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Links 1/16: Link A Thief In The Night

Ancient Greek naval combat sometimes involved hurling snakes onto your enemies’ ships to cause panic and confusion. Sounds ilke a pretty good plan! The Samuel L. Jackson Award For Excellence In Vehicular Herpetology goes to Hannibal Barca, who had catapults which hurled entire pots full of venomous snakes onto the enemy deck.

CRISPR has been used to treat a genetic disorder in an adult mammal for the first time – specifically, a mouse with muscular dystrophy. [EDIT: second time – tyrosinemia previously treated in mice]

In San Francisco, Uber is about three times as big as the entire taxi market. I’m not sure how much of that is them taking market share from taxis versus them creating new demand for people who use them but would not have used taxis.

You know the famous picture of Washington Crossing The Delaware? Did you know it was censored in schools for years because Washington has a weird little gadget on his crotch vaguely reminiscent of testicles? Sounds stupid, but when you look at the picture you have to admit that was some really awful gadget-placement-work.

Clark from Popehat, Meredith “Maradydd” Patterson, and Alice Maz have joined forces for a new blog on social issues, censorship, and the Internet called Status 451. The pitch: “He’s a conservative Catholic ancap. She’s a bisexual, polyamorous Euronerd anarcho-game-theorist. They write blogs!”. How could you not read that?

We may have already passed peak carbon emissions, depending on what China’s economy does and whether China is even giving accurate numbers. Alas, that’s just the derivative – we’re still emitting a lot more carbon into the atmosphere with each passing year and still have to worry about the whole global warming thing. But at least the trend is moving the right direction!

There are a lot of cool photosets of nature and urban scenes and stuff on imgur, but this one is exceptionally good.

This is a weirdly abstract way of looking at things, but I guess all knowledge is worth having: “In laboratory experiments, groups discriminated against each other in about a third of cases”. But also: “Discrimination varies depending upon the type of group identity being studied: it is stronger when identity is artificially induced in the laboratory than when the subject pool is divided by ethnicity or nationality, and higher still when participants are split into socially or geographically distinct groups. In gender discrimination experiments, there is significant favouritism towards the opposite gender.”

I guess I probably have to link to this blog post of terrible Swifties.

Gwern investigates the cost-benefit analysis of taking Vitamin D and decides that there’s probably a very small but real advantage to taking it which makes it worthwhile given the very low cost of the pills.

Most past anti-bullying interventions haven’t worked too well. Some researchers try a new tactic: get a subgroup of students from a school, appoint them the Designated Anti-Bullying Task Force, and see whether they are able to spread these norms to their fellow students. They find pretty strong evidence that they do, decreasing discipline issues up to 30%, with success linked to how popular the students in the Designated Anti-Bullying Task Force are.

Robin Hanson on how relatively intelligent people have no idea how unintelligent most of the population is, complete with various extraordinarily obvious test questions that >50% (or whatever other number) of the population can’t answer.

A reader’s story of how he tried to explain to his coworkers the SSC post about how segregated we are from each other because 40% of Americans are creationists but nobody actually knows a creationist – only to find out that about 40% of the coworkers he was explaining it to were creationists. I expect work is a lot less well-segregated than the rest of our lives, especially if we work somewhere that cuts across class lines (eg an office with doctors, nurses, receptionists, and janitors).

The latest Bay Area NIMBY gambit – point out that Trump is a real estate developer, so anybody who lets real estate be developed is basically the same person as Donald Trump. Plus Alyssa’s commentary.

Speaking of which, here’s an Atlantic article fingering NIMBYs as the cause of the Bay Area’s rent problem. You probably have heard the arguments before, but be sure to check out the story about a Bay Area childcare center that made the children put on a play about evil tech workers plotting to drive out San Francisco’s vibrant multicultural community, then had the parents (themselves mostly tech workers) come watch and dared them to say anything. This is a pretty perfect metaphor for modern activism: “We can’t actually do anything about this problem, but we will convince your children that you are cartoonishly evil, and you will be too worried about sounding impolite to protest.”

The role of the word “sockdologizing” in the Lincoln assassination has been sadly neglected by modern historians.

Here’s an article I vehemently disagree with: Societies With Little Coercion Have Little Mental Illness. Okay, but as far as we know Bronze Age laborers, despite living in some of the most coercive societies of all time, also had less mental illness than we do; records suggest antebellum slaves did as well. The “noncoercive societies of the past” vs. “coercive societies of the present” distinction this guy alludes to is almost certainly actually a “western-diet vs. non-western diet” issue, and his examples are the same ones that some historians use to note that various hunter-gatherer groups have vastly less cancer and heart disease than we do. See also my post Depression Is Not A Proxy For Social Dysfunction.

Spandrell with some interesting historical tidbits on calendars (warning: interspersed with political rants). Did you know that Japan switched to the Western calendar to avoid paying as many monthly salaries to government officials? Or that the reason our New Year is in January rather than at the beginning of spring like most other cultures was that it used to be at the beginning of spring, but some Roman consul wanted to start fighting a war despite legal issues saying he had to wait until the next year, so he solved the problem by moving the New Year forward?

Venezuela update: their new economics czar “does not believe inflation exists”, claims prices only rise because greedy corporations want more profit. The entire economic history of Venezuela for the past few years reads like something out of a particularly heavy-handed Ayn Rand book.

Cephalophores are decapitated saints who carry their own heads around. The big cephalophore-related question for medieval artists was: should the halo go above the stump of the neck, or above the decapitated head?

Kevin Drum in Mother Jones is the first liberal I’ve seen who really wants to take a loud public stand that ending the drug war has major costs and might not be a great idea. His argument: moderate liberalization of OxyContin prescribing practices over the past few decades probably contributed to an epidemic of Oxy overdose killing tens of thousands of people, and we would expect full legalization of everything to do even more. Given what I’ve been researching the past week, I’m especially grateful for his pointing out that drug overdoses kill three times more people than gun homicides yearly. [EDIT: This point originally comes from Robert VerBruggen]

SMBC seems to share my position on education.

Yet another testimonial for SSC sponsor Beeminder.

A Reddit AMA with the OpenAI team. Some people bring up my post on the matter, and Eliezer Yudkowsky shows up in the comments. Kind of a wide range on the team’s responses, but at least some of them say that the “open” only applies to harmless discoveries and that if there is anything really dangerous they will think long and hard before deciding whether to release it publicly. This alleviates a lot of my concerns – though I think that different people in the organization have very different views and I just hope the cool heads prevail.

ISIS new guide for jihadis who want to blend in with the West is actually one of the better style guides for men I’ve read, and probably useful for people who want to fit in for reasons other than so nobody suspects they’re planting a bomb.

I vaguely remember hearing some arguments that soda taxes didn’t work? Well, the latest studies suggest the one in Mexico is working as intended.

Alison from Rationalist Tumblr reviews horrifying Caribbean dance hall music. And more horrifying Caribbean dance hall music.

There’s now a Rationalist Book Club on Reddit – that’s “rationalist (book club)” and not “(rationalist book) club”, as you can tell by their first book for discussion being C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.

GiveWell has a list of interesting (though not necessarily guaranteed maximally effective) charities up. The one that most caught my eye was the Bronx Freedom Fund, which pays bail for poor people arrested for misdemeanors. This has a lot of neat features. First, a lot of the time poor people will plead guilty to crimes just to get out of jail, because they have a child to feed or a job they have to show up to and their only option for avoiding a lengthy detention is just to speed the whole process up by saying they’re guilty; therefore paying for people’s bail can (and has been shown to) prevent unnecessary fines, longer jail sentences, and criminal histories. Second, 97% of BFF’s clientele show up to court (equal to or better than the record for people who pay bail the normal way) so their money gets refunded to the charity and they can use the same small donation to pay bail for more people forever ad infinitum. Third, small amounts can do a lot of good – a lot of crimes have bail of just $500 or less, but poor people can’t afford to pay even that. Under some liberal assumptions, possibly $500 might save five or ten people a month-long jail sentence per year and keep one or two of them from getting a career-ruining criminal history. You can read more about Bronx Freedom Fund here and donate here. Interesting choice for people who are more interested in First World charity or in direct-suffering-alleviation rather than health-improvement. Of course, raises some questions about what the heck the bail system is doing in the first place, but we can worry about that later.

It is traditional to yell at Vox at least once during each links post, so here is their thinkpiece on test prep where New York’s top SAT tutor explains the state of SAT preparation. Only problem – the state of SAT preparation is “No matter how smart your children are, they will probably do terribly unless you buy my $500 online course which will raise their scores 400 points, here is the link”. Meanwhile, studies consistently show that SAT maps pretty consistently to other measures of academic ability, test prep doesn’t work much, and private tutoring raises students’ scores on average by 20 points. So either this guy has a computer program that works 20x as good as everybody else (which could happen! but I want evidence!), or he wrote a really overblown advertisement for his business in the form of a thinkpiece and Vox fell for it. Some points in favor of the latter: he’s written pretty much the same thinkpiece for five or six different news sources before, and also paid money to get it published on a press release PR site. Also, it’s not clear in what sense he’s New York’s best SAT tutor besides having established a long paper trail of calling himself that, including buying the domain name www.newyorksbestsattutor.com. This sort of thing wouldn’t bother me so much except that people like this are the reason everyone always says “Oh, the SAT? I think I heard that just tests what social class you’re from and how many ritzy tutors you can afford” (which is super false), and then inevitably conclude we should just throw it out and judge everyone by how likeable they are in an interview and how much of their childhood they sacrifice on the altar of Bullshytte Extracurriculars.

Manatee populations are up 500% and the species is no longer endangered. Let’s celebrate with a big juicy manatee steak!

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551 Responses to Links 1/16: Link A Thief In The Night

  1. entobat says:

    *puts on editor shades*

    Venomous! The snakes are venomous!

    *removes shades*

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  2. Emily says:

    Charles Murray’s Real Education also has some examples of questions and the proportion test-takers (in this case, 8th graders, and the test is the NAEP) who get them correct. p. 36 onward here: http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Murray-Real-Education.pdf

    I found his discussion of what abilities are required to think through different problems interesting.

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    • tgb says:

      I find their method of estimating how many students are guessing the correct answer by luck interesting (multiply the percentage of wrong answers by x/(x-1) where x is the number of possible answers). This assumes students guesses are distributed evenly, then we’re really only seeing the guesses that ended up in the x-1 possible wrong answers, so let’s add in the ones that fell in the remaining 1 correct answer.

      But of course, people probably aren’t guessing randomly. In the “90 workers grows by 10 percent, how many workers are there?” question, they probably are guessing 100 far more often than 81. I’m curious what the more advanced methods of estimating this are that they mention.

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      • Vaniver says:

        One of my professors, for a decision analysis class, had people assign probabilities to each of the multiple choice questions. This was excellent for a number of reasons:

        1) The proper scoring rule meant that there was no benefit to overestimating your knowledge. If you genuinely didn’t know, you assigned 25% to all four options and moved on.

        2) Even if the majority of the class put their highest weight on the correct answer, the professor could see the difference between “we’re 40% sure it’s A, and 20% sure for each of the others” and “we’re 85% sure it’s A, and 5% sure for each of the others.”

        3) It gave a good sense of which of the wrong answers seemed more or less plausible.

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        • moridinamael says:

          I had a professor who did this, too! There’s no better way to instill the concept that you can’t be 100% certain than showing students that if they put 100% confidence on an answer, and they’re wrong, it’ll earn them -infinity points (based on the scoring rule) and they’ll fail the entire class.

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  3. akarlin says:

    We may have already passed peak carbon emissions, depending on what China’s economy does and whether China is even giving accurate numbers.

    This is really weak.

    There have been plenty of periods of beforehand when global CO2 emissions fell not just for one year but several years in a row: 1973-1975 (first oil shock), 1980-83 (second oil shock and Volcker), 1989-1994 (collapse of the USSR), and 2008-2009 (the great recession).

    Robin Hanson on how relatively intelligent people have no idea how unintelligent most of the population is, complete with various extraordinarily obvious test questions that >50% (or whatever other number) of the population can’t answer.

    Another interesting exercise similar to this one is to look at PISA questions and see what percentage of people got them right in different countries (so this also has the benefit of international perspective). This truly gives invaluable perspective on what abstract things like average national IQs actually mean in practice.

    The entire economic history of Venezuela for the past decade or so reads like something out of a particularly heavy-handed Ayn Rand book.

    The past few years more like. For all the rhetoric against him Chavez was not all that incompetent on the macroeconomy and made sure to sock away money for a rainy day. They only went full retard after his death.

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  4. Hedonic Treader says:

    “OxyContin abuse kills three times more people than gun homicides yearly.”

    The moral difference being that taking OxyContin is (usually) voluntary, while getting shot is (usually) not.

    Maybe people see value in the drug that justifies the risk.

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    • Linch says:

      On the other hand, secondhand smoking kills a lot more people than gun homicides.

      http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/

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      • Have you ever traced the claims on second hand smoke back to the original research? I tried a few years ago, in the context of my university’s plan to ban all smoking on campus, and didn’t find any serious evidence to support the claims. I wouldn’t be surprised if secondhand smoke does damage, especially for people who live with smokers and so get a lot of it. But the only research model I’ve actually looked at—compare a city that did something to reduce second hand smoke with some similar cities that didn’t, with no explanation of how the first city was selected—is pretty clearly fraudulent. There was a National Bureau piece that simulated the result of doing the experiment for all cities, and found no effect–which strongly suggested cherry picking in the published work.

        For a little more, see:

        http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2013/02/blowing-second-hand-smoke.html

        Looking through the comment thread, nobody there seemed to know of any reliable research supporting the claims.

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Motte: “Secondhand smoke is very harmful, in that if you live with a smoker or work at Waffle House, it poses a significant threat to your health.”

          Bailey: “Therefore, we need to ban smoking in public places because it puts nonconsenting people at risk!”

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          • Randy M says:

            Public places? There are places around here one cannot smoke in their own car, iirc.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            But at that point, are they even pretending not to be paternalistic?

            Of course, there’s always the socialized medicine route to making something an “externality” and therefore an aggression against others can be punished. Except that the proponents of anti-smoking legislation in order to reduce healthcare costs usually ignore the fact that smoking saves the public money by killing off smokers early.

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          • Randy M says:

            There is always “think of the children!” the traditional form of paternalism. I’m not sure it is even justified on paternalistic grounds anymore, it’s gone from a harm concern to a purity concern.

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        • Anthony says:

          I recall seeing a report of a second-hand smoke study which found that a non-smoker living with a smoker would lose about 4 months of life expectancy, and this was used to deride the idea that banning smoking in lots of other places would actually have much effect. I have no idea whether that was a real study, or where to find it.

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    • Nathan says:

      Getting shot usually IS voluntary. Gun suicides are overwhelmingly more frequent than gun homicides.

      (Yes, the original camparison was with homicides. This is a nitpick, not a rebuttal)

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    • Will says:

      I’m also not sure we would see more — the few experiments in legalization (e.g., Portugal, Uruguay) seem to indicate that most people who want to use “hard” drugs are already using them. Believe it or not, “hey wanna smoke some crack/H/meth?” is not that attractive a proposition for most…

      Overdose on opioids is heavily associated with polydrug abuse (it’s harder than you’d think to fatally OD on an opioid alone), and some of that is an attempt to stretch out supply — intravenous use or combination with benzos are the main culprits, and both are usually started because the user cannot afford an adequate amount of the drug of choice. This could be mitigated by getting it out of the black market.

      The other argument I’d make for legalization is that I think you’re absolutely right: for some, the EV is still positive. It’s possible to use the drug essentially completely safely, so it’s not necessarily a risky gamble (i.e., if one doesn’t inject, knows what dose they are taking, etc); and even if it were, some in mental/emotional or physical pain would roll the dice anyway.

      The issue is a bit close to my heart — until I finally got treatment that worked, I literally couldn’t get out of bed more days than not; I’d have risked oxy to actually have a life, in a flash.

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      • Addict says:

        Bullshit. These numbers are for people who are prescribed opiates, not people who are stirring up cocaine and heroin in the same BD. They are overdosing on their own prescriptions.

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        • Will says:

          I don’t know what numbers you refer to — if you’re talking about the Mother Jones article, it could be; I didn’t look at it. However, if you meant “opioid overdoses in the US”, the majority absolutely are due to either polydrug abuse, intravenous use, or both. Even if we are talking only about prescription opioid overdose, that’s still the case: between 60% and 80% involve one or more other drugs, depending on who you ask. (The lower number doesn’t include alcohol.) Looking at pharmaceutical overdoses as a whole, only 29% involve opioids alone.

          So people surely do overdose on their own prescriptions, but most of them — and a lot of other people — overdose because they combined drugs.

          (I don’t know exactly how many of these are accidents caused by someone with a prescription drinking or deciding to borrow some alprazolam from a friend or the like, vs. how many are from illicit users stretching out supply and/or trying to get higher from using benzos along with their DoC, but I think it’s reasonable to assume the latter is not an insignificant contributor.)

          References for the above stats:

          Heroin: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Overdose#sthash.jw1xVRH4.dpbs

          Pharmaceuticals: http://www.hamsnetwork.org/polydrug.pptx

          Pharmaceuticals (no alcohol): http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1653518

          Heroin and pharmaceuticals: http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.htm#high1

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  5. Stefan Drinic says:

    Are we really going to ignore how the Hannibal you’re referencing to is the same Hannibal Barca of Cannae fame? Possibly the greatest general the ancient world has seen, if not through success then very much because of skill? Dude was awesome.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I didn’t realize that he was in Bithynia later on! Neat!

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      • Stefan Drinic says:

        The Romans chased him down a lot, yeah. After the Romans won the second Punic war the man was a politician inside Carthage for a while, and pushed through some reforms to ensure Carthage could pay its war debts, but this just ensured that the Romans ended up feeling threatened over their old nemesis doing so well and demanded that he be handed over. A fifteen year goose chase ensued, with Hannibal visiting half a dozen courts in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Romans subsequently showing up with an army to threaten the rulers of said kingdoms with destruction unless they’d just hand him over. When one such king did betray him, he poisoned himself rather than be captured.

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  6. JellySix says:

    In relation to your warning about Spandrell’s calendar post, I have noticed that the word “rant” has come to mean “opinion I wish to strongly signal I strongly disagree with” rather than being an actual description of how whatever was said was said.

    A person can no longer merely have a controversial or racist opinion, it is almost always called a rant no matter how calmly it is stated.

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    • wysinwyg says:

      In this case, could “rant” have been used to mean “tangent” as in the statement was tangential to the matter being discussed?

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    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      This is a rant:

      But I don’t want to discuss Japanese politics because I don’t want anybody to discuss Japanese politics. For any country which is not completely owned by the Cathedral, all publicity is bad publicity. Anything you say about Japan will make some SJW notice Japan and start arguing to convert them to progressivism. It’s bad enough already with the mainstream media and clowns like Noah Smith writing about Japan as if they knew anything. Leave Japan alone. Japan is not an example of how nice a country can be if it doesn’t obey the Cathedral. Not at all. Japan is the most progressive country on Earth, happy member of the international community. The women are feminist, [word filtered slur for “transsexuals”] are free, and everybody eats a big spoonful of social justice before breakfast. So let’s stop looking at Japan, please. Hey look, a squirrel!

      […]

      One of the hardest intellectual challenges of living abroad is learning to do cultural relativism right. Probably cultural relativism started with actually knowledgeable explorers paying attention and being reasonable about what they learned: that different peoples do things in different ways, and sometimes there’s no particularly superior way. Which should be obvious. But bizarrely the idea was appropriated by the sanctimonious left as a way to stick it to their domestic rivals. Of course they deprived it of all nuance. But it shows how their brains are wired that talking about different cultures, when the context is not signaling ones enlightened tolerance in contrast to the nasty nativists, leftist just default to their real zealot selves, where everybody who is not doing the same thing they are is sad, oppressed or just nasty.

      The fact that it is expressed in sarcastic, mocking language instead of open invective (“parasites! pig-dogs!”) does not make it less of a rant. (And even so the piece does contain a liberal quantity of derogatory terms like “SJW” and “[word filtered slur for “transsexuals”]”.) It goes off in a “wild, impassioned” way about a completely tangential political subject, in a manner that demonizes one’s opponents and makes them seem responsible for all the evils in the world.

      If you don’t think that such a thing will be perceived as a rant, you need to check yourself. This is not an example of honest, fair criticism of the left which is being senselessly shouted down.

      Also, just as anecdotal evidence, I skipped over the parenthetical warning about the rants and was very surprised and annoyed at their presence in the piece. They made it much less readable and shareable.

      Edit: Scott, I appreciate the motives behind the apparent word filter here, but it makes it frustrating even to quote things. And if I hadn’t had the foresight to copy my whole post beforehand in the event of something like this, I would have had to rewrite the whole thing.

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      • Vaniver says:

        it makes it frustrating even to quote things.

        That seems to be the point. Are you expecting a policy like “Don’t make OC about ___, but quoting ___ is fine”?

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        • JBeshir says:

          I think it was probably more that the filter was implemented in a manner that threw away the post rather than permitting it to be edited, plus quotes being likely to include words signalling contempt that a regular poster would be unlikely to use, making quotes particularly likely to cause loss of content.

          It’d be nice to get an AJAX-y check thing or return to the input form with the text intact or something.

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          • Vaniver says:

            It’d be nice to get an AJAX-y check thing or return to the input form with the text intact or something.

            Again, I think this misses the point. If you’re trying to remove discussion of ___, what you want is to remove discussion of ___, not create a euphemism treadmill. Guiding people through the process of subverting your filters is a terrible way to make a filter!

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Vaniver:

            This particular word-filtered term has nothing to do with “novo-regressivism” (see: it’s really easy to come up with alternative terms!).

            The word being filtered in my post was a slur against transgender people. I understand that Scott would not want commenters to call people [that slur]. But was it his intention to prohibit discussion of discrimination against transgender people? I do not think so.

            Part of such discussion might reasonably include quoting the terms of abuse used against the transgender. If people use it actually to insult, they can be banned. After all, if they want to insult, there are plenty of ways to get around a simple word filter.

            And even if he does want the word totally eliminated, this should probably be implemented in a way that does not delete an entire innocent post.

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          • Jiro says:

            That assumes that filters are perfect. Filters can’t make a use/mention distinction. so they’re not.

            Also, even if the filter was perfect, your reasoning would imply a filter that removes only the objectionable word, not the acceptable remainder of the post.

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          • JBeshir says:

            @Vaniver:

            In this case, I think it is probably not about preventing discussion of something, but about preventing expression of contempt for something, in particular blocking a broad class of social moves that slip expressions of contempt into other speech where it is difficult (and derailing) to criticise, rather than expressing it outright where it can be readily commented upon.

            The former is probably a bad area to direct effort into. The latter, more reasonable.

            @Vox:

            Inconveniencing people who want to do meta-commentary on the term, in the theoretical case that they do want to, is a cost (at least unless Scott would be happier that said conversation happen elsewhere, which honestly I’d be pretty sympathetic to). But it’s a pretty small one, so it’d be easily overwhelmed by whatever intended benefits led to it being put in place in the first place- even if that was just “the majority of quick comments using slurs are pretty awful, so it improves quality on net without requiring a lot of manual pruning”.

            Additional to that, though, forcing people to get around a filter to include an insult seems pretty likely to be powerful at reducing the rate at which they occur. The general rules of trivial inconveniences probably apply. Another case where to recognise the consequences of a thing one needs to think explicitly in rates and effects on rates, not in possibilities.

            The other thing is that if you’re clearly evading a filter to include an insult it probably makes it a lot clearer and so easier to criticise than if you can simply use common slurs, which a sizeable chunk of people will defend as “just referring to [group in question]”, meaning anyone who wants to point out the unkind behaviour needs to be prepared to explain the concepts of “subtext” and “signalling” to an unfriendly audience.

            I didn’t realise the filter was there until now; I was assuming that the commenters were being nice and polite out of respect for conversational standards and/or reign of terror. That’s probably also a big factor why it isn’t discussed much, though.

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      • Will says:

        >Also, just as anecdotal evidence, I skipped over the parenthetical warning about the rants and was very surprised and annoyed at their presence in the piece. They made it much less readable and shareable.

        Well, just as anecdotal evidence the other way, I thought they made it more of both. Sometimes it’s fun to read strong opinion, or “sarcastic, mocking language”, although of course that often depends on whether you agree or not. (I’d bet most people who don’t like “rants” on one side are completely capable of enjoying them on the other, and there’s nothing wrong with that.) I don’t feel it really “makes [SJWS] seem responsible for all the evils in the world”, either — the criticisms are pretty specific to, and relevant to, the topic of cultural differences and reactions to them.

        If it was presented as “here is an objective study of calendar trivia”, I’d understand being surprised, but it’s some dude’s opinion blog.

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Sometimes it’s fun to read strong opinion, or “sarcastic, mocking language”, although of course that often depends on whether you agree or not. (I’d bet most people who don’t like “rants” on one side are completely capable of enjoying them on the other, and there’s nothing wrong with that.)

          True, but the only thing I hate more than rants against my own views is rants against views I disagree with—but for entirely the wrong reasons.

          “Progressives hate the free market because they’re on the side of the weak against the strong. But I say: I’m on the side of the strong! Capitalism is the system of survival of the fittest. It gets rid the weakest stock—the disabled, the lazy, the incompetent—and directs their resources toward the support of the superior people. Thus, it strengthens the race.”

          Okay, now that’s just a parody of social Darwinism, which is not exactly a popular ideology. But many left-wing people perceive advocates of laissez-faire as social Darwinists (or crypto-social-Darwinists). So when someone actually makes that kind of argument, it confirms their beliefs and discredits the right.

          And while that was an exaggeration, I have actually seen an ad campaign that attacks the $15 minimum wage on the grounds that these are lazy people who don’t deserve to make that much money. So much so that I suspect it’s some kind of fifth-column effort. Though apparently it wasn’t:

          Mike Saltsman, research director for the organization, said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour “devalues the hard work of people who have already put the effort into working their way up.”

          Of course, the actual criticism is not that it wouldn’t be desirable for everyone to make $15 an hour. It’s that it’s not possible in combination with full employment, and a government mandate won’t make it so. Instead, it will just cause unemployment and the reduction of real incomes. The minimum wage’s advocates portray low wages as the product of employer “greed” and not as the reflection of our limited productivity. And this point is illustrated by an amusing parody I read recently (which may well be a rant in the wrong context):

          In Defense of the Minimum Temperature Law (or Living Temperature Laws):

          Even though this winter is relatively mild so far in the US, the thousands of cold weather-related deaths that take place annually in the UK, the US and elsewhere firmly establish that we are at the mercy of a very cruel, ruthless, merciless, cold-hearted, and uncaring force: Mother Nature.

          Something must be done about this unacceptable situation. Without some kind of government intervention in the market for low temperature readings being registered on existing thermometers and thermostats, Mother Nature will continually and ruthlessly expose the elderly in the UK, America and other cold climate countries to harsh winter conditions of unconscionably low temperatures. Who among us wouldn’t agree that these excessively low winter temperatures are unfair, unreasonable, unjust and even immoral?

          To counteract this inherent cold weather injustice and Mother Nature’s ongoing lack of concern for cold Brits and Americans, our collective sense of fairness and justice requires legislation that will force all thermostats and thermometers sold in the United Kingdom and the United States to have a minimum, reasonable and fair temperature reading of let’s say 0 degrees Fahrenheit. As part of a newly proposed “Fair Minimum Wage Temperature Act of 2016” for the US, all existing thermometers and thermostats in homes, offices, and businesses should be immediately replaced with new temperature-reading equipment with a minimum reading of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

          Any temperatures below that minimum (e.g. -10 degrees F. or -20 degrees F.) are considered to be unfair, immoral and unconscionably low, and will be illegal and outlawed by the Fair Minimum Temperature Act of 2016, with violations subject to penalties, fines and possible jail time for thermostat manufacturers continuing to sell thermostats with temperature readings below the government-mandated minimum temperature. Further, all news and weather reports, all TV and radio stations, and all newspapers and websites are immediately prohibited from quoting any temperatures below the federally mandated minimum of 0 degrees F.

          If successful this winter, subsequent legislation for a “Fair Maximum Temperature Act of 2016” should be considered for summer months, e.g. a maximum allowable temperature reading of 85 degrees Fahrenheit on all thermostats to control Mother Nature’s unfair “temperature gouging” and “temperature scalping” during the hot summer months, frequently leading to weather-related deaths. Let’s all rally around “Living Temperature Laws” to promote more comfortable living in America.

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          • E. Harding says:

            Vox, that ad’s actually pretty good. Incentives matter.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Incentives matter, but incentives are not the reason the government can’t magically legislate a higher prevailing wage.

            Indeed, if the government could just legislate a $15 an hour minimum wage with no unemployment, in that world incentives clearly wouldn’t matter.

            And if you don’t see how saying “we can’t raise the minimum wage because it would benefit lazy poor people” is a counter-productive argument, I don’t know what to tell you.

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          • Mark says:

            “Indeed, if the government could just legislate a $15 an hour minimum wage with no unemployment, in that world incentives clearly wouldn’t matter.”

            Doesn’t that depend on how much profit is being made?

            I mean… if we look at it in *real* terms – it’s not a matter of what a person can do, it’s a matter of how much machinery we are prepared to (socially) associate with their work. (And…yes…there may be certain games that we invent before people can claim their prizes – to the victor the spoils etc. etc. – that doesn’t change the fact that it is the social structure/technological infrastructure that produces things.)

            And to the extent that capital isn’t transferable (and in real terms it isn’t) there will always be a motivation to make full use of it, no matter the political system.

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          • Outis says:

            Vox:

            I have actually seen an ad campaign that attacks the $15 minimum wage on the grounds that these are lazy people who don’t deserve to make that much money. So much so that I suspect it’s some kind of fifth-column effort.

            I think what this shows is lack of imagination. Sure, for you or me the $30k on the ad are not much. But imagine you’re a, I don’t know, a sandwich specialist who spent fifteen years building up his experience and skills to get from $20k/year to $30k. Do you want some snot-nosed teenaged burger-flipper to make as much as you do?

            If you think they’re going to raise his wages in proportion, get real. He knows he’ll get maybe $32k, and now the difference between a sandwich specialist and a burger flipper would be valued a measly $2k – an insult!

            If you’re thinking “but what does he care, he still makes the same $30k, it’s not making anything worse for him” (and I really hope you’re not), then you don’t understand the basics of society. So many things in society are positional! If the burger-flipper gets the same $30k, it really makes things materially worse for the sandwich specialist, both economically and socially.

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        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          >And while that was an exaggeration, I have actually seen an ad campaign that attacks the $15 minimum wage on the grounds that these are lazy people who don’t deserve to make that much money. So much so that I suspect it’s some kind of fifth-column effort.

          I almost spit my coffee, is that ad for real?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Apparently.

            Like I said, it’s so outrageous that I could easily be convinced it’s some kind of false flag operation. Like Sasha Baron Cohen trying to egg people on and agree with something ridiculous.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Vox Imperatoris – “Anything you say about Japan will make some SJW notice Japan and start arguing to convert them to progressivism.”

        Amusingly enough, my weaboo gaming buddy just passed me this: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2016-01-14/goeppels-chan-puts-moe-spin-on-nazism-in-fan-videos/.97576

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  7. Cerebral Paul Z. says:

    Wasn’t there a bit in Homer where Odysseus had to steer his ship between a sharknado and a birdemic?

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  8. Evan Þ says:

    I’m aware that the whole point of Scott’s post was that social networks self-segregate, so “40% of Americans are Creationists” is not true for most subgroups.

    But, still… Maybe the next SSC survey should have a question on Creationism?

    I’ll leave it up to Scott whether to phrase it so that advocates of the Simulation Hypothesis get to say “yes.”

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    • Chalid says:

      Still, Scott vastly overestimates the strength of the self-segregation in that original post, as I’m sure has been pointed out many times. Presumably he knows lots of doctors; doctors are not much less likely to be sympathetic to intelligent design than the general population, so it’s likely they’re not vastly less likely to be full-blown creationists.

      Anecdotally, I know two six-day creationists. One is a managing director at an investment bank, and the other is a medical doctor. Smart, educated people are quite able to rationalize anything they want to believe.

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      • Marc Whipple says:

        As I usually harp when somebody brings this up: really smart people are not only much better at rationalizing things than less smart people, they are used to being right, so they are much harder to convince when they are wrong.

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      • alaska3636 says:

        My fiance is from Georgia. She estimates that easily 40% of her high-school classmates and friends were/are creationists to some degree. I am from California and went to school in Texas. I don’t have much experience with religion or religious-mindedism (except the political and scientific kind). I was rather shocked to hear of her experiences, but I guess it does make sense. Honestly, if I found out tomorrow that half the people I knew believed in some facet of creationism it really wouldn’t affect my relationships.

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  9. A long, sad, but powerful speech by Navid Kermani about the situation in Syria and the state of the Muslim and Western Worlds in general: http://www.friedenspreis-des-deutschen-buchhandels.de/1042759/

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    • Sastan says:

      Silly and pedantic, with a heavy helping of jihadist apology, ignorance and anti-western prejudice.

      He castigates the West for attempting to help syrian christians, and for not helping syrian christians. He never mentions the muslim world’s indifference to their “own” people. Everything must snake around and be the fault of “the West” or “Imperialism”. Muslims and arabs can only be castigated for crimes against other muslims, and then usually only when the “real” culprit is the CIA or some shit.

      This is the classic form of arabist apology best done by Edward Said, and best rebutted by Ibn Warraq. Swap in some ecumenical bullshit and the truly sad story at the base of it, and this is what you have.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        I thought it was a very effective article, but every time he mentioned how the west has done nothing to help, I flash back to the bitter, vicious hatred of American imperialism I held back during the Bush administration.

        I wish we could help Syria. I have no idea how we could actually do it.

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        • Sastan says:

          This is the classic form.

          Everything in the ME is the west’s fault, because imperialism.

          Everything in the ME is the west’s fault, because of the lack of imperialism.

          Nothing in the ME is the inhabitant’s fault.

          Ever wilder conspiracies to somehow justify this ludicrous logic chain.

          Profit, because people love being told they aren’t to blame for what they are obviously to blame for.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Profit, because people love being told they aren’t to blame for what they are obviously to blame for.

            But they’re not selling this to the Middle East, they’re selling it to the West. So they really must enjoy being told they are to blame for something they’re not to blame for. (Of course, perhaps the customers don’t identify with the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.)

            Also, it’s perfectly possible that the Middle East’s problems have been partially caused both by imperialism and the lack of imperialism. These aren’t incompatible notions.

            As Ludwig von Mises once said in a different context (talking about inflation and deflation as both bad), you can injure a man by running over him with a tractor. But you can’t cure it by running the tractor back over him in reverse. Maybe imperialism was the equivalent of running over them with a tractor. And perhaps suddenly pulling out and setting up a patchwork of states with irrational borders was running the tractor in reverse.

            Or maybe what the Middle East needed was imperialism in some respects but anti-imperialism in others. But what it got was imperialism in the respects it needed anti-imperialism, and anti-imperialism in the respects it needed imperialism.

            Just pointing out that the argument here isn’t so clear-cut.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            I seem to remember a number of actions taken by the west that seem to have made things much, much worse in the ME. I think it’s entirely fair to argue that we’re at least partially responsible for how that region has turned out. Unfortunately, “we” includes the anti-colonialists, the socialists and the communists as well.

            I’m not familiar with Ibn Warraq. Could you recommend a good place to start with them?

            Vox Imperatoris – “Or maybe what the Middle East needed was imperialism in some respects but anti-imperialism in others.”

            This is pretty close to my own reading of history: a pursuit of ironclad idealism, come what may, would have worked out better in either framework. What happened instead was lazy half-assed attempts that devolve inevitably into naked exploitation.

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          • Randy M says:

            At the time of the Iraq war, I was convinced it was worthwhile on humanitarian grounds. I now regard it as folly, but I don’t doubt the veracity of the stories of Sadam. While I quite suspect the motives of the Americans and allies of being, at the least, varied, I don’t know what could have been done better to provide safety for the oppressed people of Iraq, especially accounting for the inevitable incompetance of the occupation governance.
            I doubt such interventions can do anything beyond claiming blame for the next generation of failures among the affected.

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          • Saal says:

            The major thing I took away from Scott’s Nutshell post was the concept of uncanny valleys, because it so perfectly encapsulates my feelings/beliefs(? feelings is probably the better word, as I’m no IR wonk) about the Middle East, and about military intervention in foreign policy in general: either go full on Ron Paul, or full on colonization. Either would be preferable in terms of lives lost, stability of the regions in question, quality of life of the people in the region, and effects on the intervening country than this hanky-panky bullshit that’s been the norm since Vietnam.

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          • Tarrou says:

            Ibn Warraq’s “Defending the West” is the book length rebuttal to Said’s “Orientalism”. The two are a great way to start a study of the issue.

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          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            This is, indeed, classic form – perfectly valid criticisms of West’s actions in the Middle East contributing to the general situation being brushed off with “Once again the West is blamed for EVERYTHING and the locals for NOTHING!” even though nothing of this sort was done.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Tarrou – Thanks, that’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for!

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      • NN says:

        I don’t know what article you read, but the one I read hardly consisted of jihadist apology and ignoring Muslim crimes against non-Muslims. For example:

        I am thinking not only of the horrific news and the still more horrific pictures from Syria and Iraq, where the Quran is held aloft at every act of barbarism and ‘Allahu akbar‘ is cried out at every beheading. In so many other countries too, indeed in most countries in the Muslim world, state authorities, state-associated institutions, theological schools and rebel groups all appeal to Islam as they oppress their own people, discriminate against women, and persecute, expel or massacre those with different ideas, religious beliefs or ways of life. Islam is invoked to justify stoning women in Afghanistan, murdering whole classes of schoolchildren in Pakistan, enslaving hundreds of girls in Nigeria, beheading Christians in Libya, shooting bloggers in Bangladesh, detonating bombs on marketplaces in Somalia, murdering Sufis and musicians in Mali, crucifying dissidents in Saudi Arabia, banning the most important works of contemporary literature in Iran, oppressing Shiites in Bahrain, and inciting violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Yemen.

        He places the primary blame not on the West, but Saudi Arabian Wahhabis, though he (rightly, in my eyes) criticizes the US for allying with Saudi Arabia. He never mentions the CIA, even where it would have been totally relevant to bring them up (for example, he talks about how the Iranian Shah imposed secularism by force in the 1920s and 1930s without mentioning the CIA’s role in recent Iranian history).

        Like FacelessCraven, I’m ambivalent about the criticisms of the West not intervening more strongly against Assad, but I don’t understand your reading of the article at all.

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        • I strongly agree– the article was about humane Islam getting lost because of the ill effects of Islamic fundamentalism (didn’t even mention Kim Philby’s father possibly having a piece of that) and harsh secularization by local governments.

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    • It’s a speech worth reading. I’m just pulling out one paragraph, which I guess goes to show that you find Moloch in more places than you might expect.

      Let me illustrate the loss of creativity and freedom in the context of my own field: there was a time when it was conceivable, and even taken for granted, that the Quran is a poetic text which can only be grasped using the tools and methods of literary studies, no differently than a poem. It was conceivable and taken for granted that a theologian was at the same time a literary scholar and an expert on poetry, and in many cases a poet himself. In our time, my own teacher Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd in Cairo was charged with heresy, driven from his university and even pronounced divorced from his wife because he conceived Quranic studies as a form of literary scholarship. In other words, an approach to the Quran which was once taken for granted, and for which Nasr Abu Zayd was able to cite the most important scholars of classical Islamic theology, is no longer even acknowledged as thinkable. Anyone taking such an approach to the Quran, even though it is the traditional one, is persecuted, punished and declared a heretic. And yet the Quran is a text that not only rhymes, but speaks in disturbing, ambiguous and enigmatic images; nor is it a book at all so much as a recitation, the score of a chant that moves its Arab listeners with its rhythm, onomatopoeia and melody. Islamic theology not only examined the aesthetic peculiarities of the Quran; it declared the beauty of its language to be the authenticating miracle of Islam. All over the Islamic world today, however, we can observe what happens when one ignores the linguistic structure of a text, when one no longer adequately understands or even acknowledges it: the Quran is degraded to a reference manual in which people look up arbitrary keywords using a search engine. The powerful eloquence of the Quran becomes political dynamite.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to keep smiling along as you suddenly realized that for weeks after school, your own son or daughter had been rehearsing songs that mocked both you and the job you were off working, which is why you’d been forced to entrust your kids to the after-school program in the first place.

    I love it when Blue Tribe members get a tiny glimpse into what it is like to be Red Tribe…. or, gasp!, religious….

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    • E. Harding says:

      Come off it. There are too many songs about God in school already. They all need to go.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I suppose I should be fair…. I’m very non-standard religious, so my experience may be even worse than the typical religious.

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      • Really? Which songs are those? The only one I can think of is the occasional Christmas carol, and even those were usually selected for secular inoffensiveness, at least at my school.

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        • E. Harding says:

          American school districts are highly localized; one is not immediately comparable to the other.

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          • Randy M says:

            That doesn’t actually answer the question, though. Can you name some other than “God bless America?” (which isn’t really about God, though it is ostensibly to God).

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          • Nicholas says:

            It’s not a song, but quotes from Corinthians are all over the public high school where I work and until someone complained a very One True Wayist quote from scripture was up in the main office.

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        • Chalid says:

          It’s not a song, but almost every American schoolchild pledges allegiance to “one nation, under god” every day.

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          • Sastan says:

            No, they don’t. My god, have any of you ever been to a school?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Sastan:

            Yes? And we did pledge allegiance to the flag every day.

            Granted, I went to a private school. But my sister went to a public school, and they did the same thing there.

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          • eccdogg says:

            Public school, Raleigh NC Kindergarten. My daughter says pledge every day.

            Just a data point.

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          • Chalid says:

            I said it every single day in public school. My wife says she said it every day in a religious private school.

            When I was in college I remember this came up in a discussion with people from all over the country from both private and public schools. The only American who hadn’t said it regularly went to a religious school. Granted this was a while ago.

            Wikipedia says all states except Iowa, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Vermont give time for the pledge to be recited as part of the school day.

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          • Randy M says:

            Maybe Sastan is objecting to the fact that they don’t actually say it? I was in several California schools over the past couple of years, and it was typically done with voluntary compliance. I mumbled along with the ~50% or so (for older students), though I feel the “republic” part is on sketchy grounds myself.

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          • Sniffnoy says:

            We said it every day when I was in public school (1994-2005), even at my Blue-Tribe magnet school. (I don’t recall whether we did at the Jewish private school I attended for two years.) I’ve never heard of a public school where refusing to say the pledge — or the teachers not even doing it — is routine rather than exceptional. Do you have an example?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Again, my school was not public (it wasn’t a religious school either; it was just the kind of private school which tries to be like a public school but better), so you can take this with a grain of salt, but everyone “said the pledge” in the sense that absolutely no one “conscientiously objected” in any prominent way.

            But sure, there was a lot of mumbling, as you’d expect from something kids have to do every day. And I did stop saying “under God” as I got older, but I didn’t make a fuss, and it’s not like you could really tell. It’s not like there’s some kind of overseer who will make sure you say every word every day.

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          • smocc says:

            @Sniffnoy

            My experience in the public high school in [rich town] in [very blue Eastern seaboard state] was that it was mostly routine to not say it. My memories are probably skewed by a whole host of factors, but I reckon that there was at least one kid in every class who wouldn’t stand, and plenty of others (up to half? I was certainly one for a while) who would stand but not recite. I don’t remember anyone doing anything more than mumbling.

            I’m not sure why I didn’t want to say it then, but I am still uncomfortable with the pledge despite being religious. The discomfort comes from performing religious-style rituals directed at a country instead of God. I like my country, but ritual pledges are for God, not an arbitrary collection of mortals with a pretty good charter.

            There was a perpetual divide at my religious university over whether to stop and place one’s hand over one’s hard when the campus flag was raised and lowered. Some of us hated the practice and I would argue (somewhat facetiously) that it was idolatrous, while others vehemently disagreed and felt that we were committing sacrilege, or something near it.

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          • DonBoy says:

            The recitation of the Pledge of Allegience was considered a Presidential-campaign-level issue in 1988.

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        • rossry says:

          At my public elementary school, I have a very explicit memory of The Battle Hymn of the Republic being “Patriotic Song of the Month” (presumably every year?), which meant that we sung it in music class a few times a week. At least until our long-tenured music teacher retired, along with Patriotic Songs of the Month.

          (And I attended school in what is probably one of the bluest school districts you could find outside of the Northeast / Bay Area.)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Seriously, I love the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. And I wrote a long post on reddit about its propagandistic message. It probably is the most morally-politically charged song of all time (or at least one of the top examples). Lyrics below, with additional articles pro and con at the link:

            [The] meaning [of the song] is nothing less than that the Civil War is a literal crusade: a holy war in which the United States fights with God’s blessing against the forces of Satan. Its camps are temples; its weapons spread the Gospel; its bullets express the wrath of God toward the wicked.

            The song originates with the spiritual “Oh! Brothers”: a simple song whose repeated lyrics were “Oh! Brothers, will you meet me? On Canaan’s happy shore.”

            Inspired by John Brown’s unsuccessful slave revolt in Virginia, which set a moral example to many abolitionists and was one of the proximate causes of the Civil War, Union soldiers changed the words to “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave; his soul is marching on.” The meaning is clear: the slaveholders could kill a man, but they could not kill the ideal for which he stood.

            Julia Ward Howe, a dedicated abolitionist, heard the Union soldiers singing “John Brown’s Body” and found it an inspiring tune, but she thought the sentiment behind it deserved to be expressed more eloquently.

            She did so in the following lyrics, which I quote below (my comments in italics). Note that the version performed in the link only sings (as is usual) verses one, two, and five.

            Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
            He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
            (This line is often subject to misinterpretation: it means that God is letting his wrath loose upon the world, not that he is eliminating wrath. It is also an oblique reference to a passage in the Bible where the prophet Isaiah sees the Messiah—identified by Christians with Jesus—with blood-soaked clothes from crushing the wicked like grapes in a winepress.)
            He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
            (Again, God has come down to earth to punish the wicked.)
            His truth is marching on.

            Chorus:
            Glory, glory, hallelujah!
            Glory, glory, hallelujah!
            Glory, glory, hallelujah!
            His truth is marching on.

            I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
            They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
            I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
            His day is marching on.
            (The “hundred circling camps” are, of course, those of the Union Army. These camps are holy sites serving God’s will, and the fact of their existence signifies that God has finally decreed the end of slavery in America.)

            Chorus

            I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
            “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
            (The light reflecting off Union bayonets spells out the word of God. The slaveholders have condemned God with their actions, and so the Union has been given God’s grace to deal with them.)
            Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
            Since God is marching on.
            (The “hero, born of woman” is, of course, Jesus. This passage identifies the Confederacy with Satan (“the serpent”) and suggests that God has at last come to enact his final judgment on him.)

            Chorus

            He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
            He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
            Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
            Our God is marching on.
            (This stanza makes no explicit reference to the war, but it continues the suggestion that judgment day is coming: the sin of slavery will no longer be tolerated. The time has come for the sinners to pay with their blood.)

            Chorus

            In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
            With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
            As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
            While God is marching on.
            (This stanza expresses the unity of Christ’s sacrifice with that of American soldiers fighting for freedom. This is the pure essence of the religious version of American Exceptionalism: the United States is not just a country which happened to be created; it is a central part of the Divine Plan. It is worth noting that modern renditions usually change the third line to “let us live to make men free.”)

            Chorus

            (He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
            He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
            So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
            Our God is marching on.)
            (This passage, present in the original manuscript, was left out of the first published version. Personally, I think it makes a more effective conclusion. It echoes the “glory” mentioned in the first line and firmly expresses the Christian idea that we are all the slaves of God—and, therefore, presumably, for a human to regard himself as his own master, let alone that of another, is an affront to God.)

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          • Chalid says:

            @Vox

            I love the song, too. I just want to point out one tiny flaw in your post:

            As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal

            “contemners” are people who commit contempt, not people who condemn.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Chalid:

            Hmm, thanks for pointing that out. That was…not quite a “typo” but not what I meant to say.

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          • Randy M says:

            I do love some of the poetry of that song, heedless though it was of just the toll its crusade would work. (The conditional conjuction of wrought is not nearly so heavy)

            Also, the use of “a-mouldering'” in a song always amuses me.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “This stanza makes no explicit reference to the war,”

            He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat is the war reference, I think.

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          • As I recall, we only sang the first verse of the Battle Hymn when I was in school (that would have been sometime between 1959 and 1971)– it was a infrequent thing.

            We also recited the pledge of allegiance every morning and (for at least part of my time in school– I can’t remember whether it ended) heard the 23rd psalm.

            The pledge didn’t have the effect intended on me– it just made me disgusted with normal people. How could they be stupid enough to believe that a coerced pledge would produce loyalty? I’m not sure how to convey the emotional effect– what I’ve said sounds angry, but the effect on me was closer to low-intensity despair.

            In retrospect, the 23rd psalm was mildly pleasant because of the nice prose, but it wasn’t as though it affected my beliefs.

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      • onyomi says:

        I think public schools need to go because they needlessly politicize education. If you force everyone to pay for a certain type of education you will never achieve agreement about what that type of education should be. If you let people keep their money and educate their own children then to each his own.

        And to those who will say I must want poor kids to be illiterate: okay, then why not vouchers or, even simpler a generalized BIG?

        Though I’m not a fan of government-funded welfare programs as a rule, food stamps still make a hell of a lot more sense than government-run grocery stores.

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        • alaska3636 says:

          Gary North wrote the other day that he thinks public education is basically welfare for the middle class. It transfers money to educators and administrators whose jobs aren’t worth nearly what they are paid, especially considering the advent of the internet. He makes some interesting observations on social security as well. Basically, it is all doomed.
          http://www.garynorth.com/public/14696.cfm
          Good article though.

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      • Nornagest says:

        Aside from Christmas carols, which strike my lifelong atheist self as effectively secular even when the lyrics are about the holy infant so tender and mild, I literally can’t think of any. Where did you go to school?

        My hometown’s curriculum did include a short course on comparative religion, in eighth grade which is fairly late as these things go, but it went to great pains to avoid the appearance of sanctioning any of the various faiths it covered. It was weak on the Dharmic side of things but that’s probably just because it’s hard to explain how that works to rural American children of average intelligence over a week or two.

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        • Evan Þ says:

          While we were covering the Puritans in my high school American history course, our teacher took one class period to give us a somewhat-detailed lecture on their theology and worldview to help us understand them better. I’m a Christian myself, and it was a very pleasant surprise. What was even more surprising was that he got Calvinistic theology completely right.

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          • Nornagest says:

            I have a memory of doing some homework on the major figures in the Genesis genealogy, probably intended to demonstrate the Christian and Jewish understanding of how the Jewish world grew out of the creation narrative. Harmless stuff; worthwhile from an anthropological perspective, but I’ve seen more ideologically slanted work in Lord of the Rings fandom.

            Anyway, my mother — who was and is some kind of New Age spiritual-but-not-religious type, and much pricklier about Christianity than I am — got ahold of it somehow, and reacted like she’d just found four years’ worth of Hustler under my mattress. She had to be talked down from calling the school and pulling me from the class. Even at the time, that struck me as kinda weird.

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    • Winter Shaker says:

      I got the impression that American schools were either a) public schools which are required to observe the constitutional separation of religion and government by being strictly neutral about religions and non-religion (and where they fail, the parts of the internet where I hang out have a lot more stories about school staff illegally pushing a religion than illegally pushing non-religion), or b) private schools which can have whatever religious ethos they want, but I get the impression that there are far more explicitly religious private schools than explicitly anti-religious private schools.

      But that might just be an artifact of the parts of the internet I hang out in (here in the UK, as far as I can tell, most state schools are nominally religious but don’t take it seriously enough for most non-religious parents to be bothered about).

      Are you saying that there is a particular problem of schools being actively hostile to religions, as opposed to merely maintaining a neutral stance?

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      • Slow Learner says:

        State schools in the UK still have a legal requirement to conduct acts of collective worship, of a primarily Christian character, daily.
        In practice as something not enforced by LEAs or Ofsted, most schools skip it and most people are surprised to learn about it.

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        • sweeneyrod says:

          In my experience, primary schools (4-11) tend to be mildly religious (singing the odd Christian song in assembly, old teachers who feel it is their duty to instil Christian values), but secondary schools aren’t at all (at least in my case), other than the explicitly Catholic or CofE ones.

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      • Jaskologist says:

        Some tend to implement “neutral stance” as “hostile to Christianity,” and more recently to supplement it with “friendly to Islam.”

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      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        The whole thing is just absurd because there is no such thing as a “neutral stance” on religion.

        If one sect says that God is the cause of everything that happens in the world and should therefore have a place in every lesson—but you don’t say anything about God—implicitly you are contradicting their faith by denying the importance of God.

        The only “neutral” system of public education is no system of public education—which, indeed, is the only “system” actually compatible with the Constitution. (But of course, liberty itself—and consequently, the American Constitution—is not “neutral” with regard to religion because not all religions endorse it, and many oppose it.)

        James Fitzjames Stephen made this exact point very presciently in the Victorian era:

        There are many subjects of legislation which directly and vitally interest all the members of religious bodies as such. Of these marriage, education, and the laws relating to religious endowments are the most prominent. Suppose, now, that the rulers of a nation were opposed to all religion, and were prepared to and did consistently legislate upon the principle that all religions are false. Suppose that in harmony with this view they insisted in every case on a civil marriage, and regarded it as the only one legally binding, although the addition of religious ceremonies was not forbidden; suppose that they confiscated all endowments for religious purposes, making provision for the life interests of the actual incumbents. Suppose that they legislated in such a way as to forbid all such endowments for the future, so as to render the maintenance of religious services entirely dependent on the temper of the existing generation. Suppose that, in addition to this, they were to organize a system of national education, complete in all its parts, from universities and special colleges for particular professions down to village day schools. Suppose that in all of these the education was absolutely secular, and that not a single shilling was allowed to be appropriated out of the public purse to the teaching of religion in any form whatever, or to the education of persons intended to be its ministers. No one, I think, will deny either that this would be coercion, or that it would be coercion likely to effect its purpose to a greater or less extent by means not in themselves productive of any other evil than the suppression of religion, which the adoption of these means assumes to be a good. Here, then, is a case in which coercion, likely to be effective at a not inadequate expense, is directed towards an end the goodness or badness of which depends upon the question whether religion is true or false. Is this coercion good or bad? I say good if and in so far as religion is false; bad if and in so far as religion is true. Mr. Mill ought, I think, to say that in every case it is bad, irrespectively of the truth or falsehood of religion, for it is coercion, and it is not self-protective.

        He goes on to talk about the situation in India:

        That this is not an impossible case is proved by the action of the British Empire in India, which governs, not indeed on the principle that no religion is true, but distinctly on the principle that no native religion is true. The English have done, and are doing, the following things in that country:

        1. They have forced upon the people, utterly against the will of many of them, the principle that people of different religions are to live at peace with each other, that there is to be no fighting and no oppression as between Mahommedans and Hindoos, or between different sects of Mahommedans.
        2. They have also forced upon the people the principle that change of religion is not to involve civil disabilities. The Act* by which this rule was laid down utterly changed the legal position of one of the oldest and most widespread religions in the world. It deprived Brahminism of its principal coercive sanction.
        3. They have set up a system of education all over the country which assumes the falsehood of the creed of the Hindoos and—less pointedly, but not less effectually—of the Mahommedans.
        4. Whenever religious practices violate European ideas of public morality up to a certain point, they have, as in the cases of Suttee and human sacrifices, been punished as crimes.
        5. They compel the natives to permit the presence among them of missionaries whose one object it is to substitute their own for the native religions, and who do, in fact, greatly weaken the native religions.

        And again on the impossibility of neutrality here:

        Not only are the varieties of morality innumerable, but some of them are conflicting with each other. If a Mahommedan, for instance, is fully to realize his ideal, to carry out into actual fact his experiment of living, he must be one of a ruling race which has trodden the enemies of Islam under their feet, and has forced them to choose between the tribute and the sword. He must be able to put in force the law of the Koran both as to the faithful and as to unbelievers. In short, he must conquer. Englishmen come into a country where Mahommedans had more or less realized their ideal, and proceed to govern it with the most unfeigned belief in the order of ideas of which liberty is the motto. After a time they find that to govern without any principles at all is impossible, though they think it would be very pleasant, and they are thus practically forced to choose between governing as Englishmen and governing as Mahommedans. They govern as Englishmen accordingly. To suppose that this process does not in fact displace and tend to subvert Mahommedan ideas is absurd. It is a mere shrinking from unpleasant facts.

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Moreover, in my opinion, the pursuit of an impossible “neutrality” with regard to religion in public education produces a large number of pernicious effects. Not the least of these is conscious avoidance of any systematic study of philosophy or ethics.

          If you stick merely to “descriptive facts”, you can try to maintain the (still completely absurd!) view that religion and science are “non-overlapping magesteria”; that in school we study what can be proven in logic, and religion, philosophy, and morality are outside that province. This is not only contrary to the teaching of many religious sects (such as Catholicism) which say that religion can be proven. More importantly, it encourages a general attitude of subjectivism toward all metaphysics and ethics, including those of the secular kind.

          In the attempt to be “neutral” between all religions and all philosophies, they end up implicitly teaching the view that no religion and no philosophy is true.

          In this respect, I suppose I do disagree with Fitzjames Stephen: the establishment of a national system of secular education does produce additional evils over and above the suppression of religion. But that is to be expected because Fitzjames Stephen was generally more in favor of moralistic legislation by the government than a libertarian like myself.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            From a scientific standpoint, that is not a bug: that is a feature. If it’s not testable/falsifiable, its truth cannot be established. If its truth cannot be established, it must be regarded as untrue, or at least not-true. (Is there a term in philosophy for what a database programmer would call a null pointer?) And it is unequivocally a subjective subject.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            That is less a “scientific standpoint,” and more a “logical positivist standpoint.” The inability to distinguish between the two is another of the pernicious effects of our public education.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            From a scientific standpoint, that is not a bug: that is a feature. If it’s not testable/falsifiable, its truth cannot be established. If its truth cannot be established, it must be regarded as untrue, or at least not-true.

            This is not science. This is logical positivism, which is a perversion of science. And no one in philosophy even believes in it anymore!

            It is a perfectly defensible, coherent, and (I think) true view that necessary truths can be established and proven just as well as contingent truths. The faculty by means of which we do this is reason, which operates on the basis of abstractions from sense experience.

            For instance, the question of whether God exists is not “unresolvable”. There are various arguments which purport to show that, on the basis of the empirical facts we observe, we can show that God must exist in order to cause those facts. The argument is: if God did not exist, these facts would not exist. But these facts do exist, therefore God exists.

            That’s perfectly “falsifiable” in non-positivistic terms. You “falsify” it by refuting the arguments, by showing where the logic does not hold up. And indeed I think those arguments are “falsified”, but that does not mean that the question is somehow “outside science”.

            It’s only “outside science” (and thus also outside of reason, philosophy, and debate) if the person says it’s merely a matter of a leap of faith which is arbitrary and unjustified. And even there, this kind of religious fideism is almost always backed up with allegedly rational arguments purporting to show the limits of reason and science, thus (in Kant’s words) “making room for faith”.

            And it is unequivocally a subjective subject.

            No, it is not “unequivocally” a subjective subject. For one, that view is self-refuting because if it were a “unequivocally a subjective subject”, that would itself be an objective fact about the subject.

            But the large number of metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical realists would certainly be inclined to dispute your characterization.

            Now, if you mean by “subjective” merely that the subject is difficult and that people will therefore tend to disagree, I agree completely. But the skeptical “argument from disagreement” does not and cannot show that there is no truth out there to be found, which is what “subjective” means in this context.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            If you will concede that in the sense you seem to be arguing, you could replace “God” with “superstrings,” and say that if string theory is science, God theory is science, I will concede that you are right. Both of them are science, or neither of them is.

            I am not required, however, to believe that either of them is, even if all the Cool Kids now agree that this is so.

            Incidentally, I don’t necessarily believe that Reality is scientific, even by my strict definition. This is not Dawkins-type hostility. This is just ordinary argument.

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          • Urstoff says:

            To be somewhat pedantic, that’s not quite logical positivism. It’s the internet-atheist kid’s table version of logical positivism. Logical positivism was primarily a semantic thesis: if a statement cannot be verified or tested, then it is not just false, but meaningless. Naturally, this criterion was continuously watered down because of difficulties with determining what it means to “test” or “verify” something. The natural endpoint of logical positivism that can still be called “logical positivism” is Carnap’s “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology”. This, of course, was soon replaced by post-positivism via Quine, Feyerabend, and others.

            What’s more common among people who think Neil deGrasse Tyson is really cool is a simplistic version of Popperian epistemology. That’s where falsification comes in (which is somewhat different than verification), which is an epistemological thesis, not a semantic one. The difference (on this pop version) between science and non-science is that scientific theories can be falsified and non-scientific theories can’t. Popper came to a more complicated version of this thesis by accepting the problem of induction: no observation can increase the credence we give to a hypothesis being true. Most people (including scientists) either don’t understand this point or miss it completely.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            It is a perfectly defensible, coherent, and (I think) true view that necessary truths can be established and proven just as well as contingent truths.

            Right, but criteria for truth/knowledge are “unequivocally subjective,” hence the emphasis I put on your very important disclaimer above.

            In other words, it may also be perfectly defensible, coherent, and true that the dichotomy between necessary truths and contingent truths is invalid. It could also be a defensible and coherent position that the concept of “truth” is inapplicable to the concept of knowledge — that knowledge is about the correspondence of patterns in different media, but that there is no possible correspondence that would be equivalent to the concept of “truth”. And there are of course many other possible views on the concept of “truth”

            And it’s not self-defeating or contradictory to describe something as “unequivocally subjective”. For example, color is unequivocally subjective — we cannot directly compare our internal perceptions of color, but we know that they almost certainly differ due to color blindness, lenses in the eye yellowing with age, etc. nonetheless due to the fact that color perception does have aspects or properties that are objective.

            For instance, the question of whether God exists is not “unresolvable”.

            Whether or not this is so depends on your (entirely subjective) criteria for determining truth. Under some systems of knowledge, it’s perfectly possible for the question to be unresolvable.

            You can argue that we shouldn’t use any of those systems of knowledge, but that’s a value judgment and as such unequivocally subjective.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            If you will concede that in the sense you seem to be arguing, you could replace “God” with “superstrings,” and say that if string theory is science, God theory is science, I will concede that you are right. Both of them are science, or neither of them is.

            They are both science in the sense that they both purport to be theories explaining the evidence available to us. It is, of course, completely possible that they are both bad science. But that only makes them not science in the sense that, if truth is a necessary requirement for something to be part of physics, there is only one physics and countless theories of pseudo-physics.

            I am not required, however, to believe that either of them is, even if all the Cool Kids now agree that this is so.

            You’re not legally required to believe it in any case.

            You’re only morally required to believe it if it has been shown to you in a way that you are epistemically justified in believing it, and I am completely prepared to accept that it hasn’t.

            Incidentally, I don’t necessarily believe that Reality is scientific, even by my strict definition. This is not Dawkins-type hostility. This is just ordinary argument.

            Well, one very common motive for wanting to fit “science” into a useless little box is a desire to believe in something that would be incompatible with science if it could make sweeping claims about the world.

            Jaskologist would probably be inclined to agree with me that the American system of education has a historical (and present, but no longer acknowledged) anti-Catholic bias, insofar as Protestantism tends to be fideist. Therefore, it’s very sympathetic to many Americans’ views to limit the role of reason to a tiny sphere in order to make substantial “room for faith”.

            Now, of course, motives are all irrelevant if indeed it is true that logical positivism is the correct theory of the limits of reason and science. But that’s precisely the tricky thing: how to establish the truth of logical positvism in a positivistic framework? If science is necessarily one thing and you know this on the basis of reason, by positivist lights you therefore can’t know a necessary truth on the basis of reason. It refutes itself in this way.

            There is a legitimate distinction between philosophy and what were once called the “special sciences”. But philosophy is still a type of science. The distinction is not in terms of fundamentally differing subject matter, or that one is subjective and the other objective.

            The distinction is that philosophy proceeds on the basis merely of such empirical evidence as is known to everyone, in order to reach general conclusions applicable to all fields. While physics or chemistry proceed only from that evidence obtained by rigorous experimentation in a “special” area—evidence that non-experts do not have—and make conclusions only about that subject matter. (And theology proceeds on the basis of what is allegedly known through revelations from God—thus accessible only to the people to whom the revelations have been given. Except for “natural theology” which is a subfield of philosophy and tries to say certain things about God through reason alone.)

            When I play up the importance of philosophy, I am not denying the importance of physics or chemistry. If you want to know how electrons behave, you have to go look at electrons; you can’t deduce the theory of how they behave from ordinary observations. On the other hand, philosophy can legitimately rule out scientific theories that contradict universal laws proven in philosophy. For instance, whatever you observe about electrons cannot somehow prove that the law of identity is not true. The special sciences can never contradict (properly done) philosophy; rather, they proceed on the basis of philosophy.

            The best they can do is prompt people to reconsider whether their philosophical conclusions really were correct in the first place. For instance, bad philosophy like “the orbits of the planets must be circular because a circle is the most perfect shape”. If that were really a philosophical truth, science would just have to find some way to show how the planetary orbits look elliptical but actually aren’t. But of course it isn’t actually a philosophical truth, and observations were able to lead people to check their hasty conclusions.

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          • The Anonymouse says:

            What’s more common among people who think Neil deGrasse Tyson is really cool

            Neil deGrasse Tyson is, in fact, really cool.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            Right, but criteria for truth/knowledge are “unequivocally subjective,” hence the emphasis I put on your very important disclaimer above.

            No, they are not “unequivocally subjective”. I am denying it; many people agree with me. It is therefore not unequivocal. What you actually mean is, “I think that the criteria for truth and knowledge are subjective.” Okay, you think that. You’re wrong. I think they’re not subjective; you think I’m wrong.

            The fact that people disagree about something does not prove that it is subjective. This is the skeptical “argument from disagreement”, and as one philosopher described it, it is “almost as widespread as it is fallacious”.

            I inserted the “(I think)” in my statement to show that I’m not expecting people to take it on my authority and that it is in fact disputed. But the fact that it is disputed does not show that there is no fact of the matter. Indeed, it suggests that there is a fact of the matter, or why would there be a dispute?

            In other words, it may also be perfectly defensible, coherent, and true that the dichotomy between necessary truths and contingent truths is invalid. It could also be a defensible and coherent position that the concept of “truth” is inapplicable to the concept of knowledge — that knowledge is about the correspondence of patterns in different media, but that there is no possible correspondence that would be equivalent to the concept of “truth”. And there are of course many other possible views on the concept of “truth”

            It could be a defensible and coherent position. But is it? That is precisely what I am disputing.

            Of course, defensible and coherent are matters of degree. There are many false things that are more defensible and coherent than other false things. But there is only one theory that is the most defensible and the most coherent.

            And it’s not self-defeating or contradictory to describe something as “unequivocally subjective”. For example, color is unequivocally subjective — we cannot directly compare our internal perceptions of color, but we know that they almost certainly differ due to color blindness, lenses in the eye yellowing with age, etc. nonetheless due to the fact that color perception does have aspects or properties that are objective.

            To say that color is subjective is to make an objective statement about it, an objective statement about its relationship to physics and biology. There is nothing in principle wrong with saying that some attributes of a phenomenon are objective and others are subjective. But to say philosophy as a whole is subjective is self-refuting, since this is an objective statement about philosophy.

            Also, color is not “subjective” is the sense people want to say truth is subjective; i.e. epistemically subjective. The same object may appear grey for one man and red for another. But it’s not a matter of opinion! It nevertheless is objectively grey for one and red for the other.

            The more precise term would be to say that color is perceiver-relative. Color is a product both of the properties of the object perceived and of the perceiver’s sensory apparatus. That doesn’t make it a matter of opinion, or a matter upon which we should expect people to have any disagreements.

            If they understand the facts, color-blind men don’t argue with normal-sighted men about whether the objects really are “intrinsically” grey or really are “intrinsically” red. They understand and accept that it’s objectively grey for one and objectively red for the other. Properly framed, their statements are: “This object is red/grey as perceived by my sensory apparatus,” and they do not conflict or disagree.

            This is the same as the concept “healthy”. What is healthy for one person is not the same as what is healthy for another. That doesn’t mean it’s a subjective matter of opinion. (And I believe a similar analysis could and does apply to ethics. What is ethically correct is agent-relative. But that’s not the same as subjectivism or “relativism”—which says that ethical standards are a matter of individual or cultural opinion.)

            You can argue that we shouldn’t use any of those systems of knowledge, but that’s a value judgment and as such unequivocally subjective.

            Value judgments are no more subjective than truths about anything else. It’s either a fact that we should use those systems of knowledge or it’s not. And that question is to be determined by reason and evidence.

            If it turns out that we have fundamentally differing values, there is no rational disagreement on what is the objectively appropriate value judgment. If you want to kill yourself, I can say that cyanide is a perfectly appropriate substance for you to ingest. While if I don’t, I can say that it is not appropriate for me to ingest.

            In the same way, if we want to live and successfully pursue values in this world, there is one theory of knowledge which is best suited to this purpose. What that system is, is a matter determined by investigation of the facts.

            But yes, if you don’t want to think, if you don’t want to employ the human faculty of reason, nothing forces you to do so. It is only that this will objectively have consequences that you may not like.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            Let me propose we move this either to the bottom of the comment thread (to regain threading) or the subreddit.

            First, addressing something in your response to Marc Whipple:

            The special sciences can never contradict (properly done) philosophy; rather, they proceed on the basis of philosophy.

            Compare to:

            But that only makes them not science in the sense that, if truth is a necessary requirement for something to be part of physics, there is only one physics and countless theories of pseudo-physics.

            You’re engaging in special pleading on behalf of philosophy that you explicitly reject with respect to science.

            I think this is an invalid move. Bad science can exist. Bad philosophy can exist. Science and philosophy interact in a messy, feedback-prone way, such that good science sometimes contradicts bad philosophy and the bad philosophy gets corrected on that account. In fact, I would argue that this happens more frequently than good philosophy being used to correct bad science.

            In fact, you concede that is the case, but your framing is rather weird “no true scotsman” approach to what qualifies as philosophy.

            No, they are not “unequivocally subjective”. I am denying it; many people agree with me. It is not therefore unequivocal. What you actually mean is, “I think that the criteria for truth and knowledge are subjective.” Okay, you think that. You’re wrong. I think they’re not subjective; you think I’m wrong.

            I think you are not really trying to understand my argument. That’s clear from this bit:

            The fact that people disagree about something does not prove that it is subjective. This is the skeptical “argument from disagreement”, and as one philosopher described it, it is “almost as widespread as it is fallacious”.

            It is perhaps a fallacious argument, but it is not the argument I actually made so it seems irrelevant to me.

            But there is only one theory that is the most defensible and the most coherent.

            Not true. There could be two or more theories that are equally defensible or coherent. There could also be a point on the coherence/defensibility ladder at which point they start trading off against each other, such that there is a theory which is more defensible than any other but not more coherent and a theory which is more coherent than any other but not more defensible. And, of course, depending on what “truth” is taken to mean, defensibility and coherence are not really a guide to truth, such that the most defensible and coherent theories could still be definitely false.

            To say that color is subjective is to make an objective statement about it, an objective statement about its relationship to physics and biology.

            Yes! The statement is objective! The phenomenon is still subjective and is clearly not identical to a statement about it!

            But to say philosophy as a whole is subjective is self-refuting, since this is an objective statement about philosophy.

            No, I can obviously make an objective statement about a subjective phenomenon. It may be false, but it is not self-refuting.

            But it’s not a matter of opinion!

            I don’t think “subjective” literally just means “a matter of opinion”.

            It nevertheless is objectively grey for one and red for the other.

            But the color of the perceived object is nonetheless subjective since the two do not agree on it — despite the fact that, eg, the frequency of the photons bouncing off it are objective. Or we can conclude that the concept of “color” has no validity outside of the domain of individual perception, but I think you’ll find it difficult to get a lot of people to sign on to that one.

            This is the same as the concept “healthy”. What is healthy for one person is not the same as what is healthy for another. That doesn’t mean it’s a subjective matter of opinion.

            But it is! Even allowing for the fact of individual variation in terms of health outcomes, different people can have different criteria or general standards for what constitutes health such that under one person’s standards Bob is quite healthy and under another person’s standards Bob is quite unhealthy. The same goes for “truth”!

            Value judgments are no more subjective than truths about anything else. It’s either a fact that we should use those systems of knowledge or it’s not. And that question is to be determined by reason and evidence.

            I disagree — I think value judgments are inherently subjective. Can you provide any sort of logical argument or evidence that “it’s either a fact that we should use those systems of knowledge or it’s not”? And, further, that it is a “question [that] is to be determined by reason and evidence”? (Hint: you will also need to prove that it is a question that can be determined by reason and evidence. Can reason and evidence determine values at all, or is Haidt correct about the emotional tail wagging the rational dog? I think the latter — on the basis of reason and evidence, no less!)

            In the same way, if we want to live and successfully pursue values in this world, there is one theory of knowledge which is best suited to this purpose. What that system is, is a matter determined by investigation of the facts.

            This is not prima facie true. It is unclear to me whether you are unaware that you are arguing by assertion in these last two quotes, or whether you think that these assertions are actually self evident. You certainly haven’t provided valid arguments for either.

            In fact, it seems quite likely to me that different theories of knowledge may be better suited to pursuing different values — that there isn’t necessarily one system of knowledge that suits all possible sets of values. At the very least, you’d need to make a hell of an argument to show this isn’t the case.

            And again, I’m curious whether any system of knowledge can be determined to be “better” than any other on the basis of “investigation of facts”. I think the adoption of a particular system of knowledge is necessarily a function of values (because it’s a question of what system of knowledge one ought to subscribe to).

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            Let me propose we move this either to the bottom of the comment thread (to regain threading) or the subreddit.

            I don’t think this is necessary. I’d rather the discussion be contained in the same place it originated. Every long discussion on this website ends up being unordered hierarchically like this.

            You’re engaging in special pleading on behalf of philosophy that you explicitly reject with respect to science.

            I think this is an invalid move. Bad science can exist. Bad philosophy can exist. Science and philosophy interact in a messy, feedback-prone way, such that good science sometimes contradicts bad philosophy and the bad philosophy gets corrected on that account. In fact, I would argue that this happens more frequently than good philosophy being used to correct bad science.

            In fact, you concede that is the case, but your framing is rather weird “no true scotsman” approach to what qualifies as philosophy.

            What exactly do you think I am doing wrong here? I find it impossible to follow your argument. How am I doing “special pleading” for philosophy or arguing against science?

            The point I made in regard to physics (there is only one physics and many theories of pseudo-physics) applies to philosophy just the same. I never denied this. I thought the point was obvious.

            Just what is my “no true Scotsman” approach here? There are two ways to think about both science and philosophy: the way that only includes theories that are true, and the way that includes theories that purport to be true. Usually, we operate on the basis of the latter. We don’t say that Newton was “not doing physics” because he wasn’t one-hundred percent correct.

            I think you are not really trying to understand my argument. That’s clear from this bit:

            […]

            It is perhaps a fallacious argument, but it is not the argument I actually made so it seems irrelevant to me.

            I am trying to understand you. Accusations of unfairness are, I think, unwarranted here.

            But you didn’t really make an argument that these matters are subjective in your first post, so what exactly was I supposed to respond to? I merely responded to the most common argument that they are subjective: the fact that nobody agrees.

            Not true. There could be two or more theories that are equally defensible or coherent. There could also be a point on the coherence/defensibility ladder at which point they start trading off against each other, such that there is a theory which is more defensible than any other but not more coherent and a theory which is more coherent than any other but not more defensible. And, of course, depending on what “truth” is taken to mean, defensibility and coherence are not really a guide to truth, such that the most defensible and coherent theories could still be definitely false.

            I do not actually believe in the coherence theory of truth. I believe in the correspondence theory of truth.

            But coherence and defensibility are signs that a theory corresponds to the facts, since reality is coherent and can’t be “objected to”. And yes, if coherence is interpreted in a simplistic way, many false things are “coherent”, but such ideas are not very defensible.

            If the most defensible theories are false, this would be a bad situation, since it would mean that reason is not capable of knowing the truth. Nevertheless, it is an axiom of rational investigation and debate that reason is capable of knowing the truth. That is, that reason is a faculty of knowledge and not merely a inventor of lies.

            Yes! The statement is objective! The phenomenon is still subjective and is clearly not identical to a statement about it!

            Yes, I agree. Well, besides the fact that color is not subjective in the sense meant here.

            No, I can obviously make an objective statement about a subjective phenomenon. It may be false, but it is not self-refuting.

            How can you make an objective statement within a discipline that is totally subjective—as, in your view—philosophy apparently is?

            Even if color were subjective in this sense, we can make objective statements about it because biology is not subjective. But if philosophy is subjective, you cannot make objective statements about epistemology: such as the statement that truth is subjective.

            I don’t think “subjective” literally just means “a matter of opinion”.

            What do you think it means? I think this is the root of our apparent disagreement: confusion about the meaning of terms.

            I think it means, in the epistemic context, that there is no fact of the matter upon which different people can agree. Which does not apply to, for instance, color: as there is an objective fact about which colors are produced by which sensory apparatus.

            But the color of the perceived object is nonetheless subjective since the two do not agree on it — despite the fact that, eg, the frequency of the photons bouncing off it are objective. Or we can conclude that the concept of “color” has no validity outside of the domain of individual perception, but I think you’ll find it difficult to get a lot of people to sign on to that one.

            Yes, the concept of “color” has no validity outside the domain of perception. It’s absurd to say, “What color is a stop sign, independent of any means of perceiving color?” There is no such thing as “intrinsic” color because color is not a fundamental constituent of reality but a product of more basic forces operating on the human means of perception.

            As for the wavelengths of light, a) those are the causes of color, not the same thing as color, and b) you will note that color-blind and normal men don’t disagree on the wavelengths of light.

            That doesn’t mean color is “not real” or “subjective”. It’s a completely real and objective fact about how people perceive things.

            But it is! Even allowing for the fact of individual variation in terms of health outcomes, different people can have different criteria or general standards for what constitutes health such that under one person’s standards Bob is quite healthy and under another person’s standards Bob is quite unhealthy. The same goes for “truth”!

            Of course they can have different standards. The question is which standards are right.

            I disagree — I think value judgments are inherently subjective. Can you provide any sort of logical argument or evidence that “it’s either a fact that we should use those systems of knowledge or it’s not”? And, further, that it is a “question [that] is to be determined by reason and evidence”? (Hint: you will also need to prove that it is a question that can be determined by reason and evidence. Can reason and evidence determine values at all, or is Haidt correct about the emotional tail wagging the rational dog? I think the latter — on the basis of reason and evidence, no less!)

            Can I validate all of philosophy and ethics in one post? No. But I will give the basic structure of it.

            Values work just the same as knowledge. In knowledge, in order to prove something, you show that it is implied by something more evident. If you’re not going to going end up with a circle or an infinite regress, that means you have to start with certain facts that are self-evident: i.e. that are just obvious and cannot coherently be denied. These include (but are not limited to), in my view, that reality exists, that one is aware of it, and that a thing is the same as itself.

            Now, there is no such thing as an axiom that literally cannot be denied. There’s no cosmic law against denying axioms. So there is no such thing as completely acontexual, absolute, Cartesian-type knowledge. There is only the type of knowledge actually achievable by human beings—or any finite being—knowledge which is justified in the context of one’s own experience.

            The same goes for values. One does something either because one wants it as an end in itself or because it is justified on the basis of some deeper value. In the same way, if you don’t have a circle or an infinite regress, you end up with an ultimate value which is valued in itself and not for anything higher or deeper.

            There is no epistemic subjectivity here. And this is true even if there is no one ultimate value which everyone must or does share in common. If one person pursues death and as ultimate value and another pursues happiness as an ultimate value, they only disagree on whether something like cyanide is “valuable” or “good” if their disagreement is not properly framed.

            It’s just like color. It’s red to whom and by what mode of perception? And cyanide is good for whom and for what purpose?

            The disagreement arises in two ways: one unavoidable and resolvable, the other avoidable and unresolvable (if not avoided). The unavoidable way (unavoidable because people inevitably have different contexts of experience), resolvable by reason and evidence, is when people disagree on what cyanide does. One person thinks it heals; another thinks it poisons.

            The avoidable and irrational (and therefore unresolvable by reason) way is when people say that whether it’s “good” or “valuable” is some kind of intrinsic thing separate from for whom and for what. But that arises merely because they have a vague and confused concept of “good”. Just as color-blind and normal people can disagree on colors when they have a vague and confused concept of what color is.

            (There are, of course, realists who disagree with my account of values. For instance, you can read Michael Huemer’s Ethical Intuitionism for one. He thinks that values are “intrinsic” in the way I argued colors are not. Nevertheless, we both think that there is a matter of fact on the subject of value.)

            This is not prima facie true. It is unclear to me whether you are unaware that you are arguing by assertion in these last two quotes, or whether you think that these assertions are actually self evident. You certainly haven’t provided valid arguments for either.

            Of course I wasn’t arguing for everything I said there. It would take a whole book. The point was to indicate that some people disagree with regard to the subjectivity.

            In fact, it seems quite likely to me that different theories of knowledge may be better suited to pursuing different values — that there isn’t necessarily one system of knowledge that suits all possible sets of values. At the very least, you’d need to make a hell of an argument to show this isn’t the case.

            And again, I’m curious whether any system of knowledge can be determined to be “better” than any other on the basis of “investigation of facts”. I think the adoption of a particular system of knowledge is necessarily a function of values (because it’s a question of what system of knowledge one ought to subscribe to).

            The crucial difference between axioms of knowledge and ultimate values is that there is no reason we can’t have different ultimate values. But there is only one reality to know. You can’t “reject my reality and substitute your own”.

            This is just self-evident and axiomatic. It is backed up all the time by experience, by the fact that wishing doesn’t make it so, by the fact that even if you believe you won’t die if you jump into a pit of boiling oil, you will still die.

            If there is one reality, there is one theory that best describes it.

            And none of this is to deny that there may be multiple good systems of pedagogy for different sorts of people. Maybe some people are “auditory learners” and others are “visual learners”. Whatever. They are learning in a different way; they are not learning about a different thing.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            I wrote a reply. It was too long and it was dropped. I lost all the text so I’m going to leave a lot out of this reply.

            I am trying to understand you. Accusations of unfairness are, I think, unwarranted here.

            My argument (which I really did make, honest!) was that systems of knowledge are subjective because they are questions of what one ought to believe and thus cannot be based on facts — one must appeal to a person’s values and show them why they should want to subscribe to a particular system of knowledge. But some people might have values such that they don’t want to subscribe to your system of knowledge. You cannot change their preferences by reference to facts — because it is a question of what they ought to value. You have to appeal to some other values that they also hold.

            This is different from saying “people disagree therefore subjective”. This is “cannot be established on the basis of facts about the world therefore subjective”.

            If the most defensible theories are false, this would be a bad situation, since it would mean that reason is not capable of knowing the truth. Nevertheless, it is an axiom of rational investigation and debate that reason is capable of knowing the truth. That is, that reason is a faculty of knowledge and not merely a inventor of lies.

            But if I’m arguing that truth is subjective and you assume as an axiom that it is not then you are really begging the question. Actually, I think “truth” is an abstraction that becomes insensible if you push it too far. I believe in something more like a “correspondence theory of good enough”.

            How can you make an objective statement within a discipline that is totally subjective—as, in your view—philosophy apparently is?

            Exactly the same way that I can make a stochastic model with deterministic elements despite the apparent contradiction in meaning between “stochastic” and “deterministic”. A phenomenon that is subjective at scale may have components which are objective if you zoom in a little.

            I think it means, in the epistemic context, that there is no fact of the matter upon which different people can agree. Which does not apply to, for instance, color: as there is an objective fact about which colors are produced by which sensory apparatus.

            But there is no objective fact of the matter about “what color is object X”. The color of any particular object (every particular object) is a subjective phenomenon, even if the phenomenon of color objectively exists. I agree you can say objective things about it — that’s basically my whole point in bringing it up.

            That doesn’t mean color is “not real” or “subjective”.

            I have not in any way used “subjective” as a synonym for “not real”.

            Can I validate all of philosophy and ethics in one post? No. But I will give the basic structure of it.

            I fundamentally disagree with you about the nature of both knowledge and values.

            There is no epistemic subjectivity here. And this is true even if there is no one ultimate value which everyone must or does share in common. If one person pursues death and as ultimate value and another pursues happiness as an ultimate value, they only disagree on whether something like cyanide is “valuable” or “good” if their disagreement is not properly framed.

            I agree that we can reconcile the difference the two have over the value of “cyanide”. But how can we reconcile the difference in the value of “life”? It seems very strange to concede that two people might have such opposing values and nevertheless conclude that there is nothing subjective about values.

            The crucial difference between axioms of knowledge and ultimate values is that there is no reason we can’t have different ultimate values. But there is only one reality to know. You can’t “reject my reality and substitute your own”.

            I think this is where our fundamental disagreement lies. Not that I disagree that there is one reality. But I think you’re putting the epistemic cart before the horse.

            I can’t “reject your reality” because you don’t have a reality. You don’t have direct access to reality. All you have are your perceptions of reality, and I can certainly reject those.

            So you can have a system of knowledge that does a great job of explaining your perceptions of reality. But you can’t demonstrate that it does an equally great job of explaining my perceptions of reality. And therefore, even if you make a great, airtight case for how well your system of knowledge explains your perceptions of reality, that does not imply that your system of knowledge will explain my perceptions of reality well at all.

            No one has the bird’s eye view. We get our view of reality through intersubjectivity, not “true” objectivity. And you can only ever be sure that your system of knowledge describes your perceptions since you do not have access to either reality or other people’s perceptions of reality.

            Therefore, which system of knowledge is best is necessarily a subjective judgment. (It is also a value judgment since it’s not clear what criteria there are for how “well” a particular system of knowledge explains a particular set of perceptions.)

            Edit: Objective refers to phenomena whose nature can be derived through intersubjective comparison of perceptions. Subjective refers to phenomena whose nature cannot be derived through intersubjective comparison of perceptions. “Color” in the ontological mode in which I was using it must be subjective because color perceptions cannot be intersubjectively compared at all.

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          • Deiseach says:

            If it’s not testable/falsifiable, its truth cannot be established.

            Okay, let’s take something I learned in English class back when I going to school:

            “My love is like a red, red rose”

            Question: Burns states a human female is very similar to a particular plant. Is this true or false?

            Test: Observation of human females

            Result: None of the subjects had leaves, thorns, stems, were green or bright red in colour

            Conclusion: This claim has been falsified. This is an untrue statement and should not be included in the school curriculum. Grammar, spelling and the manual practice of handwriting are the only elements of the class that agree with sound scientific principles of falsification and testability.

            There we go! Problem posed and solved! That the kind of thing you mean? 🙂

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Deiseach:

            From a scientific point of view, Mr. Burns’ love is like a red, red rose in some ways, and not in others.

            Inasmuch as he claims they are like a red, red rose in testable/falsifiable ways*, those claims are scientific, and can be evaluated objectively. From a scientific point of view, they are either true or false. You do of course have the problems addressed by post-positivism in regard to what you can know and to what level of certainty you can know it, but within those limits, in consistent and reproducible ways, we can evaluate the claims objectively.

            Inasmuch as he claims they are like a red, red rose in ways which are not testable/falsifiable, they are not scientific, and can only be evaluated subjectively. You could evaluate his logic, or his sincerity, but not the “truth” of his claims, from a scientific point of view.

            That does not mean that from a literary, spiritual, metaphorical or romantic point of view that they are not “true.” And I have zero objection to teaching children about the ideas of literary, spiritual, metaphorical or romantic (relative/subjective) truth. In fact, I think it’s a great idea.

            *They’re both made of baryonic matter. They are both multicellular organisms. They both reproduce sexually. They are both native to Terra. I could probably come up with dozens if not hundreds of ways they are similar to some degree before I even had to stop typing long enough to think.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            I wrote a reply. It was too long and it was dropped. I lost all the text so I’m going to leave a lot out of this reply.

            I’m sorry about that. It’s happened to me before. In the future, I recommend selecting your entire post and copying it to the clipboard before you submit it here. There are several causes of posts being “eaten” here: too long, posting too often, contravening the unmentioned word filter, and maybe more.

            My argument (which I really did make, honest!) was that systems of knowledge are subjective because they are questions of what one ought to believe and thus cannot be based on facts — one must appeal to a person’s values and show them why they should want to subscribe to a particular system of knowledge. But some people might have values such that they don’t want to subscribe to your system of knowledge. You cannot change their preferences by reference to facts — because it is a question of what they ought to value. You have to appeal to some other values that they also hold.

            This is different from saying “people disagree therefore subjective”. This is “cannot be established on the basis of facts about the world therefore subjective”.

            Okay, that makes sense. This was not at all clear to me from what you wrote the first time.

            In a certain sense, I agree that “the will is prior to the intellect”. You have to choose to live and to think, and there can’t be a reason to think, i.e. to use the human capacity of reason.

            On the other hand, you don’t get to set up your own reality, and if you fail to use reason to learn about reality—well, there is no other way. These supposed alternative means of revealed knowledge do not impart anything and fail to achieve the goals people actually do want to achieve.

            But if I’m arguing that truth is subjective and you assume as an axiom that it is not then you are really begging the question. Actually, I think “truth” is an abstraction that becomes insensible if you push it too far. I believe in something more like a “correspondence theory of good enough”.

            It is an axiom of rational discussion. If you’re not willing to accept that there is some truth of the matter on which we could in principle agree, there is nothing that I could say to you and nothing you could say to me.

            At that point, and if we disagreed on anything important, we would just have to resort to hitting one another with clubs.

            But the fact that, if one does not choose to be rational, one cannot be convinced by reason, does not mean that the conclusions of reason are “subjective”.

            I do not believe that I am the member of a special elect to whom the concept of knowledge is revealed, and that you are not. I believe that what is obvious to me would be obvious to you, too, if you are honest (as I presume you are) and were exposed to the right arguments.

            I have no idea what you mean by the assertion that “‘truth’ is an abstraction that becomes insensible if you push it too far.”

            Exactly the same way that I can make a stochastic model with deterministic elements despite the apparent contradiction in meaning between “stochastic” and “deterministic”. A phenomenon that is subjective at scale may have components which are objective if you zoom in a little.

            But you can’t do what you are describing! I assume you are talking about chaos theory or something?

            Well, it is a deterministic theory. Fully deterministic. It is not stochastic at all.

            However, the mechanism by which the determination happens is very complex. Therefore, it is often simpler to model the outcomes stochastically. Nevertheless, that is only a simplification and a distortion. In reality—insofar as reality corresponds to chaos theory—the outcomes are determined.

            I don’t know how you analogize this to philosophy being subjective and yet also objective. If you can make that clearer, I’ll respond. But it is totally unclear to me.

            But there is no objective fact of the matter about “what color is object X”. The color of any particular object (every particular object) is a subjective phenomenon, even if the phenomenon of color objectively exists. I agree you can say objective things about it — that’s basically my whole point in bringing it up.

            Again, these are two different meanings of “subjective”.

            The experience of color is an ontologically subjective phenomenon in that it exists only within individual minds. Nevertheless, it is an epistemically objective fact that this is so, and one can say with a reasonable degree of certainty what color another person is ontologically-subjectively experiencing. One can do this by appealing to known facts in biology and physics, as well as—to bridge the gap between ontologically-objective science and ontologically-subjective experience—to the principle that a similar cause ought to produce a similar effect.

            I have not in any way used “subjective” as a synonym for “not real”.

            Not everything I respond to is something I take you as having said. I have to be able to elaborate my point and pre-emptively address misunderstandings.

            I agree that we can reconcile the difference the two have over the value of “cyanide”. But how can we reconcile the difference in the value of “life”? It seems very strange to concede that two people might have such opposing values and nevertheless conclude that there is nothing subjective about values.

            Again, this is the difference between values being relative and values being subjective.

            You could, in principle, program an artificial intelligence to value only to maximization of the total quantity of paperclips. In such a case, it would be an objective fact that paperclips are the ultimate value for it. It would know that. You would know that. Everyone would know that.

            Or suppose that there were a race of vampires that needed to murder humans to live. The subjugation of humanity would be an objective value for the vampires. The eradication of the vampires would be an objective value of humanity.

            But there would be no disagreement on value judgments. Humans and vampires would both agree that each was objectively correct to value victory against the other. Vampires are right that the ultimate value for vampires is subjugation of humanity. Humans are right that the ultimate value for humans is the eradication of vampires.

            I can’t “reject your reality” because you don’t have a reality. You don’t have direct access to reality. All you have are your perceptions of reality, and I can certainly reject those.

            So you can have a system of knowledge that does a great job of explaining your perceptions of reality. But you can’t demonstrate that it does an equally great job of explaining my perceptions of reality. And therefore, even if you make a great, airtight case for how well your system of knowledge explains your perceptions of reality, that does not imply that your system of knowledge will explain my perceptions of reality well at all.

            My perceptions of reality are perceptions of reality. Not fantasies or inventions.

            And everything I experience points toward the view that you exist in the same reality. Hell, if I’m making it all up, I’m making you up too, and the “you” that talks to me on the internet should at least exist in my reality.

            How are basic concepts like “existence”, “consciousness”, and “identity” defined? Ostensively: i.e. by pointing at something and waiting until I see that you recognize what I am talking about. If I added up two and two over and over, and you kept saying “obviously it’s five”, and there were no way we could resolve this, then we would have a problem. But the real world isn’t like that.

            No one has the bird’s eye view. We get our view of reality through intersubjectivity, not “true” objectivity. And you can only ever be sure that your system of knowledge describes your perceptions since you do not have access to either reality or other people’s perceptions of reality.

            Therefore, which system of knowledge is best is necessarily a subjective judgment.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “true” objectivity. I suspect it is what Ayn Rand called “intrinsicism”, the idea that we can or should be able to know “reality as it is in itself”.

            No, obviously I can only know reality as I perceive it. But that is nevertheless reality. What you are saying is that the very fact that I have eyes, i.e. a specific mode of perceiving reality, makes me unable to see.

            So yeah, no one has the “bird’s eye view” or the “God’s eye view”. Neither does anyone need it. If knowledge were defined as something inherently impossible to have, well, that would be a bad definition of knowledge.

            I do not use the term “intersubjectivity”. There is a perfectly good word called “objectivity” which refers to what “intersubjectivity” legitimately refers to: the idea that there is one reality that is the common cause of all of our experiences, and that we can therefore compare our experiences and learn from one another. And most importantly, that reality is perceived, not created.

            Edit: Objective refers to phenomena whose nature can be derived through intersubjective comparison of perceptions. Subjective refers to phenomena whose nature cannot be derived through intersubjective comparison of perceptions. “Color” in the ontological mode in which I was using it must be subjective because color perceptions cannot be intersubjectively compared at all.

            Yes, as I said above, color is ontologically subjective.

            Wait, is all you meant that knowledge is ontologically subjective? I don’t actually think so, but that would make this discussion a shocking waste of time. Knowledge is obviously ontologically subjective, in that it exists in individual minds and I can’t peer into your mind to see what you’re thinking.

            But just like with color, that does not show that knowledge is epistemically subjective. The relevant question there is: do our minds perceive reality, or do they “create” a subjective world of whim and fantasy which is not inhabited by anyone else? And in that sense, I say it is objective.

            Edit: I should add that everything you say here is completely irrelevant to the main point, i.e. whether philosophy is a type of science. What you say invalidates physics and chemistry just as well as epistemology. I think you recognize that, though.

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          • Nicholas says:

            To answer a semantic point:
            Null points in Philosophy of Logic are just False because being False doesn’t mean being false it means being Not True and True means true, that’s the ordinary meaning one. Null points aren’t false, but they are False, because null points aren’t true so they aren’t True. Around the time we started to think that False meaning false+ might be a problem systems of definition fell out of fashion for a bit and to the best of my knowledge never picked up again in a trendy way.

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        • Muga Sofer says:

          Holy shit. This is us, right? We live in a thought experiment?

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Bostrom argued that if universe simulations are possible, they are so common that we are most likely in one. What he missed was that we know thought experiments are possible, and that they are even more common.

            VI has done us the favor of locating exactly which thought experiment we reside in.

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        • Winter Shaker says:

          The whole thing is just absurd because there is no such thing as a “neutral stance” on religion

          Okay, but you know what I meant – the effort to avoid taking sides so far as possible – avoiding promoting any particular religion or denomination as the correct one, or disparaging it as false. The sort of thing a bunch of representatives of different religious viewpoints would come up with if each of them knew that, if it came to a fight, their viewpoint would probably lose.

          The khaki-coloured Anonymous at the top of this thread made a direct comparison between ‘tech workers having their children indoctrinated against tech workers by their school’ and ‘being religious’. This is a fair comparison if schools are routinely indoctrinating children against religions (or at least, against their parents’ religions), but an unfair one if schools are merely doing their level best not to take sides.

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          • Deiseach says:

            an unfair one if schools are merely doing their level best not to take sides.

            From the news reports I see on the struggles in American schools over this, it generally seems not to be the schools themselves so much as duelling parents on both sides over “That nasty Biology teacher wouldn’t let my little Jenny read her Bible verses against that Theory of Evolution”/”That crackpot nut they permit to teach English mentioned the Bible in class when discussing Shakespeare and explaining some reference to God in one of the plays”, both of them demanding “I want him fired immediately!”

            Where schools – or rather, the administrations – do institute silly policies is because they seem to be afraid if they don’t have a proactive policy in place, they’ll fall foul of some third party with no kids at the school but a bee in their bonnet over church and state separation who will get the ACLU to threaten to sue if the school doesn’t immediately drop all references to a “Christmas Pageant” because “Christmas” is a religious term and this means public money is being used to indoctrinate the kids to burn heretics and gays and witches at the stake.

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          • Anthony says:

            Deiseach, you’re pretty much right. It’s one of the “glories” of the American system that one troublemaker brave individual can screw up change so much through clever use of the courts.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Anthony:

            I do not dispute what you say for a moment, but consider…

            I am a licensed attorney and I have a PACER account*. I have on more than one occasion simply sat and stared at the home screen for it, thinking, “The amount of havoc I could wreak with this thing is almost beyond comprehension.”

            Sure, after a few weeks they’d figure out what was going on and kill all my filings, and I’d go to jail. But a really clever lawyer, who wasn’t above complete and total fabrication, could do a LOT of damage in a very short time. One of the best signs that the system is not totally out of control is that this does not happen.

            *For those reading who don’t know, a PACER account is a login for the electronic records and filing system of the US Federal Courts. It can be found at pacer.gov. Interestingly, you don’t have to be an attorney to get an account, but if you’re not one, many of the most havoc-wreaking kinds of things you could do will not work.

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          • Winter Shaker says:

            Are the ACLU even able to do that? Sue the school even if there is no plaintiff actually at the school? I thought they had to scout around for someone actually still studying there to be the person named in the court papers.

            Anyway, it’s a messy one; all else being equal, I agree that having some sort of Christmassy things in schools is not something to worry about (as long as those who do not wish to are not made to actively participate), and that it is silly to complain about teachers talking about gods in a literature class (as long as they are not trying to push the position that those gods actually exist).

            But… there seems to be a lot of people who simply cannot play nice and accept that they have no moral right to have a school impose their particular religious viewpoint on all students: witness the barrage of hate directed against people like Jessica Ahlquist – even if having a Christian ‘school prayer’ on the wall is a small thing to get worked up about in itself, the fact that so many people are willing to level so much harassment against someone who correctly points out that this implicitly disparages student who do not hold to the locally dominant religious position is something to get worked up about, and for that reason I’d say that for people in that sort of position, having a legally enforceable strict religious neutrality policy is probably worth foregoing a few carols for.

            That said, I was basically an apatheist at school myself – though the religious teaching we got never made sense as such, I simply hadn’t given the matter enough thought to be able to reject the god hypothesis from a reasoned position – and while praying was something boring that had to be endured, so were rugby practice and maths lessons. And at least being in the choir meant that you sometimes got to skip a rugby session or equivalent.

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          • I am reminded of Steve Landsburg’s account of two encounters he had with religion in his daughter’s schools. The first time it was Christianity. He objected, and the teacher apologized–it really had not occurred to her that her beliefs were not shared by everyone.

            The second time it was environmentalism, preaching our duty to our mother Earth. That time the response of the teacher was indignation. How could he object to her teaching obvious obvious truth?

            Distinguishing what ideological systems are or are not religions isn’t easy. I like to argue that, on the strong modern interpretation of separation of church and state, a public school system is unworkable, since it isn’t possible to educate people without taking positions on what are essentially religious questions. Teaching that a religion is false is no more neutral than teaching that it is true.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            Teaching that a religion is false is no more neutral than teaching that it is true.

            Ah, but when ‘the state’ stays out of the ‘fetus is a person’ debate, that means the state ‘is accepting/believes’ the non-religious side. /sarc

            ETA. I think David sometimes sounds like he’s using motivated reasoning, when in fact it’s just playfulness. (Or motivated by playfulness, if you prefer.)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ houseboatsonstyx:

            Ah, but when ‘the state’ stays out of the ‘fetus is a person’ debate, that means the state ‘is accepting/believes’ the non-religious side. /sarc

            This is another obvious example of where “religious neutrality” is not possible.

            Regardless of how much people would like it to be otherwise, the state can either govern on the view that abortion is murder, or it can govern on the view that it is not murder.

            The same would apply to any anarcho-capitalist protection agencies, as well.

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          • Winter Shaker says:

            Regardless of how much people would like it to be otherwise, the state can either govern on the view that abortion is murder, or it can govern on the view that it is not murder.

            Even there, though, if there are reasons for banning abortion that do not depend on the existence or non-existence of any gods, a state that was as neutral as practically possible would be able to give those reasons a fair hearing. And the people who do support an abortion ban solely because of religious reasons would be able to avail themselves of the non-religious reasons in their efforts to change the law.

            I don’t dispute that there is no prospect of a truly transcendental neutrality, but it still seems to be fairly obvious that some positions are far more sides-taking than others, and therefore it ought to be possible to reach a practical maximally neutral position, and that the US constitution is a lot closer to that than it would be if it mandated, say, that everyone had to either be a Sunni Muslim or pay an extra tax.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            We had communist countries ban abortion. Unfortunately it turns out the good reasons are ‘we need you to have more kids’.

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        • The whole thing is just absurd because there is no such thing as a “neutral stance” on religion.

          If one sect says that God is the cause of everything that happens in the world and should therefore have a place in every lesson—but you don’t say anything about God—implicitly you are contradicting their faith by denying the importance of God.

          The only “neutral” system of public education is no system of public education”

          ..assuming education must teach a complete and coherent (no contradictions) set of facts> That leaves you only the option of saying nothing to achieve neutrality. Without that asssumption, you can “teach the debate”. explain the fact that these people believe X an d those people believe Y.

          ” They have forced upon the people, utterly against the will of many of them, the principle that people of different religions are to live at peace with each other”

          Keeping people from each others’ throats is what governments do. It’s weird to call it compulsion. Do you want to be free to be murdered?

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      • anonymous says:

        An increased risk of developing a martyr complex is an unfortunate hazard of worshiping someone that was crucified by the Powers That Be.

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  11. Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

    >Kevin Drum in Mother Jones is the first liberal I’ve seen who really wants to take a loud public stand that ending the drug war has major costs and might not be a great idea. His argument: moderate liberalization of OxyContin prescribing practices over the past few decades probably contributed to an epidemic of Oxy overdose killing tens of thousands of people, and we would expect full legalization of everything to do even more. Given what I’ve been researching the past week, I’m especially grateful for his pointing out that OxyContin abuse kills three times more people than gun homicides yearly.

    Am I the only one for whom all these news sites are blending together?

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  12. bluto says:

    In gender discrimination experiments, there is significant favouritism towards the opposite gender.

    Relating to this, I’ve noticed that most ice cream shop employees give larger portions to customers of the opposite gender than the same gender. The effect holds whether employee or customer parties are all of the same or mixed gender.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The standard response is to point at that one study that used a ‘measure’ of hostile sexism and beneficial sexism, concluding that they correlated (…I don’t think their measure was very good). Anyway, this powerful tool allows us to invalidate all perks that can come with falling into any category. The best pithy way I’ve come up with to describe this method happened during a pair of reddit posts about what benefits there were to being tall and what benefits there were to being short – once we realize that there are benefits to both groups, we can immediately conclude that the patriarchy hurts everyone.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The concept of beneficial sexism seems to me like circular reasoning. Feminism is built on the premise that men have unfair advantages over women. If you later notice advantages that women have but conclude that they don’t count because there shouldn’t be any differences between men and women at all, and so retain your original claim ‘men have all the advantages’, isn’t this essentially determined by which advantages you found first? In a parallel universe where you spotted the advantages women have over men before the reverse, wouldn’t it make as much sense to say that female advantages count, and male advantages are just beneficial sexism and not a real advantage?

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Feminism does not say “men have all the advantages”.

          Feminism is, of course, an extremely broad group of ideologies, and it is hard to say what the “essence” of it is. But basically, it includes the idea that the system of rigid gender roles, in which men tend to have the dominant position overall hurts women. And, most add, it hurts men, too.

          The fact that women have certain contextual advantages over men in limited areas (beneficial sexism) does not invalidate the finding that men generally have the dominant position. And the fact that men have the dominant position does not mean that sexism “benefits men” overall. For instance, whites had the dominant position in American slavery. But slavery hurt both whites and blacks: it was better for both that it was abolished.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I’ll try to rephrase. It could be true that gender roles hurt men as well as women, that both are better off without them. But to say that any advantages women have via gender roles don’t count because they’re benevolent sexism, while also saying that advantages men have via gender roles do count, is cheating. Either men’s and women’s advantages under gender roles are both pretend/artificial/’beneficial sexism’, or neither are.

            To borrow your reasoning from another thread, the ‘beneficial sexism’ concept creates a worthless category that only serves to confuse. If someone points out an advantage a woman has because of gender roles, and you respond by saying, “yes, but the advantages she would get in the absence of gender roles would more than make up for the loss of that one”, then fine. If you respond by saying, “but that’s beneficial sexism”, that’s a useless non-statement. Having an advantage because of gender roles is no less real than having an advantage because you were born to rich parents or because you were born in the 21st century or because of anything else at all.

            If someone argues that one advantage of living under a strong dictatorship is less risk of political instability, you could dispute the accuracy of that claim, or you could point out that the disadvantages of living under a strong dictatorship outweigh that advantage. You could not – at least, not if you wanted to be taken seriously – say “that’s just beneficial authoritarianism”.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            I don’t know what you mean by saying “they don’t count”. Does anyone deny that they are real and exist?

            The theory doesn’t say that women’s advantages under sexism are “pretend” or “artificial”. I don’t know where you’re getting that.

            The theory (called “ambivalent sexism”, “ambivalent” in the literal sense of having two valences) says that there is hostile sexism which explicitly degrades women and treats them worse. But there is also benevolent sexism that treats them better superficially—in a way that reinforces women’s inferiority. For instance, the rule of “women and children first” on lifeboats. Yet the attitude it reflects—that women, like children, are weaker creatures in need of protection—confirms that women ultimately sit in a lower social position.

            If someone points out an advantage a woman has because of gender roles, and you respond by saying, “yes, but the advantages she would get in the absence of gender roles would more than make up for the loss of that one”, then fine. If you respond by saying, “but that’s beneficial sexism”, that’s a useless non-statement.

            Saying it’s “benevolent sexism” is a shorthand way of saying not only the first statement but, again, the stating the view that this type of sexism reinforces the inferior position of women. To use another example, the fact that men pay (or did pay) for dates and not women. This is an advantage women have, but not only it is outweighed by disadvantages; the very social structure of it confirms the dependency of women.

            Having an advantage because of gender roles is no less real than having an advantage because you were born to rich parents or because you were born in the 21st century or because of anything else at all.

            Sure, but the distribution of advantages is not random. Within the system of gender roles, the disadvantages men have reflect the fact that they are e.g. thought more capable of fending for themselves, and the advantages for women reflect the opposite.

            Similarly, there are certain disadvantages of being born rich (you have to pay full freight at Harvard) and certain advantages of being born poor (you go for free). But no one would deny that it’s better to be rich than to be poor. And leftists would certainly say that e.g. charity or alms-giving is a form of “benevolent classism”: it gives the poor free money (benefit!) while reinforcing their dependency and confirming that these alms are supererogatory on the part of the rich. That would be separate from “hostile classism” where the poor get shitty public defenders and go to jail longer.

            If someone argues that one advantage of living under a strong dictatorship is less risk of political instability, you could dispute the accuracy of that claim, or you could point out that the disadvantages of living under a strong dictatorship outweigh that advantage. You could not – at least, not if you wanted to be taken seriously – say “that’s just beneficial authoritarianism”.

            The hostile/benevolent thing relies on a distinction between a superior, privileged class and an inferior class. So it doesn’t work too well with “authoritarianism” in general. But let’s put it in the context of feudalism, with the divide between serfs and lords. (Or, before David Friedman corrects me, technically it’s called “manorialism”.)

            One serf says to another: “You should feel grateful to your lord. After all, he protects you from bandits!” The other one says: “Yes, but after depriving me of the means to protect myself and exacting ruinous taxes! This ‘protection’ is just his means of legitimizing his rule and reinforcing his dominant position over me.”

            It doesn’t seem too crazy to me to describe that as “benevolent feudalism” or “benevolent authoritarianism”.

            Of course, the term “benevolent x-ism” is not a magic buzzword that automatically makes you right. If sexism, classism, or feudalism are good things on the whole, pointing out examples of positive actions that reinforce them does nothing. For example, in the 1800s, James Fitzjames Stephen argued quite sincerely that raising women to the position of men’s equals would be disastrous for women, since they are not in fact equals and would be taken advantage of. This is no doubt “benevolent sexism”, but he was in favor of sexism and thought it was good.

            Or think about how you likely view the position of children. It is “benevolent ageism” that children are given educations for free by their parents instead of being forced to work in the coal mines. But I think that’s good; it is good that we have ageism in this regard. And even “hostile ageism” is perfectly justified and good: for instance, we think children are inferior and therefore do not allow them to drive cars. They are inferior and should not be allowed to drive cars.

            Now, that’s of course not a typical use of terminology because “ageism” or “sexism” connotes not only “discrimination” but “unjustified discrimination”. They are loaded terms in that respect. Still, I think the point is clear.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Vox:

            Your assertion that “women and children first” is the lifeboat rule because women are the weaker sex and in need of protection, and that it affirms the fact that women occupy a lower social position, is one of those inferential silence deals we were talking about on the other thread.

            Intellectually, I understand your position. But my first, emotional response is to sit here with my metaphorical jaw dropped and think, “Is he nuts? Is he really that clueless?”

            That’s not fair at all: you are obviously an intelligent and thoughtful person. But to reach that conclusion from the lifeboat rule is so orthogonal to the way that I view its origin and purpose that it’s hard to even know how to respond to you other than throwing up my hands and not even knowing where to start.

            Because I’m sure that you are perfectly capable of understanding my position, just like I understand yours. But with positions so far apart, so fundamentally different, one wonders what the point is.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            I agree that this view does not make sense if you take the cheap feminist slogan that sexism is just about “hating women”. That’s not fair because it really isn’t.

            Again, compare it to the position of children. Why are children put first in a disaster, along with women? Well, it’s obviously because people think children are weaker, more fragile, more innocent, and less capable of fending for themselves. Which is all true. It’s because they are the inferiors of adults that adults are expected to put them first.

            Or compare the concept of the “white man’s burden”: it is precisely because the white man is superior that he bears the additional burden of uplifting, civilizing, and Christianizing other races. And this is considered demeaning precisely because it infantilizes other races: it puts them in the position of children.

            This is exactly why men are conceived as having to go out and fight—and die if necessary—to save women from harm. Because men are superior and women are inferior, and it’s simple magnanimity for the strong to help the weak and not take advantage of them. (Now, of course, the unacknowledged dark side of this is that men do take advantage of their superior power. Just as the white man wasn’t exactly completely selfless in his relations with “inferior” races.)

            It’s hardly necessary to add how (exactly like children) both women and “noble savages” are thought of as more innocent than (white) men. They are more pure, as they don’t really have as much capacity for evil agency. If a woman does turn to evil, it’s because a man led her into it. This is a major reason why concerns over prostitution always turn into panics over “white slavery” or (the modern equivalent) “sex trafficking”.

            To be honest, I’m not sure what your position is. Maybe you can clarify? It seems clear to me that this is the basic pattern of how traditional gender hierarchy plays out. The question is whether it is justified, like the case of age hierarchies vis-a-vis children; or whether it is baseless; or whether it had more of a base in the past but no longer does.

            And right now, of course, we’re in a social position of immense transition, where most of the traditional privilege accorded to men has been eroded, but some of it remains, along with many of the traditional advantages women receive in virtue of being the weaker sex. It’s not inconceivable to me (and is not incompatible with what I said above) that this could turn the situation around; i.e. that because women still receive their traditional special treatment while men no longer have many of their old prerogatives, on balance women now receive more advantages.

            I don’t know if that’s true overall. But you can certainly apply it to limited areas like family law. The husband is no longer the law-giver, the ruler of the household. He must share power with his wife as an equal; he can’t cut off her allowance if she socializes with the wrong people. Yet in divorce, women are given the lion’s share of alimony payments, as if they were still dependent on men to survive. Or they get custody of children because they are thought naturally more “domestic” and suitable for raising them.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Well, it’s obviously because people think children are weaker, more fragile, more innocent, and less capable of fending for themselves.

            If you’d asked me for a justification before reading this thread, I would have said it’s because children have more life ahead of them, and so more potential. Compare an elderly man (so more fragile and less capable of fending for himself) nobly sacrificing himself to get his adult son to safety — a less common story, but one I have heard before in approving tones.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nornagest:

            That’s also a consideration, and it’s a case where the situations are not totally analogous.

            Though it is interesting insofar as, in most traditional societies, “elders” occupy the highest social position. It’s hard to squeeze the position of “elders” into this box, though, since they are at the same time considered wiser and are explicitly given more real authority but are also considered physically weaker and in need of protection.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            First of all I don’t think ‘dependence’ is a useful concept here. We are all totally completely interdependent; to get this much economic output with this level of technology it’s pretty much essential. I’m sure you’ve heard the classic story that nobody knows how to make a pencil. I don’t think it makes any more sense to claim that a housewife is dependent on her husband than it does to claim that her husband is dependent on his boss. Or that both are dependent on the supermarkets. I understand the appeal of independence on an emotional level, but I don’t think it’s all that relevant on a logical level.

            Yes, the relationship between a wife and her husband is different to the relationship between her husband and his boss. For example, if he quits his job he can find a new job offering a similar amount of remuneration more easily than she would be able to find a similar quality husband. On the other hand, the husband’s boss can fire him and suffer far smaller losses than the husband would incur if he were to divorce his wife. I don’t think there is anything inherently less respectable about a long-term, high investment arrangement versus a short-term, low investment arrangement. I think the different norms in each scenario (employment/marriage) arise because the relationship between husband and wife is much more specific, much less replaceable, than the relationship between boss and employee. A woman choosing to marry a man who earns more than her does not seem to me to be making an obviously bad choice, nor can I see a reason to consider this arrangement dependent or subservient beyond any other mutually beneficial arrangement.

            I also still don’t think the concept ‘benevolent sexism’ adds anything useful to the understanding of the issue. Sexism or not, an advantage is an advantage. Being a kid has lots of disadvantages, but one big advantage is the complete lack of responsibility. It is just as much a real advantage whether or not it’s due to ‘ageism’. Compare the experience of a kid who faces not just malevolent ageism (i.e. no freedom; under the rule of adults) but also benevolent ageism (i.e. no responsibilities; all playtime and no work), with that of a kid who faces malevolent ageism but no benevolent ageism: a kid who is given all the restrictions kids face, but also has to spend their day doing lots of hard labor with no playtime. It seems clear to me that the latter situation is worse, even if it has fewer things that you could attach the label ‘ageism’ to.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            First of all I don’t think ‘dependence’ is a useful concept here. We are all totally completely interdependent; to get this much economic output with this level of technology it’s pretty much essential. I’m sure you’ve heard the classic story that nobody knows how to make a pencil. I don’t think it makes any more sense to claim that a housewife is dependent on her husband than it does to claim that her husband is dependent on his boss. Or that both are dependent on the supermarkets. I understand the appeal of independence on an emotional level, but I don’t think it’s all that relevant on a logical level.

            Yes, the relationship between a wife and her husband is different to the relationship between her husband and his boss. For example, if he quits his job he can find a new job offering a similar amount of remuneration more easily than she would be able to find a similar quality husband. On the other hand, the husband’s boss can fire him and suffer far smaller losses than the husband would incur if he were to divorce his wife.

            Yes, yes, we’re all “dependent” on society in general to provide for us, if we want to live at a level above that of Robinson Crusoe.

            But the difference between marriage being construed as a relationship among equals and that of marriage being construed as the responsibility of a superior for an inferior, is analogous to the difference between being the employee of your boss and being his slave.

            Sure, in some respects, your boss is your social superior. But on a more fundamental level moral and legal level, you are equals. If you want to tell your boss to fuck off, you can quit. You may suffer some costs, but those are relatively minor. You’re not going to be penniless; you’re not going to starve. You may indeed have to have some employer, but you don’t have to put up with crap from that employer.

            A slave, of course, cannot do this. If his master treats him well, he’ll have that “advantage”. And he’d surely prefer it to a master who treated him poorly. But even if his master is the kindest one imaginable, if he is a self-respecting man conscious of his fundamental equality, he’ll chafe under being reduced to the status of a inferior. And if, as is likely to be the case, the master is corrupted by power and abuses him (perhaps even thoughtlessly), he just has to deal with it.

            And workers in highly class-based societies like Victorian England were in an intermediate position. It was a very real possibility that a maid who did not obtain a “character” (reference) would have to choose between starvation or crime and prostitution. There was a very serious imbalance of power, and that produced a lot of abuses. You can imagine what a man might do if he knows that the maid cannot quit in any case…

            More to the point, women—in relation to their husbands—were in a very similar sort of position. They might be lucky and have a nice, caring husband. And I’m quite sure they’d prefer it to having a wife-beating, adulterous husband. But even the nice husbands infantilized them and condescended to them. Women did not have property rights, and the final say on all household affairs lay with the husband. And not having property rights, they didn’t have effective liberty, either, any more than you can be free to criticize the government in a country where all the presses are state-owned and pay to publish only what the state approves of.

            It didn’t bother every woman, that’s true. And some slaves may well have been content in their slavery. Yet every woman conscious of her equality did chafe under it.

            I think the different norms in each scenario (employment/marriage) arise because the relationship between husband and wife is much more specific, much less replaceable, than the relationship between boss and employee. A woman choosing to marry a man who earns more than her does not seem to me to be making an obviously bad choice, nor can I see a reason to consider this arrangement dependent or subservient beyond any other mutually beneficial arrangement.

            “Feminism”, as such, does not say that any woman, in a modern context, who chooses to marry a man who earns more than her is making an “obviously bad choice”. This is because marriage, in the modern context, is a vastly different institution from marriage in the Victorian context. Even when there are some limited power imbalances (like those between employer and employee), the relationship is still fundamentally one of equality.

            Sure, there are some radical feminists who say that marriage itself should be abolished, or that no woman should ever marry a man who makes a cent more than she does. But you are taking their abuses of a perfectly good concept and using them to try to invalidate the concept.

            Partially, the reason why the label “feminist” is more often applied to these radicals is that practically everyone in Western society—aside from a tiny number of reactionaries—is a feminist in the sense that Wollstonecraft was a feminist. The “first-wave feminists” have achieved universal success. So the only people left around to get worked up about society needing more “feminism” are those who didn’t think the first wave went far enough.

            I also still don’t think the concept ‘benevolent sexism’ adds anything useful to the understanding of the issue. Sexism or not, an advantage is an advantage. Being a kid has lots of disadvantages, but one big advantage is the complete lack of responsibility. It is just as much a real advantage whether or not it’s due to ‘ageism’. Compare the experience of a kid who faces not just malevolent ageism (i.e. no freedom; under the rule of adults) but also benevolent ageism (i.e. no responsibilities; all playtime and no work), with that of a kid who faces malevolent ageism but no benevolent ageism: a kid who is given all the restrictions kids face, but also has to spend their day doing lots of hard labor with no playtime. It seems clear to me that the latter situation is worse, even if it has fewer things that you could attach the label ‘ageism’ to.

            Again, I don’t see what you are trying to make out of this.

            No one is saying that “benevolent sexism” does not represent a type of limited advantage. It is a real advantage within the context of an unequal system, and the acceptance of this advantage reinforces that system.

            Surely everyone would agree that it was materially better to be a house slave and receive some privileges than to be a field slave and receive none. But the competition to…slavishly…obey the master and win his favor in order to be accorded the advantage of being a house slave was not only degrading but reinforced the system of slavery. It’s materially better to accept the master’s favors than get a whipping. But by accepting his favorable treatment, you are acceding to the principle that he has the right to dole out special favors. (Just as, as I mentioned before for something I’m not opposed to, accepting charity involves respecting the giver’s property right to the money and being grateful to him that he freely chose to give it to you. This is why communists are traditionally opposed to welfare or anything else that makes capitalism more tolerable.)

            So you can see why some slaves took a certain pride in not accepting favors and getting whipped instead. It was a way to prove that you were a independent human being and not a slave in spirit.

            And that’s why many women have campaigned to end privileges such as the exemption of women from the draft. They materially benefit from not being shot in Vietnam. But accepting their exemption as proper means accepting the social system in which women are given a separate and lower status.

            Or it’s why some women get offended when you do favors for them that you wouldn’t do for a man. It’s not that they can’t abide the concept of a society where everyone opens doors for everyone else. It’s that this differential treatment is a tiny little reminder of the fact that they are seen as different and weaker and not as able to manage on their own.

            I think anyone can sympathize with this who has ever been sick and had people just obsequiously fawning over him. “Aw, poor little you, let me get that for you.” It is demeaning to any self-respecting person to owe a favor to someone else in a way that he is not expected to repay. Aristotle talks about this in the Nichomachean Ethics: it is the mark of the proud and superior kind of person to be generous, to give and not to receive, because it shows that he doesn’t need any help and produces so much that he has extra he can’t make use of.

            It is for this exact reason that many disabled people get very annoyed at the way everyone constantly makes special allowances for them, above and beyond what is necessary. Yeah, if John is in a wheelchair, he’s not going to climb the stepladder to change a lightbulb. But if the boss yells at everyone for being late except John, sure he materially benefits, but psychologically he rightly perceives that he is being “babied” and treated as an inferior.

            If you actually are an inferior person and correctly perceive this—as well-behaved children perceive their parents as superiors (assuming they are decent parents)—then you don’t resent the differential treatment. But if you correctly perceive that you are an equal, you do resent it. Of course, you also resent it if you falsely perceive that you are an equal—which is why the standard anti-feminist line throughout time has been to ridicule the delusional attitude of women who think they are the equals of men. It is funny when people who are obviously inferior to you think they are your equals, at least until they start getting their way, at which time they become a threat your self-perception as a superior.

            Anyway, I think I’ve written enough about this. If it’s not clear now, I’m not sure how to make it more clear. But I’m still happy to continue responding if necessary.

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          • At a slight tangent …

            If I was looking for a single statistic to measure outcomes by gender, life expectancy would be the strongest candidate. Income is hard to work with because so many people are part of couples with shared income and expenses, but my life is mine.

            Presumably the people who believe that women are on net disadvantaged are aware that female life expectancy is noticeably longer than male. Is that ignored on the basis that all other differences are due to discrimination, whereas that one is biology?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Presumably the people who believe that women are on net disadvantaged are aware that female life expectancy is noticeably longer than male. Is that ignored on the basis that all other differences are due to discrimination, whereas that one is biology?

            The question of who has more power under a system of social inequality seems to me totally separate from the question of who is hurt more by it.

            For instance, consider the Soviet Union. Can anyone dispute that Stalin was enormously more powerful than the average Russian? But is it clear that he was enormously happier than the average Russian? Being dictator made him pretty miserable and paranoid, alienating him from everyone. There were certainly many Russians who suffered far more than he did (and at his hands), but I think you can also point to Russians who had more fulfilling lives.

            If you want to go to life expectancy, he did live to 74, which was significantly longer than the average Russian lifespan. But even if we go the extreme and say he lived twice as long as the average Russian, does that mean he had a position merely twice as powerful as the average Russian?

            For that matter, slave owners were extremely paranoid and anxious over the threat of slave rebellions. Think of how you would feel at the possibility of having your throat slit in the middle of the night by a mob of people who massively outnumber you. Does that mean they were actually harmed more than the slaves by this system? Well, I doubt it in this case, but you can see how it’s not entirely clear-cut.

            Or, to use a totally different kind of example, children are in a position of inferiority vis-a-vis their parents, but they are not hurt more by it. Indeed, we suppose that they are not hurt at all. If anyone sacrifices, it’s the parents.

            Now, it may very well be the case that men also suffer greatly under a system of extreme gender inequality. For instance, the traditional system of marriage sets the husband up as the dictator of the household, and it puts all the final responsibility with him. If he is not in fact suited to carry the entire burden of this responsibility, it may weigh very heavily upon him. And we may even conceive that he is more objectively harmed by it than his wife, who is restricted in her own way but doesn’t know what it is like to be the sole person ultimately in charge of the lives of two, four, or six human beings.

            It could in fact be the case that the husband is hurt more by having to manage all this responsibility without the benefit of an equal to share it with him, than the wife is by being put into a subordinate position. Nevertheless, it is still objectively he who has the power and not her.

            I don’t know whether that’s actually the case, but you can make a decent argument. And there are many works of fiction that have dramatized the crushing burden of the “salaryman” who has to provide for his family this way. As well as real cases of men who “snap” and commit suicide or even murder their families rather than face the shame of letting them know they lost a job and can’t support them.

            Certainly, this does go against naive and “man-hating” kinds of feminism which say that the “patriarchy” is a system instituted by moustache-twirling men deliberately to subjugate women for their own benefit. It is not at all clear that what women lose under gender inequality, men gain. The question of “who loses more?” is actually pretty complex.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            (Sorry for the lateness of this reply; I have been busy for the last few days)

            I don’t think that pointing out who has power over who in some area is a persuasive argument in the absence of a reason to believe that lacking power and responsibility in that area has worse consequences than having both. I think that in many cases it’s perfectly possible to argue that being responsible for yourself will have worse consquences. For example, if I was going to argue to someone that we shouldn’t have a state, I would not do so by saying, “but they have a monopoly on force!”, because anyone pro-state and reasonable would reply, “yes, they do!”. It is not obvious to me that abolishing the government, and making people responsible for buying their own private protection, would be more likely to lead to better outcomes than keeping the government. I think it might, but I don’t think the question of who has power over who carries much weight as an argument alone.

            I’m also not sold on the idea that benefits that come from having someone in power serve to reinforce the system, rather than just making the system better than it otherwise would be. I would rather pay taxes and have them spent on inefficient, poorly run public services, than pay taxes and have them spent on the leaders throwing parties for themselves. Maybe the former system will be more longlasting; maybe the latter system will inevitably collapse in a relatively short time, and be replaced by no power structure, and that will produce better results. Maybe. But I will need more convincing than just the observation that one group has power over the other. And I’ve been talking here about actual power – some people having the ability to physically coerce others – which of course marriage these days is not.

            Regarding gender in particular, it seems to me that you’re assuming that the only reason men would hold doors open for women, financially support them, and so on, is because they think of women as childish and incompetent. An alternative explanation is that they find them attractive and want to win their favor by doing things for them. A second alternative explanation is that they believe that women find men with high status attractive and so seek to become high status themselves in order to be seen as attractive. It would indeed be absurd for a woman to refuse to marry a man who earned a single cent more than her, but not just because she shouldn’t care about a tiny bit of income variance one way or the other.

            Observing that women tend to prefer men who earn more than themselves, are more inclined than men to take part-time work or easier work or more enjoyable work over higher paying work, are more likely to drop out of the workforce to care for children, I don’t think it’s necessary to assume that this is because of either oppression or mistaken preferences. If the median fertile man is less attractive than the median fertile woman – and my observations, and this data, and the standard evobio arguments, suggest that this is true – then men might be willing to do more of the work in a relationship, effectively paying the woman to make up for his lower attractiveness. If male attractiveness is itself determined in part by things like income and social status, which again seems to be true, then the benefits of working harder in a higher paying or higher status job will be higher for men than for women, and so men will be more inclined to do so.

            I am also doubtful of the claim “gender roles hurt both genders; we would all be happier if they were abolished” for the same reason that I am doubtful of the claim “work sucks, if we all just stopped working then we could all be happy, we don’t even need very much work to support everyone anyway”. Yes, work sucks, but your work fuels all of the stuff that you see around you. Yes, doing things the opposite sex finds attractive requires effort, but you each doing so is what causes there to be attractive members of the opposite sex for you to gawp over and have sex and relationships with. Ultimately I think that when you see people doing things for others in exchange for those others doing things for them, it’s unlikely that they would all be happier if they all stopped.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            I don’t think that pointing out who has power over who in some area is a persuasive argument in the absence of a reason to believe that lacking power and responsibility in that area has worse consequences than having both.

            Yes, obviously. That was the point of my repeated comparisons to the situation of adults’ having power over children. In that case, it really is for their own good.

            Whether men’s having power over women is actually for women’s own good is outside the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say that many arguments have been made over the years that it is not. And of course, complaints about “benevolent sexism” hinge upon these arguments’ being true.

            I’m also not sold on the idea that benefits that come from having someone in power serve to reinforce the system, rather than just making the system better than it otherwise would be. I would rather pay taxes and have them spent on inefficient, poorly run public services, than pay taxes and have them spent on the leaders throwing parties for themselves. Maybe the former system will be more longlasting; maybe the latter system will inevitably collapse in a relatively short time, and be replaced by no power structure, and that will produce better results. Maybe. But I will need more convincing than just the observation that one group has power over the other.

            Sure, you need additional arguments. You seem to be acting as if these points just somehow stand in isolation.

            To return to the example of Communism, it wouldn’t do any good to point out how bad the Gulags and everything are, unless one could show that a better alternative is possible. Otherwise, you could make the perfectly valid argument that if we didn’t have Stalin, we’d have Hitler.

            But supposing you did think that Communism was evil and that a better system was possible, it’s pretty clear why you might want to do the minimum possible to support that system. You wouldn’t want to go above and beyond and become a “hero of socialist labor”—even though that brings material benefits—since that would mean supporting the system more than you have to.

            Regarding gender in particular, it seems to me that you’re assuming that the only reason men would hold doors open for women, financially support them, and so on, is because they think of women as childish and incompetent. An alternative explanation is that they find them attractive and want to win their favor by doing things for them.

            Women (in my opinion, quite justifiably) often find it demeaning to see go out of their way to flatter them, especially when the men are just doing it to “get in their pants”. In a work environment, for instance, it doesn’t exactly promote an atmosphere of professionalism and equality for men to go out of their way to impress women because they think the women are attractive.

            Moreover, of course men don’t, for instance, pay for dates with women just to show how childish and incompetent they think women are. They do it because they love those women and are interested in starting a serious romantic relationship, possibly leading to marriage. The objection is that, if not now then certainly in e.g. the 50s, the only socially acceptable way to express sincere love and affection was in these ways that were restricted by rigid and confining gender roles.

            It’s not as if a man is consciously thinking “Oh, let me show how financially sound I am by buying my financee a big ring, which symbolizes my claim on her!” He’s just thinking, “I want to get married, so I better buy an engagement ring. That’s just what you do.”

            As for how these roles restricted people, for instance, it used to be almost unheard-of for a woman to ask a man out on a date (and it still is pretty rare). It’s not that they necessarily didn’t want to, or that some men wouldn’t have liked to be asked out in this way. It was just Against the Rules, and you couldn’t do it because it would be socially inappropriate. And the reason this system existed was because of a mentality that saw women as passive objects of affection, with men as the active pursuers. If it could be either way depending on the person, there would be no objection.

            If the median fertile man is less attractive than the median fertile woman – and my observations, and this data, and the standard evobio arguments, suggest that this is true – then men might be willing to do more of the work in a relationship, effectively paying the woman to make up for his lower attractiveness. If male attractiveness is itself determined in part by things like income and social status, which again seems to be true, then the benefits of working harder in a higher paying or higher status job will be higher for men than for women, and so men will be more inclined to do so.

            The claim is that the system of allocating income and social status is systematically biased in such a way as to reward adherence to rigid gender roles.

            Again, this is an area where our modern society has changed enormously as compared to the past, so the extent to which more “progress” needs to be made is questionable. In Restoration England, though, the way for a woman to be more attractive and thus to gain income and status was to cultivate the talents of a good housewife. To try to pursue a career was a good way to end up poor, or at least a spinster.

            And the same kind of rigidity was required of men. He was expected to be the provider and the master of the house, whether he liked it or not. But what if he actually liked spending lots of time raising children and tending to household chores, while his wife was prepared to provide for the family? Or, more importantly, what if he’d rather split things with his wife as equals? That just wasn’t an option.

            All this evopsych stuff is based on tendencies. Maybe it’s true that women are naturally more matronly and domestic and attracted to a dominant kind of man who will provide for them, and maybe it’s true that men are more attracted to submissiveness and physical attractiveness. But not every man or woman is the absolute stereotype of these extremes.

            I am also doubtful of the claim “gender roles hurt both genders; we would all be happier if they were abolished” for the same reason that I am doubtful of the claim “work sucks, if we all just stopped working then we could all be happy, we don’t even need very much work to support everyone anyway”. Yes, work sucks, but your work fuels all of the stuff that you see around you. Yes, doing things the opposite sex finds attractive requires effort, but you each doing so is what causes there to be attractive members of the opposite sex for you to gawp over and have sex and relationships with. Ultimately I think that when you see people doing things for others in exchange for those others doing things for them, it’s unlikely that they would all be happier if they all stopped.

            I don’t know what world you live in, but I see people doing harmful things voluntarily and in a spirit of mutual exchange all the time. Religion, for instance. Or purveyors of snake-oil medicine. Does religion provide some benefits? Of course. But the benefits it provides (like community spirit, a sense of meaning, etc.) you can have without being told not to eat pork or to hate homosexuals and atheists. For that matter, for most of its history, sexism wasn’t exactly voluntarily participated in, either. Saying women “voluntarily” stayed in the home in the 1800s is equivalent to saying Russians “voluntarily” waited in bread lines. They didn’t have to wait in the bread lines; they could have starved instead, but it wasn’t much of a choice.

            In the same way, it’s not that people don’t like expressing love and affection for members of the opposite sex. If rigid gender roles are the only way to pursue those things, people will put up with it. But is it not conceivable that they could do so in ways that don’t implicitly place one sex in an inferior position?

            I think even in regard to work, many people end up working much more than they would like because they irrationally chose to live beyond their means in such a way that the consequences only caught up to them later. Sure, they may have enjoyed not saving anything in their 30s, but not as much as they dislike having to work until they’re 75 in jobs that they hate but can’t quit because they’re now too old to change careers.

            Moreover, I think you are vastly underestimating how much of gender roles is completely arbitrary and culturally bound. Is there some kind of evolutionary-psychological reason why women wear makeup, high heels, stockings, and skirts, while men do not? No, in fact all of those things used to be worn by men. Going back further, in some cultures, it was women’s families who paid a dowry to men when they got married. While in others, the situation was just the opposite: men paid the women’s families a “bride price”. Obviously, there are real biological forces at work: it’s never going to be a women’s fashion to wear a beard, and there’s a reason men are associated with jobs that require a high degree of strength. But evolution isn’t some just-so story you can use to explain why everything has to be exactly the way it is now.

            In any case, it’s perfectly conceivable for both men and women to wish that, for instance, dating customs were more equal, while men nevertheless continue to buy dinner for women and women accept it because they both recognize that this is the way things are, and that’s just what you have to do if you’d like to date someone.

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    • Sastan says:

      Same thing with tipping behavior. Everyone is more likely to leave larger tips to the opposite sex.

      Anecdotally, servers and bartenders seem to hate serving their own sex, especially in groups. But the loudest complaints are from female servers about middle-aged female customers in groups.

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  13. Brian Slesinsky says:

    The Uber article is a year old. I wonder how much it’s changed since then?

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  14. suntzuanime says:

    My suspicion is that the bail system is working as intended, and attempts to work around it so that it doesn’t brutally crush poor people without due process will only cause it to respond to restore equilibrium. For example, bail bondsmen were supposed to help with these issues, but it seems like the possibility of paying a bondsman 10% of your bail to post bail for you only ended up decupling bail amounts.

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    • Marc Whipple says:

      The bail system is how we make sure that people who can’t afford to go to college get screwed by lending practices decoupling price from cost.

      Report comment

    • JBeshir says:

      I had the same suspicion, but it struck me that this must be exactly how the people who thought giving money to the global poor was useless felt- a strong suspicion that isn’t grounded in any direct observable evidence that things are in hard to disturb equilibria- and I’m pretty sure the evidence has mostly been against that position and pro, e.g. GiveDirectly doing good so far.

      So I downgraded the amount of weight I put on the sense of suspicion until I see some good evidence for it. After re-evaluating, I end up having some doubt as to its effectiveness but thinking it’s actually a pretty cool thing worth a try, even if it might well not work out, and probably a good way for people whose values include country-level localism in the US to do quite high expected value (high risk, but very high return) effective altruism according to their values. And it’s still high value and neat under cosmopolitan values, too, just probably beatable.

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      • thisguy says:

        >I had the same suspicion, but it struck me that this must be exactly how the people who thought giving money to the global poor was useless felt- a strong suspicion that isn’t grounded in any direct observable evidence that things are in hard to disturb equilibria- and I’m pretty sure the evidence has mostly been against that position and pro, e.g. GiveDirectly doing good so far.

        >So I downgraded the amount of weight I put on the sense of suspicion until I see some good evidence for it.

        I don’t see how the first stance should lead to downgrading the amount of weight you put on skepticism. Perhaps giving money to the global poor was useless in the past, and it has only recently arrived at providing the results that seem to be observed, which would mean you should update in favor of listening to your skepticism and demanding proof. It would certainly explain why there was no evidence for giving to the poor being useful in the past if it indeed wasn’t useful in the past.

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    • AlexanderRM says:

      It seems like the only world in which in which either bail bondsmen or the bail donation thing would do good is if A: the bail system is working really, really badly (from the perspective of things like “crushing poor people without due process is bad”), yet B: will not adjust to compensate for the practice and maintain the bad results.
      I could imagine this being the case if bail amounts were set by legislation which was widely agreed to be bad but where legislative gridlock or sheer inertia made it impossible to change.

      Otherwise- if the bail system is well-designed, neither of these practices contribute anything. Bail donations are the equivalent of the government releasing people with no bail, and bail bondsmen are the equivalent of same except the government hunts them down if they violate bail. Unless one thinks either of these is a good idea, it doesn’t make sense to donate.

      This is actually one case where I’d agree with the point on systematic change (in a legal and effective way, not sure if protests are that useful) being better, even though I mostly agree with Scott’s “against systematic change” on the universalizability grounds- if everyone lets systems they disagree with stand but uses legal private action to undermine them, that’s not a very functional system.

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  15. FacelessCraven says:

    The dancehall music reviews are hilarious and horrifying by equal measure.

    Also, just for that extra bit of crazy, Daggering:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daggering

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  16. houseboatonstyx says:

    Old C.S. Lewis hand here, a few notes from my take on Lewis’s morality in AOM his other books. For a low brow tl;dr see the first chapter/s of _Mere Christianity_: basic moral precepts universal; variations minor. For middle brow, a chapter in _Miracles_ (Ch 4 or 5 iirc).

    Re innate vs taught. Right sentiments being taught to children by the ‘poets’. He explains that ‘poets’ long ago meant writers of popular fiction; think Star Wars 1977, golden age cowboy movies, etc. Also he equates the Tao set to things we learned at our nannies’ knees; think fairy tales, proverbs, _Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten_.

    For us, AOM is a book best read backwards, imo. Starting with the headers in the Appendix (there are about eight), and an example or three from each to show what it meant. Then we know what he’s actually referring to.

    From the book discussion*
    davidsevera [12:32 PM] @academician-zex: Yeah, he disagrees with people trying to refound ethics in terms of human intuitions, but I’m not sure how our sense of the Tao (ignoring Christian revelation) is anything other than the collection of human intuitions that happen to ​_feel_​ universally applicable.

    Lewis said the problem was taking any single one of those intuitions and trying to refound ethics on it, sacrificing all the others to it. I admit myself charmed by the working of the set as a set. Do A … but don’t take it far enough to violate B. “Show most kindness to those closest to you [sorry, Utilitarians] … but don’t be cruel to anyone, especially in law or business.”

    *https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jv1ErVNub8xSS4jHPfn4C4oHHlw9QbrPvpunlzikQJ0/edit

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    • Vaniver says:

      I admit myself charmed by the working of the set as a set.

      Value is fragile and complex!

      Report comment

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      [Posting in haste lately, because my internet connection is very intermittent and may go down indefinitely.]

      When I wrote…
      I admit myself charmed by the working of the set as a set. Do A … but don’t take it far enough to violate B. “Show most kindness to those closest to you [sorry, Utilitarians] … but don’t be cruel to anyone, especially in law or business.”
      … I was squashing too far. Actually the ‘don’t be cruel’ and the ‘law or business’ were from separate precepts.

      Also, it’s not just that each A is paired with its own B. It’s more like, ‘Do A, but don’t take it far enough to violate B, C, D, etc.’ Eg, ‘Give most generosity, time, care to those closest … but don’t be unfair to outsiders in business/law, etc, AND don’t resort to lying, breaking promises, or “any vile action” in service of any of this.’

      I imagine a billiard table, where when any ball hits a wall it angles back toward center.

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  17. endoself says:

    Mentioned in the OpenAI AMA: Stanford PhD student/OpenAI researcher Andrej Karpathy has written a cool short story attempting to envision one possible path society could take with AI.

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  18. Daniel says:

    “Also, it’s not clear in what sense he’s New York’s best SAT tutor besides having established a long paper trail of calling himself that, including buying the domain name http://www.newyorksbestsattutor.com.”

    Should have listened to Putanumonit!

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  19. Chris says:

    I can’t find the cite but I read a year or two back that uber’s san francisco market is actually bigger than the combined pre-uber markets for taxis and non-taxi car hire services. Still doesn’t tell us how much business they took from taxis but it does mean they were also creating new business.

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  20. NIMBYism is based on the following sillygism (a reasoning process that yields a delusion):

    1) Landlords want to build more.
    2) Landlords want to raise rents.
    3) Therefore building more will raise rents.

    This is a classic example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

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    • Randy M says:

      I didn’t think it had anything to do with fear of rent increase, rather a preference for open spaces or lower traffic, etc.

      I first heard the term in connection with a search for putting nuclear waste somewhere.

      Report comment

      • Acedia says:

        For me it was locations of wind turbines. Lots of people seem to feel they ruin the landscape.

        Never understood why, I think wind farms look really cool.

        Report comment

      • Brad says:

        San Fransisco has its own peculiar variant on NIMBY that unusually includes some incumbent renters. Particularly those with low, rent controlled leases (which can be seen as a quasi-property interest). Once you move out of SF proper you’ll find many many NIMBYs of the usual sort–individual homeowners.

        The SF NIMBY renter phenomenon bears some resemblance to the anti-gentrification agitation that occurs in some other cities (esp. NYC) but not exactly the same.

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      • Psmith says:

        Yeah, really. Modulo the usual concerns about representative government, I am totally OK with restrictive zoning for the sake of keeping it the way it is. My home town has grown quite enough already. Hell, I’d be happy to see it shrink back to about 1950 levels, some of the paved roads go back to dirt, subdivisions turn back into scrub and ranchland, etc. I assume the people opposed to urban gentrification feel more or less the same way, and wish them the best of luck.

        (See also: http://www.unz.com/isteve/norcal-v-socal/?highlight=%22marin+county%22)

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          I am totally OK with restrictive zoning for the sake of keeping it the way it is. My home town has grown quite enough already.

          “Ok, now that I am here, nobody else is allowed, everyone who moved here after I did has to leave, and everything has to stop changing and remain just as I liked it”.

          Report comment

          • Psmith says:

            Pretty much, yeah.

            (At what level does this attitude become unjust? Two landowners agreeing not to sell to developers on pain of the usual penalties for breach of contract because they like things the way they are? A hundred? A thousand? The real situation is more complicated than landowners agreeing with each other, of course–that “modulo usual concerns about representative government” is doing a lot of work–but I share the basic impulse.).

            (And ETA, since I think you’ll appreciate this: I believe I was eventually convinced of this after the ~100th time hearing somebody from a historically libertarian low-density mountain state complaining about Californians moving in, building McMansions, and bringing their politics with them.).

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          • Nicholas says:

            The logic by which all White, Black, and Asian citizens of the United States oppose Open Borders.
            But does that make them silly, or does that make you silly?

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        • meyerkev248 says:

          I don’t necessarily mind this line of thought until this line of thought crashes the global economy.

          Oh wait, it crashed the global economy.

          You can have NIMBYism.
          You can have frontier industries paying 2-3x what they pay elsewhere due to network effects.

          And when you have both, the net effect is falling standards of living, a housing bubble, and the collapse of the global economy.

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        • JBeshir says:

          The problem is that supply and demand means that if you do this prevention of construction, and have a market in housing (that outsiders are allowed to access), and lots of people want to move into your town, house prices and rent go up a lot.

          If you’re okay with that happening as the cost of keeping the town the way it is, that’s sensible. You’re effectively deciding, collectively, to pay a premium to live in a historical replica, almost, and that seems like something that people should be allowed to organise together to do. Unfortunately, in SF people want both things to stay as they were layout wise, and things to stay cheap.

          They either fail to see that this requires throwing out having normal market-distributed housing, or do see it but don’t view that as a problem. Neither of these are very good, and neither justify the kind of behaviour we see.

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  21. birdboy2000 says:

    This being the same Vox that’s thrown a sixteen month-long ragefit at a group of activists, accusing them of everything under the sun, for pressuring them to disclose personal ties and affiliate links? What a surprise.

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  22. Factual correction: The recent papers reporting the treatment of muscular dystrophy with CRISPR do not represent the first use of CRISPR to cure a genetic disease in adult mice. In 2014, Yin et al. used CRISPR to correct a mutation that causes tyrosinemia in adult mice.

    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v32/n6/full/nbt.2884.html

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  23. 27chaos says:

    On ISIS: “The author says: “A nightclub, because of the loud music, the drunk people and the crowd, could actually be a good location to secretly discuss the details of an operation.””

    I’m feeling pretty confident they got this idea from Harry Potter, which is hilarious.

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    • Eric says:

      I assumed they just liked going to nightclubs.

      Report comment

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I thought that was like a staple in pulp fiction.

      Report comment

      • Stan le Knave says:

        Meeting in a Pub/Coffeehouse is a common theme in much fiction. I think it used to be an accepted part of tradecraft in fact.

        Trying to discuss *anything* in a nightclub, at least a U.K-style one (perhaps they’re different in Europe/America), is a complete nonstarter though. People stand outside nightclubs to have a chat in my experience, since the music is universally extremely loud and you’re likely to be very tightly packed.

        Maybe in other parts of the world theres less of a separation between *clubs* (places where people go when they’re already drunk to dance) and *bars or pubs* (where people go to get drunk prior to going to a club)?

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        • TheNybbler says:

          The nightclub where the spies meet sources to talk business is a staple of spy fiction. The nightclub is usually owned either by the villain or by a person of questionable morals who can be squeezed into providing assistance. I call these magical nightclubs where people can talk (yet not be overheard) _Alias_ nightclubs after that TV series. I’m pretty sure they’re pure fiction.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Wait; you can’t think of a more central pop-culture example of this sort of establishment than “Alias”?

            Report comment

          • Cliff says:

            Maybe if you yell into each others’ ears

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          • TheNybbler says:

            Rick’s wasn’t nearly loud enough to count, and while I may be old, I’m not old enough that Casablanca is “pop culture” rather than “film history”. Alias wasn’t the first place I came across it, but being a TV show rather than a movie, it happened a LOT there, so that’s what I associate it with.

            TV Tropes, naturally, has a few entries on these

            http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CoolestClubEver

            “Despite the crowds, you can hold an extended conversation in a normal speaking voice and have no problem being heard.”

            and

            http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BadGuyBar

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          • John Schilling says:

            I am shocked, shocked to find people dismissing Casablanca’s pop-culture status here…

            As with e.g. Shakespeare, it is possible for something to be both history and popular culture at the same time. But there may be a blind spot in recognizing this, when the source is film or television rather than print(*). We’ve had the discussion of whether or not e.g. universities should have a general-education requirement that includes the Western Canon; I would argue that if we are going to do that, there are movies that belong on that list as much as the works of Shakespeare and Casablanca is one of the usual suspects in that regard.

            * And of course in popular culture, Shakespeare is a print author and only fuddy-duddy literary historians remember that he wrote plays for performance before a live audience.

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          • TheNybbler says:

            Shakespeare’s plays were pop culture of his day; The Scarlet Letter was pop culture of it’s day. And indeed Casablanca was pop culture of its day. But that day is not today, nor any day within my lifetime; I actually did see Casablanca as part of a university film class.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Stan le Knave

          And taverns, then and now?

          What things have we seen
          Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
          So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
          As if that every one (from whence they came)
          Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
          And had resolved to live a fool the rest
          Of his dull life;—then when there hath been thrown
          Wit able enough to justify the town
          For three days past; wit that might warrant be
          For the whole city to talk foolishly
          Till that were cancelled; and, when we were gone,
          We left an air behind us; which alone
          Was able to make the two next companies
          (Right witty; though but downright fools) more wise!

          (Of course the ingredients of the wine may have been involved in this perception. But doubtless the words were audible.)

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    • Randy M says:

      I guess that assumes one is being watched and bugged at home? Otherwise, that’s kinda mindbogglingly dumb.

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    • vV_Vv says:

      Do they also hit on drunk women while they are there?

      ISIS + PUA = The Black Pill? 🙂

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  24. Fnord says:

    I’ll give you that that’s a weird looking device (watch fob, wikipedia calls it), at least to modern eyes. But unless my own anatomy is grossly abnormal, that’s REALLY not where George Washington’s testicles would be in that stance.

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    • FacelessCraven says:

      Consider this an opportunity to educate yourself about the peculiarities of Washingtonian anatomy:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbRom1Rz8OA
      (Not Entirely Safe For Work)

      Report comment

    • Sigivald says:

      Indeed.

      See also Head’s portrait of Nelson, showing the same thing, from the same period.

      As a historical recreation guy, a fob chain at the waist is pretty mundane as weird jewelry goes…

      Report comment

      • Mark Atwood says:

        As a historical recreation guy, a fob chain at the waist is pretty mundane as weird jewelry goes…

        It’s not even “historical”. You can go buy a fob chain today, and some men are wearing smaller smartphones that way.

        My dad wore a pocket watch on a fob chain all the time I was growing up.

        Mainly because he regularly had to leave his desk in his office and go out into the mines, mills, plants, and factories he dealt with, wearing a wristwatch or a finger ring was a dangerous safety violation.

        (On a related note, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized that most people considered wearing steeltoes to work and owning a well used hardhat to signify “blue collar” “working class”. When I was even younger, I just assumed that all working adult men owned steeltoes, a hardhat, a carhartt, and armored gloves, even if they spent most of their time in an office at a desk.)

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  25. Steve Sailer says:

    An extreme example of test prep working is in Manhattan/Brooklyn elite private kindergartens. (Yes, they have elite kindergartens in Park Slope.)

    For decades, they used the Wechsler IQ test for children as an admissions test. But the Wechsler IQ test was intended to be a diagnostic test, not a gatekeeper test, so it is pretty defenseless against high-powered test prep of four-year-olds. Finally, the kindergartens announced a few years ago that they were going to discontinue the Wechsler and come up with their own test (which presumably would be less compromised than the Wechsler had become by a generation of test consultants).

    The SAT and ACT have better defenses, but defenses that were usually good enough to discourage Jeff Spicoli Era high school students from gaming the system may no longer be enough.

    For example, the SAT periodically has to cancel test-giving in South Korea due to security breaches.

    I’d like to see some kind of National Commission study the many kinds of standardized testing and issue recommendations for preserving the validity and integrity of testing in the future. For example, are paper and pencil tests that have to be printed up ahead of time more vulnerable to security breaches than are computerized tests where questions are generated on the fly in response to how well the respondent did on previous questions?

    The Department of Defense is a big user of tests, so the Rand Corporation, which has done lots of studies over the decades of the Pentagon’s tests, might be a good choice to provide the junior analysts for a National Commission.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      There’s a difference between test prep and actual cheating, I’m not sure South Korean security breaches are relevant to the question here (unless you’re saying this self-proclaimed test prep rock star is stealing tests?)

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    • Anonymous says:

      How did the Chinese maintain quality in the Imperial Examinations?

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      • anon says:

        What do you mean by quality? The role of the Imperial Examinations was not to select the most qualified candidates, but the ones that were the most deeply learned of the Neo-Confucian texts. The purpose was to select for orthodoxy of ideas and a sort of political correctness. The tests being easier for people who could pay for better prep was a feature, not a bug.

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        • The original Mr. X says:

          The role of the Imperial Examinations was not to select the most qualified candidates, but the ones that were the most deeply learned of the Neo-Confucian texts.

          Presumably the response would be that being learned in Confucianism *is* a qualification for government.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Being learned in those texts requires intelligence; the examination serves as a proxy for it. Requiring learning of a particular ideology is a bonus.

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        • onyomi says:

          They did try to make it more meritocratic as time went on by, for example, limiting the number of classics to be tested on the theory that not everyone could afford a library, but most people could afford copies of the most important works. The Ming founder himself had been of common birth and so wanted to increase social mobility. This lead to not unreasonable accusations that the exams encouraged formulaic thinking and regurgitation rather than broad learning and creativity.

          There was also a quota system intended to pass more people from underrepresented geographic areas, much as it is easier to get into Harvard today if you are an Aleutian from Idaho than an Asian from California.

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      • onyomi says:

        I think cheating could be punished with beating and imprisonment. Also, like taking the Bar, you used fake names. Moreover, someone copied out all your answers so the examiner couldn’t recognize your handwriting. But cheating was still not uncommon.

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        • Stefan Drinic says:

          A legal punishment for cheating would have been rather useless, as nobles were by law exempt from corporal punishment.

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          • onyomi says:

            What time period are you talking about? There isn’t really much of a nobility after the Tang Dynasty and the exam system doesn’t really get underway on a large scale till the Song. There were imperial clan members of the Ming, but they actually couldn’t serve in the bureaucracy. And I don’t think Qing bannermen were exempt from corporal punishment. There are certainly many cases of educated elites of the Ming and Qing suffering corporal punishment, imprisonment, and execution.

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    • Emily says:

      I think the key is predictive validity, not necessarily integrity. I don’t know to what degree people prep the ASVAB and how effective it is. But that’s not the major thing I’m interested in: however much they’re prepping, it’s still working, in the sense that it’s highly predictive of a variety of outcomes of interest for the military. (That said, the computer-adaptive element, which the GRE also has, certainly seems like a good idea to me.) Outright cheating is a problem, but great test prep isn’t a problem for me unless you start seeing predictive validity issues. If really motivated, conscientious kids are test-prepping the hell out of the SAT and then doing great in college, cool. If we’re concerned about demographic issues associated with that (tons of Asian kids who want to study engineering and don’t participate in class), I don’t think you need to fix the test for that, you just do what schools are already doing, which is imposing de facto quotas.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Perceived fairness matters too, at least in most institutions.

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        • Emily says:

          Sure! But if you change your test so that there is less predictive validity, you are now selecting more people who don’t perform as well, so you have a perceived fairness issue there, too.

          Going from something with good predictive validity but high perceived unfairness to something which retains the predictive validity but does not have high perceived unfairness is definitely an improvement, though. But it’s a somewhat different issue: you’re still selecting the same people, you’re just doing it in a slightly different way.

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      • Brett says:

        Non-universal, effective test-prep will necessarily lower predictive validity of the test unless the test prep is sufficiently general so as to increase downstream signals as well as the signal from the test, in which case I’d prefer to just call it “learning”. If “really motivated, conscientious kids are test-prepping the hell out of the SAT and then doing great in college” while less-motivated, somewhat lazy, brilliant kids aren’t test-prepping and so do relatively worse than the first group, then we’ve just got another measure of conscientiousness, which we already filter on pretty hard. I’d rather keep a good measure of intelligence.

        And if test-prep gets common enough to be effectively universal, then it just lifts everyone up and doesn’t do anything except enrich the test-prep industry.

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        • Emily says:

          Call it “learning,” then. In rich, highly-educated urban/suburban areas, or areas with a lot of east Asian immigrants, there are supplemental learning places that start many years before your kid is going to take the SAT. I assert that’s where kids are getting 200-point boosts beyond what they’d otherwise. There are issues with that. Teachers may not feel like they understand the material at the same depth/level of abstraction as other students. But I’ve never heard accusations that they’re not doing well in college.

          And I’m not sure we do have other great measures of conscientiousness for entry into the kinds of colleges that care about SAT scores. That’s supposed to be GPA, but grades are so inflated and there’s so much school-to-school variation that I’m not sure that tells you a lot.

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          • Brett says:

            Understanding the material in depth is the appropriate downstream signal here, not doing well in college.

            Report comment

          • Emily says:

            Why?
            And if there’s a big disconnect there, isn’t the bigger issue with, I don’t know, what it takes to do well in college?

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          • Douglas Knight says:

            Asian cram schools are not the central example of “test prep.” Whether they are effective at raising SATs and GPAs is a separate question than whether typical short courses of test prep work.

            I would be interested in learning about the performance of Japanese Americans because I don’t think they make much use of cram schools, in contrast to in Japan. But there aren’t a lot of them, so they aren’t studied much.

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          • Emily says:

            Short courses of test prep – the central example of test prep – don’t do much to raise scores. Since they’re not effective, there aren’t predictive-validity considerations or integrity considerations. That’s why I’m not talking about them.

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      • Emily says:

        Looking at this: https://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/Differential_Validity_and_Prediction_of_the_SAT.pdf

        If Asian students are the most effectively test-prepping and it’s throwing off predictive validity, this isn’t what I’d expect to see. They cite a study [Ramist et al. (1994)] showing that Asian-American students are actually underpredicted the most on GPA. Their own findings (and this is with 1994 and 1995 versions, so maybe it’s different now – but I think the changes since then are supposed to minimize test-prep effects) are that there’s overprediction of Asian males/underprediction of Asian females, which is the same pattern we see with white students. The magnitude is a little more overpredict-y/less underpredict-y than with white students, but the real overprediction we’re seeing is among black and Hispanic students.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A little off-topic, but are “elite private kindergartens” as bullshit as they sound or is there actually some benefit to them?

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      • Andrew says:

        There’s something of a private school escalator, where it’s easier to get into the “elite middle school” if you already went to the elite kindergarten, and easier to get into the “elite high school” if you already went to the elite middle school, etc., etc.

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      • brad says:

        Depends on what you think education is all about. Are they the best kindergartens anywhere in terms of producing the best input adjusted educational outcomes, probably not (though I’d hazard to guess they are pretty good).

        They are very good at placing graduates in selective primary private schools, which are in turn very good at placing graduates at selective private high schools (sometimes all three are the same school), then on to HYP, and so on and so forth until your kid is a partner at Goldman and sending his own kid to fancy kindergarten.

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        • Anon says:

          They are also good at ensuring your children spend most of their time around very intelligent children, which is probably more important.

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          • Emily says:

            Interestingly, in New York City, there are a lot of test-in programs in the public schools, including starting in kindergarten. The most in-demand are filled entirely with kids testing in the 99th percentile. So if your kid is testing at that level, you have public school options that get you that as well.

            At the high school level, much of what you’re getting with the private school smart-kid experience (relative to say, Bronx Science) is a more laid-back, less high-pressure atmosphere. I don’t know how early that starts, though, but I suspect that the even among very small children, the private-school smart kid experience is less academically-focused and has, IDK, more painting or something.

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          • brad says:

            And Hunter isn’t public, but it is free. I doubt any of the forty, fifty thousand dollar a year private schools have a smarter overall student body.

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          • BBA says:

            Hunter says they’re public and I always thought of them that way. They’re part of CUNY instead of the NYC Department of Education but are still tax-funded.

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          • Brad says:

            I stand corrected.

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  26. Douglas Knight says:

    Before Rome moved the beginning of the year to 1 January, the year began in March, but it did not begin on 1 March. Instead, it began on the Ides of March. It seems crazy to me to begin the year in the middle of a month. Then “the March of Bob’s consulate” is not a single block of time, but split into two pieces, one at the very beginning, one at the very end. Maybe the Roman system in which each month was made up of 3 mini-months made that not as bad as in the medieval system in which the year began on 25 March. In fact, the day after the Ides of March is -17 April, so it practically is the changing of the month. Even worse than cranking the odometer on 25 March is if the magic date is the coronation date, and thus varies from monarch to monarch.

    I recently learned about a couple of “posthumous” kings – kings who were born after their father died. There was an interregnum while people waited out the pregnancy to see if it was a boy or a girl.

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    • The original Mr. X says:

      In some countries the accession of a new monarch was backdated for dating purposes. So if King X succeeded on September 1st 1071, “the first year of the reign of King X” would be January 1st to December 31st 1071, rather than September 1st 1071 to August 31st 1072.

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      • anon says:

        And this is not as weird as it sounds largely because unless the previous king died very unexpectedly, it was likely that the heir had been an increasing part of the government for a long time. The last few years of very old kings were often really part of the reign of their successor.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        What makes more sense to me is having the first and last years be partial: 1 September to 31 December (…or 24 December).

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    • Diadem says:

      The Dutch constitution states that for the purpose of succession of the throne, an unborn child is considered to have already been born, but if it is stillborn, it is considered to have never existed. It makes sense, actually, from a practical standpoint, but it can lead to some pretty weird situations. Though in the Netherlands at least this never happened.

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    • shemtealeaf says:

      We currently have that same problem with winter. Is this the winter of 2015 or the winter of 2016? I would say 2016, since the bulk of the winter will be in that year, but it’s still fairly ambiguous.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        Sure, that’s a problem, but it’s pretty much unavoidable, because seasons are different in different places. We probably have this calendar because Rome thought of winter as January+February.

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  27. eqdw says:

    Re The Robin Hanson post: Where can I find quality IQ testing in the Bay Area? A quick googling hasn’t turned up much. Everything I can find appears to be for children, and affiliated with creepily weird-sounding prep schools.

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  28. anonymous says:

    I will donate something to the Bronx Freedom Fund this month

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  29. Will says:

    >The “noncoercive societies of the past” vs. “coercive societies of the present” distinction this guy alludes to is almost certainly actually a “western-diet vs. non-western diet” issue

    Really? I would have guessed it’s probably more of an artifact of how well problems are diagnosed and recorded. Carefree Polynesian Society X might just not talk about, recognize, or note depression and schizophrenia and so forth, and the reason they have cases of mental illness now is because it can actually be diagnosed and then mentioned in the Journal of Polynesian Psychiatry. Even the evidence that they *didn’t* before seems to be, as far as the article goes, “this guy looked around and swears no one told him anything about schizophrenia over there.” But that might be an uncharitable interpretation; maybe Torrey was super meticulous and/or only one of many pieces of evidence for the Land of the Sane.

    Do non-Western (say, Asian for the data) countries have substantially less mental illness than the West? I know some problems are about evenly-distributed, but haven’t looked at it that hard and wouldn’t be surprised if, e.g., all that fish was doing good things for Japan.

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    • Deiseach says:

      It could also be that mental illness was not labelled as such in other cultures or in the past; where the modern interpretation of saints and prophets having visions and ecstatic experiences is to diagnose them as mentally ill, equally mental illness could have been perceived as being marked out by the gods or spirits.

      So a stranger going in and asking “Have you any mad people here?” might be told “No, of course not” because the shaman isn’t mad, he communes with the spirits and how you know he is gifted to talk to the spirits is because he behaves differently to ordinary people.

      Or your neighbour isn’t mad, he’s been cursed or possessed by a demon. “Madness as illness” may not be recognised as a category.

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      • keranih says:

        Or the response is “Oh, no, the last mad fucker that we had, someone pushed his ass off an ice floe. Very tragic. Everyone’s chipping in to make sure his mother doesn’t starve. But no, no madmen here. Nor any English.”

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  30. Alraune says:

    Well, it’s nice to know ISIS thinks our terror drills mostly just give them clever new ideas.

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  31. salanimi says:

    To my surprise Luis Salas seems in his own words even more extreme than he appears in the linked article. http://www.fundayacucho.gob.ve/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Folleto-Guerra-Economica.pdf According to this, inflation is not only a conspiracy to increase profits, but also a tool in political class warfare against the poor. Indeed “inflation is in economics what fascism is in politics”.

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  32. Jack V says:

    “one of the better style guides for men I’ve read”

    At last, an excuse to arrest white guys in expensive suits! 🙂

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  33. Alan says:

    Uber is bigger than the taxi market because taxis are often ‘cash in hand’ and therefore was undisclosed income.

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  34. Jordan D. says:

    Possibly the first and last post in history for which this will be relevant; my favorite cephalophore love song- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anWrcmKsYI8.

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  35. wysinwyg says:

    Kevin Drum in Mother Jones is the first liberal I’ve seen who really wants to take a loud public stand that ending the drug war has major costs and might not be a great idea.

    Don’t know whether this has already been hashed over, but Drum’s argument seems to be “one of the most addictive and destructive drugs is already legal, therefore it would be really bad to legalize drugs that aren’t legal.” (Actually, I think alcohol might be more addictive and more destructive than OC or heroin, but banning alcohol is often used as a canonical example of a foolhardy and counterproductive thing to do, even though alcohol prohibition most likely did reduce consumption of alcohol and public drunkenness over all.)

    Also, the OC epidemic precipitated a heroin epidemic without heroin having become legal in the meantime, so it seems to me like these addiction epidemics are caused by something besides legalization.

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  36. Deiseach says:

    I’m not sure if St Dymphna quite counts as a cephalophore (I know in one version of her legend a spring of water is said to have emerged in the spot where her severed head fell), but she is the patron of “the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, and those who suffer neurological disorders – and, consequently, of psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists”, so she could be patroness of this site? 🙂

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  37. Alex says:

    For the 40% who “identify as young Earth creationists”, I think they probably fall into two groups:

    1) People who have actually sat and thought about the issue for a while and have decided that thinking that dinosaur bones are God’s way of tricking humanity makes more sense than any other available option.
    2) People who just have a knee-jerk reaction of “not being a young Earth creationist” = “my parents lied to me as a child, and I’d rather not deal with that right now”.

    I suspect that 2) outnumbers 1) significantly.

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    • Alraune says:

      You severely underestimate both the sophistication of the, uh, Creationism-Industrial Complex and the strength of the culture war. The modal evangelical view is essentially “I know that the outgroup only cares about Evolution as a method to steal my children and destroy my way of life, so they’re obviously wrong,” with “…and I’ve been taught Creationist sophistry in a more rigorous fashion than any pre-college science curriculum teaches anything” tacked on for the smart ones.

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    • Anon says:

      I’m pretty skeptical about #2 being in any way significant. If having beliefs obtained in early childhood from parents contradicted led to a knee jerk reaction of doubling down on that belief until reconciling that parents aren’t perfect then I think we would see at least a few millenial vocal baby boomer apologists or Santa believers. (For all I know there are a lot of these people and I just haven’t seen them).

      I’m going to have to go with what creationists say their reasons for believing in creationism are. Specifically that undermining a single part of the bible undermines the entire christian belief system. This belief either all of christian thought must be correct or none of it is seems to be the greatest motivator for creationists doubling down on their belief when having it critically analyzed by others.

      This would explain why some denominations of christianity have significantly different rate of belief in young Earth creationism. Denominations which view christian thought as being “already figured out” and perfectly divinely inspired would be more likely to believe in young earth creationism, whereas denominations which hold that christianity needs to undergo growth and change based on philosophical/theological inquiry would feel less of a need to be attached to young Earth creationism.

      Also as an aside. The 44% of Americans are young Earth creationists is probably not very accurate since changing the phrasing of the questions leads to widely different results and 80% of Americans believe in continental drift (which directly contradicts young earth creationism): http://ncse.com/blog/2013/11/just-how-many-young-earth-creationists-are-there-us-0015164

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      • Alraune says:

        80% of Americans believe in continental drift (which directly contradicts young earth creationism)

        iirc, that one gets chalked up to the Great Deluge.

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        • Marc Whipple says:

          I don’t think it’s even as big a stretch to say “God created the world recently, but it has dynamic systems as so it’s perfectly reasonable to observe the continents moving,” as it is to say, “God created the world recently but with a bunch of really old stuff in it.”

          The part of geology/seismic theory/plate tectonics that shows that all the continents were one continent way before the Usshertivity, if asked about separately, might get a different agreement number.

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          • Anon says:

            I think this shows that simply polling whether people believe in young earth creationism, intelligent design, or evolution doesn’t yield reliable results as to what people actually believe.

            This idea of creation happening in such a way that it gave the appearance of being very old (I guess the light from stars millions of light years away would have been created en route to earth etc.) is probably a belief held by some significant number people who check young earth creationism on the poll. However this belief has significantly different implications than the general young earth creationism (evolution technically being a proper model of life etc).

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      • J Mann says:

        “This belief either all of christian thought must be correct or none of it is seems to be the greatest motivator for creationists doubling down on their belief when having it critically analyzed by others.”

        I suspect there’s an element of gnosticism as well, which might be the same thing from the other side. There’s a certain comfort in believing that your worldview is probably right because you’ve realized this underlying fact that people who disagree with you don’t.

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  38. Vaniver says:

    one of the better style guides for men I’ve read

    …how many style guides for men have you read?

    Report comment

    • Mark Atwood says:

      how many style guides for men have you read

      A several dozens, including a handful of historical ones. (They are an amazing window on the past.)

      It turns out that style, dress, practical etiquette, and in-person charm are things you can learn from *books*, there are *rules* that interact with each other, and you can run it like a sort of LARP/RPG, including minmax’ing and munchkening. And turning it into a kind of roleplay lowers the stakes, lowers the stress, and removes the “if I do these things, I am betraying my true self” barrier. This is an amazing discovery that I have done my part to communicate to young awkward nerds and geeks.

      One more fun “very fast read” contemporary ones is “Things a Man Should Know About Style” by Queer Eye’s Ted Allen. There are better ones still, but they include language and concepts that mindkill too many people, so I will not list them here.

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      • HlynkaCG says:

        As a guy who got out of a fairly serious relationship a little while back and is dreading going back to the “dating scene” I’m curious. Do you have any specific recommendations?

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          https://theprivateman.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/courtship-lite/

          Start there. Read the whole blog. Read all the links. As you do, you will want deny it all, and then when you no longer can, you will feel angry. Feel your denial. Feel your anger. Feel your rage. Feel your hate. Breathe, chillax, relax, Let it all go, and recognize the world as it is is now the world that is, and it can still be dealt with, it’s just that it no longer is our grandparents world, or even the world as it was when we were young.

          Good luck.

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      • Vaniver says:

        I endorse style guides, and reading them. (The one sitting on my shelf right now is Esquire’s.) My point was more that unless Scott has read at least three, saying it’s “one of the better” ones he’s read doesn’t give us much info. What do you think of ISIS’s, and how does it stack up to others?

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      • Nornagest says:

        “if I do these things, I am betraying my true self”

        God, I hate that one. I don’t think I could come up with a better method of self-sabotage if I tried.

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        • keranih says:

          And yet, as a female, I find this sort of internal reaction to the whole mess of shave, scent, die, bind, prop, paint and curl – not to mention simper and bat – very powerful.

          Playing the game, when one is not in practice, is *hard*, and difficult to square with integrity.

          Report comment

          • Mark Atwood says:

            And yet, as a female ..

            Ah, that is mostly it’s own sphere, one that I was not addressing. All the style guides I read and the few that I take advice from are “style for men” guides.

            On the third hand, I’m encountering more and more female professionals who are have massively simplified their wardrobes so everything is thoughtless mix and match in classic style, switched to an easy to care for hairstyle that does not require an expensive weekly salon touchup, stopped painting their nails, started wearing flats, and cut way way back on the makeup and “product”.

            Such can be done and still be able to be sufficiently able to play to win the games of “style, dress, practical etiquette, and in-person charm”.

            If I am ever really compelled to offer an opinion on that sphere, my statement is along the form of “you ladies are doing it to yourselves and to each other, there are no gendered clothing sumptuary laws, it’s not up to me or to any other male to fix it”

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          • NN says:

            If I am ever really compelled to offer an opinion on that sphere, my statement is along the form of “you ladies are doing it to yourselves and to each other, there are no gendered clothing sumptuary laws, it’s not up to me or to any other male to fix it”

            That isn’t entirely true. Gay men in the fashion industry certainly deserve a fair share of the blame.

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          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not entirely unsympathetic to women who’re feeling disgruntled with the whole ritual complex around beauty; it really does look from the outside like a ton of effort, leaving aside quibbles about who’s expecting it and who needs blaming for it.

            But even granting that, I find it hard to believe in a true self fragile enough to be betrayed by putting on too much plumage or the wrong kind. And if it’s male nerds we’re talking about — and I’ve heard the sentiment more from them than from anyone else — then the levels of effort involved are much lower, and the returns on investment much higher.

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  39. Vaniver says:

    The situation in Austin is interesting, with ‘passenger safety’ concerns leading to requiring fingerprint-based background checks for all drivers (which Uber and Lyft have said they won’t do). Before the Council’s vote on the issue, the sheriff requested that they not do it, because having Uber as an option seems to have reduced drunk driving by Austin by about 20%.

    So… yeah. I have no clue how they thought the checks were a good idea, and will vote against anyone who voted for it.

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  40. Dinwar says:

    Part of the problem with evaluating past mental illness is likely survival. Many societies practiced, either legally or not, infanticide, so the odds of “undesirable” infants surviving to adulthood were lower. While mental illness may not be immediately obvious, when you’re culling a large number of infants the odds with an emphasis on keeping only those that meet a given standard you’re likely to remove the mentally ill (or those prone to mental illness). Then there are accidents and the like–putting a reef in a topsail in a gale isn’t the safest activity, nor is hunting megafauna with spears, for a few examples, and the mentally ill probably would have suffered higher incidents of injury or death than the mentally sound. My point is, even if we assume that we can determine rates of mental illness across temporal and cultural ranges (speaking as someone who’s studied taphonomy, I find this to be a remarkable claim on the order of “A UFO landed in my back yard”–how is mental illness preserved in the physical records?), there are a lot of places for mental illness to hide where we simply wouldn’t find them, because the people would be killed before anyone noticed.

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    • Murphy says:

      Also, without some kind of welfare state the mentally ill are far more likely to die quickly. One more dead homeless beggar in victorian london would have been utterly non-notable.

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      • Dinwar says:

        I think that anything that could be termed a “welfare state” in the past would have been the family. In Rome and Germania this was explicit–the family (however the culture defined it) was expected to deal with those issues, and how the family attempted to deal with its members had the force of law. Which means we have even MORE places for the mentally ill to hide in history–as “Lieutenant Hornblower” dramatizes, the records of mental illness may simply be falsified if the family wishes it and has sufficient power (bearing in mind that “enough power” will depend on the rank of society–a begger would have less power, but would consequently have fewer records and less difficulty hiding from historic record).

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        • Stefan Drinic says:

          It’s kinda amusing that you should use Rome as an example, as one fifth of Rome’s citizenry was on welfare past the year zero or so, as were many of the inhabitants of the empire’s eastern cities.

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          • Dinwar says:

            The situation is vastly more complex than you claim. The population of cities got a dole of corn (a term for a certain quality of wheat–a curious bit of nomenclature); however, that hardly represented a majority of people. Plus, there’s the rather inconvenient fact that you had to insert the caveat “citizenry” in that statement. A huge portion (perhaps a majority) of the humans in Rome were possessions in one form or another. Accusations against slave owners in the Antebellum South were more or less the opposite of “They have established a welfare state”. (Bear in mind, Roman slavery was very different from modern conceptions of it.)

            That’s what I object to: the equivocation inherent in using a modern term to describe ancient activities. Rome WAS NOT trying to create a welfare state of the type Conservatives accuse Liberals of creating. Rome was trying to be Rome, and trying to discuss it in terms of modern life has rather disastrous consequences to our understanding of the past.

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          • Stefan Drinic says:

            It’s not more complex than I claim at all. The Egyptian economy produced a surplus of grain so reliably that the Roman emperors essentially bought off Rome’s poorest, numbering two hundred thousand every year. While certainly this doesn’t make Rome some beacon of blue-tribe inspiration as the alpha and omega of providing welfare, it’s still an example of a civilisation where a large amount of people lived freely simply for being citizens.

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          • The original Mr. X says:

            While certainly this doesn’t make Rome some beacon of blue-tribe inspiration as the alpha and omega of providing welfare, it’s still an example of a civilisation where a large amount of people lived freely simply for being citizens.

            Well, kinda. Poor citizens living in Rome were given subsidised (and, later, free) grain, but this obviously didn’t cover all the other expenses one would incur. Later Emperors did give out doles of other things too, although I can’t remember whether this became regular practice or whether it was just an occasional thing. By that time, though, the actual population of Rome itself was only a small percentage of the total body of Roman citizens.

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          • Anthony says:

            Dinwar –

            corn (a term for a certain quality of wheat–a curious bit of nomenclature

            In English, “corn” means “grain”, any grain – it comes from “kernel”. In American, “corn” means “maize”.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anthony:

            Indeed. And “corned beef” gets its name from the fact that it is cured by placing it amidst “corns” of salt.

            And the reason maize is called “corn” in the U.S. is pretty clear: it is short for “Indian corn”, which is what they first called it. This had both the literal meaning and the connotation of “inferior”, as in the terms “Indian summer” and “Indian giver”.

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          • “And the reason maize is called “corn” in the U.S. is pretty clear: it is short for “Indian corn”, which is what they first called it. This had both the literal meaning and the connotation of “inferior”, as in the terms “Indian summer” and “Indian giver”.”

            It isn’t clear why it was called “Indian Corn,” and I’ve never seen your “inferior” explanation. The usual explanation for “Indian giver” is a misunderstanding of gift exchange customs. Nobody seems to have a very clear idea of where “Indian Summer” came from.

            One odd but possible explanation for “Indian Corn” is that Pliny mentioned something called Indian corn, from India. When maize showed up in Europe, some herbalists incorrectly identified it as Pliny’s Indian corn, hence the name.

            If that sounds impossible, think about why turkeys, which also come from the New World, got named after Turkey.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            I originally heard these things from these two Straight Dope articles.

            Insofar as that’s not exactly a rigorous academic source, I could very well be wrong. But on the other hand, the Straight Dope is usually fairly reliable.

            For what it’s worth, the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for “Indian” says: “More than 500 modern phrases include Indian, most of them U.S. and most impugning honesty or intelligence, such as Indian gift

            And I’ve seen from several sources that “Indian corn” was called that simply because it was the “corn” (staple crop) common among the Indians.

            Just to elaborate on what you said about the origin of “Indian gift”, the original meaning was that: “An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. [Thomas Hutchinson, “History of Massachusetts Bay,” 1765]”

            As a side note, it’s interesting that the Russian word for “turkey” (the bird) is “индейка (indeyka)”. And Russian actually has two words for “Indian”, which sound almost the same:

            “индийский (indiyskiy)” means “relating to India”.

            “индейский (indeyskiy)” means “relating to aboriginal America”.

            As you can tell from the spelling, the word for turkey derives from the latter.

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          • @vox:

            Your explanation for Indian corn is the obvious one–I was pointing out that there is a less obvious alternative that has been offered. The source is Finan, John J., _Maize in the Great
            Herbals_.

            I have seen two explanations for “Turkey.” One is that there was an existing bird called a turkey fowl, presumably from the Ottoman Empire or that general direction, and the New World bird was confused with it.

            The other is that turkeys were introduced to Iberia, brought to England by “turkey merchants,” traders who traded from the eastern Mediterranean to England and back, stopping in Iberia.

            English is the only language I know of that calls the birds “turkeys.”

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      • Don’t take atomistic individualism for granted, it was precisely the welfare state that created it. Family, kin, etc. would look after them. They did.

        Granted, it was less strong in the cities, so yes, in London maybe homeless mentally ill did die. In villages they didn’t, the concept of the “village idiot” was real, and their relatives did look after them.

        Urbanization was probably one of the driving forces creating a demand for the welfare state, but later on the welfare state itself created the need for itself. I.e. urbanization made people care less for each other, and the welfare state even less.

        Story: back in the 1960’s hitch-hiking was still widespread and popular all over Europe. Except Sweden. Swedish motorists almost never took hitch-hikers. They were already in the mindset that the government helps you, not other people… other countries also joined this slowly.

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        • England had a welfare system, the poor laws, at least back to the Elizabethan period. It was run and funded at the parish level. One undesirable consequence, as Adam Smith pointed out, was to reduce labor mobility. The parish authorities were reluctant to give someone permission to move into the parish if they thought there was a significant risk that he would end up going on welfare, at their expense.

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  41. Jaskologist says:

    Kathleen Parker, nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist:

    One observation. I don’t know… this seems to have slipped through the cracks a little bit but Ted Cruz said something that I found rather astonishing. He said, you know, “It’s time for the body of Christ to rise up and support me.” I don’t know anyone who takes their religion seriously who would think that Jesus should rise from the grave and resurrect himself to serve Ted Cruz. I know so many people who were offended by that comment. And you know if you want to talk about grandiosity and messianic self-imagery I think he makes Ted Cruz makes Donald Trump look rather sort of like a gentle little lamb.

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    • Marc Whipple says:

      I assume you are pointing out the humorous failure of her vocabulary in not knowing what “the body of Christ” means in that context?

      Report comment

      • Randy M says:

        It’s less the not knowing and more assuming he meant it literal, as if a Christian would believe in the second coming and at the same time think it should be timed to help him win an election.

        Talk about immanetizing the eschaton in politics!

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      • To that we add the amusing observation that not only does she not know what “body of Christ” means, but that neither do any of her editors. Either that, or she never gets edited. I’m not sure which is worse.

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        • Nornagest says:

          I’d never heard the phrase before now, but it’s pretty obvious from context that it’s an oblique way of talking about believers, not some kind of literal Zombie Jesus.

          Anyone that got through journalism school should be capable of this level of reading comprehension, so I think the best assumption is that she’s playing to the cheap seats.

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      • Jaskologist says:

        The statement was on TV, so her editors are off the hook, at least.

        Personally, if I thought I heard a major presidential candidate literally call for zombie Jesus to serve on his presidential campaign, and nobody else seemed to notice this, I’d figure that I was probably missing something.

        Even if you don’t know the expression, “body of Christ” should have sounded like a sufficiently odd construct to merit a closer look.

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          I realized some time ago there are many equivalent phrases from the other side of the divide, that either don’t register at all with Reds, or confuse Reds, but mean something to Blues when Blues say them to Blues.

          One of the more recent ones I’ve noticed that I’ve been trying to glark out the meaning is “human flourishing”.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, that one’s easy. It means whatever vision you have in mind of how people should live, after you unwind all the negative externalities and discount everything that right-thinking people don’t appreciate. Probably involving a lot of art and music and organic kale. Wealth, but, like, spiritual wealth, man.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            As someone who can be, I think, categorized as Blue Tribe, I don’t hear that phrase a great deal, but it’s not unfamiliar. I’d say it is used roughly the way Scott talks about wanting to “immanetize the eschaton”.

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          • Nornagest says:

            It’s supposed to be vague, to have blank spots to fill in with whatever makes the listener happy. But it definitely connotes that aspects of present-day society — the specifics varying from person to person, but including such things as capitalism, patriarchy, war, consumerism, etc. — spiritually or emotionally stunt people. Thereby lying at the root of social ills such as crime, poverty, abuse, owning guns, eating McDonald’s, and shopping at WalMart. Is that what you’re looking for?

            I first heard the phrase in the context of Aristotelian ethics, but I get the impression that it’s had a somewhat circuitous journey on its way to being an English catchphrase. I don’t know the specifics of that trip, though.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            The doctors who evaluate special needs children and their home environments use the word “flourishing” a lot, but I suspect it’s not the same thing. :/

            Report comment

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nornagest:

            Just as a personal anecdote, I have not heard leftists talking about “human flourishing”.

            The only people I personally have heard talking about it are Aristotelians and Objectivists—especially in the context of the debate within Objectivism over whether one’s ultimate value is supposed to be survival per se or “flourishing”.

            The advantage of “flourishing” is that it makes it much easier to see why things like art and loving relationships contribute to “flourishing”. The disadvantage is that it’s question-begging: of course it’s easy to show that art is an objective value if you define the goal of ethics as including having a lot of art. But you do you determine what objectively constitutes “flourishing” in the first place? That’s the problem: it’s a derivative concept. “Flourishing” is doing well according to some standard, but it cannot itself be the standard because it has no independent meaning.

            The advantage of survival is that—if the argument works—it provides a much better basis for convincing someone who doesn’t value things like art to value those things. The disadvantage is that it’s very difficult—not to say impossible—to show how the importance of many values is in any proportionate way connected to their survival-promoting value. That’s not to say no one has tried.

            (Still, the self-defeating nature of the survival criterion is illustrated by such examples as: would you take a pill that guaranteed you would live for five hundred years, if only you would be miserable the whole time? “Survivialism” would say you should take it, but of course the normal viewpoint would be that a long and miserable life is worse than a short and miserable life. Not coincidentally, I think “survivalism” is the main source of the Objectivist tendency to fight hypotheticals.)

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          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve never before heard Objectivists talking about “flourishing”, not that I know many Objectivists, but in that context I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a more-or-less direct inheritance from Aristotle’s eudaemonia. Ayn Rand did love her some Aristotle.

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          • Anthony says:

            The first I’d seen the phrase and had it stick was discussion of Sam Harris’s “The Moral Landscape”.

            I’m sure I’ve seen it before, and the way I’d read the phrase is something along the lines of “ensuring that people live happy, fulfilled lives as much as possible”, as a terminal value, in opposition to other possible terminal values such as “greatest good for the greatest number” or “fulfilling one’s duties”, etc.

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      • alexp says:

        I’m as certain Ted Cruz is a huge narcissist as I can be of somebody whom I’ve never met.

        It wouldn’t completely surprise me if he meant that literally.

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          certain Ted Cruz is a huge narcissist

          Of course he is. He’s a national level politician. He has to be. If you think “your guys” are not… well, there is probably little that I can do to open your eyes.

          It wouldn’t completely surprise me if he meant that literally.

          You are not close friends with any actual believing practicing Christians, are you?

          I would say that the odds are higher of either you or me completely hallucinating this exchange in a psychotic break, then him meaning it literally literally.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Cruz strikes me as one of those people who is way smarter than everyone else in the room and hasn’t learned (or felt the need) to hide it.

            But yeah, of course he’s an egomaniac; he’s running for president. Obama famously remarked that he was better at all one of his staffer’s jobs and knew more about them on all issues, too.

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          • Mark Atwood says:

            Obama remarked … knew more about them on all issues, too

            On a related note, the essay George W. Bush is smarter than you

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          • alexp says:

            -Of course he is. He’s a national level politician. He has to be. If you think “your guys” are not… well, there is probably little that I can do to open your eyes.

            There’s politician type narcissist, and there’s such a huge narcissist that people who spend all their time around national level politicians (including many people from his own party) still think he’s beyond the pale.

            -You are not close friends with any actual believing practicing Christians, are you?

            You would be wrong.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @Marc
            Random anecdote…

            I met George W Bush at the close of my 2008 deployment, a bunch of us had just flown in from Balad via Ramstien and were stuck in Maine waiting on connecting flights. I’m passed the fuck out from jet lag when my ASL shakes me awake and tells me that a bunch of cops just closed off the exits to the concourse.

            I figure that someone is about to get busted for carrying unauthorized ordnance or smuggling drugs, and am working on plausible sounding alibis for all my guys when the President and the First Lady walk in. Needless to say this caught me a bit off guard.

            They went around the concourse greeting us individually while aides distributed coffee and dounuts. He asked me how my leg was feeling (I had taken some shrapnel early on but elected to stay) and asked if I had kept in touch with a friend who had been wounded and subsequently evacuated. He seemed to have similar personalized touches for pretty much every one there asking about wives, kids, future plans, etc…

            Now I realize that those personal touches came form reading our service records our talking to our CO. But you know what? That didn’t matter. He still had everyone from the most die-hard WarFighters, to the most jaded terminal, eating out of his hand.

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          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, I mean, not smarter than me.

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          • For what it’s worth, on the first pass I read it as zombie Jesus, but that’s because of the heavily blue tribe, geekish context.

            I do know what the body of Christ means to Christians (though I didn’t realize it was so non-denominational), but I’m better read than most people. I would not expect most non-Christians to get it, and I’m not sure that most American Christians who aren’t very religious would get it.

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          • onyomi says:

            “He still had everyone from the most die-hard WarFighters, to the most jaded terminal, eating out of his hand.”

            I think you don’t get to be president or even close to being president nowadays without being very charismatic.

            This probably wasn’t as universally true in the past–Calvin Coolidge, etc., but it has become more and more so over time, I think.

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          • @Mark:

            Heinlein describes the Farley File in _Double Star_ as the way politicians fake it. I don’t know if he based that on actual knowledge or not.

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        • brad says:

          Narcissistic politician is practically redundant, the more surprising thing about him is that apparently he is very uncharismatic. It seems like everyone that deals with him on a day to day basis thinks he’s a jerk. I know we aren’t in the heart of the retail politics era, but even so I’d think that attribute would prevent you from doing very well in elective politics.

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        • J Mann says:

          “It wouldn’t completely surprise me if he meant that literally.”

          Scott has a piece somewhere about Poe’s law that applies.

          Parker’s ignorance regarding the phrase, and her editors’, has me a little gobsmacked.

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        • bluto says:

          Using the body of Christ as a reference to the church comes straight from the bible. Paul uses it quite frequently, both as a title and a metaphor (that the members of the church are as different as hands and eyes but all are necessary).

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          • Nicholas says:

            According to my religious girlfriend and mother there’s regional variation in the US on which is the Only Acceptable Way to Refer to Christendom: In the midwest there’s Bride of Christ if you’re catholic, Christendom if your a Witness, Body of Christ never (because then people might sometimes get confused during your explanation of Communion/ Because comparing your church to actual jesus is SuperHell9001 heresy.

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        • HlynkaCG says:

          It wouldn’t completely surprise me if he meant that literally.

          Yes yes, and rationalists spend the bulk of their time fantasizing about pushing fat people into the path of oncoming trolleys.

          You’re being silly 😛

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        • Marc Whipple says:

          He may have meant it literally, but what it literally means to him is completely different than what I suspect it literally means to you.

          If he had literally meant what it literally means to you, he would not have referred to “the body of Christ,” but simply to “Christ,” or some other variant on the name.

          To analogize, nobody refers to him as “the body of (Vlad) Dracula.” Which, literally, he is. In fact, literally, you could refer to me as “the body of Marc Whipple,” in a similar sense (“The body of Marc Whipple should get over here and rinse off the dishes”) and it would be literally correct.

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          • keranih says:

            Whot gets me is that “the people of The Church are The Body of Christ” is – for me as an American Catholic – a pretty cross-denominational thing. While I’m eye-rolling all to hell here, bc the Man from Galilee wasn’t about political office, and nor were his immediate disciples, it’s because of the huberus in thinking that all right minded followers of the Man would support Cruz, and not that Christ hizzelf would.

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          • Randy M says:

            That’s mitigated a bit if the actual quote is as J Mann posts below. We’re left with teh typical politican’s hubris–or connivance, perahps–that a particular election result will turn the country around.

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          • J Mann says:

            Well, and that Christian values support Cruz’s agenda, not Sanders’, of course, but again, politician.

            Report comment

    • J Mann says:

      It’s worse than Parker thought! Here’s Cruz’s quote:

      “If we awaken and energize the body of Christ– if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values– we will win and we will turn the country around,” Cruz told volunteers on a conference call Tuesday.

      That’s right – not only is Cruz demanding that Jesus rise from the dead and serve him, he is proposing to accomplish this like Dr. Frankenstein did – by “awakening” and “energizing” the body, doubtless with a lab table, lightning bolt, and a helpful Igor!

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      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ J Mann

        Being raised WASP, of course I know what ‘the Body of Christ’ means’, but it still sounded like a crazy thing for a politician to say (publically). I know what ‘Bride of Christ’ means too, but that would be worse: all the nuns marching? ‘Christendom’? — that’s:
        Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
        In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
        Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums

        Still, look at Cruz’s context:
        “If we awaken and energize the body of Christ– if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values– we will win and we will turn the country around,” Cruz told volunteers on a conference call Tuesday.

        On a conference call, to insider co-religionists? That’s not a nice thing to play Gotcha with.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Saw this on GetReligion. Didn’t know whether I should be banging my head off the desk about (a) is this feigned ignorance in order to score political points or (b) this is actual ignorance and instead of trying to find out what he meant, the assumption was that she already knew what he meant because he’s One Of That Lot (or at least, trying to appeal to That Lot, You Know, The Mouth-Breathers).

      My own ignorance is such that I had to look up “Who’s Kathleen Parker?” and this makes that comment even more interesting, because she’s centre-right and accepted as a conservative, so she’d presumably be included on the same side as Ted Cruz (if not as conservative as he is). Which, for a Pulitzer Prize winner, makes this comment even more astounding.

      For those who, like Mrs Parker, may need some refreshment on the doctrine of The Mystical Body of Christ 🙂

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      • Nicholas says:

        Now I’m wondering if her point (Double Poe’s Law) was that Cruz expecting the entirety of American Christendom to support him was as ridiculous as if that statement had been about Jesus’ literal body.

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    • Nicholas says:

      So is no one going to wonder who the “so many people who were offended by that comment” were, or why it offended them?

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  42. Cole says:

    “There’s now a Rationalist Book Club on Reddit – that’s “rationalist (book club)” and not “(rationalist book) club”, as you can tell by their first book for discussion being C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.”

    There is also a “(rationalist book) club” which is just r/rational: https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/ which I would have thought would be just a general subreddit for rationalists to post things in, but r/slatestarcodex seems to have become that subreddit instead.

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  43. Hackworth says:

    The intrinsic problem of today’s war on drugs is that while it does put pressure on the producers and forces them to raise the price, without competition the rising costs can be fully transferred to the customers. The private armies, almost miniature states that the big drug lords can sustain despite all the pressure put on them are sufficient evidence that the current war on drugs has utterly failed.

    The most sensible suggestion I know of is not to liberalise drugs and be done with it, but to regulate it like you would regulate alcohol and tobacco. That means, at least in Europe, to give out licenses to import/produce the drugs and subject the product to regular quality inspections, and to provide healthcare support for the hopelessly addicted. It also means to tax the product, but not so much that it becomes cheaper to go to illegal sources. Prosecution of illegal producers should obviously continue to keep pressure on their costs, but not for literally any price as it’s being done today. If you can’t rout illegal businesses with soldiers, then you have to do it with economists.

    TL;DR: Create legal, quality-controlled, affordable and taxable sources for all but the objectively most destructive drugs; keep prosecuting illegal sources, but with much reduced intensity; use the revenue and reduced spendings to help the people that are heavily addicted and unable to help themselves, including people addicted to still illegal drugs.

    Report comment

    • onyomi says:

      This plan is entirely too reasonable to be politically feasible.

      Report comment

    • Isn’t this basically the bog-standard pro-legalization plan? “Legalize, tax, and regulate” was a slogan I remember hearing from a libertarian friend back in high school.

      Report comment

      • Mark Atwood says:

        That is what we did here in Washington re legal recreational pot. It is now regulated, legal, and highly taxed. In a moment of truly unexpected intelligence and wisdom on the part of the legislature, people who had been in the past arrested or convicted of growing or dealing weed were not forbidden to participate in the now legal industry, thus causing many such to “come in out of the cold”, which is helping to strangle the shrinking illegal side of the industry.

        It is also still pissing off the Feds, and pissing off the cops that are angry at no longer getting funding directed towards pot busts. I call those features, not problems.

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      • Hackworth says:

        That was my assumption too, but reading the entry of this link collection today, apparently not? It seems to be about “legalize everything and be done with it”.

        Report comment

    • Wrong Species says:

      What exactly do you guys think is the goal of the war on drugs? If it’s to 100% eliminate every illegal drug then yes it has not achieved that. But it has reduced the consumption of those illegal drugs to a far lower level than otherwise.

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    • Nero tol Scaeva says:

      The war on drugs is a failure? What are you talking about! It’s been a MASSIVE success!

      Well, I mean, if you think the goal of the war on drugs is the elimination of drug use, then of course it’s a failure.

      But no. That’s not the goal of the war on drugs.

      I don’t want to be like one of those liberals that sees racism behind every tree, but… c’mon. The war on drugs was started as a means of controlling undesirable minorities.

      And like I said. Massive success.

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  44. onyomi says:

    It seems obvious to me that the halo should be around the head, wherever it may be, but that may be my modern bias for locating the source of identity in the brain (lots of premodern societies locate it in the heart or even stomach area).

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    • Alraune says:

      The halo is presumably emanated by the soul, so I think the question comes down to whether the soul’s head remains colocated with the skull after decapitation, or if it remains attached to the rest of the spirit.

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      • onyomi says:

        Interesting point. Though if the soul is a kind of etheric body which is usually colocated with the physical body, but which remains intact even if the physical body is ripped apart, why should we assume it follows the body and not the head? That is, if we assume the soul must be a complete body, one could just as well have a spirit head colocated with the physical head and a spirit body attached to that spirit head even though the physical body was no longer attached to the physical head.

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        • Alraune says:

          Well, that raises the horrifying possibility of a saint that is a floating, behaloed head dragging its body behind it.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            A cephalophore (from the Greek for “head-carrier”) is a saint who is generally depicted carrying his or her own head; in art, this was usually meant to signify that the subject in question had been martyred by beheading. Handling the halo in this circumstance offers a unique challenge for the artist. Some put the halo where the head used to be; others have the saint carrying the halo along with the head.

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          • Deiseach says:

            Well, that raises the horrifying possibility of a saint that is a floating, behaloed head dragging its body behind it.

            You’re thinking of Rahu and Ketu in Hindu mythology/astrology. Rahu was an Asura who drank the nectar of immortality by deceit (there was a lot of deceiving going on by both sides sharing it out) and had his head cut off by Vishnu but because he was now immortal, both head and body survived and go about separately.

            Rahu is responsible for solar and lunar eclipses, among other things.

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  45. onyomi says:

    Does anyone else think that ISIS’s apparent push to be a hip, new sort of radical theocracy must ultimately collapse in on itself? It’s like, if you encourage your secret terror operatives to shave their beards, dress like hipsters, move into Brooklyn Heights and start attending cool parties, how long before they just… become hipsters?

    Report comment

    • Emily says:

      Was there a TV show about that?

      Maybe I’m thinking about one about KGB agents who got really into being American?

      Report comment

    • meyerkev248 says:

      Which would be fine if the 9/11 guys hadn’t been drunk partiers before driving the planes into the buildings, and one of the Paris attackers hadn’t been a stripper druggie* before blowing up a concert hall.

      The problem is not the hipsterdom/lack of hipsterdom that ISIS brings to the table. The problem is that they keep killing people. Heck, I think there’s something to be said for letting them have their caliphate in the Middle East. Now that we have fracking, it’s not like we actually care about what happens in the Middle East because we no longer care about the oil.

      Either it’ll work, or it’ll be a cautionary tale for generations about how actual caliphates don’t work.

      Except that they have this annoying tendency to leave the caliphate and go kill people in foreign countries.

      *At least, there’s some NSFW pics of her surrounded by lots of drugs.

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      • ad says:

        ” Heck, I think there’s something to be said for letting them have their caliphate in the Middle East.”

        ISIS’s ultimate goal is to implement their interpretation of Gods Law over all humanity. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to give rule over the Middle East to a group of people who want to conquer the world. It will almost certainly lead to trouble later on.

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        • birdboy2000 says:

          Yeah, this. If Islamic State was content with governing the Mosul/Raqqa axis as a theocracy, the world wouldn’t be nearly as disturbed by them; instead they’re at war with most of their neighbors and notionally committed to conquering the others, carrying out horrific terrorist attacks (occasionally in Paris, far more often in other Muslim-majority polities, especially the parts of Iraq and Syria they don’t control) in the rest of the world, and treating emigration as a capital offense.

          It’s hard to practice containment against a force explicitly committed to perpetual war and presently acting on that commitment.

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      • NN says:

        Another one of the Paris attackers (who is still at large as of this writing) was apparently a regular at a gay bar.

        There’s also Dzokhar Tsarnev, who from the descriptions of his friends seems to have been a perfectly typical pothead Boston hipster apart from being a Chechen immigrant, yet that didn’t stop him from helping his older brother blow up a marathon.

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    • Sastan says:

      For some, I’m sure this happens.

      But people downplay the desire for meaning in life, the draw of sacrifice, the pull of the old ways. Rationalists especially are bad at this sort of cultural Chesterton’s Fencing.

      There is totally a hedonic impulse, and in many people it is predominant. But there is also an ascetic impulse. A death wish for every self-preserving urge.

      The muslims call it Jihad, the Romans wrote:

      “And how can man die better
      Than facing fearful odds,
      For the ashes of his fathers,
      And the temples of his Gods”

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      • The original Mr. X says:

        Nitpick alert: that poem was by the 19th-century Englishman Macaulay, albeit writing in the (hypothetical) style of an ancient Roman ballad-singer.

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      • onyomi says:

        Somewhat related, this article recently linked by Eleizer and Patri Friedman:

        http://quillette.com/2016/01/07/original-sin-the-sexual-motivation-of-religious-extremists/

        Religious extremism and an obsession with sex aren’t mutually exclusive–in fact, they seem to be weirdly connected. Very Foucauldian.

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        • NN says:

          Like I wrote in a comment on that article, the theory presented has a ton of holes. For one thing, it blames legal polygyny (and the shortage of available women resulting from it) for ISIS, even though the country with the highest per-capita rate of foreign ISIS fighters is Tunisia, where polygamy has been banned for 60 years. For another, there is no shortage of examples of married jihadists. Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik are particularly prominent recent examples, but there are also the jihadi brides and plenty of reports of married couples and even families with children traveling to ISIS. Furthermore, before 9/11 most members of Al-Qaeda were married. There’s also Abdeslam Salah who, based on his regular escapades at gay bars, probably did not have any problems with a shortage of available women.

          This is without even getting into the fact that polygyny isn’t actually that common in much of the Muslim world even where it is legal, since Islamic law traditionally requires that a man treat all of his wives equally – a difficult task under the best circumstances – and failing to do so provides grounds for a divorce (even in Saudi Arabia, marrying a second wife has a 55% chance of resulting in the first wife divorcing you). Nor, for that matter, is de-facto polygyny entirely unknown in the West, as shown by the common phenomenon of rich and powerful men taking on mistresses in addition to their wives. So it’s not even immediately obvious that polygyny in practice is actually more common in the Middle East than it is in the West

          I’d have more respect for the article’s theory if it had some actual analysis and data to back it up, instead of a bunch of just-so stories that ignore a lot of inconvenient counter-examples.

          Report comment

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m also suspicious of the polygyny theory. If it’s doing its work by changing the effective sex ratio, then it has a lot of work to do — sex ratios at maturity vary quite a bit, and since the rates of Islamic-style polygyny are in the low single digits in most places I expect them to get lost in the noise.

            On the other hand, sex ratio itself could be doing some work; the highest ratios on that table are all in small, wealthy Islamic countries, probably thanks mostly to guest workers. (Tunisia, being neither small nor wealthy, is not one of them.)

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          • NN says:

            On the other hand, sex ratio itself could be doing some work; the highest ratios on that table are all in small, wealthy Islamic countries, probably thanks mostly to guest workers. (Tunisia, being neither small nor wealthy, is not one of them.)

            That would only be an issue in the mating game if guest workers regularly pair up with citizens of the countries where they work. I don’t have any personal experience or hard data about the countries in question, but from what I know about the cultural mores of those places, my first guess would be that this isn’t very common.

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          • Nornagest says:

            True. But guest workers is just my theory; I know there are a lot of guest workers floating around the Arabian peninsula, but I don’t know their sex ratio, or if they’re the only moving part, or much else about how the sociology works on the ground. What I do have is data, and the data says that the malest countries are mostly Gulf states.

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          • onyomi says:

            I think the article paints with overly broad strokes and tries too hard to be a kind of “grand theory,” though I do think it hits on something important, which is the weird interrelationship between extreme conservative sexual mores, polygamy, and religion.

            There are a lot of young men in China who can’t afford to get married, but they aren’t really becoming terrorists. But then, they may not have a strong ideology to fight for at the moment.

            I do think the overall theory that a society which shuts a large percentage of men out of the mating game entirely will inevitably be more conflict-ridden than one which finds a way to thwart the natural tendency toward “chief gets all the women”-type systems.

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        • The original Mr. X says:

          Maybe that’s true, but the article you linked to would be more convincing evidence of anti-theism being weirdly connected with sex. In particular, statements like

          Religion has nothing to do with immortal souls. It’s about bodies. Especially women’s bodies. Religion is concerned with sex and with violence, in that order. Men want sex from women; men fight over women to get it. The resulting children may or may not be allowed to live, depending on whose they are—and how much they grovel. That’s all there is to it. Everything else is just window-dressing.

          probably tell us more about the author’s own mental state than they do about anything religious.

          Report comment

    • Nero tol Scaeva says:

      ” shave their beards, dress like hipsters”

      Aren’t beards de rigueur for hipsters?

      Report comment

  46. Arthur B. says:

    The question you’re asking about Uber assumes a pre-existing free market in taxis where markets clear… I think in many places, people take Uber when before they would not have been able to even find a taxi, irrespective of the price.

    Report comment

    • meyerkev248 says:

      Or it would have been a major pain.

      The advantage of “Call from app” vs. “Call dispatcher and wait 45 minutes” is significant.

      Report comment

      • Mark Atwood says:

        In some cities, you can use the Uber app to summon and pay for a regular taxi. The transition is often a bit rough when it first rolls out. For the taxi drivers, who get to discover that the passenger can actually watch them sit and idle instead of directly coming to get them.

        Report comment

    • Nero tol Scaeva says:

      In cities where you have to pay cash for a cab, I use Uber 100% of the time.

      That is the taxi commission’s punishment for not joining the 21st century.

      Report comment

  47. onyomi says:

    Speaking of the average person being dumber than you think, have there been any sci-fi stories in which an alien crash lands his warp drive-powered ship on Earth but then tells everyone “no, I don’t know how it works or how to fix it–I was one of the stupidest people on my planet.”?

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    • Marc Whipple says:

      It’s not uncommon for somebody in sci-fi to say something like that. Two incidents that come to mind are an Asgardian who hid on Earth after the Asgardians mostly left from the “Agents of Shield” series, who said that he was a stonemason or something and didn’t know all the high mucketymucks or much about Asgardian technology, and Kyle Reese from Terminator, who said that he was just a grunt who “didn’t know tech stuff” when asked how the Terminator or the time portal worked.

      Can’t think of an alien example off the top of my head (although technically Asgardians are aliens) but there must be some.

      Report comment

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      District 9 is almost exactly this plot.

      Report comment

      • John Schilling says:

        And Alien Nation before it, with a slightly less sledge-hammery level of social commentary.

        Report comment

        • NN says:

          Though amusingly enough, despite practically everyone outside of South Africa thinking that District 9 was a metaphor for Apartheid, the director actually intended it to be a metaphor for immigration issues in post-Apartheid South Africa. You know that part early in the movie where residents of Johannesburg express their opinions about the aliens in “man on the street” interviews? Those were taken from unscripted interviews with real Johannesburg residents, but the interviewees were actually asked about Nigerian and Zimbabwean immigrants.

          Report comment

    • Gjgdhj says:

      Futurama did it. (Leonardo da Vinci episode)

      Report comment

    • Murphy says:

      Footfall is all about an invasion by fairly dim aliens who don’t really understand their own technology or the theory behind it very well but who’s home planet was littered with large stone cubes inscribed with designs for machines left behind by an extinct race.

      Terry pratchett also had a story where a young character is thrown back in time by about 70 years who has no idea how to do anything like invent plastic (“right so you take some oil… and some chemicals and ….hmmm. oh”) or anything else notable but still got rich investing in fast food chains he knew would do well.

      Report comment

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I think about all the technology I couldn’t replicate or even effectively explain if sent back in time and it’s a bit depressing. Also, I’m much better-educated than the average citizen of the US.

        Report comment

        • Doctor Mist says:

          For a fascinating read, I recommend Lewis Dartnell’s The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch. I doesn’t quite live up to the title, but it comes far closer than I would have imagined possible in 350 pages.

          (I tried to make that link go through Scott’s Amazon connection, but looking at the text I’m not sure I succeeded.)

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          • Anthony says:

            Many (many) years ago, there was a column in Analog magazine asking “if you had to rebuild civilization, which sex books would you take”?

            Books were defined in the physical sense, so no taking the 1911 Britannica.

            Report comment

          • onyomi says:

            ““if you had to rebuild civilization, which sex books would you take”?”

            I’d say Kama Sutra, but if I have to rebuild humanity I’d better not fool around.

            Report comment

    • gbdub says:

      American Dad sort of did it – Roger the alien is convinced he has a world-destroying superweapon in his crashed spaceship, and he’s been sent to Earth to decide its fate. Turns out that was just a story his superiors made up to convince him to go, and he was actually a literal crash test dummy.

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    • There’s a pretty awful movie called Morons from Space.

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  48. Andrew Hunter says:

    People seem to still argue with me when I claim nerds are low status. Here’s a hint: if you can indoctrinate children into performing a play where caricatured Foos are all dastardly villains to be mocked and hated, and society doesn’t condemn you for this. Foos are low status. This would be true even if they weren’t forcing this onto the children of Foos.

    (I’ve been threatening for years now to write a Wicked-esque retelling of RENT (a great musical about terrible people and ideals.) It’d be a tragedy where Benny tries and fails to revitalized a dead slum but self-important and ignorant hippies foil him.)

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    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      >if you can indoctrinate children into performing a play where caricatured Foos are all dastardly villains to be mocked and hated, and society doesn’t condemn you for this. Foos are low status. This would be true even if they weren’t forcing this onto the children of Foos.

      You could do that with a lot of things. Are Bankers, Lawyers and Politicians low status? I don’t think being an “Acceptable Target” necessarily implies low status.

      Report comment

    • Nicholas says:

      I’m told this is a few things:
      One part is that regional variation on nerds is huge. Lot’s of nerd things have been sub-culturally appropriated to just be things, so my midwestern town has like 8 game stores, but the one my girlfriend’s parents live in has like 2 despite being a little bit bigger. Whether nerds are low status, high status, or completely assimilated is going to vary.
      A second part is that “pretentious white person” is often what people mean when they say nerd, or also hipster, which basically just means “low status nerd”. People have been mocking pretentious white people since Mark Twain, but white people were not low status during the civil war.
      A third component is “low status compared to what?” Low status compared to a randomly selected 13 year old from a housing project, compared to nerds in the 80s, compared to movie stars and musicians? Because nerd pop-culture dominance is not quite up to the Led Zepplin songs about Mordor level these days, but I think it’s much better than in the intervening doldrums.
      Also I feel like you missed the part where the reason Benny is villain is because his plan to renovate the neighborhood is to evict its inhabitants. The play being about what is good for the inhabitants of the neighborhood as individuals, evicting them and building a nicer building where they used to live but can’t anymore isn’t helping. So you know, in a Vietnam way, your play could work really well, as Benny realizes the problem with the poor neighborhood is that poor people live there, and he can fix all the problems by just banishing the suffering people to where he can’t see them.

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  49. Arthur B. says:

    If you count drug overdoses against drug legalization, you should count suicides against gun ownership. You seem sympathetic to counting the former here but excluded the latter in your article on guns. I would exclude both.

    Report comment

    • onyomi says:

      Accidental drug overdose seems to me a strike against prohibition because one is more likely to get a product of uncertain strength and quality when one is buying something illegally. Drug overdose is only analogous to gun suicide when you are overdosing as a means to commit suicide. But for that there are any number of already legal drugs which will do.

      Though I’m against gun control, this is probably less true with guns. Though I guess homemade guns might be more likely to malfunction.

      Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        Accidental drug overdose due to uncertain strength/quality, sure. All accidental drug overdose? Not so much. I’d love to hear a proposed method to tease out the difference between these two categories.

        Report comment

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I would bet that a significant number of prescription or OTC accidental drug overdoses are directly related to alcohol, either by mixing the pills with a stiff drink or 4, or the alcohol screwing up judgment and memory, and thus dose control.

          It is more than a little terrifying to realize how low the doses of acetaminophen plus alcohol can be and still lead to a very painful and very expensive death. According to Wikipedia: “Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand”

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        • John Schilling says:

          If the doctor prescribes 200 mg/day of FeelGoodizine to reduce the pain of a soft tissue injury to a tolerable ache, and the patient rationalizes “OK, we both know I was lying about the soft tissue injury, so… 800 mg/day of FeelGoodizine to feel really, really good ought to be about right?”, does that count as “uncertain strength or quality” in your book?

          What if the patient knows the doctor will yell at him if he demands a refill before next month, so it’s 400 mg of FeelGoodizine plus two glasses of wine plus a leftover vicodin and was that two glasses of wine or three?

          Report comment

          • Deiseach says:

            Who are these doctors prescribing FeelGoodizine and where can I meet them? I had joint and muscle pain meaning I could lift my arm only elbow-high and couldn’t rotate the shoulder, so my doctor very reluctantly gave me a prescription for eight (8) tablets of Difene to take one a day for the week, warned me in the strongest terms of how taking more would trigger all kinds of adverse side-effects and there were no “wooh, this feels really nice and I’m getting a bit high” side effects from it.

            I have so far been unable to persuade any doctor that I am developing arthritis, despite a two-generation (at least) family history of same on maternal side.

            On the other hand, I have been able to purchase online the American version of Benedryl, which unlike the UK/Irish version does make me go “Wooh, that feels nice and I’m going to fall asleep right this second” on only one tablet, so I take it very sparingly, and American Aleve for the arthritis pains; naproxen isn’t an OTC over here (so far as I can make out) and it does help, but again, I use it very sparingly (I tend to believe the THIS WILL MURDER YOU SIX DIFFERENT WAYS warnings on the bottle).

            From the recent cases in the news over here of people fatally overdosing on OTC painkillers like paracetamol, I think the problem (at least on this side of the Atlantic) is less Dr Feelgood prescribing and more people self-medicating for pain relief (because they know their doctor won’t prescribe them anything and will only tell them buy OTC products anyway) and accidentally taking too much because (a) the pain is so constant they are dosing themselves every day and exceeding recommended levels (b) taking other products with paracetamol etc. in them on top of that, not knowing it’s the active ingredient or not aware of the danger of exceeding doses.

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          • I’m not sure what’s going on– I read a *lot* from Americans who need pain medication and have a very hard time getting it, but the media (or at least NPR, my primary source) is completely focused on the dangers of pain meds. I expect things to get worse for people who have serious pain in the US.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Can’t speak for Ireland, but in the United States we have: First, a few doctors who will prescribe essentially unlimited opiates to anyone who asks, knowing full well what they plan to use them for but not caring so long as the check has an extra ‘zero’ and doesn’t bounce. Second, a modest number of doctors who will prescribe appropriate quantities of opiates for people who genuinely need them for pain management (or can convincingly fake it). Third, a bunch of drug warriors who want to put all the type-1 doctors in jail and if they can’t tell the difference between type-1 and type-2, well, arrest them all and the courts will sort them out. Fourth, courts that aren’t very good at sorting all this out. And fifth, a whole lot of doctors who want to do right by their patients but even more so don’t want to go to jail by mistake.

            It doesn’t help that even a sincere and principled type-2 doctor would practically need to be telepathic to reliably determine “appropriate quantities of opiates” given individual variation in pain tolerance and susceptibility to addiction. This problem will persist in some form even after the War on Drugs goes away.

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          • “meaning I could lift my arm only elbow-high and couldn’t rotate the shoulder”

            That sounds as though it might be a rotator cuff problem, which I have suffered from. The solution in my case was physical therapy, a set of exercises that greatly reduced the problem. I got them for a physical therapist, but I expect you could find descriptions of the exercises online.

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          • Held in Escrow says:

            I suspect part of it is class based. I’ve had opiates practically thrown at me when I went to a schmaltzy dentist place back in college (because it was the only place I could get an appointment within 24 hours) or when I was dealing with my messed up knee at a private doctor’s office. The less schmaltzy dentist place I normally go to doesn’t do opiates at all though

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          • Creutzer says:

            @Held in Escrow: Could I ask you to make explicit the class inferences to be drawn from “schmaltzy”? I think I’m not sufficiently familiar with the social and linguistic particulars of the US.

            Report comment

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Creutzer:

            I just wanted to add that, as a native speaker, I don’t think Held in Escrow is using the word “schmaltzy” in its normal or usual sense. “Schmaltzy” means “overly sentimental”, in a cloying and false way, similar to “corny” or “cheesy”.

            The word I would use for the kind of place I think Held in Escrow has in mind is “sleazy” or (in more modern slang) “sketchy”.

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    • Murphy says:

      The weird thing about that is the US’s downright pedestrian suicide rate at 12.1 per 100k.

      With Belgium(14.2 per 100K) and france(12.3 per 100k) on one side and Sweden(11.1) and Ireland (11) on the other.

      (All counties where guns are a fairly unusual suicide method.)

      So either the US would otherwise have a crazy-low suicide rate vs similar developed countries without many guns or something else is up.

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    • Alraune says:

      Correct parallel would be deaths from accidental firearm discharge, not suicides.

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      • Arthur B. says:

        The way I look at it is: even though you might think you will not have suicidal thoughts, there is a chance you will in the future, and in owning a gun you are increasing the risk that you will act upon them. Likewise, even if you intend to always be careful with your dosage, in taking a dangerous addictive substance, you run the risk that in the future you will disregard such safety precautions and end up killing yourself in an overdose.

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          By that standard, nobody should own a car, or take up a dangerous sport, or have a job that involves heavy equipment.

          I’m a Burner. That means I rather explicitly and specifically reject the idea of nerfing the world, or at least “my world as I experience it”, out of fear of what I might maybe do sometime in the future.

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        • Psmith says:

          I already own a bottle holding quite enough loose acetaminophen to kill me stone dead. One man’s modus ponens….

          Report comment

    • J Mann says:

      Impulsive suicide is a good argument in favor of gun control or confiscation. (For the record, I am suspicious of the former and opposed to the latter). But I agree with Scott that when you’re talking about gun violence, you shouldn’t just lump suicide into the statistics without making it clear – it’s much more responsible to break the two things out and make both arguments.

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  50. J Mann says:

    My daughter took the ACT and SAT last Spring with minimal test prep (she had read some books for the PSAT the previous year, and took 2 practice tests for each test, then went over the correct answers for any mistakes) and did around the 92nd percentile on both. She felt like she had more potential in the SAT, so she took a 6 week SAT course with Princeton Review, then re-took both tests this Fall. Result, she did significantly WORSE on the SAT, and moved up to the 99th percentile in the ACT.

    I guess part of the lesson is that there’s more error on the top of the curve than I would have thought, but the surprising part to me is that the SAT course didn’t seem to have much test-specific impact. I would assume that spending 6 weeks and 30 hours studying for one specific test would demonstrate an impact.

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    • meyerkev248 says:

      I think that part of this is that “Error Bound on score” is noticeably higher than the effects of the test prep

      So *pulling numbers from behind*:

      *Daughter’s a 2200 innate ability. +-100 based on whether or not she ate breakfast that morning. Actually gets a 2250.
      * Test prep adds 20 points to innate ability.
      * Daughter’s a 2220 innate ability. +-100 based on whether or not she ate breakfast that morning. Gets a 2170.

      So she might not have been wrong, she just might have been unlucky.

      /Got a 2260, needed to send the results off to 4 more schools anyways and was annoyed over getting a 790 in Math. Took it again and… 2180, 720 Math.

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      • J Mann says:

        “Error Bound” – THAT was the word I was looking for in my post! (I was too lazy to Google and just said “error.”)

        Thanks, and it’s not surprising that you often test well in Math! 🙂

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    • Alraune says:

      I would assume that spending 6 weeks and 30 hours studying for one specific test would demonstrate an impact.

      I would assume that spending three hours on the novel experience of speed-essay-bullshitting would have an impact, but said impact would probably be within margin of error for the grading, and the rest was wasted.

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    • gbdub says:

      My guess is that at 90+ percentile, it’s much harder to improve than to do worse, regardless of method. I mean, let’s say you nominally get 5 questions wrong on the test (that is, there are 5 questions you would never get right because you simply lack the knowledge / skill). You can study to improve your performance by 20%, and still have that totally undone by making one extra dumb error or bad guess.

      Whereas if you’d nominally get a middling score, a 20% improvement is much harder to offset. I suspect “dumb errors” are more or less independent of actual intelligence.

      I always scored highly on standardized tests and never did prep courses for them. I probably should have done some prep for the SATIIs because I was “beyond” the math covered in the math one and thus some of the concepts were a bit rusty for me.

      But I’ve seen some test prep material, and prep courses would seem to be potentially useful when:
      1) You don’t already have a decent grasp of the core material. This is really just “learning” though.
      2) You’re a nervous test taker, and having some practice runs / familiarity would ease that and improve your score through psychology
      3) You’re lousy at the core concepts but an excellent rote learner / pattern matcher, and can brute force your way into knowing what sort of questions you’ll get. Still seems harder than just mastering the concepts but maybe that’s not true for everyone.

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  51. C7 says:

    FiveThirtyEight did an analysis of Uber’s replacing cabs vs. supplementing cabs. It’s easier to do this in New York City because a FOIA managed to get data on Uber rides, and a FOIA also got information on all cab rides. Quick summary is that Uber seems to be replacing cabs in Manhattan, and in other Burroughs (where cabs are typically harder to come by) Uber is supplementing cabs, adding additional rides that cabs wouldn’t take.

    Full article: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/uber-is-taking-millions-of-manhattan-rides-away-from-taxis/

    Having lived in both cities, this seems to make sense. It’s not hard to find a cab most places in Manhattan, I found it hard to randomly find a cab in SF. In places where it’s difficult to find a cab, it seems to make sense that more new rides will be created by Uber.

    Other commenters mentioned other issues about this like safety and convenience.

    Report comment

    • Anthony says:

      It’s been a while, but I remember visiting lower Manhattan and feeling like about half the cars in the street were cabs. It was more common than not to see a three or four lane street with the first car at the red in each lane being a taxi.

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  52. Parker says:

    I pictured manatee steaks as being just a lot of fat (which sounded kind of good) and so decided to Google manatee steaks. It turns out they’re a thing, and they’re not just all fat.

    One reviewer said “The meat tasted faintly of mud, but not unpleasantly so.”

    Report comment

  53. Whitney says:

    Hmm…..manatee…would it taste like beef or fish or chicken?

    Report comment

  54. Grant says:

    So what’s even worse about the Vox piece is that its filed under Vox’s “First Person” section. On the First Person Explainer, Vox mentions that if an article is accepted, the author will be paid. So the SAT Prep guy may have been paid to advertise his services on Vox. Pretty sweet deal for him.

    http://www.vox.com/2015/6/12/8767221/vox-first-person-explained

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  55. gold-in-green says:

    “as far as we know Bronze Age laborers, despite living in some of the most coercive societies of all time, also had less mental illness than we do;”
    Where are you getting this from? It would be surprising to me if true and sounds very difficult to substantiate.

    “records suggest antebellum slaves did as well.”
    The linked research is about lower suicide rates among antebellum slaves – shouldn’t this be distinguished from mental illness per se? I.e. shouldn’t we distinguish between having mental health issues / pressures (which I would guess would be more common in more coercive societies) and being able or unable to deal with those issues?
    (I am not well-versed in mental health; this is just my intuition).

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  56. Primadant says:

    About the puzzle of why Sweden has higher suicide rates than expected despite high self-reported well-being, Heliwell, 2006 :

    ” belief in god is more predictive of suicide rates than of life satisfaction (with reporting issues possibly coming into play here as well). Divorce rates have larger effects for suicide than for life satisfaction, while differences in the quality of government are much more important for life satisfaction than for suicide. These differences in coefficients provide the main reasons why countries are sometimes ranked differently for suicide rates than for life satisfaction. For example, Sweden has very high values for the quality of government, high divorce rates and low belief in God. All of these factors contribute to explaining why Sweden is very high in life satisfaction and only average in terms of suicide rates”

    http://tsaofoundation.org/doc/wellbeing_social_capital.pdf

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  57. Rob K says:

    Is that style guide as good as the Al Qaeda Cookbook, though?

    Report comment

  58. Rachel says:

    Manatee steak? That’s horrible…

    Report comment

  59. TSC says:

    Your offhand comment about eating manatee really made me disbelieve you genuinely alieve in the moral worth of nonhuman animals. I feel like you have a strange block about following through on the implications of the idea that animals have non-negligible moral worth. Is that not the case?

    Report comment

    • onyomi says:

      I’m pretty sure it was a joke…

      Report comment

      • TSC says:

        Cool, I’m glad, since jokes are never used to trivialize serious things!

        Actually, it’s not really a joke. It’s more like saying “Wow, malaria deaths are way down in the developing world. Time to infect a bunch of humans with malaria lol”

        Report comment

        • Nornagest says:

          This is a nerdy distinction, but it’s a nerdy complaint, so: if you cared about the survival of the species but not about maximizing its population or minimizing its suffering, this is not an obviously insane thing to say. Lots of people think that way, and lots more might joke about it.

          If you cared about the above but also enjoyed infecting people with malaria (as many people enjoy eating new foods), it’s not even that weird.

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        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          >Cool, I’m glad, since jokes are never used to trivialize serious things!

          Well, yes, that’s a whole brand of humor.

          >Actually, it’s not really a joke. It’s more like saying “Wow, malaria deaths are way down in the developing world. Time to infect a bunch of humans with malaria lol”

          That’s a bad simile. The joke works (moderately, it’s not a great achievement in humor or anything) because people do actually eat animals. No one porposefully goes around infecting people with malaria, not even Hitler.

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          • TSC says:

            Okay. “Amazing, child abuse is down 500%! Time to beat some more children!” isn’t funnier, IMHO.

            You can make great jokes about serious and terrible things. Humor can be used to highlight the suffering in the world, and help us cope with it. But making thoughtless jokes about horror most people don’t already care about is usually actively destructive.

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          • Sam says:

            No one porposefully goes around infecting people with malaria, not even Hitler.

            Actually…

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          • lvlln says:

            “Amazing, child abuse is down 500%! Time to beat some more children!”

            As a former victim of child abuse who is as an adult still getting psychiatric treatment for PTSD and depression as a result of it, I find that joke quite hilarious and just as inoffensive as Scott’s manatee quip.

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      • Urstoff says:

        manatee jokes are serious business

        Report comment

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Eco-freak here. A quick Google suggests the idea is premature. But depending on other predators to keep the when-restored manatees from over-populating, may be less practical than eating some of them ourselves.

        So if and when restoration does succeed to that point, it would be something to celebrate!

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    • It completely blows my mind how everybody in circles like here seems to jump from “it is wrong to kill X” to “it is wrong to eat X” even when the X was already killed by someone else’s and thus it is not on your own conscience / karma. Most humans tend to naturally, instinctively think in virtue ethics terms, namely, it does not matter if X dies or not, what matters if I am a murderer or not, it is my karma or reputation, not the others suffering. You guys seem to not only intellectually think in utilitarian, as opposed to virtue ethics terms, but even internalized it on an instinctive level! How?

      For me there are a lot of things I don’t do out of squeamishness or protecting my reputation, but gladly take advantage of them if others do it. Why should I do otherwise? It is not that I give a shit about the victim. I give a shit about how it reflects back on me.

      I firmly believe that all this caring and morality you show is mostly signalling, although potentially internalized, and thus feels honest:

      https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/buddhist-ethics-is-advertising/

      https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/moralityethics-as-a-social-prestige-engine/

      This is why most people tend to think in virtue ethics terms, that maps far closer to prestige than utility does.

      But the weird part is that at some point in history, these Ameriliberal circles basically somehow internalized indirect responsibility in their prestige mechanism. It was no longer enough to not have some kind of a crime directly done by you, it was also necessary to not be indirectly generate demand for it. When did this happen? As it feels extremely weird for me.

      I mean, a random religion says for example that it is taboo to drink blood because it is ritually impure. Okay. Your secular, humanistic liberal religion says it is taboo to make others even outside your ingroup suffer, because whatever, despite the fact that mirror neurons and emotional sympathy tends to NOT work outside the ingroup. Okay. But any random religion does not say that it is taboo to be indirectly responsible for someone else drinking blood. But this humanist religion does say that it is taboo to be indirectly responsible for slaughtering animals, or people each other over conflict minerals in your phone or diamong ring etc. so to be indirectly responsible for causing suffering. Weird.

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      • drethelin says:

        The answer is incentives. Eating animals incentivizes killing more animals, even if you eat ones that someone has already killed.

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        • Of course, but the concept of incentives is a highly abstract idea used by economists. Intellectually, it makes sense not to given out wrong incentives. The question is, how the eff is it possible people internalized this ideas so deeply that they instinctively feel it is immoral and wrong to hand out bad incentives, feel ashamed about it, or feel like deducing status for it?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Perhaps it’s not a matter of “instinct”?

            Report comment

          • If you substitute incentives with “influence people” it becomes more intuitive. Getting other people to do stuff for you isn’t far removed from doing something yourself.

            I guess another possiblity is that sometimes people authentically pursue their moral reasoning as opposed to just their instinct. Not as often as they claim perhaps, but sometimes.

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      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Are you seriously complaining about / wondering how it is possible for other people to have sincere moral beliefs?

        I myself don’t think their beliefs are correct or justified, but I have no problem seeing how they could sincerely hold them and act upon them.

        Just because you’re apparently some kind of amoralist doesn’t mean that everyone else is the same way. Maybe you should take this as evidence that you ought to revise some of your simplistic beliefs about human psychology and ethics. Like just maybe there’s more to it than according “prestige” and “status” for not violating the tribal “taboos”?

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    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Seriously, what is supposed to be so wrong with eating manatees? Why is it any different from eating a cow or something?

      I mean, if the goal is to have them not go extinct so that future generations can enjoy the wonderful pleasures of watching manatees, fine, that makes sense to a certain degree. But if eating a manatee would now not endanger them, then why should their moral worth be any different from that of cows?

      Maybe TSC would object to any joke about eating a steak. But that’s abnormal.

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      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        >Maybe TSC would object to any joke about eating a steak. But that’s abnormal.

        That’s what I got out of the exchange, pretty much.

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      • J Mann says:

        I read TSC to mean that Scott’s joke implies that Scott is not overly upset by eating animals, and that TSC thinks this contradicts some of Scott’s earlier statements about his “aliefs.”

        I would agree that the joke indicates either Scott isn’t particularly upset by people eating meat, or that Scott has a dark sense of humor.

        TSC: Scott’s statement could be read ironically, right – i.e., “It’s darkly comic that people go to great lengths to protect endangered animals but not very far to protect delicious, delicious bacon.”

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      • Deiseach says:

        It’s possible that if we start eating manatees, we will start farming manatees, and that will preserve them. How many domestic cattle versus wild cattle are there now? (Too lazy to Google this, someone else want to?)

        I hesitate to tell people to get a sense of humour, because that is often telling people they are being over-sensitive when something really objectionable has been said, but considering Scott had a long post worrying about chickens as moral agents and their suffering, yes, I don’t think he’s serious we should start eating manatees and TSC should work on differentiating jokes from “ha ha only joking no not really I do mean this”.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Deiseach
          It’s possible that if we start eating manatees, we will start farming manatees, and that will preserve them.

          Let’s not eat that many. Let’s just hunters prey on a few now and then, leaving them wild and free.

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  60. Ben says:

    This is why I don’t tutor for the SAT anymore, with the possible exception of identifying concrete math or other skills that they are lacking. At most I’ll do a couple sessions but I feel too guilty otherwise.

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  61. Thread-fusing time:

    “This diagram does not commute,” said Tom uncategorically.

    If you understood that…you probably overstimate the intelligence of the average person.

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  62. Anonymous` says:

    Gwern investigates the cost-benefit analysis of taking Vitamin D and decides that there’s probably a very small but real advantage to taking it which makes it worthwhile given the very low cost of the pills.

    And Gwern would be the first to tell you that one man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens. I kid.

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    • gwern says:

      Well, these aren’t mass-produced but lovingly and sustainably hand-crafted recommendations by an experienced artisan… No, but seriously, that is a good question: why did my decision analysis reach a different conclusion from Yvain back in 2014? It’s not even necessarily that we looked at different studies – he even cites Autier 2007 and Bolland et al 2014.

      I think it’s more that he got a bit lost in the weeds: there are a lot of different endpoints and meta-analyses flying around, and the criteria for a decision analysis are also different from conventional standards (and in particular, the mentioned futility analysis is incorrect from a decision point of view). So he got bogged down and he missed that the largest and most recent meta-analysis on all-cause mortality does shown statistical-significance (I infer this from the quoting where he mentions all-cause mortality initially as what the snake-oil chart was claiming but in later paragraphs he’s gone off and is quoting more tangential outcomes about cancer etc), which is vastly more important than whether we can show statistical-significance for this or that kind of cancer or heart disease, because all-cause mortality is the hardest to cheat endpoint and is the most sensitive overall indicator of benefit.

      Then, having lost the thread of all-cause mortality, he then goes only partway towards a full decision analysis by not considering what the small mortality benefit cashes out as and only noting that the cost is minimal in terms of side-effects, before he’s turned to the next subject of niacin. When you consider the costs/benefits, the folly of demanding statistical-significance and the thoroughly arbitrary nature of the futility analyses become apparent. Vitamin D is profitable at thresholds much less than p=0.05, and running futility analyses for detecting effects of 5% reduction in mortality is absurd as vitamin D would be profitable at 1% or less! (Ironically, the correct EVSI calculation here would also agree that it is futile to run more vitamin D trials… because the evidence is already far stronger than it needs to be to rollout vitamin D supplementation, and hence further trials are a waste of money.) That’s the beauty of decision theory for this stuff: a principled way of deciding what probability threshold we need for each intervention/action/supplement, based on how much it costs, how bad the side-effects are, and how much data we have. A decent-sized reduction in mortality from a dirt-cheap supplement with essentially zero side-effect? A very loose threshold is acceptable. A small gain from an extremely expensive and painful surgery? Better have lots of placebo-controlled studies with a very precise meta-analytic summary before you go around peddling it…

      You can see in the comments that jsalvatier and others are working towards this conclusion about vitamin D then, and if you used my comment there (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/01/25/beware-mass-produced-medical-recommendations/#comment-34686) you could done a quick and dirty decision analysis then and there. (Yvain didn’t address our rebuttals and I still think we are correct in evaluating vitamin D more positively than he did there.) So I can’t say that the conclusion of my analysis is surprising or even new; the point here is more to work through our intuitions more rigorously and put it all down on paper to confirm ‘yeah, as I expected, a point-value of RR=0.96 from the meta-analyses does indeed translate to sufficient life-expectancy increase that the expected-value is higher than the annual cost of some vitamin D and I didn’t find any gotchas or nullifying loopholes while doing this’.

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  63. Something really weird is happening. I’ve tried to register an email and account with a social meet-in-RL kind of website and I’ve found that several times (after working fine for the first few hours including logging in and out) I’ve tried to log in to the email account or the social website account and found for all sites involved the password no longer works. This is weird because I’ve done this multiple times and I’ve even got the password written down. EVEN WEIRDER I’ve done this twice on one webmail provider, and then CHANGED WEBMAIL PROVIDER and the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN within an hour or two. These are reputable website btw that have large numbers of users. I’ve also used the first provider lots before and there’s never been an issue. This follows a number of other weird things recently that I don’t want to go into just now (though one thing I will mention is that my site got blocked when I first started it by a number of Australian firewalls, and I had to kick up a fuss with a number of ISPs to even get somebody to admit they were blockng it, they then claimed there was a spam site on the same server as my site, which may have been true, but they could have blocked by url easily and avoided blocking me).

    Its tempting to think I might be being picked on for my views, but this social stuff isn’t related to anything political, and my political stuff actually hasn’t been directly attacked (I’ve asked multiple people and everyone keeps telling me I shouldn’t be concerned about my political stuff because its too moderate) and continues to get a very small but steady number of hits. I’m feeling quite concerned and confused about why my multiple emails and accounts on three separate sites would be locking me out and would appreciate any words of support and advice.

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    • Niklas says:

      Malware on your client PC stealing your account details?

      Report comment

    • Deiseach says:

      Unfortunate coincidence that you have either real life or online name in common with someone who is disliked for whatever reason and you get blocked because people think you’re that person?

      I once had a very strange experience of someone independently using the same username as I did, commenting on the same site I did, and people asking me why I had posted such-and-such a thing when it wasn’t me at all.

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      • The original Mr. X says:

        I had a similar experience, which is why I’m now The Original Mr. X, rather than just plain old Mr. X.

        Report comment

      • Thanks that’s a good suggestion, but I’m using a regular boring name (eg. “John”) on basically unrelated sites with probably thousands of users (for webmail users aren’t even publically visible) so it’s unlikely.

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      • Marc Whipple says:

        Also possible that it’s an IP issue – somebody in your IP family at the ISP you use has ticked them off/is ticking them off and you’re caught in the crossfire. Or could somebody be riding your internet connection? Or… well, there’s a lot of “ors” that don’t have anything to do with you personally. A system check by a competent security person may be in order, as well as some diagnostics.

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    • Mark says:

      I think your that your idea about an economic separation of powers is so good that you are probably being censored by some cabal of powerful internet men.
      Je suis citizensearth.
      Political moderation requires a state of mind that is not moderate. Consistent political positions require strong motivations. Our moderation might derive from morality or some other (more self-serving) reason – whatever – it’s still a form of extremism.
      A truly moderate position is not something we could talk meaningfully about – it would be a position with no stability, no principles – it would mean nothing.
      That’s why they are after you.

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  64. Richard says:

    On the soda tax:
    I imagine the arguments you saw saying soda taxes didn’t work were based on this study of Berkeley’s recently passed soda tax, which found that less than half of the price increase was passed onto consumers. This gives a very different answer from the Mexican study, so a few differences to note here:
    – Berkeley’s tax only applied within city limits, while Mexico’s law applied nationally. Berkeley’s tax could be easily circumvented by going to another town, which meant stores had to keep prices competitive.
    – Mexico’s tax was an excise tax applied to manufacturers. The paper states that “other research indicates that this tax is entirely passed on to consumers at the point of sale. Prices of sugar sweetened beverages increased on average by 1 peso/L in 2014 (exactly the amount of the tax), and these changes in prices, which began in the tax’s first month, were observed throughout the year.”, with two cited papers to back this up (1 and 2).
    – The Mexican paper follows up the aforementioned research on price changes by looking at actual consumer behavior, which has yet to be studied in the Berkeley case. For what it’s worth, the authors of Scott’s linked Mexican paper are also working on something similar in Berkeley, tracking consumption rather than merely prices. They want at least a year of data, but more info on this should be coming soon.
    – The Mexican law went into effect in January 2014, and the paper finds an effect that increases month-by-month over the course of the following year until December. The Berkeley paper looks at prices in June 2015 after a law that took effect starting in March 2015, so maybe the effect would increase over time? This doesn’t seem to fit, though; what the Mexican papers found was that the price increase was immediate and stable, but consumption changes lagged (as seems to make intuitive sense). The parallel hope for the Berkeley tax would be that price changes were somehow lagging instead.
    – On a similar note, soda consumption changes a lot seasonally, so maybe that’s having an effect here somehow? That seems unlikely, but it’s why they want a year of data before releasing consumption numbers.
    – There’s a huge difference in prior consumption rates. Mexico is stated in the paper to have had the largest per capita intake of soda and sugary beverages in 2011. Berkeley, by contrast, was found to have 44% of its citizens saying they drink sugary drinks more often than “never”, compared to the US average of 50-70% of citizens who say they drink at least one sugary beverage a day. (source). I know these numbers aren’t directly comparable, but I think the point gets through; Mexico has an unusually high rate of soda consumption, and Berkeley has an unusually low one.

    My bet is still on the first factor being most important, though. An easily circumvented tax can’t do much to change the price, and a tax that doesn’t affect the price much probably won’t affect consumer behavior much, either.

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  65. Niklas says:

    The Designated Anti-Bullying Task Force story makes me wonder if a similar strategy would work for diversity training (or something like it) in corporations.

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  66. Tibor says:

    I bet there was a blockbuster Greek play called Snakes on a Trimere but unfortunately it was not preserved until today.

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  67. Buck says:

    +1 to being disappointed and unimpressed with you for the manatee steak joke.

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  68. The ISIS style guide recommends that men wear a cross on a necklace. I would call that weird behavior in the US, which I keep hearing is more religious than the UK. Have I missed something, or is ISIS getting things wrong?

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  69. Mark says:

    I was in a shop earlier today and this song came on, and I just thought… wow…this is pretty good – she has a great voice. Pretty cool song, I’ll look it up when I get home.
    Anyway, I remember a few of the lyrics… look it up… and this is the song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxCzd_CYKt8
    Since watching the video I find it impossible to like this song.
    Am I a bigot?

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    • Montfort says:

      I tried to repeat your experiment blind, but the video had almost a minute of fans talking before the song started, including the name of the performer.

      I would sooner speculate that you just didn’t hear it as clearly in the shop, and when you heard it in a better listening environment could form a more-informed judgment. But when I watched it (muted) I found a lot to dislike in the editing and filmography of the video itself, so you have a lot of potential excuses here.

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  70. Mark says:

    Someone should make a song like this about curing cancer.

    Instead of putting on some shoes.

    “It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.”
    – Whitehead

    Absolutely true – but, then again, *someone* has to think about what we’re doing. The system of motivations must be designed by man, and there must be some sensible overarching plan. If there isn’t a mind that decides we *should* be doing, then people will do completely useless things (worrying about shoes, sex, sexuality) precisely because they are not willing to think for themselves – we tend to take the path of least resistance.

    And in our present circumstances, it absolutely *is* a sin to concern ourselves with sexuality or, even worse, impose such concerns on others. There are many far more pressing concerns. Any sane society would see our conversations on these topics as utterly primitive.
    We would all be far better off if we chemically castrated ourselves for the next fifty odd years, solved the problem of aging, etc. etc. and then actually had a think about what we should be doing, and who we should be.

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    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Mark
      And in our present circumstances, it absolutely *is* a sin to concern ourselves with sexuality or, even worse, impose such concerns on others. There are many far more pressing concerns. Any sane society would see our conversations on these topics as utterly primitive.
      We would all be far better off if we chemically castrated ourselves for the next fifty odd years, solved the problem of aging, etc. etc. and then actually had a think about what we should be doing, and who we should be.

      As an alternative to castration of any sort, we could all protect ourselves with contraception and vaccinations, and then have at it it with anyone anywhere who feels an hour’s worth of attraction. It’s the jealousy and prudery that causes the talk which causes the trouble. (Not as sarcastic as it may sound; Free Love was a lot of fun, and simpler, while it lasted. No, I never liked Heinlein.)

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      • Both options, as described, mean that in fifty years we have a society with nobody younger than fifty. Are you sure that is what you want? If you haven’t solved the problem of aging you have perhaps solved the problem of population rather more completely than you intended.

        Sexual feelings have real functions as well as costs. They are one way of creating and maintaining the pair bond that plays a major role in producing and rearing children.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ David Friedman
          Sexual feelings have real functions as well as costs. They are one way of creating and maintaining the pair bond that plays a major role in producing and rearing children.

          Free Love eliminates the negative sexual feelings (jealousy etc), leaving the positive ones, er, free. Then a marriage can develop from shared interests, shared values, etc — a more stable basis.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not aware of any marriage that is intended to be based on sexual jealousy. Rather, people do base their marriages on shared interests and values – or mutual attraction, at the very least – with jealousy serving the purpose of maintaining the relationship in the face of alternative offers.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous
            “jealousy serving the purpose of maintaining the relationship in the face of alternative offers”

            That’s a problem with package-deal offers.

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      • Mark says:

        We’re never going to get to the bottom of this – everyone has their own pet opinion/bias on this issue – if we could just live and let live, that would be great, unfortunately sexual attraction is fundamentally social and we therefore have to have social rules governing it.
        As such, instead of getting into the ins and outs (of the ins and outs), lets just try and forget about the whole beastly business temporarily, and work it all out when we have a bit more time.

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  71. Cop Party says:

    Last open thread somebody told me that ISIS & friends wouldn’t ever think long-term enough to try to infiltrate the West. I see I am unfortunately vindicated.

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    • John Schilling says:

      There is of course a difference between ISIS trying to infiltrate the West, and ISIS being accused of trying to infiltrate the West. The evidence presented of any planned ISIS infiltration of the west has, to date, been less than overwhelming.

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      • Cop Party says:

        It hasn’t been awe-inspiring, it hasn’t caused people to quake in their boots, but I think it’s been enough that most people seem to be at least somewhat sure it’s happening.

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  72. Deiseach says:

    I don’t know if this should go here or under Unsong – Google and the Vatican join forces? 🙂

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  73. blacktrance says:

    Scott Sumner has a good response to Kevin Drum’s Oxy post.

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    • synthetica2 says:

      Good post. But I’m still slightly skeptical about legalizing everything, mainly because it hasn’t been done before and we just don’t have any way of knowing what kind of effect it would have. For example, what happens with controlled prescription drugs? The public perception that they’re much safer than currently-illegal drugs isn’t going to go away overnight. Are people going to be able to walk into a drug store and pick up some Xanax when they’re stressed out? How many more problems would that create?

      (To clarify my position, I’d say with about 55% certainty that legalizing everything is a good idea, 85% certainty that decriminalizing possession of everything for personal use is a good idea, and 95% certainty that decriminalizing possession of “soft drugs” for personal use is a good idea.)

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  74. Plunkett Fugazi says:

    too many things wrong with this picture, mostly paraphrased:

    – “I guess all knowledge is worth having.”

    – “OMGZ OPEN AI!!!” At least mah buddy is involve.

    – My best friend’s uncle says that a 1992 study says that most people aren’t as smart as us.

    – Or for that matter, as mentally stable.

    – But nutrition!

    It’s little white tennis shoes all the way down.

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  75. Average Guy says:

    Speaking about how unintelligent people are, I remember just listening to a podcast with Linda Gottfredson on this very thing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZPsXYo7gpc). At some point during the podcast she mentions that many people can’t look at a simple bus schedule and get relevant information. So I decided to take the tests myself.

    I have to say i actually did get caught up on a few.
    The first one I forgot to carry an hour (more of a mistake)
    link to question http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/PrintItem.asp?ItemView=140&NextItem=0&PrintAll=z&PrintIt=false

    Question number 2
    -What is the poet trying to express in this poem?

    THE PEDIGREE of honey
    Does not concern the bee;
    A clover, any time, to him
    Is aristocracy.

    I really couldn’t answer this one. I might be able to shoehorn an answer in there, but I really don’t see one. Even after looking up other peoples interpretation of the poem, I’m still not convinced there is a meaning.

    Most embarrassingly I actually failed the bus schedule test.

    “On Saturday afternoon, if you miss the 2:35 bus leaving Mancock and Buena Ventura going to Flintridge and Academy, how long will you have to wait for the next bus? ”

    What tripped me up:
    Number 1 – I was confused by the outbound and inbound header ( I still don’t know what they mean),
    Number 2 – I didn’t notice some times were only for monday-friday
    Number 3- At first I was reading the chart wrong, I thought inbound was when the bus might arrive and outbound when it left, and then I sort of was trying to read the chart left to right.

    Once I caught my error and figured out the chart, It becomes an obvious question.
    I Guess I am of average intelligence.
    You can see all the test questions at http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/sample_items.asp and list them in order of difficulty (Almost all of them are easy, even the ‘tough ones’)

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    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      THE PEDIGREE of honey
      Does not concern the bee;
      A clover, any time, to him
      Is aristocracy.

      I really couldn’t answer this one. I might be able to shoehorn an answer in there, but I really don’t see one. Even after looking up other peoples interpretation of the poem, I’m still not convinced there is a meaning.

      It seems pretty clear to me: bees aren’t concerned with whether the clovers they pollinate are from “noble” or “common” lineages; these things don’t exist in nature. And this is supposed to be a metaphor for love and marriage among humans: it is quite likely that the author means to suggest that people, too, should look at the true worth of a prospective spouse as an individual, and not simply judge him or her according to the social rank of his or her family.

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