"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links 2/15: Land of Linkin’

Sometimes called “the most astounding medical lecture ever”, the notorious Brindley lecture is a good example of why your announcements of ground-breaking urology discoveries should not include live demonstrations.

FAA: If you can get to the moon, nobody’s stopping you from claiming property there.

Normal weight woman gets a fecal transplant from overweight donor and suddenly gains a lot of weight, supporting theory that microbiome is involved in weight regulation.

A claim that humans naturally divide into a bimodal distribution of monogamous and promiscuous.

Preliminary research suggests that eating a diet rich in tryptophan might make people more charitable (news article, study)

Left-handed people differ from righties in various ways, including less likely to attend college, less likely to get good jobs, and earn an average of $1,300 less per year. Likely mechanism is that a lot of neonatal health issues that disrupt brain development can leave you left-handed. If you restrict your sample to people without any neonatal health issues, lefties and righties appear about equal.

Sounds like a dystopian horror story – in a lot of areas, it is illegal to live with your friends because zoning issues say that houses must be owned by “a family”.

There is a campaign going around to boycott Yale’s senior gift because of their shameful mental health policies. Those policies are that if a student at Yale develops a serious mental illness, they can sometimes be kicked out of school because of worries that if they committed suicide on campus it would be a public relations nightmare. Yale is far from the only college to do this, but I’ve talked to some people there who say they’re especially bad. I’m reluctant to signal-boost this because I don’t really like boycotts as a political tactic, but the article suggests the senior gift is already very politicized and so this wouldn’t be politicizing it any further. If you go to Yale, take a look and draw your own conclusions.

Some interesting discussion of the Crusades recently, sparked by an Obama remark. Here a historian explains that a lot of anti-Crusade tropes are myths. On the other hand, the trope that the Crusaders were bloody and killed lots of innocent people is totally true. There was a lot of outrage that Obama was trying to distract from ISIS with his clumsy remark that Christians had done some bad stuff too. The appropriate analogy to me seems to be “Down with ISIS” : “Christians do bad stuff too” :: “Black lives matter!” : “All lives matter!”. The second statement in each branch is 100% true, but brought up at a time when it can’t help but be seen as a somewhat insensitive distraction.

Adjunct Professors Demand That Their Pay Quintuple. I don’t have enough space to do justice to this issue in a links post, but I urge you to meditate on the claim mentioned in the article that adjuncts need their pay quintupled in order to get “the kind of upper-middle-class salary they think people with advanced degrees should be able to expect.”

Ramon Llull meets Weird Sun Twitter in @CloneOfSnow, which describes itself as “an attempt to robotically exhaust all pairs of memes.” Since popular memes are often created by combining two other memes, for example something like “Hello, gentlemen, all your snakes on a plane are belong to us”, if you just get a list of all memes and combine them exhaustively, some of the results should be interesting. And so they are.

The Chinese philosopher Mozi was one of the first pacifists and consequentialists – and his followers decided the greatest good was to train to become experts in siege warfare, then go around to places helping them resist invasions.

According to a survey, the public believe medicine to be the most scientific field. In your face, physics! As usual, Razib Khan has some good analysis. H/t Noahpinion.

WhoPays is a site where writers post how much they got writing for different media. Useful if you’ve just gotten an offer from someone and want to know if it’s competitive, or if you want to know where to send a piece. Linked because I keep getting for-profit news sites asking me to write for them for free if they promise to link back to my blog; I guess this probably works for some people but it annoys me and I want people to know their options.

Woman’s wedding to Charles Manson called off after it turns out she just planned to wait for him to die so she could turn his corpse into a tourist attraction. r/theredpill warned me about this kind of thing!

Everybody knows that gender stereotypes are so fluid and socially constructed that people used to associate pink with boys and blue with girls, right? According to a more recent paper, this is “a scientific urban legend”, and when you do a systematic search of old books, blue and pink always had their current gender associations (study). I find the paper’s claim that maybe these links are genetically based to be extremely bizarre and hard to swallow, which I guess means that there was no harm done – whether or not pink and blue actually reversed, it’s the sort of thing that probably could have happened. But if the new paper is true, there’s still a lesson to be learned about how easily any politically convenient story that supports nurturist ideas can turn into gospel.

The case for melancholia as a distinct type of depression.

Here’s a study I don’t believe at all, but can’t quite figure out how to debunk: The Lethal Effects Of Three Strikes Laws. Not only do three-strikes laws fail to decrease crime, but they “are associated with 10-12 percent more homicides in the short run and 23-29 percent in the long run”, possibly because “a few criminals, fearing the enhanced penalties, murder victims and witnesses to limit resistance and identification”. Are there really that many criminals hardened enough to consider killing witnesses an option who weren’t going to be getting these long sentences anyway? Are there really that many instances of witness-killing? Until this gets replicated, I defy the data.

A newer, bigger, more rigorous study once again finds that quality of parenting has no effect on whether a child becomes a criminal.

At this point I only really pay attention to results in economics when they go against the bias I expect the writer to have. In that spirit, here’s a study by Alex Tabarrok finding that increasing regulation is not to blame for the decline in American entrepreneurship.

The Man Who Tried To Redeem The World With Logic is an interesting biography of near-forgotten polymath and neuroscientist Walter Pitts. Related: a couple of posts ago, someone pooh-poohed me for saying von Neumann was a born genius, insisting it was just the effect of the high quality education his rich father gave him. Walter Pitts worked with von Neumann and was considered to have a similar level of genius – and he was the son of a poor laborer in Detroit who insisted he drop out of school to do real work. Pitts’ education consisted solely of reading library books on his own time, including Principia Mathematica – about which he sent a letter to Russell containing several corrections when he was only 12 years old.

Work Stress Found Not To Cause Cancer. The most interesting thing that could come out of this study would be an attack on the tradition that has sprung up from the Whitehall Study, which found that lower-ranking civil servants were more likely to get diseases than higher-ranking civil servants even after the usual confounders were adjusted away, and which is touted as proving that inequality directly causes poor health. This current study doesn’t directly contradict Whitehall since it limits itself to a few cancers and Whitehall mostly limited itself to cardiovascular disease and a different few cancers. But it will be interesting to see if someone tries to replicate the Whitehall results in light of this new study, and whether they hold up.

The greatest hits of legendary comments troll KenM: 1, 2.

The Promises And Pitfalls Of Genoeconomics. Most interesting result: male income appears to be heritable at a level of 0.6 or so (female income slightly lower). This isn’t just boring old “if your parents are rich you’ll be rich”, this is pure genetic “based on the difference between monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins” heritability. Applying this result to your favorite economic argument is full of potential pitfalls I should probably write a full post on sometime.

Why the medieval debate between geocentrism and heliocentrism was more complicated than that. Be sure to read also Jonathan Lee’s comment and Douglas Knight’s comment.

Thing #8603238450 that correlates with obesity and is neither calories in nor calories out: timing and intensity of light exposure.

Another boring article on political correctness which I am linking not for the sake of the article itself but for the sake of a short throwaway argument it makes: private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works – ie a Patchwork/exit/Archipelago type picture. Anyone want to agree or disagree?

MIRI: Three common misconceptions of people who say they’re not worried about AI risk.

Extreme Obesity In Children Tied To Low IQ, independent of obvious genetic diseases. At least three possible interpretations. Number one, low IQ kids have poor impulse control/understanding of consequences so they have poorer health. Number two, bad diet impedes brain development. Number three, there are non-obvious genetic diseases which affect both metabolism and IQ; this would work especially well in the context of a mutational load argument.

The Nazis had a bright idea. They didn’t like Jews. A lot of Arabs didn’t like Jews. Why not dislike Jews together? Thus begins the facepalm-inspiring history of attempts to translate Mein Kampf into Arabic, which basically consisted of the smarter Nazis saying “This might catch on if we remove the parts about Arabs being subhuman scum” versus Hitler saying “But I really like those parts!”

I didn’t think it was possible to make a graph about US inequality I’d never seen before, but the second graph in this article is genuinely pretty neat. And worrying.

EXPECTO PATRONUM!

Relevant to my interests: how a bunch of different measures of different kinds of intelligence relate to college majors.

Melanie’s Marvelous Measles is an anti-vax propaganda book aimed at children ages 4-10 about getting measles is actually really fun, and also how really vaccination causes the measles (why yes, those two forms of propaganda do seem to be mutually self-defeating). You probably shouldn’t read it. But you should definitely read the Amazon reviews.

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450 Responses to Links 2/15: Land of Linkin’

  1. The “bimodal distribution” link doesn’t work: “Sorry, you are not authorised to access this page.”

    (Edit: I see it’s fixed now. Thanks.)

  2. caryatis says:

    “In a lot of areas, it is illegal to live with your friends because zoning issues say that houses must be owned by “a family”.”

    Neither Scott nor Leah is acknowledging the argument for zoning here, so I’ll give it a shot. No one is trying to define family or get in the way of friendships through these regs–it’s about what kind of community you want to live in. Generally people who like living in suburbs want their towns to stay suburban and low-density and, through the democratic process, they have made their desires into law. So why would you want low density?

    1) People who live in groups with roommates tend to be younger and more transient (especially since in the case in question, only 2/8 adults actually hold the mortgage, so 6/8 adults can move out whenever they choose). If you want a stable community, where people stay for a long time and invest in the community, then you might favor homeowners over renters. And if you are a middle-aged couple with kids, you might want to live near other middle-aged couples with kids, not young unattached people who don’t have the same priorities and lifestyles. You might also want to keep poorer people out of the neighborhood because poorer people use more services and commit more crimes. I think this is less defensible though.

    2) Higher-density living creates more demands on local services. This is mostly a problem in aggregate, but to give a particular concrete example, 8 adults take up up to 8 parking spaces on their block, while their neighbors the nuclear family take up only two. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is part of the reason the Connecticut household is getting into trouble–people are very passionate about parking.

    3) Privacy is part of the reason some people choose suburbs and homeownership over apartments. So how would you feel if you bought a house in order not to be cheek by jowl with your neighbors, and then found that instead of the 2-4 neighbors you counted on, you’ve got 11?

    • Alex says:

      I agree that nearby homes with lots of people living there can get weird. My neighbor has a large family (or something) and hires a minibus; it often sits running for hours on our street. It’s funny having a driver watching you come in and out of your house. There has been more police activity around lately and I suspect these guys are why.

    • Aleksander says:

      it’s about what kind of community you want to live in. Generally people who like living in suburbs want their towns to stay suburban and low-density and, through the democratic process, they have made their desires into law.

      By all means, people should be able to choose where to live and do their best to form their community, but it sounds really unusual to me to use the law to block certain population groups out of a geographical area. I mean, the inhabitants could be racists and want to live in a place without Jews, and I would completely respect their efforts to make a “racists only” community for them and their friends; that would probably just make every day life go smoother for every one. But I would get really pissed off if they made this policy into law, and made it illegal for Jews to live in the area.

      • lmm says:

        What’s your line between rules that are ok and rules that are not? Do you support “no noise pollution”? “residential only, no business use”? “No more than 6 people per house”? “No sublets”?

        Most of the time these are not laws but contracts that you agree to as part of buying the house AIUI. A racist in a racist community could always decide not to sell their house to someone of the “wrong” race – would the practical effect be any different?

        • Tracy W says:

          A racist in a racist community who is planning on moving to an entirely different community has a monetary incentive to sell to the highest bidder, regardless of race. Or a racist in a racist community who dies and has heirs who just want the money.

          Whether the legal system will enforce something makes a practical difference to behaviour.

          • Arthur B. says:

            In principle no law is required, neighboring properties could be bound by a mutual covenant. However, mutual covenants that exclude people on the basis of race are illegal.

            The original argument from the supreme court was that for government courts to enforce these private contract would be to violate the equal protection close.

            One can despise bigotry and still realize this argument was balderdash.

          • Mary says:

            The law tried to enforce it in South Africa, but the rule is “prejudice is free, discrimination costs,” and whites were often minorities in regions legally designated “whites only.”

        • Aleksander says:

          “No noise pollution” sounds just fine, the others sound unnecessary to make into law, especially if they in practice end up blocking out specific groups of people.

          The practical effect of enacting laws rather than letting people decide issues with individual contracts is rather big, I think. A law would only require a majority of the people in a geographic area to support it in order for it to be compulsory for every one. The “law” and “contracts” scenarios would only be identical in the special case where 100% of the inhabitants would use contracts to solve the issue anyway (and continue to do so for as long as the law was in effect).

          I am not talking in favour of some laissez faire system where nothing can ever be put into law for the common good. But if a law prohibits specific population groups from doing something every one else can do freely, I think it requires a very good justification.

          • Mary says:

            “Aleksander thinks it sounds all right” is not, however, a sound foundation for what should be legislated You might change your mind.

          • caryatis says:

            I’m not sure why you guys are talking about excluding “certain groups of people”–that’s not what the law in question does, rather it defines the area as single-family zoning and defines what a family is. So no group of people is being excluded–you don’t have to be married or have children to live there, you just have to obey density rules.

          • John Schilling says:

            Except some people can live there at high density, if and only if they are bound by ties of blood or marriage. On the one hand, this creates a perception of inequality.

            On the other hand, demanding that society never ever make the slightest exception to its rules in order to accommodate ties of blood and marriage, is unlikely to win general acceptance for non-traditional family structures, or otherwise be a winning strategy.

          • caryatis says:

            “Except some people can live there at high density, if and only if they are bound by ties of blood or marriage.”

            Zoning laws don’t limit the size of families because the Supreme Court has said they can’t. Essentially. So if a law said that to live in single-family zoning, you can’t have more than 3 kids, that would be struck down. But there is no similar restriction on laws regulating the number of unrelated people who can live together.

            So, is it special treatment for families, yes. Is it problematic? No, because living with relatives as opposed to roommates is a choice people can freely* make, as opposed to an immutable characteristic like being black.

            *Asterisk for places where same-sex marriage is banned.

          • Aleksander says:

            “So, is it special treatment for families, yes. Is it problematic? No, because living with relatives as opposed to roommates is a choice people can freely* make, as opposed to an immutable characteristic like being black.”

            I must say I disagree with this. Changing the example from “blacks” to “homosexuals”, I think it is quite irrelevant whether homosexuals can “choose” to be homosexual or not. We shouldn’t discriminate against them in either case.

            Perhaps there are some very good arguments for wanting to reduce population density that can justify this law (like if it could be proven that it would be lead to less crime etc.), but if the justification basically just is “the majority of the inhabitants want to live next to other families”, I don’t like it. I don’t think this is how our democratic powers should be used.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Trying to keep the Jews out is a live issue!

        The village of Bloomingburg, New York, is pondering drastic action to prevent immigration: Rather than allow a developer to build 400 townhomes to house Hasidic families, it is considering dissolving the village and having it absorbed by a larger neighboring community, which will dilute the Hasidic vote and hopefully allow it to keep the town from turning into the next Ramapo.

        Building the development will also undoubtedly hand over political control of Bloomingburg’s government to a group that will likely have very different interests from that of the non-Hasidic population. Such a situation has created great conflict in the East Ramapo Central School District, where Hasidim control the school board. Ramapo’s Hasidim send their children to private religious schools, using the public school system only to obtain special-education services for disabled community members, and parents charge that they have gutted the regular school system to pay for that special education and keep taxes low.

        • Mary says:

          Sounds like this particular batch engage in religious discrimination with tax dollars.

          • Rockland Local says:

            It’s more of a side-effect of their general attitude towards public funds existing as their personal cookie jars.

            They’ve stolen millions from Rockland Community College / SUNY Rockland as well, many of them declare their homes as synagogues to avoid property taxes, and many of them are on government assistance despite having quite a bit of money.

            Every negative stereotype about jews, except maybe blood libel, are accurate descriptions of the Hasidim of upstate New York.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The wife and I had a spirited debate on this a little while ago. I thought the Hassid actions (in this case, defunding public schools and busing their children to their own schools) were entirely defensible under current arrangements. Would the Hassids have been able to opt out of the taxes funding those schools? Why shouldn’t they vote in their own interests? The people who wanted that money directed back toward public schools were hoping to be just as parasitical in taking Hassid tax money and lavishing it on themselves; they just weren’t as good at it.

          She insisted that the Hassids had a duty to look to the public good. I insisted that they were the public under any useful definition.

          Live by the public funds, die by the public funds. The only way you can have neutrality in these sorts of issues is with a very minimally involved government.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            Most people tend to be against the 51% voting to eat the 49%. In this case I think you can make a simple argument that the Hassids were making the situation worse for everyone else by several factors greater than they made the situation better for themselves.

          • Jaskologist says:

            But they didn’t vote to eat them. They voted to direct public funds, which they contributed to, away from services they didn’t use. The people opposing them also wanted to direct public funds away from other people and towards themselves. If the school were funded only by people who actually sent their children there, the Hasids wouldn’t have any reason to be on the board. But as it is, this is an institution which is siphoning resources away from their people, and we’re upset that they fought back using perfectly standard democratic means?

            The whole thing reads like an NRX parable, really.

          • John Schilling says:

            I represent a cohesive community with no sentimental attachment to place and substantial banked wealth. Our strategy: Buy property in community N, paying slightly above market rate, until we represent 51% of the population. Vote to defund every public service we don’t use, increase taxes on everything we don’t do, and subsidize everything we do do. After a few years, everybody who isn’t us pretty much has to leave, selling their homes to us for half of what otherwise would have been fair market value.

            We then move on to community N+1 and do the same. In the meantime, we cut the taxes and subsidies and restore the services in N, so we can rent out those homes at about fair market value – even though we purchased half of them at only half market value. The new residents can vote for taxes and services they like; we don’t live there so we don’t care.

            Eventually, we own everything, having paid an average of three-quarters normal fair market value but earning full market value plus no taxes and massive subsidies in our personal lives.

            1. Have we done anything illegal or immoral?

            2. Is there anything that can be done to stop us, save for the short-term solution of fleeing at our approach?

            3. Will we, in fact, wind up owning the world?

            #2 is of course a trick question. Real people will modify their laws and their ethics to allow for, if nothing else works, the surprisingly versatile solution of Kill It With Fire. If your ethical system does not allow this, your ethical system is not applicable to real people.

          • My response to John Schilling’s community would be to try to join.

          • John Schilling says:

            At best, you might get a sort of associate status in which you deliver your vote on their agenda in exchange for a small fraction of the benefits they claim for themselves. That fraction to be determined when you bid against everyone else whose only other option is to sell their house for half market value and start over, against their need for only a few votes to push over the 50% threshold. It’s going to be a vote-buyer’s market.

            Actual membership in the sort of tight-knit group that arrange something like this, generally isn’t open to outsiders and requires extreme sacrifice when it is possible at all.

        • Anonymous says:

          This is a perfect argument for eliminating local funding of public schools, and tying funding to each child instead.

        • Defunding public schools? Can we invite them to my neighborhood?

    • Wouter says:

      “Higher-density living creates more demands on local services. This is mostly a problem in aggregate, but to give a particular concrete example, 8 adults take up up to 8 parking spaces on their block”

      If done properly, higher-density living removes the need for cars alltogether.

    • Tracy W says:

      You forget the main reason why existing homeowners want low-density, because it raises their house prices, at least in the short-term.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not having read about the particular case, I think it sounds like an unintended consequence. Housing shortage + lots of houses being bought as investment properties ratger than lived in = some local politician thinking the solution is to force house occupancy/free up houses for sale by making it illegal to own a non-family occupied house.

      Result that is not intentional: can’t rent out properties to groups of non-related people, even though these are the people who need accommodation and who were amongst the constituency you were trying to help in the first place.

      • lurker says:

        I was always told back when I had to deal with these laws in the 20th century that they were there as anti-brothel measures.

      • caryatis says:

        Deiseach, I admire your boldness in coming up with a whole theory to explain this case without reading about it.

        The law says this is single-family zoning, which doesn’t mean you can’t rent to non-related people; it sets a maximum density. Which I think, although I can’t find the actual legal dispute, means that only 2 unrelated people can live together in a single family house. There’s another part of the law which says there can be 3.6 families per acre, which seems a little contradictory.

        Edited because I was confused about the relevant zoning code provision.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      I suspect it’s the loud parties, not the money. You could provide an awful lot of parking spaces for what it costs to educate even one child.

    • Mary says:

      Ah, how history changes. In colonial times, you were prohibited from living alone. (At least in the Puritan colonies.) A servant sufficed, but if you were too poor to have one, you had to live in a household, probably unrelated to you.

  3. The Yale anti-Senior Class Gift pledge was written by a friend of mine. I edited the wording to be just a little softer. The goal of the amorphous group of pro-reform Yale students is to force an open administrative response (from an administration that tends to hold its cards frustratingly, if understandably, close to the vest). We’d really love it if they said something in time for the boycott to end and the gift to come back online. Plenty of students work both on mental health and the Gift, and there’s no reason to force them to “choose one”.

    Most of us respect that Yale is in a ridiculously difficult position, in that they’re in trouble whether a suicidal student dies on-campus or off, after being forced away. But there are certain commonsense reforms that really shouldn’t require years to implement: Letting students interview for readmission over Skype, for example, or refraining from calling the police on students who are living and working in New Haven during their forced time off, and who happen to spend time on campus in the process. (And many more besides.)

    • onyomi says:

      I finished grad school at Yale fairly recently, and I think what’s most irksome is that it’s clear that the top concern is not to minimize the probability that a student will commit suicide, but to minimize the probability that he/she will commit suicide on their watch, even if the latter might increase the probability of the former.

      Take an overachieving, anxious, depressed 18-year old who probably derives a significant proportion of their self-worth from the fact that they could even get into a place like Yale and force them to leave all their friends and studies and spend 6 months or a year of relative idleness at home with parents and mental health professionals. And, of course, since they have to be “readmitted,” there is no guarantee they can resume their life after treatment, and their health insurance, bizarrely, doesn’t follow them while they’re on a medical leave of absence. Sounds like a great recipe for mental health, eh?

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-18/at-yale-sick-students-pay-dearly-for-time-off

  4. drethelin says:

    Colleges aren’t exactly a free market. There are extreme distortions of all types, for example, a LOT* of people are limited to going to colleges in their own state, for reasons of incentive tuition or simple budget constraints. There’s also the issue of how colleges actually compete with each other: Education metrics are extremely divisive and often vague. So colleges mostly compete via reputation. How many schools do you hear being touted as “free speech schools”? No one wants to be known as the college where all the racists go because they can say whatever they want.

    *http://www.collegexpress.com/lists/list/percentage-of-out-of-state-students-at-public-universities/360/

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The claim was that private schools compete, while your link and reasons in that sentence are about public schools.

      • But public and private schools are part of the same market, and aside from the cost, the difference is nearly irrelevant.

        • Urstoff says:

          That’s like saying that Porsche and Kia a part of the same market.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            But they are? Go look at a college ranking and you’ll see plenty of public schools scattered between the privates. Especially once you factor in public schools costing as much as private schools for out of state students.

            Which means that it really only makes sense to say that public and private liberal arts schools don’t compete… because there really aren’t many public liberal arts schools.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            No, it isn’t.

            It would be like saying South East Missouri State and Yale are in the same market.

            UC Berkeley competes (roughly) with Stanford, not with San Jose State. The University of Penn. is considered an “Ivy League School”, while the University of Phoenix is…*not*.

          • Nornagest says:

            Stanford and Caltech, yeah, and maybe UCLA, or at least that’s how it was when I was looking at colleges years ago. The other UCs are a step below those schools, with San Diego a half-step up and whatever school they most recently built a half-step down.

            The tradeoff seems to be, roughly, that Cal is cheaper than Stanford but even harder to get into — though the difference isn’t huge, and it’s mitigated some by the fact that Cal’s a bigger school.

    • Kiya says:

      Also the market is not fluid: if you start going to a college and then discover you don’t like its policies, it is a huge hassle to transfer.

      • nydwracu says:

        Also the stated goals of college are Brussels sprouts, not candy.

        Most of you have probably seen the argument that you don’t want a free market in churches, because then people will go to the churches that tell them what they want to hear. The same thing applies to colleges — if you assume they’re about a well-rounded education and all that.

        If you buy the free-market argument, you have to accept that colleges aren’t about a well-rounded education.

        • We, western countries, do have a free market in religion. One of the upshots is that, while wawacky minority religions exist, they’re pretty low status, Educators and employers already have a pretty shrewd idea of how to rate educational institutions. How would a free market change that?

        • Whilst I disagree with the Moldbuggians about almost everything,the have bit of a point about academic institutions sacking professors for being too illiberal. However restoring the monarchy (or whatever) seems over engineered to me. My modest proposal consists mainly of changing some names. Our implicit standard model is that there is a core of mainstream universities, which teach the Truth in an objective and unbiased way, and a periphery of institutions that have an agenda…the catholic and Baptist universities,and so on. I propose that we start calling the mainstream institutions Liberal Secular University of So and So. Since no-one has much problem with a Catholic university sacking a professor who converts to Mormonism , why would they have a problems with the Liberal Secular University of Springfield sacking a professor who converts to scientific racism? Maybe we should all stop pretending we don’t have agendas.

  5. Russell says:

    “Everybody knows that gender stereotypes are so fluid and socially constructed that people used to associate pink with boys and blue with girls, right? ”
    In Chinese culture, male is red, female is blue. Male is red because men generally have hotter body temperature and are more hot headed, i.e. more likely to fight.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      Red is not exactly the same as pink

    • Linked List says:

      This should be brought up more often. Red might not be pink, but it’s definitely not a “masculine” colour in the West – gender neutral, possibly.

    • Nita says:

      Related:
      yin – feminine, wet, cold, passive
      yang – masculine, warm, dry, active

      I have a hunch that “man” becomes associated with “red” when passion is high-status, and with “blue” when detached, cold rationality is high-status, but I haven’t seriously looked into it.

      • Harald K says:

        So passion was valued more than “cold”headed thinking in Imperial China? I admit, I don’t know much about China, but romantic hotheads are not exactly what I associate with Chinese ideals.

    • Shenpen says:

      I think gendering hues would make more sense than gendering colors. A silky, velvety dark blue would be quite feminine. Vampire blood red masculine.

    • Arthur B. says:

      In Belgium, baby boys are dressed in pink and baby girls in blue. I know it directly from Belgian relatives, it’s not an invention of the Internet.

    • As long as we’re doing cross-cultural color symbolism, in many Bantu cultures masculine is black and feminine is red.

      • Nita says:

        Which reminds us that some color concepts are older than others. Black, white and red are the oldest. Then come yellow, green and blue. Then brown. And finally, orange, pink, purple and gray.

        For instance, in English “pink” as a word for color appeared only in the 18th century. It transformed from a reference (to the color of a flower) to an independent color word, possibly in stages like “aubergine” – “salmon” – “lavender” – “orange”.

        So, at different times in history a society might assign gender associations to black and white, red and black, blue and red, pink and blue.

  6. Daniel Speyer says:

    > Extreme Obesity In Children Tied To Low IQ, independent of obvious genetic diseases. At least three possible interpretations. Number one, low IQ kids have poor impulse control/understanding of consequences so they have poorer health. Number two, bad diet impedes brain development. Number three, there are non-obvious genetic diseases which affect both metabolism and IQ; this would work especially well in the context of a mutational load argument.

    Number four: non-genetic disease. Probably microbiome issues. We know there are a bunch of gut-brain links, though we haven’t mapped them in detail.

    • haishan says:

      Number five: social factors. Admittedly the study design does a decent job of controlling for the obvious ones — comparing siblings — but, e.g., “social stigma against the obese -> worse brain development” is a possibility. Effect size is way higher than I’d expect for that kind of link, but I’d want to see replications before I fully believe the effect size anyway.

      • It might not just be brain development– it seems reasonable that people do better on tests if they care about doing well, and a child who’s internalized the message of “nothing you do matters unless you’re thin” might not try as hard.

        “Within black families it appears that skin tone is a good predictor of which siblings will do better. This seems paradoxical, since I just said that race matters only because of its association with family wealth, but there is sorting going on within families that may not show up in a large-scale analysis across families. In white families an overweight sibling will tend to do worse economically than his or her thinner brothers and sisters. ”

        Dalton Conley, a sociologist who studies what factors affect how people’s lives work out.

    • J. Quinton says:

      Doesn’t physical activity have a link with cognitive performance too? Could be yet a sixth possible explanation: inactive body, inactive mind.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Do skinny rejected non-athletic kids become smart bookworms, and fat rejected non-athletic kids become dumb … whats? Hm, if the fat kids have dumb parents, they may not have as many books in the house as other families have.

    • Deiseach says:

      Having read that short article, I think it’s terrible reporting (whatever about the actual study). First half – gasp, our infants are all morbidly obese (probably because their bad parents are over-feeding them) and this makes them stupid! Second half – actually, when we did an MRI on their brains, we found “shadows” which we don’t know what they are, but they probably ain’t good, because they were like the “shadows” on the brains of the kids in the control group who had Prader-Willi syndrome and the normal kids in the other control group hadn’t.

      Conclusion: maybe the stupidity and obesity are caused by brain plaques? Or some kind of developmental abnormality in the brain which has knock-on effects? Rather than “Oh my god, our infants are morbidly obese (probably because their bad parents are over-feeding them) and this is making them stupid!”

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        This is what I get for not reading the link, I hadn’t realized the children in question were that young. For children under five, the obesity is mostly caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics in the first year of life (non-paywalled mirror). While broad-spectrum antibiotics harming brain development seems unlikely, bacterial infections that require them seem entirely plausible. Especially at such a young age while the brain is so fragile.

        • Cadie says:

          And tying into another link, broad-spectrum antibiotics (really, almost any antibiotics) will alter the ratios and amounts of bacteria in your intestinal tract. If bacteria in the gut turn out to be a significant player in weight control, then that’s another reason diseases requiring antibiotic use would correlate to obesity.

    • Airgap says:

      Number zero: Poor people are dumber and fatter than the rest of the population. Protip: next time, check the parents’s IQs too.

      • Deiseach says:

        If this were a reading comprehension test, I’d have to fail the lot of you. Also, the classism on display is stunning: you take a clickbait headline, obviously skim through the pop-science article without going on to the second half, much less the source study, and immediately come up with the reasons why this result is so, even though the researchers who carried out the study don’t know why this should be – ah yes, it’s because these children are plainly the children of The Poor, whom we all know are low IQ and stupid and fat.

        These children are stupid and fat because their poor, stupid, fat parents feed them too much and don’t have the heritable intelligence to pass on to them in the first place.

        How convenient. Quick, someone, write in to the Journal of Pediatrics (sic) and tell them not to bother publishing a follow-up – all they need do is ” Protip: next time, check the parents’s IQs too.”

        Did you not read the part where they tested SIBLINGs of the morbidly obese toddlers and young children? And the unaffected SIBLINGS were in the NORMAL IQ distribution?

        Did you not read the part about the MRI tests showing white matter brain lesions in the affected children that was something similar to the brains of the Prader-Willi sufferers tested?

        I don’t have the ritual paraphernalia to access the full article, but here’s the introductory summation – please follow it up to SEE the MRI images supplied before you write off this as a simple case of “The Poor are fat and stupid”:

        Cognitive development and morbid
        obesity
        The etiology of early onset morbid obesity is not clear. In some cases, it is due to a genetic or syndromic cause such as with Prader-Willi syndrome. Miller et al report an evaluation of children with Prader-Willi syndrome, children with early onset morbid obesity of unknown cause, and siblings from both groups who served as controls. They found that those with early onset obesity had significantly lower cognitive function and more behavioral problems than controls. Cognitive function for the early onset obesity group was intermediate between the patients with Prader-Willi syndrome and controls.
        Also of interest is that white matter brain lesions were found in both patients with Prader-Willi syndrome and those with nonsyndromic early onset obesity. These lesions have not been previously described. Because this was a cross-sectional study, it is unclear whether cognitive impairment precedes the development of obesity.
        Further research will help to define the role of neurocognitive impairment in obesity development.
        —Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD
        page 192

        • Airgap says:

          I actually checked the source article for mention of the parents, but you’re right, they actually did handle this confounder, albeit not in the way that occurred to me.

          I don’t see why you should get “OMG Classism” vapors over this. I was under the impression that the poor were dumber and fatter than average. I didn’t think I would have say this around here, but I wasn’t under the impression that the poor were therefore more Wicked in the sight of Our Lord. If you’re saying I’m wrong, they’re not actually dumber and fatter, fine, but try just saying that. “Classism” can’t be defined as having incorrect negative impressions of some class, because we all have lots of incorrect impressions. You have to add “And doesn’t update on contrary evidence.”

        • Nornagest says:

          Two black candles and a chicken later, the full text.

          (For future reference, I’ve found that Google Scholar has about an 80% chance of coming up with a full-text link to any influential paper if you feed it its full title. Be sure to click the “other versions” links in the results; otherwise you’ll just get the first link to the paper that Google found, which is usually paywalled.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I find that I almost never need to click on “all versions.” The main link is the official, paywalled link, but if google found a public link, it hovers to the right, labeled “pdf from university.edu.”

          • Nornagest says:

            It gave me a paywalled HTML link in that location, that time.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Maybe it doesn’t try to identify public versions, but there’s rarely more than one paywalled version? When there is, it’s one at the journal and one at the publisher. (also, nber is sometimes paywalled)

          • veronica d says:

            A bit off-topic, but I wonder if we could measure the way a tool such as Google Scholar will increase the velocity of knowledge. I never attended university, and I had to learn from the cheap-ass books I could cobble together from the local used book store. Furthermore, I could never follow the cites to papers, cuz I had not connections to any real libraries.

            The Internet helped, but fucking paywalls.

            If I had had Google Scholar as a teen, I would saved maybe ten years of effort to get where I am now.

  7. Julie K says:

    In Little Women (1869), when Meg has twins, they put a pink ribbon on the girl and a blue on the boy.
    http://alcott.thefreelibrary.com/Little-Women/2-5

    • Vertebrat says:

      Interestingly, Little Women specifies a source for the color code: “a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion”.

      I searched Google Books for “{blue,pink,red} {for,on} {a girl,a boy,girls,boys}” in the 19th century, and (in addition to reproducing del Giudice’s result that pink-girl-blue-boy is much more common than the reverse) found that Alcott is not alone in attributing the custom to France:

      * Putnam’s Monthly in 1856, about preparations for the birth of a French prince(ss): “Shall it be a layette of pink, for a girl, or a layette of blue, for a boy?”
      * Demorest’s Family Magazine, 1874: “blue for a boy, and pink for a girl, is the Parisian fashion”
      * Mary Mapes Dodge, Donald and Dorothy, in 1882 or 1883, from a French lady’s maid: “Always blue on the boy and pink on the girl; my lady’s orders were very strict on that point.”
      * Elisabeth Robinson Scovil, The Care of Children, 1894: “It is a French fancy to have blue for a boy and pink for a girl” (But two years later, in Preparation for Motherhood, she calls it “the established usage” with no mention of France.)

      So some English-speakers thought this came from France. But like many “French” fashions, this one was apparently unknown in France. After searching for variations on “{rose,bleu} pour {une fille,les filles,un garçon,les garçons}”, I found only one instance, in Maxime du Camp’s 1857 En Hollande: lettres à un ami, which reports it as a strange Dutch custom: “j’appris qu’à Haarlem lorsqu’une femme vient d’accoucher, on l’apprend aux passants en mettant sur la porte cet objet dont le nom hollandais, impossible à retenir, à prononcer et même à écrire signifie : preuve de naissance. Il est rose pour les filles et bleu pour les garçons. Ce bizarre usage fut introduit ici, dit-on, du temps des Espagnols.” This matches Frederick Spencer Bird’s account in The Land of Dykes and Windmills: Or, Life in Holland in 1874: “At Haarlem, on such occasions, it is usual to place a garland ornamented with lace—more or less expensive according to the means of the resident—on the door of the house in which a birth takes place. Pink is the usual colour for a girl, and blue for a boy.”

      There’s an even earlier result from Russia. Johann Georg Kohl in 1842 or 1844 describes coffins in St. Petersburg: “light rose coloured ones with white lace for young girls ; azure blue for boys.” The colors were still in use in 1898, when W. F. Southard says the Moscow Foundling Hospital records babies’ vitals on “a card, blue for boys and pink for girls”.

      I only found one nineteenth-century instance of the fabled red-boy-blue-girl. In 1885, Marie L. Thompson writes in Lippincott’s Magazine that Italian wetnurses “nearly always wear ribbons of either red or blue,—red for a boy and blue for a girl”.

      I also found a few other color codes. Annie Thompson’s 1890 Prince Charlie says (of coffins again, since pre-20th-century infant mortality meant there were customs about the normal way to bury children): “We generally prefer white for girls, and blue for boys.” In 1894, George W. Gilmore’s Corea of Today says “The prevailing colour of clothing is white. But the cotton is, for women, often dyed blue; for boys and girls, red or pink.” So pink-girl-blue-boy was not ubiquitous.

      Notes for anyone trying to reproduce this:
      * Results from Google ngrams are inconsistent with those from Google Books. I trust Books more, since I can see the context of the results and ignore duplicates.
      * Custom date ranges in Google Books omit some results that are in the range, so I just used the predefined 19th-century range.
      * I didn’t bother to provide links. What Google found once, Google will find again.
      * I don’t speak enough Dutch or Russian to search in those languages. And I may be searching for the wrong French words — are “fille” and “garçon” the normal way to describe the sex of a newborn?

  8. Nita says:

    Turkey is considering banning a computer game because it “depicts violence against women” and “could promote aggression”. That game? Minecraft.

    According to the actual article, it went down like this (paraphrased):

    Journalist: Hey, there’s a violent game called Minecraft, what are you going to do about it?
    Politician: I’ve never heard of Minecraft, but we’ll take a look at it.

  9. Janne says:

    “Normal weight woman gets a fecal transplant from overweight donor and suddenly gains a lot of weight, supporting theory that microbiome is involved in weight regulation.”

    I wonder if that deduction takes into account the fact that she had a fecal transplant for a reason in the first place.

    She had a serious, intractable bowel disorder. Presumably that limited her desire to indulge in food, or her ability to effectively absorb nutrients from it. At the same time she was living in a household of overweight members, who presumable could and did indulge.

    So when her disease symptoms disappeared she could eat the same way as her other family members (she may have eaten the same way already, and just not fully benefitted nutritionally), and as a consequence she quickly gained the same kind of weight they already had.

    • Svejk says:

      It is interesting that the donor is the recipient’s obese daughter, given that colonization of the neonate’s lower intestine by maternal bacteria during delivery is thought to be a significant contributor to the spectrum of gut flora.

    • Deiseach says:

      That was my thought: given that the woman was (seemingly) getting several treatments for gut infections and suffered from chronic diarrhoea, as soon as she was better enough to be able to eat full meals and keep it down (or in, if you will excuse the indelicacy), then of course she put on weight.

      Anybody who’s ever had a dose of a bad gastrointestinal infection will be quite familiar with how constantly throwing up and rushing to the lavatory and being unable to consume anything except liquids means that you’re going to lose weight whether you want to or not.

    • C.B. says:

      Right? Unless there’s more to the story, “Patient gains weight after recovering from years-long debilitating digestive disorder” does not seem to need a search for an obscure explanation.

    • Airgap says:

      This is a very good point, but it turns on how long she’d suffered from CDI, which isn’t clear.

  10. Irrelevant says:

    private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works – ie a Patchwork/exit/Archipelago type picture. Anyone want to agree or disagree?

    On the pro side, this is clearly true for religiously-affiliated schools, where a degree of cultural conformity is a major part of the product they’re selling. On the con side, transferring schools is quite difficult, which is a major practical barrier to students making their preferences known economically by abandoning institutions that become censorious.

    • Mary says:

      allow students to recover the costs (and damages) from any school that does not advertise its actual position.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      Also, colleges are obviously not going to signal values they know students don’t want; no one is going to bring up during a tour the fact that if you develop depression, you’ll be kicked out.

    • Dan Simon says:

      The process by which political (and general) conformity is enforced in higher education is as follows: academic institutions compete based on reputation, a large, possibly overwhelming component of which is research reputation. Research reputation, in turn is determined by peer review, which in practice enforces rigid conformity within disciplines, across academic institutions.

      This includes political conformity, of course; even if initially only a minority of academics in a discipline are heavily influenced by a particular brand of politics, they can easily drive out those who disagree, and expand the set of those who agree, by biasing their peer reviews. Eventually, their views come to dominate the discipline, unless some larger group with equally few academic scruples attempts the same ploy.

      The result is that even private institutions are eventually forced by their own faculties to adopt positions that conform with prevailing academic attitudes, lest both the faculty and the institution itself lose the peer review-based reputation game.

  11. Samuel Skinner says:

    Re: the inequality link

    I don’t see why you find it such an issue. One of the causes of the inequality is “global competition”- essentially the jobs at the bottom are being given to even poorer people in third world countries. So while internal American inequality is growing, the difference between the US and the poorer countries trading with the US is narrowing.

    • Dumky says:

      I too am curious about what is so worrying about those graphs.
      Even without going deep into those analyses (such as the difference between income, wealth and standards of living), the graphs can be interpreted in wildly different ways. Depending on how you spin or frame the issue, you could say that the top 1% was left behind for much of the 20th century and just caught up.

      More generally and to your point about globalization, I’m curious about what inequality worriers think of worldwide inequality. Inequality as a symptom can have many causes, and the entry of many poor countries into the global labor market is certainly an important one.
      As Hans Rosling showed in a number of presentations, there has been an amazing transformation of the third world in the last 40 years (China and India being the big movers). Even Africa (which is still lagging) is moving up the development curve.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Depending on how you spin or frame the issue, you could say that the top 1% was left behind for much of the 20th century and just caught up.

        You could, but saying the top 1% were “left behind” in any meaningful sense is, um, doubtful.

  12. Alex says:

    Mozi must be my favorite non-utilitarian consequentialist.

    That genoeconomics heritability is much higher than a previous figure I saw, but I guess the other one had measurement errors

    a random thing I am confused by is the demographics of environmentalism. In the Black People Less Likely post, Scott says black folks hold more environmentalist beliefs. I find some studies agreeing but also some that don’t.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      Can someone please explain to me how he isn’t a utilitarian? everyone says he isn’t, but,

      It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world and to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone.

      seems a lot like utilitarianism to me.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Utilitarianism is a bit more specific; essentially it is a calculation system to allow all good things to be converted into other good things so that you can determine which is the optimal choice. There are naturally some unpleasant implications of such an attitude, but since we have to decide between different goods and bads it ends up being used anyway in most contexts where quantitization is necessary (like calculating value of human life for regulations).

      • 27chaos says:

        That seems more rule based than act based utilitarian, perhaps people are forgetting that the former position still qualifies?

  13. g says:

    That adjunct professor thing: It’s worth noting (1) that “upper-middle-class salary” here means as much as $90k/year, which is decent money for sure but not what “upper-middle-class” most commonly means in the US these days so far as I know, (2) they’re mostly part-time so we’re actually talking $50k/year or so, and (3) “demand” is the word in the article headline and doesn’t seem to match very well with the facts as reported in the body of the article.

    • 90k p.a. is not “decent money”, it’s about twice the average full time salary in the US.

      For a single person, that puts you in the 95 percentile (http://www.whatsmypercent.com/). Even for a married couple where the other spouse does not earn an income, it’ll still be above the median.

      (Also, if they’re mostly part time, then they perhaps use part of their time for other revenue-generating activities.)

      • lmm says:

        Nonlinearities and overheads in the job market make two part-time jobs more costly than one full-time job.

      • g says:

        I’m not disagreeing that $90k/year is a good salary! I’m just suggesting that “upper middle class” usually designates more affluence than that (see e.g. this Wikipedia article), so that saying that adjunct professors are seeking upper-middle-class incomes gives a misleading impression of what they’re after.

        It also seems fairly clear that no one involved is actually expecting to get what they demand or even very close to it. So I think this is a matter of asking for highish middle-middle-class pay, in the hope that this may actually move them from waiting-at-tables pay to lowish middle-middle-class pay. (For people who in general are very smart, have spent maybe 8 years at university qualifying for the job, and have no job security at all. Of course those aren’t directly reasons for universities to pay them much better — though they do suggest a level of intelligence and dedication that could probably get many of them much better-paid jobs outside academia, which is a reason why universities might consider paying them more.)

        One other note: I checked some other sources and found that the people organizing this thing are themselves using the word “demand”, so I retract my claim that it doesn’t fit the facts. Sorry about that.

        • If two people make each 90k, that comes to 180k at a household level (without even considering other income sources). In the wikipedia article you cite, this would put the couple above the typical for “upper middle class”. They also have it individualized and it would be pretty high.

          Frankly, though, it’s the “we have a PhD, we should make more than a waiter” attitude of entitlement that bothers me the most in this sort of thing.

          • Creutzer says:

            And what exactly is wrong with that attitude? There would be something wrong with demanding that in virtue of having a PhD, you get more for waiting on tables than a waiter without a PhD. But I don’t see the issue with feeling entitled decent pay for very insecure jobs that require a PhD. I don’t think that such feelings of entitlement are required to track economic realities.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I think the issue is that people are told that a degree is worth X in lifetime earnings. They get the degree (spending lots of money/time/effort with huge opportunity costs). They aren’t making X. Which implies somewhat of a market failure in that we’re creating a supply when there really isn’t a demand.

            I think the solution should be to have to sign (in blood, like all good Faustian bargains) when you sign up for a program that you understand the level of demand for people who can tell you all about the cultural repercussions of Star Forts. Find some way of making sure people internalize the costs of a degree in a field with little demand rather than going in with unreasonable expectations.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Held: One obvious approach would be insurance policies for educational loans.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’ve spent more than eight years qualifying for things. Where’s my $90,000?

            It really, really sucks that they’ve spent considerable time, effort, and money to get these qualifications, but… I don’t really know what to say. It’s unfortunate the qualification wasn’t worth as much as thought, but increasing one’s compensation out of pity or because they expected more strikes me as incredibly stupid. “Making beliefs pay rent” isn’t about keeping beliefs static and changing the outcomes.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also: Regardless of whether it’s right for me to feel this way, much of the complaint strikes me as… just “eh”. The demands are presumptuous.
            (Is this how people who reacted negatively to minimum wage / fast food worker wage increases felt/? I wonder .)

            ‘“ ‘The question of what they should be paid is taking away from the fact that they are paid way too little, and here’s a target we’re going to go for.’ ”’

            This is incoherent. “Paid way too little” PREDICATES that there be an idea of what they should be paid…

          • g says:

            I should maybe clarify something: when I liken current adjunct instructor pay to “waiting-at-tables pay” the proposition I have in mind is not (1) “it should be the case that adjunct instructors are paid more than waiters” but (2) “adjunct instructors should be paid more than waiters are, in fact, paid”. I would personally prefer both waiters and adjunct instructors to be paid better than waiters are currently paid.

            I am not interested in arguments over who is or isn’t “entitled”, but I suggest that the following should be uncontroversial: If someone is very smart and has gone through years of training in order to be able to do a particular job, and that job pays a very low salary, then something has gone wrong somewhere. It might be that in some sense that job is underpaid. (I do not agree with the claim sometimes made, that whatever salary The Market provides for a given job by definition cannot be too high or too low. My goals, or yours, or society’s, need not be the ones The Market optimizes for.) Or it might be that doing that job is a terrible waste of the person’s brain. Or it might be that their training, although required for that job, is in fact a terrible waste of time. But one way or another, something is wrong.

            In the present case, it’s notable that tenure-track staff are paid much, much better than adjunct instructors (though still much less well than many of them could be if they chose income-maximizing jobs) and so are university administrators. This seems like good evidence against the hypothesis that providing university-level education and research is not valued by society. And, therefore, some evidence for a leading rival hypothesis: that adjunct faculty are underpaid for the work they do.

            (What does that mean, given that The Market has decided to pay them what it has? That overall, society would be better off if they were paid more. If The Market nevertheless hands them lower salaries, that may mean that we lack a good way of making them less underpaid — but note that the sort of campaign now going on is in fact part of the way in which The Market adjusts pay, because it’s part of the process by which people who want to be paid more suggest to their employers that they might go elsewhere if they aren’t.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            To be a real market failure, the market would need to be freer and less distorted first. As it is, we have the government pumping money into the system via student loans (but that’s ok, we make it up by saddling young folks with non-dischargeable debt). Unsurprisingly, this has led to soaring prices.

            Solution 1 is to just eliminate any public student loan programs.

            A more politically feasible solution is to make student loan debt dischargeable in bankruptcy, and put universities on the line for half of the amount.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            Which is an argument that PhDs in low demand fields provide positive externalities. Which kind of creates two branching arguments; either that they do “deserve” more pay because pay should match what additional utility you bring to society, or that we should pay them more in order to attract higher quality actors to the field (or create incentives for those currently in the field to work harder by having quality bonuses).

            The former proposition is one of those squirrely arguments you can make in favor of just about anything, so I’ll focus on the latter. This means that we don’t really have an oversupply of Medieval History adjunct professors, but have an sub-optimal distribution of them; either we actually either need more (as the marginal benefits are greater than the marginal costs) and thus we should pay them more in order to attract people to the field (ignoring the relative demand) or we should do the same solution for the opposite reason, that our current slots are taken up by bozos because all the smart people are doing coke on Wall Street (ignoring the relative supply). Thus we increase the wages of our Medieval History PhDs in order to attract smart people from other careers in this one.

            Now, as I have a sneaking suspicion that there aren’t a ton of unfilled Medieval History Adjunct Professor slots just judging by how competitive similarly situated fields are such as Philosophy, I’m going to lean towards the latter rationale in the absence of data. Thus the argument is that you increase the wages of your Medieval History department professors in order to increase the number of people on the right edge of the bell curve and replace all your current staff with them. Which means that your current staff doesn’t actually deserve a pay raise, but you need to signal to potential future PhDs that they could make money so they end up benefiting as free riders.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I have sympathy, because many of those teachers were lied to by the schools and professors and told that there would be plenty of good tenure-track jobs waiting for them once they got their degree.

            But just because a job has lots of requirements doesn’t mean it should be high-paying. Often the layering on of requirements is done because of an oversupply of labor.

          • I feel I need to quote Marge Simpson here: “Don’t make fun of graduate students, Bart, they are good people who have made terrible life choices.”

            *
            A more serious set of quotes is Megan McArdle’s ongoing debate on the Mandarinization of American society:

            http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-12/does-scott-walker-need-a-diploma-to-be-president-

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/21/america-s-new-mandarins.html

            *

            I mean, seriously, are people in this thread defending the premise that a PhD should automatically entitle its holder to be in the top 5% of incomes?

            (Btw, as a PhD holder myself, I’d by happy to have the Czar decree this, but i’m sure as hell not appropriating the language of need and exploitation to discuss my disillusion at not being in the top 5%. I’d feel like I would be insulting the people who, without PhDs, really are struggling.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Less than 2% of US adults have Ph.D.s, so for any reasonable correlation of education vs. economics I would expect their holders to be in the top 5% of the income distribution. If that’s not the case, something has probably gone wrong.

            The thing that has gone wrong is not necessarily underpayment of Ph.D. holders. Other plausible hypotheses are too many Ph.D.s (is 2%, economy needs 1%), wrong Ph.D.s, right Ph.D.s to the wrong people, or right people with the right Ph.D.s working in the wrong place.

            And yes, I probably should be more sympathetic than I am, but my first instinct is, “You were smart enough to get a Ph.D., and you didn’t realize you were being blatantly lied to when they told you there were lots of good jobs in academia?”

          • Randy M says:

            “But I don’t see the issue with feeling entitled decent pay for very insecure jobs that require a PhD.”

            They should feel entitled to honest financial advice or, failing that, recompense from the people who sold them credentials under fraudulent advertising (which, in round-about, in-aggregate way, they are seeking).

            As to wages, they should be entitled to some approximation of the usefulness and rarity of their (univerisity-augmented) skillset. If the utility of their degree is restricted to passing on that same obscure knowledge merely to another small group who want it for its own sake, and aren’t terribly well suited to pay for it, one wonders the justification that they be paid more than, say, comic store owners.

          • Garrick Williams says:

            What’s wrong with the hypothesis that there are just too many people qualified to be adjuncts, and not enough jobs? It’s pretty obvious that your average tenured professor produces PhDs at way, way beyond the actual replacement/growth rate of tenure-track positions. In hard science and engineering fields, there are a lot of research/industry jobs available to siphon off all or at least a lot of this excess.

            But a history/English/women’s studies/whatever degree pretty much only qualifies you to be an academic in that field, so there’s a huge surplus of applicants driving salaries down.

            That said, I do think adjuncts are “underpaid”, but the villain is not “the market”, it’s tenured faculty, who are probably “overpaid”, (and certainly “over-benefited” and “over-secure”) compared to their market rate. Kill or reduce tenure, or at least force a maximum retirement age on tenured faculty, and hopefully you’ll end up with a faculty all paid somewhere between what adjuncts and tenured profs make now, instead of the highly bifurcated tenure-track/adjunct class structure you have now.

            This would have the not-trivial benefit of increasing the average quality of teaching too, I’d wager.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Garrick, a significant part of the problem is that the courts rewrote the tenure contracts, removing the retirement age.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I’m not quite sure I agree with the idea that tenure track faculty is unfairly holding down adjunct professor wages. Having two tracks with the ability to be swapped onto the higher paying one is just price discrimination in action; the university can entice higher performing workers with the lure of tenure while not having to shell out as much for less valuable adjunct staff.

            It’s not like tenure track professors are making huge wages anyways; they’ve generally had to already prove their value in order to gain tenure and thus instead of massive wage increases they get the non-monetary benefit of tenure. Granted, it definitely has a lot more institutional momentum behind it than free market effects, so while I think this has some explanatory power, but I don’t think this is the villain we’re looking for. That is of course unless we want to argue that being able to pay proven workers more is a bad thing.

            I mean, there’s a fairly simple test here; if you gave the college a million more dollars, would adjunct professor salaries rise?

          • SUT says:

            One reason we “should” pay higher:

            Entry level PhD work might be like an unpaid internship. A valuable thing (later in life) if one can afford to do it now, e.g. has support from family, or has no family that requires supporting.

            We want equality of opportunity for people to become PhD’s and to become successful with that degree, not just those who have the least pressure on their personal finances.

            In other words, a scholarship shouldn’t just include tuition and board for the time as student, but factor in the difficult entry wages, just as if you plan to buy a car, you don’t spend all your budget on the sticker price, but factor in upcoming insurance, repairs.

            Finally, I suspect that a big reason for the comfy contracts of a full professor comes from the scarcity of supply for these workers – the degree is already highly specialized and then postdoc attrition trims down the field further leaving those who successfully waited it out the grand prize. That means, those being “pushed out” by low wages are actually a big part of what inflates the benefits of the full professor.

          • James Kabala says:

            I don’t think that it is unreasonable for someone with a Ph.D. to expect to make more than $30,000 a year. $30,000 is a number that adjuncts hit if they are lucky.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think that it is unreasonable for someone with a Ph.D. to expect to make more than $30,000 a year.

            If you’re smart and connected enough to earn a PhD, you’re smart and connected enough to earn way more than $30,000 if your goal is maximizing money — even if your PhD is in, say, postcolonial studies. These people are working as adjuncts because they want to be.

            The scam here is coming from all the professors, teachers, guidance counselors, college admissions propaganda, motivational posters and misinformed parents who said that greater educational qualifications are a ticket to correspondingly greater economic success regardless of details like “supply and demand” and “doing something economically useful”. We absolutely should take aim at that scam! But adjunct pay is a symptom of it, not its cause.

          • Eli says:

            Why should the attitude bother you? Because it insults waiters by claiming they add less value to society than teachers, or because you want teachers with PhDs to be exploited?

      • Anthony says:

        Adjunct college instructors mostly work full-time, but often work several different part-time jobs to be one FTE.

      • Garrick Williams says:

        I was a bit too harsh on tenured profs, in the sense that I do think a lot of money is going to places other than faculty that would probably end up in an adjuncts pocket in a fair world (tons of admin staff and the dorm amenities arms race come to mind).

        But I do think killing tenure would help a lot – without the tenure carrot, it would be harder to string along PhDs in crap jobs while they wait for a tenure opening. And tenured professors really do make a lot of money – low 6 figures (for 9 months of work) is average for full profs at 4 year schools. Elizabeth Warren made over 400k at Harvard. Many professors can supplement their incomes with consulting or research. In any case, they make way more than adjuncts, and making it a smoother distribution would probably help the lower rungs a lot.

  14. bean says:

    The FAA’s stance on lunar land claims actually makes a lot of sense. I ended up looking at the issue fairly closely last year, and the problem is that under the Outer Space Treaty as it currently stands, there is nothing prohibiting, say, one lunar resort operator from parking a solar array in the front yard of another resort. That is obviously absurd, and the FAA seems to be saying that you only get the rights to the parts you’re using. I predicted that something very similar to this would eventually happen, although certainly not this soon.

    • bean says:

      I looked into this a bit more, and the original article grossly oversold what’s going on. The FAA is responsible for licensing commercial space launches, and they’ve basically said that they’ll deny launch licenses to anyone who wants to interfere with someone else. Nothing more, and it really only applies to US companies/launches at the moment. Of course, it’s a good enough idea I expect similar solutions to be adopted by most of the world, and it will probably eventually evolve into something that might be loosely described as ownership. But at the moment, nobody’s claiming anything.

  15. About friends not being allowed to live together: this is obviously wrong. @caryatis: if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the neighborhood is itself a larger intentional community, which is trying to maintain its character. I think that that’s fine, as long as it’s a voluntary community. I don’t think these laws were drawn up in such way; my suspicion is that the emotions driving the neighbours’ desire to eject these people are a reflexive fear of those who are different, or simple pettiness, and not a conclusion they’ve reached after explicitly defining the character of their neighbourhood, and then actually assessing whether that character is going to be negatively affected by this group. (If they have in fact done the latter – note that this means doing an actual assessment, and not merely providing plausible-sounding but empirically ungrounded arguments – then they are consistent, and not rationalising their otherwise-liable-to-be-rightly-harshly-judged behaviour.)

    More generally, this exemplifies a strong argument in favour of greater liberty that I do not remember being seen made very often by libertarians – that there are more things on this Earth than lawmakers’ imaginations are capable of conceiving, and that laws that shouldn’t be laws make illegal entire swathes of possible things in addition to their intent. (The intent of the laws is irrelevant – what matters are the effects. And that’s where the problem lies – intent isn’t fucking magic.)

    Laws like these can potentially completely preclude essential society-wide changes. If, for some reason, this generation’s answer to the decline of traditional community would have been found in intentional communities, and had these laws been universally in effect, millions of people would have been forcibly prevented from enacting this solution. I don’t know how many such other changes or adjustments have been precluded, but I’m certain every single person on Earth has been badly adversely affected by this, given that rules and laws have been since the dawn of history (and still are, to a great extent) inexcusably restrictive of non-harmful actions. Who knows what broad swathes of possibility-space are forever closed to us, and how many others are being closed off even now?

    Regarding the Turkish Minecraft investigation: stupid. Also shows that lots of people are stupid.

    Regarding the heritability of income: what will happen if this is true, and people also mate assortatively?

    • Irrelevant says:

      Regarding the heritability of income: what will happen if this is true, and people also mate assortatively?

      That thing Gregory Clark claims has always been happening?

      • 27chaos says:

        I tentatively defy Clark’s data because it contradicts my intuition so directly. I think there’s got to be some other explanation for the data than the one he provides. Maybe there’s some form of survivorship bias involved?

        • Irrelevant says:

          I believe the key point is that these are names he’s measuring, not genes. It’s still a remarkable finding, but if the families involved are really strong at spouse selection, the genetic determinism doesn’t need to be as extraordinary as you’d think at first glance, and you can rig the game even further when the upper class is using different surname conventions than regular people.

    • lmm says:

      In a democracy all laws are voluntary agreements. On a more practical level there are a wide variety of zoning regimes available even within individual cities; you have genuine choice if this is an issue you care about. Of course it turns out most people don’t want to live in a trailer park.

      I’m a bit confused by your argument – you seem to think government should not regulate what kind of communities people are allowed to enforce. Yet you also seem to want the government to require those rules to be rational. Which in practice would reduce to the government deciding more-or-less arbitrarily which community rules were ok. (If you’re just appealing to the mob rather than the government, I have even less faith in their judgement).

      • Wrong Species says:

        So as long as two wolves and a sheep vote on what to eat then the sheep being eaten is voluntary?

    • Deiseach says:

      RE: non-family homes – you don’t have to be a bigoted neighbour to be concerned if a property is getting a constant turnover of transient tenants.

      Students, for instance, are notorious for being bad tenants. If a landlord isn’t maintaining the property and is constantly shuttling tenants in and out, especially if some of them are inclined to anti-social behaviour, then people do complain.

      And then to cope with situations like that, you get the swing of the pendulum when laws about family occupancy of houses are passed, and unintended consequences happen.

      • Anonymous says:

        OK, but this is the situation that prompted the articles. The “unrelated” people ARE the actual homeowners.

        The controversy centers on 68 Scarborough St., a nine-bedroom brick mansion shared by eight adults and three children — an arrangement among longtime friends who share monthly expenses, chores and legal ownership of the stately home, said Julia Rosenblatt, who lives there with her husband and two kids. The residents bought the nearly 6,000-square-foot house for $453,000 in August, although only two of the owners are listed on the mortgage and city property record. They take turns cooking dinner, have pooled money into one bank account and entertained themselves last week with a family talent show because, Rosenblatt said Thursday, “we intentionally came together as a family.”

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, you know what set my antennae twitching? That bit about “only two of the owners are listed on the mortgage and city property record”.

          From my housing section experience, that is screaming “scam of some kind, whether tax dodge or something else”.

          Yeah: so all eight of you allegedly share legal ownership but only two are actually registered as legal owners? Very convenient if those two move on/skip town and the city comes looking for property taxes etc. or the bank is looking for the mortgage repayments: “Sorry, mate, nobody here but us chickens”.

          And if any of them fall out with one another, who gets what in the ensuing fallout where there are two legal owners but the person(s) claiming they shouldn’t be kicked out of the family home aren’t those named persons? Only it’s not technically the family home, since this group aren’t related by blood/marriage.

          Yeah, this is looking dodgier by the sentence. If this is a genuine set-up, then they should have something legal in place about “We are all co-owners or occupants and have rights”, because I can tell you, nothing gets messier than people breaking up/falling out with one another and X wants you to turf Y out of the house because X is the name on the lease.

          • Mary says:

            There was a decades long family feud in my mother’s side of the family where relatives co-owned property and had a dispute.

          • Devilbunny says:

            It sounded to me like an attempt to operate, essentially, a boarding house, while taking advantage of the fact that owner-occupied primary-residence homes are subject to much lower property taxes than commercial or rental properties (in my city, it’s half as much).

          • Deiseach says:

            Mary, nothing gets bad blood flowing faster in a family than rows over wills. From who gets the farm down to really petty stupid stuff like “I wanted that teapot, Granny promised it to me, but that bitch Cousin Elaine took it!”, the worst and most bitter fights I’ve seen have been in families over who got what in the will.

            Devilbunny, what you say sounds plausible: the two legal owners subletting to six of their friends, and dodging tax by going “Oh no, these aren’t our tenants, we’re all family here!” 🙂

  16. Shenpen says:

    >Sounds like a dystopian horror story – in a lot of areas, it is illegal to live with your friends because zoning issues say that houses must be owned by “a family”.

    I am beginning to understand why same-sex marriage is such a passionate issue for Americans. Apparently a lot of legislation is based around formally married status. Two stuff I have heard before is hospital visits (you can’t just visit friends?) and going on your partner’s health insurace (let’s not even go into that).

    It was hard for me to wrap my head around the importance of the issue, because where I a live a lot of _straight_ people don’t bother to marry and it does not matter much because there are not many laws that restrict stuff to spouses, and partially those who do (i.e. inheritance) are always worded like “spouse or life partner” and this was written decades ago when legislators did not care much about the problems of gay people: straight people did not bother to marry much because weddings are expensive (you are expected to invite the whole friggin’ village or else they will hate you, crazy stuff), so it was formulated for them. (I think the formal English term for life partnership is “common law marriage”.) Obviously later when LGBT rights got more noticed it was handy that the term “life partner” did not really have any gender specification in it.

    What makes the whole thing a bit weird that okay let’s say you get same-sex marriage tomorrow, fine, you still cannot visit your best friend, or inherit from each other, or in these cases even live together, you are supposed to marry first, and then everybody thinks you are having sex, which is weird because having sex or not is supposed to be entirely irrelevant to these stuff. Perhaps you are going to have at some point an asexual rights movement, marriage without fucking, but probably the best thing would be to remove all legislation that reserves important rights to married people only. Ideally all you would need to do is to go to some government office and say “this person and me are best friends, and it is none of your business if we have sex or not, treat us as one unit please” and that would be it.

    Even better, create a category like “partnership for the raising of children”, since this is the original idea of marriage, assign certain child-centered privileges to this, and generally speaking as much as possible don’t assign any privileges or restrictions to any other type of human connection.

    • Tracy W says:

      Ideally all you would need to do is to go to some government office and say “this person and me are best friends, and it is none of your business if we have sex or not, treat us as one unit please” and that would be it.

      Isn’t that what marriage is, at a legal minimum?

      I know in some places you can divorce your spouse for impotence, but other than that I don’t think the government gets involved in whether people are having sex, and I haven’t heard of anywhere that forces people to divorce for impotence if they’re not having sex.

      • Harald K says:

        If there’s immigration in the picture, the government absolutely cares whether you have sex with your spouse or not.

        • lmm says:

          They care that you know them well enough to answer questions consistently. They may care whether you sleep in the same room. I don’t think they go so far as to care about how much penetration happens, at least in my country.

          • Deiseach says:

            If you manage to become the parent of a native-born child who is financially or emotionally dependent on you, you as an immigrant/refugee/asylum seeker are entitled to stay in my country. Funny how many cases we’re seeing lately of “I have a child with my wife/partner now” in instances where the Stamp 5 visas are running out. Some of these are “marriage for money in exchange for citizenship” scams, some of these are emotionally vulnerable (God forgive me, I’m very tempted to say ‘stupid’) girls getting knocked up by immigrant men after a whirlwind romance because they can’t tell they’re being taken advantage of.

            Working in social housing makes you very cynical very fast; you go from regarding soap opera storylines as “completely implausible and overblown” to “they’re not telling the half of what goes on!”

      • Mary says:

        Actually, in all areas you can have your marriage annulled for lack of consummation, except in some places where you can’t if you knew going it that it would be impossible.

    • Irrelevant says:

      From a legal perspective, yes, the argument was whether gay people should be able to gain the same not-insignificant legal privileges we give married couples. Which the courts are mostly handling correctly but not going far enough on.

      Culturally speaking though, the argument was entirely over whether the government should endorse or condemn being gay, a question so completely out of the field of what government should be doing that we damaged the country by simply having the discussion.

      It was a rather infuriating time to be a libertarian.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m annoyed in the opposite direction; if two strangers are sleeping together, then they’re treated as cohabitants/partners and eligible for a range of benefits including being able to claim each other as dependents for work or social welfare schemes, whereas I’m blood-related to my brother and he couldn’t put me on his (very generous) health insurance plan from his place of employment.

        I am family, but not “family” in the ‘counts for tax purposes as dependent’ sense.

      • Shenpen says:

        I think I understand your point. The point is, politics is increasingly not politics, but… I don’t know exactly what, but if people have simple set up a gay MMA team and a religious conservative MMA team and the fighters would just beat up each other in the MMA ring in appropriate attire, so people could just go “Ha! Good move, the faggot/bigot ate a real nice knuckle sandwich!” it would have served exactly the same purpose.

        I don’t know what would be the proper name for this, besides tribalism, but that does not explain all features of this, but politics, government, legislation is used to throw similar symbolic punches instead of serving its original purpose and it is kind of weird.

        And it is global, in Hungary “being right wing” is increasingly defined NOT as “I think policy X would be beneficial and should be implemented, it would have good effects” but more like “I listen to rock bands like Romantic Violence or Historica”, and then obviously supporting policies that have the same keywords in them as the song lyrics.

        I have an idea! Let’s totally make those MMA teams! Of all political-social identities. Maybe if people could channel these kinds of energies they could think with a clearer head about actual politics.

      • Tracy W says:

        The main reason for legal recognition of marriage is to work out what to do with the property once the marriage ends, as all marriages eventually do, through death or divorce. Marriage means signing up to a set of rules about the eventual distribution of assets that have been hammered out by common law and legislation (in common law jurisdictions) across the centuries.

        When cohabiting relationships end, there’s often a legal mess, obviously if the poorer party claims that it was cohabitation and the richer party claims that it was just flatmates with benefits, but also, say, a rich widower hires a live-in housekeeper then dies and the housekeeper and the widower’s children dispute the relationship.

        Yes, you can write separate contracts, wills, etc. But we’re talking about contracts that often run for decades during which people have life events that often they never expected. Marriage is basically a way of saving on legal costs.

    • Gbdub says:

      A quibble – it’s not that best friends can’t inherit or can’t visit in the hospital, it’s that your spouse is automatically presumed to be your next of kin, hold power of attorney, etc., and will default to those roles without any additional legal wrangling. You can certainly legally designate a friend for all of those needs, but a marriage certificate is a one-stop legal shop. And in an emergency, “let me through, I’m his wife!” Will probably open more doors than “let me in! I’m his bestie and legally appointed next of kin!”

      • Randy M says:

        “I have power of attorney” will get you through in most mid- to upper-class situations, I’d wager.

        • Garrick Williams says:

          You’re probably right, but they might expect a bit more proof of that than they would for a spouse.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Two stuff I have heard before is hospital visits (you can’t just visit friends?)

      You can visit friends. I have done so, in multiple states. Maybe there are states that are more stringent, but I doubt it. Enforcement would be too much work.

      I suspect the original issue which ultimately morphed in the popular mind into “gay people can’t visit each other at hospitals” is medical power of attorney. If a person is incapacitated and needs medical decisions made for them, things can get ugly pretty quickly among their relatives. Mom may not agree with live-in boyfriend about the proper course of action, and will take this to court. Probably will win, too. “But we’re in love!” turns out not to be much of a legal claim.

      When people are married, it can still get ugly, but there are much clearer legal defaults about who gets to make the call. But IANAL, and my lawfully wedded wife and I went ahead and drew up explicit living wills and PoA anyway.

      • Deiseach says:

        I always thought the “gay people can’t visit each other” thing was, to be frank, PR and propaganda ammunition. It wasn’t “I am not allowed to visit my lover/partner in the hospital just because we’re same-sex lovers/partners”, it was “I am not allowed the same privileges as a spouse, that is, legal next-of-kin”.

        Because of course you can visit them, just like I could visit family members or friends, but even though I’m blood-relative, my sister’s husband is her legal next of kin and his wishes over-ride mine in what should be her treatment if ever such decisions needed to be made.

        It just sounded more heart-wrenching and unfair to put it as “I can’t even visit my darling when they’re in hospital, how cruel and uncaring are you people???”

        • Jadagul says:

          I believe there were documented cases of the next-of-kin forbidding the gay lover access to the hospital room. Or the hospital staff doing it when the patient was unconscious/dying and there was no documentation (either because they hadn’t done the legal maneuvering or because they couldn’t produce the documentation in an emergency).

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not convinced it would be any different for a heterosexual couple. If there are people arguing about who gets to visit the patient, the hospital staff is going to be inclined to toss them all out until someone comes up with something official. Likewise if the patient is in bad enough shape that visitors would be getting in the way of nurses doing their job.

            I do suspect that, absent anything else, a drivers’ license with a matching surname would likely be a tiebreaker on the documentation front. But these days, that’s pretty much orthogonal to a marriage license. Does anyone know what fraction of gay/lesbian couples take matching surnames?

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes, but the “staying overnight and sleeping beside the bed’ type visits are, or were, confined to “if you’re not a spouse or parent/child, out you go”.

            That then got turned in the media (which always likes a simple, catchy ‘goodies versus baddies’ headline to hook readers/viewers) into “not allowed even visit like ordinary folks because the hospital was anti-gay!”

          • veronica d says:

            @Deiseach — Things like this were not uncommon during the worst years of the AIDS crisis: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2002-02-28/news/0202280057_1_flanigan-daniel-partner.

            But Daniel’s anxieties about a lonely and prolonged death became a reality in October 2000, when Maryland Shock Trauma Center barred Flanigan from his partner’s room because he was not “family,” according to a legal claim that Flanigan filed against the hospital yesterday.

            Because Flanigan was not present during Daniel’s final four hours of consciousness, Flanigan could not tell the doctors that his partner did not want breathing tubes or a respirator. Daniel tried to rip the tubes out of his throat until staff members restrained his arms, according to Flanigan and his attorney, David Buckel of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights group.

            Sounds pretty horrifying and traumatic to me. You might claim we queers have turned it into propaganda, but it comes from some real hard shit.

      • Julia says:

        There are cases where staff can say, “This is an emergency situation; no visitors getting in our way,” and there are cases of that being working worse for gay couples than straight ones, even with power of attorney and healthcare proxy documents in place.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/health/19well.html?_r=0

    • Anonymous says:

      which is weird because having sex or not is supposed to be entirely irrelevant to these stuff

      …maybe you’re just wrong about this. Maybe marriage is a complicated institution with many moving parts and at least one of them has something to do with sex.

  17. Tracy W says:

    private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works – ie a Patchwork/exit/Archipelago type picture

    To which my response is, so? Banning offensive ideas is generally popular, not just at universities but in society generally. Most people only start to waver on this once you point out that some people, at some times majorities, have found some of their own ideas offensive.

    From the article itself:

    If students want to learn biology and art history in an environment where they needn’t worry about being offended or raped, why shouldn’t they?

    To which my response is how can you learn art history or biology without running some risk of being offended? A lot of biology is icky, I’m not a biologist but I read Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation once. And much historical art is deeply disturbing, consider for example paintings of the Biblical story of Herod’s slaughter of the infants.

    And equating offence with actually being raped is ridiculous.

    • Irrelevant says:

      consider for example paintings of the Biblical story of Herod’s slaughter of the infants.

      That is the third time in the last day that the slaughter of the innocents has come up in conversation for me, and I never brought it up, and it was in completely unrelated contexts every time. Was there some big news thing related to the event and/or the painting that reminded people it existed, or something?

      • Tracy W says:

        Availability bias? How many historical events haven’t come up multiple times in the last day.
        I don’t recall any news stories. I was just thinking of a painting of said topic at the National Gallery Museum in London when I reached for an example of disturbing art. But that painting has been hanging there for a while.

  18. Shieldfoss says:

    private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works – ie a Patchwork/exit/Archipelago type picture. Anyone want to agree or disagree?

    Granting that college choice is a free market,* and college choice is much like car choice or laptop choice, this is still not true. I have purchased multiple products with features I didn’t like but which had the correct mix of price point + features that I did like to outweigh the negatives. E.g. my current laptop has a terrible combined audio jack** instead of separate jacks for input and output, meaning I cannot use the mike+speakers combo that are integrated in my favorite headset. I don’t want this. I don’t want this at all. But it seems to be standard for laptops these days – most replacement laptops in the same category suffer from the same problem.

    *A position I do not hold myself, but let’s run with it.

    **Combined audio jacks, for those who care: Stereo sound takes three wires – two audio channels and a common ground. A mike takes two wires – audio and common ground. The standard approach used to be two jacks, one for sound in and one for sound out. Six wires, three of which could be collaped – if you combined all of that in one jack, it would only take 4 wires (they can all share ground)

    But 4 wires is non-standard. Legacy is 2x three wires. Instead you can make a mono-sound+microphone headset that only takes three wires (sound in, sound out, common ground) which is fine for e.g. voip phone calls that do not need stereo sound so critical to the gaming experience.

    Enter the combined audio jack. Since you only need three wires to do stereo, only need 2 wires to do microphone and only need 3 wires to do mono-sound + mike, you can make do with one single 3-wire jack and support any one of those, so long as you do a little electronical magic to determine what kind of device the user has plugged in. Now you only need one, single, jack on your laptop! The singer with the studio mike, the music afficionado with the quality headset and the businessman with the monoheadset+mike combo are all supported – and better than if you had separate audio and microphone jacks, because the businessmand cannot use that. The only people who aren’t supported are gamers, but they’re all using USB headsets these days anyway, those hit the market almost ten years ago and nobody is using an old-fashioned two-jacks stereo headset any more, right?

    …right?

    So my poor use case is sitting in the snow with a fantastic stereo headset that I’ll need to ditch for a newer one if I want both stereo and microphone.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      There are cables that can split a combined audio jack into an audio and microphone jack (fair warning, the StarTech one I got is a little temperamental). There are also USB adapters to provide dual ports.

      • Garrick Williams says:

        I don’t think the splitter cable will solve the issue – there are physically not enough conductors at the laptop end to deliver 2 stereo audio channels and the microphone channel. The connector will let you use the legacy headset, but you’ll still only get mono sound.

    • Vegemeister says:

      4 wires is standard. The 4-contact 3.5 mm TRRS connector is the usual jack for cell phones and their headsets (usually stereo earbuds with an inline mic on one side). The contacts are ordered so that you still get stereo if you connect normal stereo headphones with a TRS plug.

      Your laptop seems to be using a non-standard configuration.

  19. Shenpen says:

    >private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works

    The what? This is totally not how the market works. It is perfectly possible that you hate the customer service of business A, and like the customer service of business B, and yet you buy at A because it is cheaper or has better products, and you just put up with the rude service because the whole package (products, price, service) at business A is still preferable to that of B. You will grumble and moan about the horrible customer service reps at A, but still buy there.

    For B to outcompete A, it does NOT need to improve on what you grumble and moan about at A. They are already better at that. They need to improve on what you silently enjoy at A, such as the lower price or better product. Thus a business doesn’t win competitions by working on what customers who buy at the competition grumble and moan about. They win by working on those things those customers don’t talk about, because the competition does that well and customers generally don’t talk much about being content with something, they just enjoy it.

    Please don’t tell libertarians don’t understand this!… this is Basic Businessman Sense 101.

    Thus, it is perfectly possible you go to a PC college, hate the PC-itude, grumble and moan your ass off, and yet any competing college that would advertise being non-PC would not win you over, because your PC college is better at something else, like, a higher chance at scoring a well paying job or lower tutition.

    • Randy M says:

      This is why I try to read the comments before posting. I was going to say that few probably make a decision of which university to attend based on this factor, when prestige and price are so much weightier.

  20. Charlie says:

    A newer, bigger, more rigorous study once again finds that quality of parenting has no effect on whether a child becomes a criminal.

    Insert standard gripes about this just being a bigger, better study about how quality of parenting has undetectable effect on whether a child becomes a criminal among the population of adoptees.

    Worst case, this is like looking at data from the upper and middle class and deducing that family income has no effect on malnourshment.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      This was a representative US sample (stratified random sample of schools), and the adoptees demographics were very similar to the overall sample (income, criminality, parental characteristics, race, etc.)

      The point out generalizing data on the basis of a restricted population is a good one, but it doesn’t apply here. Unless you are talking about the US vs poorer countries in which case, yes you have to be careful. The statement “family income explains a very little of malnourishment in the US” would not surprise me if it were true. It would mean that malnourishment is caused by other things like mental illness or biological factors (disease and other things). But income could be the cause of malnourishment in other populations. The same caveat could apply to criminality. But most people would be very surprised that parenting has no effect on criminality even restricted to a US sample.

      • Nita says:

        Aren’t potential adoptive parents and their homes usually checked for various things that might be bad for children?

      • Charlie says:

        I am pretty confused about how a sample so heavily selected could be representative over “parent characteristics.” Anyhow, I went looking for the paper.

        I couldn’t find the full text of the paper online, but looking at a similar paper (same authors and same dataset), I have a new list of complaints:

        n=229, near-complete reliance on self-reports from children, danger of uncorrected multiple comparisons made on this data (i.e. what if they looked at 10 things and only wrote papers on 3?), reliance on ad-hoc indices of parenting style (example: “youth were asked to report how many of ten different activities they had done with their father during the past four weeks. Items were coded dichotomously and the responses were then summed to create a paternal involvement index”).

        So at least this answers my question – they got adoptees with all sorts of paternal involvement index values et cetera, and called that a representative sample on parent characteristics. Which is fairly reasonable – it reflects a broad range of parenting styles – but I still bet they don’t have good representativeness on the “how often does your dad beat you” index.

  21. Criminal Economist says:

    Here’s a study I don’t believe at all, but can’t quite figure out how to debunk: The Lethal Effects Of Three Strikes Laws. Not only do three-strikes laws fail to decrease crime, but they “are associated with 10-12 percent more homicides in the short run and 23-29 percent in the long run”, possibly because “a few criminals, fearing the enhanced penalties, murder victims and witnesses to limit resistance and identification”. Are there really that many criminals hardened enough to consider killing witnesses an option who weren’t going to be getting these long sentences anyway? Are there really that many instances of witness-killing? Until this gets replicated, I defy the data.

    This argument has a long history: Montesquieu claimed that France had fewer robberies but more murder robberies than England since robbery was a capital crime in France but not England.

    One alternative explanation is that three-strikes states bet on harsh sentences while other states bet on more cops and community oriented policing, and the latter was more effective. From 1993-1998, non-three-strikes received an average of 7.73 per capita in federal COPS grants, while three-strikes states received an average of 5.86 (p<.07).

    • Richard says:

      I must admit that I have never actually thought about it for as much as five minutes, but in my social circle, “Three strike laws are totally insane and have massive terrible side effects” is such an ingrained meme it’s much like saying “Rain is wet”.
      Thus, my reaction to the link was: “Of course, why are anybody surprised?”

      As for hardened criminals:
      If:
      a) You put a small enough value on other people that you are willing to point a loaded gun at them to obtain money, thereby running a significant risk of killing them,
      b) there are no differences in the risk of punishment because of three strikes laws and
      c) your risk if getting caught in the first place is diminished by killing people
      then the only rational action is to kill people.
      Failure to take this into account when writing scripts is why I’m annoyed with about 99% of crime shows on TV.

      • John Schilling says:

        As has been pointed out repeatedly in recent threads, what actually matters is the certainty and swiftness of punishment, not the severity. Any plausible level of punishment for a recidivist armed robber will be sufficient if he believes that it is likely to actually happen shortly after the robbery; no punishment will deter if the robber thinks he his going to get away with it.

        And killing the witnesses, doesn’t help you get away with it. Commit robbery, there’s a 75% chance you will get away with it. Commit murder, and your odds go down to 35%. Give or take a bit because we’re dealing with a peculiar subset of murders, but murder is a noisier and messier crime than robbery and one which the police take far more seriously. The numbers just don’t support “kill the witnesses” as a generally rational choice for armed robbers, with or without three strikes laws.

        Could still be the case that criminals are prone to murderous irrationality in this particular case, but as with Scott I am skeptical.

        • Held In Escrow says:

          The question here isn’t robbery vs murder. It’s robbery with a witness vs murder. If we assume that robbery has a 75% chance of getting away with it and murder a 35% chance, then as long as robbery with a witness has <35% chance ends up being the optimal choice.

          That said, it doesn't support three strike laws being perverse incentives if we do accept that only the chance of being caught matters, but if there is a difference in the robber's mind between robbery and murder (either than they values not being a murderer slightly or that they care about the level of punishment) then three strike laws may have an effect.

          • John Schilling says:

            How do you have a robbery without a witness, except by murder? All robberies by definition start out with a witness – the victim. “Robbery”, is not a synonym for theft. Robbery is not burglary, it is not shoplifting, it is not even tunneling into Fort Knox and carting off a hundred billion dollars in gold while nobody is looking. Robbery is always and only theft by violence or explicit threat of violence. The person on the receiving end of that violence, is going to notice.

            If you commit robbery, with violence or explicit threat of violence, but leaving witnesses to tell the tale, there is about one chance in four of your getting caught. If you kill the witnesses, your odds of getting caught go up. In this study, which looks specifically at the circumstances of homicides, homicides associated with robbery other than of drugs had a 75% clearance rate. Three times as likely to get caught if you kill the witnesses than if you don’t.

            I am beginning to get the feeling that clever rationalists would make dangerously incompetent criminals, even more so than the usual sort.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I was actually mentally reading “burglary” rather than “robbery” when I wrote that post, so I’ll walk it back.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you commit burglary, at least in the US, your odds of being caught are about one in eight, and it probably doesn’t count as a “strike”[*]. Since American-style burglars tend to be careful about avoiding confrontation and violence, encouraging robbers to become burglars instead would be a positive development.

            Three-strikes laws would push in that direction, but not with optimal efficiency.. People who are after such a thing should focus on increasing the robbery clearance & conviction rates.

            [*] Depending on details of state law, and whether it would be one of the first two strikes or third-and-out.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >How do you have a robbery without a witness, except by murder?

            Lots and lots of murder.

          • John Schilling says:

            Ah. One of those plans. Dirigible in flames, everybody dead, and I’ve lost my hat.

            Losing your hat = bad plan.

            Even the Jaegermonsters think you’re killing too many people = very, very bad plan.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In this study, which looks specifically at the circumstances of homicides, homicides associated with robbery other than of drugs had a 75% clearance rate. Three times as likely to get caught if you kill the witnesses than if you don’t.

            My intuition agreed with this so strongly, that I’m looking for possible causal factors. More murders = more publicity = police try harder = more public cooperation — is too obvious. Less obvious is that going ahead with a robbery where there will be witnesses indicates a dumb robber, who will be likely to be caught for other mistakes.

          • John Schilling says:

            Police try harder = criminal more likely to get caught is the sort of thing that is obvious because it is true. The survey in question has a wealth of information on what actually affects the probability of catching a murderer, some of which probably generalizes to other sorts of crimes. Assigning at least three detectives to a case instead of the usual one, more than doubles the probability of closing the case. As do systematic investigative techniques like photographing the crime scene, immediately canvassing the area for witnesses, etc – these are probably all correlated with “assign 3+ detectives”, because that’s what the extra detectives will be good for.

            Also, recovering a bullet from the victim is good for an extra 50% chance of catching the criminal. Add in the other sorts of forensic evidence that are almost inevitable in a homicide but otherwise rare in robbery, e.g. bloodstains, and “kill the witnesses” becomes a literally messy strategy.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “Ah. One of those plans. Dirigible in flames, everybody dead, and I’ve lost my hat.”

            I Just wanted to mention how happy that reference made me!

      • Shenpen says:

        On the psychological side, being “hardened” or “rational” suggests cold premediation, while this may be more like shooting as a panic reaction esp. if the victim is not simply a witness but e.g. trying to detain the criminal.

    • Zubon says:

      I immediately thought of “Romancing the Romanceless.” The penalty for lateness is the same as the penalty for rebellion? Well then. The penalty for murder is the same as the penalty for robbery? Well then.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Los Angeles Times crime reporter Jill Leovy’s new book Ghettoside pays attention to witness murdering. She says that in her time covering the Southeast division of the LAPD (2001-2012) there were an average of 7 official witness murders per year, but a guess is about 12 murders per year there were to shut up witnesses. There is also a huge amount of non-lethal witness intimidation going on in L.A. all the way up to molotov cocktails thrown through living room windows.

      My review of Leovy’s book:

      http://takimag.com/article/wasted_advantages_steve_sailer#axzz3SF25Ivtn

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Brown’s Chicken Massacre, 1993, Illinois: two stickup men robbed a fast food joint and murdered all seven employees. They got away with it for 9 years until an ex-girlfriend ratted them out:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown%27s_Chicken_massacre

      • John Schilling says:

        Obviously, killing all the witnesses is insufficient – you also have to kill all the ex-girlfriends. The “ex” part should make that particularly appealing, no?

        Yes, yes, this is turning into one of those plans. Bad plan.

      • Irrelevant says:

        “Brown’s Chicken Massacre” has to be in the top five for gap between gravity of crime and gravity of name given to the crime.

  22. Levi Aul says:

    Regarding obesity–IQ correlation: sounds like some sort of developmental imbalance between dopamine and adrenaline. If all your dopamine is getting immediately converted into adrenaline, that’ll look like ADHD (showing up as reduced IQ until you medicate for it) + Cushing’s (showing up as metabolic syndrome if you don’t know what you’re looking at.)

    Really, whatever the underlying mechanism is, a neuroendocrine explanation would make sense—generally, the set of chemicals that prompt natal neurogenesis (and cause developmental neural tube defects if underproduced) are the same set of chemicals that act to sharpen and focus the mind, increase metabolism, and decrease hunger; and the set of chemicals that act to dull and relax the mind (and cause developmental neural tube defects if overproduced), also decrease metabolism and increase hunger. So any explanation you’d care to dream up in this class (boosted developmental GABA lowering IQ, natal tyrosine deficiency, mother overproducing prolactin, etc.) tends to work out. It’s a mystery which explanation of the class is most likely, but I’d say it’s very probably one of them.

  23. James Picone says:

    Some of the people who made the original Zoombinis educational game are kickstarting a modern remake: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zoombinisgame/zoombinis

  24. Sniffnoy says:

    Regarding the heliocentrism link: Thony C over at The Renaissance Mathematicus has written a lot on this topic. Recently he’s started writing brief summaries of various aspects under the matter filed under “The transition to heliocentricity: The rough guides”, though this series isn’t quite complete yet, but regardless there’s a lot in the archives. It’s really just generally good blog for those interested in the history of science and mathematics. (I notice poster “economy” over on LW also mentioned this.)

    Two points Thony C has talked about that weren’t mentioned in the linked discussion, and one caveat:

    1. These days we separate the different proposed models into geocentric/heliocentric, thinking of Kepler’s theory as a refinement of Galileo’s; but at the time all the different theories were just seen as competing with each other — different heliocentric systems weren’t considered just variants of heliocentrism. It was basically Kepler’s theory that got people to switch to heliocentrism.

    2. (Taken from this post) One of Tycho Brahe’s arguments putting the Earth at the center in his sytem actually rested on (what we now call) the Copernican Principle! Wait, what? How is that possible? Well, it’s the stellar parallax problem that’s already been mentioned — if the Earth were moving, we ought to observe stellar parallax. But this can still be explained under heliocentrism if the stars are just really really far away, which is in fact the correct explanation. But this then poses another problem. Say we can come up with a lower bound for just how far away they must be. Then we can use the visual sizes of stars together with our distance lower bound to come up with a lower bound for how large the stars must be. And what we find under this assumption is that they are not merely huge, but, far larger even then the sun. All of them, every one! Which seems ridiculous — the universe contains countless enormous stars, and one tiny in comparison sun? Hence, geocentrism.

    The mistake in the above argument is that the visual sizes of stars is junk data; the stars are so far away as to best be treated as point sources of light, and any apparent size they have is due to other effects.

    3. One thing that bugs me about Thony C: He likes to point out repeatedly that the Church didn’t ban discussion of the heliocentric hypothesis, they just banned stating that it was actually true. This did allow for plenty of discussion of it to continue, just with lots of disclaimers. Still, I’d say this still a pretty bad thing to do.

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) If you know it’s actually true but you ban saying it’s true anyway, that’s bad.

      (2) If you don’t know it’s true (sure, it’s a very convincing model, but X, Y and Z also have very convincing models too!) and banning saying it’s true helps keep the peace (or you think it may do), then that’s still bad but not as bad as option 1.

      Look at the discussio on here about IQ, genetics and race/gender, and how the question was raised and not settled about “suppose there really is a racial difference in IQ, such that unbiased and accurate scientific methodology shows on average black people score10-15 points lower than white people, should this be made widely known?” Because that would easily be turned into “Science proves blacks are inferior! Naturally stupider than whites! Slavery was not that bad after all!”

      Now, map that onto the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, where the Reformers were already claiming the Catholic Church was un-Biblical and corrupt. “See? They deny the plain word of Scripture! Elevating that whore, Reason, above the Word of God!”

      (I’m possibly being unfair to Martin Luther here, but since I don’t like Luther, that does not bother me as much as it should).

      I have to laugh when I see earnest calls in the Western media from various pundits about “Islam needs to undergo its Reformation”. What do they think the ultra-conservative Wahhabist movement was and is about? Iconoclasm, purging the veneration of saints, returning to the unadultured and unmediated pure word of revelation, turning away from a worldly church that was too relaxed and easy-going about secularism, too comfortable with being part of the world – that was the historic Reformation. I think those calling for “Islam needs a Reformation” would have their eyes opened by living in, say, Calvin’s Geneva and the struggle as to which power would govern – the Consistory or the Council.

      Islam is having its own Reformation right now; the People of the Book are the ones demanding a return to the pure, unmediated plain doctrine.

      • Islam needs a counter-counter-counter-counter-reformation. Judaism and Christianity needed several cycles of individual fanaticism and authoritarianism to get something reasonable. I don’t see how Islam can take a short cut.

        • Deiseach says:

          My amusement is mainly because the modern pop-culture notion of the Reformation seems to be that of “primacy of conscience and modern liberalism versus crazed mediaeval religious fanaticism”, when at the time the accusation against the Church by the reformers was that it wasn’t religiously fanatical enough 🙂

      • Shenpen says:

        It wasn’t banned. Galileo was told “Nice hypothesis, until you bring evidence, don’t teach it as a truth, teach it as a hypothesis, and work on it on the meantime, collect evidence!” which is EXACTLY what a modern university would tell a lecturer to do, except the Church basically considered the whole society their classroom.

        Source: Koestler: The Sleepwalkers

        I don’t know what happened after Galileo, but he was such a gigantic dishonest asshole (same source) that I think he managed to piss off the papacy enough to ban it.

      • Lemminkainen says:

        You’re actually being unfair to both the Protestant and Islamic reformations here, and being unfair to Martin Luther in particular.

        Many Protestant reformers were not insane iconoclasts who wanted to impose crazy fanatical religious rules on everybody. When Luther heard that some of his followers were smashing up churches, he basically told them “stop being dicks you guys, images in churches are harmless,” and sanctioned a lot of other aspects of everyday worship. He also encouraged people to stop worrying so much about sin, abandon asceticism and enjoy getting married, having sex, drinking beer, and eating meat during Lent. So, viewing his version of the Reformation as liberalizing and liberating is quite reasonable. There certainly were Reformers who took a different perspective, but it’s wrong to conflate Luther and Calvin.

        Similarly, the Wahabbis had a liberal parallel– the 19th century Egyptian Salafi movement led by Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Ridda, who wanted to create a pared-down, science-compliant, modernity-minded Islamic jurisprudence. Of course, their descendants are easy to ignore because they mostly became boring secularists.

        tl;dr: Religious efforts to “return to roots” are complicated, and get used for lots of different sorts of aims. It’s useful to keep that in mind before lionizing or demonizing them.

    • Troy says:

      Some other notes on the heliocentrism link:

      The author is certainly right that the cartoon history is over-simplified. I agree that Galileo made some bad arguments, and that this was not fundamentally a science-vs.-religion conflict. And as a Catholic myself, I’m not just out to make the Church look bad here! But there are many advantages to the Copernican system the author does not mention.

      (1) Copernicanism got rid of the equant and eccentric, and so in those terms made for a simpler system than Ptolemy’s. Copernicanism made the sun a uniform center of circular motion, whereas Ptolemy’s system made the heavenly bodies move in circular motion relative to the eccentric, and uniform motion relative to the equant.

      (2) The geocentrist model was based on an Aristotelian metaphysics according to which the sphere of the heavens is unblemished, eternal, and unchanging, and thus fundamentally different from the sphere of the earth. Galileo and Kepler showed this to be false, e.g., by finding craters on the moon and a “new star” (supernova, in fact) through telescopes. If Aristotle was thus wrong about the heavenly objects, this ought to cast doubt on his explanation of gravity, which treats heavenly objects (made of “ether”) as different from earthly objects (made of the four elements).

      (3) One Occam’s razor-style of argument for geocentrism was that it required only one center of motion, the Earth. (This was false advertising to begin with, because as noted above, the Earth was not actually the center of motion, and motion was not circular and uniform relative to the same point.) Galileo’s discovery of moons orbiting Jupiter undermined this argument.

      (4) Galileo also discovered with his telescope that Venus had phases. This was predicted by the Copernican view and contradicted the Ptolemaic view.

      (5) On the stellar parallax: Sniffnoy is right to bring up the apparent sizes of stars as a problem for the (correct) response to the lack of an observed parallax, namely that the stars are really far away. However, Galileo also put a dent in this problem with his telescope. In particular, he showed that the apparent sizes of stars in a telescope hardly changed at all even as their relative distances increased. This lent credence to the claim that the apparent sizes of the stars was, as Sniffnoy says, “junk data” — there’s some kind of optical illusion going on.*

      (6) By the time Kepler came along, geocentrism did not have a leg to stand on, in my view. Kepler’s system, on which the planets moved in ellipses with the sun at one focus of the ellipse, was both much more empirically accurate than either Copernicus’ or Ptolemy’s (or Brahe’s, for that matter) and vastly simpler, as it entirely eliminated the need for epicycles.

      ____
      * The illusion is this. The stars appear larger than geometrical calculation would suggest because our eyes cannot resolve images smaller than the diameter of our pupils: so that stars’ images are blurred out and they look bigger than they are. (This is the same reason that what looks like one star to the naked eye turned out to be two when looked at through Galileo’s telescope – a point that some of his opponents used to claim that the telescope was unreliable when pointed at the heavens.) This explanation was unavailable to Galileo, though, because the science of optics was not yet sufficiently developed.

      • Deiseach says:

        Michael Flynn has an entertaining, if long, series that takes a gallop through the whole affair from the competing theories down to “why pissing off your friends and allies is a bad idea when you’re in politics” (Galileo was not simply a pure research scientist, he was also a courtier working for a powerful secular ruler and so caught up in the same kind of politicking, need to puff your accomplishments to make yourself look like a desirable hire, and PR opportunities for Da Boss as any modern needing to write up a grant application – after all, why do you think he wanted to call them the Medicean stars?

        In 1605, Galileo had been employed as a mathematics tutor for Cosimo de’ Medici. In 1609, Cosimo became Grand Duke Cosimo II of Tuscany. Galileo, seeking patronage from his now-wealthy former student and his powerful family, used the discovery of Jupiter’s moons to gain it. On February 13, 1610, Galileo wrote to the Grand Duke’s secretary… Galileo asked whether he should name the moons the “Cosmian Stars”, after Cosimo alone, or the “Medician Stars”, which would honor all four brothers in the Medici clan. The secretary replied that the latter name would be best.

        On March 12, 1610, Galileo wrote his dedicatory letter to the Duke of Tuscany, and the next day sent a copy to the Grand Duke, hoping to obtain the Grand Duke’s support as quickly as possible. On March 19, he sent the telescope he had used to first view Jupiter’s moons to the Grand Duke, along with an official copy of Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger) that, following the secretary’s advice, named the four moons the Medician Stars.

        Though I must admit, it takes talent to get on the outs with both the Dominicans and the Jesuits at the same time 🙂

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Everything Thonyc says is technically true, but an awful lot of it is extremely misleading. Yes, there were lots of systems, not just two. Actually, that was one of my points: both Galileo and Riccioli do a lousy job of separating the arguments about the rotation of the Earth from those about the revolution of the Earth vs Sun. By moving the goalposts back and forth between those hypotheses, you can make either of them look bad. But they weren’t careful about this because they believed that the important division was geocentric vs heliocentric, and so did all of their contemporaries.

      For a hundred years after Copernicus, his theory was called the Aristarchan hypothesis, despite no one knowing anything about Aristarchus’s precise hypothesis other than that it was heliocentric. We think of Kepler’s theory as a refinement of Copernicus because Kepler called it “the Epitome of Copernican Astronomy.” (I think “epitome” means something different in modern English than in Latin, but no matter.)

  25. DrBeat says:

    A newer, bigger, more rigorous study once again finds that quality of parenting has no effect on whether a child becomes a criminal.

    Given all the other things that you have shown have unexpected effects on development including criminality, am I the only one who finds it implausibly odd that quality of parenting is, like, the only thing that does not affect a child’s odds of becoming a criminal? This doesn’t seem like a position that can exist in the same universe where the place your birthday falls in the year affects your odds of becoming a criminal, and the commonality of your name affects your odds of becoming a criminal.

    • Richard says:

      Testable hypothesis:
      Everything reduces to IQ.
      Predictions:
      Smart parents have jobs and have children 9 months after vacations, dumb parents do not have jobs and have children whenever. -> children born in April/May and September have lower odds of being criminal.
      Names like Chester Eugene appended by roman numerals means your parents are probably rich which also means they are probably smart. Common names do not -> people with common names are more criminal.
      Adopted people are largely born either dumb or smart -> parenting has no visible effect on odds of being a criminal.

      This is just from the top of my head and I have no idea whether these are the actual correlations. If it’s the opposite, I’ll have to think again 🙂

      • DrBeat says:

        Those aren’t the correlations. People with common names are LESS criminal, not more; “Dave” is less likely to be a criminal than “Chester Eugene Probincrux IV” (controlling for income). And there are no spikes of time in which people born at a given point are less likely to be criminals; the earlier in the school year you are born (and thus the older you are within the 1-year span of kids that fall into a given grade) makes you more successful and less likely to be a criminal.

        • Richard says:

          That makes my hypothesis obviously false then.

          The question I tried to answer was “how can it be that a lot of factors influence crime, but parenting does not?”

          If there are known causal effects that explains things (birthday -> maturity -> success -> lower crime), we can’t really include them in our paradox.

          Also, I’m not sure correcting for wealth works when my proposed explanation was based entirely on wealth, but I concede that we need another explanation for the paradox than IQ.

      • Randy M says:

        People with jobs have been known to have sex on non-vaccation days.
        Unless you mean you mean only the people smart enough to have jobs keeping them flying around the world 24/7? But that’s gotta be an unrepresentatively small cohort.

        • Irrelevant says:

          He guessed wrong, the actual reason is that you want to be born exactly on the cutoff day for your school so that you’re (on average) half a year older than everyone else in your class and therefore have an advantage in brain development that boosts your grades and makes you more likely to make it through school to a good outcome.

          That said, checking common birthdays vs. holidays is informative. On my mother’s side of the family, where almost everyone is a school teacher of some sort, 5 out of 8 birthdays are in the week that corresponds with Spring Break.

          • Anonymous says:

            Except that studies also find the opposite:
            When a group of economists followed Norwegian children born between 1962 and 1988, until the youngest turned eighteen, in 2006, they found that, at age eighteen, children who started school a year later had I.Q. scores that were significantly lower than their younger counterparts. Their earnings also suffered: through age thirty, men who started school later earned less. A separate study, of the entire Swedish population born between 1935 and 1984, came to a similar conclusion: in the course of the life of a typical Swede, starting school later translated to reduced over-all earnings. In a 2008 study at Harvard University, researchers found that, within the U.S., increased rates of redshirting were leading to equally worrisome patterns. The delayed age of entry, the authors argued, resulted in academic stagnation: it decreased completion rates for both high-school and college students, increased the gender gap in graduation rates (men fell behind women), and intensified socioeconomic differences.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It’s not that studies “also” find the opposite; in the long term, they only find the opposite. People actually do learn something in school. It’s not pure signalling.

    • Tracy W says:

      Arguably, there’s an evolutionary pressure to not be affected by your parents’ parenting, controlling for genes. Obviously you get your genes from your parents. But you’ll be living in a different world to your parents, eg, one of your parents may have married into your tribe/village. Your father might have been the biggest strongest kid of his generation and could solve problems with his fists but if you tried that the bigger boy would have stomped you. Your genetic interests might differ from your parents, eg they might want you to not marry and instead look after your younger siblings.

      So, much better to learn to adapt as best you can to whatever culture you find yourself in. And the genes for that adaptability would get passed on. While anything that you could benefit from picking up from your parents could get coded into the genes directly.

      • Irrelevant says:

        I can’t buy that, because the argument from evolutionary pressure would apply just as well if the finding had been the reverse.

        To me, it makes more sense to argue the precise opposite: this is an issue that evolution was never given a choice in. In the history of man, periods where survival was a distant enough concern that parents reliably had the ability to give intensive, formative education to their children have been sufficiently rare that evolution could not possibly address the eventuality. So we’re just issued similar variants of the cognitive processes to what our parents had, because the fact we were born proves those variants must meet at least the baseline criteria for survival.

        Personality appears optimized for variability at the population level because there was no environmental opportunity for optimization for variability at the individual level to occur.

        • Tracy W says:

          the argument from evolutionary pressure would apply just as well if the finding had been reversed

          I don’t follow. Surely if the evidence was that parental upbringing had a big effect on criminal outcomes, independently of genes, then that would undermine the arguments I listed? The contrary finding would definitely lower my Bayesian-assessment of the probability that the arguments were correct.

          In the history of man, periods where survival was a distant enough concern that parents reliably had the ability to give intensive, formative education to their children have been sufficiently rare that evolution could not possibly address the eventuality. So we’re just issued similar variants of the cognitive processes to what our parents had, because the fact we were born proves those variants must meet at least the baseline criteria for survival.

          Sounds quite plausible too. Any idea on what observations could distinguish between the two types?

          My one thought, and perhaps I’m misunderstanding your argument, is the observation of accents. Our native languages and our accents within that langauge are entirely culturally acquired in the typical case. But the neurotypical children of immigrants pick up the accents of their peers, not their parents and not a mixture of the two. Even in situations where they spend more time each day with their parents than with their peers, eg when they go to playgroup for three hours a day. If we were just issued similar variants of the cognitive processes that our parents had, wouldn’t we normally pick up a mixture of the accents we hear?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Surely if the evidence was that parental upbringing had a big effect on criminal outcomes, independently of genes, then that would undermine the arguments I listed?

            It would change the specific arguments you listed, but it wouldn’t change the one-size-fits-all explanation that it happened “because of evolutionary pressure.” If the study had found that who raised you had a huge influence on whether you became a criminal, it would be precisely as (in)valid for you to say that we evolved to absorb the attitudes of the most apparently successful authority in our lives because this is evolutionarily advantageous if it was being raised by criminals that caused crime, or if it turned out that lackadaisical parenting did it that we form our views of larger society’s rule-strength based on the rules in the family, or etc. The reasoning can vary to match any circumstance, so we can’t use it to increase our certainty that the result we’re seeing is sensible.

            In other words, I’m very distrustful of post hoc evolutionary explanations. A good evolutionary explanation can’t just figure out why something might be selected for, it has to also consider what options are being selected from.

          • Tracy W says:

            It would change the specific arguments you listed, but it wouldn’t change the one-size-fits-all explanation that it happened “because of evolutionary pressure.”

            Well no, it wouldn’t, as that wasn’t the level that I was arguing at. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the commentators here would all agree that evolution does happen, and the question was really about how could evolution have resulted in this outcome of parenting not mattering. If you have doubts about whether evolution does happen, well, I recently was inspired by a visit to Darwin’s family home to read his Origin of the Species and it’s a surprisingly easy read, and still struck me as very convincing today. Also, I’m sure other commentators here are much better informed than me and could recommend other evidence on this question.

            If the study had found that who raised you had a huge influence on whether you became a criminal, it would be precisely as (in)valid for you to say that we evolved to absorb the attitudes of the most apparently successful authority in our lives because this is evolutionarily advantageous

            The obvious objection to this hypothesis is that many people are exposed to multiple apparently successful authorities in our growing up. My parents are not Hollywood stars, or US Presidents, or famous scientists, to use some examples of apparently successful authorities in my lives growing up. And of course, for most people, their father was not the chieftain of the local village/tribe.

            The reasoning can vary to match any circumstance, so we can’t use it to increase our certainty that the result we’re seeing is sensible.

            Hmm, no, I think life is more complicated than that. There are always multiple hypotheses to explain observations. If you see odd data, one possibility is that there’s a reporting error. The more unlikely the data, the more plausible the reporting error. So one’s belief in the accuracy of the data depends on one’s knowledge of other potential circumstances. If you see a set of people’s heights in cms that go 162.4, 156.5 , 173.2, 1662, the very high figure is more likely to be just a misplaced decimal point than if that same data set was referring to annual income in $000.

            In other words, I’m very distrustful of post hoc evolutionary explanations.

            A very wise stance indeed, even for those of us who do find evolution a compelling theory. I did not intend to express my explanations as the one right answer, just a plausible hypothesis, that’s why I introduced it with the word “arguably”. I should have made that clearer, I erred too much on the side of brevity there.

        • Anonymous says:

          >Arguably, there’s an evolutionary pressure to not be affected by your parents’ parenting, controlling for genes.

          Could you please explain the reasoning for this? I can’t come up with anything.

          • John Schilling says:

            A highly successful genome “wants” to be successful even when instantiated in a child whose mother happens to be killed by a rival and is subsequently raised in a half-hearted and abusive manner by a Wicked Stepmother(tm).

          • Tracy W says:

            Sure. You’ll be living in a different world to your parents, eg, one of your parents may have married into your tribe/village. Your father might have been the biggest strongest kid of his generation and could solve problems with his fists but if you tried that the bigger boy would have stomped you. Your genetic interests might differ from your parents, eg they might want you to not marry and instead look after your younger siblings.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or maybe we just dont have the right instruments to measure parenting. A lot of suboptimal parenting I’ve seen couldn’t possibly have been detected by questionnaires.

      I’d be interested in a John Gottman style analysis of parent/child interaction (coding the emotional components of videotaped interviews.) If that didn’t show up as influencing life outcomes I might consider the idea that parenting makes no difference. But for now I feel safe dismissing it as obviously silly.

  26. Sniffnoy says:

    By the way, your link to the pink/blue study currently goes through Google; would you mind fixing it to go directly to the study? Thank you!

    (This happens in general if you try to copy link URLs on links from Google; it’s really annoying…)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes, copying links from google sometimes does this. But this example has an additional problem that it is a download link. Following the link (in either firefox or chrome) leaves an empty tab with the google URL. It’s not obvious how to get the real link (answer: go to downloads page).

  27. Sniffnoy says:

    Regarding zoning — Scott, I know you’ve said you’re moving to Ann Arbor next year; if so, well, you can vote for the Mixed-Use Party for city council, which is exactly what it sounds like.

    Unrelatedly, interesting blog post on zoning in Japan.

  28. Jared says:

    Regarding the inequality graphs, I am quite suspicious of the fact that percentiles between 90 and 99 are completely omitted.

    This suggests that the 90<=percentile<99 range is more similar to the top 1% than the bottom 90%, but that they only showed the top 1% because it is better demagoguery to blame all social ills on the Jewsthe 1%, not the top 10%. Certainly we can strongly expect that the graphs don’t look so nice if you compare the bottom 99% to the top 1% as people are wont to do. (Well, at least my strong default assumption is that oddly missing data in political arguments cuts against the point that the writer is making.)

    • g says:

      Changes for bottom 90%, next 5%, next 4%, next 0.5%, top 0.5%, annualized:

      1917 to 1985: +1.5%, +1.7%, +1.5%, +1.1%, +0.2%.

      1985 to 2012: -0.1%, +0.6%, +1.1%, +1.7%, +2.9%.

      (Break at 1985 chosen by eye as the nearest round number to where the character of the graphs seems to change.) So it looks to me as if in the earlier period there’s a gradual-ish falloff of gains with wealth, but with an extra-big decrease between the top 0.5% and the next 0.5%; and in the later there’s a gradual-ish increase of gains with wealth, but with an extra-big increase between the top 0.5% and the next 0.5%.

      So I think there are two kinda-opposite problems with the original graph. Firstly, by picking just two categories it doesn’t (can’t) show the continuous variation between them. Secondly, if anything it underestimates how small the minority is whose fortunes are conspicuously different.

  29. suntzuanime says:

    The Slate article’s argument about the free market in speech restrictions only works if you worship the free market and think it can do no wrong. Few students are going to compare colleges’ attitudes toward freedom of speech before deciding to attend – they’re going to be thinking about more salient issues. You may as well argue that people knowingly agree to the terms of a EULA, and the fact that they click “I Accept” proves that the market wants to sign away its firstborn son to Google. Only persuasive to the caricature of a libertarian the author has in his head.

    This article strikes me as a bad troll, honestly. “Students today are more like children than adults and need protection” is a little too on the nose as a subtitle for the article and I can’t imagine the line “if students want to learn biology and art history in an environment where they needn’t worry about being offended or raped, why shouldn’t they” being written in good faith.

    • Anonymous says:

      1) College ISN’T a free market. Colleges have all sorts of regulations to abide by. They also answer to more than students (in fact, I’d say students aren’t the most important factor for college behavior). You allow students to host anything vaguely reminiscent of [what’s generally considered “improper” for that setting, e.g. non-mainstream gender/race/religion views] and see how fast you get ripped apart in media. You might even face legal action.

      2) College is becoming daycare and adults are being infantilized. In turn, these adults act more immature. If you treat people as though they’d drool on their shirts if not for you, they end up conforming to that. I understand the common saw of “brains aren’t fully developed until 24-25!” but come on. Treat people like adults and maybe — just maybe — they’ll act like that. Treat people like you’re running a sleepaway camp and don’t be surprised when they behave as though they’re just entering puberty.
      I wish I could better express my disgust at the blurring of child and adult at this extension of “teenage” into one’s early 20s but I can’t quite put it to words.

      3) Erosion of due process: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/protesting-due-process/article/2560306. Ties in with my point (1).

      • Cadie says:

        Most people aren’t fully physically developed into their late teens or even early 20s, too, but that doesn’t mean the average 16-year-old can’t do routine adult work like pushing a lawn mower or stocking product on shelves. “Not optimal” does not always mean “inadequate” and college-age students are capable of normal adult reasoning, even if their ability is not going to be fully optimal for another few years on average and they’d be disadvantaged in advanced areas that require reasoning way beyond what the typical older adult would be dealing with.

    • Tracy W says:

      The Slate article’s argument about the free market in speech restrictions only works if you worship the free market and think it can do no wrong.

      Or not even then. The most fervent worshipper of the free market presumably notices that very often people want to regulate said markets, and yet, even so, think that said regulatory arguments are wrong.

      (Or, at least if they don’t notice any such regulatory desires, why would they bother expressing their admiration of free markets?)

    • stillnotking says:

      The entire point of sacralizing freedom of speech is that markets intrinsically fail to provide it. There’s a reason the First Amendment isn’t “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the sale of goods for money.”

      Give people total leeway to pass whatever speech laws they want, and they will quickly prohibit the expression of ideas they dislike, because there is so little market incentive for defending unpopular views. This has been proven so many times that it hardly bears mention, except to children and the authors of trollish Slate articles.

      • Tracy W says:

        I think you’re talking about governments here, not markets. Markets have historically routed around censorship to at least some extent (eg under-the-counter pornography).

  30. Anonymous says:

    Scott: I’m mildly surprised you didn’t like to TLP in regards to the adjunct professors article. Shades of Hipsters on Food Stamps.

  31. lmm says:

    The trolling arts have really declined of late. None of those comments attracted truly amusing flames; more just a tired “no, you idiot”. Poe’s law in effect I guess.

    I did lol at his defence of ball pits though.

  32. Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

    Tangentially related to the misrepresenting the Crusades link, your sphere of influence keeps growing.

  33. wow that is a lot of links


    A newer, bigger, more rigorous study once again finds that quality of parenting has no effect on whether a child becomes a criminal.

    At this point I only really pay attention to results in economics when they go against the bias I expect the writer to have. In that spirit, here’s a study by Alex Tabarrok finding that increasing regulation is not to blame for the decline in American entrepreneurship.

    Even though I lean libertarian/republican, I find myself agreeing with these items. Knowing that parenting has less of an impact on development could lead to more effective solutions for dealing with the persistent socioeconomic problems that plague society. I’m not saying the ‘state solution’ is always better than parenting, but some should not be so quick to dismiss it.

    Also agree with Alex about entrepreneurship. Obamacare didn’t help, but the problem runs deeper in that small business sucks due to high costs, high failure rate, lack of pricing power vs. larger companies, fickle consumer tastes, and difficulty borrowing money at good rates. Bigger is better, and it’s much easier to make money in stocks, coding, and real estate than starting a doomed-to-fail brick and mortar business.

    • Deiseach says:

      Just for pig-iron, has anyone got any opinions on the “you shouldn’t smack your child” campaigns in the face of ‘parenting has little to no effect on how kids turn out’ studies?

      Afterall, if the most liberal and up-to-date parents can produce kids who end up as drug dealers, murderers or presidents of investment banks, and parents who are blind drunk on strip-and-go-naked seven days a week can produce pillars of the community, is a smack on the behind really that big a dealll?

      • Irrelevant says:

        It reaffirms my ambivalence.

        When it comes to violent punishment and children, the area that interests me is when it’s peer-delivered. From working with youth groups and summer camps, I have a distinct but obviously anecdotal impression that there is an optimal number of serious fights to get into growing up, and it’s somewhere between 1 and 3. More than that and you’re showing some obviously bad tendencies, but boys who get in zero seem to never internalize the idea that other humans are in fact independent actors who can’t be endlessly provoked without consequence.

      • Anonymous says:

        If parenting has little to no effect on how kids turn out, then you have no reason not to be maximally effusive and lenient with them. Kindness won’t cause them to suffer later in life.

        If parenting has little to no effect on how kids turn out, then hitting them won’t change anything for the better and is simply abuse. Pain won’t help them improve.

        • Jaskologist says:

          If abuse doesn’t really harm them, is it really abuse?

          Giving the little miscreant a whack could be very cathartic for the frustrated parent. If it has no effect on the kid, then that’s a net gain of utils!

          • Anon says:

            You misunderstand. No long-term effects does not mean no effects. If you punch me, I’ll probably forget by next year, but, you know, don’t punch me.

            Even young children should have moral weight.

          • Randy M says:

            But at the same time, no long term effects also doesn’t mean no short or medium term effects, that is, there may be improvements in the child’s behavior before adulthood, such as not lying, stealing, being violent, etc.

            I’m not going to say smacking them around is worth it if it will make the parents feel better, but that, if judicious punishment improves childhood behavior without effecting adult behavior, that could still be a net positive, not withstanding the resentment or pain it causes.

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            By that reasoning I get to cut people with knives, since ten years down the road the influence of the pain and injury will be undetectable.

            (Pain and suffering felt now is worth paying attention to.)

          • Randy M says:

            Personally I would be open to exploring corporal punishment as an alternative to prison.

            What exactly is the upside you are expecting to get from cutting people with knives? I don’t see one other than your own perverse enjoyment, which I have no reason to indulge.

          • grendelkhan says:

            If abuse doesn’t really harm them, is it really abuse?

            That’s a coherent position to take, but are you really okay with the places it takes you?

          • Held In Escrow says:

            The freaking Rind study; it’s been a while, but I recall that being used as a horror story about controlling narratives. Want to say that there are different levels of abuse and that if you were ever abused then you’re a broken, damaged individual? Congress will condemn you for it!

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            What exactly is the upside you are expecting to get from cutting people with knives?

            See here:

            Giving the little miscreant a whack could be very cathartic for the frustrated parent. If it has no effect on the kid, then that’s a net gain of utils!

            Replace “cathartic” with any gain in utility (be it perverse enjoyment, stress relieve, practice at cutting so that I can be better at cutting in general for self defense), and the argument remains the same.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            But at the same time, no long term effects also doesn’t mean no short or medium term effects, that is, there may be improvements in the child’s behavior before adulthood, such as not lying, stealing, being violent, etc.

            Otoh, suppose that the childhood teaching of moral behavior would normally have produced a more moral adult. And suppose that violence toward the child would tend to produce a criminal adult. So if you’re teaching by violence, those two factors might cancel out.

          • Randy M says:

            We were already operating under the supposition that parenting styles, including spanking, basically have no effect on the children. If you are supposing that away, and supposing different things, the conclusion will change, of course.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, but part of the anti-smacking campaigns are “if you beat your children, you are raising them to be violent” and the criminality/parenting studies seem to say “Ah, no, you’re not. You can tuck them up in bed at night and read them Dr Seuss or you can let them sleep in the ashes with the mice running over their feet and it all shakes out to be the same” 🙂

          • Mary says:

            The possibility that more troublesome children, who refuse to respond to gentler punishments, are more likely to be violent also is seldom brought up.

        • Imaginative argument, but for me this view conflates too many things.

          1. “Parenting makes no difference” = *on these outcomes we couldn’t rule out the null hypothesis on parenting style* and further it’s probably quite untrue that it simply doesn’t matter how much a parent tries/cares to have a well-behaved kid w/ preparation for a lucrative career.

          2. Stipulate that nonetheless outcomes are the same; experiences and feelings matter too. Do we want to create miserable+productive people or do we sacrifice some productivity where it makes sense?

          3. 95% of parents* are engaging in what they judge is Pareto-optimal parenting along their expedient vs. investing preference. So you don’t learn much except that parents somehow pick from a variety of strategies to good effect on their particular child. Demon-parents probably matter a great deal; they’re just rare. [* not counting absent parents]

        • Tracy W says:

          The results under discussion are how parenting affects or doesn’t affect children’s outcomes later in life. That’s quite separate as to whether parenting affects children’s behaviour right here and now. I know there are certain practical advantages to having kids who do what I tell them to do.

          Although I don’t smack. Certainty and swiftness seems to be the most important bit of discipline, not the actual punishment. Currently with my kids putting whatever toy the kid was playing with in time-out for a few minutes is remarkably effective though I suspect that won’t last.

  34. Scott H. says:

    Speaking of vaccinations…

    My kids are vaccinated. I’m vaccinated. However, I am reluctant to call for government force to be utilized on anti-vax families. However, I come up against the argument “yes, but with active disease carriers the odds of mutation evolving a vaccine resistant virus increase, thus increasing the risk for us all.” Any retorts out there?

    • Anon says:

      You appear to be looking for excuses not to change your opinion. That’s… bad. Don’t do that.

    • Randy M says:

      I would retort, by how much?
      “The odds might change” is a very weak argument without quantification.

    • Jaskologist says:

      AIDS is like an anti-vaccine for all diseases. Do they believe that everybody with AIDS should be forcibly quarantined?

      (Actually, just guessing at tribes, you probably don’t even have to go to that level. How did they feel about forcibly quarantining that nurse who was exposed to Ebola, back before we knew if she had it? Odds of her being infected were almost certainly higher than the odds of a measles mutation that imperils the rest of us.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Quarantining the nurse IMO was heavily influenced by the media and public opinion. The only remotely troubling aspect of the ebola “scare” was how some people reacted.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s the trivial utilitarian argument: the government should intervene where the risk is great enough to outweigh the tyranny.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I am reluctant to call for government force to be utilized on anti-vax families.

      There are different degrees of government force. Excluding the non-vaxxed kids from school or recreation; same, plus active nagging; both those, plus a fine?

      I always like technological solutions: make a vaccine that can go into the public water supply, along with the floride. (I don’t approve of floridation where it is still upsetting people, but vaccination against contagious disease seems important enough to justify some tyranny.)

  35. BD Sixsmith says:

    The appropriate analogy to me seems to be “Down with ISIS” : “Christians do bad stuff too” :: “Black lives matter!” : “All lives matter!”.

    The word “so” is under-utilised in Western culture. People often make statements under the impression, or to give the impression, that their implications are obvious and others are liable to be accept without ever quite understanding them merely because they sound impressive. A simple “so” is a concise demand for elaboration.

  36. haishan says:

    I’d be interested in reading a Shaliziesque takedown of the “heritability of income” results. More on the “reverse any advice you hear” principle than because I’m as skeptical as Shalizi, but that’s probably an even better reason.

    One criticism even an idiot like me can think up: There are genetic determinants of income and wealth that are decidedly not personality or cognitive ability; the super-obvious one is height.

    A lot of people would argue that race is another, but I don’t want to start the one millionth argument about race and IQ on this blog. So, let’s turn to the Sneetches. Say that star-bellied Sneetches have essentially the same distribution of personality traits, IQ, etc., as plain-bellied Sneetches, but the plain-bellied Sneetches have much lower incomes due to discrimination. Assume also that star-belliedness is both genetically determined and highly heritable. How would this state of affairs affect estimates of the heritability of income in Sneetches? I’m not good enough at statistical genetics to figure this out for myself.

    • Scott H. says:

      So your point is that just being Chinese (for example) is a good genetic determinate of higher income, and statistics bear this out. What other racial characteristic(s) beyond personality and intelligence would you look for?

      • haishan says:

        Eh, my point was “Assume racial discrimination exists. Would this affect estimates of heritability, or interpretations thereof?” Because Cosma seems to suggest that it would, but I’m bad at statistics and Cosma could Euler me without batting an eye. But I figured that talking explicitly about race would lead to terrible discussions we’ve all had a zillion times without anyone changing their mind, so I edited.

        • JK says:

          If we assume that discrimination affects some outcome and that the amount of discrimination encountered varies between persons, then the heritability of that outcome will go down by the amount that the discrimination contributes to individual differences in the outcome.

          However, I don’t see how this applies to racial differences in America, because when you adjust for IQ and other such attributes, whites generally earn less than non-whites, especially blacks and especially among those with above average (>100) IQs. (Unless you’re thinking about affirmative action and other such schemes.)

          • haishan says:

            First thought: AUGH NO BAD JK THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I WANTED. THERE ARE 10^30 PLACES TO TALK ABOUT THE OBJECT-LEVEL QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE AND IQ, WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER ONE

            Second thought: So, okay, I get that actual heritability of income would go down in Sneetchworld, because it’s being affected by environment. (Or I suppose between gene-environment interactions, if you like.) But how would the estimates of heritability be affected? Pairs of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, and pairs of siblings, are much more likely to be both starred or both unstarred than random pairs of members of the population. I don’t understand the math well enough to say what that means for calculating and interpreting heritability based on twin/sibling studies.

        • I don’t see why fraternal vs paternal twins would face different racial discrimination. So no, the 60% heritability of male income has nothing to do with that.

          • eanrx says:

            If racial discrimination is influenced by heritable aspects of appearance like skin color, then identical twins will tend to face more similar racial discrimination (because of more similar skin color, etc.).

    • Irrelevant says:

      There are genetic determinants of income and wealth that are decidedly not personality or cognitive ability; the super-obvious one is height.

      Height and beauty (which I’ll lump up as physical attractiveness here) get complicated in this, because they appear to interact with the equation in at least three ways.

      Firstly, the smart and successful people have been using that success to score hot people for so long that the genes for physical attractiveness are now genuinely but seemingly artificially correlated with the genes for intelligence and success.*

      Secondly, a lot of the problems that can mess up your mind mess up your body as well, so there is also a natural correlation of the same when you’re looking at the low end of the distribution.

      Thirdly, height and beauty influence how peers treat you, which appears to feed back into how you behave, so we also end up with a correlation between physical attractiveness and personality. For height in particular, average-height men who were taller than their peers during puberty still reap lifelong benefits, either due to learned dominant attitudes or because there’s some weird link between personality type and when your growth spurt hits.

      So while physical attractiveness is a significant determinant of success, it’s a determinant for reasons that are surprisingly difficult to extricate from personality and cognitive ability.

      *What this works out to is a strong family-level correlation that doesn’t translate to the individual level. i.e. you should expect a family with three 6’+ sons to be intelligent, you should not expect their 6’5″ son to be smarter than their 6’1″ son. The pattern is similar for beauty.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Race is not a confounder to twin studies like this.

      Taller people make more money because they are smarter.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is this true? I know there’s some correlation between height and intelligence (nutrition, mutational load, etc.), but I always thought the relationship between height and career success persisted even when you adjust for these things.

        • Although taller people might not live longer after a certain point (more chance for cancer, mass vs. cross sectional area, etc.) it’s certainly true that taller people are smarter on average (though not dramatically), and it’s certainly what’s least surprising, given sexual preference for taller men. I think there’s a similar correlation between physical attractiveness and intelligence.

          WP quote: ” common genetic factors influence variation in both height and intelligence, and are responsible for some of the effect,[22] or that both height and intelligence may be affected by adverse early environmental exposures. Two large recent twin pair studies of the height-intelligence relationship showed that both shared environment (59% in both studies) and shared genetics (35% in one study and 31% in the other) are responsible for significant portions of the observed correlation between intelligence and height.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Even if cause_of_height and cause_of_iq were completely unrelated, I’d STILL expect iq to correlate (albeit weakly) with height (even when controlled for age) for a bunch of really weak reasons that I’m just going to poorly explain because I’m tired:

            my immediate thought was, “well there are WAAAY more medical conditions that leave you small and dumb than there are that make you big and dumb”

            others
            taller people maybe got more nutrition.
            taller people might have more HGH which improves sleep and health. getting adequate sleep is vital to intellgience.
            maybe taller people are more confident so they perform intelligence better.
            maybe “growth of the body” is similar to “growth of the brain” and share some mediating processes.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          People almost never control for IQ on any topic. Can you find a paper on height that does? Added: this paper claims that more than half of the height premium is due to IQ; and that the residual, while positive, is not statistical significant.

          Height and IQ are correlated. They are not correlated “because of mutational load,” because that doesn’t mean anything. People run into trouble all the time because they reify mutational load, so don’t. It’s just a bunch of variants of small effects. The fact that both are affected by many genes suggests that many genes affect both. No more, no less. Mutational load is evidence for this, but plays no causal role.

          • haishan says:

            Huh, interesting paper. I’m not totally convinced with just one study, but it makes a pretty compelling case that, indeed, there’s no advantage conferred by height after intelligence is controlled for.

    • Brett says:

      OK, here’s our toy Sneetch model:

      Assume that star-belliedness is a dominant, perfectly heritable trait caused by a single gene. Inidividuals with ‘ss’ (homozygous negative) are plain-bellied, while individuals with ‘sS’ (heterozygotes) or ‘SS’ (homozygous positive) are star-bellied.

      First off, what’s the heritability of star-belliedness in this model? Well, the broad-sense heritability, H^2, is the ratio of the genetic variance to the total variance, and since there’s no non-genetic variance, this is clearly 1. The narrow-sense heritability, h^2 (which is generally more useful because it describes the trait’s response to selection) is the ratio of the additive genetic variance to the total variance. It’s also not 1, because some of the genetic variance in the population is not additive. I won’t go through the mathematics in detail, but the narrow-sense heritability can vary anywhere from 0 to 1, depending on the prevalence of the positive star allele. (E.g., if the star allele is very uncommon, then adding an additional positive allele will very likely turn someone from a plain-bellied to a star-bellied sneetch, so the effects are almost completely additive. If the allele is already very common, it will almost always have no effect, so the effects are not additive at all. Hence the wide range of values.) But if we pin down the prevalence of star-bellied sneetches we can fix the narrow-sense heritability. Let’s suppose that half the sneetches are star-bellied, in which case the narrow-sense heritability is about 82%, which seems high enough for our purposes.

      Lets move on to the income model. Suppose we have an underlying variable called income-havingness that is normally distributed with mean 0 and standard deviation 1 for both star- and plain-bellied sneetches. The true narrow-sense heritability of this trait we’ll call h^2_i. However, we can’t actually measure the underlying income-havingness of an individual, we can only measure income. In general, income-havingness is closely related to income, except that plain-bellied sneetches lose some constant amount of income d (measured in standard deviation of income units) due to discrimination. Or in other words, their income distribution is downward shifted relative to their income-havingness curve.

      There’s a couple of ways to estimate narrow-sense heritability that don’t require extensive selection and breeding experiments (which we’ll assume are out of bounds for sneetches as well as for humans). The classic way is by comparison of close relatives, in which case h^2 = t^2 / r, where t^2 is the correlation between the relatives and r is the relatedness coefficient. This is very often done with offspring vs. mid-parent average, in which case the correlation is exactly the narrow-sense heritability. You can also do full-sib, twin, and more extensive studies to get at this. Let’s just do an offspring vs. mid-parent regression.

      Recall that we assumed earlier that half of our sneetches are star-bellied (equivalent to 29% prevalence of the starred allele). So, assuming random mating, a quarter of matings will be between plain-bellied sneetches, and all of their offspring will also be plain-bellied. So both parents and children will be equally discriminated against, and our regression if we only look at this population will have a correlation h^2_i, exactly correct for the underlying trait. If the trait isn’t (additively) genetic at all, then there will be no correlation between the parents and the children at all.

      But what happens in the population as a whole? Well, I couldn’t work out a closed-form solution to this. So I ran some simulations instead to look at midparent-offspring regressions under this discrimination regime (see my notebook at http://nbviewer.ipython.org/github/caethan/sneetches/blob/master/sneetch_model.ipynb). And yes, this kind of discrimination can show up as spuriously high heritabilities of income-havingness. For example, I set up the simulation with a h^2_i = 0.0 and d = 2.0 (no income heritability, and strong discrimination) and we get out a spurious heritability of income of 28%. But this is dependent on very strong discrimination – if we cut d to 0.5, we end up with a sprurious correlation of only 2%.

      • haishan says:

        I’m not supposed to be commenting and I sort of don’t expect that you’ll see this but just in case: this is awesome, thanks

  37. Alex R says:

    On the topic of Mozi, I’m reminded of a historical fiction manga called Bokko (link).

  38. JayMan says:

    Scott,

    One of these days you should really sit down and read my blog from cover to cover. There’s lots of good stuff in there, trust me. Because:

    Everybody knows that gender stereotypes are so fluid and socially constructed that people used to associate pink with boys and blue with girls, right? According to a more recent paper, this is “a scientific urban legend”, and when you do a systematic search of old books, blue and pink always had their current gender associations (news article, study). I find the paper’s claim that maybe these links are genetically based to be extremely bizarre and hard to swallow

    Why? Especially when you consider that All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable.

    But sure, add that to the pile of examples demonstrating that culture doesn’t change as much as you (generic “you”) think, as I’ve said elsewhere.

    The Promises And Pitfalls Of Genoeconomics. Most interesting result: male income appears to be heritable at a level of 0.6 or so (female income slightly lower). This isn’t just boring old “if your parents are rich you’ll be rich”, this is pure genetic “based on the difference between monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins” heritability. Applying this result to your favorite economic argument is full of potential pitfalls I should probably write a full post on sometime.

    There’s a meta-analysis of the heritability of lifetime income from across many different countries linked both on my HBD Fundamentals page as well as in my post The Son Becomes the Father (not hotlinking for spam filter purposes). In short, high heritability, especially when long time periods are observed (which smooth out year-to-year fluctuations). As well, the shared environment component is zero. The studies in question cover several Western countries, but similar results have been found in Japan as well.

    Extreme Obesity In Children Tied To Low IQ, independent of obvious genetic diseases. At least three possible interpretations. Number one, low IQ kids have poor impulse control/understanding of consequences so they have poorer health. Number two, bad diet impedes brain development. Number three, there are non-obvious genetic diseases which affect both metabolism and IQ; this would work especially well in the context of a mutational load argument.

    Yup, all this was covered in my post Obesity and IQ | JayMan’s Blog. We can safely scratch one of those off the list: diet -> brain development: low IQ in childhood is predictive of later life obesity, as observed in several longitudinal studies. The most likely explanation is a set of common genetic factors.

    Relevant to my interests: how a bunch of different measures of different kinds of intelligence relate to college majors.

    Razib Khan demonstrated this graphically, which was discussed in the aforementioned post The Son Becomes the Father.

    The pattern of low spatial ability, but not low mathematic ability per se of those in the social sciences is interesting, I must say, though.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Why [do you find genetic explanations of color-gender bizarre]? Especially when you consider that All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable.”

      Because, as many commenters have pointed out here, different cultures have different gender-color connections.

      And no, you’re not going to convince me that ethnic groups experienced genetic selection for one gender-color connection over another in the recent past.

      There’s no particular reason to think gender-color connections are genetic any more than Christmas = red and green vs. Hanukkah = blue and white is genetic. It doesn’t fall in the range of things which I expect to be genetic.

      • JayMan says:

        Scott.

        1. All human behavioral traits are heritable.
        2. There are no two genetically identical individuals on the planet.
        3. Just the same, there are no two genetically identical groups on the planet (unless you took one group and randomly divided them into two or more groups).

        Hence, from these facts, it follows genetic differences could be involved in all human differences we see, the exception being rapid secular changes in the same group (as these are too quick for genetic differences to accrue).

        It’s generally bad business to rule out genes being involved in a human behavioral trait. Indeed, as the First Law establishes, in fact erroneous.

        Because, as many commenters have pointed out here, different cultures have different gender-color connections.

        And no, you’re not going to convince me that ethnic groups experienced genetic selection for one gender-color connection over another in the recent past.

        Heritable ≠ selected for – a very important fact to be clear on.

        There’s no particular reason to think gender-color connections are genetic any more than Christmas = red and green vs. Hanukkah = blue and white is genetic. It doesn’t fall in the range of things which I expect to be genetic.

        For one, see above. Second, good thing I’m out there. 🙂

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Heritable /= selected for, but if you find that groups which have only been distinct for a couple thousand years have very different traits, then a change in the trait was probably selected for by one or the other group, because otherwise it wouldn’t have changed so quickly from their common ancestor.

          • JayMan says:

            Heritable /= selected for, but if you find that groups which have only been distinct for a couple thousand years have very different traits, then a change in the trait was probably selected for by one or the other group, because otherwise it wouldn’t have changed so quickly from their common ancestor.

            (As an aside, do you know about the breeder’s equation? You seem to have an odd idea of the pace of evolution).

            My answer is no, that’s not correct. A genotypic difference between two groups doesn’t mean the difference you see was specifically selected for. It could be a side effect of something else that was selected for, or differential response to a new environment – differences that may be due to drift. Group-level differences in obesity rates fall into this category. The French or East Asians weren’t selected for thinness relative to the English or the Germans.

            I will add that to say that group differences must be due to selection is almost as silly as saying individual differences must be due to selection.

        • 27chaos says:

          This is a really biased comment. You’ve moved from arguing that genes are probably behind it to arguing that genes shouldn’t be automatically ruled out as a possibility.

      • Anonymous says:

        >And no, you’re not going to convince me that ethnic groups experienced genetic selection for one gender-color connection over another in the recent past.

        When I boot up my Universe Simulation, the first thing I’m going to do is breed humans to prefer certain colors. Just to see if it can be done (I think it could be).

  39. Mary says:

    ” private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works – ie a Patchwork/exit/Archipelago type picture. Anyone want to agree or disagree?”

    First, crack down the false advertising.

    FIRE, for instance, holds only public universities to the First Amendment standard. All other colleges get rated according to the standards they profess. But they are continually giving private colleges horribly ratings because they are not adhering to their standards.

    If the students like colleges that ban offensive ideas so much, why aren’t they bragging of their speech codes?

    • stillnotking says:

      I’ve seen a fair number of colleges bragging about their speech codes, using typical “think of the children” one-sided logic, of course. Religious colleges in particular do this all the time.

    • Anonymous says:

      You might find FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to be interesting: http://www.thefire.org/

      • Mary says:

        You mean the FIRE I cited in my comment?

        • Randy M says:

          I assume he didn’t want to make a risky prediction there.

        • Anonymous says:

          I promise I read your comment in full, and understood it… but I can’t explain what I did. All I can think of is I skipped the acronym because it was at the beginning of a new line, so I parsed it as belonging to the group of “IMO”, “OTOH”, … and so on.

    • suntzuanime says:

      So long as we’re being radical free-market cultists, surely the fact that organizations like FIRE exist proves that there’s no need to crack down on false advertising?

  40. weareastrangemonkey says:

    The crusades comment was very appropriate and on point. Part of the reaction to the killings was to scream fury about the dangers of Islam as a belief system. It was important to point out that there aren’t great reasons for thinking the (minority in the USA) Islamic belief system is particularly bad relative to the majority belief system.

    • Jaskologist says:

      If you have to reach back hundreds of years ago to another land to find your example, that tends to demonstrate just the opposite.

    • Irrelevant says:

      No. Hackneyed moral equivalence and partisan sniping are never “important”, “appropriate”, or “on point”, and his comments were an extreme form of moral cowardice besides, as they invoked false self-abasement at the sins of the long-dead as a shield against self-examination in the present.

      If the president wishes to bring moral nuance into the war on terror, he should talk about the crushing curtain of fear that our invisible death-dealing robots have brought down on innocent Pakistanis. That would be important, appropriate, and on point.

      • weareastrangemonkey says:

        I don’t really see how it was partisan sniping. Or an attempt to draw moral equivalence. It is an attempt to distance Islam as a belief system practiced by the majority of Muslims from the acts of terror committed by the terrorists. This is partly to forestall and undermine justifications for the persecution of muslims. It also helps make the terrorists illegitimate as representatives of Islam. It signals to the majority of muslims in America that the President is on their side against those who would persecute them unjustly. Because whether they are rightly afraid or not, they are afraid.

        Both of these things are good things to do because we have a much better chance to make muslims more moderate than we do of (non-violently) reducing the number of muslims. Anti-Islamic rhetoric might (I doubt it though) decrease the number of muslims but it will certainly be at the cost of making muslims more extreme in their beliefs.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Seen on twitter:

          Dear media,
          When Obama last referred to “terrorists” and “hostage takers”, was he referring to?:
          1) The GOP
          2) ISIS

          Which do you think was undermined more: this person’s belief that Muslims are inclined towards violence, or his belief that the President does not take the threat seriously, and so other measures will be necessary?

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            That person? I have no idea. I don’t think Obama’s comments were aimed at extremists – they were aimed at marginals.

            He is trying to do several things simultaneously: condemn the attacks, reassure people that he will act to deal with the problem, reassure American muslims that they are not going to be persecuted, try to urge the American public not to see muslims as some special evil group, and a whole bunch of other stuff. The speech actually seemed to do a reasonable job of balancing these various demands. The only way I can imagine someone finding it inflammatory was if a) they were already strongly prejudiced against Obama; b) they believed Islam to be a special kind of evil; c) they were a certain kind of blinkered Christian; or d) they really don’t like brown people.

          • Matthew says:

            The “hostage takers” context is obvious, but please show me where Obama ever referred to the GOP as “terrorists.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            I do not think he has ever used the actual word “terrorists” wrt Republicans. On the other hand, one of his advisors did call them “people with a bomb strapped to their chest,” and Democratic congressmen have used the actual word (albeit behind closed doors). But the original statement is indeed technically incorrect, the best kind of incorrect.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Here, I’ll let Max Fisher voxsplain:

          Obama is faltering. He has veered so far into downplaying Islamist extremism that he appears at times to refuse to acknowledge its existence at all, or has referred to it as violent extremism. While he has correctly identified economic and political factors that give rise to extremism, he has appeared to downplay or outright deny an awkward but important fact: religion plays an important role as well.

          This is backfiring. Obama’s conspicuous and often awkward attempts to sidestep the role of religion in Islamist extremism end up only drawing more attention to it.

          (There’s a bonus bit in the article, too: ‘To be fair to the Obama administration, the idea that ISIS and al-Qaeda are totally divorced from “real” Islam is one that the media — including me — have furthered as well.’ A writer for a site which claims to exist for explanatory journalism just admitted that he withholds information that makes Islam look bad. If you want honesty, look to whoever he has called an “Islamaphobe” instead.)

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I think you’re being unfair. I don’t think anyone’s denying that Muslim terrorists suck, they’re trying to navigate the difficult tightrope of admitting that without smearing the much larger number of decent law-abiding Muslims.

            I don’t think our current political vocabulary really allows a concept like “This religion certainly seems to cause more than its share of terrorism, but still most of the people in it are totally okay.”

            I think the structure of the problem is we have this idea that stereotypes are evil (which is completely unprincipled and based on defining any non-evil thing as “not a stereotype”), but stereotypes are okay if they’re based on something inherent to a philosophy. For example, it’s okay to stereotype all Klansmen as evil for lynching, but not okay to stereotype all Jews as evil for whatever the latest thing the IDF did is, because supporting the philosophies that led to the IDF isn’t inherent to being a Jew, but supporting the philosophies that led to lynching is inherent in being a Klansman.

            I think this is a terrible bandaid solution because this idea of “is inherent to” doesn’t really work.

            But if that’s the solution you’re going with, then it becomes really important whether the sorts of things that make terrorists do terrorism are “inherent to Islam”, whatever that means. And the only route available to Obama and other people who don’t want it to be okay to blame all Muslims for al-Qaeda have is to say “There is nothing at all inherent to Islam about this terrorism, it’s completely random, they’re misunderstanding Islam, Islam just says be a nice person.”

            Which isn’t quite right, but the mistake was so many missteps ago that it’s the best he can do in his situation.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I don’t think our current political vocabulary really allows a concept like “This religion certainly seems to cause more than its share of terrorism, but still most of the people in it are totally okay.”

            Surely it would be easier to navigate that problem by reminding people of the numerous Muslim countries we’ve had absolutely no need or desire to bomb. Though that actually gets into its own whole mess where we commonly use “Muslim countries” as a category that omits the countries containing the majority of the world’s Muslims, preferring to use it as more-or-less-synonymous with “terrorist-breeding failed state.”

            I mean, “we are at war with 5% of Islam” isn’t a great talking point either, but it’s a couple steps up from the current contortionism.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If Islam leads to terrorism, I desire to believe that Islam leads to terrorism.

            I especially desire for our leaders to believe it, because it matters to how they act.

            I agree that the current American political vocabulary lacks the terms to handle this properly, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. 9/11 was over 13 years ago. I can remember claims that “Islam is a religion of peace” ringing hollow even back then, and the fallout from the Arab Spring and just about everything else since then hasn’t buttressed the claim any. There has been more than enough time for our leaders to adapt to reality.

            When our leaders only repeat all the louder that the Islamic State and similar groups have nothing to do with Islam, they’re inflating a bubble that will be all the uglier when it pops.

        • Irrelevant says:

          I don’t really see… The only way I can imagine…

          That’s a personal problem then. It was a speech given by a man with far more innocent blood on his hands than most crusaders, that served only to distract us from the actual moral questions of the war on terror.

    • Randy M says:

      Other than perhaps empiricism and theory.

      • weareastrangemonkey says:

        Terrorism, massacres, genocides and invasions have been justified in the names of all kinds of belief systems. If we thought “doing nasty shit” was determined by a whole load of characteristics of a society I doubt there is a very large true causal effect of “religion based on the Qu’ran” would have a big effect; or “religion based on the New Testament”.

        Above I said ‘true causal effect’ and I think that is being too strong even. I don’t think you are even going to get a decent partial correlation between “doing nasty shit” and “religion based on the Qu’ran” so long as we use a decent enough chunk of history. And it is important to go back because it is the effect of “the Qu’ran” that matters not just how people right now in some places are practicing their particular religion.

    • Jos says:

      Back in the 1980s, the Economist argued that Islam was then where Christianity was 500 years ago, and that if we wait long enough, there’s hope that Islam will one day evolve in the same direction Xianity has.

      If *that* was Obama’s point, then it would have been helpful to say it. But it sounded more like “You (or possibly we) Sky Fairy worshipers need to shut up about the need to stop massacres of christians around the world for the crime of being christian (or insufficiently muslim). You (or possibly we) don’t have any ground to get up on a high horse and demand that those killings stop, because Crusades. Now shut up and let me (or possibly Richard Dawkins, or maybe no one) do whatever.”

      • Jaskologist says:

        It’s a common argument, but still a dumb one, being an especially degraded form of Whig history. Do we also believe that Christianity now is where Hinduism was ~2000 years ago?

        Still would have been better than the actual argument attempted, though.

        • Jos says:

          I tried to capture the ambiguity with “long enough” and “there’s hope” – not that liberalization of Islam is inevitable or predictable, but that history implies that it’s a possibility.

        • Anonymous says:

          Intuitively, the comparison of Islam to Christianity strikes me as much more valid than the comparison of Christianity to Hinduism. In religion-space, distance(islam, christianity) << distance(christianity, hinduism).

          • Protagoras says:

            Not in all respects. For Islam, one god means one god, no fussing around. On the other hand, Christianity has their 3=1 in god matters, and Hinduism has the same attitude that normal rules don’t apply when counting and individuating gods.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why not compare to Judaism, then? Is Christianity where Judaism was 1500 years ago? Can we expect Christians to evolve into Hasids eventually, followed some 500 years later by Hasidic Muslims?

      • Mary says:

        “the Economist argued that Islam was then where Christianity was 500 years ago”

        More than 500 years ago, Christians were ferociously defending rape victims from pagan critics on the grounds that they can’t have done wrong when they did not choose to. Has Islam gotten to that point?

      • weareastrangemonkey says:

        I think the idea that the US government is not going to do anything about terrorism is risible. They have been waging war on Islamic terror for quite a while now and there is no sign of abatement. To read his comments the way that you describe seems very uncharitable.

        • Jiro says:

          The US government is not a unit. It certainly suggests that Obama is reluctant to do things about terrorism, even if that suggestion is accompanied by the understanding that Obama only has influence in the government and not complete control.

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear it over the sound of all the drones.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m sorry you didn’t understand it. My point is that “we all know the US government will keep doing things about terrorism” does not at all contradict “Obama doesn’t want to do things about terrorism”. Obama is a part of the government, but he’s not the whole government.

            And no, drones don’t contradict that either. There are two likely possibilities:

            1) Obama finds it in his best interest to publically “support” any specific anti-terrorism measures taken by the government regardless of whether he really opposes them. He’s certainly not going to say “I hate drones” and throw the rest of the administration under the bus.

            2) Obama supports a subset of anti-terrorism measures; for instance, he supports fighting ISIS specifically (and therefore using drones against them), but not fighting all groups that most Americans would consider Middle Eastern terrorists.

        • Jos says:

          @weareastrangemonkey – Thanks – I appreciate your viewpoint, but I still don’t get it.

          What do you think was the point of telling a bunch of people not to get on their “high horse” about people massacring minorities because of their religion or burning captives alive in cages, or throwing homesexuals off rooftops to their deaths?

          Surely the charitable intepretation can’t be that Obama thought his audience did not believe that Christians were capable of sin and thought he might profitably educate them.

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            I really think that its so straightforward that I find it hard to explain further than I have. I can obviously not prove the effect of what Obama actually said. Nor can I say how other people interpreted it.

            I find it very difficult to interpret as anything other than a fairly bland and (classical) liberal statement about how all people of faith need to band together in dealing with this and that we shouldn’t allow this stuff to divide people along the lines of faith than it already has. Part of doing this was asking people to keep in mind that the histories of most people’s faiths are not whiter than white – so don’t think there is something innately bad about Islam. This seems very reasonable to me.

            People getting offended by this seem at least as unreasonable and reactionary as people getting offended by the shirts of rocket scientists. I think it is largely false outrage used for political and partisan ends. If its genuine outrage then I think whoever is displaying it has a very distorted perception of what is important.

            The idea that this comment got the media coverage and amount of discussion that it got is ridiculous. It was a waste of people’s time and cognitive faculties as there is a lot of important stuff to get one’s head around. Oh wait.. what am I doing… just feeding into the damn cycle of chatting about bullshit. Right sorry to waste your time. This is not important so rather than talking about it not being important I just shouldn’t talk about it.

          • Jos says:

            Thanks – In what way do you think Obama intended his warning that his audience should not get on a high horse? Do you think he thought the crusades were awesome, or maybe that they hadn’t heard of the Crusades? Don’t I get to be on a high horse when I opine that tossing gay people off a roof and burning prisoners alive is wrong and should stop, and if I don’t, what would a low horse look like?

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m going to take the risk of sounding like a Crusades apologist here; part of the popular notion of the Crusades is crazed religious bigot Westerners/greedy land and gold grabbing Westerners heading out to the Middle East to attack peaceful Muslims in their native lands.

      Except the Crusades were supposed to be heading off to, er, Jerusalem. Where the local Muslim rulers were not peacefully abiding in their native lands, but had taken advantage of (amongst other things) the collapse of Israel after the Jewish-Roman Wars, the Diaspora, the creation of Syria-Palaestina, the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the annexation of the province to the Caliphate, and the rise of the Umayyad dynasty with their roots there, with the wave of continuing expansion and conquest outwards.

      So really we’re still arguing Tweedledum and Tweedledee, or, Who Started It?

      • Nita says:

        OK, so they didn’t do it out of greed, they did it for religious reasons (according to the article Scott linked). Hey, that makes the analogy between Christians back then and Muslims now even better!

        Secondly, you’re saying our holy wars were justified because Muslims started it. And militant Muslims think their current holy wars are justified because Westernern Christians / Americans started it. Hmm, another similarity.

        And thirdly, not all Crusades went to Jerusalem.

    • weareastrangemonkey says:

      Just listen to what he said:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFNDIl42E20

      You have to work really hard to find this to be partisan or unfair or critical of religion. The whole point of the speech was to try and claim that the sinful acts done in the name of religion are done falsely in the name of religion. That we should not ‘other’ muslims or different religions as it is a characteristic common to all faiths. It is not inappropriate to say that we should try to work together towards fighting this ‘sinful’ tendency in humans to harm others just because of their religions or ethnicities in response to an attack on people for their religions and ethnicities.

      • Jiro says:

        Bringing up the Crusades was egregiously bad because ISIS itself refers to the Crusades as justification for its actions.

        When you’re talking about the Nazis, you do *not* say that Jews have hurt some Germans too.

        • weareastrangemonkey says:

          Are you really saying that ISIS are to Christians as Nazis are to Jews!?

          Jesus!

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, there are some differences. The Nazis made some attempt to keep the Final Solution under wraps. ISIS uses beheading in its promotional videos.

            You could also put the Yazidis in the place of the Jews if you want.

      • Randy M says:

        “t is not inappropriate to say that we should try to work together towards fighting this ‘sinful’ tendency in humans to harm others”

        No, but it is amusingly wishful thinking.

  41. Troy says:

    On private colleges banning offensive ideas: I, for one, would prefer that colleges that wished to enforce politically correct norms would require students and professors to sign explicit “statements of faith” to this extent. A large part of the problem is that at present it’s not clear what is and what isn’t off-limits. If I want a job at a Christian school, I’ll go to one that doesn’t make me sign a statement of faith I can’t in good conscience sign. If I want a job at a secular school, it’s a lot harder to tell how open I will be to express socially or politically heterodox ideas there.

    • Deiseach says:

      That’s easy, Troy; what’s off-limits is what all right-thinking people instinctively know to be off-limits, because it’s not simply an opposing opinion that can be argued out to be proven wrong, it’s EVIL.

      (Definitions of EVIL dependent on politics, religion or lack thereof, race, age, gender, sex, and what way the wind was blowing on Thursday 26th February three years ago.)

      • Taradino C. says:

        Three years ago, February 26th was a Sunday. I can only imagine the implications this has for the concept of evil.

  42. 27chaos says:

    I am now terrified of groups of small thoughtful committed citizens.

  43. Quite Likely says:

    Hmm, I think I have to take issue with your description of Obama’s “Crusades” comments. The point was to tamp down anti-Muslim sentiments, by pointing out that this sort of religious violence is not unique to Islam, and thus all Muslims should not be judged on the basis of it happening.

    • Randy M says:

      Which is still ridiculous. This kind of frontlash always occurs from our media and government, despite the lack of backlash after the attacks. It is insulting and more importantly obscures the real problem.

    • Jos says:

      Assuming you’re right, isn’t that a stupid plan?

      How many people are going to think “Hey, I was planning on oppressing a Muslim, but now that I think about it, the Crusades were bad, so I won’t.” The only ways I can explain it are (1) Obama is stupid or (2) he’s intentionally trolling Red Tribers.

      I can think of several better ways to make the point.

      • Nita says:

        I can think of several better ways to make the point.

        Ooh, this sounds interesting. Share?

        • Gbdub says:

          “Part of what makes our country so much better than the shitholes where Islamic theocracies behead people is our religious tolerance. Most Muslims in America practice their faith peacefully, they are your fellow Americans. We should all, Muslim, Christian, and otherwise, partner together to condemn violence and religious discrimination. Also, I’m going to arrange for these ISIS dickwads to meet their collective Maker in an expedited fashion. May God, Allah, The FSM, etc forever bless America”

        • Jos says:

          Well, I’m not a speech-writer, but I would start with something like this.

          1) Congratulate people for doing what you want: “It’s a testament to the wisdom of our founders that we can live side by side, and can find common ground in our country with men and women of different faiths, and or no religious faith.”

          2) One of the greatest threats throughout history is the people who use religion for evil, and we have a responsibility to each other and to the Creator to stand against people who would do their neighbors harm in His name. I call on all of us to pray for the victims of the perversely named Islamic State, which preys on Muslims and non-Muslims alike in its monstrous ideology, and to take action to assist our brothers and sisters in rejecting a group that burns people alive, stones fellow muslims, etc. all in the the Creator’s name.

          3) (Go back to how awesome it is that everyone who is at the prayer breakfast is not murdering each other).

          • Nita says:

            Hey, that’s pretty good. You’ll have to tone down the “Creator” talk, though, or atheists will get mad.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The speech in question was at a prayer breakfast, so atheists are already going to be unhappy.

      • Limimi says:

        I had a big reply all written up, but my net dropped out and it is gone. So I apologise if this seems terse, I am summarising :

        The speech wasn’t directed at people looking forward to spending a day harassing Muslims. It’s for the normal people, who see nonstop news coverage of terrible Islam and start looking askance at their neighbours and being suspicious of their co-workers. He could have worded it better in theory, although given how often the red tribe flies off the handle over some nothing statement he or his administration makes, it hardly matters. Honestly, this administration has done some truly unconscionable things during their time in office, but all we ever really hear about is this trivial ‘h-how dare Obama sort of half accuse some islamophobes of living in glass houses?!’ stuff. Maybe this is just my paranoia, but it all seems like misdirection to me.

  44. John Schilling says:

    Lunar “property rights” are rather overstated here, though the body of the article is closer to the truth than the headline.

    Property rights in outer space, including the lunar surface, work the same way that property rights on the high seas have traditionally worked. You can’t own a plot of the ocean; nobody can. You can’t own a school of fish. You can own a fishing boat. If you do, you also own the fish in your nets. And if someone else operates their boat close enough to foul your nets, they are committing a crime (or at least a tort, depending on level of malice I believe). It’s just that the crime they are committing is not “trespass” or “theft”.

    The FAA is already obligated under international law to deny licenses to anyone who is planning to operate a spaceship so as to foul someone’s nets, figuratively speaking. They are now making it official that they will check on this before issuing the license rather than waiting for people to complain after the fact – and telling anyone who is planning to spread their nets in one place for any length of time to please let them know about it so they can put that in their list of things to check other peoples’ license requests against.

    This is the right thing to do right now, should be uncontroversial to anyone except a few Saganite ideologues, and barely merits comparison to “property rights”. If and when the Moon becomes actually crowded, having priority in the FAA’s don’t-interfere-with-what-these-guys-are-doing-over-here list will start to look more like actual property rights, people will probably start selling such positions in secondary markets, and this will (hopefully in an orderly fashion) be turned into a formal property law regime. Just as, eventually, the high seas turned into Exclusive Economic Zones and fishing-rights auctions or lotteries.

    Probably going to be a while before we need Lunar EEZs.

  45. Troy says:

    The First Things article makes some good points about bad history of the Crusades, but he does not do himself any favors with his argument against Christian pacifism, which was quite unnecessary and seemed to be largely signaling:

    One of the most profound misconceptions about the Crusades is that they represented a perversion of a religion whose founder preached meekness, love of enemies, and nonresistance. Riley-Smith reminds his reader that on the matter of violence Christ was not as clear as pacifists like to think. …

    … Several centuries later, St. Augustine articulated a Christian approach to just war, one in which legitimate authorities could use violence to halt or avert a greater evil. … As Riley-Smith notes, the concept that violence is intrinsically evil belongs solely to the modern world. It is not Christian.

    The suggestion that there’s no ancient precedent for interpreting Jesus as a pacifist is absurd. Augustine was one of the very first Christian authors to not teach Christian pacifism. For example, Lactancius wrote:

    When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits the violence that is condemned by public laws, but he also forbids the violence that is deemed lawful by men. Thus it is not lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself. Nor is it [lawful] to accuse anyone of a capital offense. It makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or by the sword. It is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited. Therefore, regarding this precept of God there should be no exception at all. Rather it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred creature.

    It’s difficult to know what non-literate Christians thought, but it is reasonably clear that for the first three centuries of Christianity the Christian intelligentsia were pacifists. There are multiple examples of early Christian authors explicitly teaching pacifism, and of Christian martyrs laying down their lives because of their opposition to violence (e.g., St. Marcellus).

    What Jesus’s moral teachings were can be debated upon by reasonable people, and the New Testament passages the author brings up are ones the pacifist needs to address. But I’m inclined to think that the earliest Christians’ beliefs about Jesus’ teachings bear significant evidential weight for what he actually taught.

    • pxib says:

      He also brings up that old favorite of militarist Christians, Luke 22:36 – Sell your cloak and buy a sword. A quick analysis of the context shows that Jesus is recommending that they buy swords in order to appear to be thugs and rebels, so that he will fulfill messianic prophecy.

      One of the disciples mentions that the group already has two swords, and Jesus says, “That’s enough.”

      Lest anybody think the rebel costumes are anything but playacting: (Luke 22:49-51 NIV)
      When Jesus’ followers saw [that he was about to be arrested], they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

      But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

      Matthew’s version adds the famous:
      “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (26:52)

      Either “sell your cloak and buy a sword” is meant as a general call to war, or “draw your sword and die by the sword” is meant as a specific warning to protect individuals as one particular moment. Both cannot be simultaneously true.

      • Irrelevant says:

        Some people don’t consider the promise of “death by the sword” a particularly strong discouragement.

      • Jaskologist says:

        “Those without swords can still die upon them” -Eowyn of Rohan

        • Susebron says:

          Surprisingly enough, Eowyn of Rohan is not in fact Jesus. As such, I’m unsure how relevant she is to Jesus’s views on violence.

  46. Ilverin says:

    No thanks on Noah Smith, I’m sure if he has valuable insights I can find them recycled by someone else (he has a questionable character):

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/11/hanson-loves-moose-caca.html

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I have mixed feelings on this.

      I agree he was unfair to Robin, and it made me angry. At the time I removed him from my blogroll, although I remove people from my blogroll pretty often anyway because I like to cycle. I think he could have put it a lot better and although I know he was doing it for what he thought was a good cause he should have paid a lot more attention to the consequences an accusation like that can have.

      On the other hand, saying “this person said one thing I happen to disapprove of, even though it was well within what our culture considers normal behavior, so now I hate them forever and demand everyone else does too,” is way too close to the worst part of the Social Justice playbook for my tastes. I’m trying to remember that I need to display the same sort of behavior to my outgroup that I expect them to display to me, and part of that is tolerating people who say things that I think are distasteful.

      Noah is otherwise respectful and interesting, and he can do the non-mindkilled independent thought thing – see for example his recent post praising Charles Murray, which I’m sure is not popular in his circles. So I think the proper reaction to his behavior is to condemn it strongly and maybe some small temporary sanction, but not to ostracize him from the community of decent people forever.

      • Andrew says:

        I have seen Noah Smith behave badly in internet discussions on two occasions separate from that one — specifically, doing that frustrating plausibly-deniable malicious misinterpretation thing against his argumentative opposition. They weren’t as bad as the one above. I’m not going to put the effort into finding links, so I guess you have to take that comment for what it’s worth. But personally I agree he’s of questionable moral character, at least relative to the high standards in place around here.

        (That said, I wouldn’t even think of that as a consideration if the question is whether to link to a blog post.)

  47. MrJoshBear says:

    I noticed the melancholia post after seeing that blog linked from here previously and thought it was really interesting, but I’m confused enough about diagnosing depression as it is that I felt very at sea trying to understand the difference between the two proposed classifications.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t fully understand it either, and I’m hoping to give it a more thorough read sometime.

  48. weareastrangemonkey says:

    I think you should read the parenting and crime paper a little more carefully before you give it any weight at all. After my reading I currently give it zero weight – in fact it has shifted my beliefs in the opposite direction: I now believe parenting matters more than I thought.

    • gwern says:

      Now that I’ve provided a fulltext, perhaps you could be a little less oracular in your pronouncements.

      • weareastrangemonkey says:

        I didn’t want to provide full description of the issues if there was no interest. But as there is…

        Table 3 has effect sizes which are very close to the effect sizes in Table 2. They are far closer to the effect sizes in table 2 than they are to zero (or what I would have expected). The non-significance of results in table 3 where they are significant in table 2, as the authors point out, may just be due to the smaller sample sizes.

        Now we get to the really fuzzy bit of the paper – where the authors try to deal with the possible low power problem. To do this they interact an “adopted” dummy variable with the parental characteristics. I do not believe, as they claim, deal with the problem of low power; their test will just now have low power to reject the null of slope 0 on the “(adopted dummy) X parenting” variable. Now it is not 100% clear to me what they have done here because they do not describe (with math) the exact specification of their adoption dummy model. But I think I have understood what they have done. It would be nice if they had also stated their reasons for believing their method deals with their power issues, and also if they had given a results table – a table 4.

        But these problems aside, they then say that the “(adopted dummy) X parenting” variable is not (given they test multiple hypothesis) significantly different from zero. In which case they are finding that the parenting effects on adoptees are not significantly different from the parenting effects on the non-adoptees. Another way of phrasing this, is that they have effectively used the non-adoptee results as their null-hypothesis and failed to reject the null when looking at adoptees. Of course, they fail to reject the null of being the same as non-adoptees by way more than they fail to reject the null of “no effect” of parenting. So if you look at these results you should really be leaning towards – the parenting effects on adoptees propensity to commit crime are the same as for non-adoptees i.e. that it really is parenting effects and not genetic effects.

        • gwern says:

          I see, thanks. Looking closely at the ORs, I understand why you’re not impressed. Given that (to pick the just the first, ‘ever arrested’, column, because I’m lazy) the adoptee SEs are never smaller than .05 and range as high as .21, and the ORs go 0.83 to 1.13, it looks pretty plausible to me that they’re centered on 1 (no effect) while a lot of the table 2 ORs are different from 1 and in the expected direction, but that’s not proof.

          I wonder what would be better… It might be better to extract a ‘crime factor’ to reduce the 4 outcome variables to 1 to make things more manageable, and then maybe a multi-level model?

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Would reducing the four variables to a single crime factor would make much of a difference?

            As far as I can tell each type of crime was regressed by itself on the parental characteristics. This should have made them also use larger SEs as they are testing multiple hypothesise, but I don’t think they did so having four different measures is actually helping them find significant results.

            I think the only way reducing it to a single factor would improve the result is if we cheated by cycling through a series of crime factors until we find one which gives us significant results – but of course that would be cheating.

          • gwern says:

            Would reducing the four variables to a single crime factor would make much of a difference?

            The four outcome variables of crime should be heavily correlated (if ‘have you ever been arrested’ does not correlate strongly with ‘have you ever been incarcerated’, something has gone terribly wrong in the survey), so by factoring/dimensionality-reduction, I think one could gain two things: one makes the analyses clearer and easier to understand (and closer to what one actually wants to know) because there’s now only one outcome variable to regress against, which also helps with multiple testing (instead of 4*8 or whatever logistic regressions, just 8); and it may help through measurement error – each question might be noiser than an variable extracted from all 4. (Survey questions sound pretty noisy, so there might be quite a lot of such error. This is one reason I like the Scandinavian studies, they can just crosslink with the entire national justice system if they want to know about crimes and convictions…)

            Then you could do the same thing with the 8 parenting factors: ‘good parenting’ sounds to me like it might be an underlying latent variable, and if you can reduce those 8 down to just 1 with less measurement error, then one is in an excellent position, just Criminality.factor ~ Parenting.factor * Adopted + covariates.

            Would this make a big difference? Dunno. Hard to tell without actually doing it.

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Fair points on the LHS. Even more so regarding the RHS. If one did this and managed to tighten the standard errors my guess is we would reject the null of zero but not the null of no difference of parental effects on adoptees from parental effects on non-adoptees. I was really surprised by the results they showed.

        • haishan says:

          I just read the paper and have the same set of complaints. You know, in case gwern’s imprimatur isn’t good enough for some crazy reason. In particular I’m baffled by how they found this:

          The interaction term was then
          entered into separate equations (i.e., one interaction term at a time for each parenting measure and for each outcome separately) to
          determine whether the effect sizes were different. The results of these analyses revealed only two significant differences (which is about what would be expected by chance alone)

          and nevertheless blithely concluded that the non-significance was real and not an effect of an underpowered study. I would really like to see someone do this study design with a larger sample size and/or more powerful tests.

          Also I just realized that it’s Great Lent and I told myself I’d refrain from commenting on SSC during the season. So. I should probably stop writing.

  49. Dude Man says:

    John Cochrane makes some good critiques of the methodology and conclusions of the entrepreneur study. (It’s in the comments and not the blog post proper.)

  50. gwern says:

    A newer, bigger, more rigorous study once again finds that quality of parenting has no effect on whether a child becomes a criminal.

    “The Role of Parenting in the Prediction of Criminal Involvement: Findings From a Nationally Representative Sample of Youth and a Sample of Adopted Youth”, Beaver et al 2015 https://www.dropbox.com/s/hhdlpxysvhkhzh1/2015-beaver.pdf

    The role of parenting in the development of criminal behavior has been the source of a vast amount of research, with the majority of studies detecting statistically significant associations between dimensions of parenting and measures of criminal involvement. An emerging group of scholars, however, has drawn attention to the methodological limitations—mainly genetic confounding— of the parental socialization literature. The current study addressed this limitation by analyzing a sample of adoptees to assess the association between 8 parenting measures and 4 criminal justice outcome measures. The results revealed very little evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal behavior before controlling for genetic confounding and no evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal involvement after controlling for genetic confounding.

  51. LLDOB says:

    The girl who committed suicide at Yale was a big fan of yours, Scott.

  52. Rob says:

    I guess it’s churlish to want hat tips on these kind of links right? 😛

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m sorry. I try to do it when I remember, but I click on something and then get really excited and write a note to myself to link it without thinking of who I got it from (except in a few rare cases). I’ll try to remember better in the future.

  53. grendelkhan says:

    (You mentioned depression, so this is kind of on-topic.)

    Back in 2013, you linked to an article about the discovery of GLYX-13, “all the anti-depressant powers of ketamine without the ketamine-like side effects of ketamine” and all that. It’s been named rapastinel, it’s going into Phase III trials this year, and there’s a version (?) that can be taken orally in trials now.

    Could you do a follow-up bit on this? Are NMDA antagonists a new and separate class of antidepressants? Is there an important reason I really shouldn’t be excited about the claims (rapid onset! way bigger effect size, even in treatment-resistant people!) from the trials?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know much about this, but my impression is that yes, you should be excited by this.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      Just from a neurologist’s perspective, I’d be nervous about messing with NMDA. It’s a lot of places in the brain — way more than serotonin. And it’s a key component of learning. I would expect a nasty set of side effects, even if I can’t predict what they would be.

      Are there procedures in a study like this to watch for unexpected side effects?

      • Anonymous says:

        People use NMDA antagonists quite frequently recreationally (mostly ketamine and nitrous oxide) and they seem to be fine, with the exception of huge ket-heads suffering kidney failure from too many phat lines.

  54. Thomas says:

    Regarding inequality: Why is it “worrying” that the earnings of those persons who happen to be in the top 1% (a constantly changing set) began to rise rapidly after 1985? I doubt that you believe in zero-sum economics. So what’s the problem?

  55. Albatross says:

    Adjuncts…

    Knee-jerk: Lots of people deserve quintuple their current pay. Welcome to the club. Yay Fordism!

    Nuance: As unsympathetic as these claims are (people with advanced degrees can get plenty of other great jobs outside of universities), I can’t help but wonder if public and private universities might be unpleasantly surprised at the long term results of sharing their employees with community colleges and private industry in a fluid pool. How will they maintain price points tens of thousands of dollars apart if independent ratings note they offer exactly the same program taught by exactly the same person? College costs aren’t guaranteed to rise. They could also fall.

    • LTP says:

      “(people with advanced degrees can get plenty of other great jobs outside of universities),”

      Not necessarily. If you have a PhD in philosophy, or history, or pure math, then what is one to do outside of academia? Even many subfields in science don’t have a ton of private demand for PhDs. You might say they’ve proven they can write well and reason well and they can learn other skills, but even then a PhD often is viewed as making one overqualified for a position (the idea is they’ll leave for a tenure track post as soon as they can, which isn’t likely, it takes a lot of work and luck to get one of those positions that a private employee can’t commit to doing), and many employers look down on PhDs in the humanities and social sciences.

      Also I don’t think people realize how bad adjuncts have it. While quadrupling the pay seems a bit extreme, they do deserve much better pay than they get. The fact is that these are people who are just starting their careers in their late-20s or 30s, who have to teach 4 to 5 classes to make a living wage (which, when you factor in class prep, grading, office hours, and so on, amounts to way more than 40 hours a week of work), who don’t get benefits, who often have to work at multiple institutions, and have no guarantee they’ll have a job in the next semester, and who often have to move to undesirable isolated locales to find work, only to have to move within a year to another locale because they didn’t get another teaching gig for the next semester.

      • Nornagest says:

        If you have a PhD in philosophy, or history, or pure math, then what is one to do outside of academia?

        I know one philosophy PhD who works in tech, but he’s probably an outlier. I know several math PhDs who do, and I’m pretty sure they’re not.

        History, yeah, that doesn’t lend itself to much but teaching history.

        • LTP says:

          But that requires having skills you didn’t learn in your academic career, and that you could have obtained without going to grad school. Unless that one philosophy guy got his PhD in logic specifically. It would seem that the PhD is superfluous to getting those jobs.

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t talked with him specifically about this, but I got the impression that he was hired on the strength of his analytical thinking skills. He also knew how to code, yes, and presumably didn’t get that from his philosophy degree, but just about everyone in tech learns their nuts-and-bolts coding skills on the job or on their own time — a CS degree is more about giving you a lot of theoretical backing and exposing you to stuff you probably wouldn’t seek out on your own.

          • Andrew says:

            Well, it’s important to recognize that “computer science” is actually a branch of mathematics (despite the name, which is simply a misnomer). Furthermore, on a certain level there actually seems to be a deep connection between the branch of mathematics that is “computer science” and what “pure” mathematics is. For example if you look at homotopy type theory, there is an argument being made that mathematics is, in a sense, a branch of computer science rather than the other way around. Also, the Curry-Howard correspondance shows how every computer program is a proof, and every proof within “constructive” mathematics is also “program” in a certain sense. There are also programming languages where this equivalence is very much in the foreground — where people cannot even say, unambiguously, whether what you are doing is writing proofs or writing programs.

            Point being, pure mathematicians who end up programming computers aren’t just learning some unrelated thing and then doing that for their job. There is a really deep connection between what “pure math” is and what “computation” is. Consequently, there is a deep connection between their education, and what it takes for a person to make computers do things (although the precise nature of that connection is not fully understood).

          • Nita says:

            if you look at homotopy type theory, there is an argument being made that mathematics is, in a sense, a branch of computer science rather than the other way around

            Damn. That’s, like, applied ironism or something.

          • Anon256 says:

            @Andrew: Theoretical computer science has a lot of connections with (at least some parts of) pure math. The actual work of software engineering does not have particularly strong connections to pure math. (Knowing a lot about homotopy type theory is not in itself much more useful for creating economic value than knowing a lot about art history, though it happens to be correlated with things that are.)

          • Andrew says:

            Just to be clear, I’m not saying that knowing homotopy type theory is useful to programmers — that’s not the kind of argument I’m making at all. Rather, I’m saying the homotopy type theory (and related mathematical facts) show that there is a deep connection between what pure mathematicians do (write proofs) and what computer programmers do (write programs).

            Programs _are_ proofs. Proofs (at least parts of them) _are_ programs. Someone who has a lot of experience writing proofs therefore has a lot of experience writing programs, even if they have never used a computer before. That much is absolutely true in a mathematical sense.

            It is not a mathematical fact, of course, that the particular experience which mathematicians have in writing their proofs-which-happen-to-be-programs necessarily helps them if they choose to write programs-which-happen-to-be-proofs. The extent to which it does is not known for sure. There could be differences that prevent the skills from meaningfully transferring over. It is an open question. However, there does seem to be a lot of evidence in favor of believing that it helps quite a good deal. At the very least, I think it unjustified to plainly assert the contrary.

      • cypherpunks says:

        I know a historian of slavery that works for an oil company, saying that it’s to advise them on colonization.

      • Tracy W says:

        If you have a PhD in philosophy, or history, or pure math, then what is one to do outside of academia?

        Modeling hydro power plant dispatch sucks up maths whizzes.
        And I think that they get a bunch of use in product testing for large factories. One of my uni friends uses his physics PhD in purchasing for the defence force, he’s obviously vague in how precisely but I get the impression that it’s quite mathematical. Communications engineering is very mathematical.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      As unsympathetic as these claims are (people with advanced degrees can get plenty of other great jobs outside of universities)

      University art instructor (painting, watercolor, etc — in previous times she would have been on tenure track by age 40)? Researcher in a Pharma lab, now closed?

  56. Q says:

    “Extreme Obesity In Children Tied To Low IQ, independent of obvious genetic diseases. At least three possible interpretations. Number one, low IQ kids have poor impulse control/understanding of consequences so they have poorer health. Number two, bad diet impedes brain development. Number three, there are non-obvious genetic diseases which affect both metabolism and IQ; this would work especially well in the context of a mutational load argument.”

    – Number four, low IQ parents feed their children improperly.

    • Deiseach says:

      If you bothered to read the entire article, Q, you would have found that those same “low IQ” parents managed to “feed their children properly” in the case of the siblings of the morbidly obese and Prader-Willi study groups; the unaffected siblings were the control group for the study, scoring within the ‘normal’ IQ range.

      The study is NOT easily reducible to “the poor are fat and stupid”. Try again!

  57. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    I would like to add another link.

    Lenovo is currently getting skewered over at HN because they’ve been pre-installing adware (called “SuperFish”) on consumers’ laptops. This is a problem because SuperFish has compromised the laptops’ security.

  58. Jiro says:

    Those policies are that if a student at Yale develops a serious mental illness, they can sometimes be kicked out of school because of worries that if they committed suicide on campus it would be a public relations nightmare.

    Revealed preferences. Only, it’s the public’s revealed preferences. They really prefer no suicides on campus, to the point where they will economically retaliate to a greater extent if the campus has suicides than if the campus kicks out the suicidal.

    private colleges are companies in the free market, so if they want to ban offensive ideas, then students won’t go to them unless they like offensive ideas being banned, which means the market works

    Free market advocates don’t consider fraud to be free-market. A college that claims to support freedom of expression and then uses political correctness is committing fraud (especially given that once you go to the college and get stomped on for political correctness, you can’t just leave and get a full refund.)

    (And before you say “check the Internet”, *we* know enough to do that but most people will not do enough research to uncover such things, and at any rate “buyer beware” does not justify fraud.)

    I didn’t think it was possible to make a graph about US inequality I’d never seen before, but the second graph in this article is genuinely pretty neat. And worrying.

    “Reported income is pre-tax and does not include government transfer payments.” ’nuff said.

  59. So medicine is determined to be the most scientific field through… a survey of the population? That is, exactly by the methodology favoured in medicine? I hope the bias here is clear. Moreover, I bet if we evaluate some path integrals we would have a mathematical proof* that physics is the most scientific.

    * Subject to some “common-sense” assumptions which are nowhere laid out explicitly.

    • anon1 says:

      The article you linked, which suggests that SSRIs are net harmful, makes claims far more extensive than the paper it’s referring to (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763415000287 – I don’t have access to full text and am basing my comment on the abstract). The abstract, and the researcher’s quote in the link, says that SSRIs may be harmful for the first couple of weeks. The abstract acknowledges that they’re helpful after that period, and that the point of the research is to offer an explanation of why it takes a while for SSRIs to begin helping.

      Meanwhile the spring.org article completely ignores the long-term usefulness of SSRIs, quoting the author out of context to confuse the reader:
      > Dr Paul Andrews, who led the research, said:
      >> “We’ve seen that people report feeling worse, not better, for their first two weeks on anti-depressants. This could explain why.”
      > Why, then, do many doctors believe that SSRI antidepressants are useful and continued to prescribe them?
      Um, most depressive episodes last a good while longer than two weeks beyond the point where you decide it’s bad enough to seek treatment. And it’s already well-known that SSRIs usually take a few weeks to start helping.

      Also the link presents the serotonin hypothesis as though it were the scientific consensus before the study in question. It is not. The serotonin hypothesis hasn’t been taken seriously in years. Doctors prescribe SSRIs because they tend to produce better results than placebo despite not really having any idea why this is the case.

      To quote our host at http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/ssris-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/:
      > There was never much more evidence for the serotonin hypothesis than that chemicals that increased serotonin tended to treat depression – making the argument that “antidepressants are biochemically justified because they treat the low serotonin that is causing your depression” kind of circular. Saying “Serotonin treats depression, therefore depression is, at root, a serotonin deficiency” is about as scientifically grounded as saying “Playing with puppies makes depressed people feel better, therefore depression is, at root, a puppy deficiency”.

      > The whole thing became less tenable with the discovery that several chemicals that didn’t increase serotonin were also effective antidepressants – not to mention one chemical, tianeptine, that decreases serotonin. Now the conventional wisdom is that depression is a very complicated disturbance in several networks and systems within the brain, and serotonin is one of the inputs and/or outputs of those systems.

  60. Dale says:

    ““Down with ISIS” : “Christians do bad stuff too” :: “Black lives matter!” : “All lives matter!”. The second statement in each branch is 100% true, but brought up at a time when it can’t help but be seen as a somewhat insensitive distraction.”

    When Christians say “Down with ISIS”, with the implication “Muslims should stop murdering Christians”, and another Christian responds with “Remember the Crusades”, with the implication “but we Christians have killed Muslims in the past,” that is contextually very different from when a black American says “Black lives matter!”, with the implication “White police officers should stop killing black people” and a white person responds with “All lives matter!” with the implication… actually, I don’t know, what do you think the implication is there? Because it’s not “but we blacks have killed whites in the past.”

    • ryan says:

      The implication of black lives matter is “white people think black lives don’t matter.” Responding with “all lives matter” is basically saying “yes they do!” Not exactly fueling the circle jerk.

      • Peter says:

        I think “all lives matter” often includes all the things discussed, plus “police lives matter” too, depending on the person saying it.

    • keranih says:

      What I saw as the justification for ‘all lives matter’ was the way that ‘black lives matter’ failed to acknowledge that American Indians and Hispanics (? possibly Asians?) also were at risk of death from police interaction – in the case of American Indians, at rates far exceeding that of blacks/African Americans.

      There are doubtlessly a number of other things that go into this, but this is the more rational response that I saw.

    • Drea says:

      I took “all lives matter” to say this is a problem with police behavior towards civilians in general, plus lack of accountability for their actions. So the argument is that the root cause is not police racism, and that the best solutions will address police actions broadly.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        + That’s my opinion too, so I hope the # is being widely taken that way. Though most Tweeters will be taking it to match their own opinions.

    • Andrew says:

      I have quite an opposite reaction: I think that “Christians do bad stuff too” is a insensitive distraction, but not so much about “All lives matter!” necessarily.

      The reason being, “all lives matter” could be taken to imply that all the white people killed by police, who don’t get the same mass media shitstorm of opposition, also matter. For example, an unarmed white kid was killed for ignoring police orders, which he did not hear because he was wearing headphones, within a week or so of the killing in Ferguson. The entire event was caught on video by someone else who was standing behind him. This did not become a national media event, even though the innocence of the killed person was demonstrable (unlike Ferguson).

      To go beyond that particular couple of weeks, you can find countless examples of police officers meeting out terrible abuse against both whites and blacks. A toddler was recently deformed and brain-damaged by a stun-grenade in a SWAT raid based on an arrest warrant for a person who was not even living (anymore) in the raided building. What was the toddler’s race? I don’t know, but SWAT shot that stun-grenade into the building through a window without knowing the toddler’s race either. A newborn in Texas was being held by his father, but was dropped onto a tile floor when police shot the father with a taser — because the parents tried to exit the hospital where the baby was born without the permission of doctors. All involved were white. The parents were then arrested and their newborn child taken away from them (for some number of days), while the police officer was unpunished. (I could go on and on with examples, because I read certain forums where police abuse is documented, but I think that is enough.)

      So, it seems legitimate to me to point out the fact that a white cop killing a black person is not necessarily a race issue — even supposing the cop was in the wrong, maybe he just lusts after the experience of causing death? Maybe blacks end up killed by police more often because they are more often exposed to police for non-racist reasons plus the fact that people who have the opportunity to kill with impunity will exercise it? In any case, the police seem to value life and well-being less than we ought to demand, and this is not an issue for blacks alone.

      On the other hand, whatever crusade-type behavior Christians exercised, it wasn’t even living Christians. It is literally bringing up a dead issue. Recalling the events of past _centuries_ when ISIS is currently videotaping mass executions seems like conceding an equality of guilt that doesn’t actually exist. Christians _have_ stopped killing people to win converts, long before any _living_ Christians were even born, so today’s living have every right to demand the same of others.

  61. ryan says:

    This is an actual quote from the qz.com article on test scores and college majors:

    “That STEM majors have consistently had the highest average academic aptitude may also reflect the fact that STEM disciplines are highly complex and require such aptitude… Stephen Hsu and James Schombert used five years of university academic records to show that the probability of success of being at the top of one’s cohort in a physics or math major (but not other majors such as sociology, history, English, or biology) was highly dependent on an individual’s SAT-M score. For example, earning a score of roughly below 600 on the math portion made the probability of attaining a superior academic record in physics or math very low.”

    That is all. I just wanted to point out that that paragraph was written by a living person in that tone.

  62. LTP says:

    “Additionally, Stephen Hsu and James Schombert used five years of university academic records to show that the probability of success of being at the top of one’s cohort in a physics or math major (but not other majors such as sociology, history, English, or biology) was highly dependent on an individual’s SAT-M score. For example, earning a score of roughly below 600 on the math portion made the probability of attaining a superior academic record in physics or math very low. ”

    Or, maybe this correlation is because the kinds of intellectual skills required to be a good sociologist, philosopher, or biologist are just not as easily measurable by standardized tests.

    This could account for why STEM degree holders seem to have a greater academic aptitude, their skills are easily measurable in a quantifiable way by tests, while humanities, social science, and biology skills are not.

    Also, I’m annoyed that they’re talking of standardized test scores as equivalents of intelligence and they buy into the idea that intelligence is just one singular thing, rather than multiple intellgiences of various types.

    • Deiseach says:

      the probability of success of being at the top of one’s cohort in a physics or math major… was highly dependent on an individual’s SAT-M score

      Sorry, but is that conclusion really saying “People who scored highly on maths tests tend to do better if they go on to study a maths-based subject or indeed maths itself than people who don’t do well on maths tests”?

      That’s a bit of a “Tall people tend to be taller than short people” result, isn’t it?

      • It really really should be, but no, it isn’t. Many many people deny that standardized tests are predictive of anything, even math skills.

        (Also that result is more interesting than it sounds, it’s not just “math people do well in math”. In other subjects it was found that you could get a high GPA even with low SAT scores, which the authors took to mean that in those subjects, hard work could substitute for aptitude. In physics and math though, that wasn’t the case – below a certain threshold SAT score, you stood essentially no chance of getting a high GPA. It’s not the correlation between SAT score and GPA that’s interesting, it’s the highly nonlinear threshold)

        • LTP says:

          I think it’s a bit of a leap to say hard work can replace aptitude in other subjects. That’s a plausible explanation. However, as I said, it could also be explained by the fact that standardized tests don’t really measure much of the skills that are needed to do well in “softer” disciplines nearly as a effectively as with math, and they don’t even measure all of them.

          • Andrew says:

            I’d just like to point out that earlier you were talking about “what it takes to be a good philosopher, biologist,” etc.. But what we’re actually talking about is SAT vs. grade correlations.

            Now, it’s certainly plausible that SAT’s aren’t measuring what it takes to be a good biologist. But it’s equally plausible that grades aren’t. (Of course, maybe neither are.) Let’s not take for granted that grades are the better, or even a good, metric of “what it takes.”

  63. Drea says:

    What, no comments about the Manson wedding plans? First headline I saw about her made me scoff. Now she sounds brilliant.

    Though if he’s right about his immortality, it might ruin the plan.

    • Anonymous says:

      If I were her, I’d consider it a win-win: he dies and I benefit, or he’s immortal and well the world changes a lot, hopefully for many people’s benefit.

  64. Ross Levatter says:

    “Preliminary research suggests that eating a diet rich in tryptophan might make people more charitable”

    Fortunately, one falls asleep before one gives one’s entire fortune away…

  65. TACJ says:

    Regarding Mozi, it occurs that the logical consequence of his teachings (as summarised by Mr Gladstone) in a modern context would be the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction in a nuclear conflict. By making the consequences of attack so costly, it renders defeat through attack impossible, and world peace inevitable. Or something.

    Maybe the chaps at Los Alamos were secret Mohists.

  66. jtgw says:

    So was Good Will Hunting story based on this guy Walter Pitts? The stories are really similar but nobody seems to have made the connection.

  67. jason says:

    The parenting study was in desperate need of a statistician. Why oh why would they put 8 exposure measures in a single model and focus on the ‘effect’ of each? It’s essentially controlling for the exposures that you care about!

  68. 5ghostfist says:

    Does Mein Kampf actually have passages calling the Arabs “subhuman scum”? In hitlers table talks, he praises the Arabs as a proud warrior race and speculated that Islam might be a good state religion for Germany.

  69. bjdubbs says:

    From whopays:

    If anyone’s been paid *more* than $200 from Salon, we’d love to know about it… whopayswriters@gmail.com

  70. Aaron Brown says:

    The greatest hits of legendary comments troll KenM: 1, 2.

    Too bad more trolls aren’t like him. Down with meanness, up with incorrigible stupidity! (To be sure, you need to be pretty smart to be that stupid.)

  71. Sofer says:

    > Everybody knows that gender stereotypes are so fluid and socially constructed that people used to associate pink with boys and blue with girls, right?

    I’ve never heard of this idea before; just that the pink-vs-blue thing is a modern invention, which is quite different (and … true?)

    Is it really supposed to be “common knowledge” that they were the opposite and switched?

  72. 27chaos says:

    Wait, what on earth? Can you check out this link and tell us your thoughts on it? It contradicts a lot of my beliefs: http://www.economist.com/news/international/21645759-boys-are-being-outclassed-girls-both-school-and-university-and-gap?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/pe/theweakersex