NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

These Are A Few (More) Of My (Least) Favorite Things

One year ago, I wrote Ten Things I Want To Stop Seeing On The Internet In 2014.

And now it’s 2015, and I think things are getting better. Take doge. I swear to God that the last time I saw the word doge, it was referring to an honest-to-God Venetian noble. And the price of dogecoin is down an order of magnitude from its peak last February. The War on Doges is starting to seem winnable.

I can’t take any credit for this. It has been a concerted effort on the part of millions of people who saw doge memes on Facebook, let their fingers briefly drift towards the “share” button, and then pulled themselves back from the precipice, restrained by their better nature.

But in the hopes that this is the first success of many, I would like to share some things I want to stop seeing on the Internet in 2015:

1. Abuse Of Poe’s Law

Poe’s Law is the belief that some religious fundamentalists are so stupid that it’s impossible to distinguish them from a parody.

This is all nice and well in the abstract, but when applied to a particular case, where a particular atheist has fallen for a parody site, it tends to be an unfortunate stand-in for “Some atheists are so ignorant that it’s impossible for them to distinguish religious people from a parody of religious people.” Listen:

A: “The Pope just said that everyone who isn’t creationist should be put in jail! What an outrage!”

B: “Uh, you do know that’s on The Onion, right?”

A: “Oh, well, haha, Poe’s Law, just goes to show how dumb those religious people are.”

Problem is, Poe’s Law isn’t limited to religion any more. Now it’s politics, culture, science, and anywhere else where one side thinks their opponents are so stupid it’s literally impossible to parody them (ie everywhere on both sides). You spread the dumbest and most obviously fake rumors to smear your opponents. And then when you’re caught, instead of admitting you were fooled, you claim Poe’s Law and smear your opponents even more.

On the other hand, once you’re willing to admit this dynamic exists, it can make for some pretty interesting guessing games and unintentional Intellectual Turing Tests – see the Poe’s Law In Action subreddit for some examples.

2. People Getting Destroyed By Other People

Whenever I write a persuasive piece, I get to see my fans share it on Twitter like this:

I didn’t destroy anybody. I disagreed with them.

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. Newsweek writes about how Jon Stewart Is A Violent Sociopath Who Must Be Stopped in reponse to increasing claims that Stewart “destroys”, “demolishes”, “disembowels”, and “makes ground beef” out of whoever he’s arguing against on his show.

This bothers me the same way that “debunked” bothers me. Both sides are going to insist that their own research “debunks” the other, and so make it impossible to have a conversation based on the premise that there’s still room for disagreement. The flip side of my fans believing that I’ve destroyed whoever is that when that person writes a response, their fans are going to believe they’ve destroyed me.

At least no one can eviscerate me, since Jon Stewart has already eviscerated the entire blogosphere.

3. Demonstrating That People Are Stupid By Having Them Use The Word “Muh”

No straw man is ever concerned about immigrants stealing his job. He’s always concerned about immigrants stealing “muh jarb”, or possibly “muh jawb”, which sounds like some form of obscure Islamic garment.

This has lately taken a disturbing turn in the form of straw feminists worrying about “muh sojiny”. I strongly believe that every women has a right to her sojiny and no man should be able to take it from her, but I still can’t help wishing that people would lay off the cheap shots for a while.

4. Wikipedia-Shaming

Did you know it is 2015 and people will still criticize you for getting facts off of Wikipedia?

I’m not even talking about controversial conclusions, like “on balance, the research about gun control shows…”. I’m talking about simple facts.

A: “China is bigger than the United States”

B: “Where’d you hear that one, Wikipedia?”

A: “…yes?”

B: “You expect me to believe something you literally just took off a Wikipedia article?”

Yes. Yes I do. I could go find the CIA World Factbook or whatever, but it will say the same thing as Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is pretty much always right. When you challenge Wikipedia on basic facts, all you do is force people to use inconvenient sources to back up the things Wikipedia says, costing people time for no reason and making them hate you. There may have been a time when Wikipedia was famously inaccurate. Or maybe there wasn’t. I don’t know. Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on it, so it would take time and energy to find out. The point is, now it’s 2015, and the matter has been settled.

How accurate is Wikipedia?:

Several studies have been done to assess the reliability of Wikipedia. An early study in the journal Nature said that in 2005, Wikipedia’s scientific articles came close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of “serious errors”. The study by Nature was disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica, and later Nature replied to this refutation with both a formal response and a point-by-point rebuttal of Britannica?’?s main objections. Between 2008 and 2012, articles in medical and scientific fields such as pathology, toxicology, oncology, pharmaceuticals, and psychiatry comparing Wikipedia to professional and peer-reviewed sources found that Wikipedia’s depth and coverage were of a high standard.

I know this because I got it from Wikipedia’s Reliability Of Wikipedia article. Go ahead, challenge me, I dare you.

5. Articles That Start Off With An Image Taking Up The Entire Screen

This is what I’m talking about. I click on the link expecting an article on gas pipeline deals, and there is exactly zero article on the first screenfull of page I come to. That’s fine, you know, the only reason I even clicked was to see a huge, high-resolution picture of Vladimir Putin’s head. Information is totally optional. Screw you. This is why if I want to learn about Russian-Chinese gas deals, I’ll just look them up on Wikipedia.

I feel the same way about those Web 2.0 sites where the landing page is just an image of a smiling group of people engaged in a nondescript activity, and then way up in the corner is a tiny button that says “Discover” (it’s always “discover”) which leads to actual information. Likewise this site, which probably made its designer feel very smug about their clean minimalist style, but where you can’t get a single word of information without watching a video.

6. Ads That Disappear Very Slowly

You get an ad. It appears at the bottom of the screen. You look at it, decide you’re not interested, click the little X. It disappears. But not right away. It crawls. It saunters. After what seems to be a long and arduous journey, during which it had to ford several rivers and stop off at Fort Laramie for supplies, it finally makes it to the bottom of the screen and fades away.

I try hard to understand other people’s perspectives. I know that companies need to have ads to make money. I know that they have an incentive to make those ads as disruptive and obnoxious as possible to make you look at them. I even understand why some ads have the little x kind of hidden, so you can’t find it without some poking around, which forces you to view the ad for a little while longer. I understand all those things.

But I don’t understand why the ad has to take so long to disappear. It’s obviously not just incompetence. They specifically have to add an extra little sliding-down animation to the ad to make it take so long. They put in more work to make it more annoying for no benefit. Do you really think that while I’m waiting for the ad to disappear, I’m thinking “You know, I thought I didn’t need to meet hot desperate singles in my area, which is why I clicked the X to make it go away, but that sliding-down-the-screen animation is so cool that I’m going to reload the page a couple of times, wait for the ad to come back, and then click it”?

7. Overuse Of Demonstratives In Clickbait

I understand that demonstratives (“this”, “that”, “yon”) are supposed to give you a bit of mystery, make you want to click on the article to see what’s happening. “This Celebrity Just Came Out As Gay” makes you wonder which one it is. “Rare Disease Spreads To These Three US States” makes you check if yours is one of them. Fine. I would personally prefer “Rare Disease Spreads To Three States” or even “Which Three States Did A Rare Disease Spread To? Click Here To Find Out”, but whatever.

However. On Vox recently, Obama Just Hit These North Koreans With Sanctions. What, exactly, are we supposed to get out of this? “Oh! I wonder if it’s Yu Kwang Ho! Surely they wouldn’t get Yu Kwang Ho! Better click to find out!”

8. Any Use Of The Word “Entitled”

Okay, I’ve already written on what I think of people calling nerds “entitled”. But it goes beyond that.

Number 8 in last year’s Least Favorite Things was “arguments about which generation is better”. Well, now those have progressed to arguments over which generation is most entitled. Hard Work? No Thanks! Meet Entitled-To-It-All Generation Y. Millenials are Selfish and Entitled and Helicopter Parents Are To Blame. But The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials, It’s Baby Boomers. And coming in from left field, maybe The Greatest Generation Was The Most Entitled. There are even entire books about this

Men feel entitled to women. Women feel entitled to men. Blacks feel entitled. Whites feel entitled. The Entitlement Mentality of Liberals coexists with Entitled Conservative White Male Putzes, possibly because Conservatives Feel ‘Entitled’ To Scorn ‘Entitlement’ (whatever).

Anyone can call their out-group entitled. The easiest way is – well, poor people are entitled because they demand hand-outs without working for them. Rich people are entitled because they think they deserve 100% of what they have and refuse to acknowledge or change the inequalities in the system that benefit them. One side or the other of that dichotomy is likely to map onto whatever group you want to insult.

“Entitled” is a Fully General Insult that can apply to anyone, and it really hurts. That makes it irresistable to the wrong kind of people, and it’s why I hope I start seeing less of it. Alternately, people could start giving their enemies the Psychological Entitlement Scale, which is so hilariously obvious with what it’s doing that I find it astounding that it apparently still manages to successfully detect some entitled people. The Titanic? Really?

9. People Being Post-Things

I recently heard someone describe themselves as “post-Zionist”, then go on to give what sounded like pretty standard criticism of Zionism. I don’t want to get too heavily into this particular example, because I understand post-Zionism is complex and every time I write something about Israel I get Israeli commenters saying I’ve gotten it wrong and other Israeli commenters saying no they’ve gotten it wrong and still other Israeli commenters saying we’ve all got it wrong. What was that saying about “two Jews, three opinions” again?

But what bothers me about post-Zionism is that it seems to carry this kind of smug “Oh, you guys are still Zionist? Don’t you know Zionism is, like, totally five years ago? Nowadays all the cool people have moved on to more exciting things,” which I don’t think really adds to the argument. Zionism versus anti-Zionism suggests a picture of two sides with two different opinions – which seems to match the reality pretty well. Zionism versus post-Zionism suggests one side just hasn’t gotten the message yet.

I feel the same way about post-rationalism. Yes, maybe you’ve seen through rationalism in some profound way and transcended it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. This is exactly the point under debate, and naming yourselves “post-rationalists” seems like an attempt to short-circuit it, not to mention leaving everyone else confused. And maybe you could give yourself a name that actually reflected your beliefs (“Kind Of New-Age-y People Who Are Better At Math Than Usual For That Demographic And Will Angrily Deny Being New-Age-y If Asked Directly”?) and we wouldn’t have to have a new “but what is post-rationalism?!?!” conversation every month.

Post-modernism can stay, though. At this point it’s less of a name than a warning label.

10. Disputes Over Whether Humans Evolved From Monkeys

I don’t mean creationism. I mean disputes among people who accept evolution, over whether it was monkeys in particular that humans evolved from.

It tends to go something like this.

A: “Humans evolved from monkeys”.

B: “No they didn’t! They evolved from chimps! Chimps are an ape, not a monkey!”

C: “Humans didn’t evolve from chimps! They evolved from a most recent common ancestor whose descendants include both humans and chimps!”

Everything about this conversation is not-even-wrong.

First, humans clearly evolved from monkeys in the same sense humans evolved from single-celled organisms. No one’s saying it had to be the most recent step.

Second, apes are ambiguously a type of monkey. Think square versus rectangle. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares and “rectangle” is usually used to indicate rectangles that are not squares but can technically refer to squares as well. Here’s a primatologist saying that Apes Are Monkeys – Deal With It.

Third, the most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees may (or may not) have been a chimpanzee. This is Richard Wrangham’s thesis, and he calls it pan prior, placing it firmly within the chimpanzee genus.

These last two issues are especially annoying because they’re kind of meaningless category disputes. Yet for some reason the Internet seems to be obsessed with the lurking fear that someone, somewhere, might be saying that people evolved from monkeys or chimps.

Seriously. Get a life, Internet.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

683 Responses to These Are A Few (More) Of My (Least) Favorite Things

  1. Pingback: These Are A Few (More) Of My (Least) Favorite Things | Neoreactive

  2. False says:

    But…but… post-modernism rules!

    • Anonymous says:

      Any qualities post-modernism might or might not have can’t really be objectively proven and thus don’t really exist.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ironically make sacrifices to this sky ox.

      • False says:

        You made a great argument for why post-modernism doesn’t exist, and then you made a great argument for why it rules.
        That still sounds like a win for post-modernism.

    • Tracy W says:

      I recall that one of my electrical engineering professors, when introducing modern control theory to us, noting that it was invented in the 1920s and advising us to never ever name anything “modern” because it would just cause problems down the line.

      Modernism is an excellent example of why that advice is good.

      • haishan says:

        Indeed, you should double down and call it hypermodern.

      • Anonymous says:

        Using any terms that refer to the current time in anything but real-time communication is not very smart. Like, I’ll see signs up saying “Garage sale today!” Congratulations. By putting the word “today” on your sign, you’ve informed me that the garage sale is the same day that you put the sign up. Unfortunately, I don’t keep a close watch on what days signs are put up.

        With internet posts, this objection isn’t quite as strong, because if someone posts a thread titled “X is happening today”, I can look at the date it was posted, but I still feel like the considerate thing to do is to say “X is happening [date]”. Or I’ll come across an old news article saying “X happened June of this year”, and I have to find the year the article was written to know when that was.

        There have been some episodes of Jeopardy where the preceding episodes were re-runs, and Trebek will start the episode off by saying “This is not a rerun”. Well, of course it’s not a rerun. Every episode is not a rerun, when it’s taped.

        I’ve even seen books that said on the front something like “The latest installment in series X”.

        • Anthony says:

          I can look at the date it was posted

          Except on Tumblr.

          Facebook hides the date behind “X ago”, where X gets progressively less accurate, but you can usually hover and find the exact date and time. Other sites do like facebook. But lots of Tumblr themes completely hide the date.

        • Glenn Willen says:

          Similarly, there are some tracks that cross the road near the Dumbarton Bridge (in the SF bay area) which have an “Active railroad” sign on them. Of course, that sign actually means “this was an active railroad when the sign was put up”, which is exactly the same as the meaning of the sign right above it (which merely says “railroad”). The tracks are, of course, not active.

      • Mary says:

        Similarly, it was at my first job coding that I was told to never put “New” in the name of a program because — one hoped — one day it would be Old.

        We maintained some programs to do something. The one with New in the name was the oldest.

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        In history, the modern era starts with one of 1453 (fall of Constantinople), 1492 (fall of Granada), 1492 (Columbus) or 1498 (Vasco da Gama) unless you’re writing Italian, Chinese or Japanese history, or one of the places where the divide is pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial rather than ancient, mediaeval, modern.

        This has reached the point where the era-designation now has “Early Modern Europe” because we’ve had more than two centuries since people first started calling it modern.

        • Peltast says:

          The Modern Era is only modern because we are in it. Post-Modern is kinda stupid. It won’t be Post-Modern until we are well out of it. In case some history student working on his thesis (or whatever the future equivalent it) reads this and is looking for a catchy distinguishing term, I’m going to say that post-Modern is going to be Post-Westphalian, i.e. when the Westphalian Nation-State concept becomes as quaint as Feudalism. I’m not predicting this as something that is going to happen tomorrow or anything, just that I think from 1648 on it has been one of the defining characteristics of the Western World (which came to dominate the rest of the world for most of this period).

          (Not debating any point you made. I studied history in college so am drinking what you’re brewing. I’m just replying to your post as adding more information to the discussion.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Surely post-post-rationalism is where it’s at now? 🙂

    • No, that’s modernism. Post-modernism eschews rules.

  3. DrBeat says:

    point 3: Maybe this complaint will be taken more seriously if we frame it as a logical fallacy? “Argumentum Ad Repeating Your Opponent’s Words In A Funny Voicem”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes! It is so annoying and so prevalent. A lot of TV comedy shows are based on that. It is not a legitimate form of argument.

    • Cauê says:

      I don’t know if this has an “official fallacy name”, but I think this and nº 3 are examples of responding by associating the argument with low status. Most effective when implying it is already generally regarded as low status.

      Also seen as “my god, I didn’t realize there were still people who take X seriously”, or “oh, come on, don’t tell me you really believe X”, or “aww, poor thing, the big bad X is trying to take away your Y?”, or etc. and etc.

      I hate this, because it works, and especially because *I can feel it working on me*, before I can mentally reject it. Nowadays I can see it as “I’m trying to assign low status to this” rather than “this is low status”, but the natural reaction is still to second guess myself (“is this already known to be false and stupid, and I’m the only one here who doesn’t know it? am I making a fool of myself?”).

      • Peltast says:

        I enjoy intellectual subjects and debates. I like reading this site because the author is very fair in his assessment of things he disagrees with (NRx FAQ is a case in point) and thorough in defending points he does. In light of this, I share the disgust at the “He thinks they are going to take away muh jawb. Poor plebian thing!” style of debating.

        My brother is a diesel mechanic and works in a shop with a collection of felons, ex-cons, rednecks, and other assorted rough people. He has adopted many of their mannerisms, and I have learned much from hearing stories of their simple behavior. This simplicity has created a perfect counter argument to “mah jub” arguments: “Eat shit.”

        (I don’t know the cursing rules on the comments page but I believe this passes three gates – Truth – I would not mind it if the makers of these dismissive arguments would devour feces; Necessity – I think we are in agreement it needs to stop; Kindness – it is very kind to all future people that don’t have belittling “moi jahb” arguments used on them.)

    • One thing I count as a victory for feminism is that it’s been decades since heard a man mock a woman by repeating what she said in a falsetto.

      • Addict says:

        Heh. I got mocked today in this very way (as a man) and immediately thought of this comment from a year ag. I think this, and a lot of other supposedly sexist stuff, are actually just things that high-status people do to low-status people, and that all feminism is really doing is making everybody treat all women as high-status.

  4. Ilya Shpitser says:

    “Wikipedia is pretty much always right.”

    This is not true, and it is irresponsible of you to claim this.

    Wikipedia has no process for experts to speak up and non-experts to shut up. Wikipedia can produce high quality content, and often does, but it is generally despite of, not because of their model.

    You can’t compare Wikipedia to Brittanica directly because Wikipedia has a lot more stuff. This makes Wikipedia’s job of being right harder, but it’s still bad if it’s wrong.

    • Kiya says:

      While we’re complaining about Wikipedia, it tends to be pretty useless at explaining math and other technical concepts in a manner understandable to someone not already familiar with them.

      On the other hand, it is an excellent source of lists.

      • Jadagul says:

        On the other hand, Wikipedia is excellent at explaining technical math concepts in the way I, as a mathematician, would like to have them explained.

        This is probably related to most of the math pages being written by mathematicians.

        • Franz Panzer says:

          I second this.

          Also, even most (maths-) books I ever read fall into one of two categories: books that are good at teaching you stuff and books that are good to look stuff up in. It’s rare to have one that does both.

          Wikipedia is for me strictly in the second category

        • I found lots of good math pages, but also a distressingly large number of pages that appear to have been written by an enthusiastic but not terribly capable student who’d just encountered the subject for the first time.

          (Also, Wikipedia is pretty good for crypto – as long as you already know enough to spot the stuff that is not technically wrong but still dangerously misleading.)

        • Anonymous says:

          There’s a cyclic process, whereby if someone writes comprehensible page on a technical subject , someone else decides its wrong and corrects it into incomprehensibility.

      • Dude Man says:

        You could always try Simple English Wikipedia

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        As a computer scientist learning bioinformatics, I depend on wikipedia to help me with the biological side of journal articles. Things I’ve never heard of consistently have clear and concise explanations there. I hardly bother Googling any more — straight to wikipedia.

        • Murphy says:

          Wikipedia is amazing for Bioinformatics and a lot of biology stuff. Because Bioinformatics is a newish field a lot of supervisors get their grad students to create wiki articles with simplified explanations of what they’re working on.

        • Thomas says:

          Would you be interested in exchanging contact information with a biologist looking to learn computer science?

      • Charlie says:

        I dunno, they’re pretty good for me, except they keep sticking fiber bundles in everywhere. We get it, guy who writes every wikipedia article even tangentially related to field theory, you really like fiber bundles!

      • zz says:

        For those not already aware, Wikipedia has helpfully compiled a list of lists of lists.

      • chaosmage says:

        It is still better than many math textbooks, though.

        On an important point that was central to my diploma thesis, Wikipedia’s explanation was more readable than the textbook my university had provided – but it directly contradicted it. Fortunately, the contradiction was in a particular mathematical formula, so I could simply implement both and check. The Wiki was right, the textbook had a typo.

        Of course this was in 2003, when Wiki had barely gotten started. I imagine newer textbooks (whose writers use Wiki just like everyone else) are much better than the ones we had then.

      • youzicha says:

        Math articles are hard to understand, but it’s hard to say whether this is because they are not written well, or because math is just really hard to understand.

        There was a nice exchange on a Metafilter thread, where someone complained that they couldn’t understand the Wikipedia page for “symplectic manifold”, and then a mathematician chimed in to say that understanding symplectic manifolds from scratch will take hundreds of hours of work, sorry.

        I think this is a big difference between mathematics and many other academic subjects such as biology or history—an expert in the latter knows many facts, but each individual fact is reasonably easy to explain on its own.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Wikipedia is pretty terrible on a great many politically-charged topics. Part of the problem is that some activists have realized “what wikipedia says” defines what seems true to lazy journalists. So if you can get your slant in EARLY, that slant will influence actual news articles which can then be used to justify KEEPING the slant in. The activist perspective stays in.

      Another part of the problem is that even a single crank who REALLY CARES (and is moderately good at rules-lawyering) will outlast a long succession of more reasonable people who all individually don’t care all that much about that one topic. The crank perspective stays in the article.

      Currently the best defense mechanism against being fed nonsense is to skim the “talk” page. Cranks and activists usually don’t care quite as much about what gets said there, so very often you can clearly spot what points of view are being actively suppressed and by whom. (sadly, this approach doesn’t scale – if we all started caring more about what’s on the talk page, the cranks and activists would police that better and make the problems harder to spot. But it works tolerably well today.)

      • Vegemeister says:

        This is very much true. In the immediate aftermath of Robin Williams’ suicide, a small band of bipolar disorder advocates tried to use Williams’ Wikipedia page to spread the notion that he had been a sufferer, based on a several-tabloid incestuous citation loop.

      • James says:

        A trivial-but-clear example of this feedback loop is described here: http://everything2.com/title/Peaches+Geldof

        Vandal spuriously claims on Peaches Geldof’s Wikipedia page that her full name is Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof. Said vandalism is removed, but in the meantime has been picked up by a newspaper, and are then returned to the Wikipedia article with sources.

        Then again, this was all back in 2005 or so, so things might have changed since then, but it’s still a useful example, I think.

      • Deiseach says:

        When I’ve looked up things on Wikipedia that I do know a bit about, it’s been generally good and accurate, so I have to trust it on things I don’t know about.

        Sure, sometimes you can see the bias in a piece and go “Aha, person who wrote this belongs to [this wing of whatever]!” But then again, they’d doubtless say that my opinion on the matter is equally a matter of bias.

        When someone has written a slanted, personalised, or biased towards one pet interpretation of the matter article on Wikipedia, isn’t that what shouting on the Internet is how you correct it? I tend to get up on my hind legs and write enraged comments about how this [opinion] is plainly and blatantly wrong 🙂

      • RCF says:

        ” if we all started caring more about what’s on the talk page, the cranks and activists would police that better and make the problems harder to spot.”

        How would they police it? Delete dissenting views from the talk page? That would visible in the history, and would leave them in serious danger of being banned. One can also check the edit history of the main page to see how stable it is; a crank can revert dissenting edits, but can’t delete them from the history.

        • drunkenrabbit says:

          It just means that a fraught, angry talk page is probably an SOS for people with level heads or credentials to take a hard look at the article.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          >How would they police it? Delete dissenting views from the talk page?

          More likely cloak it in blather. (A tactic that is also sometimes seen on the main article page.)

          Active pages can over time accumulate a LOT of discussion so there exists a process for “archiving” older discussions. So if an argument goes on for a while, the info on the talk page that somebody noticed some particular ESPECIALLY RELEVANT FACT X can’t be added or has been put in a misleading context can simply fall out of scope – the average reader isn’t going to read an ENTIRE talk page AND bring up all the older archived versions of it to discover that comment. So if a couple editors wanted to hide somebody’s objections to what they’re doing from all but the most determined researchers, they could just add new sections to the talk page discussing other page issues until auto-archive kicks in or most readers get bored and leave. Then it wouldn’t be sufficient (as it usually is now) for somebody to give their salient objection once; they’d have to keep objecting on an ongoing basis.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with your description of Wikipedia’s model, but I don’t see it causing actual problems in the content of their articles. It seems squarely in the category of Things That Shouldn’t Work But Do.

      I sometimes disagree with its slant on highly politicized things, but it’s rarely outright factually wrong, and it’s usually less politicized than most other sources since it’s got people from all sides contributing.

      • Jiro says:

        If you think Wikipedia is rarely wrong or politicized, I suggest reading Wikipedia’s article on the controversy-that-isn’t-really-about-worker-ants.

        (Of course, technically that doesn’t prove anything about oftenness, since it’s one example, but a prominent case of it weakens your theory.)

        • chaosmage says:

          I challenge you to provide an overview of the topic that is less politicized while providing a comparable amount of facts.

        • Cauê says:

          That is an outlier (Jimbo himself had to get involved, and even that didn’t work). I suspect that a big part of the problem is that the usual “reliable secondary sources” are one of the warring factions in this case.

          For the norm, Things That REALLY Shouldn’t Work But REALLY Do is accurate.

          And I strongly second the suggestion to look at the talk page at the first hint of politicization.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Here is a much simpler example:

          Not too long ago, The Federalist busted Neil DeGrasse Tyson for fabricating various quotes. Somebody put this up on his wikipedia page. Wikipedia apparently didn’t like this, and erased all reference to the controversy. An edit war ensued.

          This escalated to the point where The Federalist’s own wikipedia entry was put up for deletion. You can go read that thread if you really want to jade your view of Wikipedia. On the other hand, they ultimately didn’t delete the entry, so maybe the system works.

          I still agree what Wikipedia is great for very basic overviews of facts.

          • Deiseach says:

            What? Somebody dared besmirch the unimpeachable infallibility of Saint Neil of Tyson? I am agog and aghast!

            (You may perhaps discern that I am fed up to the back teeth of seeing his face and ‘inspirational’ quotations from him, by him and about him plastered all over my Tumblr dash).

          • drunkenrabbit says:

            @Deiseach

            Just curious, you mind linking your Tumblr?

          • suntzuanime says:

            That does in fact sound like the system working. Whether or not Wikipedians are constantly engaged in heated behind-the-scenes wars over whether or not to fill the pages with misinformation doesn’t actually matter to us so long as the anti-misinformation side reliably wins out.

            The much more crucial flaw is, as Cauê notes, the reliance on secondary sources as the arbiter of truth. If the secondary sources are filled with misinformation, Wikipedia will be filled with misinformation. Garbage in, garbage out.

          • Deiseach says:

            Um, well, drunkenrabbit, my Tumblr is not edifying, to say the least. I tend to avoid the SJ Wars and other such kerfuffles by concentrating on various fandom obsessions (old and new) so you would tend to find lots of reblogs of “discussions of latest episode” (I may have gotten involved in the creation of a semi-religion based on one particular show; I possibly wrote some religious texts and a litany; I definitely was in the thick of a war of religion based on a schism, but you’ll be glad to know ecumenism has broken out and nobody is threatening anybody with burning at the stake anymore) interspersed with a very, very few “so enraged over local storm in teacup I put up this Post O’ Doom on something that about six people in Ireland would know or care about”.

            Though I have been doing a few “So help me the seven angels of Revelation that poured forth the vials of wrath upon the earth, if I see one more unquestioning repost of ‘If only the Library of Alexandria hadn’t burned we’d all have our flying cars by now’, my head will explode. But first, this rant on the subject!”

            The Neil deGrasse Tyson thing came about because of one too many reblogs of some anodyne tweets of his, one of which was about – I think, can’t quite remember – the constellation Libra and the derivation of the name. I remember going “Hmm, not quite right there, Neil” BECAUSE YOU KNOW HISTORY AND LANGUAGE KIND OF MY THING but the unquestioning adulation of “Oh, isn’t he so smart about everything!” was what gored my ox.

            Also, since I wasn’t reared in a country where we cut our milk teeth on Bill Nye, The Science Guy, I don’t know the man or the sky over him, and couldn’t care less about multiple pictures of “ZOMG, it’s Bill and Neil! Together! In the same place! At once!”

            My inner curmudgeon gets quite a workout at times, which is why I prefer to confine myself to fandom wars if I must get involved in “things to elevate my blood pressure” 🙂

        • Mary says:

          It proves something, because there is a rule to which it is a counter-example. If Wikipedia can be egregiously wrong, it’s dangerous to cite without further verification.

          I have seen with my own eyes — and seen by the history that the error stood long — both that you can’t have a stepparent without your parents’ divorcing; because the marriage was not broken, if the parent was widowed and remarried, the new spouse is not a stepparent; and that prostitution is having sexual intercourse with someone you don’t love

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m seeing people not knowing the difference between half-siblings, step-siblings and foster children. I don’t mind so much when it’s people with low literacy who are not able to fill out forms, but when it’s an Official Letter from Social Protection/Health Board, then it gets on my nerves.

          • Mary says:

            And they let those people edit Wikipedia.

          • Julie K says:

            “you can’t have a stepparent without your parents’ divorcing”

            *boggle* I guess they think that Cinderella’s parents were divorced.

          • Mary says:

            Bingo.

            That one, of course, got fixed. But it had been up there for some time.

          • RCF says:

            People can also have kids without getting married. There a lot of couples who don’t get married, have a kid, and then get married to other people. There are also cases where Person A is married to Person B, but has a child with Person C, in which case Person B is a stepparent.

      • rose says:

        Scott, perhaps you are right that Wikipedia is trustworthy on science articles. However, I suspect any articles on controversial, politicized science issues, such as global warming, are a war zone of competing editors.

        From experience, I can tell you history articles are far from accurate. Anything that touches on any Jewish topic, however marginally, is a war zone. There used to be one notorious editor who calls himself Bali who seems to spend his free time erasing Jewish editor’s contributions. Judging from his own listings, he is a radical leftist. There are many other anti-Semites who dominate Wikipedia entries.

        At the time (about five years ago) that I was trying to post accurate information on a number of topics, I found that most of the Jewish editors in that interest group had one by one become discouraged and dropped out.

        Culture and political wars contaminate all sorts of history topics. The article on the Dark Ages was a war zone between people who don’t believe the barbarians were backwards and those who do. The article on the Spanish Inquisition was a war zone between people who wanted to say it especially targeted Jews and those who didn’t.

        The article on the Mufti of Jerusalem doesn’t mention he was a Nazi who worked directly for Goebbel’s, and had a memo of understanding with Hitler to kill all the Jews in the Middle East.

        No where on Wikipedia will you find information on how Hitler financed and trained the Muslim Brotherhood starting in the 1930’s and grew them from an organization of a few thousands to one with a million members. The link between Hitler and the jihadis is very well documented in the archives of the Third Reich – the facts are solid. They are verboten on Wikipedia.

        Information found herer:http://www.matthiaskuentzel.de/contents/kategorie/32/?lang=en
        More links here: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/01/why_we_should_fear_the_moslem.html
        Another kuntzel article here: http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/Jew-Hatred%20and%20Jihad.pdf

        Many people use Wikipedia as a go to site to research topics of the day, and they are badly served.

        • Cauê says:

          I find wikipedia especially useful on politicized topics, as there’s a better chance to see what different views there are than anywhere else.

          Particularly if one makes a habit of checking the talk page, to see what is being pushed or resisted (particularly in protected articles).

          (the MB article does look like an example of when it goes wrong – although the talk page had discussions about it, which have been archived)

        • grendelkhan says:

          No where on Wikipedia will you find information on how Hitler financed and trained the Muslim Brotherhood starting in the 1930’s

          It’s at least mentioned here.

      • rose says:

        “it’s usually less politicized than most other sources since it’s got people from all sides contributing.”

        that is it’s theoretical way of functioning. in reality, Glen Raphael’s description above is more accurate. A highly politicized activist on some topic – the Dark Ages, the Inquistion, anything remotely to do with Jews – will tire out well meaning editors with ‘edit wars’ until they drop out. if you complain to the Wikipedia powers that be, you may be told to wait a few years and that editor may disappear on his own. really? and how many readers are misinformed in the meantime.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Scott, my favorite example here is the article on confounders. It is an interesting exercise to see why the very first sentence is wrong. And not just “I am nitpicking” kind of wrong, majorly and misleadingly wrong. We all like to talk about confounders. Note that this is not a political, but a mathematical topic, where a single right answer exists. At least it should be… everything is political for some set of humans somewhere.

        There are some others I know about, and don’t have time/inclination to fix. And I think these things are like cockroaches — for every one we notice how many have we not?

        • Cranky Old Man says:

          Ilya, do you want to explain why the first sentence is so misleading? “In statistics, a confounding variable (also confounding factor, a confound, or confounder) is an extraneous variable in a statistical model that correlates (directly or inversely) with both the dependent variable and the independent variable.”

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Absolutely! Say “A” is your eye color, “B” is your sister’s eye color, and “C” is your brother’s eye color (in this example you have a sister and a brother).

            “A” is our independent variable, and “B” is our dependent variable. “A” and “B”, will be related due to Mendel’s laws of inheritance. Similarly, “A” and “C” are related, and “B” and “C” are related. So, according to this definition, “C” is a confounder for the relationship of “A” and “B”. But intuitively it is not. If your parents never had your brother, the relationship of “A” and “B” would have remained unaffected. (If you think that it is weird to talk about confounders for “A” and “B” since “A” does not cause “B” and vice versa, it is easy to construct another “B” that is caused by “A”, perhaps “A” is some heritable characteristic at birth (say weight), “B” is same at age 25, and “C” is your sibling’s weight)

            The definition of “confounding” is now well-understood. The definition of “confounder” is, surprisingly, far trickier. A colleague of mine wrote a paper with me on this topic.

            In Epidemiology they have a special name for what happens when you adjust for variables like brother’s eye color above, that fall under Wikipedia’s sentence one definition: “M-bias.” This should be a clue that adjusting for such variables is bad :).

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      Okay what do you mean by this? As far as I can tell, “Wikipedia has no process for experts to speak up and non-experts to shut up” is completely untrue. Wikipedia absolutely has a way for experts to speak up and non experts to shut up. The mechanism? The expert has to publish their opinion somewhere else first. That’s all wikipedia demands! No, you cannot show up and say “Hi, I want you to change this because I’m an expert.” Wikipedia wants a published document (even on a website or a blog!) that verifies that you’ve said that.

      • Jiro says:

        “I want you to publish something” is a very imperfect way of listening to experts. This is particularly bad for popular culture topics, since a popular culture topic can be obscure enough that much of the information about it only gets published on the Internet, published by fans, and/or self-published by the creator, even though the information is by any non-Wikipedia standard reliable. It also tends to fail for politicized topics. Imagine trying to get an article about the ants that takes the ants’ side published anywhere.

        • Corwin says:

          The pop culture one’s what tvtropes is for, there is little reason for wikipedia to include it.
          As for the ant thing… at this point, who still cares? A handful of trolls on each side, who will get tired of it eventually, at which moment it becomes likely that a reasonably factual summary would replace its then wikipedia page.

          • DHW says:

            And until that day, a noisy political dispute ends up with one side “winning” because it was able to take control of the Wikipedia page and thus steer lazy journalists in their preferred direction. Maybe next time it’ll happen to some argument you care about more than the ants.

      • rose says:

        again, this is theoretical. in practice, you can have information that has a whole list of impeccable sources. your politicized opponents will gang up and you and wear you out with edit wars until you give up because life is too short to deal with the bullshit.

      • John Schilling says:

        Wikipedia wants a published document (even on a website or a blog!) that verifies that you’ve said that

        Actually, Wikipedia explicitly rejects the websites and blogs that “verify that you said that”. In order to be acceptable to Wikipedia, someone else has to have said it, and it has to have been published in a reliable source by e.g. a third-party editor.

        Or it has to tickle the fancy of the alpha editor for the article in question. It is genuinely difficult for an expert to challenge the Wikipedia consensus, requiring at a minimum reference to a consensus of expert opinion elsewhere and usually a long and acrimonious process. Reinforcing the Wikipedia consensus, is much easier.

        • original research is a big no-no on Wikipedia, but links from the media are ok. we can always trust the media; they are never wrong

        • Mary says:

          Wikipedia, for instance, refused the well-documented-on-blogs fact that the uproar about Amanda Marcotte serving as a blogger for Jonathan Edwards stemmed from the fact that she had posted a monstrous post declaring that it was horrible, horrible, horrible that the Duke lacrosse players would not be punished. In January — that is, long after it was obvious to everyone that the woman had lied, and the DA had railroaded them. She said a broadcast with the facts was “pure evil.” I was there. That was what the uproar stemmed from; the complaints about her other bigotry came later. The newspapers apparently spun it was all Catholic League, and so that’s what Wikipedia said. Because, you know, newspapers are so much more accurate than blogs.

    • The Do-Operator says:

      Ilya, I agree with you that Wikipedia articles on Causality tend to be horrible. However, I think there is a case to be made that Gell-Mann Amnesia does not apply here.

      Wikipedia articles on Causal Inference are uniquely bad for reasons that are probably rooted in the complicated sociology of causal inference research (fairly recent major paradigm shift, several camps within the new paradigm that essentially speak separate languages)

      I can testify that in other subject areas where I have expertise, such as medicine, Wikipedia tends to be very accurate.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I actually agree that Wikipedia is often shockingly good on many topics (for reasons that are not entirely clear given the incentive model and that I should think about harder), I just took issue with Scott’s claim that it is basically always right.

        Specifically, because Scott is well-respected in the rationalist circles, I was worried his endorsement would make people value Wikipedia’s opinion too highly. I think LW already has a bit of a disease of mistaking “expertise” for “read a Wikipedia article or two.”

        I use Wikipedia myself, quite a bit. It is extremely useful. It’s just noisy, and not a substitute for books and papers.

    • Harald K says:

      Wikipedia can more or less be trusted on claims there are zero controversy about.

      They will never, ever, straight admit that on the Reliability of Wikipedia page. The closest they can come to it is to suggest that there are bad people out there who are not real wikipedia people, who are so depraved that they will attempt to push their own agenda on some topics.

      The problem is, your default assumption is that there’s no controversy about a topic. That’s a good assumption in general, but it can be a landmine when exploring wikipedia on topics you know little about.

    • Anonymous says:

      You disagree with the claim that Wikipedia is pretty much always right, but you fail to provide examples to demonstrate the wrongness. As far as I could tell, Scott’s point was that Wikipedia-skepticism tends to be taken far beyond what is reasonable.

      And as far as reasonable goes, one should always keep in mind the relevant biases regardless of source. An ordinary encyclopedia probably tends towards being out of date and conservative. Scientific journals sometimes tend to favor interesting over true. Newspapers often have political agendas.

      As for Wikipedia, one should keep in mind what sort of people are likely to be interested in editing different articles. Some predictably get mired in activism and sourcing wars. Others are just as trustworthy as any textbook or encyclopedia. Such as this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heapsort

      • Harald K says:

        The Heapsort article may be credible, but take a topic not very far from it in topic-space: the binary-coded decimal article. That used to be really bad, despite the fact that one of the world’s greatest experts on decimal computing tried to work on it (Mike Cowlishaw). He was obstructed and reverted repeatedly by one wiki-worker who insisted (against the evidence) that BCD was obsolete and barely deserving of a page.

        It’s still not exactly a good article, but these days at least it’s a big article. Even when an article is decent, you could cry about the effort that went into counteract the work of those who work tirelessly to climb in Wikipedia’s unacknowledged hierarchy. When you take into account to the breaks it got, all it got for free, I’m not especially impressed with Wikipedia as a project.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Yes, these sorts of stories are very common. I have a similar story about the Bayesian network article. Experts generally have neither the time nor the incentives to deal with Wikipedia bridge trolls. I sure don’t, I have papers to write!

          • Anonymous says:

            These are all arguments of the form ‘Wikipedia isn’t perfect – in theory, it could be better’. This is trivially true.

            Bayesian networks and binary coded decimal are rather technical topics. There are barely any alternatives – papers, half of which will be behind a paywall; textbooks, few of which are available digitally and fewer yet for free; and random computer science blogs.

            Wikipedia is a good source (aggregator) for uncontroversial topics. It isn’t comprehensive and infallible – just like any other sort of source material. It can’t replace an actual person with the relevant expertise. I can concede this, and I’m sure Scott will too.

            All I am saying is that you shouldn’t dismiss Wikipedia without a much more relevant objection than ‘You’re not supposed to cite Wikipedia!’.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “There are barely any alternatives – papers, half of which will be behind a paywall; textbooks, few of which are available digitally and fewer yet for free;”

            Free but wrong vs correct but costs money is either a trivial choice, or a false choice.

            You should probably take the time to understand what I am actually objecting to.

            One issue is that Wikipedia has no process in place to prevent it being factually wrong on even uncontroversial technical topics, and in fact Wikipedia is sometimes wrong on such topics. This is worse than “not being a substitute for an expert,” it is actually harmfully misleading.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wikipedia absolutely has a process in place to prevent it being factually wrong.

            No, it isn’t foolproof. No, professional peer-review isn’t foolproof, either.

            Where exactly are you going with these false dichotomies?

          • Harald K says:

            “Wikipedia absolutely has a process in place to prevent it being factually wrong.”

            Wales (and all of the important people on wikipedia) has a legal positivist attitude to their process. The process is bad? well that can’t be, because then you could just use the process to fix it! They view criticism from outside as tantamount to a crime. One of the worst things you can do if you want to get ahead on wikipedia, is discuss your grievances with the process outside of it (trying to discuss it on Wikipedia is also pretty risky).

            Conversely, you can get sanctioned and reprimanded again and again, and as long as you never question the justice of your punishment, you can be back swinging the moment you’re unblocked. This rewards the extremely persistent system-climbers.

            Does this make wikipedia less immediately useful? Well, no. Most of the time, you can count on it being reasonably accurate and useful. But it also matters how bad it fails when it fails, and for Wikipedia, that is potentially very bad indeed.

    • Anonymous says:

      The key to wikipedia is the source links at the bottom. Usually they’re horrifyingly bad. Most of the time something is “common knowledge” and I assume someone’s just done a quick google for a source and stuck it in there. For this reason it stays generally correct. Basically wikipedia is a great source for something that you would not bother source-checking anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can’t compare Wikipedia to Brittanica directly because Wikipedia has a lot more stuff. This makes Wikipedia’s job of being right harder, but it’s still bad if it’s wrong.

      Indeed. People should remember that Wikipedia contains not only featured articles, but many stubs as well. A lot of them are poorly researched, poorly written or simply outdated by a few years. If you stumble upon such article, you should double check the information in it. Wikipedia’s best articles are very good. Median articles are also quite good. People should remember that the quality of articles is uneven. Wikipedia is respected for its featured articles, but you should not necessarily extend that respect to stubs.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      This seems to be a case of reversing any advice you hear. Scott thinks that people are too dismissive of Wikipedia. You think that people trust Wikipedia too much. And you’re both right (some people trust it too much and others too little).

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        That’s not what Scott said, he said Wikipedia is practically always right, which is a far stronger statement than “people are too dismissive of Wikipedia.” I would be perfectly happy with more qualification.

        Of course your version is sort of a boring tautology, and Scott was writing a “you know what really grinds my gears?” kind of post..

  5. Pasha says:

    Why not add to this list:

    1. Here are 25 Jokes that only Nerds will understand

    2. Look at this group of divided people (Seahawks vs Packers fans for example) and look at a SHOCKING act of kindness. Also i was brought to tears, surprised, etc

    3. 10 things you should stop / starting doing right now because you have been doing them wrong your entire life and the only thing that can help you is a widely popular clickbait site with scientific credibility approximately equal to pavlovs dog

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      Look at this group of divided people (Seahawks vs Packers fans for example) and look at a SHOCKING act of kindness.

      Is everyone aware of Clickhole? If not, you need it in your life.

      • anodognosic says:

        I originally thought Clickhole would have a very limited range of material to parody. It turns out I had underestimated the depths of stupidity there are to plumb on the internet.

    • Deiseach says:

      Also all the bloody ads about “This one weird trick doctors/the beauty industry/banks/talk show hosts don’t want you to know about”.

      I’m fully in agreement with Scott about “see something that sounds interesting, click on link, they want you to sit through a thirty minute video that has ten solid minutes at the start of the speaker trying to be ‘relaxed’ and ‘natural’ by cracking lame jokes in the most wooden style” – I learn things by reading, not hearing, so if you put up a video I will not stick around to find out how to spin straw into gold.

  6. Dude Man says:

    Post-modernism can stay, though. At this point it’s less of a name than a warning label.

    As Zach Weiner once wrote, “I would respect post-modernism if it called itself mad humanities.”

  7. JB says:

    Here’s one I’d be happy to see gone from the internet in 2015: Sites that detect when you’re about to close them and make a desperate pitch to hold on to your attention: “Before you go, how about watching one of these other videos?”. Whoever it was who noticed that they could identify when the cursor is moving off the page and towards the ‘x’, congrats, I’m sure you feel very clever. But it’s disturbing to see websites which appear to disagree with your desire to make them go away, and it makes me worry about what will come next.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Wow. I’ve never seen that.

    • B says:

      Not even clever, available by default:
      Before unload and unload dom events, e.g. http://api.jquery.com/unload/

      Which is one of those things about how ads ruin everything.

      E.g. just recently I talked with a colleague about http://www.bemyeyes.org. It’s a neat concept but we are afraid that it’ll drown in “blind” trolls dropping their phone down their pants and “seeing eye” trolls describing that they’re seeing dicks everywhere. The way to make just creating new accounts too expensive would be to permaban phones where abuse is coming from, but you can’t have a real permanent, persistent and unique identifier any more in most APIs. Why? Because those were abused for ad tracking.

      It’s horrible that Flattr isn’t taking off better. “Paying” by watching ads is feeling more and more expensive all the time.

    • Harald K says:

      Especially pages that lie about having forms filled.

      Browsers will often warn you with something like “you look like you’re in the middle of posting a comment! Are you sure you want to click away, you’ll lose what you’ve written”. Some very scummy services (ay dee eff dot ell why) exploit that by pre-filling stuff into apparently invisible forms.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Can it detect when you’re about to press Ctl-W ?

    • CzerniLabut says:

      As an subset, websites that promote a sales pitch with some snarky self-deprecating phrase for the negative option. I’ve started encountering this on many news websites.

  8. B says:

    Re: Monkeys & humans:
    http://www.macroevolution.net/human-origins.html
    What do the assembled qualified people think?

    I find the level if detail intriguing and I get no crazy vibes from it, but I don’t even know whether the claims are true, let alone relevant. My anatomical knowledge is pretty much “removing the head voids the warranty”.

    Googling shows that the site is much wider known than I thought but the immediately available “rebuttals” are the typical IO9 and Rationalwiki fare (“We represent science and rationality and we’re now going to show it by sneeringly calling somebody with a non-mainstream claim a pseudoscientist. Q.e.d.”).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Just with my limited knowledge of non-human biology, this is really really really really REALLY crackpottish. I’d give a much higher probability to Roswell being aliens, Bigfoot being real, or homeopathy working than this being true.

      This would be, by far, the most astounding example of hybridization in all of biology. While there are a couple of very specialized and academic examples of distant species like this breeding, the young don’t usually survive let alone go on to breed or become successful.

      More important, we can just check genes. If humans had pig genes, we would really, really know about it. We could just do 23andMe on a pig and notice that it shared a far-greater-than-chance number of human genes. It would not be difficult and it would not be subtle.

      • Bugmaster says:

        > We could just do 23andMe on a pig and notice that it shared a far-greater-than-chance number of human genes.

        Wait, isn’t this exactly the case ? Humans and pigs are both mammals, so you would absolutely expect to find a ton of shared genes between them. Humans and birds would have fewer shared genes, because they diverged much further down the evolutionary tree. Humans and plants would have much, much fewer genes in common, but they’d have some, like the genes for building cell membranes or whatever.

        • Murphy says:

          Mutations build up in DNA at a somewhat predictable rate.

          As such it’s possible to trees based on the “distance” between 2 or more sequences/organisms.

          2 closely related species will have few mutations. 2 distantly related will have many. He hand waves it away but it would be quite testable and we’d expect large portions of our genome to be freakishly close to pig genes.

          Indeed we believe we are fairly close to chimps so you could measure the “distance” between humans and pigs and the distance between chimps and pigs and if we were a cross we’d expect the distance to be far smaller between humans and pigs than between chimps and pigs. If we’re all-ape we’d expect the distance between chimps and pigs and humans and pigs to the very very similar.

          pretty trivial to test if it was worth the effort. But it’s batshit crazy so I’ll leave that task to people who believe him.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yes, I guess I should have specified what I mean by “greater than chance”. It would be “greater than expected due to their presumed phylogenetic distance in the current theory” or “much, much greater than humans-cows” or whatever.

          The real objection is that you can’t actually do 23andMe on a non-human animal because it detects human polymorphisms. But you could do the same vague category of thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            It is kind of tempting to send a vial of pig saliva to 23andMe and see what happens.

          • Bugmaster says:

            That’s a good point, but you can find pig SNPs pretty easily, e.g. here. Note that these guys already have a database of about 17,000 human/pig homologs, already precalculated.

      • RCF says:

        “We could just do 23andMe on a pig and notice that it shared a far-greater-than-chance number of human genes. It would not be difficult and it would not be subtle.”

        Don’t you mean 19andMe?

    • Nita says:

      Thanks, that was fun! (I think the tactic of delaying the punchline until halfway down page 2 enhanced my enjoyment.)

      Even before engaging with the content, the combination of a terrible photo of the author, random da Vinci artwork and testimonials sets off some alarm bells.

      In terms of content, I do have an immediate concern — where did the ancient chimpanzees meet the hypothetical ancient naked pigs? He claims they were Sus scrofa specifically, but aren’t all Western (that is, European and African) subspecies pretty hairy? He says the boars painted in the Altamira Cave “look fairly naked” to him, but to me they look very similar to the other animals.

      Also, his theory has led him to publish pages like this: http://www.macroevolution.net/human-chicken-hybrids.html , which looks like trying to relax the standards of evidence — perhaps because his case doesn’t fare too well under the existing standards?

      • Anonymous says:

        The testimonials seem like a good way to get people to be receptive to new ideas – it creates a sense of community that makes being in the minority seem much more appealing. The photo is bad, but decreasing the sense that you’ve stumbled upon the next Time Cube is probably sensible.

        • Nita says:

          The testimonials seem like a good way to get people to be receptive to new ideas

          Indeed. They do seem that way to everyone who wants to promote their new idea (or product!), which is why people who realistically hope to convince other scientists don’t use them. The cultural norm in science is to conspicuously avoid any hint of emotional persuasion. If this guy has given up on it, the situation must be pretty hopeless.

          The photo is bad, but decreasing the sense that you’ve stumbled upon the next Time Cube is probably sensible.

          I really don’t think a photo would reassure me that Time Cube is a fine source of insight.

          • Anonymous says:

            If scientists have written you off, getting a large enough cult following to make scientists want to disprove you actually seems like an effective way to promote engagement. For where he is now it seems like an effective strategy: get noticed, get enough people invested in your work, encourage real scientists to try and tear your theory down.

            I just thought it was strange how he was going out of his way to seem more approachable and reasonable, when the other websites for crazy theories I’ve encountered don’t seem nearly so interested in this. Do they enjoy playing the role of mad/visionary hermit? Do they still want to be discovered by sympathetic academics? Are they simply too strange to understand what turns people off strange ideas?

          • Nita says:

            I don’t think most crazy theory people start out hostile or insular. I think they move in that direction as they encounter resistance to their ideas. And their mental issues also get worse, making them less comprehensible and more paranoid.

            Check out this fellow named Miles Mathis, for instance. He started off with a fairly reasonable claim: there are some errors in the mathematical constructions and proofs that underlie modern physics. Over time, this claim grew into several books. His latest writings, though, are pretty much standard conspiracy theory stuff.

            I haven’t followed Time Cube myself, but I’ve seen people claim that it used to be more interesting in its early history, before gradually turning into generic rants.

      • haishan says:

        The cow-human hybrid page is interesting because it contains multiple, apparently independent, descriptions of very similar creatures — in particular three accounts of calves with “human” faces and apparent breasts. I suspect teratology rather than hybridization, but there does appear to be some evidence that this is a consistent pattern.

    • Hunt says:

      You’ve got to admit, pig x orangutan would explain Rush Limbaugh.

      • Randy M says:

        [Requisite counter-tribal affiliation signaling with equally low information and humor content.]

        • Corwin says:

          [snotty comment about how all tribes are wrong on everything forever and the solution is universal radical individualism (of course)]

          • Anonymous says:

            [Meta joke in response to a meta joke in response to a meta joke, designed to demonstrate that I am superior to all previous posters.]

          • Luke Somers says:

            [Meta joke that freely acknowledges that we’re hitting diminishing returns here]

          • Susebron says:

            [Reminder that Scott doesn’t like meta-humor, unless you are Douglas Hofstadter and have turned the SSC comments into a Hofstadter book]

    • gattsuru says:

      A lot of the evidence is misleading, which is usually a very big warning flag. There’s a long list of interspecies hybridization on one page, which looks really fascinating at first glance… and if you look at it any hard, you’ll notice that the vast majority of significant claims are mythological or actually meant something entirely different.

      It’s not perfect proof against, but combined with the absence of serious evidence it points to crackpot.

    • zslastman says:

      This was doing the rounds in the genetics community for a while. People would suggest reviewing his work for journal club or whatever and then have a good snicker. It’s a pretty impressive study in human bias.

    • Deiseach says:

      I can’t make up my mind whether this is a cunning leg-pull, a genuine crackpot, or a spoof publicity site (he mentions, buried down in one section, that he has a fiction book with this particular plot).

      The cunning leg-pull comes in on the long list of attributes that distinguish humans from other primates, amongst them “Snuggling, tears and alcoholism”.

      I don’t know; if you accept his hypothesis, it would be sufficient cause for the apes in question to turn to alcohol.

      The idea that a male pig and a female chimpanzee – and this would have had to have happened several times independently – and the resulting creature (if there was a result) – and then – my brain is screaming and trying to climb out of my skull even remembering that much of the thing.

  9. The Anonymouse says:

    Regarding #3: can we also be rid of those who think that typing “Murrica!” is an all-purpose argument-ender and devastating tribal insult?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      What is it about the “mu” syllable?

      I blame Joshu.

      • Pete says:

        As a non-American, I think it’s a parody of the Southern US accent, where the ‘mu’ is fairly distinctive. Because we know that them rednecks from the southern states are stupid.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think it’s pretty common to spell out the utterly standard “mispronunciations” of groups considered less educated or otherwise inferior. Like spelling out g-dropping in workin’-class character’s dialogue even though everyone does it sometimes (and almost no one does it all the time.) Or I’ve seen American accents written out in the Enid Blyton stories I loved as a kid.

          “uh” is the nearest we can come to writing down a schwa. Lots of English words that look like they have other vowels are actually pronounced with a schwa. And writing that down is an easy way to make anyone’s speech look wrong and stupid.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            This was pointed out quite a while ago about ‘wimmin’. Everyone pronounces ‘women’ the same, but writing it that way signals a low class character.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought that “wimmin” and variations such as “womyn” was used by feminists (at least in past decades, not that often now) because they didn’t like that the word contains “men”.

          • Different phenomenon, I think. I’ve never seen “wimmin” used by feminists, or as anything other than a phonetic accent rendered in text.

          • haishan says:

            Them low-status people sure do talk funny!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In my vague memory, ‘wimmin’ was used for writing low status speech long before the ‘womyn’ terms were invented, and I don’t recall it used among them.

      • Wirehead Wannabe says:

        I think it’s the “uh” more than anything. “Tuhmahtuahs” (tomatoes), “coopuhns,” (coupons) those sorts of pronunciations.

        • onyomi says:

          I think it’s because the “uh” (schwa) seems to indicate imprecision to the English-speaking ear because, while there are many cases in which vowels are supposed to be pronounced as schwa, doing so in more places than is standard may sound “lazy” or as if the person can’t spell.

          Opposite are people who try to pronounce things as they’re written as a means to signal high status (even though English is obviously not like Spanish in being pronounced how it’s written): in-ter-esting, for example.

          • RCF says:

            I saw a list of commonly “mispronounced” words that was heavy on this; “mayonnaise”, was listed, as people often “mispronounce” it “maynaise”.

          • Daniel H says:

            I am still in the habit of pronouncing February as it’s spelled instead of standard, because I decided to pronounce it “correctly” when I was six and never broke that habit.

          • Is pronouncing “February” with only one R really standard? Common, yes, but standard?

          • Anonymous says:

            What do you mean by “standard”? Prescriptivists often prefer to pronounce both Rs, not because that’s how it’s spelled, but because that is how it was pronounced in Latin and 200 years ago in English. But in America a single R is “far more common.” In England a single R is, I believe, merely more common.

    • Jiro says:

      Also add “merkin” to that. With bonus sexual quality to the tribal insult.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Where do the post-rationalists hang out? I don’t give a shit if people call me New Agey. I love my New Agey friends. Having people in my life who process the world from the perspective of spiritual experience is really important to me.

    But the fucking conspiracy theories! The Facebook posts about how “they” have already discovered the cure for cancer (I think it’s vegetable juice?) but the evil cancer-treating industry have suppressed it because cancer makes them so much money! The links to articles full of bad economics and racist dogwhistles that were written for Ron Paul supporters! (We’re not American. The dogwhistles are going unheard in this case. Still, though.) Some kinds of conversations with my New Agey friends really put me in touch with my rage issues.

    It sounds like there might be groups of people in the world who process the world from the perspective of spiritual experience and also value critical thinking. I googled “post-rationalist” and didn’t find anything helpful. Please tell me where to find them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      IRC is your best bet. Start at #chapelperilous and then see if some of them invite you to other places.

      Tumblr works too sometimes, but the disadvantage is you have to go on Tumblr.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you.

      • Harald K says:

        New Age is a red flag about false tribal identification. People, groups, or aesthetics labeled as New Age are virtually always labeled that by outsiders, not the people involved in them (I note that you the parent anonymous does not use the label on yourself, just on your friends).

        If you find a “New Age” author who actually uses the term new age about his own work unironically, odds are extra good that he’s a low effort charlatan who has a hazy image of new age people that he want to fool. There are also slightly higher-effort new age charlatans who have done enough research that they don’t use that term about their marks.

        The term’s popularity comes from booksellers who use it to describe market segment of mostly middle aged women who buy and read a lot of books. As a music genre it’s even more ill-defined, more a general term of contempt for music deemed sentimental and inauthentic.

        (edit: whoops, this was supposed to be in reply to Anonymous above, not Scott.)

        • Anonymous says:

          Anon you replied to here: Yep, I know people are being dismissive/derogatory when they use it. I just don’t care.

          I do actually use it to describe myself, semi-ironically, but I wasn’t willing to do that in this space as I wasn’t sure the irony would transmit. Also, “Shit New Age Chicks Say” has been passed around that group of friends to considerable delight. IME people generally know it’s derogatory but still use it, especially to laugh at themselves.

        • Tropylium says:

          As a music genre it’s even more ill-defined, more a general term of contempt for music deemed sentimental and inauthentic.

          Nah, there’s a pretty good-sized bundle of artists who consistently get filed in a category “New Age”. One large chunk being music that’s too synthetic to be called “rock”, too lively to be called “ambient”, too ethereal to be called “pop”. Relatively clear examples including artists like Enigma or Vangelis. And if you dig a bit, there’s a whole bunch of subculture that no one ever even attempts to file elsewhere.

          Many of us fans don’t exactly love the term, nor do the musicians (since for the most part we have nothing to do with the spiritual movement), but no one’s proposed anything better either. So, the same deal as goes for a bunch of other out-of-the-mainstream genres too, say “intelligent dance music” or “post-rock”.

    • Nisan says:

      The postrationalists, though, have conspiracy theories so wacky they make the angels fall silent.

      • Anonymous says:

        I appreciate the warning. Sadface.
        Also I’m getting a bit worried that this “post-rationalist” thing leans reactionary and/or Catholic?
        This is probably not going to be the sense of homecoming I hoped for when I initially read Scott’s words. But I’ll look into it.

        • Anonymous says:

          I thouht it was another term for neo-reactionary actually

          • Nornagest says:

            Don’t think so. The first people I think of when the term “post-rationalist” comes up are Michael Vassar and Will Newsome, and they’re not NRx — although I’m not sure exactly what they are.

          • von Kalifornen says:

            It’s not, though it does seem to attract some such people for more or less the same reason that normal rationality attracts them. It doesn’t seem to attract the particularly hateful or racist characters though.

          • @von Kali

            Am I not racist enough for you?

        • Corwin says:

          Post-rationality is something invented by lesswrongers who found it would be too hard (or otherwise too costly) to actually train and use rationality, compared to the results they believe they’d get out of it.
          So they signal that they’re aware of it (by naming it post-rationality) and go about their lives without trying to systematically optimize them.

          It’s a self-label, so of course you might find people still applying some techniques sometimes but who identify as post-rationalists, as well as others who identify as aspiring rationalists while never updating their mental habits to calibrate them better. Humans, y’know?

          • Well that’s not my kind of postrationality.

            For me it means I graduated from lesswrong. Learned the stuff, applied the stuff that could be applied, identified the flaws in the rules of lesswrong rationality, and broke out of the rules.

            I still worry about whether I’m thinking straight, and still try to optimize cognition, and still use a lot of rationality cognitive tech, but the cognitive tech I use as a post-rationalist is largely alien and even repellent to lesswrong. (It’s very spiritual, intuitive, and yeah, a bit new-agey).

          • skeptical_lurker says:

            @Nyan Sandwich

            I’m surprised that a neoreactionary uses new-agey cognitive tech, but then again perhaps in depends on exactly what sort of new-agey ideas it is. Either way, I’d be intrigued to learn more – do you have a link about post-rationalist cognitive tech?

        • Why worry?

          A good chunk of the top theorists of NRx are post-rationalist. And a good chunk of post-rats are catholic (eg Newsome), but postrationalism is conceptually quite distinct from catholicism and neoreaction.

          • Anonymous says:

            >a good chunk of post-rats are catholic (eg Newsome)

            I’m not Catholic, and I don’t know any “postrationalist” Catholics.

    • Darcey Riley says:

      Hi! I’m sort of the de-facto ringleader of postrationality, in that I was the first person to actually write a definition of it. Other people have added their own perspectives on what “postrationality” means, both in the comments there and in separate essays elsewhere.

      If you come to #chapelperilous (which is on Freenode), I am lucidian and I’d be happy to talk to you.

      There are some neoreactionaries in the postrationalist movement, but neoreaction isn’t at all central to what postrationality is, I don’t think. Postrationality is more about recognizing that spirituality, ritual, and the like are important and fulfilling parts of human experience, and that they might be better than traditional rationalist methods at helping us achieve our goals. Postrationalists understand that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”, and are happy to explore different belief systems when those work better for actually acheiving our goals.

      There’s also an interest, in postrationalist circles, in different communication styles — ones that use more imagery and metaphor rather than direct logical arguments, for instance. The idea is that different modes of communication facilitate different modes of thought.

      There’s a lot more to postrationality, but a lot of it is happening organically and eludes my ability to summarize. Please come join us and talk to us, because then you can form your own impression of who we are and what we’re doing, and add it to the growing list of attempts to characterize the movement.

      • Anonymous says:

        Having checked out your first link, this seems a lot like what I was hoping for. Thank you so much. I wasn’t even consciously aware how much I wanted a community like that. I’ll definitely come and find you on IRC.

      • Darcey Riley says:

        By the way, as another explanation of the difference between rationality and postrationality: rationality is Apollonian, while postrationality is Dionysian.

        • Anonymous says:

          Then why not call it “Dionysian rationality”?

          • Darcey Riley says:

            That might be a better name, yeah.

            For the recrod, I like the word “postrationality”, but I didn’t come up with it. And for all Scott is complaining, we only adopted as the official name for the movement because he put the word on his map. =P

          • Toggle says:

            That seems rather like trying to have a D&D alignment be “chaotic lawful.”

        • Vaniver says:

          Eh. I find myself agreeing with much of the description of postrationality, but then disagreeing with the characterization (of me) as Dionysian. Is there value is seeing separate atheist/skeptic, Apollonian, and Dionysian clusters?

        • Deiseach says:

          You had me up until “Dionysian”. I’m more Apollonian in bent (even if my everyday behaviour fails to live up to that aspiration) and I tend to break out in hives when people start going on about the ecstatic, transcendental, let’s all get off our faces and fling wide the doors of perception.

          That, plus my day job and exposure to the fallout, makes me want to grab the ecstatics by the scruff of the neck and rub their noses in what happens when all is permissible (there are more people out there than you think that are conscienceless narcissists who use everyone – including their own children – as pawns to make their lives easier, and if they’ll get extra benefits from their children having behavioural, physical or mental difficulties then by hell they’ll inculcate, encourage, and induce such in the kids).

      • This description of postrationalism makes me very positively disposed to it. It would be ridiculous for me to call myself a post-rationalist, since I never was a rationalist to begin with, but I find myself in near-total agreement with the basic principles outlined there.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s because they are so vague. Everyone can interpret them according to their own beliefs. Why would anyone disagree with that.

      • rose says:

        >>Postrationality is more about recognizing that spirituality, ritual, and the like are important and fulfilling parts of human experience, and that they might be better than traditional rationalist methods at helping us achieve our goals.

        wouldn’t that qualify as a rational statement? do you need to call it postratioanlity? is rationality by definition anti-religion or only against irrational aspects/use of religion? (This is a real question. I am ignorant of the use of these words as terms of art.)

        • Cauê says:

          I’m under the impression that something like this is close to a consensus on Less Wrong, although not so much here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gv/outside_the_laboratory/

          I’m not sure I’m right.

          • Deiseach says:

            That article was a wonderful example of wilfully misunderstanding. He takes the saying “outside the laboratory the scientist is no wiser than anyone else” and then twirls off into what (I think) amounts to “And this is why Francis Collins is a stupid poopy-head!”

            That’s not what the proverb is about. Professor Herr Doktor Schmidt may be the world’s greatest living theoretical physicist; that does not mean that Schmidt’s opinion on “who was greater: Mozart or Wagner?” is any weightier or better-informed than Joe the guy on the bin lorry’s opinion on the same topic.

            If Schmidt knows no more than the average layman about music theory, how to milk a cow, art criticism, the best way to lay bricks, or when you should plant petunias, being A SCIENTIST does not magically grant him any greater insight, expertise, or gravitas when he opines on a topic outside his field.

            If Schmidt has a hobby where he’s a champion crocheter, then his opinion on “is this good knitting or not?” is informed. Simply being Greatest Living Theoretical Physicist by itself does not make his opinion any more trustworthy than your granny’s opinion.

            Yudowsky seems to do this a lot, or rather, every time I break down and go read all the stuff I’m recommended to read, I end up going “This is a shell game!”

            He sets up Statement A then spends the rest of the time actually addressing Statement B but so deftly that the twinkling fingers blur and you can’t see when he palms the pea.

          • Cauê says:

            I believe Eliezer sees religion as an indication of basic epistemic errors, not a hard problem at all. So this would be generalizable to other topics.

            “Someone who just wanted the truth and looked at our universe would not even invent God as a hypothesis” (http://lesswrong.com/lw/r/no_really_ive_deceived_myself/)

            Ok, I think this is the best summary of the point:
            http://lesswrong.com/lw/1e/raising_the_sanity_waterline/

            “Suppose we have a scientist who’s still religious, either full-blown scriptural-religion, or in the sense of tossing around vague casual endorsements of “spirituality”.

            We now know this person is not applying any technical, explicit understanding of…

            …what constitutes evidence and why;
            …Occam’s Razor;
            …how the above two rules derive from the lawful and causal operation of minds as mapping engines, and do not switch off when you talk about tooth fairies;
            …how to tell the difference between a real answer and a curiosity-stopper;
            …how to rethink matters for themselves instead of just repeating things they heard;
            …certain general trends of science over the last three thousand years;
            …the difficult arts of actually updating on new evidence and relinquishing old beliefs;
            …epistemology 101;
            …self-honesty 201;
            …etcetera etcetera etcetera and so on.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, he wants to take a pop at religion, stand back and let him at it. I have no quarrel with that.

            What I object to is taking phrase A and going about how this obviously means X and therefore our reaction to it should be Y, when that is not the case at all.

            Should scientists be wiser than us common clods, inside or outside the laboratory? I have no idea. I do think, though, that merely being a scientist does not imbue anyone with immediate superior powers of judgement on topics they don’t know anything about. There’s a hell of a lot to be learned about the theory of music, musicology, and a whole lot more before you can say “this is good or bad” and why it is; stepping out of the chemistry lab and letting drop an opinion on the technical merits of a piece means your opinion is about as valid as the milkman’s, with the same weight it should be given.

            UNLESS you have studied music and know what you’re talking about. Or art. Or how to pebbledash a wall. Or anything outside your immediate field of expertise. That’s what the proverb was talking about, not “religion – only for cretins or can it be suitable for idiots, too?”

            Yudowsky may be such an all-round genius that five minutes’ exposure to a cooking programme means he has the palate and talent of a Michelin starred chef, but I venture to say the ordinary run of “person with a STEM degree” isn’t that level of talented, even if they have “every qualification and award in the field of Underwater Basket Weaving”.

          • Deiseach says:

            Also, the irony of invoking Occam’s Razor in a take-down of religion, when William of Occam was a Franciscan friar and Scholastic theologian?

            That’s what I’m getting at about his tone-deafness or lack of an aesthetic sense or something just slightly off that strikes me in the very little I’ve read 🙂

          • That is an incredibly broad dismissal of all forms of religion and spirituality, which does a lot to reduce my opinion of Yudkowsky as a thinker.

          • Anonymous says:

            He isn’t dismissing spirituallity- he is dismissing religion. And it is a broad dismissal. I’m not sure why that is an issue.

            “Also, the irony of invoking Occam’s Razor in a take-down of religion, when William of Occam was a Franciscan friar and Scholastic theologian?

            That’s what I’m getting at about his tone-deafness or lack of an aesthetic sense or something just slightly off that strikes me in the very little I’ve read ”

            And Bayes was a minister. I’m not seeing how using either of them indicates tone-deafness.

          • Anonymous says:

            “same poster”
            To clarify when people talk about “spiritality” they generally mean “I believe in God but I don’t belong to a religion”.

          • Cauê says:

            The argument as I understand it is that, if you see Science as truth seeking, and scientists as “professional truth-seekers”, then scientists making basic epistemic errors in any domain can raise doubts about their fundamental understanding of what they are supposed to be doing as scientists, and how and why it works.


            Eliezer wrote a lot about Occam’s Razor, and uniquely well, in my opinion. I don’t see how the actual William of Occam is relevant to any of the points made.
            http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam's_razor

          • Anonymous says:

            >>I do think, though, that merely being a scientist does not imbue anyone with immediate superior powers of judgement on topics they don’t know anything about.

            That would apply to a scientist’s opinions of religion, wouldn’t it? mistaking religion for an explanation of astrophysics, for example, is an error no person who understands religion would make

          • Deiseach says:

            Anonymous, it’s the implication that the inventor/creator/discoverer/first formulator of “Occam’s Razor” was unable to use his own method; for surely if he had, then he would have found that there is no evidence for religion, and then he would left the Franciscans and given up being a theologian (and presumably started inventing steam engines and quantum physics instead) 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            It doesn’t matter who stumbled upon the idea of Occam’s razor. The reason why it is of any value at all is that it is compatible with probability theory. People who were behind the ideas are much less important than the ideas themselves.

          • Randy M says:

            Claiming to use a theoretical tool to find a conclusion different from the designer of that tool is evidence (not conclusive, but some) against your conclusion, in that it would be assumed that the originator has a deeper understanding of it then you, or at least equally so.

          • Anonymous says:

            In this particular case of course now we know more than William of Ockham ever did. Understanding underlying principles supersedes having to appeal to competence of an individual person.

          • Setsize says:

            It’s rather weak evidence. Obvious counterexample: Roland Fisher arguing that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer.

            Even weaker evidence when the originator of the technique did it long in the past.

          • Anonymous says:

            “You keep saying this, and I still don’t believe it. Theists believe they have valid reasons for their theism. That’s why they’re theists. In many cases their reasons actually are rather sophisticated, because the major religions have been at this for rather a long time.”

            I’m not grasping how this is an argument; after all it applies to almost any belief. Of course people who hold wrong beliefs think they are true and justified; that doesn’t provide any evidence their beliefs are well supported.

            “You can try to unwind them, which is a huge amount of effort,”

            No it isn’t. Its utterly trivial- that is the entire reason it is being used as an example of bad thinking.

            “doesn’t actually get you very far, ”

            Lesswrong likes transhumanism and immortality alot. If you believe in an afterlife this doesn’t make much sense. Less wrong is about AI- if you believe in souls this isn’t as feasible. Since those are things that it really focuses on, they are rather important.

            “and most of the time will result in them deciding you’re an asshole and fucking off rather than anything useful, or you can attack other biases that aren’t as closely tied into self-image. Guess which I suggest? ”

            You seem to be suggesting less wrong is a hive mind. Assume the writers don’t ever mention religion. If you add a sudden influx of theists, people will point out their beliefs aren’t rational in the discussion forum. This will almost inevitably result in conflict and given the environment is dominated by atheists, the theists will probably leave. They could ban religion as a topic but given how it is tied up into self image, morality and the like that means those topics die as well.

            This isn’t really a hypothetical- The Skeptics Society went from “seperate spheres” and “science can’t invalidate religion” to essentially an endorsement of atheism.

            “As to LW not caring what it pattern-matches to, I actually agree — but I think that’s a very big problem with the community, and one which raises serious questions about how clearly it’s thinking about this instrumental rationality thing. It’s kinda why I’m harping on this, in fact.”

            It isn’t a problem with the community- it was designed that way. The only way to make sure it doesn’t pattern match would be to restrict the topics people could discuss.

            Less Wrong however doesn’t want to signal that. They want the clearest signal to be “we value truth” and the best way to do that is to discuss topics no one else does; this makes it clear truth rates higher than appeasing social conventions.

          • Nita says:

            @Anonymous

            The only way to make sure it doesn’t pattern match would be to restrict the topics people could discuss.

            Wait a minute, but LessWrong does restrict the topics people cab discuss. “Politics is the mind killer”?

          • Anonymous says:

            People talk about politics things on less wrong. Je suis Charlie is on the front page of discussions right now.

            http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/FAQ#Why_did_I_get_voted_down.3F

            “Is it OK to talk about politics?
            There are plenty of places on the internet where you can discuss politics, and contemporary politics is explicitly NOT a core Less Wrong topic. That said, bringing up politics in the context of some larger point about rationality, as in this post or this one, is probably OK. But read A Fable of Science and Politics, Politics is the Mind-Killer, Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided, and Are Your Enemies Innately Evil? first so you know what you’re getting in to. “

          • Anonymous says:

            That is the like to the rules. The link to the Je suis Charlie discussion is here

            http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/ljn/je_suis_charlie/#comments

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a lot of stuff I could say here, but the fisking method makes conversations branch uncontrollably so I’ll try to narrow it down.

            The core of rationality, the part that isn’t methodology or culture or random founder effects, is winning: optimizing yourself and the world. I don’t agree with Eliezer on everything but I agree with him on that.

            Truth is important to that because — to use LW‘ native AI idiom — you need an accurate picture of the incentive landscape if you want to run hill-climbing algorithms over it. But it’s not literally the most important thing. Treating it as such is a mistake, and the longer I hang around this community the bigger a mistake I think it is. We’re not just talking atheism here; a couple times a month, for example, I see something on LW’s discussion section which boils down to someone’s disdain for “dishonest” social conventions getting them in trouble.

            Failing to accommodate “irrationalities” of this type, as far as I’m concerned, amounts to failing — and predictably so — at instrumental rationality. Maybe it allows you to feel smarter and morally purer, but that is not, in the scheme of things, much consolation.

          • Anonymous says:

            ” But it’s not literally the most important thing.”

            It just happens to be the thing everything else hangs upon and is exceptionally fragile.

            “Treating it as such is a mistake, and the longer I hang around this community the bigger a mistake I think it is. ”

            Really? You trust someone who admits they’d sacrifice truth to do better? How do you know they aren’t misleading you?

            “We’re not just talking atheism here; a couple times a month, for example, I see something on LW’s discussion section which boils down to someone’s disdain for “dishonest” social conventions getting them in trouble.”

            Social conventions and religion are not remotely comparable. The latter are an emperical question which rationality can deal with. The former are a preference item. People on less wrong may have issues on the former due to a degree of autism in the community, but that has nothing to do with their stance towards the latter.

            “Failing to accommodate “irrationalities” of this type, as far as I’m concerned, amounts to failing — and predictably so — at instrumental rationality. Maybe it allows you to feel smarter and morally purer, but that is not, in the scheme of things, much consolation.”

            So? Voting is also irrational. These are signaling behaviors- the fact they are costly is the entire point.

          • Nita says:

            @Anonymous

            “Who shot the cartoonists?” and “Why do people jump to conspiracy theories?” are not political questions.

            Also, the post is at -18 points, and I suspect part of the penalty is for the political title.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The western powers claim this was an attack on their “free speech”, but if so, it was only backup and catalyst to their own long-term goals of eliminating that value in the first place. Even now, people who question this narrative are being silenced through every available legal method, and the scope of such methods is only expanding. European governments want us to live in double think – concurrently believing that we’re defending ourselves from an enemy who hates our freedom of speech (as opposed to what we have to say) and supporting the governments’ intrusion on the same freedoms. There’s nothing rationalist about it, even if you 100% believe the official story about the origin of the attackers you’re socially required to respond in a profoundly irrational manner lest you be thought of as a “retarded islamophobic nationalist”.”

            Yeah, that totally isn’t political.

            Down voting is also not restricting discussion. You’ll note the thread was down voted but people are actually talking about the topic anyway.

          • Nornagest says:

            Really? You trust someone who admits they’d sacrifice truth to do better? How do you know they aren’t misleading you?

            Well, for one thing, we’ve got a built-in bullshit detector honed by a couple million years of high-stakes primate politics. Which goes a long way towards explaining why this truth thing isn’t nearly as fragile as you’re casting it as.

            But you seem to be mistaking this for some sort of all-or-nothing situation. In reality, truth on the level you seem to be expecting isn’t even in the cards: that same primate heritage has left us with a great number of heuristics and biases, most of which are so deeply rooted that, if you think you lack them, that most likely just means that you’re bad at introspection. All of these represent distortions of perception on at least the level of our religious impulse, though most of them aren’t culturally enshrined in the same way.

            Our cognitive resources are limited. We can’t afford not to be judicious about which to spend time compensating for. And those most obviously serving contemporary social roles are not the ones to go after, partly for precautionary reasons but mainly because doing so would gratuitously isolate us without a correspondingly greater payoff.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Well, for one thing, we’ve got a built-in bullshit detector honed by a couple million years of high-stakes primate politics. Which goes a long way towards explaining why this truth thing isn’t nearly as fragile as you’re casting it as.”

            These bullshit detectors telling the religious people who join up we think they are irrational or do they only malfunction so dramatically when it comes to politics?

            ” In reality, truth on the level you seem to be expecting isn’t even in the cards: ”

            I’m talking about deliberate lies and knowing covering for things that are wrong. Once you discard truth as the highest virtue, it is to okay to do that; the only issue is making sure you aren’t caught.

            “Our cognitive resources are limited. We can’t afford not to be judicious about which to spend time compensating for. ”

            Which is why they are so openly anti-religious. Or do you think they want 200 threads about how divine command theory is an answer to AI, how souls mean AI is impossible so we should worry about EMs, etc?

            “And those most obviously serving contemporary social roles are not the ones to go after, partly for precautionary reasons but mainly because doing so would gratuitously isolate us without a correspondingly greater payoff.”

            The greater payoff is the status of showing a willingness to apply rationalism to everything and not have double standards or sacred cows. It signals openness and truthseeking even to the detriment of expedience.

            Given they’ve burned their bridges with the religious already with their transhumanism, cryogenics, polymory and other weird stuff, the cost is rather minimal.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “Politics is the mind-killer; steer clear” is already abandoning the search for truth everywhere as the highest virtue. I’m pretty sympathetic to this view; it seems entirely reasonable to realize that you’re just not able to look at some things objectively.

            But if you know that politics mind-kills you, yet believe that you’re totally good to take on religion, you’ve probably just mis-identified your true religion.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Religious people are too dumb to evaluate evidence! Why don’t they use This Tool and it would show them their fairytale beliefs are wrong!

            “You do realise it was a religious person who formulated This Tool?”

            “Oh, it doesn’t matter who discovered the idea, only the idea is important!”

            🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            ““Politics is the mind-killer; steer clear” is already abandoning the search for truth everywhere as the highest virtue.”

            Except they do post politics on less wrong and they have rules for when it is acceptable to post politics.

            “But if you know that politics mind-kills you, yet believe that you’re totally good to take on religion, you’ve probably just mis-identified your true religion.”

            Or you are blatantly conflating multiple different definitions. Do we say people who have a good take on pseudoscience but aren’t sure what their position should be on actual scientific controversies are misidentifying their true pseudoscience?

            “Religious people are too dumb to evaluate evidence! Why don’t they use This Tool and it would show them their fairytale beliefs are wrong!

            That isn’t what anyone in this thread is saying, but please, continue to attack a strawman. Not using rationality tools is not the same as being dumb.

            “You do realise it was a religious person who formulated This Tool?”

            And? We know more than people do in the past. We should be able to reach conclusions they didn’t reach.

            “Oh, it doesn’t matter who discovered the idea, only the idea is important!”

            I’m not sure why you are mocking this concept. Do you think Occum is the only one who ever went with “simpler explanations with the same explanatory power are better”? Occum is the one who formalized it and had it named after him, but given how things like geocentrism used just enough epicycles to make the prediction as accurate as possible and didn’t add extraneous ones it doesn’t appear to be new.

          • Cauê says:

            Several discussions on this post seem to have independently derailed for some reason. Yet I still feel compelled to try to get something good out of this one.

            I think you guys are really being unfair to Eliezer here, in a way that gives me the impression that you haven’t quite understood where he’s coming from.

            Besides, nobody has anything to lose and everyone has something to gain by reading the sequences. I bet it’d be worth your time, even if you have to hold your noses every now and then.

          • Anonymous says:

            Deiseach –

            William of Ockham did make major contributions to the advancement of scientific thinking despite his piety.

            see: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/William_of_Ockham.aspx

            A first consequence of these principles is the elimination of various metaphysical “distinctions” that played a dominant role in late thirteenth-century Scholasticism and that derived in large measure from the interpretation of Aristotle made by the Islamic philosopher Ibn Sīnā. The real distinction between essence and existence, held to be a doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas, supposed that in an existing thing its essence or nature, although not separable from its existence, is nevertheless really distinct from it. Ockham argued that if essence and existence are distinct realities, then it is not self-contradictory for one to exist without the other; but since it is self-contradictory to suppose that an essence exists without existence, it follows that there cannot be a real distinction between the two. By a similar argument it is shown that there cannot be a real distinction between individuals and their natures, as the theory of common natures existing in individuals supposes.

          • John Schilling says:

            William of Ockham did make major contributions to the advancement of scientific thinking despite his piety

            It is not at all clear that the word “despite” is accurate or useful in this sentence.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Yudkowsky gives off the strong stench of “internet atheist.” Whenever I’ve been pointed to one of his articles, there’s always been some gratuitous side-swipe at religion. It is also very often factually wrong (see, for example, “In not one single passage of the Old Testament will you find anyone talking about a transcendent wonder at the complexity of the universe.). And when you see somebody make clearly wrong statements about a subject on which you’re knowledgeable, especially one important to you, you generally don’t stick around for the rest of their talk about this one weird method which will revolutionize your thought and give you fresh insight into the world.

          tldr; Yudkowski uses signalling and outgroup derogation to make sure that his followers are limited to atheists.

          (Scott’s an atheist, too, but he’s at least thoughtful about it, hence the higher theist population here.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Eliezer’s got a massive chip on his shoulder about religion, no question. I think the issue is that his deconversion experience was central to what he likes to call his “rationalist origin story”, so by focusing on that he’s inadvertently locked out people with theistic views that’re largely compatible with his brand of rationality — and I think that’s a larger set than he gives it credit for. A lot of religions don’t run on the weird epistemologies of the Orthodox Jewish community that Eliezer came out of, or of Luke Muelhauser’s evangelical background.

            There might be some ardor-of-the-converted action going on here, too. I’m an atheist too, but the difference is that Eliezer actively rejected his childhood religion and I’ve just never felt any particular religious impulse.

          • Cauê says:

            >And when you see somebody make clearly wrong statements about a subject on which you’re knowledgeable, especially one important to you, you generally don’t stick around for the rest of their talk about this one weird method which will revolutionize your thought and give you fresh insight into the world.

            I understand this feeling (though I don’t get it from LW). Eliezer could certainly be more… strategic, let’s say, in the examples he chooses to use. But I also understand that religion is uniquely useful to illustrate the things he’s talking about.

            In the interest of truth seeking, it should be worth it to resist the urge to close the browser long enough to read at least the first sequences.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Ah, but the previous transgressions already caused me to update my prior way down for “has things to teach me.” When multiple samplings gave similar results, why waste any more time?

          • Wouter says:

            > It is also very often factually wrong (see, for example, “In not one single passage of the Old Testament will you find anyone talking about a transcendent wonder at the complexity of the universe.)

            I notice you did not in fact give a counterexample …

          • “Look at Behemoth,
            which I made along with you
            and which feeds on grass like an ox.
            What strength it has in its loins,
            what power in the muscles of its belly!
            Its tail sways like a cedar;
            the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
            Its bones are tubes of bronze,
            its limbs like rods of iron.
            It ranks first among the works of God,
            yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.

          • Deiseach says:

            In not one single passage of the Old Testament will you find anyone talking about a transcendent wonder at the complexity of the universe.

            Psalm 8?
            When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

            4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

            Or practically the whole end of the Book of Job?

            Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

            5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

            6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

            7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

            8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?

            9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it,

            10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,

            11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

            12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;

            13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?

            14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.

            15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.

            16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

            17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

            18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

            19 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

            20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

            21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?

            22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

            23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

            24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

            25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;

            26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;

            27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

            28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?

            29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?

            30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

            31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?

            32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?

            33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

            34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?

            35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?

            36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?

            37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,

            38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?

            39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,

            40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?

            41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I’m an Internet Atheist, I guess, and one impression I get when reading the Bible is that it’s just so… small.

            If I were a god, I would write something like, “Go outdoors on a clear night, and look up at the sky. Do you see the myriads of little dots of light in the sky ? Well, some of them are suns, like your own Sol, but very far away. Others are galaxies: huge collections of billions of stars, like your own Milky Way. Still others are globular clusters, and if you lived on a planet inside of one of them, the sight of the night sky would totally blow your little human minds. I have created all these things, and other objects which you can’t even see with your eyes, because I am the LORD thy GOD, etc.”

            But the Christian god never says that. If he mentions the stars at all, he refers to them as some sort of holes in the celestial dome which surrounds the Earth… and there’s not much more in the Universe besides that. You’ve got the Earth, you’ve got the firmament, that’s pretty much it.

            Meanwhile, back in reality, the closest star to Sol is about 4.5 light years away. And it’s a binary, too. And that’s just the closest one ! One star system, out of so many !

            In my opinion, if you’re looking for a sense of awe in the Bible, you’re looking in the wrong place.

          • Anonymous says:

            awe before God’s creation is a frequent theme in Psalms. I’m an atheist and a great nature lover, and when I am hiking in the high mountains I feel all sorts of religious feelings: awe, wonder and especially gratitude and praise.

            I love Psalm 148:

            Praise the Lord from the heavens;
            praise him in the heights above.

            2
            Praise him, all his angels;
            praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

            3
            Praise him, sun and moon;
            praise him, all you shining stars.

            4
            Praise him, you highest heavens
            and you waters above the skies.

            5
            Let them praise the name of the Lord,
            for at his command they were created,

            6
            and he established them for ever and ever—
            he issued a decree that will never pass away.

            7
            Praise the Lord from the earth,
            you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

            8
            lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
            stormy winds that do his bidding,

            9
            you mountains and all hills,
            fruit trees and all cedars,

            10
            wild animals and all cattle,
            small creatures and flying birds,

            11
            kings of the earth and all nations,
            you princes and all rulers on earth,

            12
            young men and women,
            old men and children.

          • Anonymous says:

            Bugmaster think bigger! You’re God, you don’t need to leave a book in the desert, no matter what it says! You can make them know whatever you want.

          • Anonymous says:

            tldr; Yudkowski uses signalling and outgroup derogation to make sure that his followers are limited to atheists.

            Come on, belief in god is as silly as belief in astrology. If you cannot assume even that, then what kind of rationality we are talking about? Of course, you can isolate this belief and thus stop other beliefs from being influenced by it, this way you can improve your thinking skills in other areas without touching it. But that sounds silly.

          • Nornagest says:

            Come on, belief in god is as silly as belief in astrology. If you cannot assume even that, then what kind of rationality we are talking about?

            The kind that doesn’t shit all over its own reputation and goals so that it can feel epistemically purer than hoi polloi, and the kind that doesn’t spend all its energy on pointless arguments with people it has no chance of swaying.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The kind that doesn’t shit all over its own reputation and goals so that it can feel epistemically purer than hoi polloi,”

            If your going to endorse rationalism except when it conflicts when the beliefs of a significant portion of the population, you don’t have rationalism.

            “and the kind that doesn’t spend all its energy on pointless arguments with people it has no chance of swaying.”

            Less wrong doesn’t really talk about religion. It is considered a solved problem so that they don’t spend time arguing on it.

          • Nornagest says:

            If your going to endorse rationalism except when it conflicts when the beliefs of a significant portion of the population, you don’t have rationalism.

            My position is precisely that rationalism — in the sense of “better living through cognitive science”, that is, not the bizarre K-skepticism++ v2.0 that some people seem to make of it — doesn’t substantially conflict with a large subset of religious beliefs. Sure, atheism’s probably correct. But as long as no one’s e.g. shooting cartoonists or spending all their time litigating against blasphemy, there are far more destructive features of our neurology than a tendency to believe in vague supernatural authority, and our efforts are better bent towards those.

            This also comes with the handy feature of not immediately pattern-matching to “smug asshole skeptic”, which really is a very bad thing to come off as if you’re not pushing atheism first and foremost, and arguably even if you are.

            Less wrong doesn’t really talk about religion.

            And yet, here we are.

          • Anonymous says:

            “doesn’t substantially conflict with a large subset of religious beliefs. ”

            The amount of rationalism this requires dumping means you’ve essentially dumped rationalism. “You need valid reasons to hold beliefs about reality” is really important for rationalism.

            ” But as long as no one’s e.g. shooting cartoonists or spending all their time litigating against blasphemy, there are far more destructive features of our neurology than a tendency to believe in vague supernatural authority, and our efforts are better bent towards those.”

            Or they could do both! This is a site that talks about rational toothpaste as well as how to properly design AI.

            “This also comes with the handy feature of not immediately pattern-matching to “smug asshole skeptic”, which really is a very bad thing to come off as if you’re not pushing atheism first and foremost, and arguably even if you are.”

            Less wrong openly talks about eugenics and polymory and is accused of being a cult at a regular pace. They really don’t care what they pattern match to; if you are repeled by “smug asshole skeptic” you aren’t going to react well to anything else they wrote.

            “And yet, here we are.”

            Except I’m not a less wrong contributor- I’ve never posted there. I’ve read the sequences and occasionally browse the discussion page. My actions have no relevance to what people do on their forums.

          • Nornagest says:

            The amount of rationalism this requires dumping means you’ve essentially dumped rationalism. “You need valid reasons to hold beliefs about reality” is really important for rationalism.

            You keep saying this, and I still don’t believe it. Theists believe they have valid reasons for their theism. That’s why they’re theists. In many cases their reasons actually are rather sophisticated, because the major religions have been at this for rather a long time.

            You can try to unwind them, which is a huge amount of effort, doesn’t actually get you very far, and most of the time will result in them deciding you’re an asshole and fucking off rather than anything useful, or you can attack other biases that aren’t as closely tied into self-image. Guess which I suggest?

            As to LW not caring what it pattern-matches to, I actually agree — but I think that’s a very big problem with the community, and one which raises serious questions about how clearly it’s thinking about this instrumental rationality thing. It’s kinda why I’m harping on this, in fact.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m an atheist with a firm respect for particular organized religions based on how instrumental they are in raising people’s moral behavior personally and as a society, giving comfort and wisdom about the challenges people meet in life and so on, and creating just societies that live by democratic principles and respect the right of the individual.
            I lived in a Muslim-animist country in Africa for a year, so I could see what the world is like without exposure to the Ten commandments and “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I’ve also studied the evolution of our democratic institutions in depth, and without the Protestant Reformation turning to the Hebrew Bible, we would have bupkis. I also see the awesome kindness of pious people I know, orthodox Jewish and Christian Evangelicals
            • I recommend a fascinating book comparing actual kind behavior, that is a perfect follow on to Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. Turns out although liberals self-describe as caring much more than conservatives, in actual behavior it is dramatically the opposite.
            Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatismby Arthur C. Brooks and James Q. Wilson

          • Anonymous says:

            “I lived in a Muslim-animist country in Africa for a year, so I could see what the world is like without exposure to the Ten commandments and “love thy neighbor as thyself.” ”

            Yeah, Japan is a real hell hole.

            ” I’ve also studied the evolution of our democratic institutions in depth, and without the Protestant Reformation turning to the Hebrew Bible, we would have bupkis.”

            You mean the same people behind the witch hunt craze? Or the fact the first country with universal sufferage was Catholic (Revolutionary France)?

            “Turns out although liberals self-describe as caring much more than conservatives, in actual behavior it is dramatically the opposite.”

            And? Political affiliation and religion are not the same thing.As for the conclusions in the book, he shows people who are members of strong religious communities donate alot. People who are religious and not part of strong religious communities don’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            Japan is not a hell hole because it is not a Muslim-animist country. You have not contradicted either my personal observations or my general thought, which is to judge each religion by the effects it has on individuals and society.

          • Anonymous says:

            >>You mean the same people behind the witch hunt craze? Or the fact the first country with universal sufferage was Catholic (Revolutionary France)?

            what is the name for this kind of arguing? naaa-naa your sister is ugly?

          • Anonymous says:

            “Japan is not a hell hole because it is not a Muslim-animist country. ”
            “so I could see what the world is like without exposure to the Ten commandments and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

            Japan doesn’t have the ten commandments or love thy neighbor as thyself. You made a strong claim; a single exception is enough to invalidate it.

            “what is the name for this kind of arguing? naaa-naa your sister is ugly?”
            ” I’ve also studied the evolution of our democratic institutions in depth, and without the Protestant Reformation turning to the Hebrew Bible, we would have bupkis.”

            The fact that Protestantism (and not Catholicism or Orthodoxy) was primarily affected by the witch craze or the fact that the first country to adopt universal sufferage was Catholic (well, the people responsible were more diest/atheist, but the cultural backround was Catholic) is evidence against the protestant reformation being solely responsible for democratic institution building.

            If you want stable institutions, you have England with the Anglican church, the most Catholic of all the Protestant religions. The one that kept a religious head- not exactly turning to the Hebrew Bible.

            Or in other words “Protestants turning to the Hebrew Bible” doesn’t really line up with “building democratic institutions”.

        • It’s distinct enough as an approach and community that it deserves its own name. It gets called postrationalism because a lot of the people go through traditional rationality first, and it kind of sees itself as correcting the flaws in traditional rationality.

      • I might regret calling that moreright piece postrationalist. I really meant post-nihilist. I guess it is a bit postrationalist in its approach though. It’s comforting that you think its decently representative enough to link to it though.

        Agree with your explanation of the relationship between NRx and postrat

      • Carinthium says:

        To Darcey Riley: Can’t find it. Looking for help.

        Fair warning- I’ve already figured out possible arguments against your movement, and I want to put them to you. Since you’d probably prefer to have it there than here, I want to respect that preference.

    • Abel Molina says:

      Don’t mind the “Kind Of New-Age-y People Who Are Better At Math Than Usual For That Demographic” label either. Would also be fine with “People Who Are Good At Math Who Are More New-Age-y Than Usual For That Demographic” : )

      Hadn’t in fact thought/heard of the “post-rationalist” label until seeing it in the Map of the rationalist community

      • above anon who gets says:

        Good at math isn’t determinative. I know many New Age guys who are coders or engineers. Sought after highly paid coders even. They still believe the conspiracy theory stuff.

        I think coder is a pretty good job for people with spiritual tendencies for many of the same reasons it works for other neuroatypical people; ie not having a corporately acceptable personality.

        (I should probably have an actual screen name since I keep posting on this thread but somehow continuous Internet identities make me nervous)

        • ilzolende says:

          You can have a non-continuous identity, and use it for only this website. The Rinkworks Fantasy Name Generator is a good source. Just get one that sounds good in your head and returns no search results, and use it as a screen name over here. It should be easier to remember than some series of numbers with something you’re interested in.

    • Anonymous says:

      FYI that cure for cancer is cannabis oil and yes, they will tell you that William Randolf Hearst got it outlawed to protect his investments in alternative materials. They might also tell you that when people are making money they will sometimes act to protect their money even at the expense of the health of strangers. But that’s just a conspiracy theory, right?

  11. Markus Ramikin says:

    “Whoever made this website probably felt very smug about their clean minimalist style, but you can’t get a single word of information without watching a video.”

    Yeah. On that link, I just get an empty green page until I unblock several things in Noscript. I blame the page, not Noscript.

    I recently had a similar realisation about computer games: in some aspects, twenty years ago they were better than now simply because you couldn’t animate every little thing. Compare X-com from 1994 to XCOM from 2012. Why is literally everything about the base management animated, and the view moves and changes even as you explore the menu? Does a simple task like dismissing 10 soldiers really have to take half a minute? In the old one, it was a simple list, hold left mouse button, move the pointer through all the up-markers next to the soldiers’ names, release mouse button, click OK. Took 1-2 seconds.

    I suspect it’s due to gamemakers’ fear of appearing low-budget. Probably something similar goes on with webpage creators? As in, if they don’t include various stupid features, someone might think they didn’t know how to.

    • MicaiahC says:

      I don’t think it’s a matter of displaying competence or anything, just that people don’t think of adding a skip animation feature.

      Take Disgaea, which granted was from the PS2 era, the first installment had every single attack animated, which for a game where the EXPLICIT purpose was grinding and micro-optimization (level cap was 9999 and there are several post main-quest optional bosses which are at or near that order of magnitude in level) is terrible since that greatly extends the time needed. A lot of old jRPGs also had this.

      Contrast with remakes of the same game and later installments, which do have the option of skipping animations. I *believe* Fire Emblem may have gone through the same process (the GBA ones definitely had animation skip available).

      Also, you liked how firing soldiers worked in old X-COM? I would have to go into the soldier profile, check to see that their stats are bad, change their name then make sure to only fire those with the fire name-tag appended. Not that that excuses having animations on oft-done game actions.

      • Anonymous says:

        “people don’t think of adding a skip animation feature”

        But I wonder though what thought process caused that animation to be there in the first place. I mean, we’re talking about the pull down text menu where you do all your base management. Imagine having slow-things-down animations in the options in your browser’s menu toolbar. Even if they were skippable, it’s still mind-bogglingly pointless.

        “I would have to go into the soldier profile, check to see that their stats are bad, change their name then make sure to only fire those with the fire name-tag appended.”

        Hehe, yeah, that aspect was bad. I was just referring to what you did in the Sell screen. If you could have a combination of the Sell screen with a (sortable!) stats table, that would be ideal.

        At least the open source reimplementation added a button to sack soldiers straight from the stats screen, and that’s pretty close to perfect too.

      • Vorkon says:

        Yeah, I’m with this guy. The original X-Com is still one of the greatest games ever made, and did a lot of things right. However, the UI is most certainly NOT one of those things.

      • nydwracu says:

        The problem with the animation skip in Fire Emblem is that the animations give you information that you can’t get any other way, so it’s not practically possible (or at least much harder) to use.

        • MicaiahC says:

          Huh? What information?

          Turning off animations still plays a very stripped down version of combat, where you see the tiny sprite’s hp reduce and separate sound effects for miss vs hit vs crit. Most of my experience is in FE7 and FE8, where there are not skills associated with each character. What information is missing?

          • Ano says:

            More recent games in the series let you skip the enemy phase entirely and only shows you characters levelling up and if someone dies. But even then, Fire Emblem is not a game with hidden information, you can always deduce what happened from looking at the HP of units afterwards.

    • Zorgon says:

      The “everything must be animated” thing is caused by that most terrible and ill-defined of gaming terms – “polish”.

      No-one actually knows what “polish” means. Sometimes it’s used in a context that indicates it means “lacking in obvious bugs”, sometimes it seems to mean “has lots of bells and whistles”, sometimes it means “pretty GUI”, and sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all, most notably in its negation: “unpolished” is routinely used by lazy reviewers as a term all of its own without any further explanation.

      It’s not just the games media, either. Publishers use it too. “I like the mechanics, but it feels unpolished.” Chasing them up about exactly what they would like to see changed gets you equally vague terms in response and/or veiled insults as to your competence as a developer.

      As far as I can tell, “polish” actually means “looks and feels as much as possible like the current crop of successful games”. Right now, that includes the Every Last Thing Must Be Animated phenomenon you’re describing. I wouldn’t worry; fashions are already shifting and “indie aesthetic” has been moving into the mainstream for a couple of years. I anticipate soon being told something “needs polish” because it doesn’t witter on for 3 hours about some avant-garde bullshit.

      • Emile says:

        I find “polish” a perfectly useful term in my day-to-day work. Basically it means “the kind of small improvements a professional would suggest while playing your app (be it in game design, UX, UI, art, writing …)”, so it could be things like “we never explain to the player how to use the crouch button”, “no-one understands the signal telling the player he’s about to run out of fuel”, “the doors’ art style really clashes with the rest”, “you can’t see powerups well away from far away”, “the chainsaw is overpowered, everybody ends up using it as a main weapon”, “the tutorial sequence is too verbose”, “the background texture in the pause menu is ugly”, etc.

        And by “unpolished” I would mean “I see a bunch of small improvements”.

        It’s the kind of stuff you usually do last in the project (doing it too early is a bit of a waste, you need to redo it anytime you have a substantial change), so the metaphor works fine. If you don’t do it, it can be because of a lack of time & budget (“I need to release this game NOW or never”), or because your team doesn’t have the skills for noticing those improvements and their importance (typical for a one-man project; typical pitfalls: “I understand how it works, therefore anybody will”, or “I like the style, I drew it”), or because dubious technical choices made those improvements very hard (e.g. dwarf fortress).

        “Indie aesthetic” vs. “everything HD and animated”, etc. is more of a question of art direction and budget, but whatever the art direction, the concept of “polish” is meaningful.

        • Zorgon says:

          I’m unconvinced. Pretty much all of your examples follow my earlier pattern of “this game needs to look, act and feel more like currently successful titles in the market” and those that don’t are standard QA issues that don’t need such a dubious and easily abused word as “polish”.

          Case in point: “We never explain to the player how to use the crouch button.” Explaining things to the player, how and if, is a choice. A design-level choice. It has significant effects on how the game is experienced by the player. If the crouch button’s mechanics are sufficiently central to the game, then not guiding the playing in using them becomes poor design, and if they’re not, then not guiding the player in how to use them is quite possibly intentional.

          This is an entirely different kettle of fish to “the texture on the door clashes”. That’s straightforward QA and has little to do with design or intention. Yet the vague word “polish” would appear to include both, hiding vast multitudes of confusion.

          My own experience is straightforward: The word means “I’m dissatisfied”. It’s not a useful term and is routinely abused by individuals who want things changed but don’t want to support their arguments. (From painful experience, it’s very often an excuse for unfunded feature creep from producers.)

          This is possibily the most straightforward example of a term that could use tabooing in game dev. The word has a multitude of meanings and is routinely used to obfuscate; we should call QA issues what they are and call design disagreements what they are.

          • Emile says:

            I agree that “polish” can be abused, that in terms of feedback, it doesn’t convey much information, and that a lazy reviewer or manager can use “it needs polish” as an excuse for complaining about the lack of certain decidedly non-polish features (“bug” can also be abused in a similar way).

            But it’s useful when talking about project organization: if you have five weeks to make a game, you can say “we’ll do three weeks of dev, one week of debug, and one week of polish”, or “this project failed because no time was allocated to polish” or “we are late because we had to do a lot of polish for demos while the core gameplay wasn’t even settled, so there was a lot of wasted work”, or “this task is polish, I’ll do it later”, or “we ship in two weeks, we shouldn’t be doing anything else than polish and debugging”.

            on polish vs. QA: polish is more specific, though you can also get more specific than polish (visual polish, game balancing, etc.)

            On polish vs. design decisions: it’s totally the designer’s responsibility to pay attention to design polish issues! If e.g. the crouch button is not explained, calling it “poor design” instead of “design polish” gives the impression that the designer should have specified it in the first place, whereas it’s the kind of thing that needs to be iteratively improved throughout the game, starting by the big elements, then progressively refining once the basic stuff is stable. Talking about “design polish” makes it clear that it’s not a moral failure of the designer to not have thought of all that in advance – calling it “bad design” only encourages the designer to write down all kinds of details before even testing whether the core stuff works, which is a waste of time.

            As for “this game needs to look, act and feel more like currently successful titles in the market” – all this could totally apply to a black-and white ascii roguelike.

    • Emile says:

      I suspect it’s due to gamemakers’ fear of appearing low-budget. Probably something similar goes on with webpage creators? As in, if they don’t include various stupid features, someone might think they didn’t know how to.

      Close, but the reason game makers don’t want to appear low-budget isn’t fear that people will think less of them, it’s fear that people will be less willing to pay a lot of money.

      If game A is very fun but with simple 8-bit pixel art graphics, and game B has neat polished 3D graphics and cutscenes, but isn’t as fun, than most people – including me – will be more willing to pay a high price (say more than $10) for game B than for game A. So if game makers want people to keep buying their games for more than $50, they have to put a bigger proportion of their effort in polish than they would have needed 20 years ago, because of the way you and I are irrational.

      Now that iPad games and the like (web-based games, free games with stuff to buy…) are setting a new norm of games costing around a couple of bucks, people expect less high-end graphics in that price range, so indie games with innovative gameplay have a chance again.

    • Ano says:

      What bothered me most about XCOM was every combat encounter being preceded by five minutes of having to slowly shuffle your team through empty rooms. My favourite missions were always the terror attacks, because it’s fun to finally be able to charge into a fight with guns blazing. I never really minded the base animations, it made it feel like you were really commanding a living base rather than a spreadsheet with some pretty pictures.

    • Lambert says:

      Animations? What foul sourcery is this? *opens nethack*

      • Brad says:

        I, uh… always used sprites for nethack. It seemed easier.

        (insert comments anticipating faux-outrage.)

        • Nornagest says:

          I cut my roguelike teeth on Angband, and when I started playing Nethack I used tiles because it was too much of a hassle to remap my perceptions of what all those symbols meant. (In Angband, & is a stack of multiple items. In Nethack, it’s a demon or demon-like creature. Not a confusion you want to make very often.)

          • lmm says:

            As a nethack player I had the same experience with Dwarf Fortress.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            But if you keep the native green, you eventually experience “the Matrix moment” in DF (“all I see now is blonde, brunette, redhead.”) That was genuinely nifty.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know about game design as much, but for websites its party a client demand problem. Useless flash graphics that slowly reveal the corporeate logo from amid a field of beuatiful flowers work really wel when you are showing them to the directors on a projector in the boardroom, so are selected for. Usability is much less sellable

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    I have to disagree slightly about “post-“. While on the whole I find it unhelpful, it does have one advantage over “anti-“: It says explicitly, “I’m higher on the contrarian hierarchy than you, so you should actually consider what I have to say, because it’s probably not just the same old arguments you’re used to rebutting.”

    It’s a mistake to lump together those who disagree with you because they’re one step below you on the contrarian hierarchy and those who disagree because they’re one step above. But people on side X might call someone “anti-X” if they’re one step below X or if they’re one step above. Not saying I like “post-“, or that it’s necessarily effective at actually saying “don’t group me in with the people on the level below you” (I’m not sure there’s any effective way of doing that, unfortunately), but that is a point in its favor.

    • Eli says:

      Zionist here. Completely disagreeing. At least in Scott’s example, a “post-Zionist” really is just an anti-Zionist who happens to have been born a privileged, Tel-Avivi Jew. Both Jewish or Western “post-Zionists” and Arab or Western “anti-Zionists” share the exact same beliefs and arguments. The only difference is that despite opposing the existence of the State of Israel, you can’t actually convince the “post-Zionist” to leave Northern Tel-Aviv for anything less than a salary rise and permanent residency in a hip European city (Berlin and London are popular).

      • I always assumed the difference was that Zionists believe that Zionism was and is a good thing; post-Zionists believe that Zionism was a good thing but isn’t necessary now; non-Zionists believe that Zionism wasn’t and isn’t a good thing; while anti-Zionists believe that Zionism should be undone by somehow persuading or forcing or transferring Jews to move to the lands their recent ancestors came from, just as certain more extreme Zionists hope to somehow persuade or force or transfer Arabs to move to Jordan.

        • JE says:

          Not really. Plenty of anti-zionists believe that the Jews should be allowed to stay where they are, but that Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state. (One state solution and all Palestinians in Palestine and abroad being granted citizenship, right of return, etc)

        • Eli says:

          The definition you gave of post-Zionism is more-or-less what the original idea was about, but that was back in the days before the Second Intifada, when we actually thought we’d have, well, peace in our time. Nowadays, the people who call themselves post-Zionists are mostly mild anti-Zionists. And what you call “non-Zionist” is more really anti-Zionist, while what you call “anti-Zionist” is basically just really anti-Zionist.

          • Nita says:

            So… everyone except Zionists is anti-Zionist?

          • Irenist says:

            Can there be an “a-Zionist”?

            Like, I’ve never taken the time to formulate a strong opinion on the issues in Israel/Palestine, because I find it all simultaneously depressing and boring, and having a strong opinion on anything even tangentially related to that topic is just a way to acquire lots of enemies without affecting anything at all. Mostly, I just wish everyone over there the best but tend to avoid reading articles about the area. Is there a word for that non-position?

          • Corwin says:

            “reasonably not caring”

            it’s my position too. The respective narratives of ALL sides involved in the conflict are factually and ethically wrong to some extent, not to mention their actions, and there doesn’t exist any objective reporting on it accessible to us plebs. (That includes history)

          • Anonymous says:

            someone who doesn’t have an opinion on Israel’s right to exist and the Arab’s use of the Palestinians as sacrificial victims in their jihadi war against the non-believer? morally tone deaf – at best. morally lazy?

            bystanders to Jew-hatred don’t get a pass because the issues are depressing, demanding or because neither side achieves human perfection.

          • Anonymous says:

            My morality computation has no place for countries, so that’s that for that argument, I’m not one to talk about them.
            As for “the Arab’s use of the Palestinians as sacrificial victims in their jihadi war against the non-believer”, yeah, religion is a delusion and actually acting on it does results in bad outcomes, who’d have predicted that.
            As for Jew-hatred, I’m in a place that’s been on the most hysterical permanent witch-hunt about anti-semitism for like 60+ years, so I don’t get to see much of it, apart from some ridiculously powerless marginals who just reflexively contradict everything the official propaganda machine says. Just between France and Germany, it’s national french news every time a drunken rebellious idiot breaks into in a Jewish cemetery to piss on a grave. I see far more hatred of anti-semites than of Jews.

            As far as I’m concerned, all notions of “country”, “state”, “border” and such can roll over and go die. I can’t morally justify the existence of a country from my first principles. The very concept is a Bad Idea, something that’s fundamentally tribalist. It separates individual humans, and I recognize no good in identifying oneself, or anybody else, into any group that doesn’t include everyone. With porous borders that may include animals that register in some of my criteria for personhood. THAT is the lower bound of my moral standard. So, people killing each other over blood feuds? I’m just chagrined by all the pain they cause and receive, all of it, all of them, on all sides. I’m on the side of flesh and blood against the side of guns and bombs.

            A solution I’d find totally reasonable would be something like, offer an apartment with running water and electricity to all inhabitants marrying the opposite tribe, free, for life, a stipend for their eventual kids, also basic multiculltural freedoms : twin-language everything, freedom of association, press, religion, and speech, explicitly including pictures and future means of representation uninvented yet.

            Not going to happen anytime soon. I can’t do anything to meaningfully help with the situation, I have an unworkable idea for a solution that would totally resolve the 70-years-old problem in 10-20 more, and I find that both sides are needlessly not-cooperating with each other to fucking solve it on grounds of BAD values and incentives. Whatever. Europe has spent centuries on end stupidly tangling itself in wars thinly excused by religion, maybe that zone will learn eventually.

        • Null Hypothesis says:

          You’re making the mistake of believing the labels people give themselves.

          It’s marketing 101.

    • drethelin says:

      More importantly, post doesn’t contain the same connotation of “You’re wrong and it’s bad that you even thought along these lines” as anti. Anti-rationality would mean something very different from post-rationality.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I sort of think we’re agreeing. I mean, I agree that’s what post-rationalists are trying to do. But now what’s to stop me from saying I’m a post-post-rationalist, and so clearly more meta than they are, and now rationalism is the cool thing again?

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe Ideological Turing Tests are the way to implement a “post-” measuring contest.

        • MicaiahC says:

          Horay! Now I am the post-man!

        • Anonymous says:

          what is an ideological turing test?

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not an especially well-defined phrase, but the basic idea is: you pretend to be a member of some ideological group you don’t identify as. If observers from that group buy you as a genuine compatriot, you pass. This shows that you understand the logic behind their positions and are familiar with their rhetoric.

            An easier version has the observers as third parties.

          • Anonymous says:

            A test designed to test your understanding of other people’s ideology (where they’re coming from, etc.)
            The original proposal (I think) involved an Anonymous chatroom with several people sharing an ideology and one that didn’t, said person had to convince the others that they’re one of them (with the implication that they should also be convinced that one of the others is not one of them).

      • I think I can answer that. I see describing oneself as post-rationalist as making a claim that one has gone beyond rationalism in some useful sense. I think this is a perfectly reasonable expression.

        So if one disagrees with post-rationalism or a particular person referring themselves as post-rationalist, it’s also perfectly reasonable to indicate one’s dissent by using the term in scare-quotes or just assuming irony. “Post-rationalist”? Yeah, right.

        If you’ve examined something called post-rationalism, and have gone beyond it in some useful sense, over and above mere rationalism, then post-post-rationalist is a reasonable term.

        As to what post-rationalism or post-rationality actually are, I’m not sure, but for me Nietzschean perspectivism is at the core.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t think that ordering concepts and ideas by chronological order is a reasonable way to give them names. That’s why I think that nearly all “post-” things are badly named, with the exception when chronological order is the most important thing. “post-rationality” is simply an attempt to mimic the language of art history.

      • You can call yourself whatever you like. The name will stick and people will take you seriously if its implicit meaning is held up by its referent. Which it isn’t the case here.

    • Harald K says:

      It’s also used on some things that aren’t inherently about contrarianism. Post-rockers don’t view rock people with scorn, neither do post-evangelicals smirk at their evangelical parents.

      In fact both those labels are usually imposed from the outside, and the people labelled it often do not reject nearly as much of what they’re supposedly “post” than the labelers think.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think music is a valid analogy for this. Being a post-rocker says nothing about your feeling for rock. Being a post-evangelical means you are not an evangelical.

        • Most post-evangelicals are actually pretty similar to evangelicals in theological and political convictions, so much so that unless you’re pretty close to evangelical culture you’d just round them off to evangelicals. As I’ve seen the term used, it refers to people who are still basically conservative low-church Protestants, but who feel alienated from the current cultural manifestations of evangelicalism, and want something a little less “tacky” or “consumeristic”. They often like the aesthetic values of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, and they may light candles or put up an icon as part of their service, but they’re unlikely to actually convert. (Unless they do convert, but then we don’t call them “post-Evangelical”, we just call them “Catholic.)

    • Gbdub says:

      I’m not sure about “more contrarian”, necessarily – to me that would be “ultracontrarian” or “archcontrarian”, not “post-contrarian”. The “post” prefix seems like it would be most useful to indicate “something that obviously evolved from X as a further development”. You would expect believers in “post-X” to at least sympathize with the main content of X. The founders of “post-X” would be former X, e.g. in this sense Christianity is “post-Judaisim”. Humans are “post-chimps”. Basically the opposite of “proto-“.

      Unfortunately this does not appear to the common, or at least not exclusive, usage, and anyway it gets confusing when something else evolves out of post-X.

    • hammy says:

      post-Social Justice
      anti-Social Justice
      proto-Social Justice
      neo-Social Justice
      nu-Social Justice
      alt-Social Justice
      psychedelic-Social Justice
      Swedish death-Social Justice

      • Nornagest says:

        Trve kvlt Norwegian black social justice?

      • Anonymous says:

        Viking Social Justice

        Doom Social Justice

        Drone Social Justice

        Industrial Social Justice

        Thrash Social Justice

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Hmmm…

        Alt-Social-Justice: Possibly Womanism.

        Proto: 19th C. Romanticist leftism?

      • Vulture says:

        I think Scott could be accurately (if obnoxiously) described as post-Social Justice (post-Justice for short because that sounds badass).

        Ozy might be alt-Justice, or getting there. Neoreactionaries would be anti-Justice (for the most part). Andrea Dworkin would be Norse mega-death-Justice, or something.

        • Anti Social-Justice.

          Anti Justice has a few other connotations that I hope you’re not implying.

          In any case, NRx doesn’t really care about justice. Not really on our radar as a thing that is important.

          • NRx cares deeply about the rule of law, which is what “justice” historically meant. It doesn’t care about “justice” as the term is used by the social justice crowd, where it means basically “equality of outcome plus no one ever hurts your feelings”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think NRx cares more about stability than justice cosmically defined. Think Machiavelli. NRx is ok with rule by a complete bastard as long as he keeps things together, mostly because they think the alternative is rule by many complete bastards who can’t keep it all together. It is much less important that he make sure folks get whats coming to them, good or bad.

          • What Jask said. Justice is instrumental. Cosmic Justice-as-terminal-value is not a thing in NRx.

          • Vulture says:

            I wasn’t trying to imply anything at all, actually. I thought using “Social Justice” as the root produced uninteresting mouthfuls, and shortening it to “Justice” sounds cool IMO. I’m actually quite sympathetic to neoreaction, although I wouldn’t call myself an adherent.

      • Null Hypothesis says:

        You forgot:

        muh-Social Justice

      • Anonymous says:

        Palaeo-Social justice (primitive communism?)

  13. Nisan says:

    Language Log has an interesting article about the word “entitlement” — at first it referred to veteran’s benefits in the 1940s, and then psychoanalysts started talking about “narcissistic entitlement” in the 1960s.

    • Nita says:

      Ah, such beauty:

      The fabric of the system is woven out of the warp of the regressive libidinal fantasy elements and the woof of the entitlement to the regressive world which the narcissistic attitudes provide.

  14. Richard says:

    Third, the most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees may (or may not) have been a chimpanzee. This is Richard Wrangham’s thesis, and he calls it pan prior, placing it firmly within the chimpanzee genus.

    I’m with Pratchett et. al. when it comes to renaming “Homo Sapiens Sapiens” to “Pan Narrans” (Same, doubly wise -> storytelling ape) I see little evidence of double wisdom but lots of stories.

    • David says:

      As far as I was aware, the ‘Homo’ comes from the Latin for ‘human’, not the Greek for ‘same’.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re probably right, my bad. Pan Narrans is still a lot better though

        • David says:

          Yeah, I’ve got no disagreement with that, it is an apt name, if you’re happy to count us in the same genus as chimps and bonobos (and I have nowhere near enough knowledge about genetic distance to have an opinion on that.

          Though for the etymology I should have provided the link to the Wiki article in my previous comment … and can do so with our host’s official seal of approval 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      “Sapient Man”?

    • Deiseach says:

      You could try the line from the 1957 Hammer film “The Abominable Snowman”, where Peter Cushing’s character gets a relatively long speech about mankind versus the Yeti, to humanity’s disfavour: “Perhaps not homo sapiens, thinking man — what has our thinking brought us to? — but homo vastans, man the destroyer.’

  15. Salem says:

    What about this use of the word “entitled”?

    • Pete says:

      This article reminds me of debates I’ve had over the word censorship. Some assert that it’s only appropriate when used in the context of government censorship which annoys me on two levels.

      1)It prescriptivist.
      2)Even if you are a prescriptivist, the supposed authorities (which I guess would be dictionaries in the case of definition, but Wikipedia works pretty well too) don’t limit the definition to only governmental censorship.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        It didn’t take me very much time reading Language Log to convince me that your (2) is pretty much an iron law of prescriptivism.

      • RCF says:

        Can you define the word “prescriptivist”?

        • drunkenrabbit says:

          Broadly, if you’re a prescriptivist, then “censorship” means whatever Webster’s dictionary or whichever authority says it does. If you’re a descriptivist, then “censorship” means whatever people use it to say.

          • RCF says:

            But Pete claimed that it was “prescriptivist” without showing that it was based on the dictionary, and in fact asserted that it went against the dictionary.

          • Furrfu says:

            Dismayingly often, as extensively documented and lamented on Language Log, the “whichever authority” is purely the self-proclaimed authority of the individual prescriptivist, unrestrained by humility or indeed any knowledge whatsoever.

        • Vulture says:

          Roughly, prescriptivist means you’re trying to get people to change how they use a word; as opposed to simply describing the common usage of the word (the descriptivist position).

          • RCF says:

            So, according to that, saying “It’s incorrect to use the word ‘hopefully’ tl ea ‘I hope'”, is not prescriptivist, right?

          • Anonymous says:

            RCF it depends whether you mean by “It’s incorrect to do X” either “I am telling you not to do X” or “You will be misunderstood if you do X”

        • Luke Somers says:

          “When you use a word”, said bizarro Humpty Dumpty, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

          • DrBeat says:

            See, here is what I don’t get about this universal sneering toward prescriptivists.

            Prescriptivists are the ones who say “No. That is not what that word means. That is not correct.” and everyone sneers and ridicules them for being the embodiments of whatever outgroup they dislike.

            But, like, the same way that a statement that can’t be proven false has no meaningful truth, a word that can never be used incorrectly has no meaning. If it is never correct to say someone used a word wrong, then words have no information value, communication is impossible, and everyone should kill themselves.

          • Nita says:

            Descriptivists don’t believe that a word means anything you want it to mean. They try to figure out the meaning from its actual, successful usage in communication.

          • RCF says:

            “Descriptivists don’t believe that a word means anything you want it to mean. They try to figure out the meaning from its actual, successful usage in communication.”

            Well, prescriptivists think that “wrong” means “not following established rules”, and they have successfully communicated that meaning by using the word “wrong”. So wouldn’t descriptivism demand that we agree with such statements as “it’s wrong to use the word ‘literally’ as an intensifier”, as using the word “literally” as an intensifier does, in fact, violate an established rule? It seems to me that descriptivism is founded on a prescriptivist redefinition of what the word “wrong” means.

          • Nita says:

            @RCF

            This conflation of object and meta levels is giving me vertigo.

            Yes, everyone agrees that using a word with a non-dictionary meaning is tantamount to not following the dictionary definition.

            Are dictionary definitions “rules”? That’s the real difference.

            From a descriptivist perspective, dictionary definitions aren’t rules but descriptions (what a coincidence!) of current usage. Like all descriptions, they can and do get outdated. That’s why people publish new versions of dictionaries every once in a while.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nita

            I made no appeal to dictionaries in my post. I think that it is a bit dishonest to say “Well, you said ‘rules’, and clearly by ‘rules’, you mean ‘dictionary’, but a ‘dictionary’ is not a rule”. If dictionaries aren’t rules, then why are you assuming that by “rules”, I mean “dictionaries”? You say that dictionaries are descriptions of usage, but another way of saying that is that they are descriptions of rules. You can quibble about whether they are themselves rules, or descriptions of rules, but either way, “don’t use ‘literally’ as an intensifier” is a rule with widespread currency.

          • Nita says:

            @Anonymous / RCF

            Oh, sorry. People mentioned dictionaries and authorities upthread.

            Regarding “literally”, a descriptivist would say: “Oh, people use this word in two different, potentially confusing ways. How unfortunate.” A prescriptivist would say: “We must shame the people who use this word for emphasis! These thoughtless folks are wrecking our language!”

            I think one of the reasons why prescriptivism is unpopular now is that it was used to elevate certain upper-class dialects as “correct language” — basically, as a tool in status games.

  16. birdboy2000 says:

    Wow
    many smart
    very internet
    much complain
    wow

    (sorry I had to. I love that meme, stupid or not.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Click here to find out which entitled blogger is post post rationalist!

      *full page ad that closes slowly to reveal a doge meme about murika that debunks cuddling.

      • And up until now we were actually pretty good about not doing the thing that Scott specifically told us not to do last year.

        (Actually, in retrospect, this surprises me. Going meta is always much too tempting. And I personally don’t think it’s as poisonous or obnoxious as Scott thinks it is.)

      • Vulture says:

        That shreds up and ritually sacrifices the notion that humans are descended from monkeys, that is. Now we’re done.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it just me or is the entire *point* of the doge meme how obnoxious and incomprehensible it is as a meme? I thought it was the ironic meme, in contrast to cats, who are genuinely obsessed over in both “meme” memes and memes as Richard Dawkins meant. I don’t think I would find doge funny if I didn’t know that other people would be viewing it as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        The only times I recall using doge, I was fully aware of how goddamn stupid it is and in fact decided to use it due to that.

        Essentially, a lazy form of trolling.

      • Anonymous says:

        I find the dog’s face funny, and “doge” an inherently funny word to say out loud.

      • Harald K says:

        The doge meme was ruined by the dogecoin people, who had no use for a joke unless it made them money. Back when it was just a dog looking impressed and having his dog thoughts typed out in comic sans, it was an OK joke.

  17. I’d guess that people with office jobs use “getting destroyed” style language more than people with dangerous jobs.

    Like an office worker saying, “We slaughtered them in that meeting.”

    And a farm worker saying, “That steer was a bit difficult to load.”

  18. Jiro says:

    Claiming that you destroyed someone when you destroyed their argument is correct; it’s an example of metonymy.

    • Muga Sofer says:

      But you don’t “destroy” an argument. at best, you refute it. The argument is still there.

      • Anonymous says:

        But our language is quite literally based on metaphor. Do you also protest when people say they skipped a meal or missed a train?

        • Vulture says:

          Okay now that we’re done pointing out that it is in fact a grammatical construction, let’s move on to Scott’s actual position, which is that it’s irritating and (more importantly) discursively anti-constructive, since its metonymy reinforces identifying people’s personal honor with the positions that they happen to hold, which is terrible and dumb, at least if you’re trying to have a constructive debate. As usual, however, nobody is actually trying to have a constructive debate at all, so the point is a bit moot. But still.

        • Anonymous says:

          A lot of (most?) metaphors are bad metaphors.

        • Anonymous says:

          A lot of (most, no question mark) arguments are poor arguments. Yet we’re not categorically against arguments.

  19. James says:

    The phrase “Screenful of Page” as the name of a weird sun twitter account.

  20. Peter says:

    “Post-” is indeed bad – IMO it’s worse than “neo”. Among the many problems of both prefixes is the tendency to declare something to be _the_ successor to something rather than _a_ successor to something.

    Consider poststructuralism (that thing which overlaps lots with postmodernism). The “structuralism” is an outgrowth of Ferdinand de Saussure’s structural linguistics. So when Chomsky comes along with his generative linguistics, then, well generative linguistics is what comes after structural linguistics, so in a sense it is post-structuralism. Except that that word means something else. (Since this is SSC, see also “radical feminist”.)

    The smug-git part of my brain has ideas about declaring some lines of thought to be … post-rational – however, the mental image of sunglasses being removed or put on probably means that that part of my brain shouldn’t be listened to.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is especially bad when post-thing haven’t even displaced that thing and they both exist concurrently. What’s so “post” about it? The date of the beginning? But, for example, we don’t call Hussitism or Protestantism post-Catholicism (at least I haven’t heard about it). Or the idea that post-thing is supposed to outlast the original thing. Well, in many cases this idea is completely unfounded. “Post” only makes sense when we are dealing with things that happen in a nearly strict chronological order (maybe with some periods of transition).

      I think that it is simply a lazy way to name things. This way you don’t have to come up with a descriptive name.

      I feel that I must add, that we don’t call humans post-chimps 😀

      • Peter says:

        There is a small whiff of it about Protestantism – that there isn’t about Hussitism. I believe Jan Hus protested against the Catholic church of the day, except he doesn’t get called Protestant because he was pre-Luther. Apparently Anglicanism is a bit of a grey area with regards to Protestantism; in my C. of E. school we counted it as Protestantism, I didn’t have a church so I can’t say how it saw itself.

        I’m totally going to steal your post-chimp thing, that’s excellent.

        Shudder-inducing word of the day: neopostmodernism. I got 2290 hits on Google. Argh!

      • Irenist says:

        Protestantism does refer to its beginnings as “the Reformation,” however, which is about as self-congratulatory as referring to itself as “post-Catholicism” would’ve been.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, showing just how far back misuse of the word “reform” dates. For self-congratulatory titles, I think “The Enlightenment” really can’t be beat.

          • Peter says:

            Eh, for self-congratulatory terms, one coined in the late 19th century (if Wikipedia is to be believed) for a period that ended in the late 18th is missing the “self” bit a bit, although there’s some of the “our glorious ancestors” about it.

    • stillnotking says:

      My theory is that people name ideas “post-X” when they can’t think of anything better to call them. This naturally tends to coincide with movements that have little of importance or novelty to contribute; people with real ideas give them descriptive, original names, like “plate tectonics” or “jazz”, not “post-continental-fixity” or “post-ragtime”. “Post-” implies the mentality of a critic, not a creator.

      • Peter says:

        Hence the way that postmodernism and lit crit go together like two things that other people think go together well.

      • RCF says:

        Also, periods are usually defined in terms of how they differ from the periods that surround them. If you’re trying to name a period while actually living in that period, you simply don’t have the context to evaluate the period, so you have to resort to calling it “modern” or “post-[whatever]”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Mentioned farther up in the comments is post-rock and is evidence supporting your hypothesis:

        Wikipedia: “The term “post-rock” is believed to have been coined by critic Simon Reynolds in his review of Bark Psychosis’ album Hex, published in the March 1994 issue of Mojo magazine.[6] Reynolds expanded upon the idea later in the May 1994 issue of The Wire.[2][7]”

        However post-rock does not have “little of importance or novelty”.

      • Harald K says:

        “This naturally tends to coincide with movements that have little of importance or novelty to contribute”

        I disagree with that, unless you add “in the eyes of self-appointed tastemakers”. I’m sure jazz-haters would have loved the term post-ragtime if they had thought of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      It reminds me of the lazy 4chan trolls that start threads with “When did you outgrow X?”

  21. James says:

    On “entitled” as a put-down, on top of what Scott notes, I also always thought of it as an “I could care less”-esque mangling of meaning. Surely if someone actually is entitled to something (indignation, pride, or what-have-you), then there’s no problem – it’s when people feel and act entitled to things to which they aren’t that is an issue. And, in a weird inversion of meaning, this is what “entitled” has come to actually denote.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This. The word has become such a negative connotation bomb that saying e.g. that libertarians feel entitled to the market value of their output sounds like a criticism, rather than a description, of their philosophy.

      Though… I hesitate to bring this up, but we can’t discuss the dynamics of the word accurately without noting that it’s largely a slur against the canonical privileged groups (white/male/hetero/etc.). Unless it’s an anomaly of my filter bubble, the turnabout uses Scott links are a small minority (albeit one which is completely enabled by the stupidity of the term). I believe its viral spread is due to its users feeling like they get SJ virtue points, like they’re fighting the power and making a better world by insulting whoever they wanted to insult.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        I think it is to a degree, because there’s no shortage of right-wing politicians conflating entitled in the negative sense with things like social security and health care.

    • RCF says:

      I’m not entirely sure that your idea of what the “correct” meaning of the word “entitled” is is valid.

      • James says:

        Well, consider the sense “entitled to X”. This seems at odds with the sense of “entitled” without the “to X”. I’m open to evidence that I’m wrong, though.

        Someone linked a Language Log article above, which I hadn’t read at the time I wrote my comment. It’s interesting and relates to what I’m talking about but I didn’t feel it quite resolved the issue.

        • RCF says:

          One can precede “entitled to X” with “feels”. my point is that seeing two different meanings, you seem to be assigning one of them the label “correct”, and treating the other one a corrupted version of that one.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. It is unfortunate “entitled” has come to mean “entitled (old def.) without reason”.

    • RCF says:

      What I find more annoying is people using the word “entitled” to mean “titled”. There’s already a perfectly good word that means “titled”; using the word “entitled” is just unnecessarily confusing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Or using “inflammable” when there is the perfectly good word “flammable” or using “Sumer” when there is the perfectly good “Babylon.”

        • Nornagest says:

          [history nerd]

          Sumer and Babylon are different things, though they existed in roughly the same geographical area and shared some cultural traits: Sumer was a Sumerian-speaking civilization that lasted from circa 5000 to circa 2000 BC, while Babylon was a Semitic region ruled at times by several different empires, and which formed the core of two Babylonian Empires of its own, one around 1700 BC (the dates are pretty fuzzy) and the other in Homeric times.

          Conflating the two is kind of like saying that the US is basically Algonquin, because hey, same area, right?

          [/history nerd]

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, you can add that to the list, but it’s redundant with the other example. It would be better to add intermediate examples, like Babel/Babylon, Iran/Persia, or George H. W. Bush / George W. Bush.

  22. also add this aphorism: the probably of detecting a mistake is proportional to the damage already done by the mistake

  23. Nestor says:

    I started a personal fatwa against N list articles “10 reasons for blah” “10 celebrities that killed their wife”, etc… last year. I kinda think I see them less often so perhaps I wasn’t the only one tired of that particular kind of clickbait.

  24. Peter says:

    Muh… I remember getting confused in discussions about Tegmark where MUH was Mathematical Universe Hypothesis, but I was reading it as if it was “the idea that makes you go Muh so much you need capital letters”.

  25. Anonymous says:

    “muh sojiny”

    Personally, I prefer “Muh soggy knee”.

  26. I would also add for #11: too much long form internet journalism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you mean something like stuff that appears on http://longform.org/ or http://longreads.com/ or something else?

    • Furrfu says:

      My personal pet peeve here is when people think that text running to 10,000 words makes it a “long read” or “long form”. Good God, if they were to encounter an actual novel, let alone a textbook, I fear they’d die of the shock! Perhaps they have been raised in caves with cellphones, and their only previous exposure to literature has been in the form of SMS messages with no punctuation.

  27. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Adding on to 3. how about fewer Arguments from look at How Stupid my Opponents are.

    For example the feminist parodies on Youtube. Or non binary gender parodies on Reddit.

    • JE says:

      Is that first link supposed to go to a video about Lord of the Rings mythology?

    • Null Hypothesis says:

      I’ll have to disagree, because the surest sign of a overzealous group is that they can’t tolerate being laughed at. Mockery is the kryptonite. It’s a more useful tool than “dumb straw man.” which should probably be retired.

      • DrBeat says:

        Uh, NOBODY likes getting laughed at.

        I will say the sign of a dangerously powerful group is one that will genuinely hurt you for mocking them, but nobody really “tolerates” getting laughed at all that well.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        Scott’s complaint about Poe’s law is relevant. Those are dumb straw men, that many people mistake for actual members of the group being mocked.

        Sorry, that was partially my fault for not naming the “fallacy” in an intuitive way.

        Also, the surest sign of a _vulnerable_ group is that they can’t tolerate being laughed at. If we started making fun of billionaires, they wouldn’t flinch. But transexuals who get harassed and sometimes attacked in public – mockery certainly does hurt.

        Vulnerable is not a synonym for virtuous of course. Creationists are a vulnerable group within academia, so are people who believe in aliens. Does that venerate their beliefs? Of course not, but I basically endorse Scott’s project of building a walled garden, a place where we don’t have the norm of “be nice to people … except when they’re the nasty outgroup who deserve to be harassed”

      • Brad says:

        This is far too broad. there are *lots* of reasons a group might not want to be laughed at, but they all tie back to the fact that to laugh at something is to deem it irrelevant, not important, not serious.

        Let’s take religion – if I say “you need to repent of your sins and believe on Jesus to be saved”, and you laugh at my statement, you are signaling that my statement is irrelevant and worthless in your eyes – even though, in my eyes, it’s something of utmost importance and something which is to be considered a life or death issue. Of *course* I’m not going to be laughing along with you. To grasp this example even better, replaced “Christian evangelism” with say, “getting your kids vaccinated”, and we might see how if someone was mocking another who was endorsing vaccinating their children, we would not “live and let live” – we would rather be offended, because the scoffer is, in this case, endorsing dangerous courses of actions that are, again, life or death (not vaccinating your kid will get them sick and may even lead to their death, for instance – and laughing this all off as a big joke inclines individuals to not take the correct course of action here).

        One more example: how do you feel when right-wing pundits mock, say, the prospect of climate change as a legitimate issue? Do you defend their right, or do you feel they are (wrongly) making light of something grave and serious?

        Now, does all resistance to mocking take this form? Perhaps not. Pride is often a factor, I suspect. But simplifying the issue down to “let us make fun of you or else you’re a extremist” is an egregious over-simplification and one I take offense at.

    • Anonymous says:

      Parody is the canary in the coal mine for direct criticism. It is protected by the implicit -I don’t actually mean this, it’s just for laughs-. Actual criticism is much more vulnerable and will not thrive, where it isn’t shielded by parody.

      Those who are so much part of a group that they feel hurt by parodies which intentionally and explicitly exaggerate, invert and invent characteristics to poke fun at, seriously need a stronger personal identity. If it hurts, when it is pointed out that not everything about your in-group is perfect – that’s your fundamental problem, not the parodies.

      What happens when someone so thoroughly invested in their group identity actually needs to be criticized?

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        See my response to Null Hypothesis who made the same point.

        • Anonymous says:

          It really isn’t the same point, past the first paragraph.

          Take your example mocking feminist critique. What problem do you have with this sort of mockery, in a world where this isn’t from The Onion?

          http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/swedish-cinemas-bechdel-test-films-gender-bias

          • Nita says:

            Um, what’s your objection to the Bechdel test, exactly?

          • John Schilling says:

            I can’t speak for anonymous, but I have a problem with any test that puts “Private Bejamin” ahead of “A Lion in Winter” on the grounds of being more feminist / less sexist. Or any other grounds, for that matter.

            More generally, the test seems to demand that all movies A: depict the world as it should be, rather than as it is, was, or might be, and B: be about feminism, at least in part. Not everything is about feminism, nor should it be. “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Das Boot”, for example, are absolutely superb movies that no theatre should ever be the least bit ashamed of showing, and both would have been diminished by the introduction of gratuitous female characters and “girl talk” scenes.

          • Anonymous says:

            I can’t speak for the other Anonymous, either, but I would strongly object to such a thing if said ratings imposed similar restrictions to the ratings on “adult content”. In no small part because the Bedchel Test is a very silly metric when not looked at in an aggregate basis.

            Still, while I find this very silly, it’s not what I’d point at if I wanted to say “look at those crazy swedish feminists”, I mean, there’s their prostitution laws, for one.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m referring specifically to the Bechdel test, because the YouTube comment in question is mockingly complaining about the lack of females in the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings.

            Seeing as the Bechdel test is taken seriously by some feminists, the parody doesn’t seem to be barking entirely at strawmen.

          • Nita says:

            @John Schilling

            Those two movies aren’t even in same genre, they’re hardly competing for the same audience. But PB is also newer and shorter — does that bother you?

            the test seems to demand that all movies A: depict the world as it should be, rather than as it is, was, or might be, and B: be about feminism, at least in part

            As it “should be”? Now I’m completely confused. The test doesn’t even mention women in positions of power, or positive portrayals of women, or anything like that. The world “as it is” already passes the test with flying colours.

            And “about feminism”? Are “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Das Boot” about mens’ rights now?

            @Anonymous

            No one is imposing any restrictions on anything. Here’s an example of this scary test already implemented by a Swedish cinema: http://fhp.nu/Rio/Kalendarium/Filmer/MOMMY/

            See that stamp with the letter A? That’s it. There’s no change on the pages or ads for the movies that don’t pass the test.

            I agree that the Bechdel Test is far more useful on an aggregate basis, as a metric of the entire culture. But,
            1) the aggregate data has to come from somewhere — why not from these people?
            2) this gives the viewers who would like to see more female characters a way to vote with their wallet.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wasn’t planning to discuss the merits of the Bechdel test, I was hoping for Stanislaw to explain what bothered him about the parody comment.

            My personal opinion is that the test is mostly good for missing the point. It yields nonsense on a case by case basis, and I have not seen it demonstrated that it is any more meaningful in aggregate.

            And as far as ‘just a stamp’ goes, I would encourage you to read up on the Comics Code Authority:

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

          • Nita says:

            Well, if cinemas start snubbing WWII films for lacking the Bechdel stamp, I’ll be right by your side, shaking my head and writing critical comments about those overzealous Swedish feminists.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            Why do I dislike mockery? Because I value Niceness Community and Civilization” and while I can’t make everyone value the same, I can value respect and choose to associate mostly with people who value the same.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Nita: You are not only moving the goalposts, you are setting up decoy goalposts in various corners of the stadium. No matter where the ball goes, it’s a goal for your team.

            The Swedish theaters in question are not gathering aggregate data about movies in general. They are applying the Bechdel test to individual movies. And they are doing so regardless of genre or target audience. Everything that sophisticated apologists say “Oh, of course you shouldn’t use the test like that“, they are going ahead and doing. Just like everyone else who actually uses the Bechdel test.

            As for movies like “Lawrence of Arabia”, no, they aren’t about men’s rights. When did anyone ever suggest they were? Does your world view not allow for any cinematic genres beyond “about feminism” and “about men’s rights”? Sometime, some of us want to JUST NOT GIVE A DAMN for an evening.

          • Anonymous says:

            Stanislaw: Are there any additional reservations hidden from view, or do you think the world is worse off for parodies such as Monty Python – Life of Brian and George Orwell – Animal Farm?

          • Nita says:

            @John Schilling

            >They are applying the Bechdel test to individual movies

            Uh, yes. That’s how you get individual data points in your aggregate data set. If they won’t publish aggregated data tables, then, of course, their contribution will be less valuable.

            >And they are doing so regardless of genre or target audience.

            I never claimed they applied it only to a subset of movies. I said, if someone wants to watch a historical drama, they’re not going to choose a silly comedy just because it passes the Bechdel test.

            >As for movies like “Lawrence of Arabia”, no, they aren’t about men’s rights. When did anyone ever suggest they were?

            Well, according to you (“the test seems to demand that all movies [..] be about feminism”), two women talking to each other would make a movie “about feminism”. By the same logic, multiple male characters talking to each other makes a movie “about men’s rights”.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @John Schilling
            the introduction of gratuitous female characters and “girl talk” scenes

            Please distinguish “talking about something other than a man” from “girl talk” (with attention to non-central, or featherless biped, usages).

          • John Schilling says:

            I am not certain what is meant by your “non-central” and “featherless biped” code phrases. But in the specific context of female characters gratuitously inserted into LoA or dB, I do not think there is a difference between “girl talk” and talking about subjects other than men.

            And if there is, what would it be? Say we insert a couple of women in “Das Boot”. Actually, I think there were a few at the party on the supply ship in Spain; presumably they could have been given expanded speaking roles. In which they can plausibly talk to the (male) German officers they are dancing with, or they can have a private chat in the ladies’ room about said men, or they can…

            …what, exactly? What can these women say, that is not either to or about a man, or a giant flashing neon sign saying “The auteur has satisfied the Bechdel test. We now return you to your regularly scheduled movie”? Conversations that in other contexts would be perfectly reasonable and gender-independent, would here be so divorced from the surrounding context that “girl talk” was the least-uncharitable simple descriptor I could find.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/10/06/links-for-october-2014/#comment-152009 and nearby comments.

            Featherless biped:
            “Man is a featherless biped.” Technically correct, but far from the central meaning of either word.

            Girl talk:
            “Two women talking but not about a man is girl talk.”
            Perhaps technically correct, but far from the central meaning of “girl talk”.
            (And for that matter, “girl” is not the central meaning of ‘”woman”.

            Bechdel Test makes fun of current movie casting; if a modern day script fails it (without a legitimate reason), then the script writers are … less than admirable. So we can expect the other parts of their script to be equally clueless.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s kind of silly, whether a film fails it or not is absolutely irrelevant to the quality of its script except in the rare case in which you have several female characters with considerable shared screen time and still fail to have them talk about -(guys) (what is the benchmark for this, anyway, does talking about how evil the male villian is count, for example?).

  28. Grant says:

    In regards to people getting destroyed by others, the website Mic.com is perhaps the worst offender. Also, a good article commenting on the destroyer theme is The Destroyer Cometh by Kevin Williamson of National Review.

    Also

    • Anonymous says:

      To me, the worst offender is Vox, because people I know and interact with insist that it is a legitimate journalism site.

      • haishan says:

        It’s incredibly depressing, but that’s what legitimate journalism is in 2015.

        • Anonymous says:

          Come on, Reuters still exists.

          • Vulture says:

            +1. Sorry, grandparent, but Idiocracy this is not.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not saying this is Idiocracy, but it’s awfully hard to find a consumer-facing news outlet these days that hasn’t hopped on the clickbait train. Reuters is one of the better remaining ones, along with the WSJ and Al-Jazeera, but even the BBC, long my go-to source for international news, is noticeably starting to go the way of Buzzfeed.

            Second-tier newspapers like the SF Chronicle, of course, have been there for years.

          • Vulture says:

            I would put the New York Times on that list, as well. But I agree.

      • Anonymous says:

        OMG, I feel you. I detest everything about Vox and similar such sites.

        Personal rant:
        Almost all journalism is bullshit; source materials are better in every way. There’s no reason to read journalism except for entertainment/killing time. If you want to learn, journalism will mislead you. If you want to be informed, journalism will leave you merely thinking you know more. The stereotypical piece is written by someone who learned everything they know about the subject while writing the piece. It’s the equivalent of a college student writing a paper using a Wikipedia page and its cited sources. There’s no depth, no conceptual framework of the ideas, and certainly not enough to give a layman a reasonable grasp of the topic.
        Reading journalism will leave you thinking you learned something about a topic when in reality you JUST think you learned something; falsely thinking you know something about a subject is far worse than knowing you know nothing.
        For entertainment non-fiction, read blogs. 🙂
        Shout-outs to shitty journalism: fuck vox, fuck ezra klein, fuck vice, fuck most of the writers for my metro newspaper, fuck anyone who writes about any science (social or physical), fuck anyone who writes anything but editorials (nothing wrong with honestly stating an opinion) or personal stories/accounts.

        • I think at least one thing that everyone right, left, center, NRx, feminist, Grey, Red, Blue, post-N, anti-N, pro-N, and super-N should be able to agree on is that newspapers are horrible.

          I liked Taleb’s idea of a good newspaper. It would have no pages on days when nothing important happened, or a complete analysis had not been done; and perhaps many pages on days complete analyses had been done, or important things happened.

    • Jos says:

      Wow. Will I get banned if I say that Williamson decimated the ranks of Stewart groupies, probably defenestrating several in the process and reducing at least a dozen to their constituent atoms. Because dang!

      “Mr. Stewart is among the lowest forms of intellectual parasite in the political universe, with no particular insights or interesting ideas of his own, reliant upon the very broadest and least clever sort of humor, using ancient editing techniques to make clumsy or silly political statements sound worse than they are and then pantomiming outrage at the results, the lowbrow version of James Joyce giving the hero of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the unlikely name of Stephen Dedalus and then having other characters in the novel muse upon the unlikelihood of that name. His shtick is a fundamentally cowardly one, playing the sanctimonious vox populi when it suits him, and then beating retreat into “Hey, I’m just a comedian!” when he faces a serious challenge. It is the sort of thing that you can see appealing to bright, politically engaged 17-year-olds.”

    • RCF says:

      I’m also a bit uncomfortable with the term “owned”.

  29. Julie K says:

    “Problem is, Poe’s Law isn’t limited to religion any more.”

    Is the problem here that Poe’s Law ought to go away entirely, or that it should be restricted to discussions of religion?

  30. stillnotking says:

    I’m not sure what calling someone “entitled” is supposed to convey. It seems to map partially to a bunch of vaguely related concepts, but fully to none of them. In what sense could a callous rich person and a lazy poor person be said to have the same negative personality trait? Does “entitlement” mean narcissism? Sloth? Egocentricity? Did it once have a more precise definition, but became degraded through abuse, like “racism” or “chastity”? The dictionary just says it’s the assumption that one has the right to something, which does seem fully general as a description of human values — after all, the assumption is often both accurate and necessary.

    If “entitled” is not quite at the zero-content, random slur stage yet, it seems headed that way.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Entitled” is the new version of “you think the world owes you a living!” or “you want the moon on a stick”.

      Lazy poor person? You think the world owes you a living! Get off your backside and go get a job like the rest of us, and stop whining about having nowhere to live and no food, you bum!

      Callous rich person? You think just because you have money, you’re better than the rest of us! You think we should lick your shoes!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it generally boils down to “you are exhibiting self-serving bias and expecting everyone else to demonstrate you-serving bias.”
      Which everyone does sometimes but it’s still a useful concept.

      Though at least one case Scott linked looks to me like a case of someone not knowing what the word means and deploying “argument from NO U.” So possibly the meaning of the word has degraded.

      • Anonymous says:

        I came up with a slightly better way of putting that. “You’re entitled” means that “you are making an explicit or implicit claim about fairness, which I reject.”

        • RCF says:

          You mean “you are making an explicit or implicit claim about fairness that I reject.”?

          • Anonymous says:

            No. I meant what I wrote.

          • RCF says:

            So, you are claiming that those who use the phrase “You’re entitled” are saying that they reject all claims about fairness?

          • Anonymous says:

            No. I’m saying that it almost goes without saying in this case that the claim is being rejected. The interesting part of the definition is entirely in the first clause. So a sentence structure which puts all the emphasis on “you are making a claim about fairness” and de-emphasises “which I reject” into a parenthetical is better at conveying the intended meaning and emphasis.
            Especially since the grammatical distinction you’re trying to enforce is obsolete or heading there in this kind of context, precisely because it doesn’t create any confusion of meaning to use “which” unless you are a ridiculous pedant straining to attain such confusion.

            I hope that clarifies everything for you!

          • arthur somethingorother says:

            If you get right down to it, people who use “entitled” as an attack are, in fact, rejecting the concept of fairness as a moral value.

            In fact, they are asserting *unfairness* as a value in its place.

            The important thing to recognize is that “entitled” is one of those words that has come to be used to mean its opposite.

            So where someone says something like “You’re entitled”

            What they mean is

            “You are not entitled. Unlike these people, who are.”

            It’s a really elegant, beautifully compact piece of asshole-speak.

          • RCF says:

            “Especially since the grammatical distinction you’re trying to enforce is obsolete or heading there in this kind of context, precisely because it doesn’t create any confusion of meaning to use “which” unless you are a ridiculous pedant straining to attain such confusion.”

            Funny, I find “You are making a claim about fairness, and I reject that particular claim” and “You are making a claim about fairness, and I categorically reject all claims about fairness” to be completely different sentences, and the ability to distinguish between them to be quite important, and simply ignoring ambiguity in one’s sentences in the certainty that, hey, the reader will be able to figure out what is meant, because of course no one ever writes a sentence that they think is completely clear but actually isn’t, is a really bad attitude to have.

          • James Picone says:

            I read the original sentence the way RCF is suggesting it could/would be read – “You are making a claim about fairness, and I reject fairness”, not “you are making a claim about fairness, and I reject that claim”.

            RCF’s altered version reads much clearer to me.

  31. Joe Teicher says:

    >“Entitled” is a Fully General Insult that can apply to anyone, and it really hurts.

    How can a fully general insult hurt? If something applies to everyone how can it bother you that it applies to you?

    • Muga Sofer says:

      Can apply to anyone, not is applied to everyone.

      “Is” applied to people the speaker wants to insult, obviously.

  32. RJMeyers says:

    Clickbait titles annoy me too, but for additional reasons beyond the use of “this, that, these.” Other terrible strategies are:

    1) False/implicit group inclusion. Titles like “We Can’t Help But Look at Miley Cyrus.”
    2) Telling me how I (will) feel. “This Video Will Shock You to the Core.”
    3) Being intentionally stupid. Hard to come up with a good general example here, and I suppose advertising always does this, but there are ads out there that seem like they’re designed to insult everyone’s intelligence. Videos and ads on Weather.com should carry a trigger warning for this.

    • Anonymous says:

      > 2) Telling me how I (will) feel. “This Video Will Shock You to the Core.”

      It especially annoys me when its “you won’t believe….”

      Listen buzzfeed, I’ve stared Godel in the eye, I have contemplated P&~P, I have doubed whether it is butter. I think I can hadle how cute that puppy is.

  33. JRM says:

    Man, you destroyed the post-Codex entitled idiots (“muh feelings!”) with that one weird trick.

    The only sadness I have is that the post should really automatically start a video with audio telling me what to buy.

  34. stillnotking says:

    My candidate for the list: counterarguments being described as “silencing tactics”. If someone DDoSes you or gets your video illegitimately pulled from YouTube, then you can complain about “silencing tactics”. Complaining about “silencing” after merely being contradicted, mocked, or ignored just makes you a whiner.

    • Cauê says:

      Contradiction feels bad, and contradiction in a hostile manner, especially mockery, feels like being attacked -> you might feel a pressure to speak less to avoid this -> you identify your opponent as the source of this pressure -> it feels like silencing

      Not that I disagree with you, really. It’s a sad situation and we’d be better off if disagreements didn’t turn on all kinds of status systems, but if that’s what we’ve got, then whoever wants to participate in the marketplace of ideas might as well be ready for it.

      Except for mockery. Mockery serves only to get points with your ingroup and just makes everything worse.

      • To add to your thoughts:

        I think a case could be made for internet mobbing, especially in combination with doxxing (with or without death threats), being a silencing tactic. I understand why someone would want to shy away from accepting that definition since you are not actually being censored, ‘just’ intimidated, but I also have to admit I struggle to see it as anything else.

        • Cauê says:

          I object to calling it “silencing tactics”, as it implies it’s done deliberately and with the purpose of silencing.

          I’ll play “how does it feel like” again (also, I’m assuming we’re all talking about the same thing):

          1. You see someone publicly saying something that you just can’t bring yourself to let go (say, something you perceive as a false and serious accusation, from someone you think isn’t malicious but mistaken, and should prove receptive to correct information, or maybe the person is influential and you want to inform their audience) -> you speak up.

          But you didn’t quite calculate that a large number of like-minded people saw the same thing and would react the same way, and/or you didn’t try to imagine what this flood would look and feel like from the position of the one receiving it.

          The above behavior has been named in honor of large, polite aquatic mammals.

          2. You’re involved in a prolonged and righteous blueXgreen online battle, and not only feel the urge to shoot down enemy arguments whenever they pop up, but also likes to win status points from your side, and just have a lot of fun mocking people whom you feel have shown to deserve mockery. You probably also don’t realize what it looks like from the other side when fifty people on your team are doing it at once, but maybe you just don’t care, it’s nothing actually harmful, only disagreement.

          From the receiving end, it would feel like mobbing in both cases. From the active end, nobody is trying to produce the state “receiver gets hundreds of messages, feels mobbed”, even though that’s what ends up happening, and what the receiver feels like the intention was (we tend to feel like other people always desire the eventual results of their actions, even though it’s very often not true).

          From the active end, you’re probably not even considering the fact that somebody else has independently doxxed that person. You know you intend no harm, and what you are doing really is, taken by itself, perfectly harmless and legitimate. If it’s brought up, you might feel indignant and truthfully point out that you have nothing to do with that.

          From the receiving end, it’s very hard to visualize that all those people don’t have the same information you have about how many are mobbing you, that you’ve been doxxed, that you just don’t know whether some of them are actually dangerous, and, especially, how all of it makes you feel. “This is agressive and scary” feels like an obvious fact about the whole situation, and it feels like anyone not actively trying to make it stop desires the situation *as you perceive it* to continue, or that you give up and stop saying the things they disagree with.

          There’s more to be said about honest-to-Moloch trolls playing around in the scenario, and the effects of received memes on the possible perceptions of the same events, but this got horribly long and I’m sorry.

          • Hmm, I see what you’re saying. I honestly wouldn’t consider either of the two things you mentioned mobbing, though, to be entirely fair.

            I’ve been on the receiving end of the first and a concerted effort to drive me out of a community, and only latter registered as abusive to me. (I haven’t encountered your second scenario, to my knowledge, though the ‘concerted effort’ bit qualifies if you reword “You probably also don’t realize what it looks like from the other side” to read “You absolutely realise what it looks like from the other side and you’re deliberately bowling for that effect”.)

            Though, honestly, that was probably chiefly the context it happened in. #1 so far was always in a context where I was a moderator (I stayed out of moderating anyone attacking me, obviously, but I still had status and power); #2 was in an open forum that felt like a safe-space (niche interest group) that attracted the ire of some particularly awful people (over a misunderstanding, as I imagine is often true) that actually had nothing to do with the community, with the self-proclaimed intent to make me go away. (In case that seems odd to you: I was not their only victim, mind you, I was only their only victim in that particular situation. I don’t know how well-known r/SRS are on the internet at large, but those folks.)

            But you’re absolutely right that ‘mobbing’ alone doesn’t really have a rigorous definition. I’m not sure how to make it more precise, either.

            I do have one point of criticism, though that may just be my own mode of thinking: I cannot imagine someone who calls all their friends/allies over to a debate does not know what side-effect that is going to have, even if the focus is genuinely on the discussion.

            But that doesn’t diminish your point.

          • Anonymous says:

            They interviewed some Twitter harassers for the radio in the UK last year, back before the ant thing, and said harassers quite straightforwardly explained their motives as being about wanting feminist women to shut up.

            I don’t think (all of) the large aquatic mammal types want that, though they often serve as useful idiots for the people who do. It’s still the case that there are plenty of malicious people involved in Internet mobbing who are quite clear that they want to intimidate their targets into silence or something even more fun like suicide.

          • I know what worker ants are, but you completely lost me with the large aquatic mammals. Seals? Whales? Manatees? I don’t get it.

          • Cauê says:

            Hm. We were not talking about exactly the same thing after all, but that’s probably even better.

            Aquatic mammals: http://wondermark.com/1k62/

            Anonymous, I’d be very interested in concrete examples, and also a link to the interview. The number of times I’ve seen claims like these (about intentions) is just ridiculously disproportional to the number of times I’ve seen people to whom they could plausibly apply.

          • Anonymous says:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10208418/Twitter-abuse-What-women-hating-trolls-really-believe.html

            Article about the radio interview. Strictly speaking the motivation given is “because they are women who talked” rather than “because I want them to shut up.” But I do not think inferring the latter from the former is overstepping the bounds of reason.

            As for concrete examples of the motives of malicious trolls involved in mobbing, the IRC logs that launched the ant thing should leave no more to be said. They’re easy to find.

            I’m starting to feel a little bit as if I’m talking with a large aquatic mammal. So I’ll disengage now. Enjoy the link.

          • Cauê says:

            I do have a lot more, and more specific, to say about it, but I fear that would displease our host.

            (actually reading the logs and thinking about what they mean would be a start, but the dynamic I was talking about only came into play at a later stage)

            (I did enjoy the link, thanks. Pity the actual interviews aren’t available)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Cauê
            I object to calling it “silencing tactics”, as it implies it’s done deliberately and with the purpose of silencing.

            What term should be used, then? If there is no convenient term for the situation, that is itself a silencing factor.

            Content note: Replying to the larger comment, and ‘you’ means ‘one’ or ‘a person’.

            For a small scale example, the first few people who read a news story and post a comment,
            may be unaware of what’s happening. But when a later reader comes along, I would think that common sense would suggest taking a look at the previous comments to see if it looks like a one-sided dialog, and if anyone else has already made the point you were going to add. (And before adding it, to also consider, if you were the target of the story, how much time and emotional stamina you would need to give your side, if for each post you made, fifty or so buried it. The likely consequence may in effect be silencing.)

            When it’s a wider scale thing, and you see it on tv and post about it on your own whatever page, imo it’s reasonable to think of the probability of many others independently doing it elsewhere. If you learned about it from comments from various sources, it’s probably an internet flap already.

          • Anonymous says:

            Never call something “tactics” if it is not deliberate action masterminded by someone. The very usage of this word outside that context smacks of conspiracy theory mindset.

          • Cauê says:

            @houseboat

            My problem is with “tactics”. I haven’t thought of a name to suggest, but what I was talking about is more of a “silencing phenomenon”, or a “silencing pattern”.

            Some superficially similar but psychologically different patterns can deserve the term “silencing tactics”, though, such as Neike Taika-Tessaro’s examples.

            As for the part of the comment below the content note: yes, it would be better if people did that and we all should try to do it, but, *descriptively*, it doesn’t happen.

            People jump in to comment and rant and raise the appropriate-colored flags. If anything, I’d say that seeing a lot of other people commenting might make people want to get in *faster*. Look at comment sections in controversial topics on large sites for examples (such as large newspapers or Cracked.com).

            We can say that people should be considering it, but we’ll end up with a wrong model if we assume people did consider it, and consciously desired the eventual aggregate result of their individual actions.

          • veronica d says:

            To my view, sealioning stuff it less of a problem when you are talking on a single web forum such as this, since conversations play out in threads and everyone can see.

            (Which, if the threads grow huge maybe folks don’t see everything. But that cuts both ways: I don’t read all the comments at that point and I don’t really care what someone is saying somewhere that I am not reading.)

            But in Twitter-space and its surroundings you cannot alway see who else has said what to whom. Which is to say, when I get a Tweet, my phone alerts me. If it is a friend, or someone cool, or someone saying something neat, or whatever, then yay!

            On the other hand, if it is someone politely pointing out they disagree, well that’s different. If it’s one person, then fine. My life goes on. I might even listen to them. But if my phone begins to beep and beep and beep and beep and at this point I have no idea how far this will go. Who retweeted me? How many people saw?

            Honestly I start to wonder if I just got selected to be the next Zoe Quinn. Will I have to change apartments? Will I lose my job?

            How many of my coworkers are going to see my terrible tweet and start to secretly hate me?

            Which is maybe kinda silly, but I have in fact read the worker-ant IRC logs and there is malice out there.

            This is an emergent property of our distributed social-networking-based communication models, with the added menace of terrible trolls. It sucks.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which is to say, when I get a Tweet, my phone alerts me. If it is a friend, or someone cool, or someone saying something neat, or whatever, then yay!

            Does neither Twitter nor your phone allow for any sort of whitelisting?

            Because an interface through which you broadcast random thoughts to the world at large, then receive a priority interrupt any time any random stranger choses to respond, seems poorly designed. And if your random thoughts are controversial in nature, we’re talking “Death Star with a giant neon sign pointing to the thermal exhaust port” levels of poor design.

            Which is not to say that I think people should go out of their way to mob Twitter users, but I don’t think this is entirely an external-culture problem.

          • veronica d says:

            For my phone app it is kinda all-in or all-out on notifications (although there may be third party apps that are better). The point is, this is seldom a problem for me, as I am fairly tame on Twitter. But from time to time I hit a bad episode.

            But most of the time I like getting the notifications, and even from strangers. Most stranger interactions on Twitter are, for me, quite positive. It really is a nice setup, most of the time. It is a really great open platform.

            Except, you know, when you say something tribal and it gets retweeted by the other tribe and then everything is terrible and that openness that is normally great become a nightmare.

            (Note, even if your phone does not notify you, the mass of unwanted messages can still ruin your Twitter experience.)

          • Cauê says:

            Yes, Twitter makes everything worse.

            Yet another reason this particular problem is worse on Twitter is people having different perceptions about the public/private nature of conversations.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Sheesh, I wish I could edit or delete my comment of January 22, 2015 at 4:36 am. Apologies — I plead 4:36 am — and thanks to all for the corrections.

            The word I meant to defend was ‘mobbing’. I agree that words like ‘tactic’, ‘ploy’, ‘move’, etc, mean something done with full intention or planning — which would be in most such contexts an unwarranted ad hominem.

            ‘Mob/mobbing’ can suggest ‘mob action’, ‘mob violence’, etc, ie with a shared intention and with recruitment. But it would also cover ‘mobbed by the fans wanting autographs’ – not intending to be a mob, as each fan would have a better chance without so many others.

            So ‘mobbing’ is a word to be careful with, but I think the simple word ‘mobbing’ is needed to name something that happens often now – and has a silencing effect.

            Ftm, the suffix ‘ing’ can suggest that there is a deliberate silencer – a person who intentionally caused an effect. So could a lot of ‘–ing’ or ‘–ed’ words. Maybe one should be careful with all words.

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            How about “silencing behaviour”? That way you’re addressing the act itself, and leaving aside the matter of intent.

            e.g. “Your behaviour is silencing,” as in “Your behaviour directly or indirectly makes it difficult for the recipient to respond or speak freely,” or whatever other meaning of “silencing” you have in mind.

            People can still object, complaining about how they don’t intend to be silencing, but intent is rather beside the point when intent was not addressed in the criticism, and it’s easier to point out the inappropriateness of prioritizing intent over the actual results.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            e.g. “Your behaviour is silencing,” as in “Your behaviour directly or indirectly makes it difficult for the recipient to respond or speak freely,” or whatever other meaning of “silencing” you have in mind.

            Something like that might work in a small, thoughtful community, but it would have problems in general use. For one thing, SJW people quite often use ’silenced/silencing’ in an accusatory way – and referring to too many things.

            ‘Your/this/such behavior’ fails to distinguish this particular dynamic that could be called ‘massive piling on with too many people’s redundant criticisms at once, which discourages the opponent from responding’.

            “Saying X has roused a mob of critics” or “Zie is getting mobbed for saying X” gives the first part of the dynamic. Then the statement “Mobbing is silencing” makes the dynamic clear. And takes it to a meta level where it’s scarcely connected to the active person at all.

      • Anonymous says:

        we’d be better off if disagreements didn’t turn on all kinds of status systems

        Separate arguments and personal status, use anonymous identity.

    • RCF says:

      Also, describing someone discussing something other than you want discussed “hijacking” or “derailing” the discussion, especially when it isn’t in a space that’s specifically designated to discussing you issue. Another popular term is “erasing”.

      • Peter says:

        “Derailing”: possibly what we need is to introduce the word “railroading” into the memepool as a sort of counter. “He tried to railroad me into supporting X but I wasn’t having any of it.”

  35. John Schilling says:

    #4 strikes me as a mix of strawmanning and motte-and-bailey, particularly with regard to the “China is bigger than the US” example. That example does not strike me as generally representative of the sort of Wikipedia-shaming I have seen, and “Wikipedia is pretty good about things like the land area of nations” is the motte to “Wikipedia is accurate and we should not criticize people for using it”. If, for example, this or this or this were just Wikipedia links plus math and pontification, we wouldn’t be having this discussion because I for one wouldn’t be here.

    There is a border within which Wikipedia can be treated as a reliable source of information, and beyond which it cannot. This border is fuzzy, and it is not static. It may well be contracting as Wikipedia loses talented editors. We need good heuristics on how to estimate where the border lies, because finding an exact solution in every case is obviously self-defeating. We don’t need general bar on criticizing people for getting their facts from Wikipedia, because some people should be criticized for doing that.

    • ryan says:

      My rule of thumb is basically that if the wikipedia page is on a controversial political or moral issue, it’s not a reliable source of anything but the most basic factual information about that issue, but it is a reliable measure of where the sort of “middle ground” lies in the debate in the English speaking world.

  36. ryan says:

    On point 1, language relies on having a word or short phrase to substitute for much longer ones. “I think your statement or claim is so exaggerated that it would be irrational for me to take it or for you to mean it literally.” “That’s hyperbole” is much better.

    Sometimes we want to say “What you just said is so extreme and nutty that it strikes me as something one would possibly say if trying to mock what a nut you are.” Total mouthful. I don’t like “that’s Poe’s Law in action.” If you wikipedia poe’s law that’s not exactly what it means, and I don’t know it just sounds lame.

    So, how about “that’s tumblr?” Open to suggestions here.

    On point 10, that’s a specific example of a kind of argument I find infuriating. It comes in flavors. For example people might debate the correctness of some action based on whether it fits within a definition of the word “sin.” Person A wants the action to happen, so they argue it’s not a sin. Person B is opposed to it and avers it is in fact a sin. Person Me is infuriated because filtering moral judgment of an action through what words it fits the definition of is an egregious insult to man’s ability to reason.

    The same thing may come up in other forms. Take the Israeli Arab conflict. My general take is the following:

    In the late 19th and early 20th century the Jews of Europe decided they wanted a country for themselves. I should hope their motivations were obvious. Trouble is, barring Antarctica, all the countries were already taken. So they took over Palestine by force of arms. There’s nothing particularly Jewish about that kind of behavior, practically everyone who has a country right now took it by force from someone else. And naturally the Palestinians were and continue to be completely pissed off about what happened.

    When the pro-Israel crowd chimes in and says “It was on balance a good thing. The Jews needed a country and the Arabs could have taken care of the Palestinians” I am happy. This is an honest person who wants to make rational arguments. When the response is “your argument is fallacious. Palestine was not and has never been a country. It was a province of the Ottoman Empire, and then it was a British protectorate. So the Palestinians never actually had a country taken from them,” it’s infuriating. In bouts of my own stupidity I might respond with “OK poindexter, why is it that the Palestinians and Arabs seem to utterly not care about your pedantically correct historical observations? Could it be that they don’t filter moral judgment through the definition of the word country?” “Nope, they hate Jews.”

    Fuck.

    • Randy M says:

      “What you just said is so extreme and nutty that it strikes me as something one would possibly say if trying to mock what a nut you are.”

      The problem is, the fault might lie in the group in question containing many nutty people, the speaker assuming that it does when they are fringe or even non-existent, or in the speaker assuming truth is nutty.

      • ryan says:

        This is sort of why I don’t like Poe’s Law and wish we had a different term for the tweaked concept. So Wikipedia gives the following as the first mover:

        “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article.”

        Why does the concept need to auto-include that it is representative of a whatever-ist?

        To be more specific, I think the statements “god put dinosaur bones in the ground to test our faith” and “catfolk like me can see further than normal humans in low light” deserve the same monicker, even though there is (I hope to god) no such thing as organized otherkin-ism.

        • Nornagest says:

          Heh. I notice that the latter is at least a testable prediction — send your erstwhile catperson out into the woods at night with some non-catpeople and see who does better. Or, if you hate fun, talk somebody in this field into doing some measurements of scotopic vision — there must be some, since night-blindness is a symptom of a lot of conditions. They might fight the results, but at that point you’re getting into invisible dragon territory. Or they might actually have better night vision, which would be interesting.

          I can’t think of a way of testing whether dinosaur bones were put there by a God intent on trolling paleontologists, even in principle.

          • ryan says:

            Of course they will actually have better low light vision! That’s part of how they discovered their cat side in the first place.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, they’ll tell you that. But I think it’s actually more likely that they discovered their cat side because they really liked cats, and later talked themselves into thinking that they have really good night vision. It’s not like you often get the chance to compare that against other people’s abilities.

            I might expect them to actually have the abilities they claim at rates somewhat better than chance, but the mechanism for that would be more like selection bias: if you have someone who has decent night vision but is also kind of clumsy and not particularly interested in personal grooming, and they later manifest claims to be a cat-otherkin, what parts of the cat stereotype do you think they’re going to focus on?

          • ryan says:

            I mean it seems simple enough. Make a half dozen more or less correct observations about yourself, then declare the test for being a whatever-kin to be having those half dozen characteristics.

            Now I bet I know what you’re thinking. I’ll just get three of these people, sit them down in a room and say “look y’all, each one of you has a completely different set of rules for what makes someone half dragon. So doesn’t that make you realize your own perception must be flawed?”

            Good luck with that:

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

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not saying that you can convince an otherkin that they’re not actually a cat person. That’s probably not in the cards, unless you have found an otherkin that arrived at their beliefs through straightforward analysis of the evidence — and if you have, you’d better gas them and ship them to the Smithsonian, because they’re unique.

            I’m saying that you can be confident that believing oneself to have night vision abilities doesn’t make one a catperson, in ways that don’t apply to whether dinosaur bones are a test of faith or evidence of Triceratops walking the earth however many million years ago. One is a straightforward question of fact, or at worst of statistical likelihood; the other is a question of theology.

          • Anonymous says:

            Has anyone ever met an otherkin in real life? I have always thought that they are either trolls or people who like role-playing. Maybe I was wrong.

          • ryan says:

            I agree there is a very unique level of unfalsifiability to the dinosaur bone claim. So too with the light from distant stars which was already on the way here when god instantiated everything.

            I would have a hard time pondering whose thinking was more irrational, the “yep, all part of god’s plan to make it really, really, really seem like the universe wasn’t instantiated 6000 years ago” folks, or the headmates and otherkins of tumblr.

            I am certain the first group is not just a bunch of trolls, having met some in real life. The second I am (hopeful?) suspicious are actually just internet trolls having a fun time of things. But who knows, see this for example:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=komph9TxTbI

          • Nornagest says:

            Has anyone ever met an otherkin in real life? I have always thought that they are either trolls or people who like role-playing.

            I’ve met people IRL whom I knew to be otherkin from online interactions. They were pretty awkward but the subject of their true elven parents or whatever didn’t come up.

            Some of ’em are probably trolling. But I think most of them just hit on the wrong combination of Internet weirdness and New Age ideas at the wrong time, and found or created a community that was willing to reinforce them.

        • I think the last (and probably only) time I’ve invoked Poe’s law I said something like, “OK, Poe’s Law just kicked in. I’m fairly sure you’re not serious, but I just can’t tell.”

          … I don’t know, looking at it again I still think that was an acceptable way to leave the discussion. If I’ve genuinely reached the point where I’m beginning to doubt that the other person is arguing honestly, there’s little point in sticking around, and Poe’s Law is as good a description as any for the phenomena.

          I guess the difference is that I’m blaming it on myself, at least nominally. I suppose it might be seen as too passive-aggressive, but I can live with that.

    • RCF says:

      “In the late 19th and early 20th century the Jews of Europe decided they wanted a country for themselves. I should hope their motivations were obvious. Trouble is, barring Antarctica, all the countries were already taken. So they took over Palestine by force of arms.”

      That characterization would require a massive amount of charity to be interpreted as true.

      • ranon says:

        Which part of this do you dispute? It seems historically accurate to me.

        • drunkenrabbit says:

          The unofficial motto of history is “it’s more complicated than that”. Palestine was their historic home, and already home to large numbers of Middle Eastern Jews. They didn’t invade, per se, but usually immigrated to unoccupied or previously undesirable land. The British initially expressed an intention to make Palestine a Jewish homeland, then backpedaled. There were struggles between the British and Zionist paramilitaries, and later a war between the Jews, their Palestinian neighbors, and neighboring Arab countries. The history of the creation of Israel is like history in general: full of fits and starts, accidents, exceptions, misunderstandings, etc.

          So “took over Palestine by force of arms” is at the very best, a really gross oversimplification.

          • ryan says:

            I think this is a cousin at least of the form of argument I don’t like.

            So, did Europe’s Jews invade Palestine. Two answers:

            Yes. But they came from Palestine to begin with and badly needed a country of their own. So it was the right thing to do.

            They didn’t *invade*, they immigrated in very large numbers. Now sure mass immigration might just barely cross into invasion territory if it happens without the permission of and against the wishes of certain 3rd parties, but not the local population, though, the 3rd party who had to be against the immigration was the post WW1 colonial administrator. Invasions are wrong, what Europe’s Jews did was not an invasion, though, so they didn’t do anything the Palestinians could have a legitimate problem with.

            I admit my summary left out a lot of details, summaries by their nature have to do so. This doesn’t make the summary an incorrect statement, it just makes it a summary.

        • John Schilling says:

          Would it be historically accurate to say that modern Poland is a country formed by taking over Germany by force of arms?

          I mean, 1939, Poland legitimately owned some land in Eastern Europe, a bit more than half of modern Poland. Then there’s a war between Poland and Germany and some other nations. Germany ends up losing, and Poland now owns a bunch of land that used to be part of Germany. The rest of Germany is gobbled up by the other victorious powers, who eventually give it back.

          1947, proto-Israelis legitimately own some land in the Levant, a bit more than half of modern Israel. Then there’s a war, and the other guys lose and Israel owns a bunch of land that used to be either British or Palestinian depending on how you look at it. The rest of Palestine is gobbled up by the other losing powers, who eventually wash their hands of it.

          If you want the absurdly simple version of history where X conquers Y and that’s the end of the story, Poland conquered Germany and Israel conquered Palestine. We can even invoke the similarity that the Poles and proto-Israelis were looking for new lands because WWII had seen them chased out of their traditional homes by European tyrants. The reality is, as drunkenrabbit notes, it’s more complicated than that. Enough so that the “X conquers Y” formulation is, in both cases, grossly misrepresentative.

          • Anonymous says:

            In this analogy, England~Russia?

          • Secretariat says:

            USSR didn’t give back some parts of Germany [Königsberg]. USSR was also allowed to keep parts of Poland (1939) that it gobbled up with Germany all while the allies prosecuted the losing Germans for waging a war of aggression.

          • Nornagest says:

            Poland’s territorial history is crazy complicated and its borders have changed many times: over the last two hundred years it’s gone from being one of the largest and most important countries in eastern Europe, to nonexistent, to a minor client state of Russia, and back to independence. And the bits that got annexed in 1939, what used to be Prussia and the other eastern German territories, have a complicated history of their own.

            Books could be written about this, and have been, but the twenty-word version is that no one nation has a straightforward historical claim to any part of that region. I don’t know nearly as much about Israel and Palestine but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some similar history there.

        • RCF says:

          Pretty much all of it is inaccurate or flat-out wrong. The main events happened in the 20th century, not 19th. The inhabitants of Israel aren’t just European Jews; there were Jews in the Middle East prior to Zionism. What is now Israel was not “taken”, insofar as it was part of the British mandate, rather than an independent country. Jews did not take it over, they did not use force of arms, and Israel is not Palestine.

          • ryan says:

            I feel damned if I do damned if I don’t here. If I say early 20th century then the response is “dumbass, the Zionist movement formed in the 19th century.” If I say late 19th early 20th then the response is “dumbass, most of the major events happened in the 20th century.”

            You said, ‘What is now Israel was not “taken”, insofar as it was part of the British mandate, rather than an independent country.’ Do you have a comment regarding how I addressed this point in the opening comment above?

          • RCF says:

            “I feel damned if I do damned if I don’t here.”

            This wasn’t my main issue, just emphasizing the sheer number of allowances that have to be made. My main issue was with you claiming that the Jews took “Palestine” by force of arms.

            “Do you have a comment regarding how I addressed this point in the opening comment above?”

            There are several comments above this one. Do you mean the parent comment? I don’t see where you addressed this. You said that all the land had been “taken”. But if by “taken” one means “claimed by a country”, it wasn’t really “taken”, because Britain did not consider it part of their country.

          • ryan says:

            Sorry I wasn’t specific. My original comment far above on the humans evolved from monkeys point:

            On point 10, that’s a specific example of a kind of argument I find infuriating. It comes in flavors. For example people might debate the correctness of some action based on whether it fits within a definition of the word “sin.” Person A wants the action to happen, so they argue it’s not a sin. Person B is opposed to it and avers it is in fact a sin. Person Me is infuriated because filtering moral judgment of an action through what words it fits the definition of is an egregious insult to man’s ability to reason.

            The same thing may come up in other forms. Take the Israeli Arab conflict. My general take is the following:

            In the late 19th and early 20th century the Jews of Europe decided they wanted a country for themselves. I should hope their motivations were obvious. Trouble is, barring Antarctica, all the countries were already taken. So they took over Palestine by force of arms. There’s nothing particularly Jewish about that kind of behavior, practically everyone who has a country right now took it by force from someone else. And naturally the Palestinians were and continue to be completely pissed off about what happened.

            When the pro-Israel crowd chimes in and says “It was on balance a good thing. The Jews needed a country and the Arabs could have taken care of the Palestinians” I am happy. This is an honest person who wants to make rational arguments. When the response is “your argument is fallacious. Palestine was not and has never been a country. It was a province of the Ottoman Empire, and then it was a British protectorate. So the Palestinians never actually had a country taken from them,” it’s infuriating. In bouts of my own stupidity I might respond with “OK poindexter, why is it that the Palestinians and Arabs seem to utterly not care about your pedantically correct historical observations? Could it be that they don’t filter moral judgment through the definition of the word country?” “Nope, they hate Jews.”

            Fuck.

          • RCF says:

            There is some ambiguity in the word “taken”, but I think that my previous post was sufficient to dispel the other meaning. The word “taken” can be the past participle of “take”, as in “The land that Jews live on was taken from Palestinians”. It can also be used as an adjective, as in “This seat is taken”. You used it as an adjective when you said “everything except Antarctica was taken”, and so my post also used it as an adjective. The land that is now Israel was not adjective!taken. And by saying that Israel was not adjective!taken, I am responding to your claim that it was adjective!taken. It’s really quite dishonest to make a claim in a particular rhetorical domain, and then when someone disputes that claim, to say “I reject the validity of arguing on the basis of that rhetorical domain.”

          • @RCF: the point is that you’re defining “adjective!taken” in a silly way. Perhaps it wasn’t a recognized nation under international law. But there *were* people living there who considered it theirs.

            The reality is more important than the words used to describe it.

          • ryan says:

            @RCF

            I want to say a few things preliminarily.

            – I had no idea I was using the word taken in 2 totally different ways when I made the comment!

            – Thank you for so clearly pointing that out.

            – Your form of writing, Adjective!taken, is a great form for making such distinctions in the internet forum era. I hope people adopt it in other circumstances because it prevents confusion and aids communication.

            Back on point. Remember the movie “Red Dawn?” Campy until you get to one part:

            Matt Eckert: What’s the difference, Jed?

            Robert: I’ll do it.

            Matt Eckert: Shut up, Robert!

            [to Jed]

            Matt Eckert: *Tell me what’s the difference between us and them!*

            Jed Eckert: Because WE *LIVE* HERE!

            In our context:

            There are two “we”‘s, the Arabs and the Jews.

            Here = Palestine.

            Palestine was verb!taken from the Arabs by the Jews because before the (many decade long) conflict the Arabs could and the Jews couldn’t say “because we live here!” and afterwards the Jews could say it and the Arabs couldn’t.

            @Harry

            I don’t think RCF’s use of adjective!taken is silly or flawed in any way. It corresponds 1:1 to what Patrick Swayze meant in Red Dawn, and to what the Arabs rioting against Jewish immigration in the 20’s meant by it.

          • @ryan: perhaps I misunderstood you, or RCF, or both. He appeared to me to be using adjective!taken to mean “recognized as a nation by the international community” rather than to mean “someone lives there”.

            Personally, I think that only the latter is relevant. The Palestinians lived in Palestine, so it was adjective!taken, whether the international community at the time acknowledged as much or not.

            (Mind you, I don’t think any of this has much relevance to the current conflict. By now, most Israelis were born there, and that’s all that should really matter.)

  37. dullgeek says:

    Re: 5. Articles That Start Off With An Image Taking Up The Entire Screen

    That’s because most of the internet should be read in portrait mode. The linked article is much less ridiculous in portrait mode.

    I have two monitors. One oriented in landscape the other in portrait. My email client (with it’s 3 verticle panes) lives on my landscape monitor. But my web browser just works better in portrait… except for those very rare times it doesn’t.

  38. Scott says:

    I don’t think the Square website has a problem. The video communicates a lot of ideas extremely clearly and efficiently, and not providing an immediate text option allows the company to better control their message. Anyone with a computer who can’t handle it is not their target market (that include you, NoScript-ers, you’re likely too concerned about privacy to trust an app with your debit card).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am capable of watching videos, and was considering using their service, but I was so turned off by them not giving me a quick and convenient way of learning about them that I gave up and went away.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I had exactly the same experience, until others forced me to navigate through and sign up – and I have to say, once you get through the ridiculous minimalist interface, the service is really, really intuitive and easy to use.

    • “The video communicates a lot of ideas extremely clearly and efficiently”

      That may be true by some measure, but for someone who is easily distracted or often spoken to in the middle of things (like me), a video is an extremely frustrating medium because it’s just that much more difficult to find the last place where you were mentally fully caught up to the content.

      This has brought me to the point where I very nearly don’t bother with videos at all while online; if someone is making a point in a video only, I’m not interested. If there’s an article on the subject instead, even if it’s not by the same author, I will read that instead, because it’s a lot easier to find the last place my mind parsed properly (usually this involves skimming to the last fullstop or paragraph).

      Don’t get me started on trying to find specific information in a longer video; very often, if you’re not planning to watch the whole video, you have very little chance of finding it. That’s my issue with videos. I accept that I might be a minority there, though.

      To briefly summarise: Technological capability is not the problem – therefore, I don’t think ‘anyone […] who can’t handle it is not their target market’ holds true.

      • Error says:

        I hate the lack of textual versions of content too, but for a different reason: They attract attention from people nearby while they’re playing. For introverts, or at least for this particular introvert, that’s very much a DO NOT WANT thing, even if it’s something totally innocuous.

        • Good point! I can sympathise. While (on top of avoiding them in general) I don’t usually watch videos where people can watch over my shoulder, there’s one exception: It’s difficult to avoid my boyfriend being a potential co-viewer… and even that registers as ‘do not want!’. Ouff.

      • Cadie says:

        I like to look at material at my own pace. Sometimes I get the information I’m looking for by skimming it until I see what I want, sometimes I read a paragraph two or three times to make sure I’m really understanding all the details, or want to go back and recheck something a few paragraphs up… etc. Written text makes this easy. Videos force me to go at their pace, which might be too slow or too fast, or both at different times. I find this frustrating and I avoid online videos that aren’t TV episodes I want to watch or something like that.

        Instead of information only available if you sit through a video, there should be a text version available immediately. Even if you have to click a link at the bottom. I imagine this would help beyond personal preferences; text is easier for some people with disabilities.

    • Anthony says:

      I can read text faster than your talking head can talk in your damn video.

      (And if he can talk that fast, I can’t understand him, even if he’s a professional auctioneer.)

      So why should I waste five minutes of my life watching something I could read in two?

      • Scott says:

        > So why should I waste five minutes of my life watching something I could read in two?

        5 minutes? Come on. The video is 50 seconds.

        But to answer your question: the visual aids. The square video does a good job of showing transaction flow and drawing analogies to existing money-handling methods without having to explicitly explain it all. This is especially helpful to a new customer who might not have the context in which to place this new information.

        Don’t get me wrong, the lack of a transcript for an interview or most long form videos annoys me. But I think the example Scott gave was a poor one because rather than the designer feeling ‘smug’, it fulfills a business need of introducing first-time customers to an unfamiliar product, and does it well.

        Anyway, I quite like the large-image-intro-to-article trend. It sets the mood and context for a story, and high-res pictures are nice to look at. To see the content I just scroll down a little. But eh, that’s just my preference.

  39. The Sprat says:

    Re: #4

    That one’s *especially* hilarious when the person who tells you not to trust Wikipedia is backing up their own assertions by citing… nothing. Nothing at all.

    That’s happened to me multiple times. Somebody makes a claim, I use wiki research to counter it, and they say that my could-possibly-be-wrong-in-some-unspecified-way source is inferior to their complete lack of a source.

    • RCF says:

      Yeah, any time anyone has no basis for their claim, but they criticize the opposing argument (“You’re citing wikipedia!” “That’s anecdotal evidence!” etc.), it’s rather annoying. I think I have that beat, though. One time, someone backed up their claim by citing the fact that a wikipedia page didn’t mention the fact that I was arguing, so I linked to another wikipedia that did mention it, and I got pilloried for citing wikipedia (and the mods joined in, too, which just shows what a terrible blog it was).

      Also, I draw a distinction between citing wikipedia to establish the fact of a proposition, and citing wikipedia to establish that something is seriously argued. If wikipedia says that X means Y, then it’s rather questionable for someone to say “X unambiguously means Z, and if you disagree you’re just redefining words”.

  40. John Schilling says:

    Can we generalize #5? Any web site whose useful information could be efficiently presented in text and simple graphics, but isn’t. Yes, including podcasts and two-guys-talking videos that don’t have a readily accessible transcript.

    There is sometimes useful nuance that can’t be conveyed except by video or animation. But you can usually get most of the message across with text and simple graphics. And I can always read those faster than I can listen to you talk about it. So can most everyone else, including the people who might have interesting comments of their own to add (in text, for people to skim at their leisure).

    One of the best semi-professional blogs I used to frequent, has become mostly useless when it switched to podcast-a-week and occasional supplemental filler. I don’t have half an hour for the podcast unless the topic is of particular interest, and when I do I find that most of the usually intelligent, informed, and thoughtful commentariat has skipped that one.

    The audience’s time is valuable. Don’t demand more of it than you really need to make your point.

    • Mark Z. says:

      Amen to all of this. A video of your face while you talk adds nothing to the content of your talk; usually, neither does an audio stream of your voice. Put it in text like a civilized human being. I can read it faster, I can excerpt it and search it, and in general it’s far more useful to your audience that way.

      • Anonymous says:

        This should be fairly obvious, but there are people who prefer audio to text, for any number of reasons. A very few of them are blind, some just aren’t comfortable reading or like the extra expressiveness of a human voice, and a lot of people want something to listen to while they drive or cook.

        There’s a reason audiobooks is a thing. People aren’t making podcasts because they hate their audience. I am sure they wouldn’t refuse to put up transcriptions, if someone offered to put in the work for free.

      • Berna says:

        Hear, hear! Also, for me as a non-native speaker, speech can be difficult to follow sometimes. And of course they never have subtitles.

    • pliny says:

      Seconded. I get the feeling that lots of this is a deliberate attempt to drive up ad revenues. This might mean that it’s not going away unless we move to some model where you pay money. I wonder if that could work–maybe Google could offer a service that categorizes news stories as either time-consuming or text-based.

    • Dan T. says:

      News sites seem prone these days to insisting on including auto-playing videos along with their articles. It’s a very annoying trend.

  41. Sigivald says:

    I am entitled to every benefit that the law says I must receive.

    Definitionally.

    (On #1, the one I keep seeing on FAcebook that makes me twitchy is the political version.

    “BadThinker A is stupid and crazy!”

    “You realize that’s a satire site/group, right?”

    “Fine, but A is still stupid and crazy!”

    That’s bad enough, but I keep seeing the same thing over and over, which gives me the suspicion – and makes me think that it will inevitably happen – that people are going to form their opinions of the BadThinkers solely from satires.

    Which is sad.)

  42. Anonymous says:

    “Poe’s Law is the belief that some religious fundamentalists are so stupid that it’s impossible to distinguish them from a parody.”

    “Problem is, Poe’s Law isn’t limited to religion any more.”

    I’m not familiar with Poe’s law ever being limited to religion. The Wikipedia states:

    “Poe’s law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is a literary adage which stipulates that without a clear indicator of an author’s intended sarcasm it becomes impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.” The article does go on to say that it has it’s origins in an online debate on creationism, but does not limit the domain to religion.

    So I don’t think your take on Poe’s Law and your take on Wikipedia are compatible.

    Furthermore, I think your criticism of citing Poe’s Law applies equally as well to both religious and non-religious topics and I say this as a card carrying atheist. “Oh, well, haha, Poe’s Law, just goes to show how dumb those religious people are” seems to tie in nicely to your “muh” argument.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I think the point is more about how the inability to distinguish stuff is rapidly becoming more often the problem of the distinguisher, not the satirized extremist.

      (For example, in the case of the creationist Pope an educated person would probably think something to the effect of “Wait, Catholicism doesn’t do that, does it? That sounds like an American who assumes that super-conservative Catholicism is the same as super-conservative evangelical Protestant”)

  43. suntzuanime says:

    Unjustified wiki-hate is really the worst. I was in an internet argument recently about the number of prisoners in the US vs. in the Soviet Union and my interlocutor slammed me for citing Wikipedia to back up my position even though he had no citations at all and was making bullshit up out of thin air.

    (For the record, though the US’s incarceration rate is unacceptably high, the Soviet Union’s was substantially higher in its heyday.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      Although to be fair, the competition isn’t really between Wikipedia and other encyclopedias. People who consider Wikipedia a bad source would surely consider Britannica a bad source if they bothered to consider it at all. The competition is with the secondary sources Wikipedia draws on, more accurate than which it should in theory be impossible for Wikipedia to be.

      • Nornagest says:

        The competition is with the secondary sources Wikipedia draws on, more accurate than which it should in theory be impossible for Wikipedia to be.

        It’s conceivable for Wikipedia to be running some kind of selection process by which it picks up the most accurate parts of its sources and therefore ends up being more reliable than them on average. I don’t make any claims about whether or not this is actually happening, though.

        • Jos says:

          Wikipedia basically has two selection processes:

          – Informally, volunteer editors write about things that interest them.

          – Formally, disputes are (ideally) resolved by consensus, which itself is driven by information published in “reliable” sources. There’s a secondary question of what information is significant (or “notable”) enough to appear in the wiki at all. (Cf. the De Grasse Tyson dust-up).

          – There’s no clear process to select more reliable information from among otherwise acceptable sources – the best you have hope for is either that the consensus reflects good judgment or that Wikipedia fairly presents all sides of a dispute that have reached public sources.

      • anonymousCoward says:

        “People who consider Wikipedia a bad source would surely consider Britannica a bad source if they bothered to consider it at all.”

        Britannica is not mutable in real time. In an information war context, that is a pretty fucking large problem for a standardized source of information to have.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          If that’s your true objection, then it is easily solvable by citing a specific revision of a page rather than the page itself.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Dullard: Someone who looks up a thing in the encyclopedia, turns directly to the entry, reads it, and then closes the book.”
            – Phillip Jose Farmer

            I as an evil infowarrior insert misinformation on the Wikipedia page for, say, the Demarchest party of the Republic of San Marino, painting them as being more evil than the Nazis. You refute me by presenting an argument linked to the correct, archived version of that page. The audience follows your link to the correct version.

            And from there the non-dullards at least go on to the pages on the government of San Marino generally, the various Captains Regent, the other political parties, recent political controversies and international disputes.

            All of which have been edited by me to hold misinformation painting the Demarchist Party of San Marino as being slightly less evil than the Nazis.

    • Irenist says:

      I like to link to Wikipedia to define terms/provide an overview, but only as non-controversial semantic clarification, not as adversarial point-proving. But if I’m in an argument about facts, I do feel rather uncomfortable not having a better cite than Wikipedia.

      Ideally, the facts on Wikipedia ought to have cites, e.g., “The number of prisoners in the Soviet Union in 19xx was yyyyy.CITE” So why not just cite the citation the Wikipedia article used? Either a cite is there (in which case just cite it directly if it’s a click through link to some source) or it’s not (in which case maybe this particular Wikipedia article isn’t that great and you shouldn’t be relying on it?).

      • Anonymous says:

        Or it’s there, but for some reason you can’t access it (Wikipedia cites a book you don’d have, something behind a paywall, something in a language you can’t read, etc.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Link rot is, unfortunately, pretty common in Wikipedia cites.

  44. Mark Dominus says:

    I carefully read that “early study in the journal Nature” when it came out, and I have also read the Britannica’s reply and the study authors’ reply to the reply and my conclusion, as someone firmly committed to Wikipedia, with thousands of edits since 2002, is that the study was a worthless pile of shit. I’m sure I don’t have to add that that didn’t stop everyone from trumpeting its conclusions, or their misstatements of its conclusions, whenever that served their other purposes. Here’s a pullquote from the Britannica’s response to the study that I think exemplifies the problems:

    One Nature reviewer was sent only the 350-word introduction to Encyclopædia Britannica’s 6,000-word article on lipids. For Nature to have represented Britannica’s extensive coverage of the subject with this short squib was absurd, and it invalidated the findings of omissions alleged by the reviewer, since those matters were covered in sections of the article he or she never saw.

    The study authors said they had wanted to give the reviewers extracts of the Britannica material that was similar in length and coverage to the Wikipedia articles. They then blandly reported that the reviewers found that the Britannica’s coverage and Wikipedia’s were about equally spotty.

  45. My approach for citing Wikipedia in a discussion where credibility is touted as important is threefold:

    1) to read the Talk page to see if there are any unsolved controversies about the article and make note of them if there are (or perhaps make note of the lack of them when the mood of the discussion is extra-sceptical, to signal that I did check),

    2) to check the page history to check how stable the article is (and the aforementioned extra-sceptical environment make explicit mention of this),

    3) to use the permanent link.

    Especially #3 strikes me as quite important, since that prevents people from editing the article just to ‘prove you wrong’… and/or just prevents embarrassing situations where you link to the article shortly before something I’m just going to call ‘naturally occurring vandalism’. Of course either has a high chance of being reverted extremely quickly – but there are some low-profile articles where it might take quite a while, even with the help of the various Wikipedia-prowling anti-vandalism bots, especially if the trolling is subtler than ‘the whole page was blanked’ or ‘an entire section was removed’.

    I have to admit I was blissfully unaware Wikipedia is still under attack for accuracy in a medium where people link to less credible sources frequently without batting an eyelash. (Not necessarily meaning to criticise latter; credibility has its time and place, and sometimes one just wants entertainment or some emotional support, even if it’s wrong. Phatic articles, so to speak, to abuse a word from one of your recent pieces.)

    Unrelated to the above, I must shamefully admit it took me significantly longer than ten seconds to parse muh sojiny, which I was previously unaware of. Even more shamefully, it made me laugh. Securing myself a place in hell, I even intend to use it – but, to soothe, only in conversation with a particular friend of mine, who will appreciate it and file it away under all the other exaggerations we pepper our political discussion with. (It’s very tongue-in-cheek by both of us; we’re usually at least slightly fond of whatever it is we’re mocking and we would not talk like that in public.)

  46. Indistrait says:

    I totally agree about “entitled”. The word is all tied up with unfairness and inequality – the gap between (1) what the entitled person thinks they deserve, (2) what you think they deserve, and (3) what society says they can have.

    I like to rewrite any sentence with “entitled” so it instead has the word “dissatisfied”. It just makes it more human and more honest. When someone calls someone else entitled, you can be sure that one of those people is dissatisfied while the other person thinks that the first person’s dissatisfaction is completely unreasonable.

    For example: “Poor people seem to think they are somehow entitled to free health care” becomes “I think it is unreasonable that poor people are dissatisfied by their lack of free health care.”

    • AJD says:

      I don’t think “dissatisfied” is useful as a general-purpose paraphrase for “entitled”. Entitled rich people may well have what they feel entitled to and be quite satisfied with that state of affairs.

      (I do think it’s confusing that “entitled” has become a contronym.)

  47. The Sprat says:

    I speculated at one point that the “you can’t cite Wikipedia!” outburst from a lot of young people these days is a vestigial reflex from their high school/college days, when their teachers drilled it into their heads to NOT cite Wikipedia in their research papers & whatnot, never ever ever ever. And of course the reason for that rule was not because Wikipedia is too untrustworthy, but more like the opposite: the point of those assignments is to teach the *student* how to look up & collate primary sources; if they just go to a Wiki, there’s no point in it.

    Meanwhile, to many older people (let’s say 40+), the site is this newfangled thing they’ll never quite trust. I’m fortunate enough to be the age that I am (33), because Wikipedia didn’t really become a Big Deal until a little after I finished college so I never had to avoid using it as a crutch… but still early enough in my life that I find it a cool and handy resource.

    • Peter says:

      Things young people were taught in school – this might well be a general phenomenon. See also: things young people brought up in a different country were taught in school.

  48. William Eden says:

    For my and Divia’s take on post-rationality, I lay it out best in this post:

    http://becomingeden.com/beyond-rationality/

    “I called this post “Beyond Rationality” because I wanted to move past the unfortunate connotations and bad habits associated with the word “rationality” in our culture. With tongue firmly in cheek, Divia and I often refer to the cluster of ideas I am about to present as post-rationality, and you may well encounter us using that very term. But in truth, I don’t see this philosophy as being opposed to rationality in any way. In fact, quite the opposite – I see this as rationality being properly applied.”

    “This has been my broad overview of what rationality looks like when applied to human beings. Instrumental rationality is the ultimate driver, and epistemic rationality is a beloved tool in our arsenal. We need to have accurate models of ourselves as well as the world, so that we know what our objectives really are, what resources we have, and how to use them most effectively to achieve those goals. Learning to use our intuitions, emotions, social skills, these are all critical pieces of a truly effective agent.”

    We also somehow managed to get number 10 in there too. 😉

    • efnre says:

      >But in truth, I don’t see this philosophy as being opposed to rationality in any way. In fact, quite the opposite – I see this as rationality being properly applied.

      Stop playing useless signalling games with the rest of the “rationalist community” (the people most likely to take you seriously) by trying to imply you have higher status than them, then. If you are so concerned with instrumental rationality as you claim, you should see how obviously counter-productive that strategy is.

      • Anonymous says:

        Surely you can come up with a more charitable reading of what he said.

        • efnre says:

          His movement calls itself “post-rationalists”. It’s the simplest tactic to use if you’re trying to signal higher status than the people who call themselves “rationalists”. Everything else he said is just basic Less Wrong rationality 101 (which further proves his only interests lies in signalling high status, since he’s now implying that “rationalists don’t understand this basic stuff, but we higher advanced post-rationalists do”).

  49. Anonymous says:

    That Poe’s Law subreddit is amazing. Of the top 7 posts there, two were completely obvious trolls, one I’m 80% sure was a troll, one was an obvious joke (quite funny, too) and on two that I thought were sincere the Redditors were much more ridiculous than the post. There was only one post where I thought “okay, that seems like someone legitimately being ridiculous.” Good job, Reddit!

    (Scott’s right, this is a good game.)

  50. SG says:

    “I swear to God that the last time I saw the word doge, it was referring to an honest-to-God Venetian noble.”

    But my mother taught me to never trust an athiest who swears to god twice in the same sentence…

  51. ilzolende says:

    If you strongly dislike getting false negatives on advertisement and animation filtration, get an image blocker. It will have a lot of false positives (avatars, news photos, and the like), but it makes the internet much more pleasant. (Warning: The one called Hide Images also blocks italicized text a lot of the time unless you go and edit the source code.)

    • Vulture says:

      I say this as a regular user of NoScript: That solution sounds rather extreme. Why in God’s name would you block every single image on the internet, when there are plenty of applications happy to just filter out the ads? For me, at least, the added value of having images in my browser vastly outweighs the impact of the occasional ad image that slips by AdBlock or whatever.

      • ilzolende says:

        I agree with your assertion that this is extreme. When you minimize false negatives, you get a huge number of false positives. However, this is only a problem when large numbers of false positives are significantly bad. I don’t really get much disutility from an image-free web.

        I sometimes visit websites with have images I would rather neither see nor be seen viewing, which are not ads. The expected value of an image on these sites is negative for me. I use an extension that turns on and off, and I only activate the blocking functionality when I visit one of these sites.

        Example: the TVTropes wiki. Generally good, but sometimes one of the page images will be something that would probably be filtered by the average school content filter.

        Also, I’d feel guilty if I used AdBlock without paying, and I don’t want to pay.

        • Anonymous says:

          Also, I’d feel guilty if I used AdBlock without paying, and I don’t want to pay.

          Solution: stop feeling guilty 🙂

          • ilzolende says:

            I can change my moral/emotional heuristics to a certain extent, but I don’t think I can or should try to add an exception that’s so specific. “If someone puts work into the creation of something and then requests compensation for its use, you should compensate them if you use it, because you want them to have predicted that you would compensate them if they made something useful to you, unless the thing in question is AdBlock, in which case it’s okay to use it without paying,” is not the sort of rule humans are good with, because “all things except AdBlock” is not a natural category.

            Removing the entire heuristic would have other impacts, such as making me more likely to pirate music, and I’m not sure that would really lead to positive outcomes.

          • RCF says:

            By some metrics, a better rule would be “Given any good X, if there is some amount Y such that, were X unable if you didn’t pay Y, and if suitable reference class were also all to pay Y, that would be enough to motivate the creation of X, then you should pay Y”. Given that you are not currently paying for AdBlocker, it seems reasonable to assume that, in a counterfactual world in which it is impossible to get AdBlocker without paying, you would also not pay, it follows that according to this rule, you should not pay for AdBlocker.

            Of course, such a rule does provide people with an economic incentive to underestimate how much they would pay in a counterfactual world, so is unreliable in that sense.

      • RCF says:

        It’s not too extreme. One can create different user accounts for a browser, and assuming that one can enable an image blocker for one account and not for the other, then one can use the image blocked account for whatever browsing one does not anticipate coming across wanted images.

  52. RCF says:

    Something else that annoys me: people using “post” as a synonym for “after”. For instance, “I went for a walk post-breakfast”.

    • Anonymous says:

      What do you think of the word “postprandial”?

      • RCF says:

        I don’t have a problem with post+adjective = adjective. What I have a problem with is post+noun = prepositional phrase. So “I went for a postprandial walk” = fine, “I went for a walk postprandial” = abomination.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The postman scratched another postcoital notch on his bed post. He lumbered out of bed and sauntered past the Post Records poster and into the bathroom. Why wasn’t he happy? Why couldn’t he get over his post-traumatic stress disorder? If only he’d stayed at his post, things would have turned out differently. Or was that merely post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning?

      He settled into his recliner to check his favorite blog for new posts, and maybe even post a comment in reply.

  53. RCF says:

    “First, humans clearly evolved from monkeys in the same sense humans evolved from single-celled organisms.”

    Huh? It’s clear that our ancestors were single-celled organisms. It’s not clear that our ancestors were monkeys. In the case of monkeys, the term “monkeys” is open to dispute. On the other hand, something is single-celled or it’s not.

    “No one’s saying it had to be the most recent step.”

    I’m completely lost. Is someone saying that someone’s saying that it had to be the most recent step?

    “Second, apes are ambiguously a type of monkey.”

    Um, no. According to wikipedia, “monkey” includes Callitrichidae, Cebidae, Aotidae, Pitheciidae, Atelidae, and Cercopithecidae, and excludes Hylobatidae and Hominidae. “Ape” includes Proconsulidae, Afropithecidae, Hylobatidae, and Hominidae. As I understand it, that makes them non-intersecting sets. To defend your claim, you have to not only present definitions of “monkey” and “ape” such that all apes are monkeys, and show that those definitions are the only definitions of any currency.

    “These last two issues are especially annoying because they’re kind of meaningless category disputes.”

    No. You are very, very wrong on this point. They address a misunderstanding of evolution, that some species are “more advanced” than others; the idea that humans evolved from monkeys is based on the idea monkeys are a “less evolved” species than humans. That monkeys are the “original” species, and humans are the “new, improved” version of monkeys. The point is that monkeys and humans share a common ancestors, and monkeys have evolved just as much from that common ancestor as humans. It also addresses the question “If humans evolved from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?” Humans didn’t evolve from monkeys, they evolved from a common ancestor, and that ancestor doesn’t exist anymore.

    • Peter says:

      Also on wikipedia: “Thus the term “monkey” no longer refers to a recognized scientific taxon.” and “Colloquially and pop-culturally, the term is ambiguous and sometimes monkey includes non-human hominoids.” To say that “apes are _ambiguously_ a type of monkey”, all you have to do is to say that there is some definition “monkey” that includes apes that has some currency, not that there are no other definitions.

      Taxonomy is one of those things which is a bit complicated when you talk about currently-extant species but gets more complicated when you start to include extinct species as well – see the Wikipedia page for “Crown group”. However, one of the simpler bits concerns the definition of a “paraphyletic group” – quoth Wikipedia: “In taxonomy, a group is said to be paraphyletic if it consists of all the descendants of the last common ancestor of the group’s members minus a small number of monophyletic groups of descendants, typically just one or two such groups.” So, if monkeys (as is commonly thought) are a paraphyletic group, then the most recent common ancestor of any two monkey species is itself a monkey species.

      You talk about “the idea monkeys are a “less evolved” species than humans” – the term “monkeys” doesn’t refer to a _species_ at all, but to some larger group that includes many other groups. To say “humans evolved from monkeys” is to say “the various species ancestral to H. sapiens includes some species which are a part of the larger group “monkeys””.

    • Emile says:

      This is an uncharitable reading of what Scott was saying: note the “ambiguously” in “apes are ambiguously a type of monkey”. He most likely means “ambiguously” because there are several plausible interpretations of “monkey”:

      A: the traditional scientific one, which explicitly excludes apes, making it a paraphyletic category
      B: the colloquial usage, in which a gorilla or a chimp may be called a “monkey”
      C: the monophyletic one (either “simian” or “primate”), which is like A with apes added (monophyletic groups make more sense, but people who defined A didn’t know how the taxonomic tree fell out; if they knew, they would have probably changed their definitions)

      So in this case the colloquial usage is closer to a “better” (monophyletic) category than the “official” scientific one is. Hence “ambigously”.

      But whatever definition you use, there’s an ancestor of humans that would qualify as a monkey, and this has nothing to do with nonsense about “more advanced” species, it’s just because polyphyletic groups are inelegant.

      • RCF says:

        “This is an uncharitable reading of what Scott was saying: note the “ambiguously” in “apes are ambiguously a type of monkey”. He most likely means “ambiguously” because there are several plausible interpretations of “monkey”:”

        I guess I owe Scott an apology, as I somehow read “ambiguously” as “unambiguously”, but as the mistake was done by my System 1, I think that the charge uncharity is questionable.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      One of the common ancestors of humans and monkeys was almost certainly what we would call a monkey today.

      You seem to be interpreting me as saying “Humans evolved from some specific existing species of monkey”, but “monkey” does not mean “existing species of monkey”. When we say things like “monkeys evolved 20 million years ago” we are implicitly classifying the animals 20 million years ago as monkeys. Apes evolved from monkeys after that point.

      As for the apes/monkeys distinction, did you read the link?

      • RCF says:

        “You seem to be interpreting me as saying “Humans evolved from some specific existing species of monkey” ”

        No, I’m saying that when people object to “humans evolved from monkeys”, their issue is concern that people think that “Humans evolved from some specific existing species of monkey” is a claim made by evolutionists.

  54. ThirteenthLetter says:

    “On Vox recently”

    Well, there’s your problem!

  55. Blue says:

    I’ve been thinking about the “post-” objection all day, as it seems the most interesting.

    I’m sure Scott is well aware that “post” can mean something substantively different from “anti”. “Post-whatever” means the speaker has thoroughly engaged with the epistemology of this ideology. They know the terminology, they probably were an adherent at one time, they don’t think of the remaining adherents as obviously stupid or selfish, just insufficiently advanced. It’s the four-letter version of saying “yeah I took some Gender Studies classes in college, I read Dworkin, here’s why you’re still wrong…”

    However (and this is where I read Scott as standing), it’s such a condescending term that has such good connotations, that you would expect any clever anti-whatever person, to call themselves post-whatever, for that extra cachet. So soon “post” wouldn’t be any more meaningful than any other vague claims, such as being “fair and balanced.” You could expend some effort verifying if someone really is “post” (Okay, what Gender Studies class did you take? What professor? etc), but why is the term worth spending the effort to verify it?

    I think it’s worth it because we *want* people to be post-whatever. We want our opponents to read our work, take it seriously for a bit, and evolve intellectual structures based on the lessons therein. Even if they disagree with us still, it’s much more pleasant to have an argument with someone who is post-whatever, and has that basic understanding and respect for the ideology, than with someone who is just blindly anti-whatever.

    So we would encourage people to use the term “post”, we should verify those who actually have earned it, and thereby make our opponents more pleasant to interact with.

    • mtraven says:

      Why can’t post just mean “after”, like it actually does? That is, a post-rationalist is someone who was once a rationalist and now is not. It doesn’t imply that this is a better state of affairs, no more than post-modernism claims to be better than modernism.

      • Blue says:

        Well stripping positive and negative connotations from a word is a worthy goal – but I think in cases like this, we know what people will do. The arguer immediately has a stronger position by saying they are “after”, and will use that if it’s a costless signal. So even if we don’t think of post- as positive, we know other people will be using it unreliably.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The problem is, at a very high level I think both sides understand one another’s work and have engaged with it. Is a smart liberal post-conservative? Is a smart conservative post-liberal? If a post-conservative and a post-liberal meet, does one of them end up post-the-other? Can THERE BE ONLY ONE?

      In practice, I would expect approximately all conservatives to say they are post-liberal and insist no liberal has ever been post-conservative, and vice versa.

      I can see very individual cases where someone’s been a leading liberal thinker for years and then converts to conservativism, but this seems interesting enough that I would rather describe them as “a leading liberal thinker for years who converted to conservativism”.

      • Anonymous says:

        A liberal is post-conservative if he was once conservative, but worked through the political mechanisms and realized that the solutions to the problems which initially prompted him to endorse/identify/be conservative are actually better solved by endorsing/identifying/being liberal. Your hypothetical meet would be very cute, but not obviously transformative; each would only say to the other “I once thought your party had the answers I sought, but then realised better and switched.” These answers need not be coincident or even similar so neither is necessarily poised to convert to the other.

        A post-post-liberal might say “I’m a liberal and yeah I went through this phase where I thought conservatism was the way forward, but no.”

      • Secretariat says:

        I think a post-X ideology/movement has to be a response to X from disaffected X supporters that is different from its predecessors, different from its contemporary competitors [this criteria is a little fuzzy since X and post-X can overlap in time clearly], but caries some aspects of X with it. I don’t think a conservative is post-liberal or a liberal is post-conservative. But maybe neoconservatism is post-a-certain-brand-of-liberalism-that-i-don’t-know-the-name-for.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s a testable prediction. As a conservative, I’m pretty sure that most conservatives would vehemently deny being post-liberal. I also don’t deny that some liberals are post-conservatives. I know some.

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      #rallyforcreativeprefixes

  56. I guess I ought to drop my ask.fm answers re: postrationality:

    http://ask.fm/nyansandwich/answer/123647633867
    http://ask.fm/nyansandwich/answer/123664265675
    http://ask.fm/nyansandwich/answer/123664479179

    What, if anything, does “post-rationalist” mean in the NRx context beyond “I question LW’s political defaults”? Shouldn’t it be “postrationalist” without the dash?

    Post-Rationalist is nonpolitical. Don’t ask about the dash; that’s just how it is.

    PostRat means a much more explicitly spiritual and explicitly heuristic version of rationality. The differences are subtle but I suppose they could be catalogued if some daring anthropologist took a crack at it. It would be an anthropology project; they are groups of people more than anything. Here are some examples that give the general idea:

    Rationalists say that optimal behaviour is probability theory plus decision theory, and separately optimize for true beliefs, and actions that achieve their goals given those beliefs. Post-Rationalists more directly optimize for good behaviour, using probability theory and decision theory as advisory tools.

    Rationalists talk about goals and values, truth and probabilities. Post-Rationalists tend to talk about cognitive technologies that achieve good results, and spiritual narratives.

    Rationalists are mostly atheists and monotheists. Post-rationalists are more pagan, buddhist, etc.

    Rationalists believe that Bayes or Solomonoff is the foundation of epistemology. Postrationalists believe that common sense is the foundation of epistemology.

    Rationalists are more system 2, preferring thin problems. Post-Rationalists are more system-1, preferring thick problems.

    Rationalists are more likely to believe that problems can be reduced to crisp mathematically defined problems, then solved. Post-Rationalists are more likely to believe that judgement needs to be in the loop when iteratively and incrementally solving/defining problems.

    Rationalist cognitive tools are likely to be more transparent and derived from particular pieces of math or psychology. Post-Rationalist cognitive tools are more black-box, having been built up from experience.

    Etc

    Otherwise pretty similar distributions.

    Nice answer, thanks. One thing that caught my attention is that based on your description it would probably be easier to be a sloppy post-rationalist than a sloppy rationalist. Our am I wrong here?

    Yes. The rules of post-rationality are much more amenable to being sloppy.
    Consider learning to dance. At first, as a beginner, there are all kinds of rules and mechanical movements to memorize, and they get you somewhere. But as you get better, you start to notice how the rules constrict you, and you start to push outside the boundaries. The rules were only ever an approximation of the outline of the dance, and given enough skill, your body can comprehend the dance in more detail and to a better degree than any set of rules ever could. When an expert dances, they “just dance what feels right”, but if you tell a beginner to do that, they would be sloppy, so it’s better to just tell them the rules.

    Post-Rationality is analogously what happens when you graduate from the explicit rules of logic, probability theory, and whatnot to a much more intuitive and holistic approach, but it probably does require training for a few years in plain old LW-style rationality before you get to that point. That’s why it’s called *Post*-Rationality; it comes after you’ve mastered rationality and realized its limitations.

    So read the Sequences, argue about probability and decision theory, but if you’re smart, after a few years you should expect to notice the problems and graduate to post-rationality.

    And a quick follow-up question: if you’re familiar with his work would you call Venkatesh Rao a post-rationalist? He explicitly talks about narrative-based decision making.

    I follow him on twitter and he seems great, but I’m not familiar enough with his cognitive style to put a label on it. I’m thinking of people like myself, Konkvistador, Sister Sarah, Will Newsome, David Chapman, Sark, etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rationalists are more system 2, preferring thin problems. Post-Rationalists are more system-1, preferring thick problems.

      Well, just because you prefer thick problems doesn’t mean that you are any better at understanding or solving them. They are often of such type that it is very easy to deceive yourself that you understand them.

    • fubarobfusco says:

      By this rubric, CFAR is rather post-rationalist!

  57. I was quite intrigued by the link to the Psychological Entitlement Scale items, as I had not seen this scale before. The research paper describing the development of this scale can be viewed here. The authors define psychological entitlement as “as a stable and pervasive sense that one deserves more and is entitled to more than others.” They note that this does not necessarily refer to someone feeling they deserve something in a specific situation (e.g. expecting something when it is socially normative to do so) but is defined as psychologically pervasive and occurring across a variety of situations generally. Regarding the “Titanic” item I was interested to note that the authors initially developed the scale using a pool of 57 items, which they reduced through a series of culls to 9 items, based on considerations such as inter-item reliability. The upshot of this is that there are actually people around who claim that “If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat!” and furthermore that these people are also likely to endorse other items in the scale such as “I feel entitled to more of everything.”
    Even though the scale items seem to be completely transparent, the authors provide evidence in a number of studies that scale scores predict relevant outcomes. My personal favourite was study 5 which gave participants the opportunity to take candy from children! (Well, sort of…)

    I don’t know much about further research on the topic so I don’t know how much data there is on how various groups who are accused of being entitled would score on the scale. If the scale still seems too obvious, perhaps people could ask their ideological opponents to complete a thought experiment, e.g. “You are a passenger on the Titanic…”

    • Peter says:

      Titanic – there’s a joke that goes like this:

      There’s a private plane, the engine has died, and the pilot has already parachuted to safety. There’s an old man, thirtysomething man, a young man and a boy. They find there are only three parachutes left, and they have to work out who gets what.

      The thirtysomething says, “I’m a CEO of a company, lots of people depend on me for their jobs, the company’s going through rough times right now and if I die lots of people could be on the dole. Also my girlfriend is pregnant, the baby will need a father.” Everyone else seems OK with this, he straps on a parachute and jumps out of the plane.

      The young man says, “I had my IQ measured, it’s the highest score yet. Everyone expects great things of me; maybe I’ll cure cancer, maybe I’ll stop global warming. The world needs me!”, and without waiting for anyone to respond, he straps on a pack and jumps.

      The boy starts strapping a pack onto the old man, and the old man says, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve had a good long life, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, you have the parachute.” The boy says, “Don’t worry Grandpa, we can both survive this, we can both have a parachute each. The Most Intelligent Man has jumped with my rucksack on.”

    • youzicha says:

      After the students took candy, the experimenter asked them to record the number of pieces of candy that they took. This number was confirmed by a visual inspection by the experimenter. Participants were then debriefed and the reason for the deception was explained to them. Students were thanked and left with the candy.

      This seems beautifully passive-agressive. “Thank you, please take this objective evidence of you being a horrible person with you when you leave! ~Have a nice day~!”. Otoh, perhaps entitled people don’t mind? 🙂

      • Deiseach says:

        That candy study seems a little odd; it’s not literally taking candy from children, and it’s not leaving a bowl or bucket of sweets out and seeing if the students took any and if so, how much?

        I mean, if somebody had a bowl of sweets and said to me “Oh here, would you like one?” sure I’d take one! Not because I think “I deserve all the candy” but if it’s being offered, why not?

        Who turns down free candy? Right, it’s a different matter if, when you’re offered sweets, you stick your hand in and grab as much as possible – that’s being greedy – but how much did people take? One piece, five pieces, what?

        EDIT: The mean pieces of candy taken was 2.5 (SD = 1.7). There was no significant difference between the amount of candy taken by men and women.

        Okay, so that means some people took two pieces and some people took three pieces. I might think taking three pieces errs on the greedy side, but it’s not like sticking both hands into the bucket and grabbing as much as you can scoop out, so I don’t think this is particularly indicative of “These horrible people robbed sweets from children”.

        There was nothing explicitly saying “If you take this candy, the POOR BLIND ONE-LEGGED ORPHAN CHILDREN IN THE OTHER LAB WILL HAVE NO CANDY, NO CANDY AT ALL!!!!” and I think most people would assume, if it’s being offered to them, “Okay, must be plenty of candy to go round, not like I’m taking it out of the mouths of the kids”.

      • RCF says:

        Except that if they truly are that entitled, then they won’t consider that being a horrible person.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      I don’t know how those questions are scored, but it seems to have an issue with conflating “I want more” with “I want more than others”.

      If I was to answer those questions honestly I would give the “entitled” answered on 6 or 7 out of the 9 questions. Because I believe that as long as no one else is being hurt, everyone deserves literally everything they want.*

      I don’t know how common people with that kind of moral/political leaning are, so I don’t know how much it would effect off their data though.

      *surveys tend to give me problems like this alot. I know what the surveyors intend the answers to indicate, but my reasoning behind the answer is different from what they expect in a way that makes the data not as supportive of the conclusion they would draw from it.

    • Omegaile says:

      The link died, so if anyone is interested in the Psychological Entitlement Scale, here’s what I found:
      http://questionpro.com/t/AGotDZLgRi

  58. Shenpen says:

    Regarding “muh”

    I am not American, so I should probably keep out of it, but I think it is generally anti-redneckism, as in, it is okay to make fun of people of low socio-economic status as long as they were born south of Mason-Dixon. Jim Goad covered this excellently and in a very entertaining way in the book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Redneck_Manifesto_%28book%29

    • RCF says:

      “Redneck” has connotations that go much beyond simply “poor” and “Southern”. In fact, it’s quite possible for someone high on the SES scale, such as a mayor or factory owner, to be a redneck.

  59. Seladore says:

    I’m not familiar with the concept of ‘post-rationality’, but from what I’ve gleaned from some brief reading, it seems to be pretty well summed up by this story by Douglas Adams, about rice farming in Bali:

    “[I have] in mind at the moment the culture and economy of Bali, which is a small, very crowded island that subsists on rice. Now, rice is an incredibly efficient food and you can grow an awful lot in a relatively small space, but it’s hugely labour intensive and requires a lot of very, very precise co-operation amongst the people there, particularly when you have a large population on a small island needing to bring its harvest in. People now looking at the way in which rice agriculture works in Bali are rather puzzled by it because it is intensely religious. The society of Bali is such that religion permeates every single aspect of it and everybody in that culture is very, very carefully defined in terms of who they are, what their status is and what their role in life is. It’s all defined by the church; they have very peculiar calendars and a very peculiar set of customs and rituals, which are precisely defined and, oddly enough, they are fantastically good at being very, very productive with their rice harvest. In the 70s, people came in and noticed that the rice harvest was determined by the temple calendar. It seemed to be totally nonsensical, so they said, ‘Get rid of all this, we can help you make your rice harvest much, much more productive than even you’re, very successfully, doing at the moment. Use these pesticides, use this calendar, do this, that and the other’. So they started and for two or three years the rice production went up enormously, but the whole predator/prey/pest balance went completely out of kilter. Very shortly, the rice harvest plummeted again and the Balinese said, ‘Screw it, we’re going back to the temple calendar!’ and they reinstated what was there before and it all worked again absolutely perfectly. It’s all very well to say that basing the rice harvest on something as irrational and meaningless as a religion is stupid – they should be able to work it out more logically than that, but they might just as well say to us, ‘Your culture and society works on the basis of money and that’s a fiction, so why don’t you get rid of it and just co-operate with each other’ – we know it’s not going to work!

    So, there is a sense in which we build meta-systems above ourselves to fill in the space that we previously populated with an entity that was supposed to be the intentional designer, the creator (even though there isn’t one) and because we – I don’t necessarily mean we in this room, but we as a species – design and create one and then allow ourselves to behave as if there was one, all sorts of things begin to happen that otherwise wouldn’t happen.”

  60. “Personally, I don’t think #1 is something we should be complaining about,” Tom proposed.

  61. Jack V says:

    ROFL! Awesome post.

    I think “zionism” is an order of magnitude worse than “feminist” for “I avoid using this word because it could mean ANYTHING and people will understandably hate you for what they think you said”. Does it mean “we were correct to settle refugees who were Jewish in Palestine after WWII”? Or “I support Israel’s general foreign policy?” Or “There should be a safe non-religious Jewish refuge SOMEWHERE?” Or generally “pro-Israel, anti-Arab”? Or “most people currently living in Israel should be able to safely go on where they’re living?” I endorse the last one, because anything else would be even worse, but not really any of the others. And I would have no idea what someone else meant…

  62. Anonymous says:

    What I’d like to stop seeing in 2015?

    Websites that you browse on your mobile phone that interrupt your browsing to automatically open up the app store. This is 1,000x worse than a normal popup. Whoever invented this should really be punched in the face. Hard.

  63. skeptical_lurker says:

    I followed the link, and I still have now idea what “muh sojiny” is a corruption of. My… soul? Soldier? Shiny? None of these words are linked with feminism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Misogyny… as stated above, a popular variation is “My/Muh soggy knee”

    • I sympathise. I managed to resolve my own confusion about it on my own, but it was a tough voyage, so I really, really understand why you didn’t figure it out. And now… I am happy I wasn’t the only one that didn’t get it! *dances*

      Scott’s narrative doesn’t help, of course, if you’re unaware of the term. It completely fooled me and I spent a while trying to sound out sojiny on its own, trying to match a word to it.

      Futile.

      (And just to confirm, Anonymous did give you the right definition.)

  64. onyomi says:

    I have noticed the “So-and-so DEMOLISHES x, y, or z” titles have become more and more frequent lately, and I think they reflect one of the most pernicious and worsening (albeit surely long-standing to a certain degree) trends in our information culture: that is, only reading or watching anything with a partisan view in order to gain the emotional satisfaction of seeing your pre-existing view defended, and, by extension, its opponents humiliated.

    Who wants to watch a video titled “watch these two debate opponents both make some good points and come away with a more nuanced view yourself!” All this video promises is to make you think, which is work. Worse yet, it might make you question views you are already comfortable holding, which can be downright uncomfortable.

    “Watch (person holding my view) DEMOLISH (person holding opposing view),” on the other hand, promises nothing but a kind of cathartic emotional satisfaction of seeing your side “win” a lopsided victory in the “war” of ideas. Which do you think people are going to click on more often?

    • onyomi says:

      I should note, of course, that I’m guilty of this myself. I do make an effort to read and listen to opposing viewpoints, but they usually make me angry. I don’t like feeling angry. Reading or seeing people make persuasive arguments for something I already believe in, by contrast, is emotionally satisfying, and seeing a real “smack-down” of a viewpoint I strongly oppose can be especially satisfying on some visceral level.

  65. Gilbert says:

    Not to defend post-rationalism per se, but

    Yes, maybe you’ve seen through rationalism in some profound way and transcended it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. This is exactly the point under debate, and naming yourselves “post-rationalists” seems like an attempt to short-circuit it, not to mention leaving everyone else confused

    You mean just like the word “rationalist” short-circuits the debate on how rational Less Wrong doctrines are? And that one is even worse, because the word already had several contradictory meanings before that one got piled on.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Less Wrong doctrine

      What are those?

      • Theories of mind as computation, beliefs regarding the prudence of cryonics, and particular positions regarding the interpretation of probability come to mind.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Going from beliefs overrepresented among LWers to “doctrine” seems like hyperbole.

          Of course I know that’s not what doctrine means in this context. It is a pejorative – “beliefs overrepresented among Lwers that I don’t like”.

          • Nita says:

            “Doctrine” is not necessarily a bad word. It can simply refer to principles or teachings generally accepted in a community. The bad word is “dogma”.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            Churches have dogma. Armies have doctrine.

            Amorphous bunches of people on blogs have ideas.

          • Gilbert says:

            According to Wikipedia, doctrine is “is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system”.

            I think it’s pretty obvious Less Wrong has beliefs, teachings and instructions codified in the sequences and forming the essence of that community’s belief-system.

            Some Yudkowskyans might claim they arrived on all those beliefs by rationally considering them independently rather than as an integrated belief system. That obviously is bunk and yes, I meant to dismiss it off-handedly.

            But note that I don’t think doctrine is a bad thing in itself, in fact there is a lot of doctrine I subscribe to, and not only the Catholic stuff either. The bad part is in some doctrines not admitting they are doctrines.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            @Gilbert

            If you have an issue with some set of beliefs commonly held on LW, then feel free to say what they are rather than playing games with the definition of doctrine.

            Yes negro technically just means a person of African descent. If I casually talk about a “bunch of negros” it would be disingenuous of me to point out that I am using the correct original definition of the word.

    • I agree with you, but this is sort of a problem with all names.

      Everything that signifies will be overloaded, pretty much. I mean, think about how horrible it is that the two largest parties in the US are called “Republican” and “Democrat.” The difference between them doesn’t have much to do with the difference between a republic and a democracy as people used the terms in the 1780s, which is kinda problematic.

      Everything that does not signify will, well, lose the advantage of signifying, at least at first. (We could name ourselves by GUIDs, but that isn’t really sexy.) I think there’s a good case to be made for choosing something that doesn’t really signify strongly, even at this disadvantage.

      There are some solutions or midway points between these. You can name things by founders–Bayesianism, for instance–and this has a good chance of being unique, while signifying. But even so, it isn’t the case that Bayesianism is really that closely tied to Bayes, so this is somewhat misleading–I mean, Bayes’ other work was on theodicy, and pretty much all the card-carrying Bayesians I know are atheists. And if you were to try to call the rationalists something like… EYists, then similar problems would arise.

      I’m curious where Scott et al. got the idea of naming blogs and such with anagrams and similar non-signifying tags. The constraint means the name has a good chance of being “weird” and thus memorable and unique.

    • arthur somethingorother says:

      I agree with this post.

      Not that i agree with “post-rationalists” generally, but:

      The term itself is no more offensive than anyone who names their cause some version of “We’re good people doing a good thing”.
      Like:

      Feminism – do they speak for all women?

      Pro-choice – Are they the only ones who favor choices?

      Pro-life – Are they the only ones who favor life?

      Conservatives – are they only ones who like keeping good things around?

      Progressives – Are they the only ones who care about progress?

      People opposed to Feminism / Pro-Choice / Pro-Life / Conservatism / Progressivism probably think the other side should call themselves something along the lines of “baby eating psychopaths” but people naming their own side keep not doing that.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I used to just always say “LWer”, but what with the diaspora…

      • Gilbert says:

        I’m still stubbornly sticking with the founder-naming pattern: Yudkowkyan. Just like Christian, Marxist, Freudian, Randroid. So far it doesn’t show any signs of catching on though.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, it’s a known terrible term. Hence why people more virtuous and longer-winded than I use “aspiring rationalist”.

      We can’t use “Yudkowskian” because people would make fun of us if we did. Also it’s a mouthful.

  66. This “entitled” thing – it’s funny how strongly this idea is tied to the language. My native tongue doesn’t have a word for this concept that could be used in a sentence such as “The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials, It’s (…)”. Our local discourse lacks this particular flavour of insult. Which is a good thing, I guess.

  67. ““Entitled” is a Fully General Insult that can apply to anyone, and it really hurts. That makes it irresistable to the wrong kind of people, and it’s why I hope I start seeing less of it.

    I think the same can be said of “bullies” and “bullying” (including how Scott uses the term, but certainly not Scott exclusively), when used outside a schoolyard context.

    I spent a lot of years arguing about marriage equality (aka “gay marriage,”) and each side frequently accused the other of being bullies. (The anti-marriage equality side used this argument significantly more often, but I don’t think that was due to a character deficit on their side; rather, I think that their core policy arguments had been discredited, so they were strategically forced to reach for other arguments. But maybe I just perceive it that way because I’m pro-marriage-equality.)

    The same thing applies to many other issues – gamergaters are bullies, no, anti-gamergaters are bullies! Feminists are bullies, no, anti-feminists are bullies! A google search shows up hundreds of thousands of results for both “left wing bullies” and “right wing bullies.” Etc etc etc. Indeed, by the incredibly loose definition of bullying that seems to be in wide use, I think that accusations of bullying themselves could often be called bullying.

    Serious advocates of free speech object to threats to free speech from both the left and the right. The ACLU is sort of left-wing, but it’s easy to find examples of them objecting to right-wing views being censored. FIRE is sort of right-wing (libertarian right, not Christian right), but it’s easy to find examples of them objecting to left-wing views being censored.

    I don’t think most people who bring up “bullying” are serious in this fashion. Rather, in political contexts, accusations of “bullying” are almost exclusively used as clubs for bashing political tribes one dislikes.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think bullying is sometimes a real thing. Just as entitlement is sometimes a real thing. But a word can refer to something real, and nonetheless be overused and nonconstructive in most contexts.

    • arthur somethingorother says:

      Entitlement is not a bad word because it is a word that people use.

      It is a bad word because it requires nothing more than 1. existing, 2. having needs or desires of any kind, 3. Being seen as -1 status rung beneath the person calling you entitled. It is overwhelmingly an insult people throw at people see as their lessers.

      “I don’t think most people who bring up “bullying” are serious in this fashion. Rather, in political contexts, accusations of “bullying” are almost exclusively used as clubs for bashing political tribes one dislikes.”

      Things i want to end in 2015:

      People writing the things they wish were true as if they were true.

  68. Paul Torek says:

    Seriously. Get a life, Internet.

    No. I’m entitled to refuse.

  69. arthur somethingorother says:

    “Well, now those have progressed to arguments over which generation is most entitled. ”

    This is not a new thing.

    It’s a terrible thing and deserves to die.

    But not a new thing.

  70. Landru says:

    Actually, even with all the work that’s been done so far I think the “entitlement” canard deserves (there’s that word) a lot more attention and dissection. Just having read through the “Radicalizing the Romanceless” (RtR) post — new to the blog here, catching up on some of the highlights — the feminist version is on my mind; plus, I think it encapsulates several of the worst features that deserve more scrutiny.

    As discussed in that post, and mentioned in many other places, the basic exchange runs something like this:

    Human, likely male: “My my, but it is striking how women seem systematically to extend their intimate favor toward sexist men who treat them poorly, to the relative exclusion of more egalitarian men who would treat them better.”

    Feminist, likely (but not necessarily) female: “Yeah, you’re just a ‘fake nice’ guy who feels entitled to women’s bodies! Scum of the earth and lowest of the low, you deserve exactly nothing.”

    [Language somewhat cleaned up in both cases here, compared to the actual Internet.]

    The uses of the “entitled” canard by the feminist-minded, and the evils thereof, are given a thoughtful workout in the RtR post. But even after that exercise, I think two things are worth noting here:

    1) The “entitlement” screech gives the feminist fuel, or so she feels, to change the subject away from debating/examining the truth or falsehood of statements about the world (e.g. “chicks dig jerks; discuss”), and onto the perfidy of the person who raised the subject. It’s commonplace, and not a bad instinct, to guess that this indicates that the feminist really doesn’t want to debate on the basis of facts about the world, presumably because reality has an anti-feminist bias on this particular issue. (To quote Han Solo, “Must have hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that.”) So the “entitlement” canard is very often a huge flag for a gross and hostile mis-direction attempt, and we can usefully call it out as such.

    2) The feminist has absolutely zero hesitation in making a flat, definitive declaration about the mind and motives of someone she’s never met, after having read perhaps one ten-thousandth of his lifetime output of words. The “entitlement” canard really embodies, as I see it, the feminist’s claim that she knows your own mind better than you do, having been endowed with super, truth-seeing, Z-ray vision after the completion of thus-and-such many credits in Women’s Studies. (“Can I get the door for you, Miss?” “No, I’d rather you didn’t depict me as weak and in need of help as a means of justifying the Patriarchy that will ultimately keep me enslaved. Nice try, though.”)

    This is not as campy as it sounds. As I have been given to understand it — not really an expert here, but so — the main armature of the “postmodernism” impulse, of which academic feminism is one example, is the idea that words don’t really carry the on-the-face meaning that the speaker nominally appeared to intend; but the alert and trained practitioner can suss out a statement’s “true” meaning, which is typically found to be an attempt to maintain or heighten the speaker’s privileged status in the world.

    So it is perfectly to be expected that an educated feminist will unashamedly skip over any engagement with the face value of any statement by a perceived hostile/non-ally, and address the “real” meaning of what it indicates about his personality and motivations. She doesn’t see it as a vice to shred and ignore the traditional rules of respect and logical discourse; she sees it instead as a virtue to eschew dishonest surface meanings, which only keep the privileged in power, and instead engage the important, underlying reality directly.

    As you may discern, I have non-zero sympathy for the “postmodern impulse” as I describe it here (whether that’s the legally correct label or not). I do think that people’s motivations in speaking and writing are often different from their surface meanings (“nice blog you have here, be a shame if anything were to happen to it”); and that established customs of discourse can tend to serve those already in power. But I also think that, like bringing a chainsaw to the table to carve your Thanksgiving turkey, indulging the impulse will nearly always do vastly more harm than good, for you and everyone around you. In the case above, the feminist obviously hurts the man in front of her, and makes society more generally paranoid and illogical; but she also hurts herself by jumping to an unwarranted conclusion that is, in the large majority of cases (IMO), factually wrong.

    And so, if like the feminist quoted above the first, last, and only tool in your kit is to switch the topic from facts to motivations, which you then maximally impugn, you’re really living in poverty intellectually (though you might be thriving politically).

    • Nita says:

      if [..] the first, last, and only tool in your kit is to switch the topic from facts to motivations, which you then maximally impugn

      the feminist really doesn’t want to debate on the basis of facts about the world

      indulging the impulse will nearly always do vastly more harm than good

      Indeed.

      Small aside on holding doors: apparently, it’s men who may react negatively to this gesture, not women.

      So, how should a feminist respond to the claim that “chicks dig jerks”? What is the intended scope and the goals of such a discussion?

      My impression is that many people who voice this sentiment do believe that women have an ethical obligation to reward pro-social behaviour with sex. So, rather than risk hashing out the same fruitless argument for the 20th time, some people jump straight to the conclusion. If you have an alternative idea of how this discussion could go (or if you’re willing to defend the “ethical obligation”), I’m eager to hear it.

      [Scott, is this topic OK here, or should we move to Ozy’s blog?]

      • Landru says:

        Indeed

        Indeed, indeed; I’m glad that you saw what I did there. Along the same lines, let’s note that you can also repurpose the Han Solo quote, i.e. if a man gets all riled up after being accused of “sexual entitlement”, then is it unfair to take that as a sign that the accusation hits close to the mark? I’ll leave the rest of this puzzle for later, though.

        Regarding the aside on men, women and door-holding, should that be surprising? It fits just fine with the simple story that men would react negatively to being depicted as weak and in need of help, as part of a dominance/challenge ritual. As an aside to the aside, though, I didn’t really make any — on the surface, at least — statements about “women” as a sub-set of people, just about this illustrative character “the feminist” who is trained to see the oppressive hand of patriarchy in every molecule of daily life (not that I’m disputing that, necessarily).

        Now, not at all as an aside, let me note one thing:

        My impression is that many people who voice this sentiment do believe that women have an ethical obligation to reward pro-social behaviour with sex. So, rather than risk hashing out the same fruitless argument for the 20th time, some people jump straight to the conclusion.

        Emphasis added; and to belabor the point, I’ll zoom in on what really stands out here to me:

        My impression is … jump straight to the conclusion.

        No. It’s an error, and it can be a harmful one, to take one’s impression and promote it frictionlessly to a conclusion without doing more work to justify the promotion. The “people” you describe who “jump straight to the conclusion” are, it seems plain to me, logically delinquent.

        This does bring up the other point I wanted to expand on regarding “entitlement” canards. If a person does not actually use the words, “I am entitled”, then what is a reasonably fair and reasonably objective procedure to justify an accusation that there person does, in fact, feel entitled? I’m very interested in suggestions here; though let me note in advance that circularity (“He feels entitled because he acts as though he’s entitled”“), circularity using near-synonyms, (“He feels entitled because he acts deserving”), and pure subjectivity (“He looks that way to me; isn’t it self-evident?”) will receive zero credit for this exercise.

        “If you have an alternative idea of how this discussion could go”

        This is a much larger subject, that I can’t do justice to here; and may be more appropriate for a different thread. I’ll just say for now that my personal preference is that “ethical obligation” should focus first on people telling the truth about the world and themselves, before prescribing actions.

        should we move to Ozy’s blog

        Didn’t know the blogs were supposed to be so fungible. In this case, no, thanks. I like reading Ozy but zir comment policy is too arbitrary, so I’m taking zir advice and not setting foot there. I do appreciate though that ze (zi?) is honest and up-front about it (see above).

        • Nita says:

          All right, let’s try a different approach.

          In your example dialogue above, a “human, likely male” character says this:

          “My my, but it is striking how women seem systematically to extend their intimate favor toward sexist men who treat them poorly, to the relative exclusion of more egalitarian men who would treat them better.”

          In your opinion, what is this person thinking? And what do they hope to get from the discussion?

          I realize that there are multiple possibilities. Perhaps you could list the ones you consider most likely?

          Honest question here, not playing to win. Answers from other commenters also welcome.

          • stargirlprincess says:

            Responding to someone’s “real beliefs” instead of what they are saying is fundamentally aggressive and dis-respectful.* Its perhaps appropriate to take this stance. People on both sides are doing alot of arguing with an extremely aggressive stances (except Scott Aaronson, though definitely scott alexander).

            But once you start wondering “why” someone is discussing something you are probably interacting as an enemy not a friend. Its fine to have enemies but one shouldn’t pretend its nice behavior to wonder about people’s possible dark motivations.

            On topic:

            People might feel its important to know what on average attracts women. Sex is very important to people and people are justifiably interested in learning how to fulfill basic needs. Also if (and its a big if) some behaviors currently considered jerkish are both attractive to the average woman and not overly pathological then society might want to encourage those behaviors. Benefits would accrue to both sexes. People finding each other hotter is a good thing.

            As a very tame example. Imagine someone really showed that men doing housework really significantly reduced most women’s interest in sex. Then we really shouldn’t encourage men to do more housework. Of course one could still strive for gender balance in contributions.

            But if someone had proof a balance with men working more outside the home was really what worked for most people then the advice we should give people is “in general you will be happier if your life is more in charge of the home and you are the breadwinner. Though there are exceptions.” I am not saying the breadwinner thing is true though, just a hypothetical. A maybe more jerkish version would be to consider if hetero-sexual marriages really tended to improve when the man took over the finances and gave the woman a (generous maybe) allowance. If this really worked then people should be encouraged to try it.

            If a norm works out to be “pro-female” but actually works it also should be encouraged (encouraged is different from enforced). For example the rationalist community has a big gender imbalance + polyamory. So women can tend to date large numbers of partners if they wish. The reverse of this was commonly considered sexist against women. But the dating norms seem to be working well for the rationalist community.

            *The exception is if you are worried about them. For example worrying something someone wrote is a sign of depression. So this is fundamentally dangerous and one should be careful about trying to help others in this way.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Responding to someone’s “real beliefs” instead of what they are saying is fundamentally aggressive and dis-respectful.

            Yes, exactly! Or, regardless of what we want to call it, doing this sort of thing kills the ability to actually have a reasonable discussion. In particular, as I’ve noted before, the reasons that something might say something in a serious-discussion-space are broader than the reasons they’d bring it up elsewhere, so you can’t make the same inferences.

            In addition, it’s unhelpful (and definitely disrespectful) to, as a statement of certain fact, make a statement about what someone else is thinking. If in such a discussion something someone says really sets off such alarm bells, and you think “what they’re thinking” might truly be relevant, the appropriate response is something along the lines of “That you [bother to] say this would seem to suggest…; do I have that right?”, not to just tell them what you’re sure they’re thinking.

          • Landru says:

            All right, let’s try a different approach. …
            In your opinion, what is this person thinking? … etc.

            So, I’m responsible for providing a full and consistent backstory for every cartoon character I create, for any purpose? Interesting idea, reminds me of an Ian M. Banks novel.

            But, sorry, no dice; too far off topic. Scott’s original heading was general abuse of the “entitlement” accusation, and I filled in on the feminist example, one among the several he mentioned. Swerving to instead debate the evils of whiny nice guys in this little sub-thread is not how I want to spend my time on Earth.

            If Scott decides he wants to instantiate another conversation he might regret about sex wars, and the opportunity for me to say something useful presents itself, then I’d consider pitching in. But, if the price of that chance is a forced march through the swamp of casual cruelty and epic bad faith that you and Deiseach are displaying here, unrestrained by Scott, then my enthusiasm may meet its limits.

            I should thank the two of you while I can, though. Between your determination to drag the focus away from the original topic, “Entitlement canard abusers, feminist edition”, and onto your (apparent) favorite of “Guys who complain; are they just pathetic or also downright evil?”, and Deiseach’s bottomless ability to presume she knows everyone’s mind while really just making stuff up out of whole cloth, you have illustrated the points I made in my original comment quite nicely. I couldn’t have arranged to pay for a better performance; but, sorry, no check coming this week, I’m a little short.

          • Nita says:

            @stargirlprincess, @Sniffnoy

            I am definitely not in favour of telling someone what they “really” think.

            I’m trying to imagine the best discussion that could be started with “chicks dig jerks”. (And I don’t secretly mean “well, I’m trying to imagine, but it’s ridiculous”.)

            @stargirlprincess

            Thanks for answering my question! I really appreciate it.

            I think couples should communicate and experiment to find what works best for them. Unfortunately, many people (especially women) aren’t familiar with their own sexuality, so maybe some suggestions would help.

            However, if our “encouragement” might involve saying “you’re a woman, and it’s scientifically proven that women like X, therefore you like X”, or shaming less typical people, I’m not on board with that.

            Now, onto single folks…

            One thing I’ve noticed is that some guys find “be/act confident” a useless piece of advice, whereas “be / act like a jerk” is something they feel they can act upon.

            Mainstream advice:
            – act confident
            – be yourself
            – get your life in order

            RedPill advice:
            – act like an alpha
            – don’t give a shit what bitches think
            – hit the gym, get money

            From my point of view, this is basically the same advice, only the RedPill version deliberately uses a certain tone. And yet, the mainstream version is often accused of being bland and unhelpful.

            So, I’m thinking… What if some men do benefit from pep-talks that devalue women, comparing them to dogs or teenagers or whatever? Obviously, it can make interaction with women less scary.

            Maybe some men hear “act like a jerk”, try to do it, and end up acting confident. And maybe some jerks hear “act like a jerk” and think they’ve been right all along.

            What’s the solution here? Courses in jerkiness for certified shy guys? More effective versions of mainstream advice? More compassion and interpersonal skills training for everyone?

            @Landru

            I’m sorry Deiseach misunderstood you. And sorry for derailing your subthread — I didn’t realize I was stepping outside the intended scope.

          • Cauê says:

            I’ll answer this one thing and then get back to forcing myself to stay out of it:

            >”From my point of view, this is basically the same advice, only the RedPill version deliberately uses a certain tone. And yet, the mainstream version is often accused of being bland and unhelpful.”

            I’m not familiar with redpill, but I did read a little bit of PUA stuff about ten years ago, and it helped me a lot.

            The difference in helpfuness isn’t the tone, or anything about devaluing women (which my source didn’t do). It’s that the PUA advice doesn’t stop at one sentence. They don’t just say “be confident”, they *actually tell you what it means and how to go about it*, and why [their theory says] X works and Y doesn’t.

          • Nita says:

            @Cauê

            Thanks for the data point!

            In my experience, PUA methods and attitudes are very diverse (I even learned some useful things while lurking in their forums), whereas RedPill is more homogeneous and more negative.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I am definitely not in favour of telling someone what they “really” think.

            Well, that’s good to hear! But it’s stronger than that, really; like, I would say that you shouldn’t even be responding to what the other person really thinks without first explicitly introducing it as an object of discussion.

            I’m trying to imagine the best discussion that could be started with “chicks dig jerks”. (And I don’t secretly mean “well, I’m trying to imagine, but it’s ridiculous”.)

            Best case? I’d imagine something like this…
            “Chicks dig jerks.”
            “Really? Why do you say that?”
            “Well, in my experience, women seem to be attracted to [behaviors].”
            “I’d hardly consider those to be jerkish, at least not in their proper context. Why do you call that jerkish?”
            “Well, they violate [principles].”
            “Hm. I suppose following [principles] actually leads to overbroad proscriptions and condemning perfectly innocuous behavior. We should try to refine [principles] so they are more accurate. Alternatively, if that proves unworkable due to the level of detail involved, we should soften [principles] and remind people that they apply primarily in certain prototypical cases, and that edge cases may require judgment.”

            …yes, this is pretty unrealistic, but you did say “best”. 🙂

        • Anonymous says:

          The open threads are supposed to be linked and the commenting policy is supposed to be relaxed on the open threads.

      • Deiseach says:

        Like I’m constantly complaining on here, in my job I’m seeing women taking up with men the reaction to which I have is “What the hell are you thinking????”

        There are also, to be fair, women who evoke this attitude in me re: the men’s side of it.

        But what Landru seems to be arguing is that ‘nice’ women, what I’m assuming he means in his examples are middle-class, reasonably attractive, reasonably educated women, are taking up with ‘bad boy’ jerks and leaving the ‘nice’ guys who should be their natural match on the sidelines.

        I can assure you, the jerks and abusers I see are very low-class types. The women who hang around with them, and the women they attract, are not the type I would imagine Landru wants.

        So I don’t know who these non-underclass women who like scumbags in preference to decent guys are. Could they possibly be a way of soothing the sting of rejection? “Yeah, she doesn’t know what she’s missing, she’s going to be let down so hard by that other guy who is probably all kinds of a jerk!”

        • veronica d says:

          The mystery goes away if we replace “jerk” with “man with self confidence who knows how to communicate with women.” In other words, sour grapes.

          • Nita says:

            Additional factors:

            1. If the only confident people you’ve known have been bullies, you might honestly believe that confidence is a red flag.

            2. If you’ve only been teased in a mean way, friendly teasing and flirting might seem horrible to you.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            …what, are we doing this again? Fine, obligatory comment:

            Or, if you’ve always heard prohibitions on bad things phrased in a way that doesn’t adequately distinguish them from OK things, you might simply conclude based on what you’re told that the actually-OK things are essentially the same thing as (and hence just as bad as) the bad things.

          • drethelin says:

            what sniffnoy said, also there’s no reason people who bullied you in one context can’t be confident men who are otherwise nice to women and attractive. People are multifaceted and often evil, especially in high school. From a bullied outcast’s point of view, a jerk is getting girls.

          • Nita says:

            Yeah, I keep forgetting that not everyone is allergic to bullies. Some people even like James from the Harry Potter books :/

      • Anonymous says:

        My impression is that many people who voice this sentiment do believe that women have an ethical obligation to reward pro-social behaviour with sex.

        I’m far from the most insightful commenter on this blog, but I feel that this one of mine should have gotten more attention. Now, that the subject is back, I’ll reiterate it:

        Bob smokes three packs a day for years. Eventually, he develops sufficient lung damage that a lung transplant is the only way he will live beyond the year.

        Alice and Bob are talking. Alice asks how Bob is doing, and Bob says, “I need a new lung.” Alice says, “I’m not sure you deserve a new lung. You’ve been heavily smoking for years. Probably there are other people deserve that lung transplant more.”

        The thing is, they can both be right. Bob is correct when he says, “I need a new lung.” Alice is correct (for some moral systems, anyway) when she says, “You don’t deserve a new lung.” The problem arises when Alice (and Cathy, and Dianna, and Evelyn, and Frank the Ally) assume that “I need a new lung” is connotationally equivalent to “I deserve a new lung.” Bob might mean it that way. But he might not!

        (Where this metaphor breaks down, though, is that Henry from the other post IS like Bob, except that a bunch of women are lining up to give him lungs. Whereas Ben, who was born with a congenital pulmonary flaw, gets chased with pitchforks and torches whenever he mentions he needs a lung.)

        • Nita says:

          Hi Matthew! You forgot to sign your post 🙂

          But… donated lungs are a resource. They can be distributed by society — either on a first come, first served basis, or in the order of medical priority (that is, however doctors decide), or even based on past behaviour (that is, “innocent” patients go first, smokers have to wait).

          Do you think of sex or relationships the same way? Because, although I like to have sex and relationships with nice men, I don’t think of it as “giving” myself to the most “deserving” man.

          I’m a person and I have my own needs and desires. I am fortunate to have met someone who likes me and makes me happy. Some people, even very kind and wonderful people, are less fortunate in this regard.

          If there is something I can do to improve the romantic/sex lives of the romanceless, I want to know about it. But if it involves making a registry of “human romance resources” and distributing them by merit, I’m going to vote against it.

    • Shenpen says:

      Many “red pill” authors say this aspect of feminism is a huge fitness test, a way to find interesting partners by testing all men for weakness and cowardice and mating up with those who reject it. It sounds at first a fairly preposterous idea – but one thing that speaks in favor of it is that _other subsets of progressive / SJ movement don’t do this!_

      There is a marked difference in how anti-racist or gay activists operate. They can be abrasive and angry or humiliate their opponents but you don’t see this kinds of precisely targeted arrows into the deepest inner insecurities of others.

      Of course, the difference may be simply that when gay or anti-racist activists argue with a white straight guy they don’t need to deal with the aspect that the guy wants to mate up with them. But still I don’t think it is the major reason of the difference, or maybe, we can combine the two ideas.

      While “red pill” ideas can be fairly toxic, one thing is certainly true, that if a man shows sexual interest in a woman she will not simply look at a photo of him but will also be interested who he is inside before making a decision. So when feminists deal with guys who show interests in them they probably employ some kind of testing. This does make sense.

      • Nita says:

        What “deepest inner insecurities” could an accusation of sexual entitlement target?

        • Brad says:

          I second Nita – what would be a “precisely targeted arrow at insecurities?”

          If I draw from my own experience and insecurities, what comes to mind are ideas like “You’re never going to get a desirable mate because you’re a [insert pejorative].” (i.e. overweight, a “loser”, a weirdo, etc.) I say this strictly on what I know what some of my inner thoughts that bothered me in the past were.

          The one thing that comes to mind, however, is this could conceivably be projecting or reading an intentionality onto feminists, that mighty not be actually there. This is made more complicated if you think such a “filtering groups of men for fitness” idea is some sort of deliberate *scheme*, because in that case, you can’t just ask a feminist if they think this (since, of course, they might be “in on the conspiracy.”)

          Here, perhaps, is a simple way to test the theory – there is one group of feminists who don’t feel a need to mate with men: lesbian feminists. Do they give off the same traits as heterosexual feminists in the regard of “testing men for weakness and cowardice”? Is one of these things not like the others?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Red pillers don’t tend to attribute this to intentionality on the part of feminists (or indeed, to attribute much agency at all to women).

            The idea is that women fitness test men in the same way that men look at women’s breasts (and for similar reasons). Doing otherwise is what would require conscious effort.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s not just “feminists”, it’s all women who are interested in having a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a man who – if they have three brain cells to rub together – “employ some kind of testing”.

        Because just in case you don’t know, “likely to get verbally and possibly physically aggressive; make all kinds of allegations and accusations about you; do things like put your phone number up as a prostitute/sex line” is not tattooed on the forehead or worn as the mandatory t-shirt, so unless a woman possesses the power of telepathy, she has to have some kind of screening to work out if Joe is a potential threat or not (even as rudimentary as her friend Sally tells her Joe is a great guy).

        The women who are not discriminating about the kinds of guy they let approach them and become intimate with them are the ones I’m dealing with in my job – two children by separate partners by the age of eighteen, no fathers of the children in the picture, no education or jobs, very little to no family support social services involvement out the wazoo (for all the good it does) and so forth.

        If all you want is an easy lay, sure, that’s the type to go for. Is that really what is behind all the “why don’t women like nice guys?” verbiage: we just want easy chicks who’ll let us bang them but won’t make any demands?

        • Nita says:

          Ah, I see you’re unfamiliar with the jargon, Deiseach 🙂

          To you and me, screening for threats might be the kind of “testing” that comes to mind first. But to red pill folks and pickup artists, everything is about the alpha/beta dichotomy. So, to them, the most important type of test is the “shit test” — something that women supposedly use to determine whether a man is sufficiently “alpha”.

          Examples (not mine):
          “I bet you say that to all the girls”
          “Aww are you upset?!”
          “Buy me a drink!!”
          “I have a boyfriend!”
          “Do you have a girlfriend?”
          “Hold my bag for me!”
          “What kind of car do you drive?”
          “Nag nag nag.”

          (Well, I think that last one might be a paraphrase.)

          As you can see, anything from shameless flirting, to ordinary conversation, to outright rejection can be construed as a “shit test”. Therefore, women do it all the time.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        They can be abrasive and angry or humiliate their opponents but you don’t see this kinds of precisely targeted arrows into the deepest inner insecurities of others.

        Actually, I think anti-racist activists do stuff like this too. What I am thinking of in particular is the way they accuse people who praise the virtue of colorblindness as being secretly racist in some way, and asserting that colorblindness is somehow secretly racist.

        I’ve seen something similar in critics of cultural appropriation, who often accuse other people of acting and feeling superior to them.

        And pretty much every SJW type I’ve encountered has accused people of valuing their own subjective experience more than the subjective experience of others. I suspect it’s a canned response one learns at SJW school.

    • Deiseach says:

      The feminist has absolutely zero hesitation in making a flat, definitive declaration about the mind and motives of someone she’s never met

      Wouldn’t you think her friends would take her aside and have a quiet word with this feminist about all the damage she’s doing? Goodness me, she must be a very busy woman: the feminist this, the feminist that, all over the place!

      I mean, it’s not like you’re lumping all women into one representative figure whose only purpose in life is to crush men who would treat them right (if only they’d stop being so uppity – imagine exercising free choice to make up their mind about ‘I am attracted to this guy, not you’! The minxes!)

      This complaint brought to you because I’ve read a newstory about a disturbed young man who had the same rationale:

      When women won’t talk to you it’s heartbreaking, why are they fussy with men nowadays

      So I hope you learn a lesson not to bully guys like us, we deserve dignity, for your own generations, remember

      And why do women have to be fussy when choosing a boyfriend, or cheating on them with others.

      And before you come back with “Not All Men!”, how about you don’t reduce women’s experience down to “The Feminist” and I won’t assume all men are bastards?

      • Jiro says:

        And before you come back with “Not All Men!”, how about you don’t reduce women’s experience down to “The Feminist” and I won’t assume all men are bastards?

        Because the number of feminists who act this way is really large compared to the number of bullied men who start shooting.

        • Deiseach says:

          “But wait!” you cry. “Sure, if you select underclass scumbags, this is the kind of thing that happens. But we’re talking about nice guys, decent guys!”

          Like straight-A students who are now studying in (what likes to think of itself as) Ireland’s equivalent of Oxbridge or Ivy League? Doing a (very basic) computer course?

          Who fabulate a relationship and then, when the woman isn’t aware that she’s playing a part in a romantic fantasy and insists – the entitled twit! – on having a relationship with another man instead, the reaction of nice smart guy is:

          – put up 80 posters on lamp posts near the victim’s home saying she was a slut, while stalking the young woman for nearly a year.

          – threatened he would spray paint everywhere that she was a slut, and when she told him she was not frightened of him he called her a cumwhore, threatened to post pictures of her online and threatened to put a pipe bomb in her garden.

          – left an animal organ (a cow’s heart) in a glass jar on a gas box outside the victim’s home.

          But sure, this was nothing more than meeting a woman in a class and “thinking there was more to it than she did”.

          But yeah, let’s be fair: there are crazy women out there who get involved with ordinary decent guys and ruin their lives. Ordinary, professional, married men who start BDSM-tinged affairs with unstable women who then end it all by –

          – getting murdered by those guys.

          Women! What can you do with them? They’ll do anything to wreck a guy’s life, won’t they?

          I didn’t go trawling for those stories. They’re three stories in the past two days on my Google news feed. I really wish these kinds of stories weren’t out there. I really wish women didn’t have to run screening and testing on men they meet just in case, possibly, I know ha ha this sounds crazy, but could it be possible that if rejected this guy will threaten and/or turn violent? Yeah, you’re right: how impossible and unlikely is that!

          • Anonymous says:

            You don’t need to trawl for those stories. There are already people who get paid to trawl for the most sensationalist behavior available, write about it, and pipe it into your Google News feed. This is commonly termed “journalism”.

            The pitfalls of using it to inform your picture of typical behavior, or even a realistic worst-case scenario, should be obvious.

          • Brad says:

            To echo something I’ve heard Scott allude to at times, I think all of these problems implicit in searching for mates – for both genders – are a good reason why we might want to have matchmakers in a community.

            Just a thought in passing.

      • Landru says:

        how about you don’t reduce women’s experience down to “The Feminist” and I won’t assume all men are bastards?

        What a deal! And, since I did nothing of this sort, my side is already accomplished. The rest is up to you, and so like free money for me I guess….

        Actually, even at that favorable exchange rate I’m still not interested. Here’s my counter-offer: instead of acting like facts and errors can be traded like horses, let’s everyone just stick to the truth of the real world. If you have sufficient evidence to conclude that “all men are bastards”, then own it, believe it, and say it proudly. If you don’t have the evidence, then don’t “assume” it and don’t say it. No negotiations required, purely self-serve. Simple enough?

        Reality-based discourse — take it out for a spin! you might find it to your liking. Or, you can stay on your current path in these comments of pretty much just making up whatever you want and declaring it the truth, if that’s what works best for you. Whatever gets you through the night, you know?

        • Setsize says:

          Does this comment pass any one of the gates?

          • JE says:

            True and neccesary?

          • Landru says:

            Perhaps a reasonable question, if taken in isolation (and I think the answer is “yes”). But as I am new here, I now have to ask about the local customs and indicators.

            I feel pretty safe in saying that my original comment here passed at least two gates and arguably three. After that, though, a slew of comments by Deiseach appeared which, IMO, manifestly passed zero out of three, with no one raising an eyebrow. So, I figured at that point that the whole “gates” thing couldn’t really be operative here, for whatever reason.

            But, customs certainly differ from place to place. At some blogs it is clear that particular long-standing commenters — perhaps “trustees” is a good term? — are given more latitude and are moderated according to a different standard than that for the teeming masses. That’s certainly not evil, and there are many ways to run a valuable blog. If I contribute here again, I’ll just have to pick up more about the local rules.

          • Nita says:

            In practice, everyone is given a lot of latitude here. The enforcement is deliberately lax and somewhat arbitrary.

            A comment has to either get reported by multiple people or offend Scott personally to trigger any serious sanctions.

            But when there’s an escalating conflict between two sides, onlookers will disagree on who stepped over the line first.

          • Anonymous says:

            Having raised the objection, I will clarify.

            In the ancient scrolls it is written: “Lurk moar, noob.”

            One of the things I have enjoyed about this blog is that there can be a conversation between, say, a neoreactionary biodeterminist and a social justice liberal, and it will be the sort of conversation that one can actually read and gain some useful insights into each participant’s point of view, rather than the kind of conversation you would expect.

            This requires respect among the contributors, even when you feel the other side is manifestly not being respectful. To give as good as you get is definitely not the operating principle. The Principle of Charity is closer to the ideal you try to reach.

            I get the sense that you object that I am addressing you and not Deiseach. But it’s not my job to adjudicate who was being disrespectful to whom first.

            I do feel that the quality of comments around here have taken a recent nosedive, right around when “Untitled” passed 400 comments. (I was reloading every so often and reading in batches, as you do; every batch of new comments got monotonically worse.) I hope this is a temporary situation.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “I do feel that the quality of comments around here have taken a recent nosedive, right around when “Untitled” passed 400 comments.”

            I noticed this too. People on all sides started being a lot nastier right about then.

            The community seems to be sorting itself out, which is unfortunate, because this place is so fascinating entirely because it’s a largely unsorted community.

  71. Avery says:

    Scott, when you started talking about people “destroying” people, I immediately thought of the upcoming book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” by Ron Jonson.

    I find it interesting that Jon Stewart’s scathing sarcasm ultimately leaves his targets unscathed and unsnarked, but participants in the Social Media Conformity Brigade grind up people’s lives rapidly and effectively.

    I say: It betrays the narcissism of the typical New Media Gladiator; They judge and attack others from the flawless position of their idealized (online) self, with little empathy and a lot of self-righteousness.

    Note: Feel free to link that book through your affiliate account, I’d do it if I knew how and I want to see you get paid.

  72. Anonymous says:

    I followed the link, and I still have now idea what “muh sojiny” is a corruption of. My… soul? Soldier? Shiny? None of these words are linked with feminism.

  73. Emily says:

    My doctor prescribed a medication for me. Shortly after beginning it, I had a symptom. I told him. He responded “that’s not a common side effect”, implying that it wasn’t caused by the medication.

    How do I teach my doctor about conditional probability? Like, if I’d asked “will I get x” symptom, “that’s not a common side effect” would be a reasonable reply. But, conditional on x symptom having developed, you need to compare the probability of it arising as a side effect with the probability of it arising for some other set of reasons. The relevant number isn’t the proportion of people who develop this as a side effect, it’s more like the proportion of people who develop this as a side effect/(the proportion of people who develop it as a side effect + the proportion of people who develop it for other reasons.) Which I’m thinking is much, much higher.

    What’s a good link?

  74. Andrei says:

    It’s so warming to be on Tumblr and have more context when reading this blog.

  75. Sniffnoy says:

    Meanwhile, people on math.stackexchange really need to use more demonstratives in titles…

    Well, OK, I should explain. People who ask questions on math.stackexchange are often not very familiar with mathematical language, and, OK, that’s part of why they’re on math.SE, but the result is that they title things in a way that look really wrong to those more familiar. E.g., they have a particular function f, and they know it’s continuous, but they want to show it’s differentiable. So they title their question “Show that a continuous function is differentiable”. Which in mathematical idiom normally means “show that any continuous function is differentiable”, which they aren’t in general. What they should say instead is “Show that a particular function is differentiable” or “Show that this continuous function is differentiable” (hence why I mentioned this). (Really they should probably drop the “continuous” in this case, but I’ll admit that making judgments of relevance are harder.)

    I mean, it’s not so confusing once you get used to it, though it’s still ambiguous.

  76. Mr. Breakfast says:

    How is this for a defense of “Post-” movements:

    Some intellectual-cultural trends, at least in their embryonic phase, only have entry points within existing movements / communities / etc.

    Post-Rationalism, whatever value it may prove to have as a movement down the road, makes essentially no sense to someone who is not at least familiar with this broader “rationalist” sub-cultural scene (like everything on the map). Would your mother grok post-rationalism? Would the random person you stop in a supermarket? Or would those people pick out a few words like “Magick” and “ritual” and just dismiss the whole thing as another crystal-waving self-help thingamajig from the soft-headed section of the bookstore?

    Look at Post-Modernism:

    Technological, social, and cultural works associated with modernity, of which Modernism was the most visible catechizing movement, went a long way to increase the productivity, health, security, comfort, and education level of participating societies. But then some time around the middle of the 20th century, a whole lot of people in pockets throughout society all seem to have had thought somewhat like this one:

    ” My God! My life is so optimized that I may end up trapped in a Brutalist Skinner box performing time-and-motion procedures from cradle to grave… Am I really OK with that? “

    And then a whole lot of people who had this general sense of dissatisfaction went off and broke with modernity in various ways. After some period of time fumbling around and exploring, these dissents coalesced into distinct institutions and movements:
    – Feminism
    – Born-again Christianity
    – New-age
    – Redneck Pride
    – Human potential / Trans-humanism
    – Historical re-enacting and SCA-type stuff
    – Hip-Hop
    – Self-help and various 12-step traditions
    – Environmentalism
    – Libertarianism
    – The perennial youth rebellion counter-culture (by it’s many names)
    – Back to the Land
    – Whatever you call Americans reclaiming “old country” ethnic practices
    – All the ways you can non-conform with gender
    – All the ways you can non-conform with sex
    – Artisinal production and consumption
    – Various flavors of fan/geekdom and their cultural products

    All of these things ARE post-modernism, but they have each found their own independant entry-points. For example, it is now possible to recruit an adolescent directly into some music-based subculture without ever making the argument that “Teachers and parents are agents of the military-industrial complex, an entity which is responsible for harms A, B, and C, and they are out to brainwash you into becoming a compliant worker-drone.”. In the 1960’s and ’70’s, this was not as possible, and the enticement to counterculture generally had to come as a critique of modernity and be couched in terms of the values of Modernism (efficiently maximizing utility across all of society). Youth counterculture has descended from the storm cloud of post-modernism and driven pitons into the media, fashion, and a normalized practice of premarital casual sex, so kids who want to become higher-status and get laid end up being drawn into whatever is the current counterculture.

    Repeat for every item on my list; the post-modern impulse began as a heavy, black storm cloud of amorphous dissatisfaction with the previous paradigm, but then each of these groups condensed out and fell to earth, becoming part of the real landscape. Somewhere along the way, someone made up a name for the cloud: Post-Modernism, but if there is anyone who still identifies with that term today, it is most likely some isolated tenured humanities faculty close to retirement.

    Even Yudkowskian Rationality itself appears to be a condensate of the post-modern storm cloud, a movement of people reclaiming norms of rational debate and the same technocratic utilitarianism which defines Modernism, only the rationalists seem resolved to not try to coercively optimize society through the state and other large institutions, but rather work mostly as and on individuals.

    So it seems perfectly reasonable to me that some rationalists find the mainstream of that world view to be in need of correction or expansion. It is also reasonable to call those people “post-rationalist” because they do not as yet have an appeal for their world view that translates outside of the rationalist community. One day, they might, but by then they will likely have birthed follow on groups, and no one will call themselves “post-rationalist”, they will call themselves “Mages”, “Back-to-the-Shtetl”, or “Contemporary Urban Monastics”, or who-knows-what… By that time, “post-rationalist” will likely be a punchline, but that doesn’t mean that it will have never been a thing.

    P.S. If anyone wants build a curriculum by cherry-picking the better mental and social self-improvement advice from all over Scott’s map and call ourselves “The Order of the Mentats”, I am totally down.

  77. Kirsten stone says:

    Lovely. I laughed all the way through, thank you for saying what I think so much better than I could have. (Sigh, does that mean I can’t call my high-albedo American self ‘post-cultural’ any more? Hmm, how else can I parse that succinctly, yet in common enough words for people to follow? Even ‘high-albedo’ only works on a tiny minority, the rest just think I’m saying I’m horny if it’s verbal or too obscure a word if in print. 😉 )