"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 5/15: Link Floyd

Researchers Find Bitterness Receptors On Human Heart. This wins my prize for “most unintentionally poetic medical headline”.

New volleys in the debate about whether moderate drinking is good for your health or it’s all just bad statistics.

At the age of three, Dorothy Eady hit her head and was suddenly jarred back into remembering her past life as an ancient Egyptian priestess. So she did what anyone would do in that situation – grow up, move to Egypt, and use her recovered memories to help her in a career as an Egyptologist.

Several hundred ways to describe results that are almost but not quite significant.

More evidence against dysgenics: childlessness among female PhDs has decreased by 50% since 1990. What are we doing right?

LW community startup and SSC sidebar advertiser MealSquares was profiled in Vice Magazine this month, as well as getting a quick shoutout on Vox.

100 Interesting Data Sets For Statistics

A pet peeve of mine: Stop Using Income As A Guide To Economic Class.

If you’re willing to follow consistency wherever it leads, you can stay way ahead of the curve on moral progress: Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, supported gay rights in 1785.

Tyler Cowen described this as “if Thomas Schelling made an alarm clock”

A new way trolls can produce unexpected patterns in survey data, and why it might produce a fake signal indicating gay parents are bad at raising children. (h/t Wulfrickson)

Not only do Tibetans have a native zombie mythos, but many Tibetan houses have low doorways to prevent zombies (who are less flexible than mortals) from entering. Bonus: the five types of Tibetan zombie, and how to kill them.

Linked mostly for having a great title: Self-Driving Trucks Are Going To Hit Us Like A Human-Driven Truck

Did you know the Salvation Army used to fight an arch-enemy, the Skeleton Army?

How do the arts funding decisions of government bureaucracies compare to the arts funding decisions of Kickstarter?

Chinese online dating scams. Imagine a beautiful woman asks you out on an online dating site. You go to a nice restaurant together, you have a great time, and then you never hear from her again. What happened? The restaurant was paying her to bring you there.

An article gets posted on Reddit about how China was able to cut CO2 emissions extremely rapidly after their deal with President Obama earlier this year. Redditors talk about how authoritarianism is superior to democracy when you really need something done. This kind of opened my eyes a little to how authoritarianism isn’t the domain of any one side of the political spectrum, so much as a fallback position that becomes really tempting once you feel like the system is too weak to serve your interests. Twist: China’s emissions might not really be falling.

Taxi Medallion Prices In Free Fall. I would like to make a comment about “sweet, sweet rent-seeker tears”, but it looks like some decent middle-class individuals invested in these and are now getting burned, so it’s a lot sadder than I would have hoped.

How do commitment contracts and other incentive structures affect people’s success at quitting smoking? Obviously relevant to LW community startup and SSC sidebar advertiser Beeminder, who blog about it here.

One common message in effective altruist circles is that overhead isn’t the most important thing about a charity. On the other hand, when only 3% of a charity’s $197 million budget makes it to cancer patients, consider the possibility that they’re a giant scam.

Albino redwoods.

Genetically engineered yeast makes it possible to create home-brewed morphine. Nothing can possibly go wrong.

No! Bad San Francisco! A housing moratorium is exactly the opposite of the sort of thing that leads to housing costs going down!

Excellent first sentences: “We do not usually identify Palau as part of the Roman Empire…” (h/t Nydwracu)

Final decision on nature vs. nurture: it’s 49% nature, 51% nurture. I guess that means nurture wins by a hair. Good going, guys.

Boring neurological disease: you can no longer process human faces. Interesting neurological disease: you can process human faces, but all of them look like DRAGONS.

Big political science study on how gay canvassers going door-to-door substantially increases long-term support for gay marriage was fake. I don’t particularly care about gay canvassers, but two important takeaways. Number one, sometimes when studies find much larger effects than you would expect from the rest of the literature, there are sinister reasons. Number two, the problems were discovered by a couple of grad students who looked at the paper and found it was suspicious, suggesting that nobody else had done that over the past year, which says something about the uses of the review process.

Nrx watch: Leading neoreactionaries announce the formation of a council to guide the movement, first action of their auspicious reign is to exile Michael Anissimov (really). Good commentary here. As someone who spent his formative years in micronations, where it’s acknowledged that the whole point of having a weird political movement is to run the movement on its own utopian principles and see what happens, I’m disappointed they can’t have a patchwork of different excruciatingly formalized brands/movements with people switching to the most successful – but I guess that’s why nobody asked me. Related: Konkvistador, Athrelon, Nyan and Erik leave MoreRight.

New York Times interprets NEJM study to say severe mental illness is dropping in young people, contrary to beliefs. I won’t comment until I’m somewhere I have full-text access to the original paper.

An unexpected fan of 9-11 conspiracy theories: Osama bin Laden. What? How does that even work?

Cryonics works in nematodes. According to the paper, they were frozen for a period about equal to their natural lifespan, then revived with memories intact. See also the study itself and a lively debate on the Hacker News thread including an appearance by Gwern. Also notable for nominative determinism in the form of cryonicist Dr. Vita-More.

What does a $1,000 keyboard look like? Also, Alicorn has recently been unreasonably delighted by these slightly cheaper accessories.

Popehat is a popular legal blog on the SSC sidebar. It is run by Ken White, a partner at a successful law firm and minor Internet celebrity. Earlier this week, he blogged about his recent experience as a patient in a psychiatric facility, prompting other people to tell their own similar stories. My reaction is a lot like ClarkHat’s: “I really really hate it when someone opens up and a thousand people say ‘Oh, so brave!’ because it’s usually not remotely brave. That said, this post by Ken is damned brave and I’m even more impressed by him today than I was before.” I see a lot of pretty high-functioning professionals who have to spend a few days or a few weeks in psychiatric hospital, and a lot of them get very stressed out about “How could this be happening to me, well-off successful people aren’t supposed to be mentally ill!” and then they worry that they’re the only one and there’s something wrong with them. I hope Ken’s post helps a couple of those people realize they’re not alone.

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

744 Responses to Links 5/15: Link Floyd

  1. Rauwyn says:

    5/15? So “Continue to expect a lower volume of blogging for the near future” means the new posts are going to show up in the past…

  2. Douglas Knight says:

    Another public data set is vaccination rate by school in California. Kieran Healey wrote a couple of posts about it. (I think the main problem is that it omits home schooled. Who have low vaccination rates, as seen by a couple of quasi-schools in the data that exist to provide assistance to home schooling.)

  3. Douglas Knight says:

    You have to be careful about nominative determinism for women. Vita-More got part of her name from her husband Max More. A better example is their friend R. U. Sirius. But the best is FM-2030.

    Nominative determinism: homophily or contagion?

    • vV_Vv says:

      I wonder what is the point of these name changes among cryonicists. It almost like they are trying as hard as they can to look cultish.

      • Peter Scott says:

        Any sufficiently large movement can look cultish if you cherry-pick a small sample of people from it. There are all sorts of people who manage to get cryopreserved despite having boring old names like Hal Finney or Robert Ettinger, but those names are harder to remember than the ones that sound like cute puns or possibly a model of transistor radio, which I guess is why they don’t spring to mind as readily.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Any sufficiently large movement can look cultish if you cherry-pick a small sample of people from it.

          The name-changers aren’t a cherry picked example though.

  4. Douglas Knight says:

    You always have access to NEJM.

  5. Liskantope says:

    Semi-random idea to ponder which is related to the study on commitment contracts: suppose you sign a contract that will force you to donate money to a cause you strongly disagree with (believing that it will decrease utility by a certain amount) if you fail to quit smoking. For what evil cause is it likely that the threat of having to donate to it will be more effective in helping you quit, enough that such a strategy is ethically responsible?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve seen some people use donations to a politician they hate, on the grounds that it makes them angry but the marginal $20 isn’t actually going to affect Ted Cruz’s campaign’s chances of success at all.

      • hawkice says:

        Seems like a bit of a high wire act. My best plans usually don’t involve relying on not being able to control completely emotional overreactions. I think this is likely for the best: when I am desperate for an excuse, it would need to be quite exceptionally repellent, and as bad as some politicians are, it won’t disgust me so much that I couldn’t be desensitized to the idea.

      • Irrelevant says:

        From what I know of the mind, it sounds like this plan ends up with you giving Ted Cruz 20 bucks, still smoking, and convincing yourself that Ted Cruz isn’t so awful after all.

    • Beeminder has an official take on that question: http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity (short version is that it’s a terrible idea to use anti-charities when there are alternatives that cause zero harm to the world)

      So I’d answer that question: no such evil causes. By setting the price high enough you can achieve the same motivation with a non-evil beneficiary.

      Highly biased answer, of course.

      • Moshe Zadka says:

        Since I think that Beeminder is evil (I set up a dummy goal to figure out how things work, and could not get them to stop sending me e-mails about it), then by that logic, I should not use Beeminder.

        The logic is flawed, of course — the whole point is that if the transfer of wealth is neutral, then it’s not quite as motivating (you mean I can just pay $20 to eat this cake? shut up and take my money!). There’s a little “I have a conflict of interest” comment buried in the middle of the paragraph, where it should have been at the top, and *also* at the bottom line, since one can reasonably assume that it wrote the bottom line…

        • Tracy W says:

          I think maybe this thing depends on personality. I tried an anti-charity deal with a friend (a local political party I firmly disagreed with) and while I found it highly motivating in the short-term, the overall terror I felt for that week has made me disinclined to enter into another such bet in the long-term.

          So it’s a matter of Goldilocks-motivation for me.

        • You mean the unsubscribe link failed? That’s a super critical bug; we’ll be really grateful for your help in understanding what went wrong there! Could you ping us at support@beeminder.com? Thanks so much!

          As for your point about neutral transfers of wealth being less motivating, that’s true *for a given amount of money*. My claim is that for any amount of motivation musterable from an anticharity there exists some multiple of that that’s equally motivating despite being a neutral wealth transfer.

          If Beeminder were evil then the argument would be quite self-defeating, yes. 🙂 But, come on, Slate Star Codex vouches for us and everything!

          • Moshe Zadka says:

            I don’t remember what happened, but I remembered I couldn’t just “remove the goal”, there were e-mails and I didn’t see an unsubscribe link, or maybe I saw one and it was unusable? It was a long time ago, and I mostly abandoned the e-mail address that I used for that [it was getting a lot of other junk too].

            I mostly felt like the product was designed to not allow me to do things that “weren’t right” — maybe reasonable for a pre-commitment product, but super-annoying and frustrating. But I’m not really motivated to dig up the old e-mails and figure out how I tried to stop them, sorry.

            My conclusion was “beeminder is founded on a business model that is at least mildly evil since they profit from people breaking pre-commitments, and that probably leads to unpleasant things”. I know Scott vouches for you, and I did update on that some amount that maybe it’s not completely evil, and a lot on “Scott is sometimes wrong”.

            I don’t know if he actually uses Beeminder or just thinks it’s a good idea in theory, which would matter for any further updates.

        • Buck says:

          My experience with Beeminder has been extremely positive, and I think the unsubscribe button in their emails is really easy to see. I strongly recommend trying them out.

    • Adam says:

      The available evidence suggests that drug addicts are willing to steal from family, violently end all meaningful human relationships they have, go to prison, contract horrible diseases, and die young for another fix. I highly doubt there is a cause so repulsive they’d rather not get that fix than donate to. If it was that easy, why not just sign a contract promising not to smoke?

      • “The available evidence suggests that drug addicts …”

        I think you may mean “suggests that there are some drug addicts who … .”

        • Adam says:

          It shows there are some, suggests there are more, and more generally suggests any addict selected randomly for a sufficiently addictive drug is largely not amenable to rational decision-making processes as a method of quitting.

          • Cliff says:

            Doesn’t the available evidence show that drug addicts behave quite rationally, and are generally able to abstain when it is very important to do so?

          • Mary says:

            May depend on the drug. Opiate withdrawal is harmless, if relentlessly hyped by addicts who don’t want to stop, and many opiate addicts have stopped because they wanted to.

            OTOH, alcohol withdrawal can be lethal.

          • Adam says:

            Maybe but I doubt it? We were originally talking about cigarette smoking, right? I’m not sure if anyone has concretely studied failure rates of attempted quitters, but the CDC reports 68.8% of U.S. adult smokers want to quit. If that number was remotely stable and it was as easy as having a rational desire, wouldn’t we expect asymptotically zero smokers pretty quickly?

            Granted, we’re talking about very different things if you actually just mean abstaining while I’m saying quitting.

  6. Michael Watts says:

    As I understood things, the problems with the LaCour/Green paper weren’t “discovered by a couple of grad students who looked at the paper and found it was suspicious, suggesting that nobody else had done that over the past year”. It happened like this (again, as the story reached me through various online media):

    1. A couple of grad students read the paper and are impressed. They decide “we’ll do a followup study building on this result” (note: not a replication).

    2. They discover that using the same methodology as the paper describes, they just can’t get similar survey response patterns. But they discover this by actually trying to run a survey for their own study, not by reading the original paper.

    3. They look further into the paper and notice that the data is obviously fake.

    It’s kind of hard to blame the ordinary reviewers for not attempting to do their own similar surveys just to check whether the paper they’re reviewing has reported halfway plausible results.

    • haishan says:

      On the other hand, the problems with the data sound like they are embarrassingly obvious once you know what to look for. (Not that I’m an expert, or anything.) So it is a good question why nobody bothered to look closely enough to find them before now.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        In particular, one of the coauthors!

        • Deiseach says:

          That has to be the most embarrassing part of it; the person you were conducting the study with was pulling the data out of…thin air… and you never noticed?

          I know division of labour is good (‘you do the figures, I’ll do the write-up’), but this takes the biscuit! 🙂

          What also intrigues me is the tone of the two articles; the one about the Regnerus study is breathing fire and brimstone, the one about the canvassing study is “Well gorsh, silly us!” but there’s not really any condemnation of the person who imposed upon their credulity, rather a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone of “we should take a lesson from this”.

          That may be down to the differing characters of the authors and one being more natually irenic than the other, but I can’t help feeling that it also has to do with the studies themselves; one is Evil Gay-Bashing Used As Evidence By Homophobes and so cannot be sufficiently excoriated, the other is Excusable Enthusiasm For The Cause Exacerbated By Publish-Or-Perish and we had better draw a discreet veil over our cheerleading for it to save all our blushes.

    • Deiseach says:

      Re: the “gay parents are bad is a terrible survey” versus “gay canvassing didn’t work like it said” question, am I a horrible bigoted homophobe if I wonder about the level of scrutiny being related to the results?

      The article linked ripping the Regnerus survery to shreds is very up-front about its author’s dislike of the survey, and makes me wonder if part of it is not just “the methodolgy stinks and that really offends me” but also because it was critical of same-sex parents and parenting, and so was perceived as anti-gay rights.

      While the canvassing survey supported gay rights, in that it proposed that attitudes could be easily changed, and this was a positive result.

      And since being correct on gay rights is being on the right side of history, nobody is going to raise inconvenient questions about surveys that give results that are on the right side of history as opposed to surveys that are patently on the wrong side and are evil and wicked and smelly (“the infamous Regnerus paper, leaving nothing but a wisp of foul-smelling ill-will trailing from its remains”) to boot.

      I’m not saying the criticism of the Regnerus thing is wrong or incorrect, but I am curious as to how suddenly trolls are popping up filling in surveys and skewing data – in this one particular instance. Is there any examination of how long trolling has been going on or how widespread it is in surveys and studies in general?

      • James Picone says:

        Very few sociology papers get that level of scrutiny – it shouldn’t be surprising that a Rare Thing happened to only this paper, and not this other one.

        • Deiseach says:

          The canvassing study interests me because in our recent same-sex marriage referendum (yes vote passed at about 60% to 30% for those of you interested), one of the things said by the Yes side campaigners was that canvassing was indeed important.

          That when voters met gay canvassers who shared their stories with them, they were more likely to agree to vote yes. Now, I’m naturally sceptical about these kinds of “crying on the doorstep” stories, so I do tend to take this, and the survey in question, with a grain of salt.

          But I imagine one reason the Yes campaign used the techique of sending gay people out to canvass door-to-door was precisely because they relied on this study and how it was touted. And I do think that the reason nobody looked at what seemed to be an anomalous result (canvassing changing fixed views) was that it was a result most people wanted to believe, whereas the Regnerus survey had a result a lot of people vehemently disagreed with and so they devoted a lot of scrutiny to it in order to find the very flaws that make it unreliable.

          All I’m saying is that if trolls really are such a problem, then maybe trolling in surveys that find results you like (gay canvassers change minds! Republican voters are dumber and poorer and less educated than Democratic voters!) is also a problem, but because the results support the popular narrative (for whatever strand of political belief), they don’t attract the same level of examination.

          • FeepingCreature says:

            That is a very good point, and potentially a huge problem in our current system. My impression is that the main factor of study status, once it passes peer review, is the prestige of the publication, and publications are plausibly political in their choice of studies. So once a study is public, people have to actively put in work to slap it down, and that creates bias of personal preference, akin to a situation where everybody breaks some laws, so guilt is always at the discretion of the police and prosecutor.

            So scientists are not incentivized to prove their study is flawless; rather, other scientists are supposed to discover flaws. Maybe a possible solution is to create a “test suite of bad science” – a huge checklist of statistical problems to avoid, like a seal of quality – so that the supporters of the study would be incentivized to help it pass that criterion, instead of its detractors having to show how it fails them.

          • Joe says:

            Your conversation reminds me of this article.
            http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/02/bloodless-moralism

          • James Picone says:

            Deiseach: You certainly don’t have to remind me that a substantial fraction of sociology papers are probably wrong. I wouldn’t have thought anyone here would be unaware that a lot of sociology research is generally bad.

            Joe: Meh. As a utilitarian, I find that article distinctly unconvincing. From my point of view, complicated statistical information about outcomes /is/ a moral argument made from a moral basis, and the deontological/virtue ethics that the article would prefer is naive to ignorant. Their argument is, as far as I can tell, just applause lights associated with the things they like and boo lights associated with the things they don’t. Maybe there’s a deeper subtext that I’m far too devoted to Scientism and General Utilitarian Malaise to notice.

          • Joe says:

            James, Think about it like this. If a four year old orphan told you she wanted a mom and a dad for Christmas would you calmly explain to her that her desire for opposite sex parents is a kind of culturally absorbed homophobia because statistically, so far, you’re just as well off with a same sex couple? You probably wouldn’t respond this way to a four year old. But it is the kind of moral argument I hear from people when I tell them that I am against gay adoption and surrogacy. Its sort of bloodless to respond to the argument that every kid deserves a mom and a dad with statistics.

          • Adam says:

            I wouldn’t tell her anything about her own desires, but if she’s actually statistically just as well off with gay parents (which is meaningless anyway, because other demographic characteristics of her parents aside from their gender overwhelms that consideration), I’d give her the parents she’s best off with, regardless of her desires.

            I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent a lot of time when I was younger volunteering with kids in the foster care system and my first wife grew up in a group home. Any parents at all is a heck of a lot better than being raised by the state, and there are plenty of kids available. The marginal choice, at least right now, is not between gay parents and straight parents.

          • Harald K says:

            Joe: I think your argument works for surrogacy, but not for adoption.

            The human rights of children involves a right to keep their parents, and the parents a child always start out with are the biological ones. A biological parent has advantages in understanding how small children think and react, because it’s going to be similar to how they do that themselves. It’s wrong to make a child while planning to deny it contact with any of its biological parents. So yes, I’m against egg/sperm donation.

            But adoption is another matter. There, the damage has been done – for some reason the biological parents (or the first set of non-biological parents) are unable or unwilling to care for the child. In that case, adoptive parents are worth their weight in gold, and quibbling about the pros and cons of a same sex household is a waste of time. The relevant comparison isn’t straight parents, but no parents or a string of foster parents, and that has an impressively bad track record.

            If the 5 year old in your analogy couldn’t have a mom and a dad because there were no one available – not unlikely, there are more kids needing adoption than wanting to adopt, and surrogacy hasn’t helped with that – but there was a dad and a dad available, what would you tell them?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Harald K
            If the 5 year old in your analogy couldn’t have a mom and a dad because there were no one available – not unlikely, there are more kids needing adoption than wanting to adopt, and surrogacy hasn’t helped with that – but there was a dad and a dad available, what would you tell them?

            To a child who is talking at the “mom and dad” level, saying “parents” would be more abstract and rather off-putting, and “two dads” might be an unfamiliar and thus shocking term. Perhaps “family” would be a good choice? In your experience, what have been good ways to introduce this couple to a very young child?

          • James Picone says:

            If a four year old orphan told you she wanted a mom and a dad for Christmas would you calmly explain to her that her desire for opposite sex parents is a kind of culturally absorbed homophobia because statistically, so far, you’re just as well off with a same sex couple?

            Of course not, they’re four.

            If a four-year old orphan expressed a preference for heterosexual parents in the context of being adopted by a gay couple, then sure I would consider respecting that preference ethical. I’d be a bit disappointed in the kid, of course, but they’re four, who cares much, they’re still to young to really have much ethical responsibility.

            But if someone says we shouldn’t allow gay parents to adopt at all because children of gay parents do worse than children of heterosexual parents then establishing whether or not that’s true is relevant to evaluating that claim, as is the point that the alternative isn’t ‘loving heterosexual parents’ it’s ‘not being adopted’.

    • JRM says:

      That’s close, but I think the grad students started their study with their eyes wide open for fraud. I think that they found fraud was not a surprise. (I am totally fascinated by this story.)

      Here’s the full report:

      http://stanford.edu/~dbroock/broockman_kalla_aronow_lg_irregularities.pdf

      Here’s the shorter, but still really long version:

      In 2014, the paper got published. LaCour, a grad student, was running the study, overseen by Professor Donald Green. They got very robust results and ended up doing a press tour. LaCour got hired as an assistant professor at Princeton on the basis of his studies, inclusive of this one. He was supposed to start this fall. We’ll see how that goes.

      The grad students, Broockman and Kall (BK for the rest of this) – one of whom is soon to be an assistant professor at Stanford, wanted to extend the study. They did the front work right – they got their hypotheses in order and looked at all the literature. During this, they saw clues that the thing might be fabricated, but decided to move forward. They got help from LaCour and Green. I think they suspected by April of 2015 that this was going to go south.

      On May 6, BK started “a pilot of the extension study.” They weren’t getting the same response rate (which they kind of expected) then contacted the survey company who supposedly obtained the LaCour data. They *certainly* didn’t do this because they suspected the prior study was faked, no sir. That would be wrong. Or something.

      On May 15, the survey firm said they hadn’t done the survey and didn’t have a staffer by the name BK had been given by LaCour. They also said they couldn’t do the study as outlined in the original paper.

      BK call up Green to inquire. It sounds like Green had long know LaCour and trusted him. But this was very bad, and Green knew it. They also hook up with Yale professor Ken Aronow, who was working on a paper using LaCour’s data.

      At this point, the dam breaks: BK and Aronow find a raft of, well, fraud – the data LaCour used was from another source, he didn’t use grant money like he’d said, the data shifted in impossible ways…. just the end of the world.

      Green calls LaCour’s graduate advisor, who confronts LaCour, who says some of the details are not accurate but the whole thing is otherwise accurate and the original source data was erased and he totally hired the survey firm and the dog ate his homework. (LaCour has promised to explain publicly, but I think we’ll have a long wait.)

      Four days after being confronted with the serious issues BK brought up, Green wrote a retraction on his web page and sent a retraction request to Science magazine. I think Green’s taken some grief for this, and it certainly seems like there’s fieldwide trouble in catching fraud, but Green took that hard 180 very fast. And a good thing, too: If he hadn’t, we’d have a Salon piece on how BK are anti-science mini-Hitlers while WorldNetDaily would report on how the gays keep trying to take over science and Jesus.

      Donald Green should be embarrassed for missing it, but a lot of people missed it and as soon as the clues came in, he looked at them through clear eyes. This is a little reminiscent of the psychic power investigations of the 1970’s, where scientists had all kinds of procedures to make sure the data was statistically significant, but no real procedures to stop bad actors. (Or, if you like, the Stephen Glass problem at the New Republic.)

      I think there is sufficient fraud in social science that people should be a hell of a lot more careful in trusting others. We’ll see if any fixes show up.

      • Deiseach says:

        I have to say, that’s actually a little bit worse. If you’re supposed to be supervising the study, and your researcher comes back with whizz-bang results that seem to contradict, or at least go far beyond, the normal run of results – you just say “Fantastic, carry on”? You don’t go “Well, this is very new, let me have a closer look at it”?

        I do realise personal trust was involved. But I also think there was some unconscious bias at work – this was the kind of result you would expect a social scientist in modern academia to love as a poke in the eye to the right-wing homophobes (being uncharitable) or as proof of the perfectibility of human nature (being charitable) – turns out all you need to do to change misguided and ignorant attitudes is introduce real people to the persons holding such attitudes, and once they see that the [member of group being demonised] aren’t two-headed baby-eaters, why, they’ll not alone modify their opinions, they’ll reverse them completely!

        And I have this bridge across the Suir going cheap, make you a fortune in toll charges, send me your bank account details if you want in on this once-in-a-lifetime offer!

        • whateverfor says:

          To be fair, Green insisted on a follow-up to verify after seeing the initial data. Since he was thinking about routine experimental error and not outright fraud, the second repetition eased his mind. It wasn’t until much later that he investigated for fraud instead of error.

          Of course, everything we know is from Green talking and not LaCour, and all the incentives are for Green to throw LaCour under the bus as hard and fast as he can, so maybe this isn’t the whole story.

          • Deiseach says:

            What pinged with me was the bit about the grant money not being spent the way he said he spent it (e.g. not paying respondents).

            So what happened it? Where did the money go? Was the temptation to make up a bunch of results and pocket the cash allotted to paying subjects too much, because he needed it For Reasons? Did he decide that damn it, the Right Side Of History Cause needed a boost and this kind of ‘survey result’ would be just the thing, and that the ends justify the means?

            There’s definitely more to this story than we’re getting.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I’d think that a hoax that could be exploded by one question to the agency that supposedly conducted the survey, would be pretty dangerous, unless the hoaxer planned to take the money and leave the ivory tower for FiJi. For Green to doubt LaCour’s honesty might be hard, but doubting his intelligence would be harder. Unless LaCour had reason to think the whole of academe was that easy to fool, permanently.

          • JRM says:

            No – no grant money was given. There was no embezzlement. He just made that part up.

      • JRM says:

        LaCour’s response:

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/zqfcmlkzjuqe807/LaCour_Response_05-29-2015.pdf?dl=0

        There are several serious problems with LaCour’s response. Most notably:

        1. He says he did set up the survey and provides a link to a screenshot:

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/1r15mtxgyrsn7y3/Survey_Date_Creation.pdf?dl=0

        That says “Abortion study” on it, which is a study he did. I don’t want to get all semantically nitpicky, but “abortion” and “gay marriage” are in fact different, even if you find people’s view on them largely aligned.

        2. He says he bought computers to raffle off. He then provides a link to receipts here:

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/1raz9p7r950v3tp/LaCour_Receipts_.pdf?dl=0

        This is the not-my-pants defense.

        Purchases he ascribes to the raffle:

        5/18/12: MBP 13.3/2.8/2X2GB/750/SD, $1,636.

        10/31/12: iPad and case, $493.

        12/2/12: MacBook, $1,636.16.

        1/31/13: The serial numbers are blacked out, but he upgrades a MacBook (not identical to two above) for $370.

        8/25/13: iPad 16GB with case and gift card. $595.82

        3/11/14 Computer, $1,199. Description “MBP 13.3/2.5/2X2GB/500/SD-USA.” (Presumably MacBookPro and other items.)

        8/10/14 Ipod (bought screenshine simultaneously) $293.

        Now, this is important, because according to his timeline, the study started in May, 2013 and the followup in March, 2014. The times don’t match. I can’t find any institutional funding for this, but the raffle story sounds bad. (He says some of them were for a previous study.) There was some activity in August, but he expressly says data collection was complete by March 13, 2014, so he didn’t need any of the filthy lucre offered by a potential grant source.

        Further, the winner of the raffle got sent a computer. There are tax consequences to that, sports fans. Even if they ignored that, they had to deliver the computers. Further further, how exactly did they run the raffle? That takes some randomization. I predict this ends badly.

        LaCour says BK should not have labeled nonresponses as 50’s on the chart because holy catnip, Batman, that makes his and another studies data look freaking identical. Let me suggest that if this were improper manipulation (and I don’t think so, but I’m not digging into the raw data any deeper) it’s a simple one that ends up with a startlingly identical graph.

        The next claim is that, sure, maybe some of the data which is way too regular was… well “I cannot rule out the possibility that I mistakenly mixed up simulated thermometer waves generated to gauge statistical power,prior to the launch of study 2.”

        Then LaCour says because this data was only in an appendix and the raw data wasn’t part of the main text, it’s really all good and all this foofaraw is over nothing.

        Also he takes responsibility for inaccuracies.

        That’s my quick hit. (If anyone wants to republish this, you’re welcome to.)

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awY1MRlMKMc

  7. E. Harding says:

    Bin Laden was a better-read character than I thought. The 9/11 conspiracy books are likely for ideas on challenging American establishment doctrines.

  8. Douglas Knight says:

    The taxi medallion article says that the Chicago price went from 70k in 2007 to 357k in 2013, to 270k today. It also says that the market has seized up, so maybe it will stabilize even lower. But lower than a decade ago? Maybe this is a bubble bursting, not the work of Uber. Chicago is the only place that it gives a price older than two years.

    • C says:

      70k in 2007 to 357k in 2013 was just absurd. ~70% annualized growth every single year for six years? Are you kidding me? This is barely a price correction. 270k in 2015 from 70k in 2007 is still ~36% growth annualized from 2007. Nobody who bought a Chicago medallion in 2007 is being shafted here.

  9. Re Osama Bin Laden: it makes perfect sense to study the effect that your attacks have had on your enemy. In a traditional military context that might be mainly concerned with estimating casualties and so on, but for a terrorist it presumably includes pretty much everything about how it affects society.

  10. zz says:

    The mealsquares article claims that you can order a month’s worth of mealsquares for <$100 which is, as I understand it, incorrect, unless you aim to only eat 400 calories a day. (I also take exception to their claim that soylent has "died down": I still eat it, and near as I can tell, there's a low-but-steady trickle of interest coming from the type of people who go for things like soylent).

    Which brings me to a more general point: every time the media has written on a topic that I know a lot about, they always seem to be at least some degree of wrong. Even the best example I’ve ever read is filled with a lot of minor inaccuracies (it’s Day[9], not Day9, dammit! Moreover, the author takes the Twitch chat far to seriously.) Has anyone ever read an article that just kind of gets everything right?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Gell-Mann Amnesia.

      I agree that they seem to have screwed up the pricing.

      • grendelkhan says:

        It’s informative from a purely aesthetic point of view to compare Crichton’s description of the effect with Free Northerner’s, who was, at the time, unaware that there was another name for it. Same situation, completely different aesthetics.

    • Which brings me to a more general point: every time the media has written on a topic that I know a lot about, they always seem to be at least some degree of wrong.

      I have been involved in local politics and public affairs for some 40 years. And in all that time, I have never seen a newspaper story, of more than a couple paragraphs, about something I knew about personally, that was completely right.

      • Deiseach says:

        Conversely, that’s why I tend to give Wikipedia the benefit of the doubt; when I check things that I have some knowledge about (e.g. Irish history and politics) they’re generally good for accuracy and where there is bias, it’s very clear that someone with a particular point of view is grinding their axe.

    • Lev Grossman’s story on fanfiction, published in Time in 2011, comes to mind as an example of unusually good reporting on an esoteric subject—especially since the subject is a subculture, and those typically get it even worse than other topics.

      ETA: The “Day9” thing was likely at the insistence of the magazine’s copyeditors. I can’t say I blame them.

      • Held in Escrow says:

        Not a terrible article; I’m surprised, having wanted to burn his fiction in effigy.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Would you mind sharing the reasons why you hate Lev Grossman’s fiction so much ? I was very surprised to hear anyone say it with such vehemence, hence I’m curious.

          Though, obviously, “go away, Bugmaster, I am not turning this comment thread into a fanboyish flame war” is a perfectly valid answer…

          • Held in Escrow says:

            My experience is with his Magicians series, which is an attempt to deconstruction Harry Potter and Narnia. Now, the most glaring issue is that in order to actually deconstruct the tropes of a series or genre, you really need to understand it. Lev Grossman doesn’t “get” either series, which leads to him thinking he’s really clever when he decides to make the backstory of one villain that he was molested by the CS Lewis stand in character! I mean come on, that doesn’t even rise to the level of a cheap shot!

            Outside of a complete failure on themes, the actual characters are pretty much the opposite of compelling. The main character, who is generally refered to as Ennui Man, is supposed to change and grow throughout the series. Now, you never actually see much growth, as it’s all tell and no show, but I suppose it’s still better than the rest of the cast which is completely static.

            The worlds they occupy are bland and without any of the charm of the stories they’re based off and the actual plot doesn’t really do anything interesting.

            The whole series just comes off as petty and mean, like someone forced him to read Narnia and HP in school and now he’s doing a “take that!” aimed straight at them.

          • DrBeat says:

            I thought The Magicians was a good book about growing up and/or hating yourself and the world around you. But it was also one of those books where the only thing a sequel could possibly do was piss away everything good about the first one.

          • Deiseach says:

            the backstory of one villain that he was molested by the CS Lewis stand in character

            Rolling my eyes here: obviously this person hasn’t read anything that Lewis said about homosexuality or the relevant chapter on his school days from his autobiographical memoir “Surprised by Joy”:

            The Tarts had an important function to play in making school (what it was advertised to be) a preparation for public life. They were not like slaves, for their favours were (nearly always) solicited, not compelled. Nor were they exactly like prostitutes, for the liason often had some permanence and, far from being merely sensual, was highly sentimentalised. Nor were they paid (in hard cash, I mean) for their services; though of course they had all the flattery, unofficial influence, favour, and privileges which the mistresses of the great have always enjoyed in adult society. That was where the Preparation for Public Life came in. It would appear from Mr. Arnold Lunn’s Harrovians that the Tarts at his school acted as informers. None of ours did. I ought to know, for one of my friends shared a study with a minor Tart; and except that he was sometimes turned out of the study when one of the Tart’s lovers came in (and that, after all, was only natural) he had nothing to complain of. I was not shocked by these things. For me, at that age, the chief drawback to the whole system was that it bored me considerably. For you will have missed the atmosphere of our House unless you picture the whole place from week’s end to week’s end buzzing, tittering, hinting, whispering about this subject. After games, gallantry was the principal topic of polite conversation; who had “a case with” whom, whose star was in the ascendant, who had whose photo, who and when and how often and what night and where. . . . I suppose it might be called the Greek Tradition. But the vice in question is one to which I have never been tempted, and which, indeed, I still find opaque to the imagination. Possibly, if I had only stayed longer at the Coll, I might, in this respect as in others, have been turned into a Normal Boy, as the system promises. As things were, I was bored.

            The “Tarts” were the 12-14 year old boys who were the favourites of the older (and sporty, in most cases) boys, the “Bloods” (probably “Jocks” in American parlance).

            Here’s a fellow, you say, who used to come before us as a moral and religious writer, and now, if you please, he’s written a whole chapter describing his old school as a very furnace of impure loves without one word on the heinousness of the sin. But there are two reasons. One you shall hear before this chapter ends. The other is that, as I have said, the sin in question is one of the two (gambling is the other) which I have never been tempted to commit. I will not indulge in futile philippics against enemies I never met in battle.

            … And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocricy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgement. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society so worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The World will lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and create a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.

            If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern dared to speak the truth, we should have to say that pederasty, however great an evil in itself, was, in that time and place, the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things. It was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with foetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. In his unnatural love-affairs, and perhaps only there, the Blood went a little out of himself, forgot for a few hours that he was One of the Most Important People There Are. It softens the picture. A perversion was the only chink left through which something spontaneous and uncalculating could creep in. Plato was right after all. Eros, turned upside down, blackened, distorted, and filthy, still bore the traces of his divinity.

          • Matthew says:

            But it was also one of those books where the only thing a sequel could possibly do was piss away everything good about the first one.

            Personally, I thought The Magician King was the best of the series.

          • veronica d says:

            I only read the first Magicians book, but it left me pretty cold. I couldn’t relate to Quentin much. He seemed one of those classic author inserts, and just nope. I liked Alice so far as it goes, but I didn’t like how he handled her. She really felt like plot-device-for-dude’s-story, which I guess she was.

            So if you like that sort of thing…

            But I don’t. I’ve really become used to women who are real protagonists and not some tragic element in the real hero’s life.

          • Mary says:

            What I remember most about The Magicians is the plot grinding to a halt in the middle after graduation, where they live lives of total, shallow, pointless hedonism.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            Let me put it this way Mary; I really hoped that he was stepping out onto open air at the end of the first one.

            But veronica_d, I would go one step further and put forth that Alice was a reward for finishing a character arc. You’ve slayed the dragon, now you can have the hand of the princess!

            Except that we were told said slaying occurred, but at no point was it shown and the character acted as if the dragon (WHICH IS A DRAWN OUT METAPHOR FOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT) didn’t actually die but he got his prize anyways!

          • DrBeat says:

            Reward? It may have been a while since I read it, but I seem to recall that he ruins his relationship with her out of immaturity, then she turns into an inhuman magical ghost.

            And it seems odd to complain about the plot stopping for “shallow, pointless hedonism” when it is explicitly displayed as shallow and pointless in the book itself; here they are with all this power, here they are with the world at their fingertips, and they have no fucking idea what to do with it and so they waste it.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            DrBeat, I’m referring to the series as a whole.

            But in regards to the complaint about shallow, pointless hedonism; my big issue with the series is that this never changes. You’re told that people grow up; told so in very strong language. Except it’s never shown. There isn’t real character development, just authorial fiat that you should now treat the characters as being better than they used to be.

          • Mary says:

            Odd? What on earth is odd about it? Only a lunatic would enjoy driveling characters doing driveling things without even a plot to keep it going.

      • Error says:

        Wow. That does seem to get it pretty much right. I should keep the article around, to show to family members who don’t get this particular hobby of mine.

    • zz says:

      I’ll also add that specialist publications can be exceptions: Team Liquid does a good job reporting eSports news, for instance.

  11. Ever An Anon says:

    This is pure 200 proof speculation but the article about the woman hallucinating that people’s faces morphed into dragons reminds me about how some people say they can see politicians on TV shapeshift into their “true” reptilian humanoid forms. Does anybody else think that might be a plausible explanation for how this whole thing might have gotten started?

    The data on fertility is encouraging, although “not dysgenic” is different than eugenic. It’s one thing for intelligence and conscienciousness to not overly hurt your fertility but quite another for them to give a fitness advantage: in the long run, expensive traits which don’t give commensurate benefits will be pruned off. Though at least this buys some additional time for the environment to swing back to a more selective one.

    • My reaction (To Scott’s link–I haven’t read the work itself) was to suspect it was a result of a lot more women getting PhD’s. When only a few very dedicated ones did, they would tend to be ones who put their careers ahead of everything else.

      • Deiseach says:

        Edited to remove needless pissiness:

        Perhaps the greater number of female PhDs having children is due to FEMINISM, and its efforts to make it easier for women to have both a work and a private life are bearing fruition in enabling women to not have to choose between education/a career and a family life?

        Things like maternity leave (though I am given to understand the U.S.A. is behind other countries on that), job-sharing, childcare, and the like do make it easier to have a child and work at the same time.

        • Irrelevant says:

          My estimation is economic pressures >> ideological pressures > policy interventions.

          “Programs that make it easy to have both a career and private life” are over with “effective long-term diets” in the category of things that only work for a small tribe of statistically non-existent superhumans.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            Isn’t that small tribe of non-statistically significant superhumans also called Sweden?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Case in point there, actually. Sweden is significantly behind the US in professional advancement by women despite a higher base labor force participation rate.

          • Deiseach says:

            And you don’t think that people with the background that encourages them to go on to study for a PhD aren’t (or at least weren’t) in the section of society which fit the criterion of “small tribe of non-statistically significant superhumans”? In other words, the kind of background where they are most likely to have access to well-funded and progressive progammes of that nature, and to be able to take advantage of them?

            Goodness’ sake, Scott even phrased it as a question about the elite! 🙂

          • Irrelevant says:

            Well speak of the devil, it’s the Times, today, with another article on how “family friendly” policies backfire. And most of these studies are saying that professionals are the hardest hit, Deisach, which I expect includes our elite PhDs-type. If policy changes have been responsible for the uptick in fertility, it’s been at a measurable cost in career advancement.

            In a special stroke of brilliance, the article’s proposed solution is to try to pressure fathers into using maternity benefits as well. I guess they want to encourage everyone to hire eunuchs.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, Irrelevant, until we crack the problem of growing people in bottles, somebody has to give birth to the next generation of future consumers and workers, and if society is complaining about “too many dumb people are having kids”, why is society making it harder for smart people to have children?

            And when did it happen that humans were made for work, not work for humans? That the highest goal is to devote every spare minute to your career, where you will enjoy ten or so years of attaining the pinnacle you strove for, until you are considered over-the-hill and your earning potential declines even though you are not yet of pensionable age.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Forgive me, I think my specific annoyance at people credulously accepting that maternity leave laws are good for women in the workforce when both economic reason and research disagree is getting in the way of communicating my original point: I am not particularly concerned by dysgenics, and I am even less concerned about the “best and brightest” side of dysgenics. As I said upthread slightly, I believe the low fertility rate for women with post-graduate education was an early-adopter effect and should never have been taken as a linear trend.

            If society is complaining about “too many dumb people are having kids”, why is society making it harder for smart people to have children?

            That’s the thing though: I’m neither convinced either of those is a problem, nor convinced (accepting for the sake of argument that they’re real problems) whether they’re related or distinct problems. Even if you think the outcome of women in general being preemptively dead-ended in their careers is acceptable if it results in some comparable statistical increase in professional-class fertility (and I don’t think that’s the causal direction there), trying to pursue patch-fix regulatory solutions to problems that may not exist and we don’t understand is a terrible idea.

          • Mary says:

            Society doesn’t make anything harder. Society is a confluence of a lot of choices made by individuals.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Don’t choices made by individuals, taken collectively, often make things harder? This seems like a “guns don’t kill people, bullets do” pointless quibble.

          • Mary says:

            but any given decision by a person may be logical and even inarguable and yet the total sum leads to bad consequences without anyone willing them.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Yes, Moloch exists. But so does Baphomet.

        • Orb says:

          Keep in mind that there’s feminism and then there’s feminism. It doesn’t necessarily need to be accepted or rejected as a package and may not even be useful to think about that way. For example, I’m against the low-status man hate aspect of feminism (although it’s probably so deeply rooted in biology that we’ll never get rid of it) and in favor of policies that make having children easier for career-oriented woman scholars. shrug

        • Ever An Anon says:

          Well if it is the result of feminism, then that’s the sort of feminism we need more of. When I was growing up the message was mainly “eww crotch-fruit” so seeing the movement go in a less self-destructive direction would be another big ray of sunshine.

          Speaking of, I’m curious what you think of egg-freezing. A few tech firms are experimenting with offering women employees free egg freezing for later IVF (no sperm freezing unfortunately, so that’s out-of-pocket for us guys concerned with mutational load). In terms of keeping up fertility it’s a big plus, not to mention that the thawing process kills most of the weaker eggs for a small eugenic boost and IVF allows preimplantation screening or even germline modification. But on the other hand I can see why people might not like the idea as well.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do “weaker eggs” correspond to “eggs with weaker genes?” I would assume those are unconnected, so not really relevant for eugenics.

            I suspect that egg freezing is giving a false sense of security, and putting people in a worse position later in life, much like encouraging everybody to go deeply into debt to get a college degree that ends up having no value in the job market. IVF is very expensive and fraught with a lot of problems, and geriatric pregnancies (medically defined as any past 35) pose complications even once you get past the fertility issues.

            Plus, children are exhausting. This really is something we were designed to do when we’re young.

          • Linch says:

            What’s the evidence for a “college degree having no value in the job market?” I was under the impression that the pay premium for years of education is higher than ever, though this is not a subfield I’m exactly with.

          • Adam says:

            I believe he’s specifically comparing it to encouraging people to get a degree with no value, not saying all degrees have no value.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Though at least this buys some additional time for the environment to swing back to a more selective one.”

      The environment is/was selective. Just not selective for the traits you* happen to prefer.

      *and I

      • Ever An Anon says:

        If that were true, we wouldn’t be seeing mutational load increasing as quickly as it is. Negative selection has had it’s kneecaps blown off by our modern technological environment and a lot of our worries stem from that.

        Don’t get me wrong, I understand your point about evolution not being an ‘Ascent of Man’ diorama. But this is a case where selective pressure does seem to have been greatly reduced.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Where did you measure this trend?

        • Irrelevant says:

          Sure, but we can fix that by just putting traps that hurl poisoned needles in random school hallways.

        • Anonymous says:

          OK, it’s true that a baby born today with harlequin ichthyosis can live a normal life and have children of her own (whereas in past years, she would have died shortly after birth), but an environment that selected against that sort of mutation is still not necessarily one that would select *for* intelligence and conscientiousness. Mutational load doesn’t enter into the argument, really.

        • Harald K says:

          That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. The genetic traits we save today may, for all we know, be the ones that are valuable down the road.

          Sure, it may seem to us that, say, having hearing is strictly better than being deaf. But we are not and cannot possibly be objective about which genes are “good”, since we are a bag of genes ourselves.

          So quit worrying about all the people surviving that you think shouldn’t survive. It’s none of your business. If nature kills you, that doesn’t mean nature judges you or thinks less of you. You can’t say that about a man, especially of a man killing you out of eugenic righteousness.

          But if you want to pass judgment on genes anyway, I vote that the first people we should sterilize are those who are so morally depraved that they think it’s a good idea.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          Oh get off your high horse, I’m talking about IVF pre-screening not the freaking T4 program. This kind of knee-jerk response is why it’s impossible to have real conversations about population genetics.

          Even if you think reducing negative selection through medicine is worth it overall you can still acknowledge that it comes with a large cost. Kids born with serious issues aren’t in for a very fun time and accumulating mutations means that polygenic traits which have a strong influence on life outcomes like IQ and height are going to suffer at the population level. Platitudes about deafness maybe being adaptive in some possible future environment aren’t going to help anyone, but intelligent application of genetics might.

  12. I doubt the alarm clock would work for me. One year back in University – in a hall of residence – the neighbour across the hall had a loud alarm clock that would wake me up every morning. It didn’t wake her up, though. Every morning I would be woken up by the alarm, would stumble across the hall and knock on the door, she’d turn the alarm off, and I’d go back to bed and fall sound asleep for several more hours. 🙂

  13. AR+ says:

    Well, if 9/11 was an inside/Israeli job, then obviously Osama Bin Laden would be the first person to realize it aside from the conspirators themselves.

    Regarding cryonics, I think that there is a great deal of misplaced emphasis on the resurrective side of things. If it were merely possible to put people into the sort of cryo-sleep that NASA and others have been working on for purposes of space travel, then this could function as a stop-gag measure for many types of death, and which avoids all of the problems associated with not having frozen someone until they’re already mostly dead.

    If the on-going research along these lines were given prioritization in line with it’s potential medical applications, rather than just for space travel and general research, I suspect it would be making a lot more progress, and once someone has been put under and brought back, it’s a lot easier to argue that frozen people should be legally considered patients and not cadavers. Further, I suspect that cryosleep would be seen as a much more serious field of research for most people, which may partialy avoid the absurdity-based rejections of resurrective cryonics.

    Diagnosed w/ Alzheimer’s Disease’s? Frozen. Metastatic cancer? Take a Chill Pill. Super AIDS? Get in the fucking nitrogen.

    Or maybe not liquid nitrogen. The patient doesn’t need to last until the glorious transhuman future; increasing their shelf-life by a decade or 2 could plausibly be enough time to find a cure for some major diseases.

    Then, of course, we’d have to deal with people opposing it on pro-death grounds, but I suspect that making medicinal freezing count as legal death solely for purposes of inheritance should undercut a lot of the most passionate opposition.

    • Andrew McKenzie says:

      This is how many within the field [1] view cryonics: as long-term biomedical stabilization for a patient who is gravely injured but not yet dead. In theory it is totally agnostic to resurrection methods, including e.g. after superintelligent FAI, and this baggage is completely unnecessary to support it.

      One organization that is actually giving out grants for research on this is the Brain Preservation Foundation [2]. However, the BPF receives relatively small amounts of money via donations, and then only sporadically. The bottom line is that funding scientific research is exceedingly difficult without the support of the government.

      [1]: Not saying that I am, but this is what I picked up from reading Mike Darwin’s blog.
      [2]: http://www.brainpreservation.org/

      • AR+ says:

        I am aware of how cryonics advocates see their patients as only mostly dead. I’m saying that it might be more useful to emphasis research into freezing and unfreezing people who are still mostly healthy, which seems like it should be a strictly easier problem.

        • John Schilling says:

          How do you propose tacking this “easier” problem, when freezing people at the current state of the art probably just makes them completely dead? As a desperation maneuver for people who are, or are very soon and inevitably going to be, all dead, meh, does no harm, slight chance of help.

          Useful and ethical research in this field, for many years to come, is best done on mice. And as you note, probably healthy mice. Whether or not we also, in the meantime, freeze mostly-dead people in the slight hope that we can hold them at the mostly-dead level pending future developments, is largely orthogonal to that. Freezing healthy human beings, is right out.

          • AR+ says:

            I was thinking along the lines of existing NASA research on extended use of therapeutic hypothermia. Note that existing lines of research do not involved lowering temperature to that of liquid nitrogen, but if they are successful, or even used on a highly publicized mission, then I think a lot of people would start to see cryonics of the sort practiced by, say, Alcor, as just a more extreme application of something that people are known to have woken up from.

            I have no objection to being frozen as a last ditch effort to survive, however remote the possibility of success.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t want to speculate about how the public might perceive such things.

            But there is in fact a difference in kind, not degree, between arranging for cells to be filled with colder-than-normal liquid water and arranging for them to be filled with solid water. Research into the one is unlikely to produce substantial gains in the other, and the cold-liquid-water approach probably won’t keep you from slipping past mostly-dead and into the going-through-pockets-for-loose-change stage for more than a few months.

            There are certainly circumstances where the latter could be quite useful, but going into medical hypothermia until the cure for cancer is discovered, probably isn’t one of them. If Alcor starts using medical hypothermia in their advertising for a corpsicle process, I’d recommend looking for a different cryonics provider.

    • RCF says:

      “Well, if 9/11 was an inside/Israeli job, then obviously Osama Bin Laden would be the first person to realize it aside from the conspirators themselves.”

      Not necessarily. If bin Laden did in fact have planes flown into the building, but the US government knew of the attack ahead of time and planted explosives to make sure the towers would fall, then bin Laden might have thought that he was responsible, when if fact he wasn’t.

  14. anon says:

    Maybe this is just my lack of knowledge on the Dark Enlightenment speaking, but how does the Hestia Society expect to enforce their “leadership of NRx,” or establish formal ownership of the “NRx brand”? It’s not something they can exactly copyright or charge dues on, is it? What’s to stop anyone who wants to call themselves a neoreactionary from just doing that? How can they exile anyone from anything? Why would anyone do what they said?

    • Irrelevant says:

      Reading the press release, it looks like they’re depending on the personal reputations of Henry Dampier, Hadley Bennett, Anton Silensky, and Warg Franklin as good/right/insightful people whose Naughty and Nice lists can be taken seriously.

      • Unfortunately for them, I have absolutely no clue who any of these people are, and I speak as an ex-reactionary. I know of Moldbug and Foseti, both of whom I’ve followed for years before they became inactive; I know of Mike Anissimov, and of Hans-Hermann Hoppe; I’ve read Lawrence Auster when he was still alive; and I’ve followed the movement closely for a number of years since 2008, since before it was mainstream, or had come into mainstream attention at all. But I still have no idea who any of those people are. Their reputations may be new, since I haven’t followed the movement for two years now, but if that’s it, it it may not be enough.

        And personally, I hope it isn’t; though I now consider many neo-reactionary solutions misguided, I still think the movement has pointed out many problems that are in fact problems. If they succeed, it’d stifle the movement. Most of the reactionary old guard are former libertarians – Moldbug is – and I don’t see him approving of this. Those who have read his ‘Patchwork’ series will know why. I suspect he may consider it a little pathetic, like he does neo-Nazis.

        • Eggo says:

          Is there a map of NRx anywhere? I’m just subscribed to Social Matter, and am not really sure it counts?

          • anon says:

            There was that old map of the Dark Enlightenment floating around, but with all these shocking new developments I don’t know that it’s still current

        • Orb says:

          I’m guessing these are the co-bloggers that ditched Mike Anissimov. Anyway, “the only morality is civilization” is a great slogan. I’m totally in favor of these guys buying an island somewhere and creating the next Singapore. It’s only too bad that they’d probably have to throw half their followers in jail immediately and forcefully for bad behavior.

          • Anonymous says:

            No, there is no overlap between the leadership of Hestia and the people who used to blog on More Right. (Although almost all of the posts currently at Future Primaeval are by one of the Hestia people.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Actually, it looks like two of the Hestia leaders had blogged at More Right under assumed names. I was confused because the Hestia description of FP still uses the pseudonyms.

        • stargirl says:

          Nick Land Swore Fealty. Which is a big deal.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The same way all government works – by providing a popular enough Schelling point such that most people agree to listen to them because they expect they’d be better off than if they were all arguing among themselves. Then using that control of most people to mop up and exclude defectors.

      • anon says:

        I don’t understand how they can “mop up and exclude defectors” from identifying with a concept, though. It’s not like a piece of territory that a government can kick people out of or defend with soldiers. I guess they could try things like public shaming, but given that DE is a collection of people with extremely unpopular opinions I wouldn’t be surprised if that was something they’d all self selected to be pretty resilient to.

        Maybe a good test of their authority will be whether Anissimov keeps blogging, or if they somehow find some way to shut him up.

        • Irrelevant says:

          A disfellowshipped church member may still claim to identify with the church, but the other members disagree.

        • ddreytes says:

          It seems to me (as someone both socially and philosophically outside of NRx) that their intent is less to stop people from blogging, and more to define the field – to form some kind of authority which can say what is and is not neoreaction.

          So the measure of their success (it seems to me) is not whether Anissimov stops blogging; the measure of success is whether, when Anissimov blogs, people accord him respect and think of him as a central NRx author.

      • More or less this. You’ll note that no one is actually doing anything to Annissimov, other than agreeing not to talk to/about him any more.

        And who’s to say that we aren’t doing Patchwork? Anissimov still exists and is free to do his own monarchy/WN thing. (Note that the Hestia Society is an oligarchy, not a monarchy.)

      • Kojak says:

        Really, if they were proper neo-reactionaries, they’d have him hanged in the name of the king. Y’know, whenever they get around to selecting one of those.

        • Irrelevant says:

          They’re working on it, and have narrowed the field down to Prince Harry, a computer simulation of Prince Harry, Prince Harry but only if he wears the nazi costume, a candidate to be determined by a combined council of archbishops and archdruids, and “whichever guy the marines acclaim.”

      • Shenpen says:

        One of these days I should explain the first-world bias in these theories. You guys are all from countries that tend to win wars and as such see _internal conflicts_ far more important than _external conflicts_ (wars). From a habitual war winner angle it must be difficult to see a government as first and foremost about keeping a country not occupied and independent by external factors, and only secondarily about preventing internal conflict. And that is why habitual war losers are never libertarians – their right-wing tends to be authoritarian and nationalistic: ideally suited for war defense.

        • Nornagest says:

          Modern libertarianism emerged from a United States that had just lost a war badly. But getting drummed out of a country you successfully invaded because you totally botched the hearts-and-minds angle is, to be fair, somewhat different than watching your capitol bombed flat and then spending weeks or months with the power and water out and checkpoints everywhere manned by hard-eyed teenagers with heavy weapons and a grudge.

          • Adam says:

            I’m sure he meant countries that habitually get invaded rather than habitual war losers. If anything, habitual failed invasions of other countries will be more likely to produce libertarianism because the existing government is wasting a whole bunch of money and getting people killed for no obvious gain.

          • SanguineVizier says:

            Modern libertarianism emerged from a United States that had just lost a war badly.

            I hate to be pedantic, but modern libertarianism emerged during the Vietnam War, not after.

          • Nornagest says:

            Fair point, pedantry or no; it was a long war. I actually wan’t trying to point to much of a causal link there, except at one or two levels’ remove — it seems more likely to me that it grew out of the fallout of the post-Goldwater political realignment mixed with a bit of the Sixties counterculture’s individualist streak.

            That said, the developments in Vietnam I was pointing to were well underway by ’69-’72 — that’s well after the Tet Offensive, which is usually cited as the turning point in the propaganda war.

        • RCF says:

          One can make the opposite argument. Countries in no danger of being invaded can afford the luxury of internal divisions. Furthermore, they have a great deal of discretion in their foreign policy, and so how to exercise that discretion becomes an issue of popular concern. For a country in constant danger of invasion, on the other hand, there isn’t really much to discuss in foreign policy: keep other countries from invading you. Period. Meanwhile, control of internal dissent is a matter of national survival. The US could spend several months in late 2000 and early 2001 trying to figure out who their next leader would be without any fear that Mexico would take the opportunity to retake the southwest. No country surrounded by enemies could have engaged in such vacillation, for instance, chaos of the Iranian revolution prompted Iraq to think that they could profit from an invasion. Historically, when a weak country has a disagreement regarding leadership, the common result is that a strong country backs one side, sends “military advisers”, and then sets up a puppet government.

    • vV_Vv says:

      It’s not something they can exactly copyright or charge dues on, is it?

      Copyright is an invention of the Left. /s

      What’s to stop anyone who wants to call themselves a neoreactionary from just doing that?

      The Holy Inquisition? /s

    • ryan says:

      I think it’s more about giving people a resource to use against the Association Fallacy. “How can you sympathize with neoreactionaries when Michael Anissimov is such an idiot?” Much better to be able to reply with a link to Hestia Society’s blacklist page and say “He is an idiot, the closest thing to officials in charge have him on the black list,” instead of having to do some hand-wringy “well not everything everyone says truly represents…” explanation.

    • Speaking as a node on the Dark Enlightenment Network (they adopted me), I would advise you to take a ganderat the network, which will probably lead you to the correct conclusion that there is no single unifying goal. As I explain in that post, what unifies the Dark Enlightenment folk is not a single unifying vision, but rather their despite of the Cathedral. Many of them have opposing goals. “They” have adopted me despite the fact that I didn’t know they existed and don’t interact with most of the little players–I know Steve, Razib, the folks at West Hunter, the Derb and Charles Murray. And I knew them all by reputation long before the term DE came along.

      Look, I’m not really in this stuff, and I was howling with laughter at that link. But given Scott’s total whinging at any mention of race or gender, I’m shocked he considers neoreaction worthy of note, much less his approval. Ludicrous to think anyone would take this seriously.

      So the answer to your questions are 1) because they’re lunatics, 2) no, 3) nothing, 4) they can’t, 5) no one will.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Our host doesn’t want race and gender in the open threads not because he’s morally opposed to discussing race and gender, but because otherwise race and gender arguments will crowd out all other discussion on possibly more fruitful topics. Often they do anyway, but at least he tries.

  15. Irrelevant says:

    My reaction is a lot like ClarkHat’s…

    Prepare to be taken horribly out of context forever on that one.

    Genetically engineered yeast makes it possible to create home-brewed morphine.

    I look forward to the emergence of artisanal small-batch morphine snobs.

    More evidence against dysgenics: childlessness among female PhDs has decreased by 50% since 1990. What are we doing right?

    I’ve argued for quite a while that childlessness among highly educated women was an early-adopter effect and as higher education became more prevalent, everyone would revert to the means for their social class. Looks like that was about right?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You mean the sort of women who wanted to become highly educated back when this was considered weird were the sort who didn’t want to have children, and now that it’s common for women to become highly educated everyone is doing it including the child-desiring?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        In the long run, smart people tend to be relatively effective at getting what they actually want out of life.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          And for all the previous years smart women mostly didn’t exist?

          • jtgw says:

            No. What he’s saying is that it took smart women some time to figure out the difficult problem of juggling career and child-rearing, but being very smart, they did figure it out eventually.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jtgw:

            I why didn’t these smart women want to be in academia for the previous hundreds (or thousands) of years before 1960?

          • fwhagdsd says:

            “it took smart women some time to figure out the difficult problem of juggling career and child-rearing” hahaha that’s some nice whitewashing of history you have there. It’s interesting how you sheltered fools completely ignore all the blatant anti-mother policies that have existed throughout modern capitalism.

        • RCF says:

          And if having 19 kids isn’t actually what women want, then that has dysgenic implications. Or if there’s a certain percentage of women who don’t want children, and the more intelligent ones are more able to enact that preference.

      • Irrelevant says:

        Yes. Women for whom devoting their peak family-forming years to academics had the lowest opportunity cost (whether due to lack of desire for children or lack of romantic prospects) were the ones who were drawn to post-graduate education first.

        The data I’d be most interested in now though would be what the age profile looks like. i.e. how much of the decline in childlessness is due to an increase in the percentage of women who got doctorates in their 20s having children in their 30s, and how much is due to an increase in the percentage of women who had children in their 20s getting masters in their 40s?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think you are using the word “want” incorrectly here.

        “chose/choose to pay the opportunity costs” seems like what you actually mean.

        • Anthony says:

          Two economists walk past a car dealership window, where there’s a gorgeous Ferrari in the window for a price that either of them could afford. One says to the other “I want that car”. As they walk past the entrance to the dealership, the other says “obviously not”.

  16. AR+ says:

    First thought on childless female PhDs: doctorates tended to be achieved by women who are particularly unlikely to have children as is. Then, as more women get doctorates, the expanding population now includes more fertile women.

    Also, delayed fertility is still a reduction in fertility even for the same number of children-per-woman. A population where women have a child at 16, 19, and 22 will grow faster than one whose women have children at 32, 35, and 38. By the time the latter woman is having her first child, the former is potentially having her first grandchild.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      So the number of female doctorates doubled over the same time period. I don’t know how to figure out how much of the effect that explains.

      Regarding delayed fertility, the numbers are measuring how many women at age 40-45 are still childless. I’d like to know the average number of children as well though.

      • dinofs says:

        Another potential cause: the number of non-citizen women getting PhD’s has gone up 5x since 1988, which translates to a change from around 10% to 35% of foreign PhD’s in general. This at a time where the proportion of non-citizens getting American degrees has also gone up quite a bit. If female PhD’s from other countries are more likely to have children (which definitely isn’t true for all countries, but might be significant on balance), then that could explain at least some of the change.

    • nydwracu says:

      First thought on childless female PhDs: doctorates tended to be achieved by women who are particularly unlikely to have children as is.

      …?

      What about the West/East Germany academic fertility thing?

  17. The moderate-drinking thing interests me because, assuming that it doesn’t in fact prevent heart disease ceteris paribus, it’s the first real-life example I’ve encountered of a smoker’s lesion.

    • The Do-Operator says:

      if this is the first real life example you see, then you obviously do not read much observational research. The common name for this problem is “confounding” and it is present almost everywhere. And in case anyone wonders, the moderate drinking thing is very obviously a prime example of confounding/smoking lesion.

      • Unique Identifier says:

        Closely related to this, it is hard to say whether drugs turn otherwise normal people into dysfunctional citizens, or whether drugs merely have a disproportionate attraction on the sort of people who would find some or other way to get into trouble regardless.

        • The Do-Operator says:

          i agree that this mechanism is real, that confounding explains a large chunk of the association between drugs and being dysfunctional. That said, hard drugs have serious pharmacological effects, and I think it is implausible to claim that there isn’t at least some component of the association that is due to a true causal effect of the drugs..

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Let’s entertain a parallel claim for a moment. Shooting yourself has serious physical effects, but is it implausible to claim that there isn’t necessarily much of an association between the availability of guns and the actual number of suicides? It -seems- obvious, when you first think about it, but it doesn’t seem to explain much about the differences in rate at the national level.

            Take some country where hard drugs is relatively new phenomenon, and go a hundred years back in time. It seems to me that you had the same sort of dysfunctional people back then, being homeless, begging, selling their bodies and doing petty crime. And in lieu of hard drugs, they were addicted to alcohol, tobacco or gambling, if they didn’t completely ruin themselves huffing paint.

          • The Do-Operator says:

            Unique Identifier:

            I think this discussion will benefit from some more clarity on what claims are being made.

            I predict that if you run a trial where individuals are randomized to either (1) crack cocaine inhaled daily for 10 years or (2) placebo , then people in the crack cocaine arm will end up being more dysfunctional.

            I also predict that if you run a trial where you randomized individuals to either (1) self inflicted gunshot wound to the head or (2) placebo, then individuals in the placebo arm will live longer.

            If I understand correctly, you claim that these trials are irrelevant because the real alternative is not placebo. Rather, the real alternative to crack cocaine is alcohol, tobacco and gambling, and the real alternative to guns is jumping from a tall building.

            Yes, there is a case to be made that if you run a randomized trial with three arms: (1) Self inflicted gunshot wound, (2) Jump from a tall building and (3) Placebo, then arms 1 and 2 will be virtually indistinguishable. Moreover, it is plausible to claim that if you intervened to remove guns, most individuals who otherwise would have chosen guns will now choose to jump from buildings.

            That doesn’t mean that guns aren’t harmful when compared to placebo, or that crack isn’t harmful when compared to not smoking crack.

          • Cauê says:

            Hm. Suppose someone wants to ban Coca-Cola on the basis of health concerns. But only Coca-Cola, not Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper.

            Then one could say “well, Coca-Cola had the same effects of other sodas, and banning it would probably make people drink Pepsi, not water, but that doesn’t mean Coca-Cola isn’t harmful compared to a placebo“. Which doesn’t seem very useful.

          • The Do-Operator says:

            Caue: Yes, I agree, there are definitely situations when the most relevant causal contrast is not with placebo, but with a similar agent that will be used as a replacement

            However, let’s imagine we are debating whether we should discourage our kids from taking drugs. It seems reasonable to think of the alternative to taking drugs as being “not taking drugs” rather than “find some other way to destroy your life”.

            I am making two points:

            (1) When you make claims about the consequences of actions, be clear about exactly what causal claim you are making, preferably in terms of predicting the outcome of a hypothetical experiment.

            (2) When people believe drugs are harmful, this is not entirely explained by confusion about evidential/causal decision theory. There is almost certainly real effect here (even if it is exaggerated by smoking lesion type problems)

          • Ever An Anon says:

            Well it doesn’t seem very reasonable if “find some other way to destroy their lives” IS the most likely alternative.

            The point of anti-drug campaigns is, presumably, to straighten the kids out generally. In that case knowing whether or not that is actually a likely outcome of getting rid of any particular intoxicant is pretty important then!

            Shuffling kids from heroin to alcohol to paint huffing is just spinning our wheels, so if that’s what we’re doing then that should be a sign to step back and reevaluate things.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Do-Op: [Edit: this was written before reading your reply to Caué!]

            I don’t specifically disagree with any of that. I do, however, believe that one should be careful about evaluating a drug by looking at the worst cases. If alcohol was and had always been prohibited, I think it would have been much less obvious that most people can find a middle ground between abstinence and abuse, while living perfectly normal lives.

            Suppose that cocaine was legalized and destigmatized overnight. It’s conceivable, that you would suddenly have a lot of well-adjusted, recreational users, just like with alcohol today. It’s not at all definitive, but it’s certainly conceivable. The important reasons is that the demography will cease to be biased towards people who don’t care about the law, the substances themselves would be cheaper and cleaner, and the model users would no longer feel obliged to keep quiet about it.

            I don’t think daily use of large amounts of crack cocaine is likely to be very healthy, but that doesn’t tell us much. Drinking vodka by the bottle every day isn’t much better, I suspect. For a sufficiently large amount, even sugar is lethal over time, but there’s nothing profound about that.

            I think the interesting question is whether there is exists a mostly harmless way of using these drugs, and whether most people would self-regulate towards these levels (including the zero-level) rather than develop a runaway addiction – like with alcohol.

            The flip side of this question, is whether the people who have ruined themselves with drugs would have been much better off in a society where they simply weren’t available – or if they have some sort of underlying pathology which would have been expressed differently in this hypothetical society, such as compulsive gambling and huffing paint, etc.

            Without answering those two questions, ‘drugs are bad’ seems like more of a smokescreen than a meaningful statement.

            Edit: From a parent’s perspective, ‘stay away from drugs’, ‘stay away from people who do drugs’, ‘drugs are bad’ will still be good advice, of course, given where we are today. I’m focusing on the underlying causation rather than the pragmatics.

          • haishan says:

            Object level nitpick: I was under the impression that availability of guns has rather a lot to do with suicide rates. Is that incorrect?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Haishan, I believe that is incorrect, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it is true in the short term. Here is wikipedia’s list of countries. Do any patterns stand out? Switzerland has 10x as many guns per capita as Britain, but the same suicide rate.

          • Adam says:

            Cross country comparisons don’t really get you much if one is inherently more depressing to live in than the other. Someone must have studied suicide rates before and after gun criminalization/de-criminalization in a single place.

            Not that it would particularly matter much to me personally. I’ve always supported gun rights not because I think they make a region safer or more resistant to government tyranny. I support them because I think it’s wrong to punish people who aren’t doing bad things just because other people they share a trait with are doing bad things.

            Also, it’s not even clear that suicide is a moral bad if some people have legitimately miserable, pointless lives that aren’t likely to get any better.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ unique identifier

            Suppose that cocaine was legalized and destigmatized overnight. It’s conceivable, that you would suddenly have a lot of well-adjusted, recreational users, just like with alcohol today.
            [….]
            I think the interesting question is whether there is exists a mostly harmless way of using these drugs, and whether most people would self-regulate towards these levels (including the zero-level) rather than develop a runaway addiction – like with alcohol.

            A very worthwhile question, and especially interesting for someone like me, who begins with popular literature. Meyer’s The 7 Percent Solution would be a starting point for an amount somewhat higher than was considered healthy by a doctor of that time.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Re: guns and suicide
            It’s a difficult question, mostly because the effect is either subordinate or nonexistent. Eyeballing the list D.Knight posted should be enough to show that. The high ranks seem to be dominated by former Soviet states and East Asia.

            Scandinavian countries seem to all be within spitting distance of each other, and there’s surprisingly little spread between the following countries:
            – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, France, Germany, UK, Switzerland, United States (!), Australia, New Zealand
            Then you have some (in my opinion) surprising outliers, such as:
            – Belgium (high), Netherlands(low), Austria (high), Italy and Spain (very low), Portugal (not like Spain)

            Eventually you make your way over here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

            …and you find that United States has roughly 150 times as many gun suicides per capita as Japan (and infinity times as many gun homicides), yet still has less than half as many suicides. Switzerland has about 20 times as many gun suicides as UK, but almost exactly the same suicide rate.

            So, to me it seems guns get used, when they are available, and when they aren’t – well, water finds a way, they say.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Adam, sure, you can explain away any data you want.

            If Britain is so awful that men kill themselves despite the lack of access to guns, why don’t British women kill themselves more often than Swiss women?

          • Adam says:

            I . . . don’t know and don’t care and am just making a general observation about drawing policy conclusions from comparisons of dissimilar municipalities?

          • John Schilling says:

            Someone must have studied suicide rates before and after gun criminalization/de-criminalization in a single place

            Easier said than done, as gun “criminalization” doesn’t result in a significant change in gun ownership on less than a generational timescale. Either there aren’t enough guns to matter, or there are enough guns for the government to do the math and sensibly limit their activities to restricting new purchases while at least tacitly grandfathering in all the guns presently owned by people who might take a dim view of policemen coming to take away their guns.

            The British experience in shifting from highly toxic coal gas to essentially non-toxic natural gas for home heating, cooking, and lighting is possibly relevant, insofar as coal gas was the culturally preferred method for painless and highly lethal suicide attempts, and the transition occurred relatively quickly. Result was, as expected, a massive decrease in the number of suicides by CO inhalation, which was mostly compensated by an increase in suicides by other means.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here are some scatterplots of the wikipedia gun and suicide numbers. (male) suicide against guns – nothing; male vs female – strong correlation; suicide sex ratio against guns – nothing.

            It is because I read Marginal Revolution that I prefer scatterplots of wikipedia data over papers by Alex Tabarrok.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Gun ownership vs. handgun ownership would potentially be a fairly important distinguisher, wouldn’t it? Handgun is the overwhelming favorite for suicide in the US, with rifle and shotgun being far behind.

            I’m not saying your data is wrong, but I would like to see whether that makes a difference.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It is possible that makes a difference, but I do not have data distinguishing the two. It may be that Switzerland is a bad example because of all the conscript rifles, but I don’t think the mix is that different in America, France, and Britain, with their 13:5:1 ratio of guns per capita. But I don’t know.

            CDC says that 62% of each of suicides and homicides are by handguns. Actually, it says that only where the method is known, which is only 40% of suicides and 13%(!) of homicides. (wonder, X72-4, X93-5, 2010-2013)

          • Nornagest says:

            It seems like it’d take some doing for a medical examiner to be confused about the presence of a gunshot wound. Unless they’re slicing method very finely or they’re frequently ruling suicide without finding a body, it seems likely that suicides where method was established would overrepresent suicide-by-gunshot and underrepresent other methods.

            I could say the same thing for homicide, though, so I’ll confess to noticing some confusion there.

            EDIT: Wait, the more likely scenario is that “method” here represents the results of an autopsy or other formal inquiry which people sometimes don’t bother to do, either because it’s obvious or for some other reason. I seem to recall that autopsy is sometimes required when suicide is apparent, but that probably isn’t true everywhere.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I am restricting to suicides or homicides that are explicitly recorded as by firearm. This is not a matter of missing bodies. It is a matter of the coroner not recording it on the death certificate.

            Yes, it might be a matter of autopsy, but it is probably about information flow. Maybe the coroner fills out the death certificate before the police perform an autopsy on a murder victim. Whereas, 40% of the time, the relatives of the suicide tell the coroner what kind of gun they found.

        • Anthony says:

          There exists the “social alcoholic” – an ex-girlfriend’s father is a prime example of this. He drinks a lot – probably three to four standardized drinks per day, and because he doesn’t substitute alcohol for food, and likes rich food, he’s quite fat. But he doesn’t start drinking until he’s finished work for the day, and that work is pretty well-paid.

          So there are people who aren’t “the sort of people who would find some or other way to get into trouble regardless” who do get into drugs. I’ve heard, anecdotally, that cocaine use among various high-paid people in the 80s was only ruinous for a few, and the rest either got bored with it, or were able to maintain moderate use. Certainly, some of those cocaine users would have done better if they hadn’t been cocaine users (even if just for having money to spend on things other than cocaine), but it’s possible some of them were more successful because of the cocaine.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            I’m always curious about anecdotes – to be honest, I’m getting to the point where they seem more informative, really, than aggregate statistics.

            If you don’t mind, could you elaborate on in what sense the man was an alcoholic? Did he merely enjoy drinking and do it a lot, like any other meaningless pastime, without much trouble coming of it?

          • Nonnamous says:

            During the Vietnam war, 15 to 20% of US soldiers there were addicted to heroin. After returning home, only 5% of them continued being addicted.

            Source: e.g., http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/01/02/144431794/what-vietnam-taught-us-about-breaking-bad-habits

          • Anthony says:

            They call them High-functioning alcoholics now. He avoids most of the risky behavior associated with typical alcoholism, but keeps going from girlfriend to girlfriend.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Thanks.

          • Matt M says:

            I once had a huge argument with my mom and sister over whether my dad was an alcoholic or not.

            Their arguments:
            When he’s not working or biking (a hugely obsessive hobby of his), he’s almost always drinking and drinks a lot.
            Sometimes he’s a jerk when he drinks.

            My arguments:
            Drinking never once interfered with his ability to hold a job or enjoy his hobby.
            He was in better physical shape than any of us (biking over 10,000 miles a year will do that to you).
            He never once committed any physical violence towards any of us while drunk (and sometimes he was a jerk when he was sober too).

            In the end it seemed like a huge semantics debate. Does someone technically qualify as an “alcoholic” based solely on the volume and frequency of their drinking, or are some sort of clear negative consequences required?

      • While it’s true that I don’t read that much observational research, I do know what confounding is and had been thinking of this as a specific kind of confounding that seemed to more directly parallel the smoker’s lesion than the general case.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It’s one in a long chain that is driving me to despair when it comes to trusting any studies at all. I feel like all the interesting ones get reversed every few years, and that’s not counting the ones that are outright fabricated (as we also see in this post).

    • gwern says:

      Speaking of the alcohol debate, http://davidroodman.com/blog/2015/05/01/are-the-benefits-of-moderate-drinking-a-myth/ is probably an even better bit of current criticism than http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12828/epdf “Has the leaning tower of presumed health benefits from ‘moderate’ alcohol use finally collapsed?”

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        “Has the leaning tower of presumed health benefits from ‘moderate’ alcohol use finally collapsed?”

        That title has too many fnords for me. Or do we need a different term for that sort of ‘citing X not in evidence’ … which I just used myself, oh dear.

      • gwern says:

        By the way, it occurs to me that the alcohol debate would make a fun exercise:

        1. calculate how much it would cost to run an adequately powered randomized trial of alcohol vs non-alcohol consumption on (guesstimate) ~10k people to reach a definitive conclusion on all-cause mortality (implementation is obvious)
        2. now take the two alcohol papers, look at all the citations, count the authors (at around $100K+ per year), all the data sets collected, and estimate a lower bound on the total cost of this inconclusive debate so far; be sure to include the expected annual costs of either alcohol being harmful at all doses & not fighting alcohol consumption or the correlated increase being causal & not encouraging people to drink moderately;
        3. compare
        4. pull out the wine bottle and start drinking until you forget.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I’m not sure, but I think that these observational papers have low marginal cost because they just add a question to other surveys. Moreover, I think a lot of people have a strong belief about (2), namely that it would be pretty much impossible to disseminate the information about moderate alcohol consumption being good without doing net harm. But it would be good to explicitly do that part of the calculation explicitly to see how strong an effect it would have to be.

    • onyomi says:

      The “smoker’s lesion” thing reminds me of Calvinist-style predestination. One would prefer to be lazy and achieve eternal salvation, but people who are chosen for eternal salvation work hard. It seems obvious nothing is gained by working hard, and yet psychologically it seems to work almost better than the causal link. “Proving” to others that you are one of the elect seems harder than convincing yourself that you’ve been good enough, maybe?

    • fwhagdsd says:

      Hahahaha holy shit lesswrong is such a pretentious bastion of worthless, meaningless redefined words. It’s a shame that they end up being not even right with their narcissism

  18. Dormin111 says:

    For great commentary on the nature of authoritarian regimes, check out Albert Speer’s autobiography, “Inside the Third Reich.”

    Speer argues that whatever minor gains in efficiency exists in authoritarian regimes due to a lack of structural resistance and consent are more than offset by the infighting of oligarchs and cronies due to a lack of moral legitimacy. Contrary to popular belief (which even exists today), Nazi Germany was not a well oiled machine, but a highly inefficient government constantly torn apart by corruption, indecision, and power struggles between Hitler’s top lieutenants. As the head of armament production in the Reich, Speer comments that the democratic UK and US governments were far more capable of of converting their economies and populations to a war time structure and mentality than the authoritarian German state.

    • And, contrary to still-widespread belief, Mussolini did NOT make Italian trains run on time.

      See http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/trains.asp

    • AR+ says:

      I’ll definitely look into that, but it has been my understanding that Hitler was a particularly ineffective administrator of a particularly dysfunctional regime. Thinks like rejecting intelligence reports as politically unacceptable (downfall by flatterers, as I believe The Prince had termed it), or, speaking of intelligence, competition between multiple independent intelligence agencies.

      • cassander says:

        This is a mischaracterization. Some parts of the regime were extremely functional, others much less so. Sometimes hitler made things better, sometimes worse. and competing bureaucracies are a problem in any system. See, for example, the immense problems the US had with torpedoes. At the start of the war, the japanese had much better torpedoes than the US. They could fire more than twice as far going nearly twice as fast. This was bad, but the american torpedoes flat out didn’t work. they didn’t run at the right depth, they didn’t explode when they should, and exploded when they shouldn’t. These facts were denied by senior navy officials for almost two years, and reliable torpedoes did not get to the fleet in large numbers until 1944. Bear in mind, that same period of time saw about 15 aircraft carriers built from scratch, or entire new types of aircraft designed, built in the thousands, and deployed in combat.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_14_torpedo

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_93_torpedo

    • cassander says:

      A much better, and less self serving book is “Wages of Destruction” by Adam Tooze. It’s a book about the nazi war economy, and thus government, that wasn’t written by someone doing time in spandau for war crimes. It’s truly fantastic, a must read for anyone with any interest in why ww2 went the way it did.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        A friend on another forum does an interesting presentation where he explains (partly) why the Germans lost the war by comparing a Wehrmacht winter coat with a Red Army one.

        The German winter coat is tailored to its individual wearer, and requires a great deal of work to produce. It looks very nice, but has a lot of practicality issues- for instance, there are no external straps to carry gear on. It is also produced from plundered materials- it is Italian camouflage cloth lined with material from civilian fur coats.

        The Russian one looks much uglier, but is just as warm and more comfortable. It’s mass-produced from cheap materials in a one-size-fits-all way (the hooks that close it can be moved to make it tighter or looser).

        The same is true of other German equipment, such as tanks- beautifully engineered, but hugely labour intensive to build *and maintain*.

        • cassander says:

          I’d argue what you’re seeing is less a reason the germans lost a war than a rational response to conditions. The Russians had access to a lot of raw materials (often supplied by the US) but were not very good at turning those materials into anything that required precision engineering or good quality control. THe germans, by contrast, were quite good at engineering and quality control, but were hamstrung by a lack of raw materials. If you’ve got a ton of wool, but few tailors, it makes sense to stamp out shitty, mass produced coats. If you have a lot of tailors and little wool, it makes more sense to make highly tailored coats that take more man hours to make but use slightly less wool.

          The germans made many mistakes in their industrial planning for the war, but careful engineering wasn’t usually one of them. In some areas, like aircraft, their approach really paid off. Precision engineering matters a lot with planes, Russian planes, even when the basic design was good, tended to come out overweight and underpowered relative to their paper specs. German planes tended to both perform better and be more reliable because they were simply better engineered, and they certainly made more efficient use raw material. In tanks, yeah, the russian approach probably ended up working out better (though it should be remembered that the biggest problem, by far, with the otherwise excellent panther tank was incredibly weak gearbox chosen to ease production) but the germans didn’t really have the option of adopting the russian approach.

          The biggest mistake the germans made (other than not going into a war economy prior to 1943) was overspecialization and failure to prioritize. In tanks, for example, every chassis in production in 39 was still in production 1945, though much upgraded. Focusing on a smaller number of models would probably not have increased overall production much, and might even have cost them. The reason they didn’t do it, after all, was that they calculated that the cost of switching to making newer models would probably have outweighed any efficiency gained. But it would have meant that the material they did have, their real limiting factor, was employed more efficiently, and simplified their immensely complicated logistical problems, which would have produced more savings.

  19. Researchers Find Bitterness Receptors On Human Heart. This wins my prize for “most unintentionally poetic medical headline”.

    Except the article is currently titled “Researchers find bitter taste receptors on human hearts”, which doesn’t have the same poetry. Did they change the title?

    • Deiseach says:

      “Researchers find bitter taste receptors on human hearts”

      That is the perfect opportunity to quote this poem:

      In the Desert

      By Stephen Crane

      In the desert
      I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
      Who, squatting upon the ground,
      Held his heart in his hands,
      And ate of it.
      I said, “Is it good, friend?”
      “It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;

      “But I like it
      “Because it is bitter,
      “And because it is my heart.”

  20. Similar to the faked results in the gay canvassing study are the faked polls in 2009-10 by the Research 2000 (R2K) polling organization for the DailyKos web site.

    A study by three statisticians concluded: “We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls.”

    I suppose it would be possible to carefully create realistic fake data, but if the fakers are already trying to skip difficult or time-consuming steps, like actually surveying people, they’re likely to leave incriminating clues in the data.

    See the interesting details here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/06/29/880179/-Research-2000-Problems-in-plain-sight

    • AR+ says:

      On the plus side, general statistical incompetence in the sciences means that people trying to fake data will hopefully be ignorant of what that actually entails, compared to statisticians studying that sort of thing.

      Things like Benford’s Law have been proposed for identifying fraudulent data.

    • Cauê says:

      I suppose it would be possible to carefully create realistic fake data, but if the fakers are already trying to skip difficult or time-consuming steps, like actually surveying people, they’re likely to leave incriminating clues in the data.

      This is true if saving effort is their motivation, but not if they know the effect isn’t there and are trying to publish it anyway, to make their name and/or further some cause.

    • Jaskologist says:

      So, there appear to be statistical methods that can look at a dataset and tell if it is “random.” I don’t know what those are, but it sounds to my mind like something that could be automated. Does there now exist a tool which can take raw numbers and rate them on how likely they are to be fraudulent? If so, why is this not a standard part of the peer review process?

      And if not, anybody want to point me to a primer on those statistical methods? I might be interested in taking a crack at it.

      • Svejk says:

        Cryptographers and programmers have been interested in methods for testing random number generators for a while now. Donald Knuth, for example, has written about these methods. A short layman’s description can be found in Leonard Mlodinow’s book The Drunkard’s Walk. The US National Institute of Standards is also invested in this topic. This pdf provides a short introduction to the topic and some of the players.

  21. suntzuanime says:

    It’s not necessarily the case that elites are becoming less childless. It’s likely that female PhDs are becoming less elite, both due to increased opportunities for women in academia and the general devaluation of the PhD by the credential treadmill.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      both due to increased opportunities for women in academia and the general devaluation of the PhD by the credential treadmill.

      What if women are getting an increased percentage of the academic pie, but the pie is getting smaller? If the tenure track, or high-powered job track, looks unobtainable, maybe some PhDs are taking child-friendly middle class as a second choice.

    • Matt M says:

      When was academia ever “elite” in the first place?

      I thought among the truly elite, academia was always considered the place to go when you got burned out from real work, and still wanted to make a decent amount (but not nearly as much as you’d make in the private sector) of money while getting a crap-load of time off and having an easy, stress-free lifestyle (possibly so you have time to raise a family).

  22. Evan Þ says:

    There was an interesting comment by Atropine1138 on Ken’s blog post about depression, that unfortunately wasn’t answered there. Scott or anyone else, would you like to take a crack at it?

    What are your thoughts regarding the professional consequences of a mental health diagnosis? I ask because the Louisiana Bar just entered into a federal consent decree to stop their “treatment” program which involved signing over all your medical records to the Bar and basically treating attorneys with even the mildest diagnosis like they had invoked NGI defenses. Given this bias, why would any attorney in a junior position risk their livelihood and career by seeking help, when the “help” can often do more harm than good?

    Especially since the Germanwings crash, it seems like there’s increased intolerance of mental-health issues in positions of responsibility. Under what circumstances do you think it’s appropriate to suspend/terminate an attorney’s ability to practice law (particularly criminal law)?

    • Irrelevant says:

      Wait, “Especially since the Germanwings crash”? That wasn’t even 100 days ago, you can’t draw trends from that.

    • Jiro says:

      Having a mental health diagnosis is evidence for something wrong with you in the same way that having the wrong skin color is evidence that you’re criminal or a bad worker–even if it may be true from a Bayseian standpoint, and even though it may benefit the individual employer (etc.) who is considering hiring you, allowing employers to make decisions on that basis will create a permanent underclass of people who are negatively affected all out of proportion to the actual effect on their work, which is a really bad thing.

      • Jaskologist says:

        That’s like saying “having a heart attack diagnosis is evidence for heart problems like being black is evidence for heart problems.” One is pretty direct evidence, the other is just correlations.

        • RCF says:

          It’s not just correlation; there are clearly casual interactions. And while schizophrenics commit murder about twice as often as the general population, black people commit murder about eight times as often as the general population.

          • grendelkhan says:

            Why do people always go to race on this one? Men commit murder 3.6 times as often as women (according to the same source, being black is a 6.3 multiplier, not eight, but it’s the same ballpark). It feels like there’s something else going on, that makes one example much more available than another.

            I wonder if you could get really excitingly different results by political affiliation, if you asked people whether it was wrong to use relative-risk data like this to profile men, or to profile black people.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because the claim that blacks are equal to whites in all significant ways is widely believed to be true across much of the political spectrum. Probably most of it, depending on how the correlation vs. causation argument plays out.

            That women are equal to men in all significant ways is not taken seriously by much of anybody. Ability to reproduce is obviously significant, but beyond that any credible claim of female superiority / male inferiority in some area – e.g. ability to resolve disputes without murder – will be either uncritically accepted or considered a legitimate subject for discussion.

            The contentious part of the debate is whether there might, in addition to the list of things that women are better at, be a few things that women aren’t as good at. Ability to resolve disputes without murder isn’t on that list, so you can’t use it to steer anyone towards, “If you believe X then you must logically also believe this repugnant thing that nobody believes, thus !X”

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “It feels like there’s something else going on, that makes one example much more available than another.”

            Either
            -gender gap reduces in size as homicide numbers fall so it isn’t considered as important an issue
            -people complain about blacks disproportionately imprisoned and mistreated by police so difference in their murder rates show that it isn’t racism, but due to crime rates.

            “I wonder if you could get really excitingly different results by political affiliation,”

            Yes.

          • RCF says:

            @grendelkhan

            The ratio is nearly twice as high for race as the one for sex. Why are you making intimations of ulterior motives when there is such a clear reason? Additionally, gun control is a blue tribe position, so it makes sense to contrast this with race, since opposition to discrimination against black people is a blue tribe position, and opposition to discrimination against men is not.

          • I wonder if you could get really excitingly different results by political affiliation

            At first I misread this as asking whether liberals and conservatives commit murder at different rates.

            I thought, that’s ridiculous. Most people are politically incoherent. The relatively elite subset who have a body of well-thought-out political views are very unlikely to kill anyone.

            Well, okay, someone might say, but instead of asking about their views, you could just look at who they voted for in the last presidential election.

            But that would leave the vast class of non-voters. And I bet that non-voters as a group commit murder at many times the rate that voters do.

            Moreover, even voters themselves are not so easily assigned to Red and Blue categories. Rank-and-file voters are notoriously unable to accurately report who they voted for, or whether they voted at all.

            For example: in the 1972 presidential election, Richard Nixon (R) was re-elected with 61% of the votes, compared to 38% for his challenger, George McGovern (D). But a couple years later, after Nixon was discredited in the Watergate scandal, something like two-thirds of Americans told pollsters they voted for McGovern!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            For example: in the 1972 presidential election, Richard Nixon (R) was re-elected with 61% of the votes, compared to 38% for his challenger, George McGovern (D). But a couple years later, after Nixon was discredited in the Watergate scandal, something like two-thirds of Americans told pollsters they voted for McGovern!

            It might be helpful to compare the official vote count with the exit polls or other post election polls taken in 1972.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Why do people always go to race on this one? Men commit murder 3.6 times as often as women.

            The only remarkable thing about the 3.6/1 ratio is that most people think it’s even higher than that.

          • Adam says:

            It would be a lot higher if warfare counted as murder or we just counted killing in general.

            (Not that I think warfare should count as murder, but I was a soldier, so I’m not exactly an impartial party.)

      • RCF says:

        “Mental health diagnosis” is an extremely broad category. Having depressive episodes is quite different from having psychotic episodes.

    • FJ says:

      This has been a continuing debate in the legal field (and others!) for a long time. The argument for intolerance can be summarized thus: “The purpose of the disciplinary rules is to protect the public, not lawyers. It might be unfortunate that mentally-ill lawyers lose their livelihoods when they get treatment. But it would be worse for someone to wind up on death row because his lawyer had mental health issues. It’s not worth risking a client’s interests just to protect a mentally-ill lawyer’s job.”

      I think that argument is increasingly being rejected by the disciplinary authorities. Bar organizations have hotlines for lawyers with substance-abuse problems or depression. The official line on these programs is that you can seek help without endangering your license to practice, and that your identity will be kept private. The logic, presumably, is that it’s better to have crazy and high lawyers seeking treatment than crazy and high lawyers hiding their problems.

      But I don’t know that that’s enough. A defining trait of mentally-ill people is that they tend to have difficulty accurately predicting how other people will respond, especially how other people will respond to confessions of mental illness. It’s a bit silly to expect a severely depressed person to say, “The Disciplinary Committee says that you can keep your license even if I seek treatment, and they certainly won’t make an exception in my case, despite what a worthless slug I am.”

      Anyway, as a practical matter, this doesn’t matter that much because discipline for lawyers is very rare. Suspending or disbarring a lawyer normally requires a showing of egregious and deliberate misconduct, like stealing from clients or accepting payment in the form of sexual services. Mere incompetence has to be persistent and incorrigible to rise to that level. If a lawyer is persistently and incorrigibly incompetent, then he should lose his license regardless of mental health issues. It would be nice if the disciplinary board were more proactive in stopping bad lawyers, but they shouldn’t start by staking out psychiatrists’ offices.

      • Limi says:

        Yeah, if there is the possibility that some sort of body of authority figures could either condemn or absolve someone for having mental illness, a depressed person is going to expect condemnation. And if you have an anxiety disorder or paranoia (let alone paranoid schizophrenia) forget about it.

  23. Andy says:

    Re: Bin Laden. He may have understood that rumor and conspiracy theory is a very interesting way of assessing cultural and social psychology. The problem with the book and article list is the lack of any notes on interpretation, which would probably still be classified. I haven’t seen mention of any annotation or notes in the stories around them. I can think of 3 immediate possibilities, just off the top of my head:
    1) 9/11 Truthers tend to be anti-government, and he may have been thinking of ways to radicalize/secretly ally with/use those 9/11-truthy parts of society against the American state.
    2) Bin Laden was just using the 9/11-truthers as gauges to understand American popular opinion, including the fringy bits.
    3) BL was thinking of pushing 9/11 truthy memes openly as a defense mechanism against American morale and war resolve cohesion.
    Basically, if I were a guerrilla/terrorist leader I would pay a lot of attention to rumor and legend – they are important and have real effects and can tell important things about the state of society and its anxieties.

    • Limi says:

      You forgot one very obvious possibility – he didn’t do 911 and is trying to uncover the truth.

      • Andy says:

        That one I just don’t think is quite worthy of inclusion, given the multiple times Al Qaeda and bin Laden claimed credit for it. I see that one as on par with “moon landing was a hoax!” theories.

    • Sylocat says:

      Americans seem to have this rather bizarre belief that Bin Laden was a primitive backwoods caveman whose simple simian brain couldn’t comprehend American values or the modern world.

      • Andy says:

        Yeah, one of the odder 9/11 theories said that Arabs were not smart enough to carry out such a complex plan and… yeah. No. Our subtle bias tying technological/STEM achievement to overall intelligence (see also: engineers and programmers thinking they can fix humanities problems with the same ease as calculating required power input to an electronic device) has annoyed me muchly ever since I noticed it a few years ago.

  24. fubarobfusco says:

    It’s worth noting that the NRx folks are accusing Anissimov not of political dissidence or unreliability, but rather of “Doxing attempts, death threats, excessive antisocial behavior” — things that are likely to be offenses in an Enlightenment context, too.

    • Irrelevant says:

      Who the hell is Mike Anissimov?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Exactly, Comrade. There was never any “Mike Anissimov”. Why are we even talking about this and repeating nonsense syllables for no reason?

        • Irrelevant says:

          I literally don’t know. I also think a Duggar is some sort of flash-in-the-pan dance from a couple years back. It’s been an annoying week.

      • Nornagest says:

        Neoreactionary blogger, probably most prominent these days as one of the guys behind More Right. Also a prolific LW contributor back in the days of yore, and a former MIRI employee (maybe back when it was SingInst, I don’t remember).

        I don’t follow NRx closely, so I don’t know what the deal is with this apparent drama; for that you’re probably better off seeing below.

    • Anatoly says:

      Out of morbid curiosity: are these accusations expanded on anywhere public?

    • Anon says:

      I would like to draw your attention to the numerous screencaps that were saved during Mike’s last meltdown. These, and many other past outbursts, were the primary reason why he needed to go. Political disagreement is irrelevant. Doxing and death threats are unacceptable.

      Given Scott’s bemused comment in his original post, this might provide some helpful context: http://imgur.com/a/WGCZY

      This, of course, does not capture his stalking of Julie Borowski. He pledged to kill her significant other and lick the blood from his throat. Make what you will of it.

      • Anon says:

        I’ll add that he said that this was all but a ploy. This is patently untrue for several reasons, but even if it were just a ploy, that in itself is bad enough. And pathetic.

      • anon says:

        Yikes

        I guess it really won’t be that hard for them to convince people he’s No Longer Part Of The Movement after all

      • AR+ says:

        Geeze. What a respected and attractive member of the LGBT community.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I know you’re joking about the fact that he did all this because he was called a faggot, but somebody’s going to see this comment and not know that and freak out and I’m going to get angry emails and it’s just not worth it. Please avoid in future.

          • AR+ says:

            Understood.

            Edit: Actually, I can still edit the above post, so I went ahead and word-filtered out the slur.

        • Zorgon says:

          This is actually significantly funnier now.

          (Signed, a respected and attractive member of the LGBT community. Well, the latter bit anyway.)

        • Murphy says:

          What a bundle of sticks.

      • Eggo says:

        God, drunken twitter meltdowns are embarrassing to see.

        …I’d have still told him “ur waifu a shit” if I’d been on, though.

        • merzbot says:

          I always found the “super serious dark enlightenment political philosopher”/”4chan weeb” contrast in this guy pretty hilarious.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Much of serious literature and thought is saved from easy mockery only because we don’t understand the jokes.

      • Lightman says:

        The crazy racist transhumanist who thinks the solution to problems caused by transhumanism is monarchy is crazy? Who would’ve thunk it?

      • moridinamael says:

        I always hesitate to say things like “can we stop paying attention to these people, now?” because I tend to assume that I’m just missing the hidden value of following their antics, and because I’m always wary of anything that smells like “chilling discussion,” but reading this has knocked down the last of my suspension of disbelief.

        I can empathize with the person who, walking through a big city, stops to listen to a particularly novel example of crazed ranting, especially if there seems to be some hidden, fascinating logic behind the madness. But my empathy wanes when it becomes apparent that the madness is just madness and the audience still hasn’t moved on – when the audience inexplicably steelmans the rant and then goes back to his home and tells his friends about it. Particularly after the ranting party smashes a beer bottle and menaces the crowd with it.

        Scott has convinced me that there’s value in being charitable to your ideological opponents, but for godssake there has to be a limit. Or at least consistency. I mean, I think normal Texan Gods-and-guns right-wingers represent a deeper well of ideological interest than this handful of rebranded Internet fascists. The only reason I can think of that we would devote this much time to humoring Neoreactionaries but not show the same interest in what Conservatives are doing is that Neoreactionaries speak Grey language. NRx is part of the Grey tribe and by default they’re of more immediate concern to Greys.

        All of the above is aside from the fact that my Bad Argument Detector buzzes like a maxed-out Geiger counter whenever I’ve read anything by any NRx that isn’t nyansandwich. This all makes me want to start a Rationalist Conservative blog, or something, not even because I’m necessarily Conservative but because there’d be far more value in it than there is to be found in that.

        • Jiro says:

          Ordinary gods and guns right wingers have the gods part. NRs do not. And there are reasons why rationalists won’t listen to the gods part.

          You describe this as using “Grey language”, but I think that this is more than just a language difference; you can’t really argue with religious premises.

          • moridinamael says:

            The whole basis of Neoconservative thought is basically that adhering to deontological moral rules is more important than actually believing in a deity. And yes, Neocon /= Conservative, but there’s definitely room for analysis.

            Edit: More to the point, steelmanning Conservativism, or translating it into Greyspeak, obtains more value than steelmanning NRx.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Isn’t one of the central premises of Moldbug’s writing that they’re all religious premises?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Isn’t one of the central premises of Moldbug that they’re all religious premises?

          • Troy says:

            As a conservative (of sorts), I have never understood why Scott and his ilk spend so much more time discussing a fringe Internet movement than discussing actual conservative ideas. Even outside of mainstream Republican conservatism, I would wager that the “crunchy cons” of The American Conservative or the paleoconservatives of The Unz Review are more influential and larger in number than neoreactionaries.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think it’s not necessarily an issue of “Grey language” but more an issue of personal relationships.

            As others have mentioned, this Anissimov guy used to work at SIAI/SI/MIRI and hanged out in futurist/transhumanist/singularitarian circles for a long time, and other NRxs also “radicalized” while hanging out on LessWrong.

            Therefore the real question is why a community of people with average IQ ~140 nominally devoted to the cultivation of rationality became, at least for some time, a breeding ground for one of the most weird and arguably less rational political ideology on the Internet.

          • Adam says:

            He explained it a year and a half ago. Sort of.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I have never understood why Scott and his ilk spend so much more time discussing a fringe Internet movement than discussing actual conservative ideas.

            Probably because “we need to bring back the traditional values of the year 1985” does in fact have all the failings as a mindset that the progressives say it does. The conservative instinct is valid in the sense that 90% of human ideas are awful so voting no on every new policy is a decent rule of thumb, but at current rates of social change, conservatives aren’t defending the tried and true principles of civilization so much as they are sticking to last season’s fad diet.

          • notes says:

            vV_Vv –

            “the real question is why a community of people with average IQ ~140 nominally devoted to the cultivation of rationality became, at least for a time, a breeding ground for one of the most weird, and arguably less rational political ideologies on the Internet.”

            To ask that question is to answer it: a grouping of people with that kind of intelligence is necessarily a group of people unusually able to rationalize.

            There are various ways to minimize that risk… but committing to a group that claims epistemologically superior access to the truth removes most of the safeguards, whether that superiority is claimed in the name of reason or the name of revelation.

          • Nornagest says:

            the real question is why a community of people with average IQ ~140 nominally devoted to the cultivation of rationality became […] a breeding ground for one of the most weird and arguably less rational political ideology on the Internet.

            The overwhelmingly most likely option is that you’re paying too much attention to IQ and rationality and not enough attention to weird. Forget raw intelligence for a minute, forget the “rationality” tagline, and you’re left with a community that believes civilization is in dire and largely unrecognized peril, and that extraordinary efforts on the part of a few exceptional individuals (like them) are needed to save it, efforts that fall outside the normal purview of politics. What does that remind you of? What other ideological features do you think it’d select for?

            Of course, there are some other options:

            – Founder effects may be involved: LW started with a disproportionately libertarian mix of people, and a lot of Dark Enlightenment figures come from libertarian backgrounds.

            LW is largely a Bay Area techie phenomenon, and so is neoreaction. The Bay Area and similar enclaves share certain features that lend themselves, given a certain cluster of perspectives, to distrust of populist government and activism and affinity with schemes disruptive of them.

            LW may be selecting for susceptibility to insight porn more than for actual rationality. NRx is a political philosophy heavy on its insight porn, so we’d expect that to create a correlation.

            – Conversely, LW might be doing exactly what it tries to, at least in the cases of its NRx converts, and you might be wrong about how rational the ideology is.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but I guess the type of person who reads SSC is also the type of person who likes to read and discuss intelligent arguments for less commonly-held opinions just for pure novelty.

            Also, I think the “dire and unrecognized peril” thing may be an important point. I guess you are referring specifically to AI, and while I am concerned about that, I don’t know if I’d describe my fears as of “dire peril.”

            That said, as an anarchist libertarian, I do often feel as if our current political and social institutions are falling FAR, FAR short of ideal, and that that to me feels like a sort of crisis, as do certain aspects of recent socio-cultural development. I am long-term optimistic, but whether or not we achieve something closer to our economic, technological and social potential in the next 50 years or the next 500 years is a matter of great personal concern.

            In this, ironically, I sometimes find it easier to relate to the thinking of a full-fledged communist (basically my ideological opposite) than to the thinking of someone, Red or Blue, who thinks our current system is pretty good, but just needs a little tweaking here and there.

            I find it more upsetting to learn that someone supports Rick Santorum than to learn that he supports Bernie Sanders, even though I tend to be more Red than Blue. This is because to support Bernie Sanders says to me that you perceive some of the problems, but have misjudged their causes and solutions. To support Rick Santorum says to me that you basically think the presidency of G. W. Bush was not so bad. Not perfect, but pretty good. To me, the latter is harder to fathom.

            Perhaps this same sort of thinking makes a return to monarchy seem ironically more interesting than a slight tweak to the status quo. That, and maybe pure boredom.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “This is because to support Bernie Sanders says to me that you perceive some of the problems, but have misjudged their causes and solutions.”

            I’d dispute that. His big thrust is that wealth inequality is a problem. If you don’t believe that (or you think that Chinese people coming out of poverty is a good thing) than you won’t agree with most of his populism.

            Apart from that I’m not seeing much that seperates him from the rest of the Democrats.

            “To support Rick Santorum says to me that you basically think the presidency of G. W. Bush was not so bad. Not perfect, but pretty good. To me, the latter is harder to fathom.”

            Aside from the Iraq war the Bush presidency wasn’t that bad. If that didn’t happen, I think Bush would be in the 25%-50% top range when it comes to presidents. There certainly were bad things that occurred and horrible decisions, but not enough for a decisive trend.

            “Perhaps this same sort of thinking makes a return to monarchy seem ironically more interesting than a slight tweak to the status quo. That, and maybe pure boredom.”

            Well it is unlikely to happen in the US, but there are foreign countries you might pull it off.

            It also is a bit important if Hanson floods the world with EMs and they raise the specter of replicating as much as possible to control the voting system 🙂

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I’d personally go with two main causes: first off, insight porn is very much a driving force as proposed up above. I wouldn’t actually argue that the LW community really selects for rational people over people with an insight fetish, but that you probably get some rational people because of the second cause: willingness to hear people out. That’s also why LW gets the more well spoken racists and fringe people. You have a community that, no matter how crazy your conclusions are, is willing to sit somewhat non-judgmentally and hear them out starting from the axioms all the way down the logic tree.

            Thus, any sort of theory whose adherents are willing to be put under such scrutiny tends to be welcome, while those who tend to avoid answering less PC questions (Peter Singer is the big example here; LW loves him but good god do a lot of people freak out over his conclusions without looking at how he got there) tend to be reviled.

            It’s part of the cause for while LW tends to have an anti-social justice tendency. There’s some very well respected SJ advocates in the movement, and hell, I’m probably further to the left that most on this, but for the most part people heavily involved in SJ do a “my way or the highway” approach to community building. The crazy fringe is totally fine with sharing the room, so the basic principles of LWhood lead to SJ getting more demonized for trying to undermine rationalist discourse while NRx gets a pass.

            The other big reason of course is that LW tends to be fairly libertarian which is opposed to the governmental intervention aspect of SJ, but that’s more from what it grew out of than anything else.

          • onyomi says:

            “Aside from the Iraq war the Bush presidency wasn’t that bad.”

            Two wars, expansion of federal control of health care and education, TARP…

            Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @onyomi

            Well, it’s all relative. It turns out the alternative was losing those two wars, still attempting regime change in Libya for some reason, the creation of ISIS, and… expansion of federal control of health care and education, TARP…

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not saying Al Gore would have been better; rather that I can’t fathom people who think the Bush presidency, or the presidency we could have reasonably expected from Gore, would have been mostly okay.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m pretty sure Jaskologist is talking about the Obama presidency, not a hypothetical Gore presidency — which I’d have expected to be high-minded and ineffective, but probably wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Afghanistan I’d still give 80% odds to — even the hippest of hippies would have had trouble resisting the political pressure to go stomp on the Taliban after 9/11, and Al Gore at the time was not the caricature he later became.

            Not sure I agree on all points, though. I’d rather we not get sucked into half-assed regime change schemes in the first place, but given the presence of a half-assed regime change scheme, I’d rather it look like executing some relatively cheap airstrikes over the course of a few months, then sitting back from afar and resignedly watching the inevitable shitshow when the faction we’re backing turns out not to be the paragons of secular liberalism we were sold on, than like a massive occupation campaign stretching over eight or twelve years and soaking up 5% of GDP at its peaks, which then turns into the exact same shitshow as soon as we pull out.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Two wars, expansion of federal control of health care and education, TARP…”

            Are you considering the Afghan war a bad thing? Because most people wouldn’t.

            As for expansion of federal control of healthcare, all I’m seeing is Bush increasing Medicare drug benefits. For education, I’m assuming you are referring to No Child Left Behind which didn’t increase federal control (it required states to administer standardized tests in order to get federal funding; the actual criteria was under the control of states). Neither of those really counts as what people talk about by expansion of control; No Child Left Behind is closest but “requiring measurable results when we give you funding” is something so common its shocking the government didn’t do that previously.

            I’m not seeing how TARP is bad. It was to prevent the financial sector from failing and it made a profit.

        • Anon says:

          Two movements get rid of a crazy person. People from movement #1 use this to update movement #2 is bad and shouldn’t be talked to.

        • Anon says:

          https://www.google.com/search?q=michael+anissimov+singularity

          http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/about-michael-anissimov/

          “Michael Anissimov was a media director for the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and a long-time supporter of efforts towards Friendly artificial intelligence. He co-organized
          the Singularity Summit from 2009 to 2012.”

          Two years ago
          https://intelligence.org/2013/03/07/march-newsletter/

          • Dain says:

            Wow, what credentials. What are these successful guys so angry about? They’re winning in society. I figured neo-reactionary I suggested disenfranchised. Fringe ideologies are most often held by society’s losers; albeit intellectually precocious losers. (The bright but wayward believer in chemtrails etc.) But no, not with these privileged caricatures of a Feministing nightmare.

          • merzbot says:

            They consider themselves society’s losers because society doesn’t put up with blatant bigots like them anymore.

            (Except where it does, i.e., the entirety of Red Tribe America. But they’re usually from the Blue places).

          • onyomi says:

            There may also be a certain contrarian impulse common in libertarians like myself. If, for example, I see that society has deemed it unacceptable and worthy of mockery to hold opinion x, then that, all things equal, will make me more *favorably* disposed to idea x than I would be otherwise, rather than the opposite, as is true with most people.

            I am aware of this contrarian impulse of mine, and it is something I have to fight against as much as some others might have to fight against status quo bias, but I’m guessing it is more common among LW, SSC, and especially NR readers. It’s right there in the title “NeoREACTion.”

          • Limi says:

            Dain: I don’t think any thinking person who is truly disenfranchised, who has lived below the poverty line or grown up lower class, thinks any kind of ‘might makes right’ philosophy is the way forward, unless they have been fortunate enough to get out and therefore no longer be disenfranchised.

            Onyomi: I don’t think that is a particularly bad impulse though – definitely not on par with the opposite. Like all things, it requires moderation, but that contrarian impulse is often what drives innovation.

          • TeslaCoil says:

            @Limi: I don’t think any thinking person who is truly disenfranchised […] thinks any kind of ‘might makes right’ philosophy is the way forward

            Smells like no true Scotsman to me. Anyway, being “disenfranchised” does not grant magical insight into the right way forward.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I’m with Tesla here, I would argue the disenfranchised are substantially more likely to entertain might-makes-right ideas because they’re the ones for whom the more subtle power machinations of the status quo aren’t working out.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think some people are using “disenfranchised” in the literal sense of not being able to vote, and others in the figurative sense of not having power of any relevant sort. There’s a grey area in between as well, people who can vote but live in districts carefully gerrymandered to their enemies’ benefit, people who can’t vote but have media access sufficient to sway large blocs of voters, etc.

            But, generally, if my friends and I can’t vote but have guns, we’re probably going to be in favor of “It’s OK to shoot people who oppose us”. If my friends and I don’t have power of any sort, it hardly matters what we are in favor of.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            @Dain,

            Well I guess it comes down to how you define “success.”

            A common theme in the conservative / reactionary writings I’ve read is that, while we have more money and access to hedonistic pleasure today the fundamental elements of “the good life” are harder to come by. Community, family, friends, a sense of purpose, etc.

            I doubt that most neoreactionaries have much in the way of meaningful social ties. Not calling them losers, actually I think it’s probably the most potent argument they have: even if you do everything right and “win” in society you’re still looking forward to a pretty miserable life. Combine that with Putnam’s findings on diversity or statistics on church attendance or divorce and the far right seems like a good solution.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Parenthood matters a lot. When you have children, it is hard to adopt the “let it burn” mentality, because you now have a stake in the future, and are much more reliant on a certain level of stability, both due to present ties and the need to make long-term plans.

            If you don’t have kids, screw it, who cares? There’s no real cost to going radical.

          • Adam says:

            Seems bizarre. I haven’t been in a church since high school and have divorced twice, but I’m still pretty happy, or at least don’t particularly feel I have much to complain about.

            Granted, population outcomes, yada yada, I’m only one person, but all in all, violence is so broadly decreased and prosperity so broadly increased across the board worldwide, that it seems like if we avoid acute ecological disaster, the greatest worry we have is how to apportion all the abundance in such a way that fewer people riot and we don’t all end up like the humans in WALL-E. All this is why I went from libertarianism to “no longer gives a shit about politics and thinks it’s almost irrelevant what leaders we have and policies they try to come up with” instead of to some yearning for a time when things sucked for almost everybody.

            If the problem is society’s winners hate life so much, maybe we should ditch utopia theory and invest in making psychiatry a real science.

          • For an expanded and interesting version of Onyomi’s contrarian impulse, see:

            https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/the-dark-enlightenment-and-duck-dynasty/

            I came across it following a link from a comment here.

        • anon says:

          >All of the above is aside from the fact that my Bad Argument Detector buzzes like a maxed-out Geiger counter whenever I’ve read anything by any NRx that isn’t nyansandwich.

          You should pay more attention. Nyan just took over NRx.

          • darxan says:

            Thought process of a neoreactionary:

            I’m being elevated to the new Tetrarchy. My sandwich themed name is unbecoming of my new rank. How do you say my real name in Old Norse? LOL!! The plebs will never figure this one out!!!

        • haishan says:

          All of the above is aside from the fact that my Bad Argument Detector buzzes like a maxed-out Geiger counter whenever I’ve read anything by any NRx that isn’t nyansandwich.

          …Sounds more like all of the above is a rationalization for the fact that your Bad Argument Detector, etc. Not even a good rationalization; there’s a fnord or two (“rebranded Internet fascists”) but I’m struggling to find much that qualifies as argument.

          • moridinamael says:

            This gets at my point about the limits of charity. A person shouldn’t feel compelled to argue against a position when every statement of that position so far encountered reads like a textbook example of every known logical fallacy and psychological bias. But lots of people who fall into the Rationality culture feel a basically involuntary compulsion to engage with all arguments.

            Put it this way: Joe makes a bad argument to Bill and Sarah. Bill engages him in reasoned debate for three hours and gets more of the same, eventually leaving in frustration. Sarah immediately makes the “jerk off” hand gesture and walks away. Is Bill or Sarah behaving more rationally?

          • haishan says:

            I’m certainly not going to take Sarah’s jerk-off hand motion as any sort of evidence about Joe’s beliefs. Making a dismissive gesture and walking away or calling people “internet fascists” are, like, the lowest-cost signals imaginable. You don’t have to engage in every debate you come across, but you definitely shouldn’t expect namecalling and sarcastic dismissal to be taken seriously.

          • moridinamael says:

            Okay, I think this point is well worth discussing.

            How much of a flat-earther’s corpus of rhetoric am I supposed to sit through before I’m entitled to just walk away? How much of a flat-earther’s immunity to reason am I supposed to forgive? Is there a point at which I can safely roll my eyes, or am I actually supposed to give this person my time and attention simply because they are demanding it?

            I believe that I know orders of magnitude more about science than the flat-earther. I believe that the flat-earther is exhibiting a poisonous combination of ignorance and irrational antagonism toward the only paths that could lead to correcting that ignorance. I don’t know if you’ve ever met a flat-earther in real life, but they’re extremely sophisticated arguers. Any normal smart person who tries to argue against a real flat-earther is going to walk away completely frustrated and upset, not because their belief regarding astronomy have been budged, but because they realize that their opponent’s beliefs have been correspondingly not-budged and yet they’re *so freaking wrong*.

            Similarly, if I’ve been alive on planet Earth for a while and read a lot about history and political philosophy, and I happen to come across somebody who exhibits what are obviously (from my point of view – which I trust for the same reason I trust myself about the rudiments of astronomy) wrong but wrong in complicated and braided ways, I feel that the rational/optimal course for me to take is to say, “No thanks!” in roughly the same tone one might strike with a panhandler who has embarked on a lengthy unsolicited explanation of his circumstances.

            What if your opponent has set up their position such that the only winning move you have available is a rude, sarcastic dismissal?

          • suntzuanime says:

            You don’t have to take them seriously, but you can hardly expect us to take your failure to take them seriously seriously. By refusing to engage with the arguments, you’re basically giving up your ability to persuade the people who do. Which can be reasonable in the sorts of interactions where you would refer to your interlocutor as your “opponent”, but in this case it seems like a bare attempt to apply social pressure.

          • haishan says:

            What suntzuanime said.

          • I haven’t met any flat earthers, so far as I know. But I have encountered a fair number of people, most often online, whose view of my beliefs is similar to moridinamael’s view of the beliefs of flat earthers. Most of them, judged by the imperfect but reasonably neutral criterion of conventional credentials, are less entitled to their view than I am to mine.

            So one problem with your approach is that you are taking it for granted that you are correct about what views are obviously wrong, and doing so even though, if I correctly understand you, you concede that you can’t actually show them to be wrong.

            A second problem is that, assuming your view is correct, you are missing the potentially instructive experience of arguing with a smart person who holds incorrect views and defends them intelligently. Among other things, that might help you spot situations where you are doing the same thing.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @suntzuanime

            By refusing to engage with the arguments, you’re basically giving up your ability to persuade the people who do.

            But for some types of arguments it can be safely assumed that the only people who take them seriously while living in a modern developed society must be so mentally abnormal that there is little chance they could be persuaded by reason and evidence.

            For instance, there are people who fall for Nigerian scams. Repeatedly. How are you going to persuade them that sending money to a random alleged Nigerian businessman asking your assistance to retrieve a huge fortune isn’t probably an investment with a positive RoI?

          • Irrelevant says:

            For some types of arguments it can be safely assumed that the only people who take them seriously while living in a modern developed society must be so mentally abnormal that there is little chance they could be persuaded by reason and evidence.

            Certainly, but that line lies somewhere beyond “witches are real.”

          • suntzuanime says:

            OK, but coming into somebody’s blog comments and saying “you’re so mentally abnormal there’s little chance you can be persuaded by reason and evidence” is sort of rude, and not really productive except as a form of shaming social pressure.

          • “But for some types of arguments it can be safely assumed that the only people who take them seriously while living in a modern developed society must be so mentally abnormal that there is little chance they could be persuaded by reason and evidence.”

            Part of the problem is that you are assuming that you can trust yourself to identify such people. Given the bias all of us have in favor of our current beliefs, that may be risky, especially if you aren’t willing to test your confidence by arguing with them.

            An anecdote may be relevant to why I view the matter as I do. In the early sixties, I was a Harvard undergraduate. I had a conversation with a fellow undergraduate, a stranger, who (I am guessing from context) had taken one introductory econ course. He commented that he couldn’t take econ at Chicago because he would burst out laughing.

            Within a decade or so, the Harvard people had conceded that on some important issues (in particular the Phillips Curve) Chicago had been right and they had been wrong.

        • Irrelevant says:

          The main thing I’m taking away from this thread is that nobody agrees on what neoreaction is saying.

          moridinamael’s comments on “translating conservatism into grey” are particularly odd here, since “the whole basis of Neoconservative thought is basically that adhering to deontological moral rules is more important than actually believing in a deity” is a goddamn terrible description of neoconservatism, but an excellent description of the Reform Darwinist and pro-Theocratic Deism branches of NRx.

          (The usual definition of neoconservatism is focused on foreign policy, not deontology, and is defined in opposition to the more traditionally conservative “turtle empire” foreign policy stance.)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Moridinamael, NRx means a lot of things, but one point is a broad view of history and meta arguments. In particular, it gives an argument that mainstream political debates don’t matter.

          Why is there long term political and social change? Technological determinism? Moral progress? Random walk? If it is technological determinism, then what difference does the debates make? If it is moral progress, then presumably people will figure out the answer eventually, though maybe the debates can speed or slow the course. If it is a random walk, then it is more important to nail things down to prevent future erosion than to win any particular battle today.

          The link about Bentham is directly relevant to this debate:

          If you’re willing to follow consistency wherever it leads, you can stay way ahead of the curve on moral progress

      • Daniel Keys says:

        Isn’t that first tweet what neoreactionaries want to see more of? You know there’s no other way to stuff the genie back in the bottle, right?

        • Irrelevant says:

          I’ve seen a neoreactionary suggest we bring back dueling, but I’ve never seen one suggest we promote empty death threats on twitter.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Given Scott’s bemused comment in his original post, this might provide some helpful context: http://imgur.com/a/WGCZY

        Nice.

        Well, I’ve always thought that NRx was insane.

        • haishan says:

          This is precisely the reason they excommunicated Anissimov (and the other guys), was to try to avoid the trap wherein someone takes the craziest public behavior by someone associated with nrx and uses it to tar the entire movement.

      • Aaron Brown says:

        helpful context: http://imgur.com/a/WGCZY

        I’m probably doing the thing of judging a group by its worst members but threatening to shoot someone because they called you gay? Man if that isn’t a good example of toxic masculinity.

        (Edit: To connect the dots a bit, I’m saying that this isn’t really surprising behavior from an adherent of an ideology that says gay people are bad and traditional ideas about gender are good. On the other hand, I’m mind-killed about this because I’m highly unsympathetic to neoreactionary ideas and because I’ve thought Anissimov was an asshole long before this.)

        • Irrelevant says:

          An ideology that says gay people are bad.

          That seems to vary wildly by person.

        • Warg Franklin says:

          double post

        • Warg Franklin says:

          This is a bit of a non-sequitur, but I invite you to consider the following:

          Observations:

          Some very smart people with heavy exposure to rationality, who started in a position of enlightenment liberalism and progressivism, who have gay and ally friends, who have no obvious sign of mental illness or pathological contrarianism change their minds and come to believe that “gay people are bad”. This is obviously crazy.

          Possible Hypotheses:

          * The official worldview is basically righteous and everyone who disagrees is just nuts or evil.

          * They know something you don’t:

          Standard Fuck Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE9JlONzrVU

          The Institute for Advanced Homophobia: (collection of choice quotes and statistics to get you started on your quest to understand the homophobic mind) http://mpcdot.com/forums/topic/6651-the-institute-for-advanced-homophobia/

          (I am not trying to imply that these are the only available evidence, or the best, but perhaps they are enough to cast doubt)

    • Viliam Búr says:

      It’s worth noting that the NRx folks are accusing Anissimov [of] things that are likely to be offenses in an Enlightenment context, too

      Cthulhu always swims left. These days even the Neoreaction is too demotist. /s

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      I find it hilarious that people in favor of public shaming (or worse) for “deviancy” are apparently very concerned about members of their movement attempting to dox people and giving death threats.

      (Related question, what does your average nrx think about executing subversives?)

      • Jon Gunnarsson says:

        I fail to see the hilarity. So people who are in favour of public shaming for what they regard as deviant behaviour are publicly disassociating themselves from someone who engaged in inappropriate behaviour (aka publicly shaming him). Seems to me to be entirely consistent behaviour.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          Eh, the irony is that they consider doxing a reason to excommunicate him.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            And have they previously stated that they consider doxing acceptable behaviour?

          • Limi says:

            Doxxing is inherently public shaming.

          • Creutzer says:

            Being “in favour of public shaming” doesn’t mean that you’re in favour of every possible form that this shaming could take.

          • jtgw says:

            What the hell is doxing?

          • Nornagest says:

            What the hell is doxing?

            Recovering or reconstructing personal information for a public figure (especially a pseudonymous one), e.g. residence address and place of employment, and publishing it or threatening to. This is considered harmful because it makes those people easier to harass in ways that can’t easily be blocked or filtered, and because it makes things like death threats more credible.

            I wouldn’t say it’s inherently about public shaming, but it does tend to be done because the doxxer thinks the doxxee needs to be publicly shamed.

          • Limi says:

            Creutzer – I was just explaining why it was ironic, not suggesting anyone had to support it or anything.

          • Aaron Brown says:

            @jtgw, FYI the etymology is “documents” –> “docs” –> “dox”.

  25. Carinthium says:

    Wasn’t the nature v.s nature study only about health and psychological disorders?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorta. It seems to be ICD based, but it includes things like “Complex Interpersonal Interactions”, “Height”, “Family Relationship”, and “Maintaining A Job”. See http://www.match.ctglab.nl./ for a list of everything

      • Carinthium says:

        It doesn’t seem to be working right. Requesting a bit of clarification, since I’m not good at analysing studies- what are the implications of this study for the effect of IQ on life outcomes?

        • JK says:

          what are the implications of this study for the effect of IQ on life outcomes?

          None. The study didn’t concern that issue.

  26. Alicorn says:

    That’s not the kind of Mac cover I have. I have a this kind, which is a decal, not a hard cover. I have an extra for reasons, if anyone near me wants a marble decal sized for a 13″ Air.

  27. TeslaCoil says:

    > More evidence against dysgenics: childlessness among female PhDs has decreased by 50% since 1990. What are we doing right?

    Ehh. The obvious dysgenics explanation is that we are admitting more stupid people into PhD programs. 🙂

  28. Christopher Mullins says:

    That particular datamancer board is expensive, but you should know that you can get the typewriter keycaps (Cherry MX compatible) by themselves for about $100. And they’re magnificent.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Re the woman seeing human faces morph into dragons, I would be extremely skeptical of fantastic claims when they are being published by Metro.

  30. Glimmervoid says:

    >>Did you know the Salvation Army used to fight an arch-enemy, the Skeleton Army?
    I did know that! It is a plot point in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Rivers of London series.

    It also is a continuing source of annoyance with me. There are a number of web browser add-ons which replace ‘SJW’ with Skeleton, when this is so clearly wrong from a historical metaphor perspective. The ‘SJWs’ as the activist moralising force are clearly the Salvation Army while their opponents are the Skeleton Army.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      If you realize that the left has been winning in Western civ for hundreds of years it might make you wonder about their whole rationale – the “legacy of oppression”. The left seems to win and win and yet the oppression never seems to decrease.

      You’d almost have to conclude that “oppression” isn’t what causes the bad outcomes of progressive pets – group differences do.

    • Jaskologist says:

      If that doesn’t call for an “Are We the Baddies?” link, I don’t know what does.

    • Andy says:

      There are a number of web browser add-ons which replace ‘SJW’ with Skeleton, when this is so clearly wrong from a historical metaphor perspective.

      Do these add-ons reference the Skeleton Army, or the persistent Tumblr meme of the Skeleton War, which to my knowledge is unrelated to social justice issues?

    • Sylocat says:

      There are a number of web browser add-ons which replace ‘SJW’ with Skeleton, when this is so clearly wrong from a historical metaphor perspective. The ‘SJWs’ as the activist moralising force are clearly the Salvation Army while their opponents are the Skeleton Army.

      I think the rationale there is that the term “SJW” has become so debased and snarl-wordy that they just figure, “Anyone who uses the term seriously at this point might as well be talking about zombies for all the resemblance it has to reality.”

      I do agree that “skeleton” is a poor choice of term though. IME, “Reptiloid” or “Illuminatus” is far more descriptive of the connotations that have become attached to the term “SJW” in many circles.

      • Cauê says:

        I’ve seen this objection many times, but I find it very weird. Do you think SJW is a bad name for a category, or do you really think it’s a “wrong category”?

        • Held In Escrow says:

          I think the issue is that while it may have started out as a useful pejorative, the term “SJW” has been so abused by people as to lose all meaning outside of “to the left of NRx.”

          I think it’s still somewhat obvious in context what someone means when they say it, but the term has just been so watered down because the internet saw it as a shiny new toy to slam against everything and it just lost the focus which makes accusatory language meaningful.

          • Cauê says:

            It’s honestly not clear to me. I would like some examples of improper use, if anyone would be kind enough to provide them.

          • Nornagest says:

            If you think “SJW” means “anyone to the left of NRx”, I think you’ve been paying too much attention to NRx.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            My point was that the term is used to describe such a wide range of people that it’s basically useless. I’ve seen it applied to saying that foodstamps aren’t evil for crying out loud, or in regards to Utah housing the homeless!

            It was simply too successful a phrase, and thus got gobbled up by everyone looking to slam people to their left… and since there are some people really far out to the right, the term got stretched to its limit. I think there’s an obvious proper usage in regards to internet busybodies of a certain left wing authoritarian bent, but in actual usage it’s just too damn wide.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            That is pretty much true of every single outgroup pejorative, as the ingroup solidifies and the people in the outgroup just blend with each other. I’d guess any given community (well, not this one) has a somewhat clear threshold of what they consider a SJW.

          • Cauê says:

            HIE and WHTA, this objection wouldn’t have confused me.

            But it doesn’t seem to quite reach Sylocat’s phrasing (“Anyone who uses the term seriously at this point might as well be talking about zombies for all the resemblance it has to reality.”), which reminds me of people I’ve seen saying things like “Anyone who says ‘social justice warrior’ unironically doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously” (usually followed by “Blocked”).

          • Sylocat says:

            Speaking of phrasing, I’m afraid I can’t parse yours here. It sounds to me like you’re saying, “Sylocat’s phrasing sounded vaguely like the phrasing of a completely different statement that other people have said in other places, and therefore Sylocat is really saying that, which means Sylocat secretly believes something completely different from what he said.”

          • Peter says:

            I think Ozy’s take on it pretty much hits the mark.

        • Cauê says:

          (oops, this was meant as a response to Sylocat above)

          Well, if I’m trying to understand what you mean, it’s useful to point at the range of possible interpretations I’m working with.

          I’ve been meaning to ask someone what they mean when they reject SJW as a category, maybe I shouldn’t have taken your post as the occasion to do it.

          I don’t disagree with HIE that, although “there’s an obvious proper usage”, it’s too widely applied. If that’s also what you meant, then that’s that, nothing to see here.

          • Sylocat says:

            Yeah, that’s pretty much it. My specific phrasing was a joke about one specific example of such misuse, namely that I often see “SJWs” described as having motives/goals/tactics/abilities that I would normally expect to see attributed to Reptiloid Aliens and/or Jewish Bankers.

      • darxan says:

        @Sylocat

        You failed to mention that SJWs=Skeletonts meme:
        1) predates the app
        2) includes Skeletons enemies – fuckboys
        3) is the creation of Weird Twitter
        The last two points lower the probability of it being some big cri de coeur against namecalling.

        • Sylocat says:

          1) predates the app

          So?

          2) includes Skeletons enemies – fuckboys

          *googles*
          Wait, what? I’m not seeing anything on that. Which “Skeletons’ enemies” does it replace with “fuckboys?”

          is the creation of Weird Twitter

          It’s the creation of a guy named Alex Hong. I can only find one Twitter user named Alex Hong, and it doesn’t appear to be the same guy.

  31. Richard Metzler says:

    “Genetically engineered yeast makes it possible to create home-brewed morphine.”
    In totally unrelated news, mass unemployment strikes agribusiness in Afghanistan.

  32. Zorgon says:

    Regarding authoritarianism.

    Ireland recently voted yes to a constitutional amendment to permit gay marriage.

    My ever-so-Blue (Scott’s definition) social circle might be expected to celebrate, right? Nope. Instead they erupted into recriminations and anger against the idea that it would ever be necessary to have a popular vote regarding gay marriage, being a fundamental right.

    So far I am having little or no luck persuading them that a constitutional amendment referendum is a significantly more democratic and less authoritarian approach to resolving the issue than having a judiciary simply Declare It So. I’ve tried the Schelling Point argument (well, I’ve tried explaining that judiciaries can decide in multiple directions and that a judiciary tomorrow may well decide against them), but that’s fallen flat in the face of Just World fallacies. Then I tried using the hardcore-democratic “assent of the governed” argument…

    I was almost immediately pattern-matched to a US right winger at that point by people tangentially exposed to the discussion. Apparently a commitment to democratic resolution and treating your enemies like human beings makes me a Republican now. Who knew?

    Meanwhile, here in the UK, we don’t actually have a constitution, so our shiny new Conservative overlords are busy doing shit like dumping the Human Rights Act and so forth, with no referendum necessary.

    I think it’s safe to say that the Blue Tribe appear VERY keen on authoritarianism when it’s in their favour.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Democracy in the early 21st century is like Monarchy in the early 20th; still substantially functional in some places, but more or less on the downswing and transitioning to a ceremonial role. The power of the Judges flows from the People the same way the power of Parliament flows from the Queen.

      • Zorgon says:

        … We don’t democratically appoint Judges, or even Magistrates for that matter, in the UK. Or in Ireland IIRC. They’re avatars of legal bureaucracy, with nothing flowing from the People at all except occasional shitflinging from the Press.

        • anon says:

          Being unfamiliar with how powerful the Queen was in the early 20th, I understood his metaphor as ‘the queen was powerless and just a figurehead giving legitimacy to the parliament in the 20th, just as now democracy acts as a figurehead for the judges’.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            As for the high level judges here that make the news, their figurehead is usually the US Constitution.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m tempted to be a pedantic asshole and point out that there was no ruling (British) Queen in the early 20th century; Victoria died in 1901 and Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952. But you’re basically right, by my reading.

            It’s not uncommon for judges low on the judicial totem pole to be elected in various American jurisdictions. But when people complain about rule-by-judicial-decree, they’re usually talking about judges on federal appeals courts or the SCOTUS, which are appointed for life by sitting presidents and thus function as a sort of time series of executive political leanings.

            To me the decrees of such a body look pretty much exactly as legitimate (or as il-) and as motivationally pure (or im-) as those of a legislature or a referendum, but I’m quite aware that I’m both more consequentialist and more cynical than your average pundit.

    • Deiseach says:

      Zorgon, having undergone the happy, happy days of our new marriage-equality wonderland, I still suspect a lot of this will end up in the courts one way or another.

      Firstly, do you trust your government? Do you trust any assurances and promises they give about what changes to the constitution and/or legislation will or will not involve? Because I don’t trust mine. Already we’ve had three members of the current government making noises about repealing the Eighth Amendment in the wake of how the marriage equality referendum was a victory for the ‘yes’ side. Plus, the government and pretty much every political party was out there campaigning for, canvassing for, and backing the ‘yes’ rather than the ‘no’ option, so that probably makes a difference as well.

      This is the same government which was tripping over itself pushing the message that marriage equality would have no effect on anything else and was solely a matter of love between two people being recognised equally for all the people of the state.

      Secondly, how are you going to stop people running to the courts anyway when they feel aggrieved or that they have been deprived of their rights?

      Thirdly, what’s going to be interesting is what happens next; part of what kicked this whole campaign off was the series of court cases taken by a lesbian couple who married in Canada and wanted their marriage recognised in Ireland. Suppose a couple get married in Ireland but return to live in a country where same-sex marriage is not legal – what happens next?

      So I think if you have to have constitutional changes, a referndum is not the worst way of permitting the people of the nation to express their wishes, but it’s not the perfect solution either.

    • DavidS says:

      Well, most people think that majority rule should be balanced by something (whether property, class or human rights). I don’t think that’s necessarily authoritarianism. Are you just defining ‘authoritarian’ in contrast to majoritarian? Because in usual terms I’d say a majority using its power in a democracy to curtail the rights of others is a pretty clear case of authoritarianism.

      So I can sympathise with the anti-referendum view. Basically ‘the majority have no more right to say gay people can’t marry than that black people can’t vote’. Whether that means the referendum should annoy you, I don’t know. I’d have thought it was more that you wouldn’t accept its result as having any inherent virtue.

      What muddles this is that people arguing against the ‘gay marriage is just a right’ thing tend to say that OBVIOUSLY it wouldn’t be right to ban interracial marriage, give women fewer rights or whatever, but gay marriage is different. Now, maybe this is just because in practice those issues have been addressed and there is generally accepted consent for the current position. But it feels like people are saying that there’s an inbuilt legitimacy for equal rights on race/sex but not on orientation. So it’s treated like legalising gay marriage is a favour for a lobby rather than recognising equality, and people object to that.

      • Zorgon says:

        Well, that’s just it, though – this wasn’t a referendum on whether gay marriage should be legal. This was a referendum on a constitutional change.

        What struck me is that these are people that in a great many circumstances would be averse to judicial intervention. It’s just that in this case the judiciary were constrained from intervening on their behalf. They would have been blissfully happy for, say, a judge to require a constitutional amendment referendum in order to remove the current Human Rights protection in the UK.

        Basically, democracy and human rights for me, authoritarian control for thee. And it’s not the first time I’ve seen the Blues do this recently, either.

        • DavidS says:

          Oh, fair enough. Missing the constitutional context (from UK, so saying something is ‘constitutional’ is… blurrier.

          Had a quick wiki/google: interesting interplay of Constitution and case law, given that the Constitution never defined marriage as heterosexual. I can imagine people arguing that the equality rights more clearly support gay marriage than case law against. But given the constitution specifically talks about the role women play in the home etc. I can see why this might be a tad ahistorical.

      • Tracy W says:

        Because in usual terms I’d say a majority using its power in a democracy to curtail the rights of others is a pretty clear case of authoritarianism.

        Hmmm, so progressive taxes: authoritarianism. Limits on factory discharges into water supplies: authoritarianism. Child labour laws: authoritarianism. Copy-right term reduction: authoritarianism. (Assuming these are passed by a democratic government that is.)

        • DavidS says:

          I meant majority targeting a minority in the sense of things like laws restricting the religion of a minority (but allowing/upholding the majority), laws restricting minority ethnic groups, laws discriminating between men and women etc.

          Though in a sense you could draw a liberal/authoritarian scale where basically any law is more authoritarian than leaving people to do what they want.

          • Cauê says:

            I have several friends (on the Brazilian equivalent of Scott’s Blue Tribe) who will say that we need more democracy and that the voice of the people isn’t heard or respected enough.

            Then this or that survey shows that “the people” want the death penalty and 16 year olds to be charged as adults on criminal cases, but don’t want abortion and gay marriage, and the very same friends will say, I shit you not, that these questions should never have been asked.

            The apparent paradox fails to surprise me.

          • Tracy W says:

            So did I (assuming that the top rate on the progressive tax system steps in at levels above median incomes.) I dropped several possible examples because they didn’t fit that criteria.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, but Cauê, first the people must be educated and have their consciousness raised by their moral betters so that they will reliably vote for the right thing, then they can be trusted to express their opinion on what they want 🙂

          • Cauê says:

            Yes, “lack of education” and “manipulated by the media” are common ways of rationalizing the dissonance harmonizing the apparently conflicting principles.

        • Sylocat says:

          Um, many of those examples fall under the category of, “Your right to extend your fist ends where my nose begins.”

          • Tracy W says:

            Really? I only count one: factory discharges.

          • Sylocat says:

            Okay, bad analogy on my part. But child labor laws aren’t a matter of “rights” either.

          • Tracy W says:

            How is it not a right? When the law banned women from going into certain professions, wasn’t that a violation of women’s rights?
            I’m not entirely opposed to limiting rights, apart from child labour laws, I also favour imprisoning murderers and cutting back copyright terms, but I don’t see any practical difference between the majority limiting the rights of minorities compared to the majority just declaring that whatever it wants to regulate isn’t a right.

          • Sylocat says:

            I think the logic is roughly the same as the counter to the common strawman, “If we allow gay marriage, next thing you know we’ll be legalizing pedophilia!”

            It’s a question of what constitutes informed and meaningful consent.

          • Tracy W says:

            So, if a majority limits the rights of a minority, that’s authoritarianism, but if a majority asserts that the minority can’t give informed and meaningful consent to exercising their rights, so therefore it’s okay to limit their rights, that’s fine?
            Isn’t the latter basically what men used to say about denying the vote to women?
            (Apart from that women were numerically the majority, obviously).

            Personally I think a more useful distinction would be between rights that permit someone to be involved in public debate (eg free speech, voting, not being rounded up into concentration camps and starved to death) and other rights. I don’t see a better alternative to majority-rules on the second set of rights, although I see value in voting on a constitution granting rights that are then hard, but not impossible, to amend in the heat of the moment.

          • Zorgon says:

            I thoroughly agree on that being the best option.

            “Easy to change” means it’s effectively the whim of the moment.
            “Hard to change” means it needs strong popular will and the zeitgeist of the era (as gay marriage has now).
            “Impossible to change” means that in order to rectify it, opponents have to resort to violence.

            Which of these seems the most sensible place to put rights? Especially given our concept of “rights” has changed immeasurably in the past century?

      • Tracy W says:

        . Basically ‘the majority have no more right to say gay people can’t marry than that black people can’t vote’.

        Maybe I’m seeing this too much from a NZ perspective, but it strikes me that a large enough, widespread enough, majority does have the legal right to say black people can’t vote, although obviously such an action would be morally wrong. Didn’t even the USA, the poster-child for iinalienable natural rights, wind up passing a couple of constitutional amendments on this point?
        And really, what is the alternative? Someone decides which rights people have, if not a majority then who is that someone? Queen Elizabeth I?

        • Ever An Anon says:

          “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is the usual framing over here.

          The Founding Fathers relied very strongly on the idea of natural rights: in the American view rights can’t be granted or rescinded so much as recognized or denied, since a person’s rights are an inherent property of their humanity. That’s why our fights about rights get so hairy, since any discussion about them means talking about vague universal moral principles in addition to whatever underlying poltical dispute there is.

          Personally I have never been able to wrap my head around it but that’s the prevailing mindset here.

          • onyomi says:

            This makes perfect sense to me. If the answers to some basic moral questions (is happiness better than suffering?) were not self-evident, how would we evaluate any conceivable ethical system?

          • Cauê says:

            Personally I have never been able to wrap my head around it

            Well, the “We hold these truths to be self-evident” part is a massive hint that this is a System 1 thing. The inconsistency in applying the principles to specific questions is another.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            The Founding Fathers relied very strongly on the idea of natural rights:

            Relied on it themselves, or relied on it for popular support? Probably some of both, I’d guess.

            But whatever, they solidified a good number of those rights as a giant simple law, which has been extremely helpful.

          • Tracy W says:

            @Ever An Anon: wasn’t the US Constitution itself voted on, as part of the ratification process?
            (Wikipedia is a bit unclear about this, surprisingly).

          • Shenpen says:

            @onyomi

            Because you take it for granted that ethical reasoning is not an exercise in futility.

            In reality our prior should be that only tribal customs exist, and they cannot really be justified any more than say they were probably helpful for something (survival? control? good feelings?) when they were invented.

            Ethical reasoning is something Ancient Greece and later on Christianity and later on Secularized Gnosticism i.e. The Enlightenment attempted but it is still not clear if it is not all wishful thinking.

          • onyomi says:

            @Shenpen,

            Seems you are arguing for a kind of biological determinism, but evolution is actually *not* a very good predictor of ethical intuitions in a “making beliefs pay rent” sort of way. One can think of good ex post facto evolutionary *explanations* for many ethical intuitions, but they are often not what one would have expected evolution to produce from behind a veil of ignorance.

            If I were to predict behind a veil of ignorance what sort of ethical intuitions evolution would create, it would be something like “having children is the ultimate good, but raising the children of people unrelated to you is evil; stealing and extorting resources is good when you’re confident you can get away with it; dominating others is virtuous for the strong, but subservient obedience is virtuous for the weak; sacrificing one’s own life to help a stranger is pure evil,” etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi: Don’t a number of those themes make it fables of many stripes?

            For example, the wicked step-mother is the opposite side of the coin you suggest, which is that those raising children not their own are wicked.
            Simlarly, there are any number of wicked gremlins who replace your children with theirs.

          • onyomi says:

            @Heelbearcub

            That actually proves the case, because it is *wicked* stepmothers who give into their biological impulse to not treat their adoptive children as well as their biological children. A *good* stepmother says things like “I’ll love him like he was my own.”

            If ethics could be boiled down to biological impulses, we would expect it to judge the stepmother who expends as many resources on her adoptive child as on her biological child as bad.

            The fact that we can say “it’s natural to want to treat your biological children better, or to try to get impregnated by a sexy guy while you have your homely but dependable husband raise the child he thinks is his own, BUT those are not moral behaviors,” tends to indicate that the one is not reducible to the other.

          • Cauê says:

            Onyomi, is your point that evolution doesn’t explain our intuitions? It’s not clear from the “if I were to predict” thing.

          • onyomi says:

            That is what I’m saying, yes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            But the step-mother is not the protagonist. The children are the protagonists and the moral of the story is “be suspicious of those who are not your blood relatives and your prior should be that they do not love you/will treat you poorly”. That is why I said it was the flip side of the coin.

            Remember, stories are always told from the point of view of the protagonist, so their actions will always seem moral. If a story is told with a good step-mother, it is the children who will be horrible and evil.

            My point is there are many stories that reinforce the evolutionary bias in favor of blood relatives.We also have an evolutionary bias as adaptable, tightly knit social tribes, and so other stories tell of the benefits of altruistic cooperation. Both types of morality tales can co-exist.

          • onyomi says:

            I have never understood stories like Cinderella to be teaching that lesson. The stepmotherness is an explanation for the cruelty, but not a reason to mistrust all those who, like the stepmother, don’t share a close genetic relationship.

            If it were, such stories would not be full of kindly strangers, like the Fairy Godmother (and “Godmothers” are often genetically unrelated friends of a family who take care of orphans–her presence contrasts with the actions of the wicked stepmother as a model of ethical treatment of orphans), or the Huntsman in Snow White, as they often are.

            There are also lots of stories about an old fisherman and his wife who take care of mysterious baby who turns out to be a seal, etc. The fisherman and his wife are seen as kindly for taking in a baby which is not their genetic relation. This is so even when told from their perspective. I cannot think of any fairytales which teach the lesson “treat your blood relatives preferentially” or “don’t bother to help a strange baby which shows up at your doorstep.”

            Sure, social bonds, cooperation, and other things morality helps facilitate do make sense, evolutionarily speaking. My point is that you’d never guess they work the way they do.

            In fact, I think understanding biological biases can often help us arrive at better ethics. Religion and culture often encode negative attitudes toward such behaviors as homosexuality and incest which are not conducive to the goals of evolution (homosexuality may be adaptive on a tribal level, but not an individual level).

            Thus, when evaluating the morality or immorality of such behaviors, especially surrounding sex and reproduction, we should be highly suspicious of some of our gut-level inuitions, which may say “incest=ick, ick=morally wrong,” “butt sex between men=ick, ick=morally wrong,” etc.

            So morality is not only not reducible to biology, it may often consist in seeing past it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            You appear to be taking a position that, reduced, would lead you to believe that an individual ant’s behavior is not explicable, as they don’t get to replicate.

            Homosexual behavior can be considered to be adaptive along the mother’s bloodline. It’s overall performance of the gene that matters, not whether any one individual with the gene reproduces.

            As to the narrative structure of fables, I will have you note that it is the fairy godmother (not a stranger) who helps out of the blue. And other structures emphasize a certain quid-pro-quo (help unexpectedly and get a reward). The couples who help babies are almost always depicted as older and childless as well. The huntsman is smitten with love/lust/awe of beauty, etc.

            There are also stories where children are spirited away and replaced by evil forces. I’m not recalling any fables/folk stories where a parent adopts a new child into an existing family of young children. They may exist, but I think they are rare.

            And of course, adoption of what will amount to cousins is actually adaptive anyway. So, I’m really not seeing why you are saying its counterintuitive.

            In this vein, not taking a piece that can be taken in chess isn’t counterintuitive either.

          • onyomi says:

            @Heelbearcub

            Yes, but I’m not reducing it.

            I understand there are lots of things not directly beneficial to the survival and reproduction of the individual which may nonetheless be conducive to the survival of the genes.

            I’m not saying that ethics are evolutionarily *mal*adaptive, or that I can’t think of ways in which say, loving your neighbor could be a good evolutionary strategy, I’m just saying that biological determinism of ethics has much weaker predictive power than one might think, and that, in fact, biology and ethics are even opposed to one another in more than a few cases.

            As an ex post facto explanation, evolution can do an okay job of explaining morality, but as a predictive tool, I think it would largely fail to produce anything like what is commonly understood as morality. It doesn’t “pay rent,” to use the LW phrase.

            This tends to indicate that ethics are more than just “feelings” we get because it was evolutionarily beneficial to have them. They could instead be more like real facts about the universe we perceive by virtue of having minds that perceive and process other sorts of information, like the ability to see stars or enjoy music may not have been selected for, yet may be fringe benefits of having eyes and ears and pattern recognition.

            My best guess is that one of the primary evolutionary functions of our big brains is the navigation of complex social situations, in addition to probably tool-making, etc. Having minds good at analyzing social dynamics may have the side effect of not only perceiving that which is advantageous to the individual or group, but also a more abstract quality we call “goodness.”

          • Shenpen says:

            @onyomi

            Not biological but social determinism. Tribal customs, not hardwired routines.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            Well clearly many of our ethical intuitions are actually taught to us at an early age, if that is all you mean. We don’t reach maturity for 12 years, and final brain development for another 12 to 16, of course we don’t come out hard wired with everything. I agree that we are learning/thinking creatures.

            I am going to assume that logic is logic, the universe over, so to the extent that we derive our ethical rules logically, our ethics are universal. But I’m not sure that explains why we view reptiles and insects differently from, say, baby bear cubs. There I think our hard-wired stuff is taking over.

            I don’t think your original examples were very good examples to illustrate your point, as they all seemed to assume that we aren’t social-cooperative creatures who draw many benefits from being social-cooperative. We should expect our intuitive system to be in a hard wired state that at first glance seems contradictory, which is what we see, isn’t it?

            Now as to the further point, can you take game theory, apply it to evolution, and derive whatever our actual hard wired intuitive impulses are, I agree that is also probably impossible. But my intuition (chuckle) says that is because there are too many possible ways to “win the game”, and it is further confounded by the fact that we are creatures who substantially develop outside the womb.

          • onyomi says:

            @Shenpen

            But society is sometimes wrong on moral questions. Slavery didn’t become wrong when a majority of people decided it was wrong. It was wrong even when a majority of people thought it was right. People *realized* it was wrong, they didn’t make it wrong.

        • Irrelevant says:

          The American view of rights is that they’re time-invariant. You can’t give people new rights or take them away, you can just argue over what has and hasn’t always been a right, and respect or not respect them.

          • Tracy W says:

            Sure, but if you are arguing that something (black men voting/women voting/same-sex-marriage) is a right, and yet other people keep violating that asserted right, how can you get the American federal government to enforce your view that it is a right?

            I doubt that a principle of “as long as one person asserts this is a right, we’ll send the troops in to enforce it” is workable.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Err, they didn’t leave “franchise” off the life/liberty list because it lacked rhythm, they did it because it’s not plausibly a natural right. Voting is a contingent product of the government, voting rights are a misnomer.

          • Tracy W says:

            Voting strikes me as much a natural right as anything else: the government serves the people, not the people the government.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Voting strikes me as much a natural right as anything else: the government serves the people, not the people the government.

            Then you’re not understanding natural rights. Nature gave us rocks to cast, not votes. Natural rights are not contingent on there being a government, much less any particular form of it, but rather come from the fact that it’s more expensive to restrain someone than to kill them, and more expensive to kill someone than to leave them be. Tyrannical peace is therefore unsustainable compared to violence, and violence is unsustainable compared to voluntary peace. “Natural rights” are the necessary boundaries for voluntary peace.

            It is of course also right that the government serve the people rather than people the government, but democracy is neither necessary nor sufficient to bring about that state of affairs.

          • Tracy W says:

            If voluntary peace is the foundation of natural rights then democracy is a natural right as it makes it possible to peacefully change a leader who is seriously out of touch with the general population.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Again, neither necessary nor sufficient.

          • Jaskologist says:

            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it

            While I suppose this doesn’t list voting as a natural right, it does seem to imply that it is a very direct consequence of them. I’m not sure the distinction ends up being that important.

          • “it does seem to imply that it is a very direct consequence of them.”

            I don’t see how. Are you thinking of “consent of the governed?” Does the fact that 51% of the population vote for something imply that the other 49% have consented to it? I think the implication, insofar as it’s anything more than rhetoric, is some sort of social contract theory, not democracy.

            The people who supported the Declaration also supported restrictions on the franchise, not only limiting it to males but property qualifications. Does it follow that they thought the government they set up was illegitimate?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Also that, yes. The limited franchise at the beginning of the US didn’t mean “some men are created more equal than others”, it was supposed to be that the voting class plus constitutional limits would be sufficient to guarantee the natural rights of the entire population were respected.

            They were quite wrong, but that was the theory.

      • Deiseach says:

        So what about abolishing bigamy statues and permitting multi-partner marriages? After all, if X and Y can argue that the courts should recognise their overseas legal in Canada gay marriage, why shouldn’t A, B and C argue that the courts should recognise their overseas legal in Indonesia polygamous marriage?

        So should there be a referendum on changing the constitution to “Any two or more people, regardless of gender, have the right to contract a civil marriage”, or leave it up to the courts? There can certainly be quoted Biblical precedent and cultures where this was or is customary and legal. Why privilege number now that we’ve defined marriage as being solely and only about love?

        • Cauê says:

          In my opinion this particular reductio is lacking the absurdum.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, you have to keep in mind that 2-3 years ago, making this suggestion would have been labelled deeply offensive, the type of thing for which one should be expelled from polite debate. Kind of like people currently do when you imply that pederasty is a logical next step, even as Scott links approvingly to an essay defending that precise thing as a great example of “supporting gay rights.”

          • Nita says:

            @ Jaskologist

            keep in mind that 2-3 years ago, making this suggestion would have been labelled deeply offensive

            Who labeled it “deeply offensive”? I can’t find that phrase in the article. Here’s what I found instead:

            “That’s irrelevant,” the student responded. “My personal opinion is, ‘Yeah go for it,’ but what I’m asking [..]”

          • Adam says:

            When he asked if three men should be allowed to marry, the student said yes. They were just mad that he kept derailing and wouldn’t answer the questions they asked him. I really doubt college students in blue states have been against polygamy since much longer ago than 2-3 years.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nita,

            That was admittedly not a very specific example. I was just trying to think of someone vilified for making the comparison, and Santorum came to mind, so I linked the first article which had him booed off stage.

            So here is one much more on point. Admittedly, this is 12 years ago, which is, like, forever ago.

            Yesterday, I called on President Bush and the Republican Party leadership to condemn Senator Rick Santorum for his deeply offensive remarks comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. As additional reports have come to light, revealing a disturbing history of inflammatory, anti-gay rhetoric by Senator Santorum, the deafening silence of President Bush and his party has become inexcusable.

            Sen. Santorum has refused to apologize for his repugnant remarks, calling his comments “a legitimate public policy discussion.” Gay-bashing is not a legitimate public policy discussion; it is immoral. Rick Santorum’s failure to recognize that attacking people because of who they are is morally wrong makes him unfit for a leadership position in the United States Senate. Today I call on Rick Santorum to resign from his post as Republican Conference Chairman.

            -Howard Dean

          • Nita says:

            @ Jaskologist

            Thanks!

            Well, Howard Dean is a politician. They do tend to throw people with more controversial needs under the bus to make progress on less controversial issues.

            I’m not aware of anyone who’s flipped from anti-poly-marriage to pro-poly-marriage in their actual beliefs (as opposed to pandering to the undecided voters), though.

          • Deiseach says:

            That was what actually pissed me off the most about the Yes campaign in the referendum: “It’s all about Twu Wuv”.

            I would have respected it a lot more if the various parties had said up front what they wanted.

            The Chattering Classes and the Media: We like to think of ourselves as liberated progressives and certainly far removed from our country grandparents who cringed in fear of the parish priest and probably smelled of cowdung. We buy all our furniture at Ikea, for goodness’ sake! If we win this referendum, we need no longer feel embarrassed when we meet our friends on the Continent on holidays.

            Gay rights activism groups: This is about getting visibility and normalisation of LGBT issues in the wider public view. We dress it up as “We only want to marry the person we love” and “What if your grandkid was gay?” so the masses will go all sentimental over the idea of their favourite grandson’s lovely gay wedding.

            The government: Well, Europe will probably drag us to court over this eventually so we may as well do it now and we need a nice, shiny, feel-good populist cause that won’t cost us any political capital to distract from the public unrest over things like the water charges and the expectations that if we’re telling the truth about the economy recovering, wages will start to rise (will they hell, we can’t afford that right now but if we tell people that we’ll be slaughtered in the upcoming election). So gay marriage it is!

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not like non-ulterior motives evaporate once you’ve identified an ulterior motive.

        • James Picone says:

          Sure. Sounds good. We’ll need some moderately clever lawyers to figure out how to extend current marriage laws to multiple people, whereas gay marriage shouldn’t pose any special problems there, but that’s a minor problem.

          From my perspective (and I assume the perspective of the wider left?) marriage isn’t magic, it’s just a way of 1) gaining some relevant legal recognition as important in the life of each other, which is instrumentally useful (right to visit in hospital and all that), and 2) signalling “We really care for each other and this is a committed relationship” to friends and family.

          I honestly don’t mind the “Well just drop marriage from the state altogether, let churches or whoever else do ceremonies that they can call whatever and let people call the resulting state whatever, and let the government handle the legal responsibilities with a civil-union mechanism” viewpoint. Sounds good to me. And has the benefit of being extended to directed graphs without as much traditionalist backlash.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Hi, I’m a reader, first time poster, and a lawyer. I think that anybody whose ever been to an American law school will realize that creating a polyamorous marriage law that is both constitutional and workable is a herculean task.

            The most common form of group marriage currently practiced involves one man married to multiple women, who can’t marry anybody else. This would not work in the United States because it clearly violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments. Women need to have the same right to multiple-spouses for any plural marriage law to pass constitutional muster.

            This is where the tricky part comes in. The difficult aspect of plural marriage isn’t the marriage but how to deal with the fall out of a bad plural marriage ending. This is difficult enough with two people and no kids. When you increase the number of people involved in a marriage fall out, your going to increase the conflict. States with community property laws like California are going to be really tricky in this regard. The traditional plural marriage, one man with multiple wives, works well because it provides a limit to the number of people involved. The sexism of the system helps to. Constitutionally its tricky though.

          • Deiseach says:

            Trouble is, when civil partnerships etc. have been introduced by legislation, the activism groups have complained they don’t go far enough, are still treating gay and lesbian people as second-class citizens and nothing less than full marriage will do.

            It has to do with the idea of using a social institution to further your ends, which is what politics is all about. Overcome the repugnance/irrational bias by “LGBT people are just the same in every way as you”, especially by hammering the “We only want to celebrate our love” angle.

            The irony is that straight people have been demanding various rights and advantages without needing to undertake the ceremony of marriage (from Free Love campaigns onward) and now that liberation from the dreadful tyranny of the dead hand of the institution of marriage has come about, so that divorce and serial monogamy, cohabiting, childbearing outside of wedlock, etc. are normal, now LGBT people are clamouring to be bound in the chains of matrimony.

            It’s about the legal rights and recognition, certainly. And I’ll grudgingly admit that for those who want to marry, it is about love and romance and a big fairytale wedding and the rest of the stuff that brings me out in hives.

            But I certainly do not think the push for it was all about “We just want to be happy and mark our commitment”.

          • James Picone says:

            Trouble is, when civil partnerships etc. have been introduced by legislation, the activism groups have complained they don’t go far enough, are still treating gay and lesbian people as second-class citizens and nothing less than full marriage will do.

            And often that’s actually the case. Or even those aren’t available – my understanding of American law, for example, is that there are several states where gay civil partnerships aren’t even a thing. I know that until roughly last decade, gay civil partnerships in Australia didn’t carry all the legal benefits marriage entailed.

            I suspect you’d get much less talk about it if marriage wasn’t a thing the government had any involvement in at all, if they just did civil partnerships, and when a priest celebrates a wedding it has no legal implications. You’d still get talk, of course, people criticising the church for its position, but I can almost guarantee that would mostly satisfy the activists.

            As far as I can tell you’re grumbling that Gay Marriage Activists don’t just want gay people to be Happy, they also want gay people to have access to certain classes of legal right, and access to a status that signals romantic devotion. I don’t understand why that’s grumble-able. Those seem like pretty justifiable things to want gay people to have.

          • It seems reasonable to assume that that would be acceptable, simply because it would have the effect of legalizing gay marriage – some of the churches are going to let their priests marry gays, and if none of them are handy, you can always invent your own!

        • Tracy W says:

          Modern Western rules for handling property on a marriage breakdown (be that by divorce or death) are now basically gender-neutral (although they can play out in ways that are statistically biased), so it’s easy enough to apply those rules to same-sex couples.

          Polygamous marriage is a different problem. If A, B and C are married, and A wants a divorce from B, but not C, what happens?

          Also, marriage is often tied to legal rights such as immigration rules, not having to testify against your spouse, etc, which would be significantly widened if people weren’t limited to being married to one person at at time.

          • Godzillarissa says:

            So you’re suggesting everyone is married to all others, like A is married to B and C, B is married to A and C and C is married to A and B?

            Is that the common understanding of how polygamous marriages would go down? Because I thought A would marry B and C while B and C might just not care all too much about each other.

          • Adam says:

            If any subset is a package deal, and if A later wants B but not C, oh well, A can’t have either, and you split everything 1/3 2/3 between A and B-C. If it’s a deal where it’s okay for A and B to be separately married to C but not to each other, then community property of A-B-C gets split 50/50 between A-C and B-C.

          • John Schilling says:

            We have an extensive body of law on e.g. business partnerships, which do not require that there be exactly two partners. So it’s not like we are dealing with some intractably complex and wholly unprecedented set of problems here.

            If someone wants to opt out of a partnership, they can opt out of the partnership. They don’t get to demand that their preferred subset of the other partners form a new arrangement including all of the partners that the defector likes and none of the ones that they dislike. You’re in or you’re out, 100%, your choice.

          • Tracy W says:

            @John Schilling: Yes, there’s an extensive body of law on business partnerships, which has developed on its own merry way, independently of the extensive body of law on marriage breakups. For example, as far as I know, if one person in a business partner owns a building that is used for the business, at the end of the business partnership the owner retains that ownership. In a marriage break up, generally all assets are up for division, regardless of whose name they are in (subject to things like length of relationship, and depending on which country and so forth.)

            @Godzillarissa, @Adam: you and I might have opinions on how this could work, but that doesn’t mean that the courts will necessarily agree with us.

            I’m not saying that the legal problems of polygamy are intractable, I’m just saying that they’re not a case of copying and pasting existing marriage law.

          • John Schilling says:

            For example, as far as I know, if one person in a business partner owns a building that is used for the business, at the end of the business partnership the owner retains that ownership

            And in a marriage, even in a community-property state, if one partner owns a building that is used for the marriage, at the end of the marriage that owner retains that ownership. It is not generally the case that when the couple says “I do”, each of them owns half of everything. Identifiable property owned by one spouse before the marriage and not comingled with marital property, remains separate property individually owned.

            Yes, even if the couple remains happily married for decades before ultimately divorcing, though as a practical matter it becomes increasingly likely that comingling will occur (e.g, money from a joint bank account being used to pay the mortgage on what used to be the husband’s house).

            Business partnership law can’t just be blindly copied over 100% to marriage law, but that’s a tractable problem. Claims that polygamous marriages are inherently too complex for the law to handle, are so needlessly defeatist as to make me suspect an ulterior motive.

          • Adam says:

            I actually just married last year, and came into it with a fairly recently-purchased house, and my wife and I looked into it beforehand, and best we can tell, even though she is very likely to end up paying more of the mortgage than I am (she earns a greater salary and probably will continue to for a while), if we divorce, it’s still my house and not community property.

            Edit: Actually, as a practical matter in this case, renters are paying the mortgage, but you get the idea.

          • Tracy W says:

            @John: out of curiosity, where do you live? In NZ and the UK, I understand that while the house would be your own property during the marriage so you could sell it, mortgage it again, etc,, if you got divorced it would go into the marital pot (leaving aside some conditions).

            Claims that polygamous marriages are inherently too complex for the law to handle, are so needlessly defeatist as to make me suspect an ulterior motive.

            Have you ever come across someone who claimed this? And if so, do you recall their name or the source? I’m kinda interested in their arguments.

      • RCF says:

        Same sex marriage is not an issue of equality, it’s an issue of equivalence, and your framing is dishonest.

        • DavidS says:

          I think ‘dishonest’ is rather strong? I don’t know what distinction you’re making between equality and equivalence, but I do know I’m arguing in good faith.

          If you can set out what the difference is between equality and equivalence, can you be clear on how many other things would fall into that category? I.e. is gay marriage unusual in being presented as an “equality” issue or are most equivalence issues often presented as equality issues?

          • RCF says:

            If Peron A is given X, then equality is giving X to Person B as well. Equivalence is giving Y to Person B, where the relationship between Person B and Y, and the relationship between Person A and X, share characteristic that is considered important. If Person A is allowed to marry someone of the opposite sex, then equality is allowing Person B to also marry someone of the opposite sex. If Person A is straight, and Person B is gay, and you think that Person B getting married to someone of the same sex shares the same essential nature as Person A getting married to someone of the opposite sex, then allowing Person B to get married to someone the same sex would be equivalence.

            It is dishonest to say that gay people are not allowed to marry, since they are in fact allowed to marry. It is a claim that is both false, and not conducive to clear discussion. It glosses over an issue that is blatantly pertinent to the discussion. You may not believe that it is important, but saying that it is not important is begging the question, and begging the question is not acting in good faith.

          • James Picone says:

            That reads like semantic games rather than an argument to me – couldn’t someone have made a similar argument for miscegnation laws? Wilma White and Bob Black still have the right to marry, after all, just someone of opposite gender and the same ethnicity.

            Similarly, under apartheid black people had the right to go to school, just as much as white people. Just not the same schools.

            What’s different about your argument here and that argument?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Both a gay man and a straight man are allowed to marry a woman, whereas only a white man, not a black man, is allowed to marry a white woman, is the difference.

          • James Picone says:

            I don’t see how that’s a difference, nor how that difference is relevant. And it doesn’t address apartheid.

            Let me put it this way: RCF is suggesting that people have “a right to Formalised Relationship with someone of opposite sex” as opposed to the gay-marriage-supporter position that people have “a right to Formalised Relationship with a person they love”. Presumably advocates for miscegnation laws would construct it as “A right to Formalised Relationship with someone of opposite sex and same race”. Those all seem to differ in the same way to me.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Both a gay man and a straight man are allowed to marry a woman, whereas only a white man, not a black man, is allowed to marry a white woman, is the difference.”

            That makes prohibitions against interracial marriage more equal than prohibitions against gay marriage because the bar against blacks and whites were symmetrical. Oddly that didn’t save such laws.

          • Dude Man says:

            What about gender equality? Without gay marriage, Bob can marry Alice, but Carol can’t. Now both are allowed to do so.

            EDIT: There was an extra paragraph here, but I have decided to change what I wrote. Is the difference between equality and equivalence an important one, or is this just an isolated demand of rigour language precision?

          • That’s silly. On that basis, you might as well say “I was allowed to marry Sharyn, so equality is letting everyone else marry Sharyn.”

          • RCF says:

            “That reads like semantic games rather than an argument to me”

            That’s the problem when a semantic obfuscation becomes widely accepted: if you challenge it, people accuse you of semantic games.

            “Similarly, under apartheid black people had the right to go to school, just as much as white people. Just not the same schools.”

            That’s such a ridiculous question, that you must have ideological blinders on to not see how ridiculous it is. White people were allowed to go to white schools. Black people were not. So there was something that white people were allowed to do that black people were not. There is nothing in this case that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not.

            “Let me put it this way: RCF is suggesting that people have “a right to Formalised Relationship with someone of opposite sex” as opposed to the gay-marriage-supporter position that people have “a right to Formalised Relationship with a person they love”.”

            I am not making an assertion as to what rights people have. I’m simply pointing out that claiming that gay people aren’t allowed to get married is dishonest.

          • AJD says:

            If an argument’s truth or falsity depends entirely on which of two equivalent descriptions is given to the situation, I think that’s a pretty good criterion for calling it “semantic games rather than an argument”.

            That’s such a ridiculous question, that you must have ideological blinders on to not see how ridiculous it is. White people were allowed to go to white schools. Black people were not. So there was something that white people were allowed to do that black people were not. There is nothing in this case that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not.

            The argument in the quoted paragraph is absurd.

            The thing that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not is marry the people they wish to marry.

            Or to frame it a somewhat different way, women are permitted to marry men and men are not, which is an example of inequality by your definition.

            My estimate of the probability that you’re trolling us with intentionally poor arguments is about 40%.

          • James Picone says:

            That’s such a ridiculous question, that you must have ideological blinders on to not see how ridiculous it is. White people were allowed to go to white schools. Black people were not. So there was something that white people were allowed to do that black people were not. There is nothing in this case that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not.

            “Heterosexual people are allowed to marry their sweetheart. Homosexual people are not. So there is something that heterosexual people are allowed to do that homosexual people are not. Meanwhile, both black and white kids in the early 1900s were allowed to go to school, there was nothing one group was allowed to do that the other wasn’t (in this category)”

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            There is nothing in this case that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not.

            The argument in the quoted paragraph is absurd.”
            ——————-
            Yes. It sounds like trolling, but it was actually defended in court by the Obama administration. (That too sounds so absurd, that maybe I should check sources.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Heteros have limits on who they can marry, too. These include age and consanguinity rules, but most of all the fact that you only get to be married to one person, regardless of how many sweethearts you have. That last one chafes more than most seem willing to admit.

            And that is because society had a certain understanding of what marriage is and what it is for, and allowing multiple spouses would have damaged that, love be damned.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I thought the banning of polygamy has to do with reducing the pool of available women and the fact it makes cash a lot more convertible into fitness (which encourages high risk behavior to gain access to large amounts of cash).

          • Adam says:

            Surely you can agree one group gets to marry people they actually want to marry and the other doesn’t is a meaningful policy distinction. If you want to call their situations equal, it doesn’t change the substance of what they want.

            I mean, seriously, if they literally asked for “equivalence” instead of “equality,” do you really expect us to believe you wouldn’t still object?

          • RCF says:

            @AJD
            “If an argument’s truth or falsity depends entirely on which of two equivalent descriptions is given to the situation”

            If one description is true, and another is false, then by definition, they are not equivalent. And you have utterly failed to explain how it is that you think I am engaging in semantic games, and you are not.

            “The thing that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not is marry the people they wish to marry.”

            That’s just plain idiotic. Straight people are also not allowed to marry the people gay people want to marry. Just because you can play dishonest semantic games to make it sound like two different things are the same thing, doesn’t mean that they are. The phrase “straight people marry people they want to marry” refers to straight people marrying people of the opposite sex. The phrase “gay people marry people they want to marry” refers to gay people marrying people of the same sex. Therefore, the two phrase do not refer to the same thing, and it’s just plain dishonest to say “Straight people are allowed to do X, and gay people aren’t allowed to do Y, so there’s something straight people are allowed to do that gay people aren’t.”

            “Or to frame it a somewhat different way, women are permitted to marry men and men are not, which is an example of inequality by your definition.”

            The claim was that straight people are allowed to do something that gay people are not allowed to do. Trying to pull a bait and switch and instead discuss whether this constitutes sexual discrimination is dishonest.

            “My estimate of the probability that you’re trolling us with intentionally poor arguments is about 40%.”

            Just because you’re too stupid, dishonest, and/or blinded by ideology to understand my point doesn’t mean I’m trolling. Post reported for incivility.

          • RCF says:

            @James Picone

            “Heterosexual people are allowed to marry their sweetheart. Homosexual people are not.”

            Addressed above.

            “Meanwhile, both black and white kids in the early 1900s were allowed to go to school, there was nothing one group was allowed to do that the other wasn’t (in this category)”

            Do you seriously think that “There exists something that both black and white children are allowed to do” contradicts “There is something white children are allowed to do that black children are not”? Do you not understand basic logic?

          • RCF says:

            @Adam

            First, it is basic common courtesy, once the maximum level of nesting is achieved, to indicate who you are responding to.

            “Surely you can agree one group gets to marry people they actually want to marry and the other doesn’t is a meaningful policy distinction.”

            It’s a meaningful policy distinction, but not an issue of equality.

            “I mean, seriously, if they literally asked for “equivalence” instead of “equality,” do you really expect us to believe you wouldn’t still object?”

            Well, that’s a rather circuitous manner of calling me a liar. Given that you think I’m just lying about what I believe, why are you even bothering to respond?

          • James Picone says:

            @RCF

            No, you really haven’t addressed anything. Reiterating what you originally said doesn’t actually address any argument. Literally everyone here is aware of what you mean when you say that gay people are allowed to marry. The point being made is that you can play similar semantic games (and yes it is a semantic game, you are selecting a definition of ‘marry’ (and for that matter, ‘equality’ and ‘equivalence’) for rhetorical effect, one that has approximately zero relevance to the actual question or what people mean when they say that ‘gay people aren’t allowed to marry’) to claim that separated schooling or miscegnation laws weren’t equality concerns.

            Do you seriously think that “There exists something that both black and white children are allowed to do” contradicts “There is something white children are allowed to do that black children are not”? Do you not understand basic logic?

            “Do you seriously think that “there exists something that both gay and straight people are allowed to do” contradicts “There is something heterosexual people are allowed to do that homosexual people are not”? Do you not understand basic logic?”

            White kids weren’t allowed to go to black schools, after all. Describing that situation as “black kids were allowed to go to school, the same as white kids” leaves a lot out. If the situation was described as ‘not an equality problem’ because both black and white kids could go to school, it would be ridiculous.

            tl;dr you’re equivocating on ‘marry’ and ‘equality’ and your outrage on being called on it is delicious.

          • AJD says:

            @AJD
            “If an argument’s truth or falsity depends entirely on which of two equivalent descriptions is given to the situation”

            If one description is true, and another is false, then by definition, they are not equivalent.

            Indeed, the descriptions are both true. And so, if an argument’s validity depends on which description is used, the argument mere semantic games.

            And you have utterly failed to explain how it is that you think I am engaging in semantic games, and you are not.

            Whose says I’m not? I was playing your semantic game, by your rules.

            “The thing that straight people are allowed to do that gay people are not is marry the people they wish to marry.”

            That’s just plain idiotic. Straight people are also not allowed to marry the people gay people want to marry.

            This is a very nicely done equivocation, but I think I’m sick of the semantic game and so I’m going to stop playing.

          • RCF says:

            @James Picone

            “No, you really haven’t addressed anything.”

            Simply declaring that I haven’t addressed anything doesn’t change the fact that I have. I have clearly shown that straight people are not allowed to do anything that gay people can’t. You have get to name ANY X such that straight people are allowed to do X, and gay people are not allowed to do X, AND X REFERS TO THE SAME THING IN BOTH INSTANCES. All you’ve done is play semantic games to create an X such that straight people can do X, but gay people can’t do X, and X refers to DIFFERENT THINGS IN THE TWO CASES.

            “Literally everyone here is aware of what you mean when you say that gay people are allowed to marry.”

            Well, what you’re saying is not consistent with what I mean. So either you DON’T understand what I’m saying, or you’re deliberately presenting invalid arguments. So which is it? Are you stupid, or are you dishonest?

            “(and yes it is a semantic game, you are selecting a definition of ‘marry’ (and for that matter, ‘equality’ and ‘equivalence’) for rhetorical effect”

            No, I’m choosing for accuracy.

            “one that has approximately zero relevance to the actual question or what people mean when they say that ‘gay people aren’t allowed to marry’”

            The fact that my honest use of words isn’t consistent with other people’s dishonest use of words is their shortcoming, not mine.

            “to claim that separated schooling or miscegnation laws weren’t equality concerns.”

            You actually didn’t use semantic games to “show” that schooling wasn’t an equality concern, you used the blatantly idiotic fallacy of asserting (exists X: not Y) ->(not exists X: Y). You are trying to claim that because you can engage in fallacious reasoning to arrive at an invalid conclusion, that somehow shows that my conclusion is invalid. However, you have done nothing to show that my conclusion is invalid, or that the reasoning that you are using for your invalid conclusion is at all the same as the reasoning that I am using.

            ““Do you seriously think that “there exists something that both gay and straight people are allowed to do” contradicts “There is something heterosexual people are allowed to do that homosexual people are not”?”

            No, and nothing I said suggested that I do. Look, I’ve been painstakingly explaining my reasoning. You’ve just been pulling shit out of your ass. Just because you’ve concocted some contorted reasoning in your head for why I’m saying something, doesn’t mean that I’m saying it, and it doesn’t mean that you can simply flatly assert that I am.

            “Describing that situation as “black kids were allowed to go to school, the same as white kids” leaves a lot out. If the situation was described as ‘not an equality problem’ because both black and white kids could go to school, it would be ridiculous.”

            See, an actual argument would show why my argument is invalid, rather than explaining why your hypothetical argument is invalid, and treating it as just obvious how that’s applicable to the actual issue in question.

            “tl;dr you’re equivocating on ‘marry’ and ‘equality’ and your outrage on being called on it is delicious.”

            The whole idea of a “tl;dr” is to summarize the points made, not to simply pull an assertion out of thin air that has no support in what you’ve said.

            And I’m not outraged at being accused of equivocation, I’m outraged at being called a troll simply I disagree with you. I’m also outraged at you people calling me a troll, and then when I express outrage, pretending that I’m expressing outrage at merely being accused of equivocation. You are really being a dick here.

          • DavidS says:

            @RCF. Thanks for asking. Like others, I don’t really see the argument though. I think it depends on treating some things as somehow more real or natural categories than others.

            Take the sentence: everyone is free to marry X’

            X here could be
            A. a person of the opposite sex (subject to other caveats on age etc.)
            B. a person of the sex they are attracted to (subject to same caveats)
            C. a person of the same race (subject to same caveats)

            As far as I understand, you seem to be arguing that A is a meaningful category but B and C aren’t. I’m not really sure why. I can sort of see an argument that (B) is unlike the others in that it refers to people’s motivations/preferences rather than something which is arguably more ‘objective. But I really don’t see how you can say (A) is different to (C). Both allow everyone to marry on consistent criteria.

            I’m also not clear if you think that this is revealing some real-world difference or if your aggravation is a more aesthetic one about people using words poorly.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Option A discriminates on sex, just as Option C discriminates on race and option B discriminates on sexual orientation. Laws against homosexual marriage are as sexually unequal as laws against heteroracial marriage are racially unequal, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. But that is very explicitly not the equality line being drawn by gay marriage activists.

          • DavidS says:

            Well, Option A formally discriminates by sex, but as it’s about their sex relative to yours in a romantic/sexual content the purpose/effect is clearly about sexuality. And I think you can take this into account. The relevant thing for people is ‘am I allowed to marry this other consenting adult’.

            If a country says people are only allowed in public office if they eat a pork chop, this doesn’t mention religion. But in the real world one would suspect religious discrimination.

            I’m not sure what the precise point in the argument made by ‘gay marriage activists’ is and how it’s different to this. Also whether it matters – do you think most people who support gay marriage on broad ‘equality’ grounds are fundamentally confused, or is this a response to a specific argument you’ve seen from specific organisations?

          • James Picone says:

            @RCF:

            Any argument you think I’m making re: separated schooling is the exact same argument you’re making re: marriage. If I’m doing something blatantly logically invalid, so are you.

            When you say that “there’s nothing straight people are allowed to do that gay people aren’t”, it’s exactly the same as saying “there’s nothing black kids are allowed to do that white kids aren’t” back in the days of separated schooling. You get there by thinking of ‘marry’ as ‘marry someone of the opposite sex’, just as an apartheid apologist saying that black kids are ‘allowed to go to school’ thinks ‘go to school’ as ‘go to school of the right colour’.

            ‘marry someone of the opposite sex’ is no more of a natural category than ‘go to school of the right colour’.

            Several people have explained to you that just as the black kid not being allowed to go to the white school and the white kid not being allowed to go to the black school is ‘something that they’re not allowed to do’, the gay guy not being able to marry his partner of n years is something he’s not allowed to do that straight people are.

            The reason people are assuming you’re trolling is because it’s the charitable response to what you’re arguing. Do you seriously not see the applicability here? As far as I can tell your argument is exactly the same as the hypothetical apartheid apologist’s. Like, just-replace-words exactly the same.

            You’re saying that “marry your partner” is a Y, not an X. Apartheid apologist says “Go to the school you want” is a Y, not an X. Same argument.

          • Adam says:

            @RCF

            Well, that’s a rather circuitous manner of calling me a liar. Given that you think I’m just lying about what I believe, why are you even bothering to respond?

            Fair enough. If you really do only object to the wording of marketing campaigns in favor of gay marriage, and don’t actually object to gay marriage, fine, you’re not a liar. That just rises to such a ridiculous level of silliness that I actually thought I was being charitable assuming you were a liar.

          • fwhagdsd says:

            “I don’t see how that’s a difference, nor how that difference is relevant.”

            NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR LEVEL OF IGNORANCE, FOOL

          • RCF says:

            @James Picone

            Your post primarily consists of you reasserting your position, which is rather hypocritical, given how that’s what you’re accusing me of doing.

            “A union between a man and a woman” is most certainly a natural category, and any discrimination involved is discrimination on the basis of sex, not orientation. If you were trying to analogize between “a man is allowed to marry a woman, but a woman is not allowed to marry a woman” and “a white child is allowed to go to a white school, but a black child is not allowed to go to a white school”, that would have some validity, but analogizing between “a straight man is allowed to marry a woman, but a gay man is not allowed to marry a woman” and “a white child is allowed to go to a white school, but a black child is not allowed to go to a white school” is absurd.

            “the gay guy not being able to marry his partner of n years is something he’s not allowed to do that straight people are. ”

            I have ALREADY EXPLAINED how this is invalid. The gay person wants to marry a DIFFERENT PERSON than the straight person does. The black kid wants to go to the SAME SCHOOL as the white kid. Even if you don’t agree with my position, to continue to pretend that I haven’t presented a valid position, to continue to present arguments that show that you are simply ignoring, not just disagreeing but ignoring, what I have said, shows you to be a dishonest dick.

            “As far as I can tell your argument is exactly the same as the hypothetical apartheid apologist’s.”

            The fact that you are too stupid to understand how they are different isn’t my fault.

            “Like, just-replace-words exactly the same.”

            Okay, let’s see what happens when we replace the words.

            “That’s just plain idiotic. White people are also not allowed to go to white schools. Just because you can play dishonest semantic games to make it sound like two different things are the same thing, doesn’t mean that they are. The phrase “white people going to white schools” refers to white people going to white schools. The phrase “black people going to white schools” refers to black people going to black schools. Therefore, the two phrase do not refer to the same thing, and it’s just plain dishonest to say “White people are allowed to do X, and white people aren’t allowed to do Y, so there’s something white people are allowed to do that black people aren’t.”

            Is this just as valid as what I said? No, of course not. That’s stupid.

            “Apartheid apologist says “Go to the school you want” is a Y, not an X. Same argument. ”

            What.
            The.
            Fucking.
            Hell.

            Are you retarded or something? I said that GOING TO A WHITE SCHOOL was something that black people were not allowed to do. I did NOT phrase it as “going to the school they want was something black children were not allowed to do”. So, this is what your argument consists of:

            You: According to your logic, there’s nothing black children weren’t allowed to do.
            Me: Yes, there was. Going to white schools is something that black schools weren’t allowed to do.
            You: Ah, but if I rephrase that as “Going to the school that they wanted to go to”, then it mirrors YOUR argument about marriage.

            I presented an argument for why there was something that black children weren’t allowed to do that does NOT apply to the marriage issue, and you responded by coming up with a DIFFERENT argument for why there was something black children were not allowed to, such that that argument DOES apply to marriage. But the fact that you can REWORD my argument to make it invalid doesn’t mean my ACTUAL ARGUMENT, then one I ACTUALLY SAID, isn’t valid. Going to white schools is something that black children weren’t allowed to do. You have nothing but dishonesty and/or rank dishonesty to respond to that. You either have a severe mental incapacity, or you’re just being a dishonest prick.

          • James Picone says:

            @RCF

            EDIT: Editing this to put the point of difference right at the top where you can see it.

            As far as I can tell, we’re talking past each other because in the analogy I’m drawing, ‘black’ and ‘white’ are mapped to gender, and separated schooling is a universe where only homosexual marriage is allowed. You appear to be assuming that I meant black to map to gay. Hopefully everything makes sense now.

            END EDIT

            This is quite literally the first time I’ve had any idea why you think the apartheid apologist isn’t saying the same thing you are, so I was trying to restate the point in somewhat different words on the assumption that you hadn’t understood it.

            I don’t see why legal recognition of a longstanding relationship only for people of opposite sex is a natural category. Certainly not any more than legal recognition of longstanding relationships, say. And, of course, the apartheid apologist would point to race as a natural category it makes perfect sense to divide things up along, as well. The question is why those particular framings of marriage/schooling are the relevant ones.

            I have ALREADY EXPLAINED how this is invalid. The gay person wants to marry a DIFFERENT PERSON than the straight person does. The black kid wants to go to the SAME SCHOOL as the white kid. Even if you don’t agree with my position, to continue to pretend that I haven’t presented a valid position, to continue to present arguments that show that you are simply ignoring, not just disagreeing but ignoring, what I have said, shows you to be a dishonest dick.

            Everyone marries a different person? At least, under the conception of marriage you’re talking about, anyway. Seriously, the entire fucking point I’ve been trying to get across is that your choice of framing to make ‘partner of n years’ a Y and not an X is playing a semantic game. You’re still not getting this – it’s not ‘a straight man is allowed to marry a woman but a gay man isn’t’, it’s ‘a straight man is allowed to marry their partner, but a gay man isn’t’. It doesn’t matter that it’s a different partner, it’s the category Romantic Partner that’s important. The women that every man is legally allowed to marry is going to end up being a different referent, too, after all – we can’t all marry Sharryn.

            From the point of view where marriage is The Thing People With Long Standing Relationships Do, it’s very definitely a straight-can-do, gay-can’t situation. From the point of view of marriage as The Thing A Man And Woman do, it’s not. But the entire point I’m getting across is that selecting the latter version to argue that the former version is dishonest is purely semantic.

            Okay, let’s see what happens when we replace the words…

            You’re not following. ‘go to the school you want’ is gay marriage. It’s not white->hetero, black->gay, it’s white-who-wants-to-go-to-black-school & black-who-wants-to-go-to-white-school->gay. Make the ethnicities genders in a hypothetical universe where marriage is homosexual only. That the legal situation was symmetric should have been a hint to you what was going on.

            I said that GOING TO A WHITE SCHOOL was something that black people were not allowed to do. I did NOT phrase it as “going to the school they want was something black children were not allowed to do”.

            Hopefully the knowledge that the mapping isn’t gay->black let’s you figure this one out. Hint: “But the school that this black kid wants to go to and the school that this other black kid is allowed to go to are different, and so, person that I’m arguing with, you are several words that mean idiot”.

          • RCF says:

            “As far as I can tell, we’re talking past each other because in the analogy I’m drawing, ‘black’ and ‘white’ are mapped to gender”

            No, they’re not.

            “You appear to be assuming that I meant black to map to gay.”

            I’m not “assuming” that. I know that. We were discussing gay marriage. You brought up “apartheid” (by which, presumably, you meant Jim Crow).

            “This is quite literally the first time I’ve had any idea why you think the apartheid apologist isn’t saying the same thing you are”

            I suppose it would be too to ask that you learn the lesson that you should actually explain your fucking point, rather than being so caught up with it making sense in your own head that you don’t see the need to explain it.

            “Seriously, the entire fucking point I’ve been trying to get across is that your choice of framing to make ‘partner of n years’ a Y and not an X is playing a semantic game.”

            That’s nonsensical. I’m not “making ‘partner of n years’ a Y”. You’re simply showing yet again that you’re trying to disagree with my position despite not understanding what my position is in the first place, and, as far I can tell, really not trying to.

            “You’re still not getting this – it’s not ‘a straight man is allowed to marry a woman but a gay man isn’t’, it’s ‘a straight man is allowed to marry their partner, but a gay man isn’t’.”

            It’s quite clear that the issue is not that I don’t understand that claim, it’s that I don’t agree with it. Your insistence that my not agreeing with you is a mental failing just shows what a closeminded asshole you are.

            “It doesn’t matter that it’s a different partner, it’s the category Romantic Partner that’s important.”

            But the law isn’t written in terms of Romantic Partner. That gay people are not allowed to marry their Romantic Partner is not due to the law, it’s due to the external attribute of them having a Romantic Partner of the same sex.

            “The women that every man is legally allowed to marry is going to end up being a different referent, too, after all – we can’t all marry Sharryn.”

            Each man is allowed to marry any unmarried woman. So each man is given the same option. “any unmarried woman” refers to the same set for each man. “The person they want to marry” does not refer to the same set for gay men and straight men.

            “But the entire point I’m getting across is that selecting the latter version to argue that the former version is dishonest is purely semantic.”

            And you have presented absolutely nothing but your own personal opinion in support of that position. (And I’m responding to the connotation of your statement, as the literal meaning of your statement is vacuously true; to assert that someone’s framing is dishonest is, by definition, a discussion of semantics).

            “It’s not white->hetero, black->gay, it’s white-who-wants-to-go-to-black-school & black-who-wants-to-go-to-white-school->gay.”

            No, it’s white -> hetero. Let’s go back to what you said.

            Meanwhile, both black and white kids in the early 1900s were allowed to go to school, there was nothing one group was allowed to do that the other wasn’t (in this category)”

            This is a verbatim quote of what you said. You said “there was nothing one group was allowed to do that the other wasn’t”. And what were the two groups? They were “black kids” and “white kids”. Not “white-who-wants-to-go-to-black-school & black-who-wants-to-go-to-white-school”, but “black and white kids”. Now, if you want to present a DIFFERENT analogy, then go ahead, but don’t fucking try to pretend that I have “misunderstood” you original analogy. The original analogy was clearly between black kids and gay people. Also, if you were to create an analogy between “straight versus gay” and “white-who-wants-to-go-to-black-school & black-who-wants-to-go-to-white-school”, that would just be supporting my position; black vs. white is such more a of a natural category than white-who-wants-to-go-to-black-school vs. black-who-wants-to-go-to-white-school that comparing the latter to a gay person who wants to marry someone of the same sex just reinforces my point.

            ““But the school that this black kid wants to go to and the school that this other black kid is allowed to go to are different”

            That’s completely irrelevant to whether there’s something black kids weren’t allowed to do that white people were.

            “and so, person that I’m arguing with, you are several words that mean idiot”

            The fact that I am unable to magically read your mind hardly establishes that I am an idiot; rather, you are too stupid to communicate your thoughts properly. You said there was nothing that black kids couldn’t do. I explained how was that false. You then changed the subject to “blacks can’t go to the schools they want to”, and then insulted me like the dishonest asshole you are.

          • James Picone says:

            Can you maybe calm down a bit? I’m happy to accept that I was unclear explaining what analogy I was trying to get across, but you’ve just been a gushing torrent of jerkitude for this entire discussion and it’s really not helping.

            The ‘mental failing’ is that the selection of which categories you consider ‘natural’ strongly influences whether something is an ‘equality’ or an ‘equivalence’ problem under your definitions, and I don’t think you have a principled way of selecting those categories. Your only response to that has been to insist really hard that your categories are the right ones and that I’m a terrible awful idiot for daring to question your logic.

            Why should I prefer ‘person of opposite gender’ to ‘person’? Why should I prefer ‘school of the same colour’ to ‘school’? I don’t see how the description that takes more bits to specify is supposed to be more natural a category.

          • Also, in case this point has been forgotten, if you *do* insist that “person of opposite gender” is a more natural category than “person”, how would you argue against someone claiming that “person of opposite gender and the same race” is *even more* natural?

          • RCF says:

            “Can you maybe calm down a bit? I’m happy to accept that I was unclear explaining what analogy I was trying to get across, but you’ve just been a gushing torrent of jerkitude for this entire discussion and it’s really not helping.”

            Wow, that’s quite a load of hypocrisy. If you don’t like me calling you on your bullshit, then quit posting bullshit.

            “Your only response to that has been to insist really hard that your categories are the right ones and that I’m a terrible awful idiot for daring to question your logic.”

            See, posting this sort bullshit and then whining about me not being nice to you really is not helping the discussion. When I try over and over to explain my point, and you insist that I presented nothing but argument by assertion, and claim that the reason I’m calling you an idiot for questioning your logic, when in fact I’m calling you an idiot for presenting idiotic claims like “There was nothing white kids were allowed to do that black kids weren’t” (while implying that this is somehow a logical consequence of my position), it really is hypocritical for you to call me a jerk.

            “Why should I prefer ‘person of opposite gender’ to ‘person’?”

            And … more bullshit. I never said you should prefer “person of opposite gender” to “person”. I said that “woman” and “man” refer to the same categories in all cases, while “person that you’re attracted to” refers to different categories. Either you are too stupid to engage in simple reading comprehension, or you’re lying. And no, I don’t feel obligated to put up with you lying, over and over again, about what I have written, and still remain polite.

            “Why should I prefer ‘school of the same colour’ to ‘school’?”

            Again, I never said you should.

            “I don’t see how the description that takes more bits to specify is supposed to be more natural a category.”

            How the hell does “woman” take more bits than “member of the sex for which one, in general, feels the greater attraction towards”?

          • Those aren’t the actual choices, though, are they? The actual choices are (a) “if you’re a man, you can marry a woman; if you’re a woman, you can marry a man”; or (b) “you can marry a person”.

            By my count, (b) is shorter.

            … oh, hold on: you’re talking about how you describe the categories that the rules use, not what the rules are. That’s odd, to say the least, but even so the category for who a man can marry is “a woman” in one case and “a person” in the other. The latter description is still simpler.

          • RCF says:

            The claim was that the law discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation; that there is something a straight man is allowed to do that a gay man is not. Both are allowed to marry a woman, so the claim is false.

            Back in my June 1, 2015 at 3:38 am post, I said

            If you were trying to analogize between “a man is allowed to marry a woman, but a woman is not allowed to marry a woman” and “a white child is allowed to go to a white school, but a black child is not allowed to go to a white school”, that would have some validity, but analogizing between “a straight man is allowed to marry a woman, but a gay man is not allowed to marry a woman” and “a white child is allowed to go to a white school, but a black child is not allowed to go to a white school” is absurd.
            And yet people continued to disagree with me, so clearly there is disagreement that goes beyond asserting that the law discriminates in allowing a man to marry a woman, but not allowing a woman to do so.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            fwhagdsd banned indefinitely for this and many other things

          • Scott Alexander says:

            RCF banned for one month for his behavior on this thread and several others over the past few months.

        • Deiseach says:

          Same sex marriage is not an issue of equality, it’s an issue of equivalence

          Tell that to the Yes Campaign in my country; the telephone poles were plastered with “Yes to Equality” posters 🙂

          • DavidS says:

            As I asked the guy above: what’s the difference? I’m not a specialist in these debates, and I’ve never heard the distinction made in media or debates I’ve had in person. Googling mostly finds you stuff on maths, unsurprisingly. And the thing I found that seemed relevant was also vague and long.

            Genuinely interested in if this is a helpful way to carve up these often contentious issues, and thus a useful addition to my mental vocabulary…

        • RCF says:

          @AJD

          “Indeed, the descriptions are both true.”

          No, one of the descriptions is true, and one of them is false.

          “And so, if an argument’s validity depends on which description is used, the argument mere semantic games.”

          Then the claim that gay people aren’t allowed to get married is based on semantic games.

          “Whose says I’m not? I was playing your semantic game, by your rules.”

          Except that I was responding to the claim that gay people are not allowed to get married. So the original semantic game was not mine. As I said, you’re just being dishonest: first someone plays semantic games, and then when I object, you accuse me of being the one playing games.

          “This is a very nicely done equivocation”

          Do you even know what the word “equivocation” means?

          • You do realize that in most cases, the sentence “gay people are not allowed to get married” contains the implied phrase “to one another”?

            The fact that you can’t (or are unwilling to) fill in the missing words is not really anyone else’s fault.

    • Alexp says:

      I think you just have some weird friends.

      • Zorgon says:

        Unfortunately not so much “weird” as “deep-end Blue”. The only reason I don’t have a feed filled with The Mary Sue and Jezebel is because I instructed FB to insulate me from them a long while back.

        • Peter says:

          My social circle seems to be less deep-end Blue – or possibly fewer deep-end Blue is you catch my meaning – but when I was reading a lot of deep-end Blue stuff with sort of an eye to being one for myself[1], there was a fair amount of “thou shalt not hold votes on marriage equality” in places like… Shakesville springs to mind.

          So I was wondering whether, where and when similar such outrage would surface this time (but not enough to actually go looking). Seems I wasn’t wrong to expect some of it – however this is the first I’ve heard of it this time around.

          [1] I, err, got better. SSC has been remarkably therapeutic in that regard.

        • It really doesn’t seem to make sense. Are they honestly arguing that the Constitution of Ireland, written in 1937 in a heavily Catholic nation, could possibly have been expected to support gay marriage?

          • Zorgon says:

            Yes.

            Some of them didn’t initially know the vote was a constitutional referendum rather than a direct-democratic referendum. Informing them of this didn’t change anything.

            The argument really does appear to be “we should be given everything we want without resistance because we are objectively Right”.

            I mean, by all the Hells I agree with them about the necessity of the measure on basically every level. I just have an incredibly strong flinch reflex to this kind of thinking. It starts producing images of jackboots and gulags.

          • Peter says:

            I think there’s a certain faith in interpretation, be it of scripture or law.

            Personally I have a bee in my bonnet about this; I like laws that say what they mean and mean what they say (Also, I like positive law. Laws are made, not discovered). A while back I would have said that I supported the Abortion Act 1967 but opposed Roe vs Wade; I’ve since reconsidered my opinions and decided that if the people drafting laws know (or would reasonably know) that judges are going to interpret them then it’s not really fair to suddenly refuse to interpret them.

          • Sylocat says:

            I don’t think “The majority should not get a chance to vote on the rights of the minority” is such an irrational position, given that, in most cases throughout human history when the rights of a minority group have been put up to a vote, the majority group has enthusiastically voted away said rights.

          • suntzuanime says:

            As compared to what? Has oligarchy traditionally been better about protecting minority rights than democracy?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Has oligarchy traditionally been better about protecting minority rights than democracy?

            That might relate to what percentage of the oligarchs are of that minority. See composition of recent SCOTUS (SCOTI?)

          • @Sylocat, et.al., the thing is that given the Constitution as it existed, the two options were (a) holding a referendum or (b) overthrowing the government.

            Call me nuts, but I’d prefer the referendum.

          • Zorgon says:

            Exactly. You’re tacitly reframing the issue, Sylo. The question is not “should the majority be allowed to vote on issues that affect a minority”, it was “should the entire populace be consulted on a change to the Constitution that governs all of them”.

            If, once the Constitution was modified, there was then a suggestion that there should be a referendum on gay marriage, I would oppose that idea for the reason you state. (Not that it would be necessary, of course, the will of the populace being rather obvious at that point.)

            What this tells me, then, is that you oppose the idea of a population freely governing itself if doing so is inconvenient for your political beliefs and/or movement.

          • Tracy W says:

            Has oligarchy traditionally been better about protecting minority rights than democracy?

            To build on your point, hasn’t the problem with oligarchy traditionally been about it violating majority rights?
            Such as France before the revolution, where the nobility and the clergy were mostly exempt from taxes, which therefore fell on the peasantry (the majority of the population). Or English medieval laws limiting the maximum wage rate.

            I rather feel that people here are comparing real-world democracy to some imaginary perfect system, and unsurprisingly finding democracy wanting. But that’s not particularly informative.

          • Deiseach says:

            The thing is, since marriage is a social institution, and since there are many models of marriage out there and there have been many systems of marriage and how you marry and who you marry and how many and how you divorce, then to me it seems perfectly legitimate and perfectly reasonable to say “We should have a referendum on extending, curtailing, adding, subtracting, changing, or doing away with this altogether”. We already have restrictions on “you can’t get married unless you’re this old/you’re not blood relations in this degree/you are not married already to a living spouse and not divorced”.

            Suppose in the morning the government said “Marriage is all about love. We have no business regulating love. Therefore, whatever private arrangements or ceremonies you enter into it, be it jumping the broom or getting the Pope to celebrate your Nuptial Mass, it’s your own affair. Property disputes, pensions, maintenance and all the rest of it will be settled in court like any other contract law disputes. Who gets to visit who in the hospital, fight it out with your former in-laws. If they detest you enough to keep you away from the sickbed, that’s not our problem. Get it all put in writing beforehand by a lawyer if you’re worried about it. There won’t be tax breaks or extra payments so single people and child-free-by-choice people can stop being butthurt about how it’s unfair and preferential treatment for married people with kids to get extra tax credits. From now on, civil marriage no longer exists”.

            How, then, do you argue you have a natural right to get married, when it makes as much sense to argue you have a natural right to a cable TV subscription? Sure, you can go to court if the cable company refuse to sell you a subscription on the grounds that you are “a big poopy head”, because that is discriminatory treatment, but nobody will say “You have an inalienable right from time immemorial to watch 300 channels on cable”.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a hard time wrapping my head around a natural-rights mentality at the best of times, but I’ll give it a whack. The contention seems not to be so much that gays have a natural right to marriage per se, as that people in general enjoy a natural right to the equal benefits, insofar as feasible, of the social institutions we choose to create: children do not have a natural right to ice-cream cones, but in the presence of a tradition of giving out free ice-cream cones to children every Sunday, ginger children would then have a natural right not to be excluded.

            The question then becomes how we adjudge equal benefit and which natural categories (e.g. children) we choose to recognize, which indeed seems to have been the main focus of debate around this. Or at least it was when California went through this process a few years ago.

            (Note that I don’t actually buy this argument, but that’s because I don’t believe in natural rights, not because I don’t think this in particular is a good one.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      On that note, a poll saying more than half of Democrats want to make hateful speech illegal. But, of course, this is a poll, so who knows how true it is, and it is contradicted by a poll from the last links post.

      • Dain says:

        I don’t see America’s thick-skinned tolerance of offensive speech lasting much longer. The expanding moral circle has wiped out the acceptance of physical violence among polite society voters. What’s the next frontier? Mental violence, of course.

        It’s only a matter of time.

        • Faradn says:

          Not necessarily true. People may be ruder knowing that there is no fear of physical reprisal.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Instead they erupted into recriminations and anger against the idea that it would ever be necessary to have a popular vote regarding gay marriage, being a fundamental right.

      That’s funny. My FriendsList erupted into photos of an island-spanning rainbow. Requiring more bandwidth, but perhaps a bit more thought also. If I had time, I’d photoshop one of those into six or seven US military planes making a rainbow with their contrails, which they really did a couple of years ago, over Seattle iirc.

      • Zorgon says:

        That happened too. There was a period of roughly 24-36 hours of near-universal celebration before the marching orders were sent out (from Tumblr, I can only assume).

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Progressing from “Yay, we won the war!” to “Well, we shouldn’t have had to fight anyway” to “And this wasn’t the whole war, it was just a local battle, and we shouldn’t be required to make this kind of fight in every locality” — fits the timing of second and third thoughts (though the order of those two may vary).

          • Sylocat says:

            I’m pretty sure that “Tumblr” is meant as a softer codeword for The Cathedral, in this context.

            Because goodness knows, people wouldn’t arrive at those awful SJ conclusions because they honestly believe in them, right? They must be a zombified mob taking marching orders from Tumblr.

          • Cauê says:

            Well, political talking points do usually begin and expand from somewhere.

            Given that, “marching orders” vs “honestly believe” looks mostly a matter of framing to me.

          • Sylocat says:

            Matters of framing aren’t inherently trivial. It’s a common way of wedging loaded language into a discussion.

          • Cauê says:

            I agree with this, except that most of the time it’s not intentional (or at least not explicitly conscious).

          • Zorgon says:

            I don’t believe in The Cathedral.

            I do believe in Tumblr.

            When SJW activists begin mobilising their political pressure efforts from a site called The Cathedral, I’ll let you know. Until then, when my friends who spend a lot of time on Tumblr begin posting links to “news” sites heavily influenced by Tumblr indicating a strong opinion which a rudimentary Google search indicates originated on Tumblr shortly before being repeated on said “news sites”…

            I’m just gonna go ahead and call a spade a spade, y’know?

          • Nita says:

            @ Zorgon

            But do you believe that your friends obey their superior officers in some sort of Tumblr army, as the phrase “marching orders” implies? As far as I can see, Tumblr is more of a mob.

          • Harald K says:

            Mobs have leaders. Unacknowledged leaders maybe, but yes, some people have a lot more power to direct it than others.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m relatively certain that most of them consider at the very least the “news sites” in question to reflect what is Moral And Righteous and repeat it because they’ve been told that by doing so they too are being Moral And Righteous. All those “reblog this or you’re scum” posts weren’t for nothing.

            There is little practical difference between a directed Halo Effect and intentional organised campaigning. “Marching orders” doesn’t seem unreasonable.

          • Sylocat says:

            when my friends who spend a lot of time on Tumblr begin posting links to “news” sites heavily influenced by Tumblr indicating a strong opinion which a rudimentary Google search indicates originated on Tumblr shortly before being repeated on said “news sites”…

            Would you mind explaining your Google-search methodology here? How exactly do you determine that a strong opinion “originated on Tumblr shortly before being repeated on said scarequotes-news sites-scarequotes?”

    • Ano says:

      The left wants gay marriage, and they want it yesterday.

      But this just goes to show, as if we needed any more proof, that gay marriage is not actually about gay people but about the Blue Tribe showing just how enlightened and tolerant they are.

      • Adam says:

        Depends on who you are. Maybe my own friend circle is just abnormally apolitical, but I’m almost certain I’ve seen more posts from friends who are actually gay getting married than from anyone who isn’t gay coming down in either support of or opposition to it as an issue.

        Edit: Although in this specific case, I’m guessing it matters that none of my friends are Irish.

      • Belabored Yearning says:

        > gay marriage is not actually about gay people but about the Blue Tribe showing just how enlightened and tolerant they are

        This gay person is totally fine with that. With any luck, we can keep on this path and solve more social problems by appealing to people’s need to signal being tolerant, regardless of whether or not they are tolerant.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          I wonder where it will end. Obvious not with tolerating other political tribes (by definition political tribes don’t tolerate each other), but I wonder if that will ever include people way in the weird zone like furries. Maybe when technology advances to the point where large scale body modification is safe, cheap and trivial.

          I wonder what happens next once you’ve run out of people who “diverge from social norms but are harmless” to tolerate. Tolerating the crazies? Tolerating specific people (which would be both weird and awesome- I would love the blue tribe to convert to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood where they celebrate the achievements of different kinds of work each week by showing you what they do)? Maybe declaring the New Left’s goals have been meet and switching to a new political ideology (although I’m at a loss for what politics would look like without social issues)?

          • Brad says:

            I speculate, personally, that one route may end with each tribe simply diverting energy from helping peripheral groups, and redirecting said energy into additional direct ad hominem attacks against enemy tribe(s), real or perceived.

    • BBA says:

      What you’re seeing is Americans thinking the entirety of world history and politics is just like America since WW2 or so, and failing to recognize how their views become utter gibberish when taken out of that context.

      This isn’t unique to the Blue tribe by any means – suntzuanime’s complaint about judicial authoritarianism is frequently expressed in the Red tribe but inapplicable to pretty much any other country.

      • Zorgon says:

        I’m in the UK. Admittedly our Blue Tribe (more traditionally Red, here, although I suspect they’d prefer Green right now) are very SJ-American in thinking.

        • BBA says:

          Even better – Brits who agree with the uninformed American view of their own country’s political system. Wow.

      • Cauê says:

        suntzuanime’s complaint about judicial authoritarianism is frequently expressed in the Red tribe but inapplicable to pretty much any other country.

        I’m a bit surprised by that. Isn’t complaining about (at least) the EU Courts a popular sport in Europe?

        It’s a big topic in Brazil. To be doubly topical, we only have gay marriage around here because our Supreme Court recently decided that “hey, turns out it had been in the Constitution this whole time!” Funny nobody noticed before, wonder how it got there. (disclaimer: I’m in favor of gay marriage, but not of judicial shenanigans)

        • BBA says:

          The difference is that the US constitution is practically impossible to amend, so a Supreme Court ruling is effectively an absolute edict. This combined with judges being appointed for life and immune to political influence once appointed makes for the situation you see the Red tribe complaining about.

          In contrast Brazil can amend its constitution frequently, since the supermajority levels are lower and state government approval isn’t required. If the Brazilian Congress were strongly opposed enough to a court ruling, they could conceivably pass an amendment to reverse it or to weaken the courts. Instead they’ve been passing amendments to make the courts more powerful, importing Anglo-American notions of judicial review and precedent into an otherwise Continental civil-law system.

          The EU, meanwhile, has a completely opaque decision-making structure (by design). The courts are just applying the policies decided by the council upon the recommendation of the commission, or is it the other way around? I’ve heard complaints about all sorts of “Eurocrats” and not just the courts.

          • Cauê says:

            In contrast Brazil can amend its constitution frequently, since the supermajority levels are lower and state government approval isn’t required. If the Brazilian Congress were strongly opposed enough to a court ruling, they could conceivably pass an amendment to reverse it or to weaken the courts.

            Not quite. The Constitution forbids Congress any consideration of an ammendment proposal “which is aimed at abolishing: I – the federative form of State; II – the direct, secret, universal and periodic vote; III – the separation of the Government Powers; IV – individual rights and guarantees.” (article 60, par. 4)

            “Weakening the courts” would be blocked based on III, and reverting my example above on IV.

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe the phrasing is different in Portuguese, and I’m certainly not a Brazilian constitutional lawyer, but it sounds like Brazil could amend its constitution to provide a different separation of powers as long as some separation of powers is maintained?

            Quibbles like that are pretty common in American constitutional law; half of the federal government rests on a clause about regulating commerce between the states, and a lot of the other half relies on an amendment about guaranteeing the equal protection of the law.

          • Cauê says:

            I used the official translation, but yes, the phrasing is a bit broader – the “aimed at abolishing (…)” is actually “tending to abolish (…)”, and people get creative about whether something “tends to abolish” the Federative State etc.

            but it sounds like Brazil could amend its constitution to provide a different separation of powers as long as some separation of powers is maintained?

            You’d think that… Recent example, from this month: the age of compulsory retirement for public servants is being raised from 70 to 75 years, by constitutional amendment. A clause that required Supreme Court judges that reach 70 to be reapproved by the Senate was blocked by the Court, on the grounds that it violated the separation of powers.

            Quibbles like that are pretty common in American constitutional law;

            Yes, it’s similar. Discussions about judicial overreach as well, which is why I raised Brazil as a counterexample to BBA’s claim.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Tending to abolish” — I rather like that phrasing. It seems like it’d help resolve some persistent slippery-slope issues in American constitutional law.

          • BBA says:

            Wow, I just figured that for something like the clauses of the current German constitution aimed at preventing it from being subverted like the previous (Weimar) constitution was. If it’s interpreted that broadly, then I’d say, yes, Brazil also has the immutability and judicial supremacy problems of the American constitution. You just seem to have willingly marched into the quagmire where America gradually became stuck.

          • Cauê says:

            I had not thought about the political consequences of this aspect of our Constitution before, thanks for that, this looks fruitful.

            From what I’ve seen of US law in practice (admittedly not all that much), our decisions look… fuzzier, I’d say.

            It looks like you might be interested, so two other examples of current amendment proposals that look like they’re going to be blocked: one for lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 (IV – looks straightforward enough), and one to allow juridical persons to directly finance electoral campaigns (II and IV – now this one is stretching it).

    • Matthew says:

      This is really not a blue tribe-specific phenomenon.

    • RCF says:

      ” (well, I’ve tried explaining that judiciaries can decide in multiple directions and that a judiciary tomorrow may well decide against them)”

      That’s a rather odd argument to make. My understanding is that amendments in Ireland require a simple majority. Why would you think it more likely that the judiciary would reverse course, than the electorate would? It seems to me that the judiciary is much more deferential to precedent than the electorate is.

      • Zorgon says:

        Not really what I’m getting at.

        On any given issue, there are two possible ways a judiciary could swing. Personal activism aside, the nature of precedent means that those quickly become annoyingly binding and then require constitutional or legislative solutions. Of those, constitutional issues are significantly more representative of the will of the governed, since I’m yet to encounter a populace that didn’t overwhelmingly agree with its own constitution in at least the general sense.

        But this problem isn’t remotely one unique to right-wingers and anti-progressives. There have been innumerable cases where the progressive left have foundered in the face of judiciary resistance, particularly in the UK but also very notably in the US on several occasions (Citizens United leaps to mind).

        And yet the same progressives who no doubt loathe the very idea of the Citizens United decision seem to support the concept of the Irish judiciary riding roughshod over the wording AND intent of their Constitution. Because doing so would favour them.

        I cannot convince them that once it has happened once it could happen again in the other direction.

        I’ll say it again – this is the mindset of a group who believe they should get absolutely everything they want without resistance because they are definitionally Right, and that any resistance at all – any opposition, any systemic Shelling Fence, any multicameral requirement, anything whatsoever that presents an obstacle – is definitionally Wrong and should Never Be Allowed.

        To me, that is jackboot thinking.

      • Deiseach says:

        It seems to me that the judiciary is much more deferential to precedent than the electorate is.

        RE: the judiciary in Ireland, perhaps the case taken by Katherine Zappone is germane?

        And we had one genius judge who managed to convince his colleagues on the Supreme Court to declare statutory rape law unconstitutional, which meant that the government of the day had to pass emergency legislation very damn fast to fix it, and that still resulted in one chancer trying to have his conviction for sex with a 12 year old girl quashed on the grounds that the offence didn’t exist if it was unconstitutional (this was exactly the type of thing the eminent judge had pooh-poohed when pushing for doing away with statutory rape; oh no, nobody will try that on, this is to keep 15 year old boys who have sex with their girlfriends from getting branded as sex offenders when her angry parents find out!)

  33. I listened to the video clip and read the article about taxi medallions and, yeah, my reaction is pretty much just “Sweet, sweet rent-seeker tears.” The man quoted in the video sounds exactly like the people libertarians always warned you about, begging the government to regulate his competitors out of existence and appealing fallaciously to the fact that because he has to deal with more red tape, his service must be better.

    I can feel sorry for ordinary folks impacted by this while still cheer on Uber for crashing the whole rotten system, right?

  34. “I hope Ken’s post helps a couple of those people realize they’re not alone.”

    This has definitely been achieved; thanks for linking it.

    My case isn’t anywhere near that extreme, but the truly enlightening part was to read the Laugh. section. I’d actually gathered myself enough to get some first tier psychological help – though ‘unfortunately’, by the way I was actually in the room with the psychologist, I wasn’t depressed. (My phases seem to come and go; I was very glad I wasn’t currently depressed, but also very sure (and right about) that it would happen again.)

    Judging by the way she handled me, she was unfortunately hopelessly out of her game. But even that helped me, because it was the first reasonable piece of evidence that actually convinced me that my problem might not be as simple as I usually told myself it must be (in the ‘depression lies to you’ sense).

    When I got back to work the following day, I was making jokes about my mental health, because it felt really liberating to be able to do that. And most people understood that (knowing me), except for one person, who PMed me privately to reprimand me about how I was making light of “people with actual problems”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to hurt her, and I regret that I clearly did… but my first instinct was that I was pissed that she made me out to be some kind of faker. I’ve forgiven her for it since (it took me about three hours), but the take-away I had for a long time was: Laughing about your own mental health issues makes you an asshole. (I don’t have a lot of defenses against adopting other people’s opinion of me as factual.)

    So to read:

    Laughter is defiance, it’s power, it’s hope. A thing I can laugh at does not fully control me.

    …resonates strongly with what I was doing at the start, and makes me think that maybe I wasn’t complete pond-scum when I laughed at it to defy it, and that it was maybe an acceptable general approach. (Perhaps the better take-away is not to be quite so public about it.)

    • FeepingCreature says:

      As an uninvolved observer, I just want to confirm that that person was being an asshole there. (And wrong. Not “asshole but right”, or anything like that.)

      • Oops, given the word ‘confirm’, I suspect I might not have been clear in my wording:

        I considered myself an asshole – since she implied that was what I was being. I was also angry at her and probably would have called her an asshole if I’d had less self-restraint, but the instance of ‘asshole’ in my comment pertains to me. Whenever the first bout of rage is gone, I default to assuming I’m the jerk in the room.

        (As for the person in question, it occurs to me that I should probably talk to her about that at some point, actually, since we get along really well and it’s far enough in the past now that I think neither of us have strong stakes in it any more – and it’s clearly still on my mind sometimes, suggesting it’s a loose end I really ought to tie up! 🙂 She’s actually really nice; as in, genuinely so. Mistakes are made. I would know, I do a lot of them, myself!)

        • FeepingCreature says:

          Oh, I’m sorry. To clarify, I thought it was a given that that person was being an (unintentional) asshole in marginalizing your problems.

          “Some people have real problems” is almost never the right thing to say to someone.

          • I thought you might mean that, but I wasn’t sure; ‘confirm’ threw me a curveball! 🙂 I agree, ‘some people have real problems’ is rarely even remotely helpful. It’s one of the shovels depression likes to use to dig you a bigger hole, so I consider it severely off-limits in discussion by default.

            Thanks for your kindness. 🙂

  35. Daniel Armak says:

    I’ve used for years a literally $1000 keyboard, the Datahand. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DataHand ; don’t go to datahand.com, the company is closed and site was taken over with irrelevant content.)

    Like most/all other users, I paid the high price because I had wrist and finger pains nobody could diagnose or treat for some years.

    Sadly, the company closed down and no more Datahands are available; working ones go for many thousands of dollars. But my hands got better and now I use a Kinesis Advantage, which is at least recognizable as a keyboard to most people.

  36. Dahlen says:

    What does a $1,000 keyboard look like?

    Wonder why I could see this coming from a mile away…

    (Meta: am I quoting this right?)

  37. Jiro says:

    Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, supported gay rights in 1785.

    I’m pretty sure that you could find someone who supports gay rights in 700 BC, if by gay rights you mean “pederasty”. He even argues that homosexuality won’t prevent women from getting husbands because since homosexuals are pederasts, homosexuilty inherently involves loving someone who won’t love you back, and the homosexual could only go to a woman for reciprocal affection.

  38. Kevin S. Van Horn says:

    “Several hundred ways to describe results that are almost but not quite significant.”

    As a LessWrongian (LessWronger?) I’m surprised that you seem to speak only the language of frequentist statistics. There are really good reasons to abandon null-hypothesis significance tests altogether in favor of estimation with uncertainty and meta-analysis, for which Bayesian statistics is very well suited. See

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2606016

    or browse Andrew Gelman’s website:

    http://andrewgelman.com/

  39. Jaskologist says:

    And now for something completely different (this link is about pooping).

    And now to make it not so completely different, by tying this back into optimizing all the things. Does anybody have any medical knowledge on the question of if squatting is the better way to poop?

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defecation_postures

      The defecation posture may affect certain medical conditions, such as defecation syncope (fainting while defecating), as well as urination.

      The sitting position causes the defecating human to assume a narrow anorectal angle, which may be obstructive and causes difficulty in emptying the bowels. The sitting position can cause the defecating human to repeat the Valsalva maneuver many times and with great force; this may overload the cardiovascular system and cause defecation syncope. Research comparing the length of time needed to defecate using various postures found that the sitting defecation posture requires “excessive expulsive effort compared to the squatting posture”. It has been argued that squatting is “the only natural defecation posture”.

      A sitting posture may increase diverticulosis of the colon. The magnitude of straining during defecation is at least three times greater than with the squatting posture.

    • Adam says:

      I don’t know, but since I’ve both been in the military and been a thru-hiker, I do have a lot of personal experience shitting in the woods (and other places without toilets), and can tell you with certainty that squatting is much faster and cleaner.

    • TeslaCoil says:

      At first, I misread the boring neurological disease as “the inability to process human feces”. Needless to say, I was very confused by the whole dragon thing, but your post made a lot of sense.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Well, I’ve been trying it for the past week, and anecdotally it does seem quicker and much easier on my old-man hemorrhoids. Really seems like the kind of thing my doctor should have mentioned at some point, though.

      • Matthew says:

        Always puzzled, when I see this subject come up, if other people are sitting bolt-upright on the toilet or something.

        I sit on the toilet and lean forward so that my shoulders are roughtly over my knees. The alignment is almost identical to squatting, without requiring the effort from the quadriceps. This is instinctive for me; I didn’t have to train myself to lean forward.

        • Adam says:

          I sit in roughly the same way on the toilet and it’s still not the same. I can’t really think of a way to explain why, though, since yeah, it obviously produces the same hip angle. Only thing I can think is that it takes the combination of hip angle and colon being roughly parallel with the direction of gravity.

    • If you think squatting is better try the Squatty Potty. https://www.squattypotty.com/
      I have one.

  40. John Schilling says:

    Pet peeve: Discussing environmental issues in China as if global warming / climate change really matters. They can certainly speak the language in international contexts, but what matters in China is not whether we are on track for a 6 deg C temperature increase and human extinction by 2100, or 1 deg C and nobody notices, or something in between. What matters in China is that too many Chinese live in cities where in winter you almost need to chew the air before you can inhale. That’s killing on the order of a million Chinese a year right now.

    The Chinese government is, with authoritarian zeal and (in?)efficiency, pursuing reductions in particulate, SO2, and NOX emissions. This may be coincidentally correlated with CO2 emissions. Or it may just mean that dirty coal plants upwind of Beijing are replaced by clean coal plants elsewhere for the same net CO2 output. People for whom “air pollution” and “environmental issues” now always and only mean “greenhouse gasses” and “global warming”, are going to keep being confused by this.

    • Adam says:

      Is this normal for most people? Did air pollution only recently become a concern? I still remember being a kid in the 80s and 90s in Los Angeles and we had regular smog days where we weren’t allowed to play outside and PE classes got cancelled because it was too dangerous to breathe the air. Environmentalism was pretty baked into our school curriculum, but it was mostly about things like ozone depletion and acid rain. I can’t recall ever learning much about global warming, except to say there was such a thing as the greenhouse effect, but it wasn’t killing anyone and was far from the major issue.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think that the late ’90s is when air pollution shifted from being a local to a global issue for most Americans. A quick google shows 959 hits for “Smog” or “Air Pollution” in the Los Angeles Times over the past year, compared to 2,787 for “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”. I can’t figure out how to do that search for the 1980s, but my recollection is with yours that smog was a Big Deal.

        Note also that air quality has improved enormously in Los Angeles over the past twenty or thirty years, and that Los Angeles smog at its 1970s worst was still incomparably better than Beijing air today. Talking to the Chinese about CO2 emissions today is like talking to starving Africans about the glycemic index of that sack of rice some well-meaning relief agency just gave them.

  41. (Trying comment again because previous didn’t seem to go through.)

    It seems like the alarm clock is more Parfit’s alarm clock than Schelling.

  42. gwern says:

    100 Interesting Data Sets For Statistics

    And ahhhh helped!

    Did you know the Salvation Army used to fight an arch-enemy, the Skeleton Army?

    What fascinates me about this one is that the Skeleton Army was pro-alcohol-legalization, apparently. Given Prohibition, I think we have to chalk up this one to good job, heroes.

    Final decision on nature vs. nurture: it’s 49% nature, 51% nurture. I guess that means nurture wins by a hair. Good going, guys.

    Fulltext: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ekxxlubswlry14k/2015-polderman.pdf / http://sci-hub.org/downloads/2575/10.1038@ng.3285.pdf ; excerpts: https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts/HQoaDHzrctZ

    For ‘nurture’, read ‘non-shared environment plus liberal tears’. Also, there’s a wide spread in that grand average and IQ estimates remain as always. Fantastic paper altogether. It’s long been a rule of thumb to say 50:50 but this offers pretty damn firm support for that as one’s prior for any estimate. Everything is heritable…

    New York Times interprets NEJM study to say severe mental illness is dropping in young people, contrary to beliefs. I won’t comment until I’m somewhere I have full-text access to the original paper.

    Available as usual from Libgen: https://www.dropbox.com/s/snuzc66aye2oc0s/2015-olfson.pdf / http://libgen.org/scimag/get.php?doi=10.1056%2FNEJMsa1413512

    An unexpected fan of 9-11 conspiracy theories: Osama bin Laden. What? How does that even work?

    I’m more surprised that all the books are in English, implying he spoke English, but googling apparently this was relatively well-known: eg http://www.irishcentral.com/news/she-taught-bin-laden-english-and-remembers-him-as-a-perfect-student-204068471-237583771.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood,_education_and_personal_life_of_Osama_bin_Laden

    I wonder what is the point of these name changes among cryonicists. It almost like they are trying as hard as they can to look cultish.

    My impression is that it’s a combination of a fading American tradition (name-changes in the 1900s were not uncommon, even if it’s mostly African-Americans and the Nation of Islam which made it famous) and also more than a little reasoning along the lines of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ – R.U. Sirius, Max More, Vita-More are all both pretty old at this point and also self-promoters, to the extent that I was seriously surprised to see Vita-More was a co-author on the cryonics paper and was prejudiced against it for that reason but I couldn’t find any serious issues with it, so I guess I believe it.

    Or maybe not liquid nitrogen. The patient doesn’t need to last until the glorious transhuman future; increasing their shelf-life by a decade or 2 could plausibly be enough time to find a cure for some major diseases.

    Freezers and dewars are expensive, LN2 is dirt-cheap. If you’re going to freeze someone at all, you might as well do it in LN2. Why take a totally unnecessary risk like that?

    It’s one in a long chain that is driving me to despair when it comes to trusting any studies at all.

    Remember both the evidence pyramid and that fields differ widely in rigor and quality. You should already know that epidemiological studies and psychology studies (respectively) are crap so the two examples in OP (benefits of alcohol, gay survey) come as little surprise.

  43. onyomi says:

    The studies I’ve seen, and my general intuition incline me to believing that moderate drinking is better for your health than either heavy drinking or no drinking. But this is also a conclusion which is congenial to what I want to do anyway, and so I am suspicious. Similar feelings caused me to eat a low-carb, high fat diet for a few years until my blood pressure went up.

    • anon says:

      As a teetotaler I every time I would see articles in the news about how drinking a glass of red wine a day extends life by ten years, I would explain it to myself as ‘Yeah, that’s just society patting itself on the back since drinking is huge in human culture; findings that drinking is good are highly suspect and probably fake’. But then I encountered the argument that everyone smoking didn’t prevent the anti-smoking findings of decades ago, and now I think my suspicion was unwarranted. Still won’t drink though.

  44. onyomi says:

    Re. female PhDs: In the past, women who wanted to be taken seriously in academia had to sacrifice a lot. It’s not that they couldn’t have children, but they had to strive very hard to overcome the perception that raising children was all they “really” wanted to do. Is it not more common now in general for women to have both full time careers and children? I wonder how PhDs compare to female doctors, lawyers, etc.? I’d bet that the same trend applies.

    I would also note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the smart women are having more children; rather, a higher proportion of smart women are getting PhDs. I know a number of older women who are certainly smart enough to have gotten a PhD, but who largely focused on raising children. Had those same women been born today, I believe, there is a much higher probability they would have become a doctor, lawyer, scientist, professor, etc.

    • John Schilling says:

      It may also be significant that in the past, “professor’s wife” could be a respected position in academia. I know of a few cases as late as the ’90s where only the husband had the professorship, the wife had no formal position other than “housewife”, but everyone understood that they were a professional team of roughly equal standing.

      And I think it’s still fairly common for young associate professors to marry their appropriately-gendered postdocs or senior grad students to lay claim to a lifetime professional assistant, but I don’t think the relationship would now be considered respectfully egalitarian unless both partners have some sort of formal academic position.

  45. Sammy says:

    For once I can say I already knew about the Jeremy Bentham thing. It’s my standard response whenever people say there’s no point to philosophy, also a major piece of evidence that utilitarianism is the best moral theory. There are literally zero incidents of virtue ethics or deontology being used to deduce the direction of moral progress in advance, as opposed to post-hoc justification (and plenty of incidents where especially virtue ethics has slowed moral progress down), whereas utilitarians were ahead on a lot of things besides gay rights.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The Greek philosophers said not to have sex with students.

      • Cauê says:

        Is it quite clear that that’s the direction we’re going?

        I gather it’s different in the US, but around here I know of at least three of my professors who had sex with students, including two of my friends (students, not professors). And I don’t think anyone who knows the people involved ever had a problem with that.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Attempts to divine the “direction of moral progress” in history always end up being highly selective, and this one seems especially so. Was MLK Jr a utilitarian? Was Wilberforce? How about St. Patrick, when he fought against slavery (successfully) back in the fifth century? Who exactly were the great utilitarian reformers?

      I do hope when you use Bentham as an example, you make it clear it was about paederasty, not just homosexuality.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Have you read enough of the essay to determine if he is really talking about paederasty?

      • Jaskologist says:

        I see no reason to think he didn’t mean precisely what he said; pederasty meant that same thing back then that it does now. Also:

        The very name it went by among the Greeks may stand instead of all other proofs, of which the works of Lucian and Martial alone will furnish any abundance that can be required. Among the Greeks it was called Paederastia, the love of boys, not Andrerastia, the love of men. Among the Romans the act was called Paedicare because the object of it was a boy.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          No, paederasty did not mean the same then as now, which I find hard to believe that you do not know. Indeed, that is the very reason he indicates the etymology. That passage is set in an interesting context. I am not sure I understand, but I think that he is arguing against gay marriage.

          I cannot tell from that section whether he expects the practices of Sparta, youthful peers, or the practices of Athens, which is what we usually mean by paederasty.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I would be interested in knowing what it did mean back then, preferably with a source attached. I see no reason to think that it doesn’t match precisely what the etymology indicates, which Bentham himself gives. The most you can say is that he equates homosexuality with pederasty, but that hardly clears him of the charge of defending pederasty.

          He’s mostly arguing in that passage that boys won’t displace women, since they only remain boys (and therefore sexually appealing) for a short while.

        • SanguineVizier says:

          I see no reason to think that Bentham did not mean paederasty when he wrote paederasty. Obviously, he did not have the word homosexuality at hand, and wanted to distinguish homosexuality from sodomy generally, but he lived at a time when the age of consent was 12, so he probably intended to include intercourse between a man and an adolescent boy as well as between two men under the heading of paederasty.

          • suntzuanime says:

            He managed to use his metaethics to disprove homophobia, but failed to take it one step further and derive the correct age of consent. Cut him some slack, it’s hard to be right about everything if you don’t live in 2015.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          Bentham writes:

          The abominations that come under this heading have this property in common, in this respect, that they consist in procuring certain sensations by means of an improper object. The impropriety then may consist either in making use of an object ….of the proper species but the wrong sex. This is distinguished from the rest by the name of paederasty.

          It seems pretty clear that that means that he is using the word “paederasty” to refer to all homosexual acts, not just ones directed at youth.

          • Jiro says:

            If you read further, he believes that all homosexuality is paederasty (in the sense we would mean by the term). So he doesn’t need to distinguish between homosexuality involving adults and involving youths–he can use the word “paederasty” for all homosexuality because he thinks that’s the only kind that exists.

      • “Who exactly were the great utilitarian reformers?”

        http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/LevyPeartdismal.html

    • Harald K says:

      There are literally zero incidents of virtue ethics or deontology being used to deduce the direction of moral progress in advance

      You might want to read up on the Quakers and other nonconformist Christians of 17th century England… The funny thing is that the entire environment around Jeremy Bentham was basically an offshoot of Quaker humanitarianism. And in my humble opinion, in just about every way they diverged from their ideological ancestors, they went wrong!

    • Irenist says:

      There are literally zero incidents of virtue ethics or deontology being used to deduce the direction of moral progress in advance

      1. Your historical hypothesis is admirably falsifiable by a single counterexample. That said, counterexamples are legion, so your hypothesis is demonstrably false.

      For instance, early Jewish and Christian deontologists were among the first Westerners to oppose the Hellenistic pagan practice of infanticide. For reference to Jewish opposition to infanticide, see, e.g., Tacitus and Josephus. For Christian, see especially the “Didache,” the “Epistle of Barnabas,” Tertullian, Athenagoras, Minucius Felix, Justin Martyr and Lactantius.

      As another example, sixteenth century Dominicans like Bartolomé de las Casas and Antonio de Montesinos pleaded for equitable treatment of the native peoples of the Spanish Empire in the Americas with arguments drawn from both the Bible and the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical tradition of their Order, including virtue ethics arguments rooted in the natives’ human nature as rational animals.

      One might also cite seventeenth century Dutch Calvinist theologian and philosopher Grotius’ foundation of modern human rights, international law, just war, and law of the sea discourses on natural law principles.

      Yet another example, mentioned by Harald K just upthread: devout Christians like William Wilberforce and John Brown agitated for abolitionism based on their fervent evangelicalism, not based on utilitarianism. Of course, they helped to achieve what they fought for, so they aren’t good examples of being able to “deduce the direction of moral progress in advance” since they led it rather than merely deducing it. Likewise, religious thinkers like Tolstoy and his activist, religious admirers Gandhi and MLK, were too influential in their own lifetimes to have counted as deducing the direction of moral progress “in advance”: they only fail to falsify your hypothesis because (unlike utilitarianism for the most part) they galvanized mass movements that actually changed the world rather than merely anticipating it.

      2. The direction of Western philosophy and ideology in the last thousand years has indeed been broadly away from deontology and virtue ethics (both of which are most compatible with homogeneous, pious communities) and toward frameworks like utilitarianism that are more compatible with secular diversity. But to assume that this has been “progress” rather than “regress” is to beg questions against the other frameworks. If, e.g., abortion is wrong, then consistent Jewish and Christian opposition to it would be an example in their favor; to ignore the example is to assume a definition of moral progress friendly to secular frameworks like utilitarianism: such reasoning is circular.

      Consider a Godwin-type example (with my apologies for the Godwin aspect): in the first half of the 20th century, traditionalists opposed coercive eugenic schemes of “racial hygiene.” Because of the contingent fact that the fascists—who saw themselves very much as futurists—happen both to have fervently embraced coercive eugenics and to have lost WWII, we don’t see such schemes as part of “the direction of moral progress.” But for a bien pensant of, say, 1920, they would likely have looked to be such: you cannot know what “moral progress” is by consulting the fashionable prejudices of 1920 or 2015.

      3. The chosen example fails. In his sexual ethics, Bentham seems to be far more clearly a predecessor of NAMBLA than of the movement for marriage equality. The Burkean conservative (and heterodox Catholic) thinker Andrew Sullivan has far, far more claim to having championed marriage equality before it was fashionable (either in the mainstream or in the then-anti-bourgeois-marriage gay community) than does the utilitarian advocate of pederasty.

      Indeed, if mere valorization of pederasty is enough to make one a hero of anti-homophobia, then many of the virtue ethicists and deontologists of ancient Athens (consider, e.g., Plato’s “Lysis”) are far more deserving of the laurel than Bentham (who lived so much later).

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        The chosen example fails. In his sexual ethics, Bentham seems to be far more clearly a predecessor of NAMBLA than of the movement for marriage equality.

        Bentham writes:

        Of an object of the proper species but the wrong sex. This is distinguished from the rest by the name of paederasty.

        In other words, he is obviously using the term paederasty to refer to all homosexual acts, not just ones directed at young people. He was not using it in the modern sense, which only refers to sexual acts directed at young people.

        The Burkean conservative (and heterodox Catholic) thinker Andrew Sullivan has far, far more claim to having championed marriage equality before it was fashionable

        I was of the understanding that Burkean conservatism was, if not a form of utilitarianism, at least a form of consequentalism. My basic understanding has always been that Burkeans defend preexisting institutions and power structures by arguing that they tend to produce good consequences, rather than for a deontologic or virtue ethics reason.

        Indeed, if mere valorization of pederasty is enough to make one a hero of anti-homophobia, then many of the virtue ethicists and deontologists of ancient Athens (consider, e.g., Plato’s “Lysis”) are far more deserving of the laurel than Bentham (who lived so much later).

        Bentham deserves laurels because he was a defender of homosexuality in an anti-homosexual society that later realized its mistake. He was against being evil before it was cool. Plato, by contrast, was a defender of homosexuality in a pro-homosexuality society. He does not deserve laurels because he was a good person in a society where Good had (at least in that particular issue) triumphed.

        I do agree with your point that there are definitely examples of moral progress that were made by nonconsequentialist thinkers. In particular, Christian thought made an undeniably large contribution to the eventual success of abolitionism.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Ghatanathoah, you have not read enough of the essay to know what it is about, even less than Jaskologist. Is Bentham in favor of pederasty? I don’t know because I haven’t read the essay. But the passage J found was clearly attacking gay marriage. I don’t know if Irenist’s phrasing is fair, but it is no more cherry-picked than your account.

        • Jiro says:

          In other words, he is obviously using the term paederasty to refer to all homosexual acts, not just ones directed at young people. He was not using it in the modern sense, which only refers to sexual acts directed at young people.

          He believes that the only homosexual acts that exist and are practiced are ones directed at young people. Thus, he would think it unnecessary to have a word that includes other acts.

          • “He believes that the only homosexual acts that exist and are practiced are ones directed at young people.”

            Clearly not true. One of his examples was the Sacred Band, a Theban military unit made up of pairs of homosexual lovers. One might have been older than the other, but both were old enough to be soldiers.

            He also mentions Alexander, generally believed to have been the lover of Hephaestion, an adult, although there seems to be some question as to whether the belief is true.

          • John Schilling says:

            “All the documents we have from the [ancients] relative to this matter, and we have a great abundance, agree in this, that it is only for a very few years of his life that a male continues an object of desire even to those in whom the infection of this taste is at the strongest”

            Bentham doesn’t explicitly state which years those are, but elsewhere indicates that homosexuality/paederasty naturally develops in sex-segregated educational settings.

            And he explicitly rules out same-sex marriage, or any sort of enduring homosexual relationship that would compete with heterosexual marriage, on the grounds that both parties would know with certainty going in that the parties would find each other utterly repulsive in a very few years.

            Jiro is correct that Bentham believed the only homosexual acts that exist and were practiced were those directed at young people. It is unclear whether Bentham’s definition of “young” extended past the age of consent in 1785 England or the age of military enlistment in Greece of the 4th century BC. His understanding of the Sacred Band and of Alexander’s love life may have included factual inaccuracies. And we can only guess at what he would have thought of homosexuality as it is now understood, of adult men actually preferring other adult men as sexual partners and acting on that preference, because he could not conceive of such a thing being possible.

          • “His understanding of the Sacred Band and of Alexander’s love life may have included factual inaccuracies.”

            It’s hard to see how that could be the case for the Sacred Band, given that they were famous as a very successful military unit.

            How he made that example consistent with the other views that have been quoted I don’t know.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s hard to see how that could be the case for the Sacred Band, given that they were famous as a very successful military unit.

            As was the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend; less famous (perhaps for not being on the write-the-history-books side) but notably formidable and without that pesky dead-to-the-last-man ending.
            Median age 16 at formation, 17 during the period of active combat.

            About the same as Audie Murphy, when he marched off to become the most decorated soldier in American history. In an age when people frown on that sort of thing and have birth certificates.

            I don’t seem to have any hard information on the age structure of the Sacred Band. Do you? More to the point, did Bentham? Military success is not incompatible with youth, and common knowledge of the Sacred Band disproves no hypothesis, theory, or axiom that homosexuality must involve youthful males.

        • Irenist says:

          Ghatanathoah,

          Christian thought made an undeniably large contribution to the eventual success of abolitionism.

          You’re gracious to say so. Thank you.

          I was of the understanding that Burkean conservatism was, if not a form of utilitarianism, at least a form of consequentalism. My basic understanding has always been that Burkeans defend preexisting institutions and power structures by arguing that they tend to produce good consequences, rather than for a deontologic or virtue ethics reason.

          Well, Burkeanism is a political disposition rather than a metaethics. But it tends to be hostile to utopian rationalisms of all kinds, not least Enlightenment utopias based on a priori utilitarian calculi divorced from the lessons of history and the wisdom of tradition. Bentham didn’t argue for SSM; Sullivan (a Burkean admirer of Oakeshott, and a pious Catholic in his own heterodox way) did. So if SSM is good, the credit for anticipating how the arc of history would bend (and indeed toward bending it nearly singlehandedly in the early days) goes to a tradition-venerating (Burkean, self-described Catholic) thinker whose intellectual influences, AFAIK, lie at a far remove from utilitarianism.

          [Bentham] is obviously using the term paederasty to refer to all homosexual acts, not just ones directed at young people.

          I readily concede that Bentham does write:

          A very serious objection, however, to the punishment of this offence is the opening it makes for false and malicious prosecutions….Wherever, therefore, two men are together, a third person may alledge himself’ to have seen them thus employing themselves without fear of having the truth of his story disproved. With regard to a bare proposal of this sort the danger is still greater: one man may charge it upon any other man without the least danger of being detected. For a man to bring a charge of this sort against any other man without the possibility of its being disproved there needs no more than for them to have been alone together for a few moments.

          This passage makes it appear that he is speaking of “men,” not boys. However, Bentham also writes, as quoted upthread, a passage that reveals a focus on ephebophilia in line with ancient homosexual practice rather than modern, as well as revealing an understandable failure to anticipate same-sex marriage as even conceivably a thing:

          The question then is reduced to this. What are the number of women who by the prevalence of this taste would, it is probable, be prevented from getting husbands? ….Were the prevalence of this taste to rise to ever so great a height the most considerable part of the motives to marriage would remain entire…. Were a man’s taste even so far corrupted as to make him prefer the embraces of a person of his own sex to those of a female, a connection of that preposterous kind would therefore be far enough from answering to him the purposes of a marriage. A connection with a woman may by accident be followed with disgust, but a connection of the other kind, a man must know, will for certain come in time to be followed by disgust. All the documents we have from the antients relative to this matter, and we have a great abundance, agree in this, that it is only for a very few years of his life that a male continues an object of desire even to those in whom the infection of this taste is at the strongest. The very name it went by among the Greeks may stand instead of all other proofs, of which the works of Lucian and Martial alone will furnish any abundance that can be required. Among the Greeks it was called Paederastia, the love of boys, not Andrerastia, the love of men. Among the Romans the act was called Paedicare because the object of it was a boy. There was a particular name for those who had past the short period beyond which no man hoped to be an object of desire to his own sex. They were called exoleti. No male therefore who was passed this short period of life could expect to find in this way any reciprocity of affection; he must be as odious to the boy from the beginning as in a short time the boy would be to him. The objects of this kind of sensuality would therefore come only in the place of common prostitutes; they could never even to a person of this depraved taste answer the purposes of a virtuous woman.

          In his discussion of conditions on “Otaheite” (modern Tahiti), Bentham asks if women are disadvantaged by a transfer of affection from them to “boys,” not men. Of course, his further discussion of Mediterranean pederasty is entirely about “the love of boys.” Also, Bentham goes on to quote Voltaire on the “causes of this taste”:

          “When the young males of our species,” says Voltaire, “brought up together, feel the force which nature begins to. unfold in them, and fail to find the natural object of their instinct, they fall back on what resembles it. Often, for two or three years, a young man resembles a beautiful girl, with the freshness of his complexion, the brilliance of his coloring, and the sweetness of his eyes; if he is loved, it’s because nature makes a mistake; homage is paid to the fair sex by attachment to one who owns its beauties, and when the years have made this resemblance disappear, the mistake ends.”

          I’ll concede (arguendo, at least) that Bentham’s discussion seems to include adult male homosexuality, at least judging by some isolated references to “men.” But the great bulk of the essay is very much focused on ephebophilia, just as the use of the word “pederasty” would naturally lead a literate Anglophone of any century to expect.

          Further, it bears remark that English Common Law actually used the words “sodomy” and “buggery” as technical terms. See, e.g., “An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie,” 25 Hen. 8 c. 6 (1588). Now, I readily concede that both of these terms, via case law precedent, grew to encompass unrelated acts like bestiality, and always included sodomitical acts between men and women. However, Bentham could have written “sodomy between men” or some such: his Victorian vocabulary could easily have encompassed something more like the modern conception of homosexuality, had that been what he actually had in mind.

          But given Bentham’s classical education, the relatively indulgent climate of opinion among Enlightenment sophisticates toward the affections described by Voltaire, and the ubiquitous practice of such things in British boarding schools in Bentham’s time and since, the null hypothesis would seem to me to be that Bentham was arguing for pederasty as we use the word: it was the most natural concept in his cultural tradition, and requires only that we interpret the word he chose in its standard sense. To argue that Bentham anticipated modern mores with regard to adult sexuality is to make an extraordinary claim for his prescience that is not warranted by the rather ordinary usage in his text.

          At any rate, Bentham certainly wasn’t arguing for same-sex marriage—the very structure of his argument precludes the idea: his essay argues that pederasty is no utilitarian harm to women because “boys” are for flings rather than being unwanted competition for permanent mates.

          To be sure, Bentham is often credited online with being an early proponent of gay rights. But IMHO this is more because modern progressives would prefer to have a heroic precursor than a pedophilic footnote, and read Bentham accordingly. Considering the willful misreading of adelphopoiesis liturgies by the medievalist John Boswell in service to the SSM cause, it would hardly surprise me to learn that his comrades across the hall in modern English lit have misread Bentham with like motives. Heck, it works—they even got an SSC link out of it….

          Bentham deserves laurels because he was a defender of homosexuality in an anti-homosexual society that later realized its mistake. He was against being evil before it was cool. Plato, by contrast, was a defender of homosexuality in a pro-homosexuality society. He does not deserve laurels because he was a good person in a society where Good had (at least in that particular issue) triumphed.

          I have argued that Bentham defended ephebophilia, not homosexuality as moderns understand it. That Plato and other ancients practiced and romanticized ephebophilic pederasty rather than homosexuality in the modern sense is obvious and AFAIK uncontroversial among mainstream classicists. IMHO, defense of ephebophilia in any century is a blameworthy apologia for what our society rightly regards as statutory rape. But if, arguendo, such defense is praiseworthy, then the laurel goes to Plato (and the rest of his society) before it goes to Bentham. Indeed, Bentham seems to me to be in the modern lineage of those who argue that pederasty is no big deal (no harm, no foul, as a utilitarian might say), along with Richard Dawkins, the defenders of Roman Polanski, and far too many teen-raping priests in my own Catholic Church.

          As with his advocacy of his Panopticon, Bentham’s advocacy for ephebophilic exploitation of teenage boys exhibits an arid blindness to those aspects of human flourishing (and how they can be psychologically maimed by being subject to the gaze of the panoptic jailer or the leering pederast) that cannot be captured in a mere calculus of utils.

          Frankly, if FAI is ever to be a thing (which I lean a bit toward doubting), Bentham ought to serve as a cautionary tale for FAI coders to try to include something richer than a utilitarian calculus in the AI’s model for extrapolated volition! Any AI that ends up advocating (or enforcing!) panoptic surveillance and statutory rape as on balance more helpful than harmful to humanity will prove to be no friend of its makers.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Thanks for multiple informative posts in here. Also: do you have a blog or anything similar?

          • Irenist says:

            @Unique Identifier:
            I’m honored you’ve asked. As it happens, I’m trying to get out of a slump of not blogging. FWIW, (which will hopefully be more in the coming weeks than presently), my musings are at the unsurprisingly named:
            http://www.irenist.com/
            (I hope that someday I might prove worthy of a sidebar link from our gracious host. In the meantime, I’m just grateful he lets me comment here.)

          • Irenist says:

            A further thought w/r/t Burkeanism not being a metaethics (with apologies to Ren & Stimpy)–I don’t think Burkeanism cashes out to much more than this salutary political prejudice:
            Don’t whiz on
            Chesterton’s fence.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This says what I was going to say so much better, and without the snark.

          • Svejk says:

            Don’t whiz on
            Chesterton’s fence

            Brilliant.

          • It’s worth noting that the beginning of the essay pretty clearly includes heterosexual sodomy and bestiality among the things that Benthan doesn’t think should be illegal. So while you are probably correct about his view of the likely form of male homosexual relations, it’s pretty clear that he would also have opposed any legal restriction on homosexual acts between adults.

          • Irenist:

            Having seen both your reference to Chesterton’s fence and your rather heated attack on libertarianism (on your blog), I am curious as to whether you have wondered about the fact the libertarians tend to like Chesterton (I devoted a chapter to him in _The Machinery of Freedom), indeed regard him as a (rather odd) libertarian.

          • Irenist says:

            @David Friedman:
            Wow, that’s a fantastic question. There’s a lot libertarians do wrong, but the libertarian belief in spontaneous order often leads to a salutary respect for the “organic” products of unregulated economic churn or unplanned traditional mores. Megan McArdle, e.g., is both a libertarian and one of the more insightful employers of Chesterton’s fence in argument I’ve ever encountered. As I said on my blog (and thanks for reading!), while the ideology is in my mind pernicious, libertarians themselves are often fine people. The occasional libertarian predilection for Chesterton is certainly praiseworthy. And in fairness, it flows from much that is best in libertarianism: a reverence for subsidiarity, and a mistrust for planned utopias, among other things.

          • Irenist:

            I didn’t get through all of the long attack on libertarianism, in part because the ratio of emotive rhetoric to argument struck me as high for my tastes, so I may be misunderstanding you—if so, feel free to tell me to go back and read the rest of it.

            It looked to me as though you were making the same mistake that orthodox Objectivists make in their attack on libertarianism, confusing a set of political conclusions with a particular philosophical basis. Support for libertarian conclusions can be based on any of a variety of philosophies. A utilitarian can be a libertarian because he believes a libertarian society will maximize human happiness. Historically, of course, classical liberalism was closely linked to utilitarianism. Someone who believes in a natural rights deontological position can be a libertarian—it’s probably the most common version, at least among the hard core. Other versions are possible. As Nero Wolfe put it, any spoke can lead an ant to the hub.

            And the conclusion is only a political one. One can be a socially conservative libertarian who disapproves of non-marital sex—but doesn’t think it should be illegal. One can be a politically conservative libertarian, who believes that human institutions are complicated, existing institutions have reasons, and one should therefor try to move society in a libertarian direction slowly, watching the results and revising views accordingly.

        • Jon Gunnarsson says:

          Plato, by contrast, was a defender of homosexuality in a pro-homosexuality society.

          Classical Athens was favourably disposed towards homosexuality only in the specific case of paederasty. Homosexual relations between adult men were not socially accepted and were considered shameful and dishonourable to the “passive” partner.

      • As some evidence of the scholarly tone of your comment, my first assumption, when you mentioned Godwin, was that you were referring to William Godwin.

  46. Sniffnoy says:

    Something you might less expect Jeremy Bentham to have written: A rebuttal to the Declaration of Independence (h/t Gwern)

  47. stargirl says:

    The NRX “leadership” seems to be off to a promising start. Nick Land “swore fealty” which is a big deal. There first two actions were to set up a hall of fame of popular people and to excommunicate Anissimov. Setting up the hall of fame seems like a wise way to make powerful people in the movement happy. And expelling Anissimov is completely justified. Anissimov resorted to doxxing over a joke. While in the middle of doxxing he spammed violent threats. He also harassed Julie and threatened her boyfriend. What Anissimov has done is basically unforgivable imo. He probably should be shunned imo. The dude is not safe to have around. This is not some “X person has the wong political beliefs so they aren’t safe.” The dude actually tried to doxx someone over a joke and has pretty clearly harassed Julie. Anissimov really cannot be trusted.

    I am not a NRX but I am pretty pleased with the new leadership of the movement!

    • Konkvistador says:

      We’re glad you’re glad with us. You might enjoy the The Future Primaeval.

      Once we get more stabilized institutionally, we hope to collaborate more with the extended rationalist community. Sanity is after all the goal.

      • Zorgon says:

        I realise this is entirely my own prejudices playing up, but I cannot read that last paragraph in anything other than the voice of Senator Palpatine.

        And knowing NRx-ers, you’re probably not at all unhappy with that 🙂

    • Adam says:

      What exactly does it mean to swear fealty to a collection of bloggers? My understanding of that word is your Lord either grants you land with rent-producing value or the promise of protection from other Lords, and in return you promise to show up when he needs soldiers to go fight a war. When you neither have land to give nor wars to fight, it seems like a somewhat more hollow gesture.

  48. Albatross says:

    The self driving truck apocalypse is overblown. The article mentions mechanics and car washes, but those will still be needed for self-driving cars and trucks. They lack a driver, but they still rust and require regular maintenance. On a more aggressive schedule too since they lack self awareness.

    Also, I think the economics won’t work out quite the way the utopians and dystopians are predicting. If I own zero cars, won’t there be demand for a Ferriari for a date or an RV for a long trip? Right now a person might just drive their sedan to both those events, but a rental economy is going to need to have a fleet. Just like rental fleets now.

    In the US alone 30,000+ lives are lost each year, and millions more seriously injured in accidents that are mostly preventable with self driving tech. Many more are killed or injured worldwide. Millions of jobs are important. However, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and preventing millions of injuries is a great cause worth paying for.

    Two predictions: self driving RVs will revolutionize vacations. Plane tickets for a family of four are super expensive. A self driving RV can drive your whole family to a new location several states away while you sleep. The airline industry has a lot more to worry about than restaurants. Why fly, when your vehicle can drive while you sleep?

    Second, most vehicles are single occupant most of the time. Once drivers are no longer needed, a huge amount of productivity is going to be available. I love busing to work because I can start my day earlier. Smartphone on the bus. Commuters are going to add two more hours of productive time to their day. And more when they can send a car to pick up their kids from school, etc.

    I like basic income to solve for this extra labor. Ideally we’d get more art, more coaches, more craft beer…. I get it will be a transition, but driving trucks isn’t exactly the most pleasant work. We just need to provide a plan to realign all that labor towards other work.

    • Deiseach says:

      Commuters are going to add two more hours of productive time to their day. And more when they can send a car to pick up their kids from school, etc.

      Do you realise how horribly depressing that sounds? Working from literally the moment your eyes open in the morning until you’re grudgingly permitted to collapse into bed for six or seven hours sleep? Sorry, little Billy or Susie, Mom or Dad can’t spare twenty minutes to pick you up from school and bring you home, they have to work work work but never mind, the robot car will collect you (and will it listen to them talking about what happened in school as it drives them home as well?)

      Well, I suppose if the few people who have the remaining non-taken over by AI professional jobs don’t die of explosive stress by the time they’re thirty-five, it’ll be a great future.

      • Cauê says:

        Or “great news little Billy or Susie, Mom or Dad are finishing our work in the time we used to be driving, and we now have time to play with you”.

        Also, “productive” doesn’t have to mean depressing work. I think I read on the bus about a third of all books I’ve read, which is one of the main reasons I don’t drive to work. It’s more useful time for whatever you want, if you don’t want to call it “productive”.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Or “great news little Billy or Susie, Mom or Dad are finishing our work in the time we used to be driving, and we now have time to play with you”.

          That’s not how it works. See Scott Alexander on modafinil.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            In the case of people being able to work while commuting, that can be how it works. My high-school chemistry teacher deliberately chose to live somewhere which was a long distance from the school by train so he could do his marking on the train and when he got home he would be free to spend time with his children.

            Of course, teaching is a specific example where large amounts of work are usually brought home.

          • Jiro says:

            As is often true, the comments often contain really good rebuttals. In particular, someone pointed out that the government already made us go from a 60 hour to a 40 hour work week. Why would this change just because you can now have a 60 hour work week by cutting down on sleep as well as a 60 hour work week by not having leisure time?

          • John Schilling says:

            The government made some of us go from a 60 hour to a 40 hour work. White-collar workers, “managers” of any sort, and contractors, are not included. Your boss can’t explicitly say “you must be at your desk sixty hours a week or you’re fired”, but he can give you tasks that can’t reasonably be completed in less than sixty hours, he can note that you’re only at your desk forty hours a week and up your workload 50%, and if you’re not actually working sixty hours a week you’ll never be promoted and you will be gone the next time there’s an excuse for a reduction in force.

            The contest between government regulation and market economics is rarely won by the government. If it appears otherwise, look to the grey or black market to see where the real action has moved. Right now, the most cost-effective employees are the ones who work about sixty hours a week, and not coincidentally people who work high-paying jobs tend to work about sixty hours a week or be replaced by someone who will. Any necessary half-truth or lie needed to keep this kosher with the state, will be told and supported by labor and management alike.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        Steven Poole offers a refreshing if not always convincing attack on “productivity” here.

        • zz says:

          Put “time worked each day” on the x-axis and “productivity” on the y-axis. Assume the standard schedule of 5 days working followed by 2 days off.

          The function represented by this graph is clearly increasing for the first several hours, and probably even linear. I’m guessing that it peaks at some point and then becomes decreasing (i.e., if you somehow force yourself to work 16-hour days, you’ll be so burned out that you’d actually be more productive working 15-hour days). Does anyone have any (good) idea of where the maximum typically occurs and where the first derivative starts really falling off?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Or, “Grandmother will bring you home in the self-driving car and play Patty-Cake with you all the way.”

      • onyomi says:

        I had an idea for a science fiction story in which a machine is invented which allows you to get, say, 8 hours’ worth of sleep time recovery in only 1 hour spent in the machine. These machines are cheap and/or easily available. No one forces anyone to use them, but their use is increasingly seen as a prerequisite for being a highly successful person, to the point where natural sleep is viewed as vaguely lazy or self-indulgent. I guess it’s kind of like the Gattaca effect. Yes, I did get the idea from Chrono Trigger.

    • NN says:

      Personally, I have my doubts that self-driving trucks will even be driverless for a while. For a long, long time, autopilot technology has been perfectly capable of taking off, flying, and landing a plane without any human intervention. A common joke among airline pilots is that the flight crew will soon be reduced to a man and a dog: the man to feed the dog and the dog to bite the man’s hand if he tries to touch the controls.

      Yet planes still have pilots, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. As far as I understand it, the pilots are mostly there so they can respond in the event that something goes wrong, because however many mechanical failure scenarios you program into a computer, the next one could always be something that you didn’t think of.

      Obviously, things are a bit different with trucks, since there are less things that can go wrong,* the potential consequences of things going wrong are much less severe, and the driver/pilot salary is probably a greater portion of the total overhead costs. But I think that the prospect of thousands of news articles entitled “Truck Crashes Into School Bus Because Money-Grubbing Shipping Company Replaced Its Drivers With Self-Driving Vehicles” will be enough to scare companies into keeping at least one human being onboard each truck for a long time, even if their job is only to sit there listening to the radio and watching for the computer to mess up so they can hit the manual override and pull over.

      * Less things that can go wrong mechanically, at least. Pilots almost never have to worry about people running out onto the runway in front of them.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        (moved from elsewhere in the thread because my comment is more a response to you than where I originally put it)

        Given an arbitrary target of 20 years from now, I’d say what the trucking industry looks like is one “delivery manager” sitting in the cab of a robotic semi, with 1 or 2 more humanless trucks behind him, and the trucks travel ~23 hours a day.

        The “delivery manager” will make (handwave) 50% more than a driver today, but with 1/2 to 1/3 the drivers, the total wages for drivers will be less.

    • NN says:

      Also, I have to say I don’t buy the logic behind the apparently common idea that self-driving taxis will greatly reduce private car ownership. Probably a majority of the adult population in the US goes to work at sometime around 9:00 AM in the morning and goes home sometime around 5:00 PM in the evening. Which means that most of those people will need to be on the road at the exact same time twice a day. And if you need one robo-taxi for a majority of the households in a city in order to meet demand, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

      • Anon says:

        Not if, as is currently the case, the current average number of cars per household is significantly greater than 1 (in fact it is about 1.9).

        • Adam says:

          What’s the average number of workplaces that aren’t the same place a household needs to shuttle its members to?

          • Anon says:

            Well, extrapolating from this data, less than 50% of households have >1 wage earner, so… not very many!

          • NN says:

            The real question is what the “extra” cars are being used for. For example, if the extra cars are to drive kids (or have teenagers drive themselves) to school in the morning and home in the afternoon, then that only adds to the problem of a large portion of the population needing to be on the road simultaneously at regularly scheduled times.

            I’m starting to think that if robo-taxis could significantly reduce private car ownership in the US, human driven taxis would have done that a long time ago. There’s a reason that taxis are most common in places like New York City that have public transportation systems good enough to handle most people’s regular commutes.

          • Anon says:

            NN, unless school-times and work-times are perfectly synched (which I do not believe they are), then the cars used to transport kids to and from school can be the same cars used to transport people to and from work, which is currently impossible because the work-transport cars are stuck at the office all day. I believe the primary purpose of the additional cars is for stay-at-home spouses to be able to not literally stay at home all the time.

            Not sure why you think the second thing. Taxis are somewhat unreliable and very expensive, especially from the suburbs (where most Americans live, especially, I would wager, most American families with multiple cars).

          • meyerkev248 says:

            @NN on the suburban robo-taxi thing:

            The key point here is that taxis are expensive. Because I’m paying a driver $70K/year to drive me.

            My experience is that a low-end car will cost you $20K + ~$30K in insurance over 15 years + about the cost of the car again in maintenance costs before breaking down irreparably (or at least “Why are you spending $5K fixing a car that is worth $2K at best?”) at 200-250K miles.

            So divide $70K by 200K miles, add on the quarter a mile for gas, and a car is costing you 60c per mile. The IRS reimburses mileage at 57.5c/mile, so that’s probably reasonably accurate.

            Meanwhile, the Uber is costing me $1.75/mile. Because it costs me $28 to go 16 miles from Mountain View to San Carlos.

            Remove the driver making $70K/year, and maybe we can get that number down to 75c, at which point not having to find a parking spot in increasingly crowded suburban downtowns (or because Bay Area, in street parking next to my suburban apartment built with 1 parking spot per apartment back before every family had multiple cars and even the techie singles had roommates) is looking really, really attractive.

            There’s still annoyances (Lack of a trunk, 6’4″ people don’t fit into your puny Priuses, the whole “Wait 5 minutes for the taxi to show up” at every leg of the journey), and I freely admit that I don’t have any concept of what the actual cost structure of a robotic taxi service looks like so I can’t tell you how realistic that 75c is. Though if Uber adds their 20% cut to 57.5c, that works out to 71c/mile.

            But I can’t imagine that making taxis cheaper by ~50% is exactly going to increase private car ownership.

  49. jseliger says:

    This kind of opened my eyes a little to how authoritarianism isn’t the domain of any one side of the political spectrum, so much as a fallback position that becomes really tempting once you feel like the system is too weak to serve your interests.

    This is arguably what Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Seveneves, is about (or at least its first half). But I wonder, too, about short-run authoritarianism versus long-run authoritarianism: the former may maximize existing resources at the expensive of long-term innovation and exploration.

    In Seveneves, a near-future Earth is going to be destroyed within two years, so the long-run isn’t important. I’ve only read half the novel so far, though.

  50. Deiseach says:

    Today is the tenth anniversary of the Miracle of Istanbul and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts (so long as I ignore what happened on Sunday).

    Floating in a cloud of red confetti in my memories 🙂

  51. Alex Godofsky says:

    Further detail on the weakness of income data: Income Data is a Poor Measure of Inequality from the Tax Foundation.

  52. >As someone who spent his formative years in micronations, where it’s acknowledged that the whole point of having a weird political movement is to run the movement on its own utopian principles and see what happens, I’m disappointed they can’t have a patchwork of different excruciatingly formalized brands/movements with people switching to the most successful – but I guess that’s why nobody asked me.

    I just figured out what you mean by this. In fact the putsch and leadership structure were executed exactly according to our latest political theories. Moldbug describes The Procedure:

    1. Become Worthy
    2. Accept Power
    3. Rule

    and recommends that the “Accept Power” stage be atomic, with the old government being unplugged, and the new one plugged in fully formed in a single conceptual instant so that drama (IRL: death and terror) is minimized. Note that this is exactly what we did.

    As for the new structure, it’s just plain old fuedalism: A conspiracy of the major capital-owning aristocrats negotiates with the others for support, declares itself sovereign, and demands fealty from everyone else, at risk of its own existence if they refuse. Everyone else who matters declares fealty, which by extension secures fealty from their respective followers, because fealty is transitive. Everyone understands it, it works, it’s natural. A few people grumble, but they didn’t matter.

    Ideally we might like to get to a fully corporate CEO monarchy model at some point, but we’re not sure yet. Arguments about whether aristocracy is superior to monarchy, and the general principles there and our general direction will have to be solved before we know how those principles apply to us. It may be for example that aristocracy is superior for good government, but monarchy is superior for startups. If Hestia and NRx is a startup, may want to go corporate even if we would eventually construct an aristocracy as our product. In any case, will probably go for-profit.

    Patchwork was always just a thought experiment, not the serious mainline of NRx power theory. The internet as a whole is patchwork, anyways; people who disagree with us about who owns NRx are free to not participate.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The way I would handle it is that you declare an Organization with a certain brand, eg Hestian NRx. The brand would consist of:

      – a creed (eg “members of Hestia believe this about the economy, this about gender, and so on”), obviously this can be very vague, you’re not trying to crush all dissent, just make sure that, for example, liberal democrats know that this isn’t for them.

      – certain rules (eg “not allowed to doxx anyone”, “not allowed to post anti-Semitic stuff”, etc)

      – a certain organizational structure (eg the council system you have now)

      Then people can either choose to be officially affiliated with Hestianism (eg state agreement with the creed, agree to follow the rules, reap whatever benefits you can provide like reciprocal links, promotion of each other’s stuff, irl networking), or to remain unaffiliated, or to found counter-brands.

      The advantage is that Hestianism will never be embarrassing to belong to (idiots who don’t follow the rules or have stupid ideas get kicked out), nobody can accuse you of believing things you don’t (if “we oppose anti-Semitism” is in the creed, no one can accuse you of being anti-Semites) and will have invincible defenses against entryists. Also, you benefit from everyone else following the rules (eg you’re in a community that doesn’t dox or insult each other) and you can explore the implications of shared assumptions together without constant debate about what those assumptions are.

      If you’re too restrictive (or not restrictive enough) someone founds a new brand (“Anissimovism”, “Landism”, whatever) and everybody leaves you and goes to them because they manage it better. Or else the different divisions in the movement divide into different brands and can work out treaties and subagreements among themselves, and if you say “I’m a Hestian” everyone will know exactly what you mean.

      I realize this sort of crosses the border into LARPing, but like I said, micronations was fun. See also my post A Paradox of Ecclesiology – I’m basically asking why you ‘re following the Protestant rather than the Catholic model.

      • Bugmaster says:

        if “we oppose anti-Semitism” is in the creed, no one can accuse you of being anti-Semites

        This doesn’t work for large real-world organizations. Typically, outsiders tend to judge such organizations (e.g. various religions, pro- as well as anti-social justice causes, even whole countries) by the behaviour of their most extreme members. It doesn’t matter if you state “we support X and oppose Y” in your creed, and post it on your website, and proclaim it from the rooftops; people are still going to latch on to that one crazy guy who did Y but never X all the time in the name of your organzation, and say, “of course their creed says that, they are covering their asses in a futile attempt to hide how Y-ist and anti-X-ist they really are, as everyone knows”.

        Once your organization grows to a sufficient size to allow that one crazy guy to slip through the cracks, and become famous… well, at that point, your options are to either give up, or to devote a massive amount of resources to public opinion manipulation. Admittedly, I know very little about NRX, but it seems to me like they are getting perilously close to that threshold.

      • >– a creed

        A “set of current ideas on which we wish to build” would be a more useful thing than a creed. We will be doing this. When was the last time a serious scientific institution put forth a creed? Hopefully never, but probably not.

        >– certain rules (eg “not allowed to doxx anyone”, “not allowed to post anti-Semitic stuff”, etc)

        We will do this, but it will not include ideological requirements (especially not “no antisemitism”).

        >Then people can either choose to be officially affiliated with Hestianism (eg state agreement with the creed, agree to follow the rules, reap whatever benefits you can provide like reciprocal links, promotion of each other’s stuff, irl networking), or to remain unaffiliated, or to found counter-brands.

        Your approach is based on adherence to a particular procedural ethic: that asking consent and getting opt-in is the right way to do it. We are more consequentialist, and believe that if the result will be good for for the whole, asking for individual consent would be a dangerously uncertain operation that invites disorder. Creating a new memeplex and siphoning the life force from the decaying corpse of NRx is a messy and difficult thing to do. Why bother, when you can ensure the survival of the patient with a clean atomic putsch? Obviously we had to know what we were doing for that to work, but I believe the results speak for themselves.

        >will have invincible defenses against entryists.

        Hahahahahah. Invincible is a strong word.

        Our method also achieves all the other desiderata you cite. The core of the disagreement is opt-in vs opt-out, and I believe there is no contest in this case.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m basically asking why you ‘re following the Protestant rather than the Catholic model.

        Speaking as a Catholic here, if you think that Hestianism by following the Catholic model can avoid “will never be embarrassing to belong to, nobody can accuse you of believing things you don’t and will have invincible defenses against entryists… you benefit from everyone else following the rules (eg you’re in a community that doesn’t dox or insult each other) and you can explore the implications of shared assumptions together without constant debate about what those assumptions are”, may I compliment you on those lovely rose-tinted glasses? 🙂

        Catholicism is not an organised religion. The Dominicans and Franciscans used to happily get stuck into each other, until the Jesuits came along and gave everyone a new target.

        The Jesuits and Dominicans are still, as per the decree of Pope Paul V, awaiting the final decision of the Apostolic See on which of them was right about efficacious grace, which will be delivered any day now – it’s only been 408 years! 🙂

      • jtgw says:

        So I take it that when you said you spent your formative years in micronations, you don’t mean that you grew up in Liechtenstein or Monaco.

        What do you mean then?

        • Irrelevant says:

          He means he lived in the internet micronation roleplay community. He’s blogged about it before.

    • Selerax says:

      NRx is looking more and more like ISIS by the day.

      Surely I can’t be the only one who noticed that Moldbug’s “procedure” is pretty much exactly how the “Caliphate” in Syria-Iraq was started?

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Also America’s Constitutional Convention. Those rascals.

        • Nornagest says:

          Closer to the original revolution, I think, and there’s a case to be made that that was a bad idea. It’s much harder to call the constitution of 1787 a bad idea in its context, but it was more an exquisite exercise in political compromise, horse-trading, and legitimacy-building than a practical transfer of power.

          But yeah, it’s not much of a red flag, politically speaking.

    • anon says:

      Does it actually secure the fealty of the respective followers though? A lot of the comments on the Xenosystems post seem to be expressing amusement or derision

  53. Doug S. says:

    People interested in the effects of commitment contracts on smoking cessation might find a 1978 work by Mr. S. King enlightening.

  54. Czernilabut says:

    Hi Scott. Sorry I haven’t been reading or commenting lately, as I’ve been trying to catch up with all your articles after not being online for some time (Combination of stress and new job) Especially since you mention a big drop in readership sometime in March.

    After reading the truck article in the link set, and your previous blogpost, I think I’m a bit more convinced that it’s rational to worry about malignant AI. If only because if we go by Moravec’s paradox, then driving has existed for less than the time of civilization. Given how deadly motor vehicles are, it seems like an ‘evolutionary shunt’ to just bypass locomotion all together, and just hijack some big coal mining rigs and/or tanks and just run everything over. Maybe a Butlerian Jihad is more eminent then we think (If only we had nootropics that reached spice melange levels)

  55. Harald K says:

    There is no “ahead of the curve”, we’re not guaranteed moral progress. True, being consistent in taking the consequences of your principles can lead you to unusual positions, and some may turn out to have been good (seen by later eyes), but many may turn out to be bad as well. Robespierre’s principles lead him to the radical position that Jews should have the same rights as any (other) citizens – it also led him to the radical position that a literal regime of terror was justified.

  56. Shenpen says:

    >A pet peeve of mine: Stop Using Income As A Guide To Economic Class.

    The article talks about SOCIAL class which is an entirely different thing, although income is a poor way to measure that too. But even the other proposed methods are money-based and they too don’t measure social class. Money has hardly anything to do with social class.

    The deeper issue here is that Americans don’t really understand the idea of social class. It used to be nonexistent in America and even now only halfway exists.

    If you look into actually classy countries like Italy for example, it is an inheritance from aristocratic times. And it essentially means a ranking that is NOT based on productivity. A surgeon who makes 200K a year through being productive is still not classy, because it is still the same logic as that of of a workman. He is more like a high level gut plumber in this sense.

    A truly classy person would not work for a living. Would not have his worth or productivity measured by the market. Rather he would be independently wealthy and have pursuits like the liberal arts or philosophy or other hobbies that do not bring in money or if yes, it does not matter. This essentially means he is not being measured by the market, so he is above measurement.

    The true meaning of social class is being above market measurement. This generally means an ideology that these people are superior, they get a nice living without having to put effort into it, and whatever they do with their lives is not really under the judgement of other people. You may think the poetry they write is bad, but you cannot really prove it: they are not selling it, you cannot compare copies sold or even if it is sold they can still claim the stupid peasants don’t understand higher art.

    So true social class is not earning what you have, or more like other people cannot judge, through the market process, whether you have earned it.

    Needless to say this “feudal” attitude is something American settlers, homesteaders, frontiersman did not have. It is 100% Euro.

    • Tracy W says:

      But the number of people who didn’t need to work for a living is a small minority at any one point of time. Social class doesn’t just apply to those people, it’s a much more common thing. Eg expectations about whether you go to university, where you go to school, how you dress, etc. I suggest “Watching the English” by Kate Fox, an anthropologist. She’s a funny writer, and when she talks about class, she picks up on things like “do you wash your car?”

    • Zorgon says:

      As a person from one of the most class-conscious societies on the face of Earth (the UK), I’d suggest your description of social class is a little off.

      Social class is not solely about being above and outside economic issues; if it were, then the middle and upper-middle classes would not exist as they are currently understood.

      Social class is class defined by position and connection, rather than by financial concerns. It’s the ability to not care about money, yes, but it’s also the ability to (relatively) freely and effortlessly call upon a network of powerful agents. These agents maintain a variety of kinds of power, including financial.

      The British upper class maintain the Old Boys Network (with all-new Old Girl members too!) to this day. The middle class maintain a chain of “old friends from work” that can slip them in to new roles when they look precarious.

      But there exists another class that are, if anything, the most powerful of all; because they have the numerous and numinous qualities that designate a person as being a part of the Executive Class, the group of people who can realistically apply to be CEOs on account of having previously been CEOs and knowing lots of other CEOs.

      Few of these things have much to do with economic class, I will agree. Likewise, with the exception perhaps of a few “American royalty” families with old influence and old wealth, the existence of an “upper class” of the kind you and I both acknowledge is missing from the US.

      But the Executive Class is, if anything, even more present in the US than in the UK; and just like here, it’s got almost nothing to do with money.

      • Shenpen says:

        I think class in the UK is a special case. It actually serves a form of social role, it has utility. Ultimately every class is expected to be productive. It is more essential than superficial and rarely shown, for example, upper-class people don’t necessarily find it mandatory to always wear designer clothes, while in Italy or Russia there are people who would never be found dead without an Armani label over their chest.

        My point is not economic concerns, my point is like escaping social judgement: you don’t have to earn, deserve what money you have, and thus you don’t get your productivity judged by the market. It is not an economic concern but more like if you have justify yourself to others or not. And in the UK class system there are simply other, non-economic pressures for higher class people to do productive work.

        To give you an example, in the UK a young man from a top family will want to be seen as doing important and prestigious work. While in Italy, Hungary, or Russia the coolest thing for him is to not work at ALL, because work is for peasants. So in one case class is simply predetermines one to productive work as a leader, and in the other case the idea is that society should support you without you having to contribute back at all.

        • Zorgon says:

          … do you know many upper or upper-middle class UK people?

          I think your idea of them might become correct during some period of their lives, but most of the young high-classed individuals I’ve met have been very much invested in the “work is for peasants” idea.

          There might have been a time when things worked the way you suggest, although I think it’s at least partially a romantic invention of the post-war era. But it’s very definitely not that way now.

          • Deiseach says:

            Class-markers are still pervasive in a subtle way, though; during the first season of BBC “Sherlock” I automatically went “Comprehensive, grammar school, public school” (and of course, Benedict Cumberbatch went to Harrow) when looking at a line-up of Lestrade, Watson and Sherlock interacting (well, Lestrade is likely to be more secondary modern, but Donovan is definitely comprehensive) and feeling vindicated when I saw a screen cap of a scene where Watson’s CV is on-screen and it did mention he attended a particular grammar school.

            Nothing overt needed to be said, you could just slot people into their backgrounds by attitude, accent, etc. even when these weren’t hugely different on the face of it.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m (minor) public school too, although I’ll admit that occasionally people pick up on it. Usually when I make reference to some fabulous resource or other I used back in school, now I think of it (my girlfriend’s utter astonishment at the idea of every single member of a science class having their own assigned microscope leaps to mind). But I was a scholarship kid, one of the Tories’ Assisted Place generation of the “brightest and best”.

            The reason I define class in very class-oriented societies as being positional and connective in nature is because to a large degree I grew up alongside the upper and upper-middle class and so I know exactly what makes them what they are, and it’s each other. And I’m also very aware that the system of understanding they have does not include me.

          • Nornagest says:

            my girlfriend’s utter astonishment at the idea of every single member of a science class having their own assigned microscope leaps to mind

            …that’s surprising? My perpetually underfunded Californian high school managed that feat at a time when California had some of the worst schools in the States. They were pretty low-end microscopes and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were thirty years old at that point, but there was one per student in our biology class.

            In junior high we had to share microscopes, but the equipment was better.

          • Zorgon says:

            My girlfriend went to a Northern English comprehensive secondary during the early 90s.

            I realise that doesn’t mean anything to most people not from the UK. But suffice to say this was not remotely the norm.

            She almost choked on bile when I explained about the swimming pool and the robotics lab.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m (minor) public school too

            Have you ever read Dorothy Sayers’ “Murder Must Advertise” and the discussion about what counts as a ‘real’ public school in that? And the looking-down-their-noses at the man who insists that he went to a public school because that signifies he is trying too hard and is really Not One Of Us?

            I’m never quite sure in that novel how much Sayers is genuinely critiquing the classes and attitudes, and how much she agrees with them (there are parts of her stories written about Peter and Harriet’s married life that make me want to go full-on Madame deFarge), but it really is very illuminating – I don’t think murder is a good thing, but by God if some of the people having that conversation had their throats cut, I couldn’t find it in my heart to blame the murderer 🙂

            It’s very illuminating about a lot of things: the description of how the advertising business works, and the idea of working on (for example) cigarette advertising (this in the days before cigarette smoking was deemed to be bad for you); the question one character puts about so okay, suppose we convince everyone to buy our client’s brand and they all smoke as much as they can without actually dying of nicotine poisoning, what next? And the answer oh, there’s always another market; women don’t smoke nearly enough, we need to angle our advertising towards women and get them smoking.

            I feel I should be tagging that last with “capitalism is not made by birbs” 🙂

        • Tracy W says:

          It is more essential than superficial and rarely shown, for example, upper-class people don’t necessarily find it mandatory to always wear designer clothes, while in Italy or Russia there are people who would never be found dead without an Armani label over their chest.

          My reaction to that is that anyone who feels that it is mandatory to wear designer clothes is pretty insecure, and so not that upper-class. Maybe upper-middle at best.

          • Creutzer says:

            Coming from an unmentioned country in central Europe, I also feel/think that designer clothes are not upper class.

          • Deiseach says:

            Like Burberry, which pottered along with a reputation as a rather stuffy but upper middle-class brand in Britain (purveyors of raincoats and wellies to the country squires or wannabe squires), then decided actually making a profit and not going under might be nice, so they re-branded, marketed the hell out of themselves as “class you can afford” and now have a reputation as the chavs’ go-to brand of choice and really classy people wouldn’t be seen dead in it.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            That is a common trope, but I think you’re misreading the mindset, it’s not that they feel the need of using designer clothes, it’s that they’re the only clothes they know.

          • Creutzer says:

            My… cultural intuition says strongly: if they were upper class, the only clothes they know might be very fine clothes, but they would not be recognizable designer clothes.

    • Creutzer says:

      The deeper issue here is that Americans don’t really understand the idea of social class. It used to be nonexistent in America […].

      Have you ever read Scott Fitzgerald?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It strikes me that this approach regards class as a binary (upper class or hoi-polloi) and hereditary (no up-jumped interlopers here).

      But I don’t think that is how class actually works outside a sort-of of Victorian era fiction.

  57. JK says:

    Gay sex was decriminalized during the French revolution, so Bentham was hardly alone in pushing for that reform at the time.

  58. Shenpen says:

    Bentham also designed a super creepy prison. Beware where utilitarianism may lead you.

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

    • gwern says:

      Beware where utilitarianism may lead you.

      Don’t worry, the deontologists and evangelical Christians and retribution-theory-of-justice people also got us to the panopticon CCTV society & prison without any hitch.

      • Shenpen says:

        I think the people who are responsible for that are simply pragmatic Machiavellians. Do because can.

        • Irrelevant says:

          There’s no theory of ethics in which giving everyone perfect knowledge is a bad thing, the problem is that the implementation is never symmetrical and resource allocation between offenses is never even, so it enables lots of corruption and selective prosecution instead.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Uh? Deontologists will talk about a right to privacy all the time, and it’s not hard to come up with a utilitarian scenario where certain imperfections of knowledge lead to more total utility than everyone having perfect knowledge, and it’s possible to consider “innocence” among your virtues in virtue ethics.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Privacy laws are the result of symmetry concerns. You’re correct on virtue ethics though, I was forgetting that virtue ethics lets you assign different virtues to different classes of people.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            There is an utilitarian argument against perfect knowledge too. It relies on the assumption that our current system of law, ethics, morals or whatever is not perfect.

            The idea is that when there is not a panopticon, people can get away with (what later in retrospect are considered to be-) “benign” violations of social rules, allowing our system of law and morals to fail more gracefully.

  59. Emile says:

    The Ben Laden conspiracy books reminds me of the hostage-taker in the Paris Hyper Cacher supermarket (just after the Charlie Hebdo shootings), who had said (after shooting three people for being jewish, and taking the others hostage) something like “Every time, they try to make you believe that Muslims are terrorists”.

  60. ChristianKl says:

    An unexpected fan of 9-11 conspiracy theories: Osama bin Laden. What? How does that even work?

    The core question is: “Why does this information hit the press at this point in time?”

    Maybe the point is to reduce the impression that he was a prisoner in that compound as was recently claimed?

    It’s really an interesting way to mess with the conspiracy theory folks who now have to decide whether the story that Obama had those books is true or false.