the anti-circumcision crowd can get 1/10th the attention that the antivax crowd got, they’ll make giant strides forward in public recognition.

    • RCF says:

      We need to pass a law requiring people to have a license to circumcise their son, and then distribute those licenses based on a lottery.

      I also wonder about the word “ritual”. Is medical circumcision not so linked?

    • Agronomous says:

      Presumably, the effect is mediated through gefilte fish consumption.

  46. AR+ says:

    South Park had an episode about the fort and field doctrine in 2003, as pertaining to American foreign policy.

    • Anonymous says:

      We called it “control the definitions” back when I did formal debate. If you have definition control, you’ve won, full stop. Get someone to agree to work under your ideas and they can’t exactly mount an attack against them, now can they?

  47. Joe says:

    I thought you might be interested in this address by Pope Pius XII.
    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12PSYRE.HTM

    Also this publisher has an excellent Catholic psychology page with books that may provide a clue as to why Christianity took of as well as it did.

    http://www.booksforcatholics.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=B&Category_Code=Catholic_Psychology

  48. Anonymous says:

    It is completely unethical and immoral for the FDA to disallow testing of psychedelics. For sufferers of cluster headaches, psychedelics are pretty much the only form of relief when in a cluster. There is no legal way to get the needed substances in the US, so we are forced to use ummm… questionable means. Dosing is unpredictable, purity is a concern, but the alternative for many is suicide.

    I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use any other drugs. I even obey the speed limit. But for me to treat a debilitating illness, I am forced to risk my career, my freedom, and the ability to support my family.

  49. I totally support this mammoth cloning effort, and I look forward to the day when my children will be able to see a real live mammoth. I also look forward to the movie Paleolithic Park, in which a greedy capitalist, hubristic scientists, and a few plucky kids get chased across the Canadian tundra by woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and dire wolves.

    • John Schilling says:

      Canadians, contrary to popular belief and unlike the protagonists of that Michael Crichton story, have a very pragmatic attitude regarding the utility of firearms. And extensive experience dealing with hostile carnivorous megafauna. And the surviving descendants of the people who dealt with mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and dire wolves the first time around, with only pointy sticks.

      I do agree that your scenario would make for an entertaining story, but in roughly the same sense that Tremors was a fun movie. “Broke into the wrong goddamn pacifist utopia, didn’t ya!”.

  50. H says:

    Grammatical correction, if I may.

    The Impending Collapse Of Venezuela looks pretty grim, with the only upshot being hopefully this will encourage them to get a competent government and end up better off.

    The word “upshot” means “final outcome” or “central point”, not “benefit”.

  51. Joe says:

    Has anyone else pointed out how hysterical it is that the boy that didn’t visit heaven has the last name Malarkey?
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/malarkey

  52. Dude Man says:

    The problems with that austerity paper are (warning: I am not an economist and may be wrong about everything):

    1. It’s just one paper in a heavily studied area. A more detailed literature review would be needed to answer the question posed by the study.
    2. Commentators on Marginal Revolution are implying that the study in question has been debunked. I am not familiar enough with this study to know if that’s true, but if it is then that’s a pretty big problem.
    3. From the abstract: “Our results, however, are mute on the question whether the countries we have studied did the right thing implementing fiscal austerity at the time they did, that is 2009-13.” Whether or not Europe was right to do austerity is the pertinent question. All the link study does is test to see which of the two main ways to perform austerity has less harmful side effects. Much more research would be needed to understand if austerity “worked”.

    IIRC from the laughably little I know about the literature, there does seem to be some evidence that austerity should take the form of spending cuts instead of tax hikes, but that does not mean that the PIIGS should have conducted austerity when they did. Again, I am not an economist so I could be laughably wrong about everything that I had just said.

    On a side note, isn’t Robin Hanson’s proposal the plot of Robocop 2? Is that what Scott was getting at when he said it sounded familiar? Somewhere in there is a rant I could make about how the rationalist community could probably use a bigger dose of caution when making grand proposals like this, but I just haven’t figured out what that rant would be.

    I haven’t had time to read the comments yet, so I apologize if I’m just rehashing what others have said.

    • lmm says:

      “It went wrong in a movie” is not usually a good reason to not do something.

      • Dude Man says:

        The Robocop 2 thing was mostly an observation and not a point against the proposal. My proposed rant would be less “this failed in Robocop 2” and more “for a community that focuses so heavily on biases and incentives, you sure do like to toss those things when making proposals like these.” Throw in some nods to public choice theory and the necessity around having Schelling Points about not doing certain proposals because they can so easily go wrong (eugenics would be the go to example of this) and I could have a nice rant going.

    • The Dancing Judge says:

      It also sounds familiar b/c of NRX

  53. Lou says:

    About the Venezuelan woes, it’s honestly unfair to single it out as “socialism doesn’t work”. Americans are used to associate empty market shelves with the Soviet Union, but many Latin American countries went through severe shortages like these, and needless to say, they were in rightwing dictatorships or flimsy democracies, not socialism.

    But then again, the facts won’t matter in the least and it will just get pinned onto socialism anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which ones?

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        He is refering to the Latin American debt crisis that occured in the 1970s- 80s.

        What happened is that loans and oil were cheap and the Latin American states were able to spend on import substitution program and social programs. Then the oil crisis hit, cheap money ended, imports got expensive and loans were called in. The result was an economic collapse.

        They were forced to turn to the IMF who enforced austerity; the results were unpopular and helped lead to the collapse of the dictatorial regimes.

    • Wrong Species says:

      This isn’t “singling out”. Countries with extensive economic planning fail. This is just the latest result.

      • thirqual says:

        China may want a word with you.
        Also France (and other western European countries to a lesser degree), after ww2 and until the 80s. See Dirigisme.

    • RCF says:

      “There are other systems that are capable of failing” isn’t really a rebuttal to “This system fails”.

      • MugaSofer says:

        If all the systems that fail have something in common, and it isn’t “socialism”, then that does seem like evidence against socialism/central planning causing failure directly. Correlation vs. causation, right?

        • Anthony says:

          Not necessarily. Many countries have massive economic failures. All socialist ones do, as do a number of non-socialist ones. We still have the correlation (and the theoretical background to imply and test for causation) that socialism=>economic failure. What would be an interesting problem is discovering what the non-socialist economic failures have in common.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      No country has a zero level of welfare or infrastructure investments so where is the bright line between socialism and nonsocialism? Maybe too much doesn’t work, but too much of anything doesn’t work…that is built into the meaning of too much.

      • John Schilling says:

        No country has a zero level of bigotry or prejudice, so where is the bright line between tolerance and intolerance? Maybe too much doesn’t work, but…

        Maybe “Everyone else does [X]” plus some people wanting to do more [X], is not a strong argument for even a little bit of [X] actually being a good thing. And certainly “Where’s the bright line…” ought to suggest incipient mission creep and a slippery slope not too far away.

    • Cauê says:

      The rightwing dictatorships you speak of promoted statization of the economy with focus on big state monopolies, restriction of imports, and the ocasional efforts at price controls.

      Not really a proper counterexample.

  54. I have a suspicion that there’s a generalization of the concept of religion that includes things like communism; they seem to me to be likely to be related both sociologically and psychologically. But I don’t have any idea as to how one might go about formalizing this, never mind testing it.

    On the subject of science as a career, it seems to me that academic research is very much a lifestyle choice; I think that most academics wouldn’t accept a teaching-only job even if it paid just as well as teaching-plus-research. In a way, the opportunity to do research may be part of an academic’s pay as much as it is part of their job description. (Mind you, I’m not an academic myself, though I work at a University. By the time I finished my PhD I’d realized that I’m not really temperamentally suited to research.)

    • Anonymous says:

      “I have a suspicion that there’s a generalization of the concept of religion that includes things like communism”

      Civil religion?

    • Emile says:

      I have a suspicion that there’s a generalization of the concept of religion that includes things like communism;

      “Ideology” seems to fit the bill.

      • No, that’s *too* broad.

        I think Caue’s link to Eleizer’s blog post is spot on. It doesn’t exactly give the phenomenon a catchy name, but it describes it perfectly.

    • Cauê says:

      I remember Eliezer writing about one aspect of this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/lo/uncritical_supercriticality/

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      See e.g. this.

    • TACJ says:

      I have a suspicion that there’s a generalization of the concept of religion that includes things like capitalism, they seem to me to be likely to be related both sociologically and psychologically.

      As others have pointed out, this concept is often referred to as ‘ideology’.

      • I’m not sure that capitalism as a concept can be described as religion-like, though specific variants might be. (Free market theory, perhaps.) I’m not sure it’s even an ideology proper (a broader concept IMO) except in the “not collecting stamps is a hobby” sense.

        Capitalism does depend upon the acceptance of currency and of private property, but I think those are fairly pragmatic social choices. As far as I know, they were invented (or imported) in every society that reached the point where they were useful, unless specifically prohibited for ideological reasons.

        Given those two dependencies, isn’t capitalism something that just develops spontaneously, rather than needing to be ideologically driven?

        • TACJ says:

          I don’t see why something that develops spontaneously can’t also be ideologically driven.

          Capitalism came about because the social system that preceded it was destroyed, and it was destroyed because its destruction served the interest of the emerging class of capitalists. In doing so, they concocted an ideology that held private property as a natural, inevitable, and spontaneous principle of human existence.

          Capitalism was inflicted on the common people of Britain just as surely as communism was inflicted on the common people of Russia. In both cases people were forced from their homes and their lifestyles into circumstances that – for several generations, at least – were inferior to the manner in which they had lived before.

          It is a common characteristic of powerful ideologies that its proponents believe it not to be an ideology; but to be a natural, inevitable, and spontaneous fact of human existence.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Capitalism was inflicted on the common people of Britain just as surely as communism was inflicted on the common people of Russia. In both cases people were forced from their homes and their lifestyles [….]

            This is interesting. If you have time, could you give some more detail on what the system was in Britain previously?

          • Nornagest says:

            TACJ is probably referring to the enclosure of the commons, which has enjoyed something of a renaissance in certain circles in the last year or so.

            Its actual historical context and relationship to capitalism is not straightforward.

          • OK, you’re using “capitalism” with a much narrower meaning than the one I’m familiar with. Perhaps what I would call “industrialization”?

            (I don’t quite see the relevance to my original observation, but I don’t suppose it matters.)

  55. chamomile geode says:

    i’m so excited about the psychedelic study–it’s nice to know that lifetime use has some evidence of being helpful. i thought i’d drop off these links to various studies here, which relate to the wider discussion about psychadelics & mental health–each discusses a more narrow segment of how the two relate.

    on psilocybin & fear conditioning:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23727882

    on psilocybin & anxiety:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20819978

    on the psychological effects of “mystical-type”* experiences induced by psilocybin
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21674151

    just some basic psilocybin info:
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-003-1640-6#page-1

    *quoted directly from the study’s title. for some reason i always think that wording is hilarious

  56. Anonymous says:

    >Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses

    I mean, an attempt *was* made in the form of using GRE scores to control for differences in actual ability, right? That’s what the article said.

    Now, that might not exactly be a valid way to address that hypothesis, but it’s not like they plugged their ears and went lalala.

    • anonymous says:

      Yeah, when I actually looked at the study, I felt Scott was being uncharitable in his comments about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m gonna chalk it up to him probably not reading it in detail.

        Still though. *Light wrist slap*.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      If you adjust GRE scores for standard deviations above the mean, the two highest graduate departments are those with perhaps the biggest Male Genius Complexes:

      1. Physics & Astronomy
      2. Philosophy
      3. Mathematical Sciences
      4. Materials Engineering
      5. Economics

      Last place is Social Work.

      http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/08/graduate-record-exam-scores-by-graduate.html

      • Will says:

        I think this is skewed because we expect quantitative majors to do better on the quant GRE.

        Maybe it would be better to only compare verbal scores?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m aware – my point is less to argue for a particular gender/IQ hypothesis and more to point out that the researchers did consider the possibility and attempt to control for it.

      • Setsize says:

        It is surprisingly easy for someone who went through normal engineering-level math in college to hit 800 on the quant GRE, such that it’s practically a requirement if applying for a good grad school in a quantitative field. It’s a measure of having taken the prerequisites, and of the grad department caring, not an intrinsic ability scale.

  57. Dan Simon says:

    I’d like to see a really good analysis by someone who understands economics of why the science job market is so terrible.

    The science job market is doing just fine. The academic/research job market is doing terribly, whether in science or anything else, for the obvious reason that it consists basically of government-funded sinecures with undeservedly high pay, minimal accountability and spectacularly good working conditions, and therefore understandably attracts far more applicants than it can possibly employ.

    • Anthony says:

      As I understand it, the *science* job market is not doing fine, though the engineering job market is. The problem is that for a variety of reasons, employing scientists as scientists doesn’t generate enough revenue to employ everyone who is qualified to work as a scientist. Read Derek Lowe’s blog In The Pipeline for some of the reasons the job market isn’t working that well in drug discovery.

  58. Dan Simon says:

    Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”.

    There seems to be a bit of confusion here around different notions of “offensive”. Certain kinds of hate speech are banned in France and other countries in Europe, but not because they offend the target groups. If you say, “members of group x should all be slaughtered”, you’re expressing hate speech, irrespective of the identity of group x, and are therefore committing a crime according to these laws. That’s not because the hate speech is “offensive” to anyone in particular, but rather because it’s advocating hatred against a particular group, and therefore considered morally objectionable by society as a whole.

    This is obviously anathema to a large number–possibly even a majority–of Americans, and is certainly incompatible with the First Amendment. But it has nothing to do with who does or doesn’t find something “offensive”.

    On the other hand, one particular group–Muslim extremists and their supporters/apologists–believe that simply saying or doing something which they find deeply offensive, according to their own beliefs and values, such as depicting Mohammed or burning a Koran, is a punishable offense. This is distinct from the views of other major religions, which obviously don’t approve of behaviors they find offensive, but do not deem them worthy of direct earthly punishment. And it is distinct from “hate speech” laws, which deem certain words or deeds punishable irrespective of what their target group thinks of them.

    From a legal point of view, the important distinction is that the definition of forbidden “hate speech” is a matter of public consensus and explicit legal codification, whereas the definition of “offensiveness” is left to individual groups to define for themselves and change at will. That’s why punishing–let alone a particular group taking it on themselves to punish–the latter should be considered by far the more dangerous precedent than the passage of laws punishing the former, even by those who consider laws punishing the former to be illegitimate on “free speech” grounds.

    • fubarobfusco says:

      There is a big difference between:

      1. “Those people wear big hats, have a dumb religion, and talk strange! Ha ha!”

      2. “The preacher in that church, and some of the members, have taken to beating members’ daughters who have boyfriends outside the church. Beating people is illegal, even if you think you’re doing it for religion. They should be prosecuted, not for their religious beliefs, but for beating people.”

      3. “Those people are barbarians and should all be killed! If any of them are listening, they’d better run like hell before we kick their asses!”

      4. “Religion of holiness? More like religion of assholiness! Can you imagine what their prayers must be like? ‘Mumbo jumbo, God in Heaven, please bless this stick I’m gonna use to beat my slut-ass daughter. May it strike true and deliver her unto her rightful position in this our sacred patriarchy. In the name of the Father and the Bro and the Red Pill, om shantih bismillah, amen.'”

      1 is plain old mockery of people different from you. 2 is a criticism of a specific practice by specific individuals — not attributing it to a whole religious or cultural group. 3 is a call to violence and a direct criminal threat.

      4 is sort of a combination of 1 and 2, but certainly not 3. It combines mockery of outsiders with a specific criticism. Depending on the audience, the mockery could either focus attention on the criticism, or distract attention from it.

  59. Anonymous says:

    I was disappointed by the “Science Will Cost You Your First-Born” link. I wanted to see a graph of number of children produced, by age, for scientists versus (demographically similar) non-scientists. Instead I got some dude complaining his job doesn’t pay enough. (And he estimates that, if he were paid more, the amount of salary increase he might get would be comparable to the cost of raising a child.)

    Having a lot of money is not the most difficult part of being a parent!

  60. Zorgon says:

    On a not-quite-connected note, my wife is currently undergoing treatment for her MS using leukaemia chemo, albeit without the stem cells. She’s having slow, regular low-dose chemo treatment and it’s worked pretty solidly, as she’s thoroughly in remission.

    The stem cell treatment is interesting but I can’t imagine I’ll see it available on the NHS any time soon.

    • Jade Nekotenshi says:

      I’ve heard of using mitoxantrone (an anthracenedione cytotoxic agent) to treat MS, as an option when none of the usual drugs work. Last I knew, it wasn’t very well understood why it worked, but given that it did, I’m not surprised that SCT is effective too.

      In fact, I’m somewhat surprised it took someone this long to think of it, and that it hasn’t been hit into serendipitously before.

  61. Troletarian says:

    Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”.

    This has been true for some time.

  62. pliny says:

    It’s been a long time since I followed a TV show. Maybe I should watch Game of Thrones. Based on Rotten Tomatoes I might start with Season 2. The first season can be kind of a rough draft.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can’t tell if your joking or not… but do not start with season 2 unless you’ve already read the books. The Game of Thrones is really, really serialized and you will be very confused going into the second season.

      • pliny says:

        The first season got 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. The second got 97%, but 97% plus confusion might be worse than 83%…so…yeah. True.

        • RCF says:

          And, also, selection bias. 97% of people who liked Season One enough to watch Season Two rated it favorably.

  63. pliny says:

    Robin Hanson five years ago:

    We want to assert our higher status, but as with animals, we do not want to seem to enjoy their pain. This is of course not about the prisoner at all (who we are killing); it is about us signaling our good features to observers. We do this not just in executions, but more broadly in our entire system of criminal law, and at great expense. Let me explain.

    • Jiro says:

      My response to Robin is the old joke “who are you calling ‘we’, white man?”

      The reason we do ridiculous things to ensure that executed prisoners don’t suffer is that the “we” who wants to execute prisoners and the “we” who tries to reduce their suffering are two different groups of people.

      The second group is not mainly concerned with suffering, but with nickel-and-diming the execution process by claiming that some arbitrary feature of the execution causes enough suffering that the execution should be stopped. Every so often they lose a court case and you end up with one method of execution that is not prone to nuisance lawsuits as long as you execute the prisoner in the exact manner ruled by that court case to be okay (which includes arbitrary restrictions based on losses in other court cases).

      • John Schilling says:

        The desire for humane, or at least quick and painless, methods of execution, I believe long predates serious legal challenges to capital punishment. Or even serious moral challenges, I think.

        Even people who are absolutely certain they want some criminals to die, and face no meaningful opposition to this goal, usually want them to die quickly and painlessly. And even the people who want some criminals to die horribly by slow torture, generally want a quick and painless death available to offer some other criminals.

        • Jiro says:

          There’s something else behind that: since many people enjoy inflicting pain, inflicting pain on prisoners is likely to be a conflict of interest unless the person inflicting the pain has absolutely no discretion in how to do so. The same goes for raping prisoners. People who genuinely want to punish prisoners to stop or deter crime or to give the prisoner what he deserves are aware that conflicts of interest can corrupt the process.

      • pliny says:

        Hanson’s argument applies to more than capital punishment. He could be right, although he doesn’t seem to offer much evidence it’s signaling at work and not something else.

        With Scott’s euthanasia example, languishing in jail might be pointlessly expensive.

  64. William Eden says:

    Re: science job market, it’s more or less actually just a cryptic labor market, with little intention of tracking the applicants for tenured professorships.

    Several big names in the biomed field have even come together to openly talk about these problems, currently to no avail: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/5773.full

  65. John Maxwell IV says:

    I wonder if Christianity is one of the few religions that actually grows when authorities try to stamp it out and that’s a big reason why it’s historically done so well?

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      It definitely offers affirmation to the oppressed. Timothy 3:12 says…

      Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

    • MugaSofer says:

      It definitely seems optimized for that task, and it succeeded in the USSR, so … yeah, seems pretty plausible.

    • Nick says:

      It depends a lot on how one tries to suppress it, doesn’t it? Look at e.g. the treatment of Catholicism in Japan.

    • anoymous says:

      I think it really took off when it became the state religion and if you wanted a job in the Roman government, you had to be Christian.

      • Jaskologist says:

        It had been spreading for a good 300 years before then, in spite of repeated and sometimes severe government attempts to exterminate it. That phase needs its own explanation.

        • Brad says:

          I believe, frankly, the straightforward, traditional Christian answer here: that such a period of growth is implausible and unexplainable without appealing to the power of God.

          We’re talking about a religion that not only persists, but grows, even as it stands in opposition to all existing power structures around it (political, religious, social), and as it offers basically no particularly meaningful worldly gain to entice followers. (“Why, yes, I would like to be excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured and executed for joining your religion, that sounds great. Where do I sign up?”). I mean, the symbol of the religion is a *crucifix*, a symbol of execution, and specifically, a form of execution consider the absolute worst way to die to the Jews and the Romans alike. This seems like a strange way to attract followers, and it seems like the early church was not unaware of the irony: see 1 Corinthians 1:17-31. For examples of this from that passage:

          >18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

          and

          >22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

          It has also been pointed out by many (in my experience, usually non-religious) observers that Christian conceptions of heaven seem …boring. To jump forward about 7 centuries, compare, say, worshipping God for all eternity (Christianity) with, say, getting 72 virgins and a variety of carnal pleasures (Islam) – one of these sounds more intuitively appealing at first blush.

          Which brings us to another point: I have yet to hear a satisfying explanation for why, for instance, the original 11 surviving apostles believed there was a resurrection of Christ at all (which was idiosyncratically distinct from then-contemporary Jewish conceptions of what resurrection of the dead would entail), or where such a belief would originate, if one rejects miraculous explanations a priori. Explanations like the swoon theory, wrong tomb theory, (as well as the more exotic explanations, like “Jesus never existed / it’s a conspiracy” theory, “Jesus had a long-lost twin who looked just like him,” theory, and the “Jesus was a code word for hallucinogenic mushrooms” theory) don’t seem satisfactory to me for explaining why these guys – and others! – were so (unreasonably!) emphatic in their belief that Jesus Christ had risen from the grave. And it does seem like this was regarded as a historical event by the early church; see 1 Corinthians 15:3-9, among other passages. To tie this in to the earlier paragraph on growth in persecution, I have heard it said that a key part of the early church message was the resurrection; it is much easier to understand such emphatic enthusiasm in the face of imprisonment and death, in light of a very strong belief in the resurrection of the dead, followed by divine judgment/reward.

        • Anonymous says:

          It looks like a lot of “persecution” of Christians by the Romans was largely fabricated.

          Also, the growth rate of Christianity at its inception is the same as the growth rate for Mormonism. So if Christianity’s success was due to divine intervention, then so is Mormonism’s :O

          • Jaskologist says:

            Bollocks. You can argue that the view held by some of a constant, bloody, centuries-long persecution is false, but that’s like arguing against Christianity by saying Jesus wasn’t really born on Dec 25. There may be people in the pews who believe it, but it hasn’t been the informed opinion for ages.

            Persecution was sporadic and ad-hoc depending on where you were, but for the first three centuries it was always a possibility, and sometimes it was very severe. Nero really did try to foist the blame for the fire on the Christians, as reported by Tacitus. Pliny really did torture and execute Christians, even if he and Trajan preferred a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, as reported by himself. The Diocletian Persecution really did happen, and it happened hard.

          • Protagoras says:

            But thriving in the face of inconsistent, sporadic persecution isn’t remotely surprising or impressive. Successful persecution is hard; if it’s done wrong, it tends to produce a sense of unity among the persecuted people with a shared enemy to face together.

          • I wrote a comment largely similar to Jaskologist, but the interwebs ate it. (Thrice! My hypothesis is that the internet hates Jesus, and the don’t call them “daemons” for nothing.)

            It seems to me that there’s a little motte-and-bailey going on with Moss’s book. Her actual arguments demonstrate that persecution was intermittent, and that martyrdom narratives contain elements from other genres and are probably exaggerated. These things are true, but also aren’t really news to anyone who’s looked into the matter. On the other hand, her title and her most favorable reviewers seem to leave the impression that persecution of Christians was entirely mythical, which is completely false. I think most people casually acquainted with the evidence (like the Anonymous above) will fall for the bailey, without Moss herself having to assert anything so obviously false.

        • mkehrt says:

          The Roman persecution of Christians is *mostly* a Christian myth. There are two notable exceptions, the persecutions under Nero, and the persecutions under Dominitian, and intermittent local persecutions. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Christian_policies_in_the_Roman_Empire#History_of_the_imperial_anti-Christian_policies

          For the most part, Christianity under Rome was just another mystery religion, made possibly more popular by its adoption of Greek philosophy, and its similarity to Mithraism, which was actually the state religion in much of the 200s.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I don’t see how you read through that long list and conclude that persecution was a myth. It was significant enough at the founding to take almost all the apostles, and flared up often enough that Tertullian is notable among the church fathers for *not* being martyred. I haven’t done the math, but I’d venture to say that for the first few centuries, there was always a persecution that had occurred within living memory.

        • Anonymous says:

          Terribly late to the party here, sorry, but this is what I remember from my History of Christianity course:
          Christianity succeeded initially because it was the first exclusive religion. Even Judaism at the time said “you shall place no gods before me” as in Jehovah is the chief God, not the only god. The pagan religions saw absolutely no problem in believing in bot Zeus and Aphrodite, even allowing for belief in the first place. The pagans were quite aware that the gods were anthropomorphic and would have heard “do you believe in Aphrodite?” As: “do you believe in human sexual attraction?” The likely response would have been “huh?”
          Simply being exclusive gave Christianity an unfair advantage.

          • Nornagest says:

            My understanding is that Judaism is likely to have been henotheistic at one time (when, or shortly before, its earliest surviving holy texts were written), but had been fully monotheistic for centuries by the time Christianity came around. There were also other early experiments like the Egyptian cult of Aten.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Certainly, that idea is built into Christianity’s self-conception. On the other hand, Islam seems to be pretty successful at suppressing it, as were China and Japan in times past.*

      * One could dispute here that the Nestorians, being heretics, weren’t actually Christian.

  66. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Chaos Patch (#45)

  67. Null Null says:

    Here’s an unpleasant explanation I haven’t heard anyone bring up, which I’d like to hear people’s opinion on: there is a pool of (bright) people with social skills too poor to do anything else who are forced to go into science because they have no other options.

    No, I’m not trying to insult scientists: I may well be in this situation myself. But what do you all think?

    • Anonymous says:

      Could you clarify what exactly you are interested in?

      People often choose careers where they have comparative advantage and they usually avoid careers where they have comparative disadvantage.

      Besides, there are a lot of other options for people with poor social skills. Many jobs, especially blue collar jobs (somehow people on this site often forget that they exist), require very little social skills.

      • anon says:

        But at this point aren’t most “blue collar jobs” service jobs that do require social skills?

        • Rose says:

          Blue collar jobs include skilled, at times highly paid, jobs such as plumber, electrician, machinist, oil driller, firefighter, police etc etc. Some require social skills and some don’t.

          The men who install and drill for oil and gas, for example, can pull down 100k salaries with a high school degree, and they don’t need social skills beyond joshing with each other and getting along in the dormitory housing where they live part of the time.

          • Anthony says:

            Depends how you define “social skills”. I know a lot of people who have trouble showing up to work at early hours in the morning on a very regular basis – that would get them fired relatively quickly from most construction jobs; more so than from say, IT jobs. I’m not sure that lack is a matter of poor *social* skills, but it’s a matter of poor something.

  68. Anonymous says:

    Slate Star Codex
    In a mad world, all blogging is psychiatry blogging

    That sounds like a premise for a film or TV show 😀

  69. Rose says:

    Scott, did you look into this article you linked, Ritual Circumcision Linked To Increased Risk Of Autism In Young Boys?
    I googled the lead scientist on the study, Professor Morten Frisch – he has published another anti-circumcision paper, based on self-reporting in a survey of 5,000 Danish men, claiming it is bad for sexual pleasure of both partners. To my mind, this makes this study a bit suspect – first sexual pleasure, now autism? It makes one wonder if he has a cause against circumcision.
    There is a movement to ban circumcision in Norway. According to this report, http://www.timesofisrael.com/norwegian-nurses-push-to-ban-ritual-circumcision/, of 2,000 ritual circumcisions a year, only 5-10 are by Jews. Are the rest by Muslims?
    Googling circumcision and sexual function brings up this article reporting the work of Australian Professor Brian Morris of the University of Sydney: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2515674/Its-official-Circumcision-DOESNT-affect-sexual-pleasure-according-biggest-study-issue.html

    “He and his co-researcher John Krieger looked at 36 studies totalling 40,473 men – half of were circumcised and half were not. …The professors found that the very high quality studies reported circumcision ‘had no overall adverse effect on penile sensitivity, sexual arousal, sexual sensation, erectile function, premature ejaculation, duration of intercourse, orgasm difficulties, sexual satisfaction, pleasure, or pain during penetration.’

    In contrast, the studies which find negative effects were poor quality, Dr Morris said.
    He added: ‘The methodology was impeccable – it searched all of the conventional publication databases to retrieve all research articles containing relevant data. It then ranked these by quality according to the conventional guidelines.’

    The study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, discusses large studies to back up the findings.

    One high-quality trial of nearly 3,000 sexually experienced men in Kenya involved them completing a questionnaire at six-monthly intervals up to 24 months after they were circumcised.

    Circumcision lowers rates of penile cancer and possibly prostate cancer – and women whose partners are circumcised have lower rates of cervical cancer and infections such as HPV (pictured) and chlamydia.

    At each time point, there were no significant differences in sexual performance or satisfaction in men who were circumcised and those who weren’t.

    At 24 months, 99.9 per cent of men were satisfied with their circumcisions. In fact, 72 per cent of men said sensitivity had increased and 19 per cent said it was the same.
    Ease of reaching orgasm was greater in 63 per cent and the same in 22 per cent.

    Another large trial, involving 2,250 Ugandan men, found no difference in sexual desire or difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection. A year after circumcision, 99 per cent reported being sexually satisfied.

    However the authors concede that circumcision for medical reasons may be linked with problems in the bedroom.They mention an Australian study which found that men circumcised after infancy for medical reasons were less likely to want sex.”

    The study that you linked to, claims that there is a causal relationship between circumcision and ASD and autism based solely on correlation. It is critiqued here: http://rt.com/news/221187-circumcision-autism-boys-study/

    “Frisch’s findings have caused mixed feedback. Thus, Professor Jeremy Turk, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Southwark Child & Adolescent Mental Health Neurodevelopmental Service, believes the findings to be of interest, but adds that they “need to be considered carefully – one cannot draw very strong conclusions from the data,” according to the Daily Mail.

    The weakness of the study, in Turk’s view, is its reliance on correlations between data sets, and therefore is open to more wild implications. “For example, many cases of autism are missed until children are older and as there are relatively few cases of autism this could easily skew the data.”
    He also added that taking the factors in the study in sets creates de-facto connections and removes the possibility of ASD and other disorders caused by other variables.
    Finally, Turk takes issue with the very notion on which the science is predicated – the childhood physical trauma approach, which he believes to be “highly speculative.”
    “There is a long history of attempts to link autistic spectrum disorders to unrelated practices, such as the measles/mumps/rubella association, which proved to be fraudulent,” he also says, as cited by Huffington Post.

    He goes on to say that there are various abnormalities in the brains of people suffering from ASD that warrant closer examination. Especially, he says that “there is a strong genetic component, which may be a factor within the faith communities studied here, and which does not appear to have been explored amongst them.”
    … when taken in sets, data might ignore what causes what, as well as the influence of variables not previously considered within the framework.

    READ MORE: Benefits of male circumcision outweigh risks, CDC says”

    Commenting on the same study you linked to, Dr Howard Cohen, who is a Mohel for the London and South East UK Jewish community and an officer of Liberal Judaism, writes here http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/opinion-circumcision-study-poor-science/:

    “The wrong type of study was done to explore whether a causative link exists. Observational studies can suggest associations but cannot explain the mechanisms of diseases. The authors seemingly failed to grasp both what autism is or what happens at a circumcision.

    The complexity of the autistic brain with it challenges and on occasion wonders, so clearly arises from the combination of numerous factors, most of which are currently poorly understood. The single trigger theories, whilst superficially attractive are merely illusions which fade on close inspection.

    The paper views all circumcisions as the same, whether on day eight or year eight, with or without suitable anaesthetic or analgesia. It plays into the prejudicial stereotype that the circumcision is a hugely traumatising event for the baby, accompanied by unimaginable pain and suffering. This is so clearly not the case, no parent would let the mohel through the door if it were, let alone invite them back which successive sons and grandsons.

    As a Mohel, over the last 23 years I have circumcised new born boys, usually within the first twenty eight days of birth, always with a suitable local anaesthetic. As a Liberal Jew, I have learnt to question all our traditions, including Brit Milah.

    Quite separate to this article, there is no need medically or religiously, to hurt a baby and I would be at the head of a campaign to stop the practice if we showed it caused harm. This article does not and could not make that case.”

    You may also find this comment by Alan Dershowitz interesting: http://www.newsmax.com/AlanDershowitz/Germany-Circumcision-Ban-Norway/2012/09/06/id/450992/

    ”Why do countries with long histories of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry seem to care more about the so-called rights of young children not to be circumcised than do other countries in the world with far better histories of concern for human rights?

    The same rhetorical question can be asked of countries, such as Norway, that care so much about the rights of animals not to be slaughtered according to Jewish ritual. These questions are entirely rhetorical because every thinking person knows the answer.

    It’s not because Germans or Norwegians are better people and care more about children and animals than do Americans. It is because they care less about Jews. Or more precisely they care a lot about Jews. They just don’t like them very much and don’t care if they are forced to leave the country because they cannot practice their religions there.

    “Science” too was used to support Nazi racial studies. Should German scientists now conduct “twin studies” on circumcised and uncircumcised siblings? Why is Germany not willing to accept the conclusion reached by the American Academy of Pediatrics following a five-year review of the best research, that “the health benefits” of circumcision — including reduction of HIV and papillomavirus transmission — “out weight the risks?”

    The best response is to shame the Germans into rejecting this new form of left-wing anti-Semitism, by showing them how similar it was to the Nazism they now claim to abhor. This approach will not work in Norway, because Norwegians have forgotten their history and still believe they were victims of Nazism rather than collaborators. Norway’s anti-Semitic laws preventing Kosher slaughter of animals date back to the pre-Nazi period and have remained in force since that time. Norway seems to have no shame nor is it capable of being shamed.”

    • Anonymous says:

      >Ease of reaching orgasm was greater in 63 per cent

      This is a NEGATIVE for many people.

    • Anonymous says:

      Brian Morris deserves approximately the same amount of skepticism as the author of this admittedly questionable paper. Research on circumcision tends to be culturally biased and attracts a lot of weirdos that seem to have fetishes for and against the practice.

      The sexual enjoyment question is interesting. At first glance, it’s hard to understand how fewer nerve endings and less sensory tissue could lead to the same or greater pleasure, but perhaps this experience is so subjective it’s impossible to measure.

      • John Schilling says:

        One can presumably get qualitative before/after comparisons from men who were circumcised as adults.

        As for how this could be, see the prior anonymous. A quick google for “premature ejaculation” gives 2.2 million hits, whereas (delayed OR retarded OR inhibited) ejaculation, only 521 thousand. Perusing the leading returns suggests that premature ejaculation affects at least 30% of men, delayed ejaculation only 5%. Put simply, most men have too many nerve endings down there to begin with.

        Which suggests there may be room for an unbiased, non-fetishized study of the correlation between circumcision and premature/delayed ejaculation. But I’m not diving back into google for that one.

        • Anonymous says:

          There are quite a few complicating factors even in the case of men circumcised as adults. People who voluntarily undergo a surgery that can involve severe pain and (depending on insurance, I guess) out of pocket expense are likely motivated by real physical problems or some type of social pressure. In either case it’s unsurprising that self-reports would skew positive. Even those that don’t experience a positive result may be in a confirmation bias scenario after getting an irreversible body modification. Ideally there would be a large sample of adults willing to get circumcised even though they have no existing issues, just for science. Good luck. (The African trials don’t quite cut it in this regard. Pun intended.)

          It would be interesting to know how the definition of “premature ejaculation” applies across time and country. I’m under the impression that it’s a complex interaction between the physical and the mental, so a surgical solution would be fairly extreme, especially taken in advance on infants. Regardless, it’s interesting that the quick googling above likely reflects the US, where most men are already circumcised.

          Also, it’s not my experience that sexual pleasure is a linear, one dimensional process with a “progress bar” that is more rapidly filled merely by having more nerve endings.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Research on circumcision tends to be culturally biased and attracts a lot of weirdos that seem to have fetishes for and against the practice.

        That’s what I saw in a quick Googling of what has reached popular media – on both sides. Even though the pro-newborn-circumcision has a tone of objectivity* and bullet-pointed facts, on second thought those facts are oddly selected, and the obvious middle way is ignored. The pro side focuses on infant circumcision, while their bullet points cite spread of HIV in Africa etc — which few US infants are likely to spread before reaching puberty, sfaik. Such articles never focus on the fact that circumcision can be done at any age, and that postponing the decision till some age between infancy and sex — when the patient himself could choose, or at least the parents are less stressed with other matters — is an alternative worth discussing.

        The most often mentioned reason for newborn circumcision is decreasing probability of infant urinary tract infection. But here is an abstract of one study relating to effects within the infant’s first year, with the following conclusion.
        Previously reported differences in the rate of urinary tract infection by circumcision status could be entirely due to sampling and selection bias. Until clinical studies adequately control for sources of bias, circumcision should not be recommended as a preventive for urinary tract infection.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979493?ordinalpos=32&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

        * or a tone of objectively mocking the anti’s.

      • Harald K says:

        How exactly can you have a fetish against circumcision? But it is true (and rather alarming) that a lot of pro-circumcision writing, and even some pro-circumcision studies, are connected to the British organizations Circlist and the Gilgal society, which are openly fetishist about infant circumcision.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, perhaps “a fetish against” is poor wording, but an obsession with foreskin is evident in some anti-circumcision groups. Though this is tame in comparison to the very disturbing stuff that the members of the above organizations put out.

    • Harald K says:

      Whoa, this was a big data dump. Too much to address in one go, but I reacted to this

      > only 5-10 are by Jews. Are the rest by Muslims?

      Well, yes? Jews are a tiny minority in Norway, there are maybe a hundred times more Muslims.

      I could reply to cut-pastes with cut-pastes of my own. Or worse, trying to argue in my own words against cut-paste. But I have bad experience with both against ideologues. Instead I invite people to read what Brian D. Earp has written on the topic. He is ideologically on the same page as this blog, so he should argue in terms you can relate to.

  70. Rose says:

    I don’t know that much about how Christianity took over the Roman Empire, but it did begin among the dispossessed, that is, women and slaves. In China, it is often cited as a rebellion against cruelty and injustice, so there seems to be some parallel.

    If you are interested, there is a fascinating book on the subject of Christianity in China called “Jesus in Beijing.” I read it after a trip to China, because, to my surprise, people mentioned Christianity in every city we visited.

    I visited China about six years ago and was lucky to get introductions from a friend’s friend to English speaking journalists in each city we went to. I was surprised my very first night, as I was being driven through Beijing by a retired Communist plutocrat, one of the leaders of the infamous Red Guards (part of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in which ultimately 1.5 million people were killed by their neighbors, co-workers and police at the instigation of the Communist Party). He’d gone on to be the editor of the English language paper in Beijing. Anyway, the relevant part to your question is that we passed a big church on the main street and he told me and my travel companion, “Many people are becoming Christian. It is a good thing.” Why is it good?, we asked. “It teaches people to be kind,” he told us.

    We heard these exact words the next night from a 19 year old university journalism student who was not Christian herself, but said about a third of her fellow students were. Why? “the Christian professors are the only kind ones.”

    We heard it over and over during the trip. Buddhism, were told, was for things like wishing for good grades. Our last (private) guide told us that at that moment, there were four books about Jews on the best sellers list. We asked to see one. She took us into a bookstore and showed us a book on the table near the front. The title was in both Chinese and English: “The Secret of the Jews: Love Your Brother as Yourself.”

    The counterpoint to this, was the deep deep bitterness and anger we heard from many people about current day Communist Party privilege and abuses. For example, the skies of China are grey with pollution. In many cities you begin coughing the moment you leave the plane and never stop. Their food is toxic with heavy metals. They know this and hate it. One (private) guide told us in a bitter, cynical voice that Party members shop at special stores, with food from special farms, far from the polluted field where ordinary food comes from, so that they and their children are safe.

    The Dalai Lama, in his 10 March 1987 statement, said:
    The so-called religious freedom in Tibet today amounts to permitting our people to worship and practice religion in a merely ritualistic and devotional way. There are both direct and indirect restrictions on the teaching and study of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism, thus, is being reduced to blind faith which is exactly how the Communist Chinese view and define religion.

    According to Washington Post reporter John Pomfret’s 2007 book, Chinese Lessons, the brutality of Mao’s Communist era instilled a dog-eat-dog selfishness and amorality that is now translated into naked greed “free of the pangs of conscience.” The portrait he paints of the Chinese state of moral health is a very dark one. Students go to another city to secretly mail off applications to college, for fear teachers or fellow students will find a way to ruin them out of envy and spite. “The Chinese called it ‘red-eye disease,’ a jealousy so powerful and endemic that it compelled peers to plot against each other and allowed superiors to toy with their underlings.” “In the People’s Republic of China… principles don’t matter. Survival was the key.”

    Historians teach that the roots of Chinese inhumanity go three thousand years into their culture. Unlike the West, whose roots in the despotisms of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon where supplanted in turn by the more humane Greeks and Romans and finally by the ethics of Judaism and Christianity, China has had a much more unified history.

    It was the first emperor who politicized all aspects of life, including religion, speech, books and even instituted village thought control sessions. He began the tradition of government monopoly on power that never allowed a strong belief in religion to arise, for any institution outside of the emperor’s total control was seen as a threat. This included both Buddhism and Christianity. He used torture and inhumane punishments for ‘state enemies’, such as used by Communists on political dissidents, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong meditation sect and Christians in China today.

    The Chinese want something better for themselves. They see it in Christianity.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “Unlike the West, whose roots in the despotisms of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon where supplanted in turn by the more humane Greeks and Romans and finally by the ethics of Judaism and Christianity, China has had a much more unified history. ”

      The Greeks had the Spartans who are alledged to have murdered slaves as training and the Romans were the people who invented decimation. They were not more humane than more eastern groups.

      The advent of Christianity affecting attitudes is hard to measure. We have things like the banning of gladiator games and church sponsered charity, but rulers still tend to do things like slaughter populations wholesale.

      “It was the first emperor who politicized all aspects of life, including religion, speech, books and even instituted village thought control sessions. He began the tradition of government monopoly on power that never allowed a strong belief in religion to arise, for any institution outside of the emperor’s total control was seen as a threat. This included both Buddhism and Christianity. He used torture and inhumane punishments for ‘state enemies’, such as used by Communists on political dissidents, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong meditation sect and Christians in China today.”

      The first emperor was considered a failure by his predecesors and used as an example of what not to do. Rulers publically proclaimed their alegience to the Confucian ideal that leaders must use moral example and this permeated the government- The Debate on Salt and Iron involves a bunch of Confucians literally arguing this as a plausible way to deal with a problem.

      This was not just a facade to prop up political control. The belief in the “Mandate of Heaven” meant rulers recognized political power was not inherent to their position and could be taken away, as it had in the past.

      • Rose says:

        Thank you, that was interesting. I didn’t mean to say that Ancient Greece and Rome were “kind” (slave societies, Sparta, watching people torn apart by animals for fun are rather conclusive pieces of evidence), nor that they were kinder than ancient China, but that they were “kinder” than ancient Assyria etc. I don’t know enough to defend my statement; I believe it is based on comparing the achievements in Roman and Greek art and philosophy and governance among the elite, that are part of the long slow and uneven groping of western civilization towards kindness and fairness for the stranger.

        China has these concepts, but their political institutions and family system were much more about control and obedience.

        In the unkindness contest, we have hitler, they have Mao. Hitler and the many ordinary Germans who carried out his ideas are incomparable. Mao used even more people as willing executioners and killed far more – 70 million, I believe is the main stream estimate? And the rehabbed communists are still torturing Tibetan dissidents.

        In any case, the mass movement to Christianity explained by the Chinese themselves as a longing for the jewish invention to “love thy brother as thyself” has to be taken as evidence of some deficit in their culture.

        • Anonymous says:

          In fairness to Hitler (or to Mao, depending on how you interpret the issue), Mao had a much larger pool of easily murderable people.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Thank you, that was interesting. I didn’t mean to say that Ancient Greece and Rome were “kind” (slave societies, Sparta, watching people torn apart by animals for fun are rather conclusive pieces of evidence), nor that they were kinder than ancient China, but that they were “kinder” than ancient Assyria etc. I don’t know enough to defend my statement; I believe it is based on comparing the achievements in Roman and Greek art and philosophy and governance among the elite, that are part of the long slow and uneven groping of western civilization towards kindness and fairness for the stranger.”

          I’m pretty sure art isn’t really relevant towards fairness. As for philosophy it (or at least the ones adopted by the elite- stoicism) didn’t really focus on focus on kindness.

          Goverance is the only difference, but mostly for the Romans. However it is more competance than kindness. The most recent thing I’ve read about the Romans (a book about the valley of the golden mummies; they were found near an oasis and date from late imperial times) was that there was a ten year difference in life expectancy between people at the delta which the archeologist attributed to the reach of the tax collector. An empire may need a great city, but the food had to come from somewhere and Egypt was a major exporter through the entirity of the empire.

          Unless you are refering to internal rule and how they used voting. The issue is that while it made them more sensitive to the needs to the voters this tended to be synonymous with the military and the change to a professional military proceded to lead to the destruction of the republic. The Greeks had Athenian democracy, but it didn’t really form a root for most of western history; it was after all where the idea of democracy became associated with mob rule, something that could be expanded beyond a single city state. Later democratic city states prefered to take after Rome (although this might be because they tended to be Italian).

          “China has these concepts, but their political institutions and family system were much more about control and obedience. ”

          I can agree with that. However, I think that is less cultural and more due to the concentration of power. As Rome and Greece turned into monarchies as well as Europe, they began to resemble China more. The big difference was the church wasn’t subject to a single state, but monarchs did their best to fix that.

          “Mao used even more people as willing executioners and killed far more – 70 million, I believe is the main stream estimate?”

          That is mostly the Great Leap Foward. While it was an incredibly horrible move, there isn’t any reason to believe he wanted to kill anyone with it. It just turns out economic incompetance is not forgiving when it comes to agriculture.

          “In any case, the mass movement to Christianity explained by the Chinese themselves as a longing for the jewish invention to “love thy brother as thyself” has to be taken as evidence of some deficit in their culture.”

          Sure, but I don’t think it is a long term trait of Chinese culture. Mao had the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution launched in the 1966 to systematically purge all traditional and capitalist elements. You know how witch hunts work? Imagine that on a nation wide scale with red guards beating people to death in the street who were labeled counterrevolutionaries. It was the sort of environment that breed denounciations, backstabbing and a complete lack of respect for any sort of authority. And this still doesn’t do it justice! It spun out of control to the point that different factions were fighting in the streets and no one knew what they were supposed to do.

          Then the people who lived through that were told that it was glorious to be rich and gradually dumped into an increasingly dog eat dog capitalist situation. I think this was a much bigger impact on the current climate of a lack of social coherancy, trust and niceness. Totalitarian communist states tend to destroy civil society and the Cultural Revolution was the most extreme of attempts to do so.

          • Protagoras says:

            “Ancient Assyria etc.” ? When did Assyria become typical? It’s regarded as one of the most extreme examples of tyranny in the ancient world.

      • Anthony says:

        Just as Muslim polygamy was a *limit* on previous practice (allowing powerful men *only* four wives), decimation was less harsh than previous practices. It also had the advantage of leaving 90% of the population remaining to pay tribute.

        • Anonymous says:

          Decimation was not applied to civilian populations that would pay tribute, but to Roman soldiers.

    • pliny says:

      China never practiced slavery on a large scale.

      • Rose says:

        Weren’t women basically sold by their fathers for economic or social gain? Elite woemen were purposefully and painfully crippled ( some died from infections as a result) so that they had no freedom to even walk and were confined to one part of their houses for life. It isn’t slavery, but it is half your population and it is awful.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          The custom is ironically relatively recent for a country with two and a half millenia of history- wiki says it origionated in the 10th or 11th centuries.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Given their lack of a concept of individual rights, and the still-poor commitment to private property, one could just as well argue that China practices slavery on the largest scale of all.

        • Rose says:

          agreed, with the caveat this is hyperbole

        • TACJ says:

          One could so argue, if one had forgotten that slavery requires strong property rights.

          • John Schilling says:

            So did the ancient Egyptians have strong property rights, or were the guys who built the pyramids not slaves after all?

            Strong property rights are necessary if you want many competing slaveowners, or slaves and freedmen living in parallel. If you just want everyone enslaved to the God-King, or all the workers divided up between a few oligarchs, less formal methods will suffice.

          • JE says:

            I’m pretty sure no one has believed the pyramids were built by slaves in my life time.

        • Cauê says:

          One could argue that, but one would be using the Worst Argument in the World and condemning the thread to disputes over definitions.

  71. anoymous says:

    You write it is very very sad that Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide. (Neither do they deny it. They don’t have an official position). It is sad, not because of the irony that you point out, but because of the reason: Israel has to put human life above honoring the past. Their six million Jewish and Arab citizens are under constant death threats from most of the Muslim countries and their highest duty is obviously to use diplomacy with Moslem countries to curtail hostilities as much as they can. In this case it means remaining silent on Armenian genocide.
    What is our excuse? President Obama is maintaining U.S. policy not to antagonize Turkey.

  72. Rose says:

    You write about the Islamist murders in Paris: “Instead it’s going to look to them (maybe accurately) like Muslims are specifically singled out as a group it’s ok to offend even while everyone else gets “protection”.

    Scott, I think you should at least try to see if there are any factual, trustworthy sources of information before you make assertions like this.

    Europe’s hate speech laws have been vigilant in suppressing free speech about Islam. Examples abound.

    There are famous cases such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch member of parliament, having her citizenship revoked after she dared to produce a film called Submission (the word Islam means submission) that attacked Islam for its treatment of women. Her co-producer was murdered by a Muslim and a note attacking his film stabbed into his chest.

    Here are some others I found on a random google search on ‘islamophobia and free speech’
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sacking-of-islamophobic-television-presenter-provokes-freespeech-row-in-france-9939085.html

    “France has been split down the middle by the sacking of the nation’s favourite – and at the same time most detested – hard-right, Islamophobe misogynist.
    Eric Zemmour was dismissed by the 24-hour news channel i-Télé after telling – or seeming to tell – an Italian journalist that France’s estimated five million Muslims should be “deported” to avoid “chaos and civil war”.
    The channel’s decision was approved by anti-racist groups and some left-wing politicians. It was lambasted by senior figures on the right of French politics – who adore Zemmour – but also by some on the left – who detest him – on the basis of his right to free speech.”

    In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Zemmour said the removal of France’s Muslim population seemed “unrealistic” but might be necessary to avoid “chaos and civil war”.
    The interview went unnoticed until it was picked up and translated by the hard-left French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On his blog, Mr Mélenchon said Zemmour had called for the “deportation” of all French Muslims, many of whom are second or third-generation French citizens.

    A German woman is fined heavily for carrying a sign against the Muslim influx into Germany:
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/andrew-harrod/74-year-old-german-woman-convicted-of-hate-speech-against-muslims/

    And as for Muslims being ‘single out’ for actual persecution, that goes beyond speech? In America, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2013/tables/1tabledatadecpdf/table_1_incidents_offenses_victims_and_known_offenders_by_bias_motivation_2013.xls

    o There were 1,031 incidents inspired by religion last year, 625 (60.6 percent) of which were anti-Jewish. Anti-Islamic ones constituted just 13.1 percent.
    o Anti-Islamic incidents were also outnumbered by those targeting blacks (1,856), whites (653), gay men (750), lesbians (160), LGBTs in general (277), Hispanics (331), and people of other ethnicities (324). Anti-Asian incidents (135) equaled anti-Islamic ones.
    It is worse in France: http://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7552943/france-anti-semitism
    Half of all racist attacks in France take Jews as their target, even though they number less than 1% of the population….40 percent of racist violence (as opposed to the broader “attacks” category) targeted Jews.
    the baseline level of anti-Semitic attacks is much higher than it was in the 90s — even in years without major fighting in Israel. Thus, “anti-Semitism in France cannot be considered anymore as a temporary situation associated with situation in the Middle-East.” Instead, SPCJ concludes, “it is a structural problem that has not been fought as such and has not been halted yet.”

    We are not talking about someone yelling Kike. We are talking about children having a swastika carved into their arm.

    We are talking about Ilan Halimi, who was picked up by a pretty girl who led him to an apartment where he was tortured for 24 days, at times with an open phone call to his parents so their could hear his tortured cries, before he was dumped, with burns over 2/3 of his body. It was only then that the French police worked hard enough to find his 29 killers.
    Only one of them was convicted of a hate crime. See http://carolineglick.com/the-answer-to-french-anti-semitism/

    “As Tablet online magazine’s Marc Weitzmann reported last September in an in-depth summary of ordeal, the gang that perpetrated the atrocity had been hunting for Jewish victims for several weeks before Arbabzadeh set her trap for Halimi. All their previous attempts had failed. Their previous marks included Jewish doctors, lawyers, television directors and human rights activists, as well as Jews of no particular distinction aside from the fact that they were Jews.

    The anti-Jewish nature of the gang was clear from its chosen victims. The anti-Semitic nature of their atrocious crime against Halimi was obvious from the first time they contacted his mother, Ruth Halimi, demanding ransom for his release. They made anti-Jewish slurs in all their communications with her. And as she heard her sons tortured cries in the background, Ruth was subjected to his torturers’ recitation of Koranic verses.
    And yet, throughout the period of his captivity, French authorities refused to consider the anti-Jewish nature of the crime, and as a result, refused to treat the case as life threatening or urgent.

    The same attitude continued well after Halimi was found. As Weitzmann noted, the investigative magistrate insisted “There isn’t a single element to allow one to attach this murder to an anti-Semitic purpose or an anti-Semitic act.”

    The denial went on through the 2009 trials of the 29 kidnappers and their accomplices. Anti-Semitism was listed as an aggravating circumstance of the crime – and as such, a cause for harsher sentencing – only for the gang leader Fofana. And in the end, even for him, the judges did not take it into account at sentencing.

    As for those 29 kidnappers and accomplices, as Weitzmann notes, each one of them had a circle of friends and family. As a consequence, by a one reporters’ conservative estimate, at least 50 people were aware of the crime and where Halimi was being held, while he was being held. And not one of them called the police. Not one of them felt moved to make a call that could save the life of a Jew.”

    Scott – this is very serious. It is not a debate in which to be making bland, unsubstantiated remarks about how Muslims are picked on and others get a free pass.

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      Small point for the sake of accuracy: Hirsi Ali’s citizenship was not revoked, and was under threat because of her embellished application for refugee status, not because of Submission. The Immigration Minister’s campaign against her was alleged to be influenced by personal vindictiveness or political opportunism but I don’t think either was claimed to have been due to the film.

      Anyone who thinks that Charlie Hebdo singled out Muslims could track down their cover related to the Trinity, though it is not especially edifying.

      • Rose says:

        You may be describing the mechanism by which Ayaan Hirsi Ali was kicked out of the Dutch parliament, I.e. A political opponent found an irregularity in her immigration papers. The motive may have had personal elements, but the underlying reason it happened and was allowed to happen, is that Dutch society didn’t want her challenge to their accomadation with Islam’s facist and misogynist elements. She was a very loud voice making a moral case to see Islam as a compelling moral and societal problem. It led to the brutal murder of her co-producer, theo Van Gogh, which made the moral confrontation with Dutch complacency even more difficult to answer, so they wanted to get rid of her and they did.

        The final straw was that she was asked to leave her apartment because the Islamic death threats against hr made her neighbors scared and inconvienced. She left the apartment and the country.

        And yes, in America she is not muzzled by law to stop talking about the nightmarish elements of her life as a Moslem Somali woman, but the left tries to silence her by excluding her from that most important arena, the campus.

        • BD Sixsmith says:

          …the underlying reason it happened and was allowed to happen…

          If that was the case, the Dutch parliament would not have overriden Verdonk’s attempt to kick her out. I’m not disputing that she has received poor treatment (most recently by Brandeis, yeah). This is just a weak example.

          • rose says:

            Have you read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books or interviews with her?
            this is how she describes why she left the Netherlands:
            “But there was a period of extreme pain and mental anguish in 2006 [when she was effectively forced out of Holland] and the way I dealt with it was by telling myself that it wasn’t the end of the world. The future seemed much more uncertain when I left Kenya to come to Holland.”

            None the less, she feels bitter about how the Dutch government, which had encouraged her to speak out, removed her police protection. “I thought that was disgusting because, indirectly, it’s setting you up for murder.””

            She says she was de facto kicked out of Holland in fear for her life. I agree with her reasoning. I’m sure Slatestarcodex followers have a term for the way you are arguing, using literal quibbling factoids to make an unsustainable argument. You are right that I mistakenly said her citizenship was revoked; it did not have to be to get rid of her.

          • BD Sixsmith says:

            I’m sure Slatestarcodex followers have a term for the way you are arguing, using literal quibbling factoids to make an unsustainable argument.

            I think what I am doing is called “fact-checking”, and it is not exclusive to SSC. What I hope distinguishes this place, though, is a common interest in maintaining standards of rational debate, which is what led to argue about this despite agreeing with your overall point. (I’ll restate that, as you seem to think I am an opponent: I agree with your overall point.)

            We accept that her citizenship was not revoked. Have you dropped the claim that attempts to revoke it were inspired by hatred of her advocacy? You should, given that it was the unpopular campaign of an immigration restrictionist minister and was opposed by all the major parties. Your new post asserts that she was “de facto forced out” but does not propose a mechanism by which this took place. The only fact that the Guardian quote you draw upon (without citation) references is that her police protection was withdrawn. This took place a year after she had moved to the US. To some extent, of course, she was forced out – but forced out by murderous fanatics and frightened neighbours, not by her political opponents. This was horribly symbolic of a frightening trend, and those who draw attention to the latter have no need to rely on weak evidence.

            I won’t respond again because I fear that readers will infer that that I have something against AHA*, which is not true. I responded this time because of your implication that I was being dishonest or dim, which was unfair.

            [*] Full disclosure: I may have condemned her in the past when I had different politics but that was then and this is now.

          • Rose says:

            Scott made some casual point about a double standard in France, saying it is okay to criticize Moslems but not Jews. I said it is the opposite: Europe has a big problem with not allowing criticism of Islam. Perhaps you and I agree on that. I said Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a famous example and you said she was a ‘weak example.” on that we disagree, and I disagree emphatically. I think it is important.

            BD, I did not mean to insult you or to imply you are dim. I asked if you’d read her books because Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents her personal life story as a case example of how the Netherlands – and Europe – will not tolerate criticism of Islam, thereby risking their own destruction. She constantly uses herself as an example, in every column she writes and when I heard her in person.

            I apparently misremembered details, thinking her citizenship had been revoked, but that is truly a minor distraction.
            There is a name for focusing in on a minor mistake your interlocutor in a debate makes, and using that to undercut their strong, indeed, unassailable point.

            For the record, she left Holland because she feared for her life when the Dutch courts upheld her expulsion from her safe building. Ali does not narrowly blame this on a few neighbors. In talks and interviews she focuses on the Dutch failure to talk honestly about Islam as a Dutch/liberal cultural, social and political problem of the highest importance for the future of Europe.

            For ex, this interview: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2006/05/the_caged_virgin.html

            Ali herself wrote a column in the Wall St. J called “In Holland, Free Speech on Trial.”
            http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704657304575539872944767984?autologin=y

            She uses her life story as a prime example of European (and progressive American) collusion with the Islamic suppression of criticism:
            “Most elites responded by preaching “tolerance.” …even when it became apparent that some Muslims (in the Netherlands) practiced female genital mutilation and honor killings, and imams openly urged their congregations to reject Dutch culture and law—citizens were not to criticize Islam.
            A growing segment of the population—including Mr. Wilders and me, when I was a member of parliament from 2003 to 2006—doubted this facile and dangerous idea of “tolerance.” This upset politicians, professors, journalists and other opinion-makers who tried to make us untouchables. … I eventually left the country due to a combination of frustration with the campaign of ostracism and the extreme threats I faced from Islamists who wanted to kill me.”

            I agree with you it is important to be accurate in every detail, and if you’d left it at correctly stating she did not lose citizenship, that would be fine. I do want to stand up for the simple point that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a famous example of Europe’s problem with free speech about Islam. She is willing to risk her life to criticize Islam. She says that she had to leave her adopted country because the Dutch would not protect her life. She continues to face death threats in America, and continues to speak publicly about Islam as a fascist religion. She deserves recognition for her heroism and moral courage. She is perhaps the greatest spokeswoman on this issue we have.

      • thirqual says:

        I prefer to point people to the one with the bishop confessing to the pope, who suggests to go into the movie business like Polanski (to solve his problem with pedophilia). More similar to the caricatures decried for islamophobia in tone and scope.

        Most of the grandparent post details are similar to what you said about Hirsi Ali — not completely false, but heavily skewed. For example, antisemitism was taken into account by the judges during the “Gang des Barbares” instruction and trial.

        Youssouf Fofana (the leader) received the second highest possible sentence in French law (life sentence and a minimum of 22 years during which no detention condition improvements are possible — he did not qualify for the highest possible sentence because the victim needs to be younger than 15 or a representative of the state during or due to their functions, for both with additional conditions necessary). He is also affected by several mental disorders. The state also appealed to ask for stricter sentences, partly successfully.

        (also, 27 not 29, 3 of which were acquitted, and that includes people who were only indirectly implicated)

        • Rose says:

          what is your source for saying the French magistrate did instruct the jury re the anti-Semitism involved by the “Barbarian Gang” torture of Jew?

          Caroline Glick quotes him as saying, “There isn’t a single element to allow one to attach this murder to an anti-Semitic purpose or an anti-Semitic act.”

          • Anonymous says:

            “À la date du 5 mars 2006, la circonstance aggravante d’antisémitisme a été retenue par les juges d’instruction.” (French Wiki page, citing a radio debate hosted by Alain Finkielkraut in 2011). That’s for the instruction.

            Fofana was arrested for suspicion of “kidnapping, sequestration, torture and barbarous acts, assassination” with the aggravating qualifier of “caused by the victim belonging to a given ethnic, national, racial or religious group”. I do not know for the others. Charges were not requalified during the instruction (and are read in court).

            Also note that the English wiki page contains allegations of mutilations (especially of the genitals) presented as facts. The autopsy report denied there were any (no source given on the English wiki, Liberation article about the autopsy report from February 2006 on the French wiki). I don’t want to dig more, but it struck me as an obvious mistake when scanning the English page.

            (some people are asking for sources and pointing at the contradiction on the talk page, btw, and at other inconsistencies)

            Be careful to check information that conforms to your prejudices — I would not have thought twice of checking the French page for the mutilation if i had not heard about the autopsy report back in 2006.

          • Rose says:

            ok, I found a good explanation in English at:http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/182311/frances-toxic-hate-5

            anti-Semitism was brought up in sentencing, only for the gang leader, and had no effect since he already faced the highest penalties. however, Caroline Glick’s larger point, that the police, the politicians, the media and the liberal elite in France deny they have an anti-Semitism problem, or that this case should have been a call to action against it. Now the Prime Minister – but not the President – is saying that France is going to lose all their Jews if they don’t start acknowledging and caring about attacks on their Jewish citizens.

        • Rose says:

          In trying to find more information on whether the French court ignored the anti-Semitic elements of the torture of Halimi, I came across this detail, relevant because Dieudonne – who apparently inspired the gangleaders murderours hatred of Jews – was charged with incitement THIS WEEK, according to Scott’s link.

          “Youssouf Fofana’s obsessive anti-Jewish hatred was as genuine as it was unexplainable. His parents, his brother, who appeared as witnesses, seemed as flabbergasted by it as anyone else. His view on the subject, though, had been summarized as early as 2006 by Sorour Arbabzadeh in her interview with the police: “He told us that the Jews are kings, that they eat the money of the state, whereas him, being black and all, is a slave to the state.” It was a stereotype that had begun to be popularized a few years earlier, in the wake of the Second Intifada and the Sept. 11 attacks, by the French comedian Dieudonné (who in 2013 would initiate an unsuccessful petition to free Fofana from jail).”

          from: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/182311/frances-toxic-hate-5

          • Rose says:

            The French comedian” as Scott calls him was cited this week for an obnoxious comment on the murderer of French Jews that was part of the Charlie hebdo massacre. I agree with Scott that what Dieudonne said this week is a good example of free speech that should be protected.

            But Dieudonne is not a comedienne so much as a crusader to promote anti-Semitism in France. He is a member of a Muslim group that receives money from Iran. Dieudonne has been cited by both the torturer of Halimi and the murderer of Jews in Toulouse as the inspiration for their killing Jews. On those occasions he was not cited and did not face charges.

            When does anti-Semitic speech move from expressing opinion to inciting violence? In the U.S. nothing would be done against him even so, unless the violence was imminent.

            The article is interesting in its description of his audience:
            On the walls of the theater were posters praising the (by then ex-) Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here and there in the administrative part of the theater, offices had been arranged for various political organizations, including extreme right-wing student unions, Soral’s anti-Semitic association, and others. The audience included young adults of both sexes, some coming, as expected, from immigrant working-class backgrounds, and also many white middle-class youth. There were low-ranking teachers, third-world militants, extreme right-wing fighters, regular leftists, and moderate socialists. There were militant Muslims, militant Christians, and republican souverainistes.
            Most, though, had no recognizable political affiliation at all. They were freelance computer engineers, technicians, accountants, café waiters, part-time designers, would-be journalists, and what-not, who despised the indifference of the right but were even more revolted by the promises and the lies of the socialist left and by the French “elites” as a whole. It was a crowd infuriated by unemployment, or embittered by poorly paid jobs that were not to their taste. Why couldn’t they get the life they saw on their computers? Why were the best smartphones and cars and clothes out of their reach? What had happened to the France they had grown up in? Who had stolen the richness of the country in the first place?
            A crowd of adults, yes, but equipped with the collective emotional brain, and the historical memory, of a betrayed little child, now magically united at the appearance of “Dieudo”—their “outlaw,” their anti-system clown on stage for his new show Le Mur. He was making them laugh together with his sympathetic references to Pétain, the chief of the collaboration with the Nazis between 1940 and 1944. He was doing his funny anti-Jewish “jokes,” like “I pissed on the wailing wall,” “the Holocaust cost us an arm.” That night, he was also commenting on Patrick Cohen’s blacklist.
            That is what the TV crew managed to tape: “Patrick Cohen blacklists certain personalities that shouldn’t be invited by the medias.” It was a verbatim quote of Schneidermann’s piece, to which Dieudonné added the following: “When I think of that, I think, you see, if winds change, I’m not sure he’ll have time to pack his suitcases. When I hear him, Patrick Cohen, I think to myself, well, the gas chambers … Too bad.”

            “some 5,000 people by evening packed in “the epicenter of the anti-Jewish nebula in Paris,” as the political analyst Jean-Yves Camus would call it later on
            see: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/theater-and-dance/174215/dieudonne

            and on the torture-murder of halimi: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/182311/frances-toxic-hate-5

    • Shieldfoss says:

      As for those 29 kidnappers and accomplices, as Weitzmann notes, each one of them had a circle of friends and family. As a consequence, by a one reporters’ conservative estimate, at least 50 people were aware of the crime and where Halimi was being held, while he was being held. And not one of them called the police. Not one of them felt moved to make a call that could save the life of a Jew.”

      “Not one of them felt moved to make a call that could save the life of a Jew.”

      Let us rewrite that into something more like a human thought: “Not one of them felt motivated to hurt friend and family with a phone call.”

      • Cauê says:

        Let’s also add diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect.

        (although I am sympathetic to the point Rose was making there)

      • Anonymous says:

        I believe he was burned, mutilated and other tortures for weeks in an apartment building. They had his mother listen to his screams re the phone. You’d think some non-relative would have called the police.

        Apologetics becomes offensive at some point.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am skeptical of what the “60% of all hate crimes are against Jews” number signifies, because I am Jewish and most of my friends are Jewish and none of us AFAIK have ever experienced or had particular fear of hate crimes.

      You’re giving examples of Muslim people committing crimes, as if that were relevant. I’m not sure how it is.

      It seems to me very relevant that in a country celebrating its right to free speech, there are still lots of hypocritical laws against free speech, including many often applied to Jews and including explicit laws about Holocaust denial. Everything you say is bad but does not change this fundamental hypocrisy.

  73. RTWWII says:

    “I would really like to see someone knowledgeable write an analysis of what the unexpectedly rapid spread of Christianity in China can tell us about the unexpectedly rapid spread of early Christianity and why the religion took off at all.”

    Assuming that you’re hoping for someone to write a historical analysis and therefore gain better understanding of Rome, I question the utility of this approach. The impact of (effectively) a completely different religion (hell, collection of religions, given modern Christianity) on a totally different place, with an incomparable economy, social structure, technology, etc. will not effectively tell us anything useful about Rome. The Christian take-over of the Empire is already extremely well studied, by waves of Christian, anti-Christian and post-Christian historians. The sources are pretty cleaned out. The comparative approach is rarely that helpful anyway.

    One of the landmark works of comparative history, Skocpol’s analysis of the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, is a mammoth work contrasting three revolutionary movements within 200 years of each other, each directly inspiring the other and working (kind-of) through superficially similar processes. It is heavily criticised as reductionist, comparing apples and socket wrenches, ignoring historical fact to try & fit an overarching narrative, etc. That doesn’t make these kind of analyses useless, just bear in mind you may have to have a salt mine on speed-dial as you approach their conclusions.

    Considering that we know about as much as we can expect to know about the Roman situation, why not work the other way- try to analyse the Chinese situation using our knowledge of Rome? I’m neither a Romanist nor a Sinologist, so better get those salt shakers out again…

    One reason often given for Christianity’s success across the Roman sphere was that it out-innovated its competitors. Roman religious life was (v. broadly) dominated by two contrasting forces, the public ritual and the mystery cult. These are sometimes hard for moderns to understand because neither really resonate with what we regard as present-day “religion”.

    The ritual practices consisted of public offerings, holy day observances etc. directed at the universal gods of the Empire (Jupiter, Apollo, etc.), any relevant local gods, and, very importantly, the deified ex-Emperors of the Imperial Cult. To worship a dead Emperor was a ritual submission to Rome and an acknowledgement of the divinity and hence legitimacy of the Emperor- as you worshipped Augustus today, you could expect to worship the current Emperor when HE died (thus Vespasian’s dying words: “Oh dear, I think I’m becoming a god.”). To reinforce the connection, The Emperor was also the Pontifex Maximus, the most important priest in the Empire.

    Very importantly, these rituals (and, arguably, most-to-all pre-modern religious practice) were seen as being purely demonstrative. Belief didn’t matter at all, and some of the later Emperors, inspired in part by Platonic philosophy, publicly espoused some form of solar monotheism while still willingly leading ceremonies honouring the “pagan” deities. You participated in the rituals to avoid bringing bad luck and ritual pollution upon your community, to publicly acknowledge your participation in the Roman polity, but most importantly, because that was what a good person DID.

    Ironically enough, the Jews’ refusal to participate even in a tokenistic manner in the public religious practices led to them being labelled atheists (plus dubiously patriotic undesirables- some slurs never change!). It wasn’t sufficient to protest that you didn’t believe in Jupiter- maybe the urbane Roman doesn’t literally believe that he lives on Mount Olympus, we’re supposed to carry out the killing of the bull as a signal of our support of Jupitery values, like supreme rulership (or women having sex with swans).

    It’s pretty trivial to draw a comparison between public rituals that everyone practices but no-one even pretends to believe and modern-day Chinese Communism (socialism with Chinese characteristics!). The syncretic sacrifices to Mao (mimicking earlier public ritual practices with dubious evidence of actual personal belief) are kind of a cherry on the tortured comparison metaphor.

    Christianity’s offering of a personal, internal belief system, a direct and transcendent connection with the divine, was to some extent revolutionary to the Romans- even if you believed in Jupiter, there was never a suggestion he cared about you personally. He’s King of the Gods! He has better things to do than care about your lost ring, Caecillius. But this new Jewish God guy apparently personally wants you to be happy? According to a commentator above, Christianity apparently offers something similarly revolutionary (“Kindness”, hmm) but nowadays you obviously have a lot more competition in the interior-faith marketplace.

    Here we come to a competitor of Christianity in the personal-faith stakes: the mystery cult. These were hugely popular in the Empire- although the exact numbers of worshippers are difficult to estimate. “Mystery cult” is not just a name that sounds cool. These were groups like Mithraism and Cybele (“Goddess” or “Great Mother” worship) that offered personal revelation (and, as the name implied, secret knowledge), a community of like-minded believers, and meaningful ritual practices that focused on you- more rites of passages than pep-rally style Roman public rituals. They also encouraged you to mutilate your genitals.

    In case anyone thinks I’m being facetious, the worshippers of Cybele practiced ritual self-castration and/or wild orgies (sources are contradictory, being heavily based on Roman scare stories- Cybelites were the Roman equivalent of scary Satanists). This was of a piece with mystery cult initiations- Mithraism, popular apparently amongst the Roman Army, may have involved being locked in a sarcophagus overnight and alternately having hot coals heaped on the sides and being left to freeze. Mystery cults proved the worth of their personal revelation by locking it behind the world’s worst hazing.

    Interestingly, for a long time Christianity ALSO did this! It wasn’t until Paul of Tarsus (“Saint” to his friends) that the early church definitely decided you didn’t need to convert to Judaism (incl. genital-cutting) before you could convert to Christianity. This was a number of accommodations made by the Church to become more acceptable Rome. Arguably, this is when Pontius Pilate’s rehabilitation begins, with blame for the crucifixion being shifted from a Roman administrator to the Jewish mob. Sources vary, but the whole “pardon Barabbus instead” thing appears not to date until the first editions of the gospels, at least 100 years after Jesus’s death. The Church was therefore more open and less off-putting than the mystery cult while still giving that good old-time newly-invented personal revelation aspect.

    This comparison would be useful if there were a traditional and secretive network of Free-Mason like secret societies across China that gave some of the benefits of a Church while being inaccessible to those Chinese who otherwise turn to Christianity. I don’t know of any such. Triads maybe? Secret societies (like the Boxers) have certainly had a major role in China’s past, but I kind of think they have been really really thoroughly extirpated by successive waves of Communist clearing-out.

    Really, this is all (very very long) spitballing. China had (has!) a slightly unorthodox religious sect, oddly popular amongst the low-status, feared and misunderstood by the state that has tried pretty successfully to crush it. It’s called Falun Gong, and if you want an innovative, disruptive, from-oppression-to-hoped-for-domination religion in China, they fit much better than fairly unthreatening millenia-old Christ-worship.

    (BTW briefly cos comment too long already, but both Christianity’s popularity amongst the low status [women-and-slaves!] and its oppression in the Empire are overstated and questioned by modern scholarship.)

    • chaosmage says:

      Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity” argues that a central asset of Christianity was that it forbid infanticide (which was apparently somewhat common) and abortion, leading to Christians outbreeding others over a dozen generations.

      Makes me wonder how Christians in China stand towards one-child-policy…

    • the whole “pardon Barabbus instead” thing appears not to date until the first editions of the gospels, at least 100 years after Jesus’s death

      Hm? The Barabbas story occurs in Mark, which is usually dated to ~35 years after Jesus’ death, not 100+ years.

      • Was going to say the same thing. The usual dates for the Gospels have Mark in the 60s, Matthew and Luke in the 70s or 80s, and John in the 90s or 100s. You can add a decade or two to each of those if you wish, but saying that all of the Gospels postdate Christ by 100+ years is a pretty wild estimate by most scholars.

        Also, I know of no textual evidence to suggest that the Barabbas story is a later interpolation.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I often see this chain of reasoning: “Story Z is found in the gospels, the gospels were written down Y years after Jesus, therefore Story Z did not exist until that gospel was written down.”

        But you really need to provide some further evidence of that claim, probably in the form of an earlier manuscript of the story that excludes the point in question, or some other such writing which should mention it but doesn’t.

        And we don’t really have that. About the only Christian writings we have earlier than the Gospels are Paul’s Epistles.

    • I think you’ve overstated how “friendly” early Christianity was. It didn’t require genital mutilation, that’s true. That said, it did require a three-year catechumenate, complete with rigorous fasting requirements, followed by a mystical initiation through ritual bathing, after which an even more rigorous set of moral requirements went into effect. Any defection resulted in 3-5 years of penitential exile. Plus, the theophagy which formed the core of the whole thing had many of the characteristics of a mystery rite, as the unbaptized weren’t even allowed to witness it, being expelled from the service at the point where the Eucharist began.

      The main difference the early Christians and the other Greco-Roman mystery cults was that Christianity demanded cultic exclusivity, which is a way of being more rigorous, not less.

  74. Cauê says:

    >’I feel like we’ve already been over the whole “no, really, socialism doesn’t work” thing(…)’

    Not in South America, sadly.

    Venezuela has been playing the Goofus part in an Economics Goofus & Gallant Show for years. It was predicted that it would go wrong, and how it would go wrong. Also predicted were the reactions of the government, and how those would go wrong. What’s most disheartening is that there were no surprises.

  75. Julie K says:

    “What If Vitamin D Deficiency Is a Cause of Autism?

    “A few researchers are turning their attention to the sunshine vitamin as a culprit, prompted by the experience of immigrants that have moved from their equatorial country to two northern latitude locations”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/vitamin-d-and-autism/

    (Note, the autism study linked to above was done in Denmark.)

  76. Arandur says:

    Re: Charlie Hebdo and double standards — Reddit isn’t exactly a fantastic source, but the American ideal of free speech may not apply.

    • rose says:

      I looked up “the French comedien” Dieudonne (see links in my comments above) and since he is a member of a party funded by Iran, incites murderous Jew hatred to crowds of thousands, and was cited by two of the recent terrorists who perpetrated Jewish massacres in France as their inspiration, it is possible that in America the issue would not be hate speech but working for a terror regime.

      in any case, I think American laws are clearly superior. We protect people against libel, Europe doesn’t (slurring the black next door in your reddit post), and we protect freedom for offensive speech much more than they do. And while anti-Semitic speech is legal here, it is usually drowned out by more speech and moral condemnation, whereas in France it is not condemned. our universities are an exceptions, where hate speech and even violence against Jews is not countered morally nor are jewish students given equal protection under the law.

      Your reddit poster is also very very naïve about how sensitive Europe is to Jews because of their Holocaust guilt. Their reaction is much more psychologically complex and not at all pretty.

      • Vulture says:

        while anti-Semitic speech is legal here, it is usually drowned out by more speech and moral condemnation, whereas in France it is not condemned.

        While I agree with your overall point, this is a terrible example. One also rarely hears hateful anti-gyspsy screeds in the United States, and it is not due to an excess of ethnic tolerance.

        • rose says:

          I’m not sure I understand. are you saying that anti-Semitism is as rare here as anti-gypsy screeds? are you kidding – ever hear of the Moslem brotherhood front groups on every American campus and the vile hate speech they subject jewish students to? ever look up the fbi statitics on hate crimes in America?

          http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2013/tables/1tabledatadecpdf/table_1_incidents_offenses_victims_and_known_offenders_by_bias_motivation_2013.xls

          — There were 1,031 incidents inspired by religion last year, 625 (60.6 percent) of which were anti-Jewish. Anti-Islamic ones constituted just 13.1 percent.

          –Anti-Islamic incidents were also outnumbered by those targeting blacks (1,856), whites (653), gay men (750), lesbians (160), LGBTs in general (277), Hispanics (331), and people of other ethnicities (324).
          — Anti-Asian incidents (135) equaled anti-Islamic ones.

        • Steven says:

          I’m not sure what your claim is here. You seem to be suggesting the US has relatively little anti-Gypsy sentiment because it has few Gypsies. And it’s true that the US has a relatively low percentage of Gypsies compared to many European states (0.32% in the US, versus 4.67% on Bulgaria, 3.3% in Romania, 1.6% in Spain, 0.79% in France).

          But the exact opposite is true of Jews. Jews are 2.11% or 2.644% of the US population (depending on definition). France has 0.751%/0.943%, Hungary is 0.485%/0.96%, and no other countries in Europe even come close – the EU as a whole is 0.22%/0.313%, Russia 0.133%/0.266%, etc.

          That is, it might be true that the US has less anti-Gypsy hatred than Europe because it has fewer Gypsies than Europe – but if that’s true, then the fact that Europe has both more Jew-hatred and fewer Jews is even more exceptional.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Surely the history is relevant here. The US has so few gypsies because so few gypsies migrated there. It has no significant history one way or the other with that people group.

          How large was the Jewish population in France before they joined the Germans in making their country judenrein, a thing which happened within living memory?

          • Steven says:

            I agree it would be relevant, except the history tells the same story.

            In June 1940, Jews were roughly 0.9% of the French population (350 thousand out of 40 million). It is unclear whether that’s a closer match to the “core” or “expanded” number used above. Reportedly this population was about half Jewish refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe who did not hold French citizenship.

            At the same time, the US population was approximately 3.6% Jewish (same uncertainty as to “core” versus “expanded”) 4.8 million out of 132 million).

            Going back further, the US Jewish percentage of population in 1900 is reported at about 1.97%, while in France it is reported as 0.22%. Which is to say, the Dreyfus Affair happened when Jews were rarer in France than Gypsies are in the modern US.

  77. Setsize says:

    One perversity is that more people choose to enter graduate school during economic recessions, while at the same time, recession contracts the available funding for scientists.

    I think many who enter science are people who, to some extent, prioritize intrinsically rewarding work over financially remunerative work. Particularly if they perceive a lack of prospects for rewarding work with their current skillset, combined with fewer opportunities to advance their skills. Science has a very high reputation for delivering intrinsic reward, often out of proportion to its reality.

    Reading the “science will cost you your first-born” would not have dissuaded past-me from abandoning a dullish software job for a neuroscience program, which I did fully aware that I was throwing away earning potential. A presentation that stressed “those intrinsic rewards only materialize for the very lucky” or even “Ph.D Comics is not exaggerating at all” might have done better.

  78. rose says:

    if anyone is in a place with dark skies, the Comet Lovejoy is spectacular tonight. look for the pleides. you will see Aldeberan, the eye of the bull, to one side of the pleides. go the same distance to the opposite side of the pleides on a slightly convex curve, and you will see the comet. it has an extraordinarily long, diaphanous tail tonight. magnificent.

  79. Douglas Knight says:

    The question of whether there is a double standard in enforcement of laws seems to me to be very vulnerable to cherry-picking, even in my own country where I can read the papers.

  80. Douglas Knight says:

    You previously linked to this study of police cameras. I suspect that when you say that this study compares favorably to earlier studies, you are actually talking about same one.

    I said at the time that it suggests that the cameras affected police behavior rather than citizen behavior, but I don’t agree that it is “strong evidence.”

  81. Steve Sailer says:

    The Armenian thing is very complicated for Israel because some of the Young Turks who were running Turkey in 1915 were Donmeh from Salonika: crypto-Jewish followers of the 17th Century false Messiah Sabbetai Zevi:

    http://takimag.com/article/the_byzantine_forces_behind_turkish_politics_steve_sailer/print#axzz3PGClxmnw

    Yeah, I know it sounds like crazy talk, but for details, see the 2009 Stanford University Press book “The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks” by UC Irvine historian Marc David Baer.

  82. Steve Sailer says:

    There’s an island in Lake Victoria named Ukara that has no sleeping sickness and no large mammals to compete with humans either. The society and economy is more like Asia than sub-Saharan Africa, with a dense population of hard-working farmers banging up against the Malthusian limits of the island. The surplus population of Ukara routinely migrates to the sicklier, less populated mainland where they start behaving like Africans:

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/05/an-island-where-africans-act-like-asians.html

  83. J. Quinton says:

    People seem to think that Christianity was a foreign religion that mysteriously took over the Roman Empire. It’s like thinking that baseball or apple pie “mysteriously” took over American pop culture.

    Christianity is a Greco-Roman religion through and through. The version of Christianity that we all know and love is one out of many different Christianities. The thing that “our” version had going for it is that it appealed strongly to its Jewish roots. The one thing that the ancient Romans hated was “new” religions popping up, and those were squashed without mercy. But (“orthodox”) Christianity claimed it was a continuation of Judaism, and the one thing that the Romans respected about Judaism was its antiquity. Ergo, Christianity gained respect by also being an “ancient” religion.

    If you read accounts of persecutions by pagan authors, they almost always talk about Christians being a new religion. Many people who read these think that there was one, singular version of Christianity — our Christianity — that they must be talking about when, in fact, there were multitudes of Christianities that they could be talking about. Some that completely eschewed the link to Judaism and so really had no defense against being called a new superstition (I recommend reading Bart Erhman’s “Lost Christianities” to get a bigger view of all this).

    But other than that, and the style of the Christian gospels (they’re written to model the OT and not a Greco-Roman biography), Christianity is a Greco-Roman religion. Almost all of the popular memes we associate with Christianity are actually Greco-Roman in origin.

    Martyrdom? Check
    Virgin birth? Check
    Gods descending from heaven in the form of a bird? Check
    Dying/rising god? Check
    Eucharist ceremony? Check (maybe)
    Healing someone’s blindness with spit? Check
    Concept of hell? Check
    The Logos? Check
    Brotherhood of all men? Check

    Richard Carrier argues that a religion like Christianity was basically inevitable as soon as Alexander the Great conquered Judea. He points out four big trends in the religious landscape prior to Christianity, and Christianity conforms to all four:

    1.Syncretism: combining a foreign cult deity with Hellenistic elements
    2. Monotheism: transforming polytheism into monotheism (via henotheism; Jews called subordinate gods “angels/demons”)
    3. Individualism: agricultural salvation cults retooled as personal salvation cults
    4. Cosmopolitanism: all races are equals (all are brothers) where people join religions instead of being born into them

    What basically happened was that Hellenistic culture mixed with the native culture to produce a new “mystery” religion. So for example, Mormonism is actually one branch (the lone successful one, IIRC) of a modern religion that mixed beliefs about the newly discovered Native Americans with Western religion (Judaism; Christianity). The idea that Native Americans were a lost tribe of Jews predates Mormonism by a couple of centuries. The same sort of deal happened with the Greeks mixing with their conquered peoples to create new religions as well:

    1. Eleusinian & Dionysian Mysteries: Combined Hellenistic religion/philosophy with Phoenician (west Syrian) religion
    2. Mysteries of Attis & Cybele: Combined Hellenistic religion with Phrygian (North Turkey) religion
    3. Mysteries of Jupiter Dolichenus: Combined Hellenistic religion with Anatolian (W Turkey) religion
    4. Mysteries of Mithras: Combined Hellenistic religion with Persian religion
    5. Mysteries of Isis & Osiris: Combined Hellenistic religion with Egyptian religion

    Hellenistic influence also spread to Judea. So if you follow this trend to its logical conclusion, we should predict something like:

    6. Mysteries of [insert Jewish hero/patriarch]: Combined Hellenistic religion with Jewish religion

    So when Paul talks about his congregation only being ready for milk (1 Cor 3.2), this is (probably) sort of mystery religion talk. Where new initiates are only given the basics and after a while they get the “real” food; the deeper mysteries of the cult (indeed, Paul and the John of Revelation are the only NT writers who talk about mysteries. The rest of the “mystery” talk is among the Gnostics/apocrypha).

    It seems as though some Jews had a belief in the pre-existence or angelification of certain Patriarchs, like Joseph and Melchitzedek. So there were already some candidates to insert into the angel/archangel Jewish mystery religion role. Carrier thinks that the angel/patriarch/pre-existent archangel they chose is Joshua (i.e., Jesus).

    So yeah. There’s nothing exceptionally surprising about Christianity becoming popular in the Roman Empire. It’s a mix of everything that was popular in Greco-Roman culture hidden under the guise of everything that was popular about Jewish culture.

    • Mary says:

      Good heavens, you don’t swallow all that pagan origins of Christianity stuff? especially with the weak tea you are offering as examples.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Everything that was popular about Jewish culture? These are the guys who inspired semi-regular pogroms and riots. These are the guys who Rome had to march against twice in Christianity’s first century, ultimately exiling them from their homeland for nearly two thousand years. They were not popular; at best they were weird. Romans respected Jewish martial prowess and their willingness to kill when not allowed their religion far more than they respected antiquity.

      • Ginkgo says:

        “Everything that was popular about Jewish culture? These are the guys who inspired semi-regular pogroms and riots. These are the guys who Rome had to march against twice in Christianity’s first century, ultimately exiling them from their homeland for nearly two thousand years. They were not popular; at best they were weird.”

        You are completely conflating Roman state policy with popular culture in the Empire. And even Roman state policy you are getting wrong. the Jews were expelled for repeated rebellion, not for any aspect of their religion. They made it clear they were going to continue to rebel, or at least that’s what they got the Romans to believe, enough to act on.

    • Deiseach says:

      Can I just go bang my head against a wall? Because this is so old-hat, I’m getting really tired of it.

      It’s like the flap about Hallowe’en being A PAGAN HOLIDAY!! where certain groups of very literalist Christians have no notion of anything past the last fifty years in their particular small denomination or non-denominational church, and so “anything that smacks of Catholicism” = “exact same thing as paganism”.

      What’s worse is the neo-pagans etc. who then jumped on the bandwagon with YES IT IS PAGAN and those Christians stole it from us!

      Conveniently ignoring that OICHE SHAMHNA IS DERIVED FROM THE BRITISH ISLES and so the Roman Empire version of Christianity (you know what I mean: Constantine! State Religion! See post above about why Christianity took off in the empire) did not suddenly go “Oh wow, if we want to sell this new cult, we’d better adopt a fringe seasonal festival from a bunch of islands at the edge of the known world which are the backwards backwaters, and ignore the fact that we’ve already been on the go about five to eight centuries by this time, and that will make us a World Spanning Global Domination Religion for sure!”

      A much better question, and one I’m interested in, is:
      (1) Why didn’t Mithraism take off like a rocket instead? Similar list of attributes, popular with the rank-and-file army guys, fits comfortably in with known practices while retaining that Exotic Mysteries of the Foreign East cool factor that made the Isis cult a craze
      (2) Why didn’t Arianism win in the battle over who was orthodox? Nicely simplifying all that complicated theology, plus personal backing of a whole slew of Emperors ready and willing to tell bishops “my way or exile to the salt mines” and yet – ultimate defeat.

      I get a bit fed-up, as you may have gathered, with the “Christianity was really pagan with a coat of whitewash slapped on” because it gets parroted by people who are neither Christian nor pagan, or have no experience of either. I think exposure to folk religion and genuine non-Christian, non-monotheist traditions would clear up a lot of confusion. It’s very tidy to say “Oh, Bridget or [insert Greek saint] was really the old tutelary deity of the place turned into the new saint so the official hierarchy winked at the natives not really being converted, just so long as they showed up and paid their dues”.

      Convenient, but not particularly accurate. I’m fairly sure I’ve encountered a real púca on an Irish hillside when I was eight years old, and it wasn’t a six foot invisible rabbit. The “Christianity Mystery Babylon Religion” notion is often the Hollywood version of the pooka.

      Also: Alexander’s conquest of Judaea made Christianity or something like it inevitable because it permitted Jewish religious themes to be Hellenised?

      May I remind you of the Maccabees? The whole revolt and civil war between the traditionalists and the Hellenized Jews? That eventually pulled the Romans in, who saw their chance and took it to add Judea as a client state and then province? The creation of the factions of the Pharisees – traditionalists, ritualists, upholders of the Torah and the traditional laws and customs, and who moreover were the populist party, with the support of the people – and the Sadducees, who were your model of ‘assimilationist’ and drew their support from the upper classes?

      The unpopular Herodian dynasty, seen as very much tied to Rome, very much Hellenized, and as degenerate and usurpers of the ‘right’ line of David? The constant simmering unrest and various revolts, the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the final Bar Kochba revolt, the failure of which brought about the Diaspora?

      This is not a people and a religion willing to make accommodations to their pagan neighbours in order to win converts to a new cult. In fact, the Romans were constantly confusing the Jews and Christians (as you are doing) and the Jews and Christians were as constantly denying they were the same thing at all.

      • Ginkgo says:

        “This is not a people and a religion willing to make accommodations to their pagan neighbours in order to win converts to a new cult.”

        Translating the Torah into Greek couldn’t have hurt an endeavor like that.

        The estimates of the Jewish population of the Empire are shaky of course, but supposedly a quarter of the population of Provence was Jewish, for one example.

        Bedouin tribes and kingdoms in the Arabian Peninsula were still converting to Judaism in the 300s.

        But it’s not about making accommodations to win converts. It’s about assimilating memes from neighboring cultures, or the dominant one, to get a better grasp on their own insights. How much did Reform and Conservative Judaism adopt from modernism?

      • Harald K says:

        I get a bit fed-up, as you may have gathered, with the “Christianity was really pagan with a coat of whitewash slapped on”

        Not nearly fed up enough, if you ask why Mithraism didn’t take off. Mithraism was in most respects a garden variety mystery cult, most of it supposed similarities to Christianity are later inventions (and not taken seriously by people studying Mithras since the first congress on Mithraic studies). For them and most of the other “Jesus-candidates”, there are bloody obvious reasons why they didn’t catch on, which authors in the “religiously tillating books” genre carefully withhold.

    • Ginkgo says:

      On the Hellenism of mainstream Christianity, John Keenan agrees with you.
      http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ADM/keenan.htm
      http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/03/the_significanc.html

      He says that Greek philosophical categories are at the root of a good number of supposed paradoxes and conundra that have plagued the church from the beginning.

      Hellenism influenced everything in its ambit, including Rabbinical Judaism. When I hear a rabbi on some interfaith panel discuss a concept by saying “The word for X in Hebrew is….’ in an attempt toe get to the Real Meaning of it, it sounds Platonic.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Among other problems, you’re answering the wrong question. Scientology is native to America, but if approximately 100% of Americans converted to Scientology within a few centuries there would still be a surprising fact requiring explanation.

    • Cauê says:

      I like the argument about there being syncretic hellenistic religions combining Greek influences with just about all peoples in close contact with the Romans. I don’t know enough to evaluate it, though (what % of surrounding religions got this hellenistic treatment?).

      To my eyes, however, at least some of the differences between ancient judaism and early Christianity look conspicuously Plato-shaped.

      • Protagoras says:

        Nietzsche once described Christianity as popularized Platonism. I guess there were a lot of neo-Platonist influences on early Christianity. I go back and forth on how accurate I think the neo-Platonist understanding of Plato was. Plato is so complicated and ambiguous; there are plenty of clues for the neo-Platonists to point to, but it’s never completely clear if they mean what the neo-Platonists want them to.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Augustine is explicitly Platonist, and since he’s the most influential Christian thinker in the West, our current ideas of Christianity absolutely retain a strong Platonic influence.

          However, when discussing the original spread of Christianity, he’s a bit too late to be relevant, and it’s harder to pin down the earlier thinkers. Part of this is that theology really didn’t get developed/solidified until after Christianity was finally safe from persecution.

          Off the top of my head, Justin Martyr was early, and a very big fan of Plato (“I expected forthwith to look upon God, for this is the end of Plato’s philosophy.”) Tertullian, on the other hand, famously fought Greek influences (“What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”) And Origen was just all over the place.

  84. Ginkgo says:

    “This blog sometimes discusses how ideas which weren’t originally religious can evolve into a semi-religious form. But even I was flabbergasted to see Chinese peasants offering bowls of pig blood to statues of Mao on his birthday (h/t Spandrell).”

    You should watch CCTV4 more closely. As a government organ is a pretty reliable barometer of government policy. Traditionalism is the new ideology and the Xi Jinping administration is pushing it on all fronts. It has revived veneration of Confucius (Jiang Qing is spinning in her grave I hope.) and refurbished temples all over the country. The PSAs are all about tending to parents, New Years rites at family temples and the like and even the nagging PSAs about loutish public behavior are couched in traditionalist terms. Veneration of Mao is no different than veneration of Guan Di or any of the others.

  85. Glenn Willen says:

    Does anybody know where I can find a non-paper copy of /Handbook of Relationship Initiation/? I’m curious but not curious enough to acquire an Object. I am happy to pay for a digital copy, but of course I expect that my options will be “pirate or paper”.

  86. Bug says:

    Wow, you have a hell of a lot of time for reading (and reacting to) the Internet. I’m starting to think this blog has a team of authors using the same byline, not just one.

  87. Sean says:

    Quick note with regard to body cameras. I note that non-body camera police incidents also changed. On the one hand, this could be because the police were aware that some of their back-up may have body cameras. On the other hand, it could be because all citizens (especially those who are expecting to deal with police- i.e. criminals, the folks mostly likely to engage in activities that result in use of force and subsequent applicable charges) were becoming aware that at least some police had body cameras.

    Could still go either way.

    By the way, you are aware that body camera footage is accessible through FOIA? More government surveillance, you know. I personally am strongly in favor of body cameras, but I do worry that we (I’m a cop) will get sued for violating people’s privacy when we use them. Hopefully we’ll figure that out as we go.

  88. Auroch says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

    I hadn’t heard of the Rat Park experiment before. The discussion here is interesting, but obviously it suits a certain narrative pretty strongly, so I’d like to hear from people more familiar with the study about any alternate interpretations of the data.

  89. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    From the BPA article: “Mounting research suggests that exposure to BPA at middling levels activates protective mechanisms in humans and other mammals. Exposure to very high levels will overwhelm such defenses and cause damage. But exposure to very low concentrations of BPA may cause more subtle damage: At low doses, the chemicals appear to sneak in under the body’s radar and mimic the effects of hormones found naturally in the body. That could lead to high cancer rates, infertility, brain changes and other endocrine disorders.”

    Maybe a judicious amount of BPA in the drinking water isn’t such a bad idea?

  90. I hereby give everyone involved in this discussion the prestigious Sailer Award For Excellence In Failure To Consider Alternate Hypotheses.

    The study tested three alternative hypotheses for why men predominate in certain academic fields. One hypothesis – because men are more likely to be geniuses – did not explain the outcome any better than chance. (They also tested the hypothesis that women were drawn to fields requiring more emotional intelligence while men were drawn to fields requiring more abstract thinking, with similar results.)

    I am tempted to award Scott the highly regarded Katie Roiphe Trophy for Achievement in Criticizing A Study One Apparently Hasn’t Read.

    But I can’t, because frankly, the competition for this particular award is extraordinarily crowded, and I doubt that Scott will even rate in the top 20.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think you misinterpreted me. See my more recent post on this for where I check the alternate hypothesis and find it to better explain the evidence. I would kind of like an apology.

  91. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the link to the genius study. Supplementary materials are here or here.