Open threads at the Open Thread tab every Sunday and Wednesday

OT46: Open Rebellion

This is the bi-weekly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Some corrections and clarifications about Saturday’s links thread: Fort Galt isn’t that cheap (2), some reasons male toddlers might by deadlier, debate on why not more traditional architecture, Desertopa on school discipline, stable inequality is probably just a measurement error, more promising supersonic flight companies, someone listens to the podcast on non-violent private police.

2. Other good comments this week: John Schilling on cost overruns, Wulfrickson quotes DFW, Wency on real estate development.

3. And Emil Kirkegaard crunches some numbers that broadly support the latest discussion on here about non-shared environment.

4. A CUTE BABY IN THE INGROUP NEEDS YOUR HELP! Those of you associated with the Bay Area rationality community may know Katie and Andromeda Cohen. They’ve fallen on some tough times and some friends have put up a GoFundMe campaign for them.

5. I finally slacked off so badly that the rest of Less Wrong put their yearly survey together without me. Iff you identify as a Less Wronger, you can take it here.

6. You may notice a new ad on the sidebar, advertising online math instructor positions for Art of Problem Solving. Teach kids higher math! Work from home! Incentivize people to put ads up on SSC!

7. Still a little early for this, but might as well get started: I’ll be done with my residency in about a year and will be looking for psychiatry jobs, especially in the Bay Area. If any of you are in psychiatric settings with job openings, I’d like to hear about it. And if any of you are psychiatrists or other doctors with experience in medical job searches, especially regarding outpatient positions or even setting up your own clinics, and you wouldn’t mind talking to me about it, leave a comment here or email me at scott[at]shireroth.org.

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1,472 Responses to OT46: Open Rebellion

  1. Dr Dealgood says:

    Since a lot of us here are tabletop gamers, has anyone here ever heard of or played “Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game”?

    I recently purchased a copy of it, though I haven’t had a chance to run a game as of yet, but it looks fascinating.

    The game was written by Greg Stafford of Chaosium in 1989, based on the world of Hal Foster’s newspaper comic Prince Valiant. It’s a ridiculously simple system based on flipping pools of coins, with advanced rules allowing players to temporarily take over STing from the regular Storyteller. It’s very reminiscent of the later games World of Darkness and Dungeon World mechanically.

    I have no familiarity with the world of ‘Prince Valiant’ at all, but it seems like a serviceable setting judging by the information given. Basically a turn-of-the-century pulp version of 5th century Europe, with anachronistic high medieval dress and technology and a few dinosaurs. There’s some dissonance from the fact that it was written in the 1940s, but nothing scandalous.

    • BillG says:

      Curious to hear how a play-through goes. I tend to like Chaosium systems for their focus on theme and relatively simple mechanics.

    • Aevylmar says:

      I played one session of the role-playing game, because a friend of mine also found it completely fascinating, and we found it horribly unworkable and immediately switched the system running the campaign to Fate-with-a-couple-houserules, which we much preferred.

      Basically, it fell apart with the first attack roll of the first fight scene. The combat system, as I remember it, is that the attacker flips [arms] coins, the defender flips [arms] coins, and if the attacker is higher than the defender, he inflicts a -X penalty on the defender’s coin pool, where X is based on how much higher it is. But because even one coin’s difference is large, this means that whoever lands the first blow wins the exchange, since the other guy is too injured to fight back.

      It was a really great campaign after the switch, though; we still used the Prince Valiant skill list, and I was The Glamourie-And-Battle guy… good times.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Yeah, you remember the combat system correctly.

        I know stat damage in combat is a bit of a bugbear to a lot of gamers for the reason you mention, fights quickly becoming one-sided as injuries pile up, but it’s actually the reason I like it. The idea of a wound actually mattering to combat performance and first blood being a big deal do a lot for my verisimilitude. Then again I haven’t been a player in years so it might not be fair judging from the other side of the screen.

        Did you guys end up using the advanced rules with ‘special effects’ and Storyteller Coupons? That’s the part I’m most interested in but have the weakest handle on tbh.

        • Aevylmar says:

          The problem with the system isn’t the one-sidedness – well, not just the one-sidedness – but the randomness. Because both sides are rolling each action, and because the bell curve isn’t sufficiently steep, one bad roll not matched with a bad roll ends it. We’re not just talking about a wound penalty system where the better side starts with a small advantage, wears the other side down, gets a big advantage – we’re talking about a system where Sir Lancelot has something like a 5 or 10% chance of slipping on a banana peel and falling headfirst on a random mook’s sword each mook each round, and then, well, fight’s over.

          There’s a tendency in role-playing games, especially recent ones, to try to move away from instant death, away from permanent or long-term stat penalties, in favor of mechanics like hero points and bonuses while injured and reserves of health consumable ‘don’t die now’ abilities. I think that’s trading verisimilitude for good gameplay, and I think Prince Valiant is trading too much quality of gameplay for verisimilitude.

          And I don’t think so about the advanced rules, but I know; I wasn’t the Rulebook-Owning Guy. We stopped playing Prince Valiant after one session – it was that much of a disaster – and switched to Fate on the spot.

          • anonymous user says:

            Everyone thinks they want realistic, hyper lethal, fast paced combat

            Then they roll badly and get offed in the first round of the first fight of the first session of the campaign

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Well Prince Valiant doesn’t actually have lethal combat per se. If you run out of coins in combat you’re injured or knocked out, and at ST discretion an enemy might choose to finish you off on his next turn. But the book discourages killing characters unless they were especially stupid.

            That said, I can see why players would feel cheated especially if they’re used to more tactical combat systems.

          • Protagoras says:

            I prefer systems with hero points or other expendable resources to change results because I like to have more control over the narrative; more challenging combat may be appealing in a computer game, but I don’t find it that important in a tabletop setting.

          • hellahexi says:

            Everyone thinks they want realistic, hyper lethal, fast paced combat

            Then they roll badly and get offed in the first round of the first fight of the first session of the campaign

            And then they get to roll up another character and look for smarter solutions next time. Or transition to another 0th-level character they’re running through the character funnel (my preferred).

          • stillnotking says:

            The real question is not how “good” or “realistic” the system is. The real question is how blatant the GM has to be about cheating in order to make it fun.

          • anonymous user says:

            If one bad roll is enough to kill your character the ‘smarter solution’ is to never get in fights, which might be appropriate for whatever setting you’re running but which dramatically shrinks the GM’s toolbox if the players always refuse combat.

            It’s similar to all those modules that kill or cripple your character for touching the magical artifacts. Yes, it’s good to teach your players caution, but if you punish them for ever interacting with anything it can make them impossible to GM for (I’m looking at you, Death Frost Doom).

            E: What’s unfortunate is that even games where combat is supposed to be a last resort don’t seem to really understand how this works. Look at Call of Cthulhu or Eclipse Phase, games where the core setting assumption is that nothing human carried is going to make a dent in mythos monsters and shootouts are for the foolhardy. Then look at published adventures like Masks of Nyarlathotep, Glory or Million Year Echo, all meatgrinders filled with gun battles that the designers don’t really seem to want the players to avoid (which is doubly unfortunate since the point of both games is to watch your character go mad over the course of the campaign, which never happens if you’re constantly writing up new investigators or restoring from backups).

          • John Schilling says:

            If one bad roll is enough to kill your character the ‘smarter solution’ is to never get in fights

            What is the point of playing a fantasy roleplaying game if you are going to be as risk-averse as you would be in real life?

            And what is the fun of rolling a die when, no matter what, you get to keep rolling until you win?

          • hellahexi says:

            Oh, Death Frost Doom. I have a special place in my little gonzo heart for that thing.*

            * Primarily as a function of aesthetics rather than playability. And an enduring love for people who go out and make stuff rather than kvetch on the internet.**

            ** Also, obligatory: The man who brought you LotFP.

      • Luke Somers says:

        Instead of having the penalty count directly against the coins to be flipped, maybe a less punishing rule would be to have it provide a minimum number of failures?

        Like, if you’re each flipping 5 coins, and on round 1 you flip 3 heads and your opponent flips 4 heads, then you suffer 1 damage. On round 2, you flip 5 coins and get 2 heads. That leaves 3 failures already, so you suffer no effective penalty. Unfortunately, it was a bad result, and your opponent gets 3 again, so you take 1 more damage.

        On round 3, now it’s you who get 4 heads! But, that leaves you with only 1 failure and you have 2 damage, so you flip over one of those heads and end with a 3. Your opponent gets a 2, and you do a damage in return.

        That seems a lot less unstable to me. What do you think?

    • hellahexi says:

      Tabletop gamer and worldbuilding blogger here. I can’t decide if I’m delighted or horrified that I live in a world where “Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game” exists.

      Haven’t played it. I can’t get over the idea of a party full of badass adventure-seekers all wearing… Prince Valiant haircuts. Get thee to a helmet!

      That said, I don’t have the problems with a lethal/rapidly snowballing combat system that others do. It bills itself as a storytelling game, which strongly implies a decision-space much larger than “hit it with axe? y/n.” Most of our everyday lives manage to pass without hitting people with axes, so it seems obvious there’s plenty of room for alternate storytelling, even in our escapism.

      • Wency says:

        I’m glad someone else has a strong opinion about that haircut. I didn’t think haircuts in RPGs were very important to me, until I looked up who Prince Valiant was just now, and I can’t get over it.

        What I’ll say about lethal combat is, in my experience, it can be enjoyable in a system where the party is encouraged to find non-lethal solutions. I was in a GURPS fantasy campaign once where our party treated combat as a last-ditch solution to be avoided at all costs. We would resort to diplomacy, stealth, trickery, bribery, intimidation, or anything else we could think of to fulfill our objectives before resorting to combat. As a result, we only had a fight about once every 2-3 sessions, but those fights were intense and deadly. One good hit could result in death.

        It was a fun campaign. Most of the tactical decision-making was in figuring out how to NOT fight, rather than in deciding how to conduct ourselves in a fight. Also, if we had to fight, we tried to set the fight up to be as one-sided as possible, via an ambush, calling in allies, trickery, etc.

        Now, in a Pathfinder campaign where about 75-80% of the session time is spent fighting, if fights were incredibly lethal, you’d TPK every session. There, a lot of the fun is expected to take the form of making tactical decisions, so that character death only comes as a result of very bad luck or poor decisions.

  2. Evan Þ says:

    So about that survey… I absolutely don’t identify as a Less Wronger, but I read a lot of Rationalist Diaspora blogs, and Ozy says on their blog that “If you are reading this blog, you are in the target market” for the survey. Does someone like me qualify?

    • Shieldfoss says:

      Take it

    • Julie K says:

      I was wondering that as well, particularly with Scott’s use of “iff.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like a good excuse to start identifying as a Less Wronger!

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I’d say the only people who shouldn’t take it are extremely anxious singularians. The part about Roko’s Basilisk is phrased in such a way that it seems designed to make people worry about it.

      We’re all part of the LW diaspora here, even if some of the newer people never read or commented at LW proper.

      • Randy M says:

        Well, I read and commented on LW, and don’t consider myself a Lwian. Even though in the past I took Scott’s surveys.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It is very odd that question 79 “Would you consider rejoining LessWrong?” does not offer an option of “I was never there.”

      • Shieldfoss says:

        For a survery RE: The Less Wrong Diaspora? Are you real?

        • Anonymous says:

          In the context of OP (should I take the survey if I’ve not read LW?), it can be read as a sarcastic remark that no, the survey doesn’t have an answer for “I was never there” because you’re not part of the target demographic for the survey.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Shieldfoss, you just told Evan to take the survey despite his answer to that question not being at all clear. If he never did read LW, would you regret that? Well, too bad, he’s in the data and there’s nothing you can do about it. But if that option had been available, then you would have your option of excluding him in analysis.

          • Shieldfoss says:

            “If he never did read LW, would you regret that?”

            Yes absolutely. It did not even cross my mind that Evan had never used LW what with this being the LW survey.

          • Evan Þ says:

            In my case, yes, I’ve lurked on Less Wrong a bit. But I wouldn’t think that’s true as a general rule – I’ve referred a couple people to this blog who’ve probably never even heard of Less Wrong.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Right, the point is not your particular case, but Ozy’s announced interpretation. You were a little skeptical of that interpretation, but it appears to be the majority view in this thread. I think 79 shows that Shieldfoss correctly interpreted Elo’s intention, but Elo’s intentions only matter through their effect in shaping other people’s interpretations, and thus decisions. He should have made his intention clearer in the announcement, but he also should have designed the questions to accommodate those who violated them.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Okay, I took the survey, and I was quite disappointed there was no textbox to criticize the wording of questions:

      * “Do you think Roko’s argument for the Basilisk is correct?” should offer separate options for “No” and “No, because I disagree with Timeless Decision Theory.”
      * I checked both “I wasn’t around for LW’s peak” and other options about the community at the peak. Why? Because I delved through the archives a bit.
      * My opinion on immigration can’t be boiled down to “more/less restrictive.” I think enforcement should be significantly increased, general legal immigration standards should be somewhat loosened, and then standards shouldn’t be loosened for general humanitarian needs.
      * I answered “Does non-human, non-earthly intelligent life exists in the observable universe?” as 100% – but at least 95% of that probability mass is the probability that angels fit into whatever definition of “observable” we’re using.

      • Adam Casey says:

        I’m in favour of not having a way to respond to the wording of the questions. In this community people need a firm nudge in the direction of “no, shut up, stop trying to be sophisticated and over-complicated and just answer my question”.

        • JD says:

          Yup, and a large part of running a good poll is being able to balance the critical tradeoff between being too restrictive with the answer options and essentially making every question a free response. Free response is pollster satan and you shouldn’t invite the data gremlins in unless you have to.

          • Evan Þ says:

            “Free response is pollster satan and you shouldn’t invite the data gremlins in unless you have to.”

            Yep. Maybe I was too vague above; what I was hoping for was one free response at the end to give notes on the survey itself, like TheUnitOfCaring had on her blog survey several months ago.

          • phisheep says:

            “Free response is pollster satan and you shouldn’t invite the data gremlins in unless you have to.”

            Well, it rather depends on what the survey is for. If you want stats to back up, or deny, or befuzz preconceptions the free response is a satan. But if you want to learn something from a poll then free response is kind of necessary.

            (I ran company internal polls for about 10 years, and all the stats useful for management came from the predetermined answers, while all the changes actually necessary to the business came from free response).

      • Deiseach says:

        “Does non-human, non-earthly intelligent life exists in the observable universe?”

        We haven’t observed any yet, so how should I answer that question?

        No – because (as it’s phrased) see above: no observed non-human etc.

        Maybe – it’s hard to think that we are it, given the size of the observable universe, but the phrasing doesn’t allow for “Could non-human etc./Do you think it possible non-human etc.”

        Yes (a) – but I’m answering this on faith, not on any observations as yet. I think the possibility so great, and it so unlikely that we’re the sole unique intelligence to have arisen so far that I think it must exist

        Yes (b) – but like Evan, I’m including God, angels, demons in this category (non-human, non-earthly, intelligent, and if you believe the sources alleging such encounters, observed to interact with humans on Earth, which certainly is part of the observable universe) 🙂

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, do you think it’s likely that there are aliens somewhere out there or not?

          “No” wouldn’t be “I don’t believe in UFO spottings” (which is kinda how your answer phrases it), it would be “I don’t think it’s likely that there are aliens out there because reasons” and “Yes” would be your Yes(a) or even Yes(b) if you want to be a pain in the butt.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think it’s very likely, I can’t see any reason why not, but I would not say flat-out “Yes” to a question like Does non-terrrestrial intelligent life exist.

            Give me a few bacteria on one of the Jovian moons or some kind of “yes, definitely non-terrestrial life” observed anywhere, and I’ll bump that confidence way up.

            As it stands, the only intelligent life (or life of any kind) we have yet observed has been here. Yes, it’s very early days yet and we may not be capable of seeing what is there to be seen until we finally get the autonomous drones out there, but right this minute, I could not give a definite “yes” about intelligent life outside of Earth.

            (Some days I can’t give a definite “yes” about intelligent life on Earth, given the stupid things humans do).

        • John Schilling says:

          “Observable Universe” is a term of art in astronomy to describe the volume of space in which we could in principle see a thing through a telescope if it were arbitrarily big and bright and had been around since the literal dawn of time, as opposed to e.g. parallel universes, alternate dimensions, heaven, hell, the inside of black holes, and anyplace a hundred billion light-years away even though the universe isn’t nearly a hundred billion years old.

          Agreed that it is confusing to use that term outside of a specialist audience. But, e.g., the surface of a hypothetical planet orbiting Tau Ceti is part of the “observable universe” even though are telescopes aren’t yet big enough to observe it, and if you think there might be aliens in such a place, that’s what the question is asking about.

          • Deiseach says:

            the surface of a hypothetical planet orbiting Tau Ceti is part of the “observable universe” even though are telescopes aren’t yet big enough to observe it, and if you think there might be aliens in such a place, that’s what the question is asking about.

            “Might be”, certainly. “Does” which to me invites a degree of certainty along the “yes/no” axis – can’t be sure enough to say. I don’t have any reason to think there isn’t or can’t be non-terrestrial intelligent life, and I don’t have any religious/philosophical/ethical/moral/you name it systems riding on “there are/there aren’t”, but I can’t be sure enough to say “yes there are” or “no there aren’t”.

            If the question lets me answer “Maybe”, I’m happy enough. If it’s asking me “does it/doesn’t it”, I have to say I don’t know enough to answer either way 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            My first thought was that it was an oversight not to have a “maybe” option, my second thought was that a “maybe” option would be a terrible idea. The goal is to tease out which case you think is more likely, if a “maybe” option existed then everyone would select that regardless of which way they lean, losing the nuance. Although they could’ve rephrased the question itself.

      • Luke Somers says:

        I don’t see why ‘No, because I disagree with TDT’ needs a separate callout.

        My opinions on some of the political ideas boiled down to, “If I were god-emperor, then that would definitely be one of the things I’d change, but it would be a very bad idea to change that without doing some other things that aren’t on the political horizon, first.”

        For some strange reason, I didn’t see this option.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Well, at least if I were designing the survey, I think it’d be interesting to separate out people who disagree with TDT from people who think Roko misapplied it?

    • phisheep says:

      Well I took the survey, despite only ever lurking and despite only having come across LW sometime after it had (judging by the archives) dropped off the peak and more-or-less dissolved in itself.

      And the survey itself has a sort of offputting air about it. Which of the following do you do … physics stuff, maths stuff, academic biology stuff blah blah? I’m a shopkeeper. Doesn’t seem to fit somehow. As a shopkeeper I get into all manner of Socratic things with my customers and LW, and more recently SSC, have been very useful sources. But the survey doesn’t seem to me to be all that inclusive.

      Plus, from a starting point of Overcoming Bias there seems to be a bit of a bias built in towards MIRI and Cryogenics – for the latter I am bemused, as no-one seems to understand that there’s a difference between a thing and a process.

      It’s all kind of bonkers and well-meaning and partially interesting, but in the end cultish. The world is sufficiently complicated that I prefer to take it on in smallish chunks, which is why SSC is nicer.

      Also, “which race do you identify with?” is kind of a rubbish question outside the USA. I wrote in “Human”.

      The general idea behind LW is admirable, as was that behind overcoming bias. But it seems at the moment to be very narrowly focussed, which is (a) a pity and (b) doesn’t appear in the survey.

      • Deiseach says:

        “which race do you identify with?”

        In this the centenary of the Easter Rising, what other race but the Gaelic race, as so eloquently put in Myles na gCopaleen’s The Poor Mouth:

        “(The President’s speech:) ‘Gaels!’ he said, ‘it delights my Gaelic heart to be here today speaking Gaelic with you at this Gaelic féis in the centre of the Gaeltacht. May I state that I am a Gael. I’m Gaelic from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet – Gaelic front and back, above and below. Likewise, you are all truly Gaelic. We are all Gaelic Gaels of Gaelic lineage. He who is Gaelic, will be Gaelic evermore. I myself have spoken not a word except Gaelic since the day I was born – just like you – and every sentence I’ve ever uttered has been on the subject of Gaelic. If we’re truly Gaelic, we must constantly discuss the question of the Gaelic revival and the question of Gaelicism. There is no use in having Gaelic, if we converse in it on non-Gaelic topics. He who speaks Gaelic but fails to discuss the language question is not truly Gaelic in his heart; such conduct is of no benefit to Gaelicism because he only jeers at Gaelic and reviles the Gaels. There is nothing in this life so nice and so Gaelic as truly true Gaelic Gaels who speak in true Gaelic Gaelic about the truly Gaelic language. I hereby declare this féis to be Gaelically open! Up the Gaels! Long live the Gaelic tongue!’ When this noble Gael sat down on his Gaelic backside, a great tumult and hand-clapping arose throughout the assembly.”

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        “Which of the following do you do … physics stuff, maths stuff, academic biology stuff blah blah?”

        Three different entries for computer science, not one option for history or ancient languages! Bah. Just goes to show how weird I am compared to most LWers, I suppose.

        • Deiseach says:

          Three different entries for computer science, not one option for history or ancient languages!

          You don’t want that stained glass window cluttering up a perfectly good flat wall that could be used to project improving educational real facts lectures on, you know 🙂

  3. After some discussion of genes and symmetry (here, I think), I have some questions. An article used facial symmetry as a surrogate for how stable the effects of a person’s genes are. This seems reasonable, but are there other good surrogates? How much of facial asymmetry is the result of an asymmetrical skull, and how much is habitual facial expression? In more dangerous times, asymmetry could also be the result of injury or infection, but even now, there’s a lot of variation in how symmetrical people’s faces are.

    Has facial symmetry increased over time? Does a preference for facial symmetry mean that people are getting selected for stable gene expression? (I think that was it rather than mutation.)

    I find I’m pretty bewildered about how genes can lead to reliable asymmetry. How do genes building a body in a directionless soup identify which side is left and which is right so that the heart is almost always on the left?

    • Elissa says:

      I find I’m pretty bewildered about how genes can lead to reliable asymmetry. How do genes building a body in a directionless soup identify which side is left and which is right so that the heart is almost always on the left?

      The answer to this question is super interesting! You may be aware the many complex molecules such as proteins have a “handedness” such that they are not interchangeable with their mirror images. The handedness of the human body actually has its origin all the way down in molecular handedness. There’s a protein called left-right dynein which has been studied in mice– it is active in special cilia (moving hair-like cell organelles) found in the mouse embryo. The left-right dynein (which, like all proteins, has a handedness) seems to help determine the direction in which the cilia beat– left, as it turns out. The enables an accumulation of certain signaling molecules on the left half of the embryo, which then determine left-right patterning.

      We figured all this out because there’s a human disease called Kartegener’s Syndrome in which people’s cilia don’t work properly. Among all the other problems this causes, like increased risk of respiratory tract infections, people with Kartagener’s have a much higher risk of situs inversus, the condition in which people’s internal organs are reversed left-to-right. And mice with mutations in the left-right dynein gene have the same problem.

    • Vita Fied says:

      Well, on that topic, averaging faces across the entire spectrum of normal bodyweight people produces faces much more attractive then the “average” face, though not faces considered unsuually attractive.

      If the average face is a ‘6’, then the average-average face is an 8.

      • youzicha says:

        Can you explain this more, what does an “average-average” face mean? I would have expected that an “average” face was already averaged over the entire population.

        • Nornagest says:

          I think the difference is that an “average-average” face filters out people who’re unusually fat or skinny, while the regular average includes them?

        • null says:

          What he means (I think) is that when you take all faces and sum them together, then that is more attractive than the average attractiveness of all faces.

        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          I think it means if you took all the “6” (“average-rated”) faces and averaged the faces themselves (as opposed to their ratings) together, you would get an “8”-rated face.

        • Vita Fied says:

          Well, its better to state median for the second one.

          Taking the average face of faces not far from the median face (top 5 or bottom 5 percent, mostly to get out clear strong genetic diformities of faces far away from evolutionarry tendencies, such as extreme obesity) , and that face is a good deal above quality of the median face.

          Should have stated median

          I think it has to do with removing or averaging out the types of genetic drift/minor mutations that evolution hasen’t selected for as a determinant of attractiveness.

    • caethan says:

      It’s not a *directionless* soup. Eukaryotic development is contingent on maternal imprinting. Anterior-posterior organization in fly development, for example, is driven by maternally-imposed mRNA concentration gradients.

    • Elephant says:

      “Right Hand Left Hand” by Chris McManus is an excellent popular science book all about left-right symmetry in biology as well as culture, etc. It

  4. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #12
    This week we are discussing “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison.
    Next time we will discuss “I” by Philip Goetz

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I never found it realistic that A.M. could do everything it did, and yet not rescue people from the kinds of injury described in the climax. I feel like the story treats “alive/dead” as an ontologically basic binary rather than thinking of “life” as something that can be reduced to simpler parts that could be manipulated by the abilities A.M. had demonstrated previously.

      Then again, the point of story is not so much to be realistic as it is to evoke a certain dark, despairing mood, and it did that brilliantly.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of this that doesn’t really make sense as a “this is a thing that could happen in very strange situations” thing. That said it doesn’t really try to be that.

        Fantastically scary story all the same.

    • Deiseach says:

      Wonderfully creepy story. Is it realistic? Eh, um, – not particularly.

      But as a cautionary bedtime tale for existential risk believers, absolutely fantastic as “And this is why, children, we must solve the problem of Friendly AI!” 🙂

      It’s very much of its time in the attitudes expressed, so I’m not going to give it a kicking over the representation of the sole woman, etc. The idea that not even death can save you, because A.M. can resurrect you (presumably it has your stored engrams or some such) is horrible. How cryonics could go wrong – yes, the far future they are able to scan your brain and restore your personality into a new body, but the newly resurrected are made to fight in gladitorial games, or bought as torture subjects by the wealthy and sadistic for fun (and our current culture has “Dexter”, a series of novels and a TV show making a serial killer into someone we are expected to cheer for, so we can’t say “but nobody would enjoy torturing real persons for fun!”), or otherwise abused by the society of the day because they don’t count as legal humans 🙂

  5. Gerhardt says:

    Why do Katie and Andromeda need money? What happened?

    I mean, I’m all for helping people, but how do I know it will be worth it in the long run? Is this helping or coddling, in other words? This might be a bit personal, but I’d need to know about her career prospects and all, to be sure that my ethical ROI is good.

    • Alsadius says:

      Yeah, I wondered that as well. It just says “Single mother” and leaves it at that. Especially in the Bay Area, with its extraordinary cost of living, I really wonder about the ROI here – I worry it’s just “keep (poor person) in (expensive area)” as a funding goal, which is effectively zero-sum for society, and thus very poor charity.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure how much of it is private, so I’ll let someone who knows them better chime in.

      I’ll just add first that they’re living in a group house which cuts down costs a lot, and that since most of the people they know and care for are there, preventing them from having to leave is part of the charitable cause we’re talking about.

      And second that all of this is obviously not Effective Altruism in capital letters, that it’s aimed at people who know them or people who feel a connection to this community in general. There’s a gradient between “give malaria nets to people in Africa” and “help your parents in their old age”, and I think this is somewhere in the middle and that’s okay.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s an interesting way for you to phrase the scale. Given the choice between the two (Africa and parents), which do you think is preferable?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          It’s not a dichotomy between good and bad, it’s a dichotomy between two different reasons for giving. As well ask “Which is preferable, driving to work or driving to a leisure activity?”

      • Jiro says:

        Why is there not also a similar gradient between “have foreigners benefit” and “have Americans benefit”, in the immigration context?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          a) What a derailment; b) immigration freedom doesn’t trade off against average American well-being; c) has Scott ever even called for open borders or a similarly radical change in immigration policy?—as far as I can recall he’s said we should be cautious, moderate, etc. like he says for everything.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Without saying there isn’t, I think public decisions should sometimes be held to a higher level of rigor than private ones. If I want to build a giant house that looks like a castle just because I can, and I have the money, great. If the government wants to spend our tax money building giant awesome castles in every major city, it should probably show some kind of benefit in a rigorous way.

          • keranih says:

            Probably one of the ways (in the USA at least) to tell the difference between those leaning politically right and those leaning politically left is that the right will, when faced with this situation, respond something like:

            I think public decisions (either restricting the actions of the public, or using the public purse, or both) must always be held to a higher level of rigor than private ones. If I want to build a giant house that looks like a castle just because I can, and I have the money, great. If the government wants to spend our tax money building giant awesome castles in every major city, it must definitely show an agreed significant benefit in a rigorous way.

            (Please to note that I say ‘this is how a right winger would respond, in an emotional sense.’ I make no claim to what our politicos actually do in office.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            Whereas the left would never agree that it’s “great” to build a giant house that looks like a castle just because you can and have the money.

    • Vaniver says:

      My brief version of what happened, as I understand it (mostly from Katie’s tumblr), is as follows:

      Katie was married to person 1. They either had an open relationship or were poly or something similar, and Katie was also dating person 2, who is married to person 3. Katie and person 2 agreed that if their birth control failed, Katie would abort. Katie got pregnant, decided not to abort. Person 2 cut off contact with Katie, Katie’s marriage to person 1 disintegrated for multiple reasons, and that divorce removed Katie’s primary source of financial support.

      Andromeda seems to be a bright young child, and I am optimistic about helping her out paying off in the long run.

      • Jiro says:

        There are decision theories which imply that you should not help a person who gets into a bad situation by making a promise they can’t keep. I don’t believe in them, but they do seem to be very popular here and perhaps this may be an occasion to rethink one’s support of them.

        • Katie Cohen says:

          I did make a promise I could not keep when I said I would abort. I’ve lived with incredible guilt and suffering over doing that to my past lover and his family. I wish I could take back that promise, but I think ultimately that was my mistake, modeling myself poorly for what I would do in the event of an actual pregnancy. I don’t think it would have been healthy or wise for me to have tried to force myself to go through with an abortion that I didn’t want. I even did try to do so, going to the clinic at his insistence before emotionally breaking down. In the end, I did what I thought I could live with, and I don’t regret it. Also, I did my best to make this into a good situation following her birth, but it just didn’t work out for lots of reasons that were beyond my control, like other people’s choices too. Maybe people should not help me. Andromeda’s father does not help me I think for that reason and others. I hate that by having such a mother, Andromeda may be in a compromised position growing up, but I will keep doing the best I can for her. Or maybe you are right, that it is an occassion to think of about support of those things, especially when a life like Andromeda’s is involved, who wasn’t involved in any of the actions that lead to her birth.

          • The “you” who made the promise was very different from the “you” who had to make the decision. A reasonable man would have taken this possibility into account and assigned a significant probability to you doing what you ultimately ended up doing.

          • Anonymous says:

            This sort of stuff is why I dread aging. One day you have your preferences lined up, the next day you wake up and your body has given you a compulsion and you’re a different person.

            It’s probably nowhere close to the hormonal rush of a pregnancy, but still..fug

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not questioning you. I’m questioning the decision theories that seem to imply that people shouldn’t help you. I don’t, as I said, believe in those theories.

          • mdv59 says:

            “Andromeda’s father does not help me I think for that reason and others.”

            I’d be surprised if, legally, he has a choice in the matter. Have you consulted with an attorney? As a teenager my brother got a girl pregnant (in California) and the fact he was 16 and had no job did nothing to relieve his financial responsibility to the child. (Luckily for him my parents paid the child support until he was able)

            I realize this is a very uncomfortable situation for you, but the father is just as responsible for Andromeda’s welfare as you are and IMHO you should be looking to him to live up to his responsibility.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ mdv59:

            Granted, the law is on your side in this case but that’s only because the law is still mired in 19th century sexual mores.

            As I understand it the mother was already partnered with someone else at the time and the father never agreed to have the child in the first place. Morally speaking he bears no responsibility here.

          • James D. Miller says:

            hlynkacg, You wrote “the father never agreed to have the child in the first place.” If the father agreed to have sex, he agreed to have a child with some positive probability. Since the child is a third party the mother never had the legal or moral right to waive the father’s financial liability.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @James
            You seem to be assuming that the father acted alone. One could say the same thing about the mother when she agreed to A have sex outside a committed relationship and B keep the baby against the father’s wishes

            As thrustvectoring notes below, the people who most on the hook (as per the terms of the described agreement) are the mother and her (former?) husband.

          • dsotm says:

            I also feel it is unethical of Katie not to exhaust every legal recourse available to her against the father (or even her husband at the time if that’s what legal situation in California determines).
            The reasoning being that it is in her daughter’s best interest to have her financial support guaranteed by legal ruling or mutual agreement rather than by the goodwill of her social circle or state assistance (both of which she will be free to seek regardless even if not to the same extent).
            She has also written in this blog under her own name saying that she knows the identity of the father and can potentially face severe repercussions if she files for benefits claiming otherwise.
            People who feel it is unfair for the father/husband (which it is, but it is more unfair to Andromeda for them not to pay) are free to set up a funding campaign to compensate them instead.
            It would also probably be ‘fair’ to have them released from their financial obligations and even have Katie liable to compensate them if she ever came to means that would allow her to do so without endangering the well-being of her daughter but this is vague, impractical, and creates an incentives nightmare.
            Polyamory is actually almost irrelevant here, nothing should be different from a ‘regular’ case of an extra-marital affair or child conceived during spousal separation period.
            This is also another reminder that an easily reversible male birth control with the same cost-benefits as the pill would give its inventor a decent chance of god-kinghood, or alternatively create the need for a new monetary system as s/he would very quickly end up with all the money.

          • Anonymous says:

            I also feel it is unethical of Katie not to exhaust every legal recourse available to her against the father (or even her husband at the time if that’s what legal situation in California determines).
            The reasoning being that it is in her daughter’s best interest to have her financial support guaranteed by legal ruling or mutual agreement rather than by the goodwill of her social circle or state assistance (both of which she will be free to seek regardless even if not to the same extent).

            What if she had an opportunity to rob a bank with a very low chance of being caught? Would it be unethical of her to decline that opportunity because “her daughter’s best interest” is that she have a lot of money?

          • dsotm says:

            @Anoymous
            Not even remotely analogous, the father shares the responsibility for conception even if he took every reasonable step to prevent it, that’s why if Katie had the means to support the child by herself she ought to have done that. As for the husband being potentially liable that sucks even more but it’s hardly a new concept and a possibility that he should have accounted for when making the decision to marry Katie in the first place and agreeing to the polyamory while staying married to her.

            Not to mention that ‘robbing a bank’ is kinda the opposite of ‘legal ruling’

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            This idea that it’s “unfair to the child” not to seek child support from the father is bullshit.

            This child is not going to starve or die or be miserable. She will certainly be better off than billions of people in the world.

            This guy doesn’t owe anything to this child. Neither do the residents of California or the United States of America, for that matter. And I think neither one of them should be forced to pay. But if somebody is going to be forced to pay, I’d rather it be a tiny drain on the average taxpayer than an enormous drain on this one guy. This guy already took steps to avoid having a child.

            If you can make the argument that putting him on the hook for child support will encourage him to be strictly monogamous or something, then you can also make the argument that putting the taxpayers on the hook for child support will encourage them to get rid of this coerced welfare.

          • dsotm says:

            @Vox
            She doesn’t need to starve or die to be damaged by her mother’s decision not the seek child support form her father, only to be significantly disadvantaged compared to her life if she did.

            As far as the order of *responsibility* in this case goes then it’s, Katie’s, Father’s, Tax payer’s the reason that hers is prior to the father’s is that hers was the final and sovereign choice to have this child, I’m not even sure having committed not to do so changes much here. But as long as she doesn’t have the means to uphold her responsibility it should be up to the Father possibly with state’s participation depending on the father’s means.
            How is it reasonable to skip the father here ? Yeah the individual tax burden of one case is negligible but so is the individual tax burden of everything else.
            And I don’t think this can encourage anyone into monogamy because as mentioned – as long as the current legal framework is in place a monogamous father can be on the hook just as well in case of an affair (assuming this is indeed the case in Cali., taking this on faith from previous comments)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dsotm:

            It shouldn’t be the father’s responsibility because he didn’t want the damn child and presumably took steps like birth control to avoid it.

            It’s not the general public’s responsibility, either. It’s the mother’s responsibility because she wants the child. The person who wants custody of it, pays for it: that simple. If she gave it up for adoption, it wouldn’t be the father’s responsibility, now would it?

            Now, if neither the mother nor the father wanted the child—and if there were no private charitable groups willing to foster children or raise them in orphanages—then maybe you could argue that the mother and father should be forced to provide minimal support to the child to keep it from starving on the street.

            But we are not in that situation, even if we abolished all welfare we would not be in that situation, and until we are in that situation there’s no force to the argument that it’s unfair to the father but “necessary” for the child.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dsotm
            You haven’t answered the objection. Is there an ethical obligation to provide the best possible life for a child or not? And if so, why not rob a bank to if it would further that ethical obligation?

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s the mother’s responsibility because she wants the child.

            Bingo…

            You won’t hear me say this often, but I’m with Vox on this one.

          • dsotm says:

            @Vox
            “It shouldn’t be the father’s responsibility because he didn’t want the damn child and presumably took steps like birth control to avoid it.”
            Childbirth is not something that can be prevented by a unilateral decision by the father (after conception that is), and responsibility as opposed to culpability depends solely on the (foreseeable even if not intended) consequences rather than intent.
            Also the fact that you’re using the term ‘that damn child’ suggests that you haven’t internalized the main point here – the whole decision should revolve around what’s best for that child, she had even less saying in being born than her father did.
            So yeah had she been given up for adoption/foster-care the best thing for her would be to be on tax payer’s or charitable people’s expense, but unless you know the US adoption / foster care system to be extremely good or alternatively Katie being an unfit mother it is easy to say that by default, being raised by her own mother is more in her interest then being adopted.

            Btw, while in the case of adoption it’s pretty clear that the adopting parents take on all the financial responsibility, foster care is funded by the state afaik – so if the parent’s have the means to do so there’s no reason that the state itself shouldn’t come after them for child support required to provide the same standard of living that could have been expected to be provided by the parents, of course the typical foster case usually involves parents without means whatsoever.

          • dsotm says:

            @Anonymous
            “You haven’t answered the objection. Is there an ethical obligation to provide the best possible life for a child or not? And if so, why not rob a bank to if it would further that ethical obligation?”

            Seriously ? Ok.
            There is an obligation to provide a best-that-you-can-within-reasonable-sacrifice-before-externalising-on-society life for the child that you conceived. (the case of husbands being liable for extra-marital children is admittedly fucked up if true, but might still be in the child’s interest more than welfare)
            And because one can only be expected to fulfill his responsibilities with the means legally at one’s disposal, and because doing otherwise would be just more violent and arbitrary form of externalization.

          • Anonymous says:

            At this point we might as well say the state is responsible because society foreseeably could have avoided the existence of single mothers with any number of schemes, therefore the state owes child support.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dsotm:

            The point is that, having disclaimed any interest in the child, the father has no obligation to do “what’s best for the child”. Yes, he contributed causally to the creation of the child—but since he has disclaimed any parental rights, there is no reason he should have to bear any parental duties.

            Perhaps he has an obligation to see that the child has a minimally decent standard of living, but why in the world does he have an obligation to see that the child has “the same standard of living that could have been expected to be provided by the parents”? That’s completely arbitrary.

          • dsotm says:

            @Anonymous
            “At this point we might as well say the state is responsible because society foreseeably could have avoided the existence of single mothers with any number of schemes, therefore the state owes child support.”
            We could say that but we would just be saying hyperbole because we like saying things.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Besides, even as a general rule, parents don’t have an obligation to do what is absolutely best for their children. Parents have lives, too.

            If you can move to another city and have a job twice as enjoyable while causing your child a small amount of psychological distress, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do it. Children’s desires are not infinitely above parents’ desires.

          • dsotm says:

            @Vox
            I don’t think parental duties are conditioned on parental rights any more than the duty to avoid drunk driving is conditioned on the ownership of the vehicle.
            Yeah there is a place to debate on what standard of living a child should have reasonable expectation to given the situation of the parents, that is what family courts do.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ dsotm

            You can’t have duties without rights, they are two sides of the same coin.

          • dsotm says:

            @Vox
            Hence the
            best-that-you-can-within-reasonable-sacrifice-before-externalising-on-society.

          • Anonymous says:

            This ethical obligation to *maximize* the quality of life of your biological offspring but only within the bounds of the law and certain other social norms seems like a very odd ethical construct. It’s almost as if it is an aesthetic preference put in place by social conditioning that is being forced into an ethical framework because it sounds more compelling that way.

          • dsotm says:

            @ hlynkacg
            Some would say it’s the other way around, but even if taken as-is – you don’t get to absolve yourself from the duties by retroactively forfeiting the rights, if you do then it’s even more the reason to expect you to pay.
            Not to mention that the duty is towards a legally helpless minor whereas the right you claim to is to externalize costs on society.
            Also you could say that your right to have sex with consenting adults without needing the approval of society is dual to your duty to be the first provider of your progeny.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dsotm:

            Not to mention that the duty is towards a legally helpless minor whereas the right you claim to is to externalize costs on society.

            What costs on society?

            Precisely what people are arguing here is that neither the father nor society at large ought to be forced to support the child. So there are no externalities except those created by deliberate socialization of parenting. And you can make anything an externality by enacting socialism.

            Maybe people would say that they should be forced to give the child a minimum standard of living such that it doesn’t starve. But that’s neither here nor there because there are plenty of people wiling and able to support unwanted children at a level far in excess of minimum subsistence.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Some would say it’s the other way around, but even if taken as-is – you don’t get to absolve yourself from the duties by retroactively forfeiting the rights, if you do then it’s even more the reason to expect you to pay.

            Except the individual in question waved both rights and responsibilities at the same time, prior to either coming into play, clearly communicated to all other involved agents with far more than sufficient time for other agents to make appropriate decisions.

            Not to mention that the duty is towards a legally helpless minor whereas the right you claim to is to externalize costs on society.
            Also you could say that your right to have sex with consenting adults without the needing the approval of society is dual to your duty to be the first provider of your progeny.

            And yet you’re suggesting that the mother should get to externalize the cost onto the father. And that this is justified by the child’s welfare, in a way that externalizing to society in general is unfair.

            Furthermore, there are a large number of people who use contraception and don’t get unlucky with its effectiveness, or who do choose to abort after contraception fails. And they don’t have to pay a significant portion of their income for 18 years, for the exact same behavior that you’re suggesting makes the father morally culpable.

          • dsotm says:

            @ InferentialDistance

            I suggest that the mother should externalize the cost on the father *first* in the interest of her child who should not have her means of support depend on the goodwill of her mother’s friends and Scott’s readership towards her, to the extent and as long as such goodwill exists she can use the campaign funds to partially or fully compensate the father as indeed I believe she should, it can probably even be worked into the custody/child-support agreement.

          • Anonymous says:

            Given that it’s your position that the interests of the child are insatiable, isn’t it unethical to give the donated money to the father rather than just spending moar on the child?

          • dsotm says:

            @ InferentialDistance
            `
            Furthermore, there are a large number of people who use contraception and don’t get unlucky with its effectiveness, or who do choose to abort after contraception fails. And they don’t have to pay a significant portion of their income for 18 years, for the exact same behavior that you’re suggesting makes the father morally culpable.
            `

            I think you missed a response where I explicitly said that he isn’t morally culpable but responsible non the less.
            Abortion was his intent (and hers too up to a point) and I don’t find anything wrong with that, do you know a way that allows to ethically (from the child’s point of interest) avoid supporting your child that was born except for giving him up for adoption (as opposed to foster care) ?

          • dsotm says:

            @Anoymous

            They are not insatiable at all, they are finite up to a sum to be determined by the court or agreed upon, and the father should have the obligation to pay them while also having the right to compensate himself from any such public donations,
            The difference is that if the donations dry up for some reason it is the father’s life quality that will be impacted before Andromeda’s which is the whole point.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is the form of morality you are pushing: whatever is legally required is ethically required and vice-versa?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @dsotm

            There was nothing “retroactive” about it. The father made it quite clear that he would not support the child, going so far as to use birth control and demand an abortion if that failed. The mother’s choice to keep the child was made with that in mind.

          • dsotm says:

            @Anoymous
            “Is the form of morality you are pushing: whatever is legally required is ethically required and vice-versa?”
            Not really, my reasoning here is entirely utilitarian – secure the baby’s future via the strongest legal means available, use the public goodwill funds to compensate the victims of this legal coercion.
            When she grows up she can decide what morality to pursue and if she reaches the conclusion that she received too much money from someone she can pay them back.

          • dsotm says:


            There was nothing “retroactive” about it. The father made it quite clear that he would not support the child, going so far as to use birth control and demand an abortion if that failed. The mother’s choice to keep the child was made with that in mind.

            Making that clear doesn’t make it true any more than me making clear that I would not support currency inflation gives me a claim for a higher value for my dollars after it has occurred.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think you understand utilitarianism. It doesn’t privilege the interests of babies much less require biological parents to provide as high a standard of living as can be achieved through “reasonable” sacrifice within the bounds of law.

            Instead it sounds like you have your conventional what-about-the-children and the law-is-the-law upper middle class socialization and are desperately throwing everything against the wall to avoid reflecting on them critically.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dsotm
            I think the confusion stems from you trying to be practical yet also inserting ethical justifications like “responsibility”. Yes, for this particular issue coercing the father into paying may be the best we can do to produce maximal satisfaction (or not; there’s other options that seem better to me, but whatever).

            However, when we talk about ethical frameworks we’re usually talking on a meta level about how these things should go. For example, we note that the father is getting massively shafted because of factors beyond his control, and that’s not cool. In this particular instance, the father getting shafted may be the best choice out of many bad ones, but we shouldn’t let that fact steer us into reforming our moral intuitions to claim that the father is not getting shafted and he’s actually responsible and everything that’s going on is ethical.

            As far as I understand your position you believe that getting child support is the object-level decision that maximizes overall happiness. But then you start talking about responsibility, and I begin thinking you’re asserting that shafting fathers each time they have sex is a moral principle we should be basing our society around, which isn’t what you’re trying to say.

            Regardless of the object-level, we should be steering society to a state where fathers don’t pay child support unless they wanted a child, do we agree here? You don’t think there’s an actual moral responsibility for biological fathers to pay regardless of the circumstances, you just think that in practice it is not very easy to implement a situation where both the child is fed and the father (and for that matter, the state budget) unmolested?

          • dsotm says:

            @Anonymous
            Fine, feel free to change it to local-optimum-pragmatism- I really have no interest in extrapolating this case to a full morality system.
            Would the local optimum be different under a different legal system in a different society ?, – probably, so what – this is the society in which this kid has to grow up in.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dsotm
            Oh sure, I don’t care for that either, it’s just that when you say something like “the father is responsible” then I (and others, judging from how long this subthread has gotten) read it as saying “this state of affairs is just”. Which just begs for a response that no, we may be tolerating it because it’s the best we can do for Andromeda right now but the underlying societal systems don’t seem to actually match up to our ethical intuition and are producing injustices and should probably be looked at.

          • dsotm says:

            @Anonymous

            I think your confusion stems from treating this as an ethics treatise or panel debate about what some society in which you would like to live should look like rather than what is the most effective way to resolve a specific fucked up situation in 2016 California.
            With polyamory being almost non-relevant here this kind of situation is tragicomically common, the only thing that makes this case different is that it happened to take place in the rationalist community and reached the attention of this blog.

            “Regardless of the object-level, we should be steering society to a state where fathers don’t pay child support unless they wanted a child, do we agree here? You don’t think there’s an actual moral responsibility for biological fathers to pay regardless of the circumstances, you just think that in practice it is not very easy to implement a situation where both the child is fed and the father (and for that matter, the state budget) unmolested?”

            With due fear of using the words ‘child’ and ‘molested’ in the same sentence – who *would* get molested here if the mother doesn’t have any means ? Did the society we are steering towards solve the problem of all economic and human scarcity ? Did it involve a super-intelligent AI ?

            The only departure I can strongly say is in order in the *current* society is to absolve husbands from responsibility for children born to their wives outside wedlock (the wives are already absolved in the symmetrical case because they can just divorce their husbands) and transfer it to the biological parent* assuming this hasn’t yet been done.

            *The biological relation is obviously not the issue here, only that it was he who willfully and actively participated in the conception.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dsotm:

            Well, in the context of California 2016, it seems a superior option all-round to put it on the government’s tab, if the choices are between that and going after this guy in court.

            And that’s not to mention the prospect of voluntary funding, which is the very thing being discussed.

          • dsotm says:

            @Vox

            Even if you disassociate yourself form that tab, unless things don’t work that way in California the government will likely go after the father for all that it can and give the mother the minimum it can get away with, so probably not efficient.
            Unless you suggest that she lies about not knowing who the father is which morals aside might be risky for her given the public nature of this blog and her tumblr.
            But if she gets qualified legal advice saying that the government is her best option then that’s what she should do (I’m not a lawyer, if it wasn’t obvious).

            Voluntary funding is great as long as it exists (and that’s ignoring the question of similar cases but without access to similar communities) and I described how I think it should apply here.

          • Anonymous says:

            Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not up to the job of designing a perfect society. Call me a monster, letting the father force an abortion at the cost of a potentially traumatized mother sounds to me better than the current standard; I know that’s not getting implemented anytime soon and I just entered a watchlist or five. In the realm of the less radical, I think with time people will catch on to what’s happening and either the laws will get changed in a way that screws with someone else instead (until that demographic catches on and starts protesting too, rinse-repeat) or it will become commonplace for everyone who doesn’t want kids to have a vasectomy.

            I thought that saying it’s biofather’s fault for ever having sex when not ready to pay for a kid is bad, but now that I think about it, I guess it may actually cause men to feel responsible for unwanted births and thereby speed up the common-sense vasectomy future.

            EDIT: Having posted this before seeing Vox’s comment, yeah, having everyone pay for it is also better than putting it on one guy who isn’t really guilty of anything except having sex in a supposedly sex-positive culture.

          • Deiseach says:

            This entire discussion thread is why I’m very sceptical about the cries to solve problems of marriage equality, etc. by “get the state out of marriage!” because “people will manage their own affairs, maybe with only the minimum outside support of the courts to enforce contracts drawn up by all parties!”

            This is why rules and regulations and laws about what is marriage, who is married, what are the rights, duties and responsibilities, who pays whom for what, etc. came into existence. And it’s also why messing around with existing social institutions can end up hurting people.

            The child exists, the mother is in need, if the father was willing to have the fun he has to be willing to take the downside. Suppose he liked mountaineering – there’s always the chance of being hurt or even killed, even if you take all precautions. Weighing the preference for the enjoyment it gives you as outweighing the remaining risk of harm, even after minimising that risk, is a deliberate choice: you could choose not to engage in risky activities.

            You can’t stop people being fucking idiots in their private lives. But when a child is involved, then it’s time for everyone to man up and take on their responsibilities. Sex makes babies. The only fool-proof way of preventing the risk of this happening is: (1) sterility (natural or surgical), preferably of both parties for extra assurance (2) don’t have sex.

            People get into car accidents all the time. Nobody wants to be injured, maimed or killed, but it happens. If the father got both legs mangled in a car crash such that he had to use crutches or a wheelchair, he’d have to learn to cope with and put up with the bad consequences. He didn’t want a child, he wanted a bit of fun on the side, but there’s a child there now.

            For fuck’s sake, all the long conversations we’ve had on here about childhood intervention, shared and unshared environment, effects on adults, etc.! The conclusions from those are pretty much: living in poverty is not great and the more money your parents/guardians have, the greater the knock-on effect all along the line. Sure, the mother and child probably won’t starve absent the father’s contributions to the child’s support, but to give the child (who is the innocent party in all this) the best fucking chance in life, daddy can put his goddamn hand in his pocket and hand over something every month, if he couldn’t keep it in his trousers.

          • dsotm says:

            @Deiseach

            It’s fine to want the state out of marriage (probably a good idea too, as the husband may very soon realize), and most people can and will manage their own affairs – the state should intervene on behalf of the children when necessary (that’s why I suggested that they work out an agreement on their own before heading to court) and it should do so regardless of the formal arrangement or relationship definitions that the parents had between themselves or other people.
            Yeah sex is a risk management discipline – in wedlock or out of it, but this has been the case ever since people discovered the causal link between sex and babies.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t see what interest the state has in the matter unless the child is being raised in conditions that amount to neglect. If we really thought that there was a compelling state interest in children having the best possible upbringing our society would look a lot different.

            It looks to me like the issue isn’t the state’s putative interest in the child’s upbringing but some kind of weird anti-sex / inter-gender fairness intuition that shouldn’t be a legal issue at all.

          • @Deiseach:

            Let me put to you a question I put more generally. It is quite possible that, under the current law which you were discussing, it is the ex-husband not the biological father who is legally responsible for child support.

            If so, do you still support what the law requires? Most of the arguments you offer still apply–there is still a child in need of support. But the rhetoric of “if he can’t keep it in his pants” does not.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @dsotm

            I suggest that the mother should externalize the cost on the father *first* in the interest of her child who should not have her means of support depend on the goodwill of her mother’s friends and Scott’s readership towards her, to the extent and as long as such goodwill exists she can use the campaign funds to partially or fully compensate the father as indeed I believe she should, it can probably even be worked into the custody/child-support agreement.

            I am not persuaded that the welfare of the child outweighs the welfare of the father.

            I think you missed a response where I explicitly said that he isn’t morally culpable but responsible non the less.
            Abortion was his intent (and hers too up to a point) and I don’t find anything wrong with that, do you know a way that allows to ethically (from the child’s point of interest) avoid supporting your child that was born except for giving him up for adoption (as opposed to foster care) ?

            Moral culpability and responsibility are the same thing. The father has, functionally, given the child up for adoption to the mother. Furthermore, coercing money out of fathers is neither necessary (if the mother makes enough income) nor sufficient (if the father doesn’t make enough income) to guarantee the child’s welfare. Additionally, while the mother, as custody holder, has the ability to give the child up for adoption, and thereby waive financial responsibility, the father does not.

            In terms of pure pragmatics, going after child support may not actually be in the child’s interest. Engaging with the legal system requires money (one of those things the mother is short on), and may not give much, if anything, in return. Additionally, the welfare of the child involves more than just material goods; there may be emotional and/or social costs that are more damaging than the additional money can compensate for.

            The policy of forced child support seems to have less to do with helping children than punishing parents. About the only case where it seems morally acceptable is if a parent reneges on a commitment to support the child.

            Katie’s decision not to pursue child support from the father is a credit to her and I have half a mind to donate to her on those grounds alone.

          • “Katie’s decision not to pursue child support from the father is a credit to her and I have half a mind to donate to her on those grounds alone.”

            As I did.

          • dsotm says:

            @InferentialDistance, @David Friedman

            “I am not persuaded that the welfare of the child outweighs the welfare of the father.”

            Well, you don’t have to be – the whole point here is to try and make sure that Andromeda’s means of support are not affected by
            random-person-on-the-internet persuasions on the subject.

            And of course it would have been wrong to go after the father if the mother had enough means/income, I think I’ve only said so five times.
            She has the first responsibility to provide for her daughter – (given the circumstances it should not have even be a shared one), the father’s only arises due to her inability to fulfil it and Andromeda’s (not Katie’s!) right to be provided by the people who brought her into existence when possible.

            As for the father having effectively given up Andromeda for adoption to Katie, it just doesn’t stand – adoption requires the approval of the state as well, and given her situation she is unlikely to have been qualified as an adopter on her own, and if you claim that she effectively jointly adopted with he ex-husband than the ex-husband took on the responsibility for child support as well and this better involve a huge burden of proof that the ex-husband either expected to support children to be born by his wife to other men or have explicitly adopted Andromeda together with Katie.

            “Katie’s decision not to pursue child support from the father is a credit to her and I have half a mind to donate to her on those grounds alone.”

            This is a rather myopic, feel-good way to look at it and unless that credit together with the donations can somehow be redeemed by her to amount the equivalent of 18 years worth of child support then you are taking a very noble and liberal stand, on the behalf and expense of a year-old baby.

          • Anonymous says:

            the whole point here is to try and make sure that Andromeda’s means of support are not affected by
            random-person-on-the-internet persuasions on the subject.

            No the whole point was to a link a fundraiser for those that might be interested. Not provide an opportunity for sanctimonious assholes to pontificate endlessly on thier own poorly understood moral intuitions.

          • dsotm says:

            By “here” I meant my original response of course, I know that Scott (and others) only want to help Katie and Andromeda and obviously if the donations are the only thing that comes out of it then it is still preferable to it not happenning

        • John Schilling says:

          but they do seem to be very popular here and perhaps this may be an occasion to rethink one’s support of them.

          It seems to me that, if someone has held and supported (even tacitly) such views all along, it would be wrong to, ex post facto, deny support to a member of they community who is now facing the sort of situation one had previously signaled one would be supportive of.

          And, of course, Andromeda exists, is beyond aborting, and hasn’t made or broken any promises that I know of.

          • Jiro says:

            You seem to have read me as saying you shouldn’t support the person. That is not what I am saying. I am saying you shouldn’t support the theories (timeless decision theory and variations on it).

          • John Schilling says:

            If you were looking for a discussion of abstract theories, you’ve got a really lousy sense of timing. And tact.

          • Jiro says:

            The point was that those theories fail in an actual case that you care about. This is pretty much only going to come up in an actual case that you care about.

        • “(or even her husband at the time if that’s what legal situation in California determines).”

          A legal point nobody else seems to have brought up.

          Under Lord Mansfield’s rule, common law since the 18th century, a husband cannot deny paternity of a child conceived by his wife during a period when they were cohabiting. So under that rule the child is, legally speaking, the child of her then husband.

          I don’t know whether California courts have entirely renounced that legal rule in response to the existence of paternity testing—I know of one case, involving a host mother, where they didn’t follow it. On the other hand, a fair number of states seem unwilling to accept paternity testing evidence of non-paternity as grounds for not holding a man responsible for child support.

          • John Schilling says:

            I cited the relevant statutes cross-threat. It’s a rebuttable presumption, in the case of married parents cohabiting at birth apparently requiring a blood test with a two-year statute of limitations. Andromeda is somewhere between one and two, and I’m not sure what happens if the biological father turns hostile and tries to run out the clock.

          • nil says:

            Looks like the statute of limitations looks to the date of the motion for genetic testing, so the father’s options for clock-running should be limited.

            She should definitely call her her local child support agency to confirm one way or another, though.

      • Katie Cohen says:

        “Andromeda seems to be a bright young child, and I am optimistic about helping her out paying off in the long run.” 🙂 Thank you. I agree and others have noticed that she seems quite precocious.

        My tumblr, if anyone’s interested: http://andromeda-collides.tumblr.com/

        • caethan says:

          Oh dear. I read through your tumblr, and I am so very sorry for all the pain that your daughter and especially you are going through. She’s a lovely little girl, and I hope you get a lot of joy along with the pain. I have a little girl about the same age and when she saw how upset I was after reading some of what you’d written, she came over and gave me a hug, a pat on the back, and then asked if she was being “helpful”. (That’s her new word.) It sounds like something your daughter would do, and I hope you’re getting plenty of hugs from her. Baby hugs are the best hugs.

          I hope you don’t take offense, but I did pray for you and your daughter, that everything would work out OK for you. If nothing else, just take it as one of the strangers who read your story wishes you well.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        Ridiculous family arrangement and bad faith dealing threatens possibility of leaving cool neighbourhood. Please attach cheque for $40,000 to a postcard addressed to…

        • Katie Cohen says:

          Please remember I’m a real person reading this, having a very hard time, and I didn’t ask anyone to make the fundraiser or to contribute. I’ve struggled against asking for help for exactly the reason of knowing that I am responsible for my circumstances. I am very, very grateful to people who help despite that, and I think Scott signal boosted it for the people who know me and might not have seen it, not for me to get help from people who otherwise donate to better charity. No one is obligated to though and I don’t think people owe me money to keep me in cool neighborhood.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Oliver Cromwell has been banned indefinitely. Happy 100th anniversary, Ireland.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I would say that this is a remarkable coincidence, except nothing is a coincidence.

          • Annony McAnnonerson says:

            I get that this blog is your private space and you do what you want, but what message are you trying to send here? It looks to me like Oliver’s comment is an on-topic biting criticism of the idea anyone (other than the involved parties) should donate to Katie and Andromeda.

            (Please don’t ban me too.)

          • Protagoras says:

            @Annony, I don’t recall any announcement of the reign of terror ending. And in any event, there is an official comment policy, and the roundhead leader’s comment was clearly not kind, which means to be permitted it would have to be both true and necessary. I can conceive of rationalizations for why it would qualify for one or the other, but they all seem extremely strained to me. As a result, I don’t think any reasonable person should have expected the comment to be considered acceptable. I don’t mean to answer for Scott, but your tone suggests that you think the banning was something surprising and out of the ordinary, when as a non-Scott person it seems clear to me that OC should have expected it.

          • Anonymous says:

            I found his phrasing impactful in the message he was trying to send. However it was too hostile for this blog, even before considering that Katie herself reads this. He could have traded some of his message’s impactfulness to fit the niceness level Scott tries to maintain here, but didn’t, so got purged for antisocial behavior (strengthening his message at the cost of making the community as a whole less pleasant).

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I am a lot more tolerant of being cruel to Obama or Trump or someone, and much less so to real people who read this blog and are already doing badly.

          • anonymous says:

            Welcome to anonymous Oliver.

          • Decius says:

            As someone who is using this comment thread (among other sources) to evaluate whether to donate, I feel that the effect of causing people who have certain opinions to self-censor is reducing my value of information slightly.

          • Anatoly says:

            It’s possible to express the same idea as in Oliver’s comment using language that’s not cruel. I believe with high confidence that in that case he wouldn’t have been banned.

          • Decius says:

            If anyone can provide an example of a post that covers the five major ideas included in Oliver’s post and is at most .1% as bannable, I’ll make a $50 donation AND update my belief that dissent is being systemically suppressed.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Decius

            I don’t know what you mean by “.1% as bannable”, but I think something like this would get the main points across (and not be objectionable):

            I don’t approve of polyamory, and so I’m not willing to donate (and I don’t think anyone else should either). Even if was so inclined, I think there is will be little benefit from the donations — if no-one donates then the worst that will happen is the people involved will have to leave a nice city, not exactly the end of the world. This reads like a semi-fraudulent attempt to get an unreasonably large amount of money for nothing.

            Now where’s my $50?!

          • anon says:

            Try again sweeneyrod. You need to hit on all these points:

            1) This is a blatanly obvious consequence of polyamory
            2) There’s no real need there since the beggar is just looking to stay in her cool hip city so she can continue to live the party lifestyle (as she sees a party lifestyle)
            3) [mostly implied] Obviously her original promise was never going to be lived up to since no one ever expects women to live up to promises

            All you got was point (2) and “I disapprove of polyamory” – not point (1).

          • Decius says:

            1) Boo poly
            2) bad faith was present
            3) it isn’t certain that she’s going to have to leave
            4) having to leave is a minor consequence
            5) boo begging/entitlement

            were the five points I saw.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Anon is a previously banned user, has been banned again from this IP

      • ThrustVectoring says:

        Would a slightly different promise have worked?

        As far as I can tell from the description, here’s what people wanted, before Katie got pregnant:

        Katie: Wants to engage in coitus with other-guy, wants to be in a committed open relationship with husband. Wants to not raise any children with other-guy. ??? on raising children with husband.

        Husband: wants to be in a committed open relationship with Katie. ??? on raising children with Katie.

        Other-guy: wants to engage in coitus with Kaite. Wants to not raise children wtih Katie.

        So, the more complicated arrangement that *might* have worked is that Katie, her husband, and other-guy all agree that whatever children happen are considered her and her husband’s children, regardless of the facts of biological facts of parentage. Other-guy should be fine with this, only open question is whether Katie’s husband is okay with raising a non-biological child in case of an “oops”. Katie keeps her options open for dealing with a pregnancy as well.

        There’s even some precedent of legal fathers being unable to fix child support arrangements when later testing reveals that they aren’t the biological father.

        • Anonymous says:

          And then the dad realizes that he finds it impossible to care for a child that isn’t his own, and the law won’t allow him to unilaterally break his promise. Suffers from the same problem I think.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which is a predictable consequence when you make the choice to have an open relationship.

      • Gunnar Zarncke says:

        OK. Relationships can be hard. But even if not all of the details can be solved with simple rules (applicable xkcd: https://xkcd.com/592/ ) then at least the hardship of situations like Andromeda’s should be improvable over our societies default, or?

        Can’t some smart people collect results from decision theory, marriage counseling, game theory, economics and negotiation and create a better approach to this? At least on average? Yes it is difficult as presence of the approach has to be dealt with by some fixed point convergence criteria or whatever (maybe fall back on sulk and avoid?)

        I mean I have read the OP and the Blogs/Tumblr of those involved and it is sad and appears clearly sub-optimal (or at least currently asymmetric). I can’t but imagine all the talk that presumably has or has not happened. Is drama inevitable? Is this just a sad random case? I’m not willing to believe that. Can’t we do better than starting a FundMe? Or is reach-out part of the solution already?

        • If you’re talking about government action, any sort of UBI would have helped on the financial side. Or just change the rules for the existing benefits.

          As for private action, perhaps insurance? If I understand rightly the Bay poly community are typically fairly well-off, so if existing insurance companies aren’t prepared to insure against pregnancy would some sort of collective be an option? (Really I have absolutely no idea about the legal side of this.)

    • Katie Cohen says:

      Hi! Thanks for asking.

      I wasn’t involved in making the fund raiser, but as its subject, I’m probably pretty qualified to give an answer. I think whether it’s worth it in the long run is definitely something to access based on your other giving patterns and where you want to have an impact. Part of the reason I didn’t ask for help was because I know many of my friends and people in the community are Effective Altruists, or want their money used to do the most good. I don’t think helping me could qualify as “doing the most good.” That might be why Scott used the (adorable and amusing) language of “cute ingroup baby!”

      I’m very recently a single mom (moved into the group house here) at the beginning of February. Due to circumstantial stuff like the relationship with Andromeda’s father and my spouse, and probably other random health things, I had severe post-partum depression, to the point of being suicidal, when friends intervened and helped me get to a more stable place. For the last decade I’ve had difficulties with chronic pain that are unresolved, and that is a complication. Right now my daughter is only 1, and I’m trying to find ways for me to work online and with her nearby, like nannying, so I can also give her care. She’s lost a lot of loving people in her life, like connection to her father and his wife and my ex-spouse and I think it would be more traumatic for her to be separated from me during the day.

      I’ve found some temporary work and I’m still looking for as much as I can do.

      The question of staying in the Bay Area is a good one. It’s expensive here, and I’ve been scared that because of that, I may have to leave. One problem is I don’t really have anywhere else to go, since this is my home, and almost everyone I know is here. My parents are in rural Georgia, and though they might help me in some ways, they were very angry that I did not have an abortion, and have been disappointed in me more broadly. I think emotionally it would be devastating to try to go back to that, and I would also lose the opportunity to contribute to things like CFAR and MIRI and the culture here. My entire support network is formed in the community here. The group house I’m in, many people who love us and care for us. My housemates help me if I’m sick and need someone to look after Andromeda, one housemate is paying my rent for a few more months until I’m able to do so myself.

      Also not just what the community is doing for me, I try to give back as well, with helping my friends, doing things for CFAR, and starting to form a support structure for parents here. Even the smallest things I can do, like be a sounding board for friends’ ideas, or edit some rationalist blog posts, are ways I can contribute that I value. And I hope I’m able to give back more and more as my child gets older. When Andromeda is older I hope to help form some of the basis for homeschooling or group-schooling the Bay Area rationalist kids who wish to do so. I have training in math and education and my career before pregnancy was in private tutoring.

      Rent is $785 for my small room here that I share with my daughter, and I’m doing my best to keep food to $500 or $600 a month for both me and Andromeda. Also applying for governmental assistance there, which is complicated, because they want proof of child support, which I don’t get from Andromeda’s father (since he didn’t agree to have her he told me when I was pregnant that he would not pay it if I were ever in this position in the future, so he wouldn’t incentivize me not to abort). Other expenses are things like doctors, car maintenance or public transit because my car isn’t safe and is falling apart, and other basics. I am living frugally, getting her clothes hand me down, etc. I don’t travel or buy things for myself and when we have meetups and such here I try to contribute with my labor since I can’t financially.

      Andromeda is smart and wonderful. I suspect she’s going to be an amazing member of the next generation of rationalists, if our values are passed along here at all. She’s got a great pedigree, both me and what I bring, and her father, Will Eden, who is also amazingly smart and productive. If helping me feels bad, and it might, helping her might not. She’s only one year old, and she’s already had to deal with so much as the result of being born when her father didn’t want her and her mother suffering from depression. But also…I’m not asking you to throw money our way. I am extremely grateful of what help I get, I think I will be able to “pay it forward” in goodness to the world, but that also acknowledge it is an opportunity cost that could go elsewhere for more good. Thank you.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I’m sorry you have to put up with all this hostility.

        Seriously, people here need to learn the meaning of the word “tact”. Regardless of what legitimacy you think your concerns have…there’s a person at the other end of the connection, you know.

        It’s one thing not to give money to a homeless person, for instance. You have your own priorities. It’s another to yell at him that he should get a job.

        • Anonymous says:

          I hope at least some donations come out of this. Because it is pretty excruciating.

          • tinduck says:

            I donated. I wouldn’t have if I didn’t see the post here. If more people in this community need help, I hope this doesn’t persuade them to not seek help.

          • JBeshir says:

            I did too, and also only found out about it from here. I hope it ends up being some good after it all.

        • Randy M says:

          Agreed. No reason to be so boorish as to make the host’s friend an object lesson.

        • LaochCailiuil says:

          Well said.

        • Anonymous says:

          This has gotten even worse today. Ugh.

          Really puts this community in a terrible light.

          • John Schilling says:

            Really puts this community in a terrible light.

            In the event that this sentiment is diluted by the anonymity of its source, +1.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            And +2.

            In the future I’m not going to signal-boost anybody who needs help without their personal request and acknowledgment that they know what they’re getting into.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think it is pretty clear which subset of “this community” is being nasty.

          • coffeespoons says:

            @Ilya agreed! The fundraiser and support from friends makes the bay area rationalists seem awesome. Some of the SSC commenters… Not so much.

        • Dale says:

          I agree. At the end of the day though I think polyamory is a mistake, her single biggest decision was acting out of love to not end the life of her daughter. She surely deserves some support for that – people should not be made worse off for such decisions.

          • drethelin says:

            yes they should

          • Nathan says:

            @ drethelin

            A reminder that Katie is an actual human being who is likely reading this thread. “You should be punished for not killing your daughter” is maybe not a message you want to be sending here.

          • Anonymous says:

            This community generally doesn’t endorse “you should be insulated from the consequences of your decisions because you have the right values”-style tribalism, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            The decision was apparently to join the Bay Area Rationalist Community with the Full Polyamory Option – and to not kill one’s own child even though it would have been legal and acceptable to do so in that community. The consequences are apparently to raise a child in the relatively Spartan environment of a group home supported by the good will of the broader rationalist-adjacent community.

            This seems to me, natural, reasonable, and just. If there’s any question of perverse incentives I’m quite certain we’ll have plenty of overseers, anonymous and otherwise, to make sure any excess of good will is counterbalanced by a hefty dose of the other sort. Now, as for the consequences of that decision…

        • tinduck says:

          +1 Good thoughts. A lot of the comments here have been cruel and pointless.

      • zensunni couch-potato says:

        tl;dr Run, don’t walk, to your local cutthroat family lawyer and sue him for support.

        I’m not a member of the California bar, but I am very confident that, “she said she’d get an abortion, and I don’t want to incentivize her decision not to!” is not a defense to an action for support.

        Maybe you feel like you shouldn’t be “rewarded” for your choice to break a promise. But what about him? Should he be rewarded for gambling on your willingness to have an abortion, for thinking that getting you to speak magic words would bind you his desired outcome? He knew or should have known the risks, and chose to have sex with you anyway.

        Like, in creditor-debtor law, we certainly don’t want to encourage debtors to take out loans they can’t pay back. But we also don’t want to encourage creditors to make loans that they should know won’t be paid back.

        And even aside from all that, your daughter can’t eat decision theory. Do you want to watch your daughter go without while her half-siblings live in comfort?

        Take his fucking ass to court.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Have you considered that maybe she does not want to coerce his support?

          My mother arranged a settlement with the father of my half-brother, in which he agreed to give up all parental and visitation rights in return for not paying any child support.

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            I’m sure she doesn’t.

            How’s that going?

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            If she can get him to settle, great. But he seems pretty firm in his principled stance.

            I’m as semi-libertarian as the next SSC reader, but it’s amazing what some legitimized thugs with guns, acting on the orders of a judge, can do to make someone see the value of negotiation.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            If she doesn’t get people in the “rationalist community” to voluntarily fund her, she’ll have to move somewhere else. She’s not going to die.

            I don’t know anything about this situation other than what little I have read here. It seems like this guy doesn’t want to be involved in the child’s life. If so, it seems reasonable not to demand that he provide support, even if she could do so within the law. That fight may indeed end up causing a lot more stress and pain than it’s worth.

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            As Moldbug teaches us,

            50 years ago, in every major city in America, there was a thriving African-American business district — Bronzeville in Chicago, Sweet Auburn in Atlanta, Third Street in SF. Where are they now? You can still drive there — in the daytime. I’ve been to Third Street. Once was enough.

            I think a lot of that was because society allowed the Chad Thundercocks of the world to evade responsibility for their offspring.

            A rule that says, “a man must take responsibility for his offspring” is worth sticking to, for consequentialist reasons.

          • hlynkacg says:

            “Taking responsibility for his offspring” in this case would have meant aborting the baby or putting her up for adoption.

            You realize that don’t you?

          • Julie K says:

            @zensunni:
            Are you advocating a return to the old system of social pressure to marry before having children, or just that we strengthen the new system of government pressure to pay child support?
            The new system is an imperfect replacement for the old, since (1) a man whose self-image is as a good husband and father is motivated to work harder and earn more, and (2) a check is not an adequate replacement for personal involvement in child-rearing.
            (On the other hand, in the old days children born outside of marriage often got no paternal support.)

          • The Anonymouse says:

            If we’re going to say, “Hey, this guy shouldn’t have to support his child, because he didn’t want to in the first place,” then it seems that the taxpayers–upon whom the burden will soon fall, as the woman in question mentions she’s applying for government benefits–most certainly didn’t want to take on the role of supporting his child.

            If a child needs upkeep, who is more directly responsible? The guy who had all the fun until the responsibility caught up to him, or the uninvolved taxpayers?

            It’s not just whether J. Random Lothario wants/does not want to pay support. The state has an interest, and a strong one.

          • “Make raising a child as a single parent so difficult and stigmatized only people who are both fully desirous and fully-capable” seems like it had solid consequentialist underpinnings, but I don’t think people are really advocating for a return of Ye Olde Asylum days, are we?

          • Anonymous says:

            >If a child needs upkeep, who is more directly responsible? The guy who had all the fun until the responsibility caught up to him, or the uninvolved taxpayers?
            Because the father has more direct responsibility than the State, we can morally force him to pay child support.

            Because the mother has more direct responsibility than the father or the State, we can force her to abort.

            I would be fine with this arrangement if it was symmetrical either way, but it isn’t.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Anonymous
            “Because the mother has more direct responsibility than the father”
            In what way? Generally more than one (but less than three) people are required to engage in the Argentinian dance.

          • Anonymous says:

            Two people decide to have sex, but only one decides to give birth. Absent rape, a mother has at least as much decision responsibility as a father. Absent complete loss of agency once she gets pregnant (those must be some extremely dank hormones if they remove ALL agency, and they clearly aren’t because some women resist the compulsion and abort voluntarily), she gets to make extra choices about whether to keep the baby, hence carries more responsibility. Personally I think the decision to have protected sex is of much smaller importance than the one to not have an abortion, so claims that a man is responsible sound only technically true to me, but either way a woman carries more responsibility because she makes the same decisions as a man and then some more on top of that.

            If I propose to give you a bet where you always get $100 and in .1% of cases I also cut off your leg, you’re responsible if you accept and lose your leg, but not as responsible as if you took a bet with 100% chance of limb loss. You’re responsible in both cases sure, but equating case #1 with case #2 is very unfair to the guys who lost their legs on a miniscule chance and wouldn’t be done by a reasonable person without ulterior motives (like arguing that both people who cut their legs off voluntarily and those who lose them on .1% chances deserve the same welfare).

          • Hadlowe says:

            IANACALIFORNIAL:

            In the states where I have worked, application for government benefits is often accompanied by mandatory child support orders enforced by state child support offices, who are not nearly as nice as Ms Cohen appears to be.

            Once the state gets involved, Ms. Cohen’s moral judgment is entirely moot – the state will seek reimbursement for the cost of the welfare support she is receiving. The father would have to pay or hope for lackadaisical enforcement in order to avoid jailtime for contempt.

          • onyomi says:

            Not knowing anyone involved, I have no comment on the specific situation and definitely don’t intend this as an insult to anyone, but this makes me realize that polyamory, if it isn’t always, at least can be, a metacontrarian justification for behavior we’d normally just call “irresponsible” and, frankly “low class.”

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/

            Like “conservative/liberal/libertarian” and “traditionalist/feminist/MRA,” type triads (none of which is necessarily more correct by virtue of being on a higher contrarian “rung”), it seems rather like:

            sex feels good and babies make me feel fulfilled and worrying too much about contraception and who the father is are not really worth the trouble/smart, responsible people don’t give in to their urge to have sex and get pregnant when they can’t afford to deal with raising children/monogamy is unnecessarily limiting and…sex feels good and babies make me feel fulfilled…

            Or put another way:

            inner city “welfare queens”/traditional squares/people who think they’re too smart to be limited by traditional mores

            If it sounds like I’m beating up on polyamory…well, maybe I am, but remember no rung on the ladder is inherently better; I’m just saying, let’s notice the strong resemblance between the first and third rung: I think it’s pretty problematic if we want to lambaste the first rung but excuse the third.

            Put another way, if we feel the third rung is justifiable and the first unjustifiable, let’s make very sure we are, in fact, sitting on the third rung, rather than standing on the first rung, looking at the third rung, with the only difference between us and other first-rung dwellers being that we’re smart enough to come up with better-sounding justifications.

          • Nick T says:

            “babies make me feel fulfilled [and can be casually had without a strong expectation of a stable relationship with the father]” is not even CLOSE to part of any poly subculture that I’ve seen. (I don’t see Katie’s situation being considered normal.)

          • Ialdabaoth says:

            In the states where I have worked, application for government benefits is often accompanied by mandatory child support orders enforced by state child support offices, who are not nearly as nice as Ms Cohen appears to be.

            Once the state gets involved, Ms. Cohen’s moral judgment is entirely moot – the state will seek reimbursement for the cost of the welfare support she is receiving. The father would have to pay or hope for lackadaisical enforcement in order to avoid jailtime for contempt.

            I think this is a pretty important point – do the people advocating for throwing the court systems at the father really want our government getting involved in this process? The actual situation was morally complex, nuanced, and absurdly easy to round down into a bullshit moral talking point (as is evidenced by most of this thread). Political and bureaucratic sensibilities need to be kept as far away from situations like that as possible.

            There’s a sorting order of correct moral perspective here, based on proximity to the actual situation. It starts with Katie and the father; if you disagree with both of their judgements, then the next layer is their respective families. The next layer is their friend groups, and the next layer is the community they’re embedded in. The retarded rulebook-and-hundred-dollar-bill-flinging giant is pretty far down that list.

            The GoFundMe is targeted at their friends and the community they’re embedded in. Whether or not the mother or the father ‘deserves’ to be ‘punished’/’disincentivized’ is irrelevant to the fact that there’s a little girl who needs material support, there’s mechanisms in place that will kick in if that support isn’t produced by other means, and those mechanisms are arbitrary and dumb. Trying to convince ourselves that those mechanisms AREN’T arbitrary and dumb will not make the situation better.

          • onyomi says:

            “…is not even CLOSE to part of any poly subculture that I’ve seen. (I don’t see Katie’s situation being considered normal.)”

            Well, if so, I think that’s good, or at least, a case for there being a legit third rung. I honestly don’t know any polyamorists irl, so I will admit to a heavy degree of speculation in my outsider suppositions about it.

            I will say, however, that I think this triad may also be more widespread and/or separate from the polyamory phenomenon. Someone mentioned recently how it’s become meta-high status to have a lot of kids. I have noticed this among a few professor friends, along with a certain cavalier attitude about pregnancy (sort of, we can afford it anyway, so why bother being super careful).

          • Outis says:

            zensunni:

            I think a lot of that was because society allowed the Chad Thundercocks of the world to evade responsibility for their offspring.

            But the current laws are not keeping Chad Thundercock from having illegitimate children. They are keeping people like me (high IQ, low time preference, high self-control) from having sex at all. I do suffer serious psychological harm from the lack of sexual or romantic relationships, but I detest the alternative even more.

            The current laws are both unjust and socially harmful.
            The “state of nature” has the woman shouldering the greatest risk from having sex (pregnancy, etc.). We decided that this was an intolerable injustice, so we introduced marriage, etc. Then, medical developments made it possible to give the woman total control over the pregnancy. But now we have ended up with a reversal of the initial state: the man shoulders the greatest risk from having sex (20 years of child support).

            This is obviously no less unjust than the initial state, and in fact more so: because instead of being an artifact of biology, it is something we are deliberately enforcing, and because we have the technical and legal means to eliminate this injustice if we wanted to.

            In terms of social effects, I am tired and going to sleep. I may follow up tomorrow.

          • Nathan says:

            @ Outis

            If you really think 20 years of child support is more onerous than actually raising a child you have some life to experience, my friend.

            Unless you mean to say that the woman has the choice to abort if she does not want to have the child, while the man does not. In which case I encourage you to consider that a significant subset of women consider abortion to be equivalent to child murder and therefore unthinkable. So at the least some women are in no better a situation than men.

          • Outis says:

            @Nathan: women have full control on whether to carry the pregnancy to term. I do not count something that you fully control as a “risk”.

            Society has decided that abortion is not murder, which is why it’s legal. The women who choose not to exercise their legal options because of their own convictions are, in the eyes of the law, still making a free choice.

          • John Schilling says:

            If there’s one obvious takeaway from this whole mess, it is that “women can always abort and so face no real consequences from sex”, does not accurately predict real outcomes. If you’d rather have a discussion about some abstract fantasy of no relevance to the real world, this maybe isn’t the best thread to do it in, but you’ve at least effectively signaled the irrelevance of your thoughts and words.

          • Outis says:

            John Schilling: We’re thirty levels deep in a discussion, and I am making no reference to the case at hand. The person herself does not even want to pursue child support, so you could not even construe my post as a disagreement with her. If this thread is not the best place to discuss child support laws, certainly a rationalist blog is the worst place for third parties to get emotional and lash out at each other.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, I get that. Do you get that there are in the real world many women, not just one, who find out that they can’t get an abortion when the time comes?

            You might as well argue that anyone can provide for their hypothetical future children by taking out a massive life insurance policy, holding out for a few years, and committing suicide. Works just fine except for the fact that it generates massive negative utility according to the preferences the person will hold at the time, is not virtuous according to most human conceptions of such, violates lots of rules, and is psychologically beyond the capability of most people. But as a matter of pure intellectual theory, problem solved.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Outis

            But the current laws are . . . keeping people like me (high IQ, low time preference, high self-control) from having sex at all.

            Really? The current laws are keeping you from having sex? How so?

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Really? The current laws are keeping you from having sex? How so?

            Presumably because the current laws are configured in such a manner that no prior agreement (not even notarized legal contract) or amount of action taken to avoid conception is sufficient to discharge the legal obligation to spend a significant portion of their paycheck for 18 years if contraception should fail and the mother unilaterally decides to carry the child to term.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Odd reasoning, especially if, as stated, he suffers serious psychological harm from the lack of sex.

            Hell, I drive a car even though there is no amount of driving precaution that can totally eliminate the risk of accidental death while doing so. And that’s just to go buy a Slurpee! And death is certainly a greater harm than a support obligation.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            It doesn’t require reducing the probability to zero, merely low enough that the individual in question is willing to take that risk for that magnitude of harm.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            That is the calculation, yes. My point being that if the lack is as bad as he says it is, it sounds as if his risk calculation is off. And that he probably performs several actions every day with greater risks of greater harm.

            I’m sure some of the statisticians among us could figure out the utils/QALYs of the risks of driving a car versus the benefit of a Slurpee, factoring in reasonable precautions and the magnitude of harm, then compare that to the risks of having sex versus the psychological benefits, factoring in reasonable contraceptives and the risk of them failing, then the follow-on risk of being unsuccessful in pressuring the partner into getting an abortion.

            tl;dr: Go get laid if it’s that important; child support laws are broadly popular, deadbeats broadly unpopular, and nothing’s changing any time soon.

          • Adam says:

            This is bullshit. There is a form of contraception guaranteed to work. Get a vasectomy. I did as soon as I was old enough to have my own health insurance. It’s a twenty-minute procedure and you feel nothing. They give you percocet and valium an hour before and you’re barely even lucid. If you’re afraid you might actually want kids someday, you can freeze your sperm. Guess what? Unlimited sex with no risk of kids. There’s also anal. I went nearly a whole year once where all I did was anal. Again, no risk of kids. If you’re not having sex, it’s because by the principle of revealed preference, you don’t want sex.

          • @Adam, vasectomies are not 100% effective. According to this, the failure rate (not counting failures during the first two years, which are more common) is about 1 in 4000.

            (Which is very good compared to other methods. But not 100%.)

          • Creutzer says:

            There’s more than one way of doing a vasectomy. So if you take care to make sure it’s done properly, you can count on a substantially lower failure rate.

          • Anonymous says:

            >letting someone cut open your best friend for anything in the world
            better remain celibate

            [If you don’t like my sense of humour, please accept my apologies.]

          • Adam says:

            You’re supposed to get tested 12 weeks after the procedure. They’ll tell you whether it worked or not. If it worked, it’s 100% effective. If you’re a stupid idiot and don’t wait, or never get the test, sure, it might not work.

            All I’m hearing are excuses from the whine all day sector about how their life is so terrible because the law prevents them from having sex. Get real. You’re not taking simple and obvious measures that would make your life better. That’s on you, not on no-fault divorce, not on shitty contract law, not on women who insist they get a say in the matter and actually want you to meet some standard of minimum attractiveness. If sex is really that important to you and supporting children really that scary, you’ll find a way.

          • @Adam, no, that 1 in 4000 is assuming you’ve been tested, and waited the full two years. The failure rate is much higher if you don’t.

            From my perspective, I would expect that to be an acceptably low level of risk. But saying that there isn’t any risk at all simply isn’t true.

          • Adam says:

            Fine, you got me. Chalk another one up for the most literalist commentariat in the history of blogging (and please don’t respond with a link to another blog that 0.0001% more literalist).

          • I wasn’t really trying to score points. The distinction just seemed important for anyone who might be considering a vasectomy, or might already have one and be counting on it more than he should.

        • Anonymous says:

          >He knew or should have known the risks, and chose to have sex with you anyway.
          Any time a man has protected sex, he should be prepared to pay child support for life? You really think that?

          If we’ve traded the “any time a woman has sex, she should be prepared to live with that man for life” moral standard for the “any time a man has sex he should be prepared to feed a person for 20 years” moral standard, then I don’t think we’ve made that much progress in the last 100 years!

          The fact that the courts allow that shit doesn’t mean it’s right. There’s just no better solution (that we’re allowed to consider, or maybe at all).

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            If an action has foreseeable consequences, and someone engages in that action, then yes I think that he is responsible for those foreseeable consequences.

          • Tern says:

            @ zensunni:

            So, in principle, you think no agreements that shift risk between the agreeing parties should be enforced?

          • Anonymous says:

            What if men have a biological need to have sex that they can’t resist for years on end without heavy psychological consequences? There’s not really much choice involved in that case.

            And again, does this apply to women? Can I say “If a woman chooses to have protected sex which foreseeably can lead to a child, the State can morally force her to X, because she is responsible for her actions”? (where X can be anything that leads to a good outcome, be it abortion or marriage so the child has a father)

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            Tern –

            I think our legal system gets it pretty close to right: Such agreements should be enforceable, but not when it comes to support for offspring. We have decided that support for offspring calls for different rules than, say, the sale of goods or securitized debt.

            Anon – Yes I think it’s morally permissible for the state to apply the same rules to women in the ways you describe. (Though I think that the specific case of forced marriage is probably a bad idea on the object-level, I think that category of coercion is permissible).

          • Anon says:

            I find this whole situation viscerally terrifying in that it sets up a weird analogue to the old theological question “Can a woman make a promise so strongly that even she is bound by it?”

            If the answer is ‘no’ then we have no basis for trust in anything.

            In my case, my long time girlfriend has made it quite clear that she’d like to get married, but I just can’t think of a way that it could possibly be a good idea thanks to cases like these. I’d love to trust freely, but given that everyone who gets married presumably does so in good faith, there’s nothing she can do at this point that would reliably signal that she won’t change her mind on key points once I’m on the hook. So I won’t. Because that’s insane.

            Are the people advocating suing this guy into the ground sure that we aren’t losing something here in giving up our ability to make promises that the other party can rely on being kept?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, no basis for trust in anything that the law refuses to let her be bound by. She’s still on the hook for, e.g., student loans.

          • Anonymous says:

            @zen
            Thanks for directly answering my questions. I respect your consistency. Yeah, didn’t really pick the examples for object-level merit, more for outrage factor.

            @sun
            only until the State feels the Bern

          • zensunni couch-potato says:

            Anonymous –

            I don’t advocate suing him into the ground. I think she should sue him for what the law entitles her to, which is far short of personal ruin. If I came across as bearing this guy ill will, I regret that. (I actually think he’s a smart guy who does a lot of important work.)

            The common law has always said that some promises are enforceable, and some aren’t. I think that a promise to have an abortion, or to absolve someone of parental obligations, falls into the latter category for good reasons.

            I’m not suggesting that deciding which contracts are or aren’t enforceable is easy … it’s not. But I do think that child-rearing is one of those areas we should be cautious about treating like any other contract.

            But you’ve given me some reasons to at least question my position, I acknowledge it’s a hard problem, though I still think she should consider pursuing child support because in the real world you’ve got to have lunch or be lunch.

            I’m starting to feel douchey for wading into all this drama of people I don’t know, so I’ll leave it there.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ b/w Anonymous
            What if men have a biological need to have sex that they can’t resist for years on end without heavy psychological consequences?

            In order of surety:

            Use a condom (etc), and
            Hire a bonded professional, and
            Find a mtf trans person, and
            Get a vasectomy, or
            Go gay.

          • Anon says:

            Zen –

            I’d like to start off by saying that I really appreciate the level of civility displayed here. I don’t necessarily agree with all your points, but I certainly respect the way you put them forward.

            Forgive me if I took the “Hire a cutthroat family lawyer”, taking his “Fucking ass to court” and advocating for the use of “Legitimized thugs with guns” parts as harsher than they were intended. they, along with the “Have lunch or be lunch” philosophy just seem really antagonistic to me in the sense that we’re legitimizing being defect bots in the name of ‘that’s just how it is’.

            I find it even more unsettling that (And this could be wildly off base) it seems like we’re only permissive of that sort of antisocial behaviour when it’s performed by someone of the correct gender. I’m presuming that we’d be less sympathetic of advice that he should “Run her through the legal wringer until she quits. Gotta have lunch or be lunch, right?”. And I think that the level of aversion that we have for that statement is equal to that deserved by the original.

            Where I think the stance breaks down is that it ignores the fact that *everything* is a tradeoff. I agree with you that it’s a very hard decision to weigh between allowing people never to be stuck regretting a decision if they later change their mind, or disempowering them by taking away their ability to make credible commitments.

            I certainly come down on the other side of that divide, because I think that once these dynamics are known and these dynamics begin to be used as *tactics* (Which let’s be honest here, they absolutely are), the other side has no choice but to plan with them in mind in order to protect themselves. I’m not sure if women as a group are going to be happier when men across the board become resistant to marrying or rightfully paranoid around sexual activity so that a small number of women preserve the right not to regret their decisions. All in all I think it infantializes women and treats them as not capable of knowing themselves enough to be trusted with making decisions about their future.

            In this case, I feel the need to respectfully disagree with the advocation for going the cutthroat lawyer route, as I think that Katie not going the cynically stereotypical route of “Take all you can, give nothing back.” is greatly to her credit for roughly the reasons that Zippy has gone over below. I just can’t shake the feeling that this “In the real world you’ve got to screw people over and get yours” thinking is well meaning because she’s a friend and one of us and we want the best for our own, but exactly the way that a system crumbles into the adversarial power struggles it was trying to prevent.

          • Anon says:

            Houseboat-

            Do you really think that telling men to either a) change their sexual orientation (Which was just as impossible as it was when it was called ‘praying the gay away’)

            B) Undergo a permanently sterilizing operation that ironically denies them the ability to change their mind later

            C) participate in sex trade exchanges that are currently deemed to be criminal

            Are more reasonable than giving them some say in their reproductive autonomy beyond the ‘abstinence only’ model that we decry everywhere else?

          • Julie K says:

            @Anon:
            Why is it specifically marriage rather than fatherhood that would put you “on the hook?”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Julie K

            I’m assuming that you wouldn’t force a woman to carry a child to term because the father wanted a child when the mother didn’t.

            I would surmise it’s for the same reason.

          • Julie K says:

            (top) Anonymous:
            Don’t forget that the old standard you described applied to men as well. In fact men were more constrained, since the woman could decide whether or not to give the child up for adoption.

            One alternative would be to allow a father to give up all rights and responsibilities with regard to a child. If necessary taxpayer support would take the place of the father’s support.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Dalrock was right. We’ve tossed out marriage as the central organizing principle of family and replaced it with child support.

            This thread is all my darkest suspicions of polyamory confirmed.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Julie
            I’m fine with the old standard where men are forced to pay, but women are also forced into responsibility by ensuring the child has a father regardless of how they feel about marrying the guy. Sure, women do all the choicemaking, but men reclaim some of that by the amount of power they have in a marriage.

            I am also fine with the hopefully future standard where a man can say “no” and denounce all responsibility for a child, as the guy in Katie’s case is doing to the best of his ability.

            What I am not fine with is the current system. Especially if it is presented as moral; I can understand a judge looking at three options:
            – forcing a woman to have an abortion
            – forcing a man to work for someone else’s benefit for a loong period of time
            – doing neither and letting a child live in misery
            and regretfully choosing the second as the smallest evil, knowing that it’s doing the man a great injustice. But looking at it as “wow this guy is irresponsible infantile scum for not wanting to lose 10000 hours because of a decision he didn’t even get a say in” is appalling to me.

          • Randy M says:

            This thread is all my darkest suspicions of polyamory confirmed.

            This seems rather relevant:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/26/links-316-klapaucius-and-url/#comment-339580

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            I was going to say this post on blacktrance‘s Tumblr is rather relevant:

            Further related: If your conventional romantic relationship ends, people will shrug and be sympathetic. If your polyamorous relationship ends for reasons unrelated to polyamory, people will still sometimes say things like “It was bound to fail from the start”, “What were you expecting?”, and so on, and more will think it even if they don’t say it.

            And I’m not even an advocate of polyamory.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Jaskologist: “This thread is all my darkest suspicions of polyamory confirmed.”

            Agreed, so much.
            I respect Katie Cohen for reneging at serious personal cost on a promise to kill another human, but everything else about this situation is great evidence for the utility of traditional marriage.

          • John Schilling says:

            To be fair, “Married one man, accidentally bore the child of another” is not exactly unrelated to polyamory and doesn’t generally get women much sympathy in the mundane world. It matters, in a good way, that Katie explicitly discussed all of this up front even if it didn’t work out as planned.

          • Randy M says:

            @Vox:
            Part of what John said. This isn’t “relationship just didn’t work out.” This is instead an example of elite throwing away established solutions to human nature problems because they think they have evolved past such things as jealousy or maternal feelings, then finding out they really haven’t.
            [edit: The maternal feelings and decision not to abort are] to her credit, imo. But to the extent that she had anticipated this and let herself be repressed into monogamy, a little girl would have a father, or at least an enforceable source of income.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Jaskologist: This particular case doesn’t generalize as well as you imply since:

            1) Having already been in a married situation would be great, but since it hasn’t worked out that way, child support would sure be helpful. We’re talking 2nd or 3rd best options here.

            This is really enough right there, but there are other sides to it.

            2) this poly arrangement was made crosswise to the marriages involved – and since because poly marriages are not an option legally, it’s trying poly in an environment hostile to it.

            3) if they HAD been married, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome – father separates/divorces for largely same reasons. Plenty of married people have that happen. Not a panacea.

            4) This wasn’t an ideal poly case anyway, because too much tension between the actors regarding the existence of the relationship. If norms differed, maybe that would have been less, or the particular situation would have been averted more effectively because everyone would have had a clearer idea of expectations.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            The problem is taking a random piece of anecdotal evidence and saying “This just confirms that my worldview is correct.”

            Whether that’s Dylan Roof “proving” that racism is just as bad today as it was 50 years ago, the attack in Brussels “proving” that Eurabia in within sight, or a given hurricane “proving” that catastrophic climate change is near.

            Traditional marriage, as practiced by the bourgeois (the “elite” didn’t really practice it; they had all kinds of mistresses and affairs), worked out fairly well for them, though many of them felt very constricted by it.

            Among the non-elite—well, it also was often not practiced very consistently. And we don’t have terms like “wife-beater” for nothing.

            It’s always been the upward-striving middle class that have the strictest moral codes, with “decadence” among the upper class and the poor.

          • Randy M says:

            The problem is taking a random piece of anecdotal evidence and saying “This just confirms that my worldview is correct.”

            What about taking a random piece of evidence and saying this is evidence?

            The rest of your comment seems to be saying that my point is right but this is nothing new? I agree, if so.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M: [edit: The maternal feelings and decision not to abort are] to her credit, imo. But to the extent that she had anticipated this and let herself be repressed into monogamy, a little girl would have a father, or at least an enforceable source of income.

            Exactly. There’s a temptation to buy into worldviews that say “we have used our minds to overcome the flaws of lesser breeds”. The consequences of learning out that, no, even Bay Aryans are flawed can be catastrophic.

            Heck, this was the function of tragedy in Athens. The tragic hero was always an aristo, to teach the lesson that “even the best of us is doomed if he does X.”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            What about taking a random piece of evidence and saying this is evidence?

            In a technical sense, it is evidence. But it is a piece of evidence so small that it is compatible with many different theories and should not cause anyone to change his view on the matter.

            The rest of your comment seems to be saying that my point is right but this is nothing new? I agree, if so.

            If you got that out of it, you misinterpreted it.

            The point was that these traditional values were practiced most strictly by the people who probably needed them least. And that if the poor interpret “liberal” values in dysfunctional ways, they did the same thing with traditional values.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Bay Aryans? Wow. I don’t even care about the sheer condescending tone of this all, that’s hilarious.

          • Randy M says:

            The point was that these traditional values were practiced most strictly by the people who probably needed them least.

            “Need them least” is a funny way of saying “didn’t need them” which is what I think you mean, and yet…
            The poor get bureaugamy, the umc get gofundme?

            Just reread this

            many of them felt very constricted by it

            Would you agree that the entire purpose of any contract is to constrict behavior?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            “Need them least” is a funny way of saying “didn’t need them” which is what I think you mean, and yet…

            Or: some aspects were beneficial, some aspects not.

            Would you agree that the entire purpose of any contract is to constrict behavior?

            In terms of people feeling constricted by “traditional marriage”, I was thinking more of women being restricted to domestic matters and not having property rights, men having to take sole responsibility as head of the household: that sort of thing. But I see how it could be unclear, that I could be taken as complaining about it constricting their random whims to do whatever they want at any time.

            Yes, in some sense a contract is a way of constricting behavior. But I was referring to undue constriction of behavior.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not deliberately misunderstanding, so thanks for clarifying, but our thread is growing tiresomely nit-picky, I think, and anyhow I am contradicting my admonishment from last night and so wish to say no more on the matter at the moment.

          • Apropos of an earlier comment I made on the law, and with regard to probing people’s moral intuitions …

            Suppose that, under California law, the result of going to the court is that the ex-husband rather than the biological father is found liable for child support. Do the people who favor compelling the biological father to pay also support compelling the ex-husband to pay?

          • ThrustVectoring says:

            @David

            I’m actually more in favor of making the husband pay – supporting your partner’s offspring is kind of the thing that you sign up for when you marry someone. In usual marriages, your partner engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage is a breach of contract that my intuition says drops the expectation of support.

            Since they had an open marriage where extramarital affairs weren’t a breach-of-contract, and they were married when she got pregnant, he’s still on the hook in my book.

          • Anon says:

            I’m also really interested to see more opinions on saddling the husband with 18 years of debt.

            I’m the anon above who is apprehensively considering getting married to a woman and forming a somewhat open relationship with the understanding that at some point in the future she may want to date other men. Having or supporting children, especially another man’s children are definitely not things I want. She also has no interest in children and says that she would abort any kids that slip through our protective efforts.

            At this point I’m feeling a strong double bind wherein if I’m not ok with other men in the relationship I’m hit from all sides from the poly community with accusations of abusive, insecure, oppressive, one penis polyamory and that I’m slightly worse than Hitler for being so controlling and sexist.

            However, if I do go through with it and give my consent to extramarital guys, then I open myself up to my girlfriend reneging on any terms we might have had, carrying a child, and leaving me holding the cheque. Meanwhile throngs of onlookers and lawyers say I brought this on myself by accepting an open marriage, that I should have expected this all along, and that I should just accept servitude for the next few decades without a fuss.

            The whole thing sounds like a big ball of “NOPE!” to me.

            How do other poly people reconcile this?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Anon: The poly community sounds abusive. I can only recommend getting out of it.

          • Nathan says:

            @ Anon

            I recommend a vasectomy.

          • Anon says:

            Nathan –

            Like, on me, or on the other guys she’d hypothetically be sleeping with?

          • Nathan says:

            I meant on you. Despite some comments in this thread, I find it hard to imagine a man could be legally required to provide for a child he definitively did not father.

            Of course if your significant other is also certain about her decision to never have kids, you could talk to her about having her tubes tied too.

          • Nita says:

            @ Anon

            If your partner is planning to have no children, a highly effective method like a contraceptive implant or tubal ligation would be appropriate. (Obviously, you should also have a vasectomy, for the same reason.)

            But you should still consider various unplanned outcomes — pregnancy, STDs, your wife finding Jesus or having a stroke, etc. — to determine whether you are prepared and willing to take the risks.

          • Anon:
            As said, if the poly community is telling you you need to put penises into places in your relationship in which you don’t currently want them, for any reason, they’re Doing Poly Wrong. Drop ’em.

            But as for the bigger question? By default, poly or no, if you are married to a woman, and that woman becomes pregnant and chooses to have a kid, you are obliged, full-stop. In most states, you can’t evade this by proving the child isn’t yours, or moving out, or even divorce.

            If you do not trust your partner to refrain from getting pregnant and having a baby, you should not marry her. This is both because this is an issue in which you won’t have legal recourse, and because marriage is a complex enough intertwining that without that level of trust, it is doubtful that things will work long-term anyway.

          • From multiple online anecdotes, it’s apparently quite difficult for a young women (not sure about the age limit) to find a doctor who will tie her tubes, especially if she hasn’t had children.

          • Anonymous says:

            By default, poly or no, if you are married to a woman, and that woman becomes pregnant and chooses to have a kid, you are obliged, full-stop. In most states, you can’t evade this by proving the child isn’t yours, or moving out, or even divorce.

            A majority of Americans live in states where a child born to married woman is presumed to the child of the husband, but there is some period of time during which this presumption is rebuttable by genetic testing. I’m not sure about the majority of states, but I’d guess it’d also be in favor of the limited time rebuttable presumption.

          • benluke says:

            >If we’ve traded the “any time a woman has sex, she should be prepared to live with that man for life” moral standard for the “any time a man has sex he should be prepared to feed a person for 20 years” moral standard, then I don’t think we’ve made that much progress in the last 100 years!

            Not only have we not made progress, we’ve obviously declined.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s just no better solution (that we’re allowed to consider, or maybe at all).

            Improvements in contraception? Contraceptives for men? Voluntary control of gametogenesis? Just because nobody here has considered these doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to consider them.

          • Anon says:

            I appreciate all the feedback from everyone.

            It definitely sounds like the best course of action is to avoid marriage at all costs, stay firm on no other men, and be really careful myself.

            To the people suggesting ligation, Nancy was bang on with the docs being unwilling.

            Thanks again all.

          • @Anon:

            The best course is to marry a woman who wants children and is happy to be monogamous—assuming you would like to bring up your own children. Failing that a monogamous woman who doesn’t want children, accepting a small risk that she will get pregnant, not abort, and you will get to discover whether you really like children after all.

            Not doing so because you think people will call you names for not being poly strikes me as silly, but I’m not sure if that part of your comment was intended seriously.

            For what it is worth, my elder son was polyamorous, posted stuff in favor of polyamory, and eventually concluded that, at least for him, it was a mistake. He is now engaged and does not, I think, intend to repeat the mistake.

          • Nita says:

            @ David Friedman

            people will call you names for not being poly

            I don’t think that describes Anon’s concern. From the reference to “one penis polyamory”, it sounds like Anon wants to have sex with other women, but would like to prevent his primary partner from having sex with other men.

            @ Anon

            Look into long-acting hormonal implants. They’re less scary to doctors due to being non-permanent, but apparently even more effective than tubal ligation. (As with any hormonal method, your side effects may vary.)

          • Anon says:

            Same anon.

            Nita is correct in this case. We currently casually sleep with several other women, thus far always as a pair, and this is all good and fun.

            However, she’s been up front that despite both of us being into girls and only one liking guys, it would feel like a double standard to do a long term other women only arrangement and she predicts that she would thus begin to feel resentful.

            Given that the scenario in the kickstarter seems to be an absolute nightmare to me (While I realize that individual feelings on the matter may vary) and we’ve established that there is absolutely no way to hold a woman accountable once the consent to engage in extramarital coitus has been given, it seems like my best recourse is to hold firm, weather the possible resentment, and hope it turns out right.

            I appreciated the comment upthread about “Any Poly that tells you to put penises anywhere you don’t want them is doing it wrong.” I fully agree, and I doubt anyone would go against it directly. However, from here it seems like there’s another dictum that “Any poly that prevents a woman from putting penises wherever she wants is doing it even more wrong” which supersedes it. Although, the city in which I live has a ridiculous skew towards an abundance of working age males, so a lot of the rhetoric we’re hearing is highly motivated towards getting into her pants.

            So at this point, there doesn’t seem to be anything gained by agreeing to either marriage, or other guys, and everything to lose. I’d love to trust harder, but people with absolute power to impose their will over others with no consequences to themselves have a pretty lousy track record when it comes to fair treatment.

            Anyway, the TL:DR is that I’d love to do right by the whole situation, but if we’re all ok with Zen’s “Eat or be Eaten” (Or at least the law is alright with and will enforce it to the letter) then it seems insane not to protect yourself.

            Thanks again.

          • Nita says:

            @ Anon

            I wonder how your partner feels about the risk you’re taking by having penis-in-vagina sex with other women. If you end up impregnating someone, it could have a significant impact on her life.

          • Anonymous says:

            we’ve established that there is absolutely no way to hold a woman accountable once the consent to engage in extramarital coitus has been given

            I don’t know where you are getting this from. Under the tradition rule consent is irrelevant because there was an irrebuttable presumption of paternity from birth if you were married and cohabiting. Under the modern rule you have a certain period of time (i.e. 2 years in the case of California) to establish non-paternity and again, consent is irrelevant.

          • Anon says:

            She seems pretty enthusiastic about it given that she’s been pushing for the past year and a half. Most of the other girls are her festival friends with whom she’s had a lot of ongoing sexual tension, but weren’t huge fans of her former boyfriend. So, especially given the city’s demographics, she has a lot of power to control the speed at which things happen.

            I’ve also told her that I’m perfectly alright restricting activities with the others to just oral/anal if she’d prefer, which she’s always just laughed at.

            The idea that if I impregnate another woman (Who subsequently renegs on all agreements not to have any kids, etc) it will significantly affect her life by diminishing my pool resources for which she could hypothetically reneg on agreements not to have children with and extract for herself… seems like a special kind of dehumanizing to me. In any worst case scenario of my siring illegitimate children, she’s never on the hook beyond what is trivially solvable by ditching me and picking up someone else.

        • Zippy says:

          [Before I start this rambling comment, I’d like to note that I wish Katie the best, but this derailment isn’t very relevant to remedying her plight so she could probably skip it]

          David Hume tells us that you can’t derive an ought from an is. I’m here to tell you that you can’t derive an ought from a can.

          Though “canned oughts” sounds delicious for some reason.

          Run this by your morality sensors:

          You make a deal with someone. You break the deal because you just couldn’t go through with it. Then you go and demand money from the person with whom you broke the deal, with the power of the state to extract said money.

          In the second sentence, you are probably an understandable person with foibles. In the third, you become an asshole.

          I guess the problem here may be that I assume responsibility comes from one’s own actions, and I’m having a hard time picturing what this guy could have done further to excuse himself from the responsibility of a child he clearly did not want. (Recall, if you will, that Normal Human Beings do not sign contracts before coitus) He seems, from my very rough understanding of this subject, to have undertaken all the steps it could reasonably be demanded he take to clear himself of responsibility. Perhaps if the agreement was explicitly, “We will have a child, and you will care for it entirely?”…

          I guess this is what Men’s Rights Activists are always talking about.

          And if your solution is “Well, don’t have sex unless you want to risk supporting a child” then I don’t see why people should be held to such a standard.

          You cite consequentialist reasoning, which is good, but i must cite it right back at you. The ability to make serious, life-altering commitments outweighs the ability to stick random people with the debt of children they sired under arrangements wherein they wouldn’t have to care for them. The ability to make serious, life-altering commitments would be weakened if there were random Take-Backsies zones that only you know the locations of, so to speak.

          You write, “He knew or should have known the risks, and chose to have sex with you anyway.” and I note that that’s totally valid, so long as the conversation went something like:
          Him: Hey if you get pregnant you should get an abortion, so I don’t have to care for it.
          Her: I agree in an absolutely non-binding way that allows me to demand child support from you later.

          Anything else would be unkind.

          • lambdaphagy says:

            > (Recall, if you will, that Normal Human Beings do not sign contracts before coitus)

            That is exactly what Normal Human Beings did for thousands of years. It was called “marriage”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Premarital sex is an invention of the dastardly baby boomers. Never happened before that.

            You’d think people that worshiped the past could at least bother to learn something about it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous

            Humans always did have a problem with keeping the cooperate-cooperate equilibrium, which keeping it in one’s undergarments outside of a formal procreative agreement is, but until recently, it was the dominant societal perception that defecting on this more was a Bad Thing (TM). Nowadays, extramarital promiscuity is de facto the norm, while chastity is the exception.

          • Anonymous says:

            Procreative agreement is a funny name for what, until 150 years ago, was in most places and times more of a property transaction.

            Is slavery cooperate-cooperate if the husband *and* the father agree?

          • Anonymous says:

            You realize that the “slave” had to agree as well?

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I think historically fathers paid dowries when their daughters were married, a far cry from pimping.

          • “Premarital sex is an invention of the dastardly baby boomers. Never happened before that.

            You’d think people that worshiped the past could at least bother to learn something about it.”

            The usual arrangement for premarital sex, at least in western societies a century or two back, was that if pregnancy resulted it was followed by marriage. The evidence on several European cities in the late 19th century suggests that about a third of brides were pregnant. Until about the 1930’s in the U.S., a man who seduced a woman under promise of marriage and then abandoned her could be sued for breach of promise.

            Premarital sex certainly happened, but it was supposed to be fitted into the same system of commitment.

          • John Schilling says:

            Premarital sex certainly happened, but it was supposed to be fitted into the same system of commitment.

            Which should be obvious from the name – premarital sex, not amarital sex. You can have sex if you haven’t gotten around to getting married yet, but it was linguistically unthinkable that you’d be having sex and not getting married eventually.

            I believe most traditional societies tacitly accepted premarital sex roughly to the extent that it was obvious you weren’t going to make a fuss about the “get married” part when the time came. If you were, that’s why they invented shotguns.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I’ve heard that the current Christian rural custom is the small town throws a big happy wedding, where the old gossipy ladies smile and nod and say, “First babies often come early.”

        • Deiseach says:

          I wouldn’t be supportive of vindictive legal action but the fact remains that the child is in existence and in need and the father has responsibilities. He should contribute something to the child’s support.

          And aside from all that, leaving all the responsibility for not getting pregnant on the woman is bullshit. Contraception fails, as in this instance, and if you absolutely don’t want kids, you either get sterilised or you don’t have sex. (I am not pro-abortion rights so no, I don’t accept option C you abort the child).

          I continue to maintain what I have always maintained on here: if people fuck up their own lives, that’s one thing. But as soon as children are involved, you grow the fuck up and stop being pissy: you support the child as best you are able.

          So yes, ask for child support and go to law if necessary.

          • Mr. L says:

            “But as soon as children are involved, you grow the fuck up and stop being pissy: you support the child as best you are able.”

            Are you now going to berate Katie for not moving back in with her parents? She admits that it would be helpful; her reasons for not wanting to do so, while understandable, dealt entirely with her own well-being and not her child’s.

          • Nadja says:

            Mr. L, Katie said it would be helpful in some ways, but not in others. I don’t know much about the situation, but it doesn’t seem to me like her moving to live with her parents, who wanted her to abort her baby in the first place, would necessarily be best for the baby.

            A baby’s well-being is intimately tied to the mother’s well-being. Trying to stay in a community that provides them both with the most social support, and the best future prospects (if it proves financially sustainable) sounds like the best solution for the child.

          • Outis says:

            Deiseach:

            And aside from all that, leaving all the responsibility for not getting pregnant on the woman is bullshit.

            The woman has all the power on deciding whether the pregnancy is carried to term, and therefore she should have all the responsibility.

          • CatCube says:

            Except that your euphemism “deciding whether the pregnancy is carried to term” is covering infanticide.

            Actually, I agree with most people that the father husband should be on the hook. But after hearing a bunch of people say that Katie should have murdered her kid because she made the mistake of making that deal, I’m going to donate once I get home.

            Edit: I meant to say husband, instead of father. You are the father of your wife’s children; if you have a problem with that, divorce her when she’s screwing around on you.

          • Outis says:

            CatCube: I hope you are not suggesting that *I* am saying that she should have killed the child.

            Re: husband being on the hook, while I don’t have much sympathy for him, I do think it’s weird to say that polyamory is ok but then reach for XIX century morality when shit hits the fan. To her credit, the mother is not even doing that – it’s all third parties, for some reason.

          • CatCube says:

            I don’t hold any truck with polyamory. Deisach has pretty much covered my feelings on the matter; there’s a reason things were set up the way they were, and that was to provide for the children from a union.

        • John Schilling says:

          tl;dr Run, don’t walk, to your local cutthroat family lawyer and sue him for support

          Even the TL;DR version isn’t entirely clear on who “him” is, but the implication seems to be that Katie should sue her former lover.

          Which runs into the problem that, per California Family Code sections 7540 et seq. and 7610 et seq, Andromeda’s legal father is probably Katie’s former husband. IANAL, and I don’t know some of the situational details that the statutes call out as relevant (e.g. whether Katie and her husband were still cohabitating at the time of birth), but it seems to require deliberate legal effort to rebut the presumption that a woman’s husband is the father of any children whose conception might plausibly have occurred during the marriage or engagement. In some cases there seems to be a two-year statue of limitations, and I gather Andromeda is already on the far side of one.

          By the old rules, that’s deliberate. One of the things a man agrees to when he says “I do” is to provide financially for all the woman’s children, no matter who provides the sperm. It’s pretty clear that these relationships were conducted with mutial consent under the new rules of Bay Area Polyamory, but that hardly simplifies things. The new rules, for reasons that are now obvious, aren’t well thought out. They also aren’t recognized in law, which means a court cannot be counted on to deliver an outcome morally consistent with the agreements actually made or the desires of the participants.

          And, absent mutual consent (in which case you don’t need a court), this becomes a three-way contest of assigning and denying responsibility which is almost certain to leave at least one and possibly two or three people unhappy. People who might otherwise be a positive influence on Andromeda’s life in the future. It might also disrupt the broader community that is currently providing Katie and Andromeda with moral support and a cheap place to live.

          It is almost certainly impossible for any outsider to say with certainty that taking this issue to court is the right move.

          That said, as Deiseach noted it is not unreasonable to ask that everyone involved make at least a de minimis effort at arranging private child support if that’s what it takes to unlock the official assistance that is supposed to be available for cases like this.

          • “One of the things a man agrees to when he says “I do” is to provide financially for all the woman’s children, no matter who provides the sperm. ”

            My guess is that you are wrong about the origin of Lord Mansfield’s rule, which is what you are discussing. It did not apply if the couple were not cohabiting at the time of conception, and when the rule originated that was the only likely way of being sure the husband was not the biological father.

            I interpret it as a way of avoiding legal conflicts over a question that could rarely be determined with certainty, and where the conflicts themselves were likely to be costly for the parties.

          • John Schilling says:

            Lord Mansfield’s rule as written by Lord Mansfield in 1777, said that neither party was allowed to testify as to “non-access” to establish illegitimacy. A rule, according to Mansfield, “…founded in decency, morality, and policy”; which he doesn’t seem to have expanded on but which I take to mean that the baby has a presumptive father who signed up for fatherhood and we’re damned well not going to take that away just because some pesky fact gets in the way.

            Subsequent lawmaking, judicial and legislative, seems to have kept the term “Lord Mansfield’s rule” while modifying Lord Mansfield’s actual rule with various forms of “…unless it’s obvious the husband didn’t provide the sperm”.

            Which is to say, the laws and customs of marriage have evolved from their traditional roots and we haven’t always been open and honest about what changes were being made for what reason. This is not new.

          • Sounds to me more like he just didn’t want to have to listen to people talk about their sex lives. 🙂

        • I put the same question to you that I just put to
          Deiseach. Suppose, as seems quite likely, that under current law it is her ex-husband and not the biological father who owes child support. Do you still think she should get a lawyer to make him pay it?

          • CatCube says:

            I can’t speak for Deisach, but I definitely don’t have a problem with it. (NB: As I understand it, it was an “open” marriage.) The presumption that you are the father of your wife’s children didn’t spring up yesterday. If he was OK with her stepping out, he’s running the risk she comes back knocked up. I don’t see it as much different than either keeping it in your pants or tying it in a knot.

      • caethan says:

        > Also applying for governmental assistance there, which is complicated, because they want proof of child support, which I don’t get from Andromeda’s father (since he didn’t agree to have her he told me when I was pregnant that he would not pay it if I were ever in this position in the future, so he wouldn’t incentivize me not to abort).

        Child support is not for your benefit, and it’s not for the father’s benefit, it’s for the child’s benefit. If Andromeda needs support from her father, she should get it. If you’re struggling to pay for food, rent, and health services you need to be a good mother to your daughter, then absolutely you should be getting child support from him. Get it.

        • Jiro says:

          Money is fungible. “For your benefit” and “for the child’s benefit” are indistinguishable.

          (Also, the legal system is not very good at actually enforcing that the money is used for the child’s benefit at all, although that isn’t all that relevant here.)

      • Michael says:

        I’m sorry you seem to be getting so many harsh comments. I think a lot of people in your situation would not be so honest about the agreement that existed. I guess the reality is much different from the hypothetical. It’s a difficult situation for everyone, and it won’t help to beat yourself up over it. Hopefully some good can come from it.

        About government benefits, if it’s not too late, you can insist that you don’t know who the father is, and there normally wouldn’t be a way for the government to find out. Blogging under your real name might complicate that, though.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          About government benefits, if it’s not too late, you can insist that you don’t know who the father is

          Is the argument, then, that it is somehow immoral to hold the father to the support of his child, but not immoral to lie about it so that uninvolved persons are forced to pay the support of his child?

          • Michael says:

            Why are genetics so important? He would be absolved of responsibility if he donated his sperm to her through a physician, even non-anonymously. He would be off the hook if the kid was adopted, too.

            What if someone else encouraged her not to have an abortion, and that factor ended up being important in her decision to keep the baby. Would that person be responsible for child support, because he/she was deliberately involved in the decision to bring that child into the world.

            I don’t see why this man has a special obligation morally beyond anyone else.

          • Vaniver says:

            Michael, only about two thirds of states have adopted the Uniform Parentage Act (which has that provision).

          • Michael says:

            Vaniver: I didn’t know that, but this happened in California, which does have that law.

      • Julie K says:

        Hi Katie,
        As a fellow mother, I just want to encourage you to keep doing the best you can for your daughter, and I hope things will improve for you.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        I am also not a member of the California bar. But I second what zensunni said.

        The world is a better place for having an adorable little Andromeda in it. Well done, there.

        However, contrary to what some people in the thread believe, it’s not a question of whether the father wants to pay support. Few do. The system, as awkward as it can be, has concluded that a child must, and will, receive some sort of support for just the living expenses you mention. And in the balance of equities, while it may be (arguably) unjust to stick a guy with a bill he doesn’t want to pay, it is more unjust to stick that bill to the remainder of the people of California, who had no say in the whole arrangement. The support isn’t for you. It’s for Andromeda, the most vulnerable person involved, who also had no say in the fun the grown-ups were having. Her need for upkeep outweighs father’s desire to have consequence-free romps.

        Lawyers are expensive. California courts have Family Law Facilitators for just this situation. Go see one, for Andromeda’s sake.

        • Nathan says:

          Agreed with everyone expressing this sentiment. Andromeda never signed away her rights, and she deserves the support of the man who brought her into this world. A child’s right to be cared for is way more important than a father’s right to consequence-free sex.

          Katie, I’m sorry your decision not to abort has created so much social difficulty for you. Being a single mum is fricking tough and its all the worse when people look down on you for it. For what it’s worth, know that you have the respect of one random internet person here.

          • Michael says:

            So if a man donates to a sperm bank, he should be on the hook for child support? What about if a woman is an egg donor or a surrogate? What if the child is given up for adoption, and the family falls on hard times?

          • Evan Þ says:

            For what it’s worth, know that you have the respect of one random internet person here.

            Make that at least two.

          • I think she deserves respect for not doing what various people here urge her to do. I can understand her deciding not to abort, even thought it was a violation of her agreement with the father. But having chosen, for what she saw as compelling reasons, to violate that agreement, I don’t think she is entitled to impose the cost of her doing so on the father.

            I am curious about how far other people are willing to push the argument that it’s for the child’s good, hence justifiable. Suppose she has the opportunity to steal money from a random victim and use it to help support her child. Is that morally justified as well?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I agree with David Friedman here.

            But David, dsotm has already argued (poorly, I think, but nevertheless) against someone bringing up the “but what about stealing?” case. The argument is that the father is “more responsible” than the random strangers who would be stolen from. After all, he could have chosen not to have sex.

          • Nathan says:

            Without meaning to massively derail (further), my answer to those counter examples is basically “yes”. A child has rights, and no esoteric arrangement between the parents can extinguish them. The only person with the moral authority to waive the rights of the child is the child, and that person does not have the ability to do so.

            Other people, quite possibly including Katie, may have different views. I’m not really looking to have an argument about this, just stating my perspective.

            Edit: and to David Friedman, I’m not arguing that Andromeda has the right to stolen property. I’m arguing that she has the right to be provided for by her parents.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox

            The argument is that the father is “more responsible” than the random strangers who would be stolen from. After all, he could have chosen not to have sex.

            And the strangers could have chosen to give her money.

        • And in the balance of equities, while it may be (arguably) unjust to stick a guy with a bill he doesn’t want to pay, it is more unjust to stick that bill to the remainder of the people of California, who had no say in the whole arrangement.

          I’m sorry, to what extent did the bio-father and the legal father have a say here? And for all children whose fathers do not fit those categories, or who do but can’t pay, what happens to them, since it’s unjust to pay for this with taxes?

          This is some painfully obvious motivated reasoning going on here. People who actually believe in a right to child support believe it should be standardized and paid for out of a general tax, the way we pay for things that we have agreed that we want, as a society.

          And for people talking about responsibility? Responsibility lies solely with the mother, since it was by her choice that the baby was gestated and born.

          The current system of “Find the nearest facsimile of a father and stick him with the support bill.” is a hack. It is not justifiable under any kind of first-principles justification unless you’re already, e.g., enslaving the mother. Now, hacks exist because there are genuinely difficult-to-solve problems, and getting people who don’t want to be parents to act as them is definitely one of those. But hearing people wax rhapsodical about one party’s responsibility and obligations, only to fall silent when cases outside the one they want to justify turn up, really grates on my ears.

          We should call hacks hacks, and not enshrine them as principles of justice. This is, especially in emotionally-fraught cases like this, really hard. It’s hard to say “You have done nothing wrong, but you are in the same rough category as a lot of people who do, so we’re going to drop an obligation on you you took every reasonable precaution to avoid, because we don’t care about people of your rough class as much as we do about these other people of this rough class.” But that is what we are doing in this case, because we, as a society, aren’t willing to actually pay for child support, but are willing to enforce it on the broad class of “irresponsible men”, even when they look pretty responsible at first glance.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Robert, I think you’re premature in imputing intellectual or moral dishonesty here.

            The father took several steps to reduce his responsibility. These were incompletely effective, and the incompleteness of their effectiveness was predictable.

          • Predictable how? In what reference set? People are in polyamorous relationships, or have sex with people that are not their spouses, all the damn time. People who agree to have an abortion if a specific situation arises very often have an abortion.

            It is predictable that this situation would explode only so much as it’s predictable that people who drive over 75 mph will die in auto accidents; there’s a giant reference class of people who do the thing and don’t have any serious issues, and accordingly don’t have a lot of attention drawn to them.

            And, well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the intellectual dishonesty here, but I would love to see some of the people arguing for responsibility lay out their premises of how responsibility should be accrued or divided, and what obligations can be laid on people according to that responsibility, from first principles, because you can justify a whole lot of bad shit with the principles that lead to assigning child support to either biodad or legal-dad in this scenario.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          So, I’m noticing a huge amount of bullshit equivocation and derailing going on in this sub-thread.

          The original link was to a GoFundMe. A GoFundMe isn’t saddling the poor, innocent California taxpayers with the burden. A GoFundMe isn’t saddling the mother with the burden. A GoFundMe isn’t saddling the father with the burden.

          A GoFundMe is asking for people who want to share the burden, to share the burden willingly.

          Everyone directly involved seems to agree that there’s some moral ambiguity that makes pushing for child support questionable. Everyone NOT directly involved, on priors, has no fucking clue what they’re talking about.

          With a community of our size and wealth, it *seems* like voluntarily solving the problem so no one who doesn’t want to be gets “stuck with the burden” is pretty fucking close to optimal, here.

          And if you don’t want to participate in said GoFundMe, what’s it to you? I’m betting that most of the people bitching on this thread make at *least* $50 an hour; if you’ve wasted 15 minutes of your time compiling your replies, you could have just saved your money and donated $12.50 and reduced the burden of whoever-you’re-actually-concerned-about by that much. And if you don’t *want* to donate, well, don’t donate. On the other hand, if you’re arguing out of principle – especially out of the general principle of “people who aren’t me need to be protected from this evil predatory toddler’s rapacious grab for money”, proxied through attacks on her mother or attacks on her father (neither of which created the GoFundMe).. well, fuck you.

          • Anon says:

            The difference is that I’m enjoying these 15 minutes.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I’m betting that most of the people bitching on this thread make at *least* $50 an hour

            You’re delusional.

          • Hey, Ialdabaoth! Good to see you posting again. However, I think you’re off-base here. One, I think the railment happened in direct response to and proportion to the discussion of child support. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t think anyone currently posting objects to the GoFundMe, and even if they do, I don’t think they begrudge people spending their money as they choose, even if it’s for things like cute ingroup babies.

            I also think that you’re over-weighting the number of Silicon Valley tech types here.

            And I think that even though I’m not directly involved, I can look at the information that’s been presented by firsthand sources who are involved and come to conclusions. It certainly might be the case that there is non-public (and not-to-be-publicized) information which makes pushing for legal assignment of child support vs. not doing so a better or worse option. But I’ll disagree with you on the balance of probability there; my priors are that child-support cases are often very messy, but not necessarily complicated.

        • John Schilling says:

          The system, as awkward as it can be, has concluded that a child must, and will, receive some sort of support for just the living expenses you mention.

          Didn’t we have a discussion a while back about how “the system” has, in its ham-fisted attempts to Make Things Better, destroyed much of the actual social and communal structures that kept things tolerable for people on the lower rungs of the ladder? The official government safety net has the advantage of black-letter law specifying what people are entitled to – but that’s a pretty low bar even in theory, and the practical implementation leaves much to be desired.

          In this case, there is clearly an unofficial safety net that is doing a fair job of addressing the problem. No outsider can possibly be certain that the State of California will do a better job. No outsider can possibly be certain that the safety net that is supporting Katie and Andromeda now, would survive state intervention. And far too many outsiders here, have gone well past anything that could be considered helpful advice in this matter.

        • Taradino C. says:

          And in the balance of equities, while it may be (arguably) unjust to stick a guy with a bill he doesn’t want to pay, it is more unjust to stick that bill to the remainder of the people of California, who had no say in the whole arrangement.

          I strongly disagree: I think sticking the people of California with the bill is far more appropriate than sticking the father with it.

          The people of California want to live in a society where children are supported regardless of their parents’ finances. They (we), through our representatives, write and enforce laws to that end. And collectively, we have more ability to pay than any individual.

          I’d rather spread this burden out onto taxpayers like myself, just as I’d rather contribute to UBI than put the burden of supporting the working poor on Walmart customers through minimum wage hikes. Providing financial safety nets is the government’s job.

        • Outis says:

          Anonymouse:

          it is more unjust to stick that bill to the remainder of the people of California, who had no say in the whole arrangement

          As a taxpayer, I’d rather contribute a little for that purpose (which I already do for all the children of the underclass, whose fathers can’t pay child support anyway) in exchange for not having my sexual freedom annihilated.

          You are also forgetting the incentives. If middle class mothers are entirely responsible for paying for their children, in the absence of *voluntary* agreements from a man, then they are incentivized to seek such an agreement. Result: fewer unplanned pregnancies, more stable families, more children with an actual fatherly presence rather than just a check in the mail.

          • Nathan says:

            Incentives cut both ways. Consider the impact of your proposal on men’s incentives.

            Consider further that you are describing the same effect as an “incentive” for women and an “annihilation of sexual freedom” for yourself. Is this not a double standard?

          • Outis says:

            Men would have a lower incentive to use birth control. This could increase the likelihood of a birth if a low-level (low IQ, low self-control, high time-preference etc.) woman (i.e. one who does not have sufficient willpower to use or require the use of birth control) mates with a high-level man (i.e. one who would have used birth control if provided with a higher incentive – a low-level man would not have used it anyway). Which is not the worst thing that could happen to that woman (the alternative being that of eventually ending up pregnant anyway, but with the child of a low-level man).

            “Annihilation of sexual freedom” is descriptive of the fact that in practice I don’t have sex because of this. It also follows the same standard used for women. Any restriction of women’s control on procreation is described as an unacceptable assault on their reproductive rights. Surely the fact that men have no reproductive rights at all deserves language at least as strong.

      • Deiseach says:

        Also applying for governmental assistance there, which is complicated, because they want proof of child support, which I don’t get from Andromeda’s father (since he didn’t agree to have her he told me when I was pregnant that he would not pay it if I were ever in this position in the future, so he wouldn’t incentivize me not to abort).

        Okay, from my work experience with single parents applying for social housing, and it may be very different in the USA – you have to provide evidence of looking for child support. Even if he agrees to pay something as minor as €10 a week it’s enough. If he refuses, or claims he can’t because of inability to pay, you provide evidence you tried to get it (e.g. the lawyer and going to court).

        As long as you can show you tried to get child support, you can apply for anything and everything. Of course, some of our clients get round that by not putting the father’s name down on the birth cert, or claiming they don’t know who the father is, or the father is on social welfare payment as a single man himself and can’t afford more than €10 a week, but whatever – that’s his problem as long as you provide evidence you looked for support from him.

        This is the requirement as per the application form:

        Copy of separation/divorce agreement for both applicants, where applicable
        The agreement must identify
         The extent of maintenance being received or paid by the applicant
         The circumstances under which the maintenance payments can cease
         That no onerous conditions exist

        If there is no agreement, a letter from the applicant’s solicitor must be included with the application
        The letter should confirm
         That there is no formal separation agreement
         That there are no court proceedings pending under the family law legislation
         The position in relation to maintenance and other payments

        Again, I don’t know how the US system works but if you have a letter from a lawyer (even a sworn affadavit) that you were not married to the father of the child, you were not cohabiting, there is no agreement about separation/maintenance, you are not receiving maintenance for the child, and maybe if you are pursuing the matter through the courts (if you do decide to go that route for maintenance) should be what is required re: applying for help. My only advice here would be try to avoid any wording such as “My client informs me that – “. This makes us low-level bureaucrat minions mutter about “your client can tell you they flew to the moon, that does not make it so”. If you have anything to show he’s refusing to pay, even emails, that you can show the lawyer so they put down in the letter “the father of my client’s child refuses/is unable to pay maintenance”, that is much much better.

      • Gerhardt says:

        Thank you so much for your answer. As someone who doesn’t know you personally, I was a bit skeptical of the utility of such a fundraiser, and of sharing it with rationalist community at large through SSC.

        I’m sorry if I was a bit rude. Of course humans are not perfectly instrumentally rational, and what is done is done. I wish both of you a happy and fulfilling life.

        If I did know you personnally, and had the money to spare, I would obviously help you out.

        Good luck!

      • disappoint says:

        If helping me feels bad, and it might, helping her might not.

        As an outside observer with antinatalist tendencies, I find it reprehensible how this child is used as an advertisement (“So precocious!”) for a fundraiser that will also benefit her tormentor, for it is ultimately you who is the cause of your daughter’s situation.
        She did not ask to be brought into conscious existence, but was forced to by your selfish instincts of procreation, and now also has to bear her mother’s financial irresponsibility and lack of personal integrity.
        You deserve neither sympathy nor your daughter. There would be so much less suffering in this world if only people could conquer their selfish genes.

        • Richard says:

          “There would be so much less suffering in this world if only people could conquer their selfish genes.”

          heh

          The world would be a lot cooler if dragons were a cheap alternative to jetliners, but until then I’d rather cut fuel costs than berate pilots for not growing wings.

          • disappoint says:

            What is it with this wobsite and the asinine analogies?

          • “The world would be a lot cooler if dragons were a cheap alternative to jetliners”

            Are you nuts? Jetliners don’t eat people.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Are you nuts? Jetliners don’t eat people.

            Says you.

          • Protagoras says:

            I suppose it would depend on how you calculate costs, but the way I would do so, dragons that ate people would not be a “cheap” alternative to jetliners. Thus, the dragons in the hypothetical are presumably not people-eaters.

          • Deiseach says:

            Are you nuts? Jetliners don’t eat people.

            Yeah, but we could fuel the dragons by feeding them the people who can’t or won’t conquer their selfish genes.

            Starting with disappoint, who would be the self-sacrificial sterling example for the rest of us.

          • I wrote:

            “Are you nuts? Jetliners don’t eat people.”

            Deiseach replied:

            “Yeah, but we could fuel the dragons by feeding them the people who can’t or won’t conquer their selfish genes.”

            You might want to think a little about what is known about what category of women dragons prefer to consume. In your own self interest.

          • bean says:

            Yeah, but we could fuel the dragons by feeding them the people who can’t or won’t conquer their selfish genes.
            Thermodynamics says that we couldn’t possibly replace the existing airliner fleet with dragons without running through our supply of such people very, very quickly.

        • Anonymous says:

          FWIW I find this comment is the kind of message that can’t be expressed while going for maximum kindness.

          • disappoint says:

            I find it interesting how you, even though “Anonymous”, are hedging your claims in your successive edits.

          • Anonymous says:

            I have a habit of posting whatever first comes to mind and then refining it. Felt that leaving “necessary” in would leave someone to claim that no, the only type of post necessary here are encouregements; plus it was distracting from my main point, which is that your post wasn’t mean for the sake of being mean, and hence doesn’t exactly break the kindness rule.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Banned, banned, banned. You’re all banned. None of you are free from sin.

        • Deiseach says:

          I feel like I should be sending you an Easter bouquet, between this and the Proclamation of the Republic.

          On behalf of a grateful nation, I as representing the Plain People of Ireland (and you can’t get much plainer than me), thank you 🙂

        • Vorkon says:

          I just thought you should know, this comment was the one that made me finally make the decision to donate, despite neither living in the Bay Area, nor being particularly close to anyone else in the Rationalist community, and having a general sense of squeamishness over the thought that if I donate to THIS random stranger, then why am I not donating to every random stranger everywhere in the world.

          Curse my selfish genes, and their tendency to make me part with good money to assuage a sense of petty spite against assholes on the Internet! :op

      • anon says:

        If you have to rely on public transit anyway, I think it would be worth selling the car for whatever you can, and then you won’t need insurance, car maintenance, or gas, which should save a decent amount of money.

      • Error says:

        On the one hand, (most of) this thread is a fascinating conflict of intelligent ideas.

        On the other…Jesus, what a shitshow. Sorry you’re going through this.

        Donated $100. Partly for the same reason as David Friedman above, partly out of sympathy for whatever you felt while reading the more poisonous parts of this thread.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I wasn’t going to send any money, but I’m going to now after seeing the way some people are treating Katie here in the comments. Hope you’re enjoying yourselves, guys.

      • Vaniver says:

        Note that this implies that someone who wants Katie to get more donations should behave outrageously towards her, which I don’t think is the behavior you want to encourage.

  6. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    >be me
    >have math minor
    >click advert
    >directed to instructor page
    >see math doctorates, math olympians, and puntam competitors
    >click back
    >see the position is for 5 hours/week
    >mfw math phds and olympians are the target demographic for a part-time job ad

    • Vita Fied says:

      I’m unsure what I feel about this.

      On one hand, its really good to have global tutoring by brilliant people *for* brilliant people.

      On the other, that site already *has* a good, but not great, online computer tutoring-instructing system called Alcumus that they deliberately made to only go up to mid AMC difficulty level to sell their other products.

      Which to me is very annoying. There has always been, at least in pockets of civilized society, motivated brilliant teachers that could often eventually be found,though perhaps not affordable. However, having a good computer skill ranking tutor system that immediately locates your weakpoints up to the very highest level can easily be better(though perhaps boring and impersonal), and free.

      Think of an AP calc testing system that after a large practice final, directs you to your weakpoints in multiple textbooks by different authors with different explanatory styles, with variable practice problems and then retests. It then uses basic statistics to find which classes of problems have the highest rate of improvement after other textbooks and practice problem groups, and perhaps locates possible strong-points after testing for other psychometric traits. And well, There have been sub-par and OK versions of that, but nothing up to the very highest level, and nothing done yet very well.

      Its not that it *isn’t* possible. But well, making something like that puts a very select group of people out of a job ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • Sam says:

        This is a completely wrong assessment of their business model. If you take a look at their course offerings, you’ll see that the majority of the classes they offer are at the Introductory Math level, and some of the highest level material is not even offered regularly.

        Alcumus only goes to AMC level because (a) that’s almost as far as you can go with short answer questions, and (b) that’s the level most students on the site are at. It’s not a nefarious scheme to get you to enroll in their more difficult classes in any sense.

        Even calculus, which you might expect to be one of their most popular classes, is only offered in one section per year. They could make an Alcumus-like calculus trainer, but it’s not clear that high school students would even use it.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      So, uh, anyone know anything about how much this job actually pays? Not that I can do it at the moment anyway, but for the future…

      • Decius says:

        I’m also interested in what qualifications they are actually looking for.

      • Julian R. says:

        The grading job page (which I applied for) says $15/hr, and the full-time and 5h/wk instructor positions are apparently negotiable.

        How do you pay a grader by the hour, anyway? Isn’t it per paper or something?

        I would also like to know what exactly ‘Legal to work in the US’ means for someone not physically in the US. Is it one of those oblique ways of asking ‘Do you have a green card?’

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          “We pay you this much per hour, you grade this many papers per hour. If you don’t grade this many papers per hour you are fired.”

          Same as any other hourly job

        • Taradino C. says:

          Not a green card specifically, but close enough. Legal to work in the US means you have one of the documents from list A, or one each from lists B and C: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/acceptable-documents

        • Sam says:

          The graders self-report their hours, and that’s about it. It’s basically run on the honor system, but it’s automatically recorded how many solutions you graded so they probably take a look if that ratio is too far out of whack.

          More importantly, the instructors look over the grading, and I have to say that some of the most frustrating moments have come with really bad graders, so please don’t be one of them. We give numerical and written feedback on the graders and if you do a bad enough job, they’ll obviously fire you.

      • Sam says:

        The instructor job I have with them pays $45 an hour. I don’t know how much that depends on my own qualifications, and I didn’t try to negotiate it at all, so take that data point for what it’s worth.

        I can’t answer for their standards for qualifications, but there’s very little harm in applying. If you look at their instructors, there’s actually a pretty wide variation of competition success.

    • Anatoly says:

      I wish there was a paid tutoring service of some kind for >=graduate level math/physics. math.SE and physics.SE help there but they really work best for high school to undergrad material, while math overflow is impossibly high standard. And I think that’s it, there’s nothing more.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What standard is impossibly high? The standard for an acceptable question? No, the standard for the community to accept questions is graduate level. It is true that lots of people complain and try to impose higher standards, but just ignore them; the community does.

        • Anatoly says:

          The questions I tend to have are of the sort “I don’t understand why X can be assumed in this proof of catamurphic whorlbishness of ultragnarlic manifolds in this roughly 1st grad school year level textbook”, or “I’m trying to solve this exercise from the same textbook and I’m running into a dead-end, here’s my work so far, what am I doing wrong?”. I never see questions of this sort on MO, they’re not likely to be “of interest to research mathematicians”, and I kind of assumed they’d be closed as off-topic or homework if I tried to post them – would they not?

          Math.SE is actually *sometimes* helpful with this (and nearly always for <=undergrad level), but physics.SE seems much less helpful and just closed my recent question of this sort. If I were in academia, I'd go bug a TA, or that really smart friend, or to office hours. But I'm not. If there was a service "have a scholarly question? Here's someone with knowledge at least of a TA for an equivalent-level college course in that area, for an hourly rate", I would happily use it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I predict that they will not be closed as off-topic on mathoverflow, which is definitely more welcoming than physics.se. They might be too specific for anyone to be interested in answering, though. I have seen such questions both asked and answered. Just ask a few and see what happens. Added: Also, look through the last few hundred recent questions and pick out the ones that are on hold to get a sense of the standards.

            If your questions are about first-year graduate textbooks, I think it would be easy to find a grad student at a local university to tutor. I have known several grad students who did this.

          • Anatoly says:

            I guess I’ll try posting in MO next time I have this problem with math – thanks for the advice.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve never been to physics or math grad school, but in undergrad we had study groups and the professors had office hours. Between the two that was sufficient. Where do you see paid tutoring fitting in?

        • Anatoly says:

          I’m no longer in academia, for quite a while, yet still have math/physics I want to learn. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because we today are living with an embarrassment of riches in terms of STEM textbooks, monographs and tutorials, both really-free and Library Genesis-free. But it would be great to have a non-academic equivalent of precisely this: professors’ (or postdocs’ or PhD students’…) office hours. It may well be that my situation is rare enough for this to not make sense to exist.

          Kids get music teachers and math tutors. As an adult, I can still easily get a music teacher if I want to learn an instrument. A math tutor, for a high enough level of math – not so much.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ah. I misunderstood the context. Probably not enough demand for matching businesses to exist, but I’d send an email to the secretary of the local university math department with the subfield you are interested in and what you are willing to pay. Ask him to post it the appropriate mailing list or post it in the office.

          • Probably irrelevant, but possibly not–how I studied graduate physics.

            Two or three of the senior grad students at Chicago, with the help of a professor, were writing a book aimed at grad students studying for the qualifying exam. The draft was available in the library and they offered some small reward to anyone who found a mistake.

            I worked through it, finding quite a large number of mistakes. It was much more fun than working through a book where I could be confident the answers were right, because it was a challenge. If my answer disagreed with theirs, mine might be correct. With a book you are reasonably sure has only correct answers, if your answer disagrees with theirs it’s tempting to accept theirs, figure out some not very precise explanation of what you got wrong, and keep going.

            And I did very well on the exam.

  7. JesperL says:

    What do you make of mold in homes as a possibly underappreciated environmental/biological factor in public health and neurological dysfunction along the lines of lead levels, omega 3 deficiency, and such? A 2007 study found an average of 34-44% higher risk of depression in houses with mild to moderate mold, and another study from 2014 (though conducted on mice) found that “respiratory exposure to any mold […] may be capable of causing brain inflammation, cognitive deficits, and emotional problems.” (Anyone know of any more research in this area?)

    All I can say is, as someone who had his first exposure to mold last year and ended up feeling depressed and on the verge of a panic attack for the first time in his life, I’m pretty creeped out.

    Jeez, fungi sure make for a pretty disturbing kingdom – aside from the whole cordyceps-enslaving-half-an-ecosystem thing, phytophthora infestans (potato blight) may have indirectly killed not only 1 million people in Ireland during the Great Famine, but also an additional 700 000 in Germany following copper sulfate shortages caused by WW1. And even the bible mentions mold, stating something to the effect that if you find it in your home, abandon it. Also, a mold of the aspergillus genus killed an orca recently, though it was immunocompromised.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Study doesn’t look so good – they admit that a lot of it goes away when you control for stuff, and they don’t even check the biggest control, which is income – rich people can probably afford to live in less moldy houses.

      I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I don’t see a lot of evidence for it either.

    • A single data point– I had a period of insomnia when I could hardly sleep, which of course was making me miserable. In a fit of inspiration, I opened the plumbing access, and discovered that the pipes were black with mold. I swabbed it down with rubbing alcohol, and stopped having insomnia.

    • Vita Fied says:

      About a related topic.

      I think I once read that levels of oxygen dispersal and carbon dioxide in large buildings have been correlated with long-term cognitive decline. AKA, poorly ventaled buildings have a poor O2 to CO2 ratio, and while not being immediately threatening, accelerate age-related cognitive decline.

      And word on that?

    • Ari T says:

      I live in a home with probably mold everywhere in structural things. Also small amounts elsewhere. I wonder if there is simple way to search for it (other than visual)?

      I think I’m going to buy a humidity meter.

  8. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    I was amused by the choice of fictional titles the survey asks if you have read. The LessWrong Canon?

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
    Significant Digits by Alexander D.
    Three Worlds Collide by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
    “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant” by Nick Bostrom.
    The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt.
    Synthesis by Sharon Mitchell.
    Worm by David Wildbow.
    Pact by David Wildbow.
    Twig by David Wildbow.
    Ra by Sam Hughes.
    Friendship is Optimal by Iceman.
    Friendship is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens by Chatoyance.
    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
    The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.
    Consider Phlebas by Ian Banks.
    The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams.
    Accelerando by Charles Stross.
    A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.

    • null says:

      It’s better than Pachelbel, for sure.

      • zz says:

        For those unaware of why Canon in D is awful. Also, this

        • I still like the Canon in D.

          The first link is brilliant, but by contrast it reminded me of Ada Palmer’s Whispers from Ragnarok, which includes the premise that every singer should have something interesting to sing. It’s a neo-renaissance version of the Norse myths– big emotional range (humor to horror, with delight mixed in) and complex harmonies.

          • Arbitrary_greay says:

            The prevalence of Pachelbel is only an issue in certain sectors of Western music. If you don’t spent much time there, it still retains its charms. For example, Jpop flogs the Royal Road Progression instead, AKA the Rickroll chords.

            And even then, some of the issues with Pachelbel stem from the hammering of just the four chords, in short phrases. You get a full run of the four chords in seconds, and then repeat over and over. The effect can be much more ameloriated by letting the melody travel much further, such how the original Pachelbel canon actually goes across eight chords, not just your “Don’t Stop Believing” four. Similarly, the Rickroll is a 16-beat phrase, whereas Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” version of Royal Road unfolds across 32.
            And yeah, just straight up having more chords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtPx6WdNM30
            Many more passing notes and transitional chords.

            Of course, in most current EDM and hip-hop genre families, the composition consensus is that the fewer chords, the better.
            Pachelbel’s most evil form is actually somewhat a result of this, by maintaining the same progression across all sections of a song. In earlier times, you’d write unique melodies to different chords for the verse, the prechorus, the chorus, and the break/interlude.

      • Julie K says:

        I’m fond of Pachelbel’s. And also the Wonder Years episode where Kevin is supposed to play it at his piano recital.

    • Nornagest says:

      Consider Phlebas is kinda odd. The standard advice for the Culture books is to start with The Player of Games, and if we’re going for density of LW-ish themes, Excession is probably what we’re after. Maybe Surface Detail but I thought that was a weaker one.

      (My own favorite is Use of Weapons, but it doesn’t have much to endear it specifically to this audience.)

      Similarly, Worm belongs here but I don’t think Pact or Twig do. (Less sure about Twig.)

      • Azure says:

        It’s the standard advice but I don’t agree with it. I started with Consider Phlebas and getting to know the protagonist-society of the series through the eyes of characters who dislike them was really effective.

        Excession made me wish I could read the Zetetic Elench novels, though.

        • Nornagest says:

          Oh, there’s nothing wrong with Consider Phlebas. I’d rate it highly, actually, maybe second after Weapons — I especially liked the scenes on that dead world with the tunnels. But I think that’s the standard advice because it’s a very different book from the rest of the Culture series — more picaresque, heavier on the milSF themes, and depressing as shit. So if you want to know what you’re getting yourself into, there’s a good chance it’ll lead you astray.

          It’s a good way to get to know the Culture but the modal reader of the Culture books probably doesn’t have that as an objective.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        Although I’ve only read four, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting with Consider Phlebas. Use of Weapons is my favourite too (so far).

      • Luke Somers says:

        I think Pact and Twig might belong just for seeing how much people follow up on things like that. This sort of question is really cheap – simple, factual, and very very quick if completely inapplicable.

        • Vamair says:

          I really liked Twig for a world where there is “an objective source of morality” – the karma – and it is shown how the karma conflicts with real morality.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Huh. I didn’t get that far. Maybe I should pick it up again.

          • Vaniver says:

            Twig? I think you mean Pact.

          • Anonymous says:

            What was the deal with that guy with the huge amounts of good karma anyway? I imagine he got resurrected offscreen.

          • Vamair says:

            @ Vaniver, you are right. I was talking about Pact. I liked Twig for different reasons.
            @ Anonymous, I believe all the Blake’s doubts there were a result of that guy’s karma. Anyway, karma isn’t reliable.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      BTW, what’s this Synthesis thing? I’ve never heard of it, and my Google Fu is failing me.

      • JD says:

        I included several ‘fake’ options to fake out people who just check everything but don’t actually read stuff.

        Also sorry about Consider Phlebas versus Player Of Games, I’ve never read the series so I just went with the first book in it.

        • Troy Rex says:

          Ha – I wrote in the survey to ask whether “Bayesed and Confused” was a Lizardman’s Constant, so you’ve answered my question!

          Also, I lied and said I’d read Consider Phlebas, as it seemed likely to be a proxy for the Culture series in general. And just spent like 5 hours reading it.

        • Benquo says:

          I was so excited to hear about rationalfic I’dnever heard of before…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m kind of curious how many people are reading Unsong but I guess I’ll have to put it on the SSC survey.

      • Frog Do says:

        I’ve read the first couple chapters, it’s definitely my thing, but am holding off to binge later when it’s more complete (if an arc is finished, or the whole story, or something).

      • Ninmesara says:

        Also holding off for a binge later. Could you post a warning for binge-readers when you hit significant moments in the story at which it would be good to indulge in a partial binge?

      • Luke Somers says:

        I was really curious about that too. Next time, I guess.

      • Evan Þ says:

        The first excerpt you posted here (about Apollo 8) totally turned me off Unsong. However, some of the buzz in open threads has piqued my interest, and I’m now planning to archive-binge when I’ve got more time.

      • zensunni couch-potato says:

        Love it!

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I started reading some of it. It’s a really funny premise, but I’ll have to see how well it holds up as a complete novel.

        But what I’ve read has been entertaining!

      • I also liked what I read of Unsong (the first few chapters), but I’m waiting until it’s done, since I found the chapter-by-chapter updates of HPMOR really annoying to wait through.

      • Vorkon says:

        I’ve also been holding off on reading Unsong until more is complete and I can binge. (Or, even better, until somebody decides to put together an audiobook/podcast project like they have with HPMOR and Worm; I rarely have time to sit down and read, so listening to audiobooks while running is a huge thing for me. But even if that never happens, I plan to get around to it eventually.) However, you might like to know, two friends of mine, who I don’t think even read here regularly, independently linked it on Facebook as something they thought was amazing, and said that the guy who wrote it must have been their spirit animal, or something.

    • Deiseach says:

      Proof, if ever it were needed, that I am not a rationalist 🙂

      Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky – Could not pay me enough to read this, not unless you have something like a spare €20 million down the back of the sofa to induce me, and even then I’m not sure I could slog all the way through to the end

      Significant Digits by Alexander D. – Nope, never even heard of it

      Three Worlds Collide by Eliezer Yudkowsky – See above re: HPMOR That’s a lie, I have read it, but forgot it was by Himself. Not a bad story, I’m surprised to recall! This time the lecturing did not get in the way of telling the story and was not completely anvilicious 🙂

      “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant” by Nick Bostrom – No

      The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt – Yes! This one I have read!

      Synthesis by Sharon Mitchell – No

      Worm by David Wildbow.
      Pact by David Wildbow.
      Twig by David Wildbow – treating the three of these as a job lot. No, and not inclined to, even if they are getting rave reviews on here.

      Ra by Sam Hughes – No

      Friendship is Optimal by Iceman.
      Friendship is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens by Chatoyance – job lot time again; no, my “My Little Pony” fanfic needs are adequately met by an online acquaintance sending me chapters of the MLP cross-over with the Silver John character of Manly Wade Wellman WIP by him and his writing partner.

      Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I know this is famous, but never read it.

      The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson – I know this is famous, but never read it.

      Consider Phlebas by Ian Banks – Yes. I’ve read a lot of Banks, both the SF and literary fiction, and even though I intensely dislike the Culture I acknowledge he’s a good writer (was a good writer, RIP).

      The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams – No.

      Accelerando by Charles Stross – No. Recognise the name, never read any of the works except for “A Colder War”, which is a damn fine story.

      A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge – No. Have read some other Vinge, though, if that counts.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        The only one of these I’ve ever read is Ender’s Game. Assigned in school. (I read Speaker for the Dead on my own, though.)

        I read about twenty pages of The Diamond Age and never got around to finishing it. I plan to at some point.

        Most of the rest I have never heard of. I don’t like internet fan-fiction stuff.

        • Frog Do says:

          The Diamond Age got substantially better on reread, fwiw.

          • gbdub says:

            But “Snow Crash” is more fun.

          • Frog Do says:

            Debatable!

          • Brad says:

            Ananthem is the best thing he ever wrote. Given what’s come since I think it will likely stay that way (though I hope not!) Probably the Baroque Cycle after that, then Cryptonomicon. Diamond Age and Snow Crash were a lot of fun.

          • Nornagest says:

            Cryptonomicon, Diamond Age, Snow Crash, Anathem, Baroque Cycle (on average; later books in the cycle are better), REAMDE, Zodiac. In that order. Haven’t read Seveneves.

          • gbdub says:

            The ideas in Diamond Age were neat, and the characters good, but I found the plot pretty weak, particularly the ending. It’s (spoiler for an old book) basically all just a big setup for a speech at the end about Seeds vs. Sources and Confucianism vs. Victorianism. Otherwise the grand story arc is a series of interesting episodes and then suddenly Fists of Fury! (end old spoiler)

            Snow Crash was better paced, better characters, more of an action flick (hence “more fun”) while not totally skimping on the big ideas.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Ooh, another reader of My Little Balladeer! How’d you like it? I thought it was almost publishable quality, though the lore was (understandably) not as good as in Wellman’s own stories due to having to be compatible with the Equestrian setting.

        (Or are you actually getting to beta the rumored-but-not-yet-posted sequel?)

        • Deiseach says:

          You know “My Little Balladeer”! And no, I’m not anything as glorious as a beta, I just get early sneak peeks! Yes there is a sequel, no I haven’t heard anything in a couple of months.

          Goodness, it really is a small world 🙂

          I very much liked the attempt to meld the two worlds in “My Little Balladeer”. I know Wellman’s works better and have little to no knowledge of or interest in Equestria, but from what I could see they were matched up without too much forcing of square pegs into round holes.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Signifcant Digits is a Methods recursive fanfic, so you probably wouldn’t like it. If you like Friendship is Magic fanfic at all, though, I would recommend Friendship is Optimal and Caelum Est Conterrens; they are really, really good.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Interesting – I actually thought Friendship is Optimal was rather mediocre as a story, even though the idea was really powerful. Fortunately, a lot of the recursive fanfics (like Caelum Est Conterrens) treat the idea a lot better, though you usually still need to have read the original for background.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Signifcant Digits is a Methods recursive fanfic

          I’m not really initiated into fanfic customs but is that normal? Fanfics of fanfics?

          Don’t read this as criticism so much as mild confusion.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Yes. Sufficiently popular fanfics often beget fanfics of their own. For example, Eakin’s Hard Reset series inspired Horzion to write Hard Reset 2: Reset Harder, which is an Alternate Universe that diverges somewhere around the middle of the first Hard Reset novel. Friendship is Optimal in particular was always intended to spawn a Verse, which is why Iceman wrote the “Rules of the Optimalverse” document to guide aspiring recursive fanfic writers.

          • See also Amends or Truth and Reconciliation, a fanfic about Hermione in the first year after the end of canon.

            Unfortunately, it isn’t finished, but It’s still one of the better things I’ve read, and the author gives credit in notes to other fanfic which she got premises and details from.

            This is more like fanfic as ecosystem rather than single lineages.

    • anonymous user says:

      I have no idea why A Fire Upon the Deep is there instead of A Deepness in the Sky. Maybe the person behind the survey had a fascination with talking dogs.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Maybe because ADITS was poorly plotted, poorly edited, maintained two distinct plot threads without any but the most minimal connections between them for five hundred pages, and then the climax was everything being resolved off-screen and everything we’d spent five hundred pages on being pointless at best and counterproductive at worst?

        Nah, it’s probably because AFUTD came first and is better-known.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Upon reflection, the part about the non-interacting plot threads is more or less true of AFUTD as well. But then it’s not clear that there’s a principled reason to prefer talking spiders to talking dogs, either.

      • youzicha says:

        I’m guessing it’s because the plot begins when an unfriendly AI escapes from the box to cause enormous destruction.

    • Urstoff says:

      The World of Null-A? Really? As much as it pretends to be about non-Aristotelian, it’s never ever a plot point (or really even explained or explored). It’s just a pulpy adventure story with about 20 non-sensical double-crossings. It’s probably among the worst things that van Vogt wrote.

  9. Scott, please consider becoming an online therapy practitioner.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am better at medication than therapy, online medication work is very nearly impossible, and even online therapy has so many bureaucratic hurdles that it’s rarely worth it.

  10. Alsadius says:

    Yes, you’re such an awful slacker that you’re working as a psychiatrist, writing a book quickly to tight deadlines, and keeping up one of the most insightful blogs on the internet. I bet you sleep 25 hours a day, don’t you?

    • Soumynona says:

      I bet he does too! Frickin’ timeturners, man.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      What I mean is that I knew about this for two months, all I needed to do was spend five minutes looking over the survey, I thought about it a bunch of times like “I have five minutes now, maybe I should do that survey thing”, and then thought “Nah, I’ll browse Reddit instead”.

      Any discussion of time management which acts like time is the actual limiting factor has already missed the point, at least for me personally.

      • Evan Þ says:

        That describes my time management issues perfectly, too.

        • Anonymous says:

          And then there’s time management self-help books, that I refuse to read because I feel like I wasting my time and could be doing something productive instead.

      • Deiseach says:

        Any discussion of time management which acts like time is the actual limiting factor has already missed the point, at least for me personally.

        Oh indeed! All the time management advice starts from a position of “you have things you want/need to do but are too busy to fit everything in”, when for me it’s “you have things you need to do and time to do them in but can’t be motivated to get off your lazy backside to do them” 🙂

      • Vaniver says:

        I think in terms of “energy management” or “motivation management” when I want to discuss those sorts of issues, instead of “time management” (which is typically only appropriate when a deadline looms and there’s an actual planning problem in getting the steps done before then).

        • nydwracu says:

          Absence of one obvious time to do the thing, leading to indefinite delegation of the thing to future selves and eventual dropping of the thing once it’s too late.

        • Yep. I have plenty of time and work ethic to cook dinner, clean dishes, and fold laundry, but the activation energy for task “clean bathroom” would move my body quite close to c.

    • Tabitha Twitchit says:

      Aw shucks I’m sorry I missed that brouhaha. What was it about?

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Whether or not the Amish are abusing their children by maintaining their separation from the ‘English’ world. Either literally, as sexual predators among the Amish are harder to identify and prosecute, or in a vague sense of holding back their potential to be engineers.

        I don’t want to reignite that argument, because it didn’t seem to really be going anywhere and was ugly by SSC standards, so you’ll have to dig it out of the archives.

        • Tabitha Twitchit says:

          That surprises me. I was expecting something more like “Have the Amish really got it all figured out and we’re all dupes chasing false technophilic multicultural progressive dreams?”

          I’ve heard similar arguments to the one that went down (according to your description) over other groups too, but never about primitive tribes, interestingly. Maybe such a comparison WAS made in the aforementioned brouhaha though? If someone provides a direct link I’ll check it out, otherwise I probably won’t.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            While some people may have made that argument, the bigger one was “they are above replacement rate and we aren’t; guess who the future goes to”. As for ‘want to be an engineer’ it is ‘want to be any job that requires more schooling that the Amish give’; shockingly our Objectivists and Libertarians don’t like people denied the possibility of perusing their dreams based on cultural dictates.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ve heard similar arguments to the one that went down (according to your description) over other groups too, but never about primitive tribes, interestingly.

            You know, this now makes me think of residential schools in Canada and Australia for native children, as well as the system in the United States, where in order to civilise and uplift the aboriginals, as well as give the children the blessings of modern Western civilisation, they were removed from their parents and native culture.

            There appears to be quite a lot of dissatisfaction over that. I don’t know if taking the children of the Amish away into state care so they can be engineers instead of farmers would work out much better? Even in the name of “But we’re saving them from potential child abuse! Sexual, even!”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Deiseach:

            It is possible to believe that parents are raising their children in an harmful/immoral way without thinking that handing them over to the state would improve things.

            I think the case is the same with Indians on reservations. Maybe the children would have been better off if they had been born in white families and raised according to their standards. That doesn’t mean it works to take them away and put them in reservations.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            Well…the Amish number a few thousand. Yes, their replacement levels are high. Yes, their retention rates are higher than ever and still going up. But I don’t think you can point to this as the reason why the “future belongs to them.” The future might belong to them for other reasons entirely. 🙂

            I don’t understand the argument about Amish kids being denied the opportunity to be engineers. They are free to leave the Amish church, and even get an opportunity during Ruhmspringe. I’d bet the typical Amish 8th-grade graduate is better prepared for an undergraduate degree in engineering than the typical public school 12th-grade graduate.

            Being Amish affords plenty of opportunities to engineer as well. The Amish are constantly innovating or modifying technology to provide benefits while not threatening their values.

            @Deiseach and Vox Imperators:

            This whole “child abuse among the Amish” thing is a somewhat ridiculous line of thinking. Any parent could be abusing his child in private. The Amish have relatively private communities, but they have much less privacy within those communities, since everyone knows everyone else, kids spend lots of time together unsupervised (harder for kids to keep secrets in that case), and random in-person visits are common. And who really believes the Amish have flourished for 100+ years without being able to police themselves?

            This only works if your definition of abuse includes “doesn’t let kid have an iPhone” or “makes kid milk cows” or “doesn’t teach kid about multiculturalism and the evils of Christianity.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Well…the Amish number a few thousand

            If by “few” you mean three hundred or so. They’ll probably break a million in thirty years or so; the related Mennonites are already well past that benchmark.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t understand the argument about Amish kids being denied the opportunity to be engineers. They are free to leave the Amish church, and even get an opportunity during Ruhmspringe.

            … and all they have to do is leave their family, social network, and everything they ever knew, not to mention that making that kind of decision requires a level of sophistication and dedication to principles (principles foreign to their family no less) that they’re probably not going to have at that age.

            Do you feel the same way about Amish kids denied the opportunity to be homosexuals? The same argument applies–they’re “free to leave the church” and do it.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            @John Schilling:

            Oops, yeah I guess so. I’m glad they’re doing so well! Still, I don’t think a few hundred thousand is enough to overpower the 3 order of magnitude head start of the “English” world any time soon, even with the different fertility rates. But my math could be wrong.

            @Jiro:

            Yes, I do feel the same way about Amish kids “denied the opportunity to be homosexuals” (by which I guess you mean Amish kids who have homosexual urges but can’t act on them openly within their native communities).

            I never said it was easy to not come back from Ruhmspringe. Obviously it’s difficult, and many Amish kids suffer when they make that choice. But…making a choice and suffering the consequences is part of life. What do you propose should change?

          • Jiro says:

            making a choice and suffering the consequences is part of life.

            While making a choice and suffering consequences is part of life, there’s more than one party whose choice is involved. The consequences of the child becoming an engineer or open homosexual would be different not just depending on the child’s choice, but also depending on the parents’ and community’s choice. The parents and community bear some responsibility for their choice contributing to the consequences.

            What do you propose should change?

            I’m condemning the Amish way of life. Obviously, I propose that the Amish educate their children to a Western standard, and allow them to be engineers and/or homosexuals. If that means giving up their culture, so be it–there’s no merit in keeping an evil culture.

            (This doesn’t mean we should have laws against being Amish, any more than objecting to, say, swear words means you think we should have laws against swear words. But certainly, we should stop acting as though the Amish way of life is a good thing just because it pattern-matches to applause lights such as “humble” and “hard working”.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            there’s no merit in keeping an evil culture.

            So by what metric have you decided that the Amish Culture more evil than say Gay culture, Muslim culture, inner city black culture, uncontacted primitive tribe culture, or even polyamorous bay-area rationalist culture?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            Who says he has?

          • On the resurrected Amish thread:

            Doubling time is currently about twenty years. In a century, that brings their population to eight million, in two centuries (supposing the rate continues, which for that long it probably won’t) to almost the present population of the U.S.

            So, according to how far in the future you are looking, they might well become a large fraction of the population.

            The issue with youths is not literally leaving the religion but deciding not to join the religion. That’s a decision that gets made at adulthood, roughly defined. The Amish are Anabaptists, they don’t believe infants can make binding agreements. And choosing not to join the religion doesn’t mean completely cutting them off from their own family–there is no rule against associating with non-Amish, which is what they then are. Meidung only applies to people who choose to be Amish and then violate the rules and keep doing so.

            My other comments on why I don’t think the claim that an Amish upbringing is unfair to the kids were made on the earlier thread.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            @Jiro:

            I don’t know if you’re a parent, but I can tell you from experience that a big part of the job is limiting the choices of your children. A big part of what a community is is a set of limitations, too. It’s understood that leaving your community or going against your parent’s wishes is often painful. That’s how it’s always been. It’s universal. It’s part of the human experience. You can’t erase that pain without also dissolving the family and the community.

            At least you’re consistent: dissolving Amish society is exactly what you seem to advocate. You even label the Amish “evil.” You call for nagging and eye-rolling them into dissolution, which fortunately would never work, but you are calling for their dissolution nonetheless. (That makes you genocidal! How nice.)

            @David Friedman:

            Thanks for providing the numbers. So, the timeframe is several hundred years. This throws a lot of Ifs into the equation and makes certainty about the Amish inheriting the world much diminished, though I wish them best of luck.

            Also, thanks for the technical correction on youths “joining” rather than “returning,” and for providing context on Meidung. It makes the case against the Amish even weaker.

            I’m surprised an argument could get very far without some serious bad faith or disingenuousness.

          • null says:

            Genocidal? While what jiro is advocating certainly fits the definition, do you have an argument against the sort of genocide which causes no loss of life? Do people have a right to practice their culture? (I make no claims about the harm of Amish culture.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ null:

            It’s the classic bait-and-switch of “cultural genocide”.

            If your concept conflates exterminating people with peacefully saying that their way of life is bad and should go away, then it is a bad concept.

            As as for you, Tabitha Twitchit, all Jiro has said is that Amish society is evil. Not that he expects it actually to go away. I think inner-city gang culture is evil, considerably more evil than the Amish. I don’t think it is likely to go away.

          • null says:

            @Vox: Thanks, but I am fully aware of the bait and switch and was curious what Tabitha would say in response. Perhaps you are taking issue with me asking a leading question instead of disputing the definition directly? (There I go doing it again)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ null:

            No, I’m not taking issue with you. I just thought it was an actual question, and therefore I answered it.

            Did you edit your post? I’m pretty sure you did. It seemed more like a real question before.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            The Amish are more than a culture: they’re also a religious sect, an ethnic group, and they’re relatively inbred and therefore a sort of sub-race. The dissolution of the Amish would be more than cultural genocide.

            True, if we merely “stop acting as though the Amish way of life is a good thing” there might not be mass graves–though, if the Amish are evil as Jiro claims, then why not?

            If somebody said “We should kill all black people. But I’m sure we never will,” is that person genocidal? After all, he clearly has no expectation that the genocide he advocates will be carried out.

            I think Jiro and those who agree with him are trying to make the argument that like inner-city gang culture (which most rational people agree we’d be better off without and ought to take actions to dissolve if we can reasonably do so), Amish culture negatively impacts innocent people who do not wish to be involved–i.e. Amish youth who might pursue interests or lifestyles prohibited within their communities.

            That’s the argument I answered in my previous comment.

          • null says:

            @Vox: I did not edit my post.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tabitha Twitchit:

            If somebody said “We should kill all black people. But I’m sure we never will,” is that person genocidal? After all, he clearly has no expectation that the genocide he advocates will be carried out.

            Yes, that would be genocidal.

            But no one is saying “we should kill the Amish” or “we should force the Amish to stop practicing their religion” (the latter of which would be wrong but not “genocidal”). People are saying: the Amish should stop practicing their religion, or at least stop bringing children up into it.

            I suspect you understand this point and are just trolling, though.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            “But no one is saying ‘we should kill the Amish’”

            I was addressing your earlier comment about Jiro’s expectations that Amish society will go away. I was arguing that Jiro’s expectations are irrelevant to whether his opinions on the Amish count as genocidal.

            “People are saying: the Amish should stop practicing their religion, or at least stop bringing children up into it.”

            The idea that the Amish could keep practicing their religion but simply not bring their children up in it is ludicrous if you understand that the Amish’s religion is intertwined with their entire way of life. The Amish can’t stop practicing their religion and still remain a people. Eliminating or intending to eliminate a people through means other than violence can still count as genocide. Most accepted definitions of genocide include that understanding.

            Some of Jiro’s arguments imply violence anyway. For instance, if we no longer tolerate Amish taking their kids out of school after the 8th grade, that will ultimately have to be enforced either with violence or the threat of violence against Amish parents and possibly their children as well.

            When I said Jiro’s views were genocidal, I didn’t mean it as a big bold statement; it was just an observation based on what he had said, and I hoped that by pointing it out he might realize the implications of what he was saying were more dramatic than just making it easier for some kids with bowl cuts to become engineers.

            There needs to be a kind of fallacy to describe unsupported accusations of trolling, since such an accusation is unfalsifiable and pretty effectively smears the accused. It frequently gets thrown at anyone who argues a point consistently. Once A calls B a troll, B looks even more like a troll if he defends himself against the accusation.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            That surprises me. I was expecting something more like “Have the Amish really got it all figured out and we’re all dupes chasing false technophilic multicultural progressive dreams?”

            I’ve heard similar arguments to the one that went down (according to your description) over other groups too, but never about primitive tribes, interestingly. Maybe such a comparison WAS made in the aforementioned brouhaha though? If someone provides a direct link I’ll check it out, otherwise I probably won’t.

            Here’s the link.

          • Jiro says:

            When I said Jiro’s views were genocidal, I didn’t mean it as a big bold statement; it was just an observation based on what he had said,

            At a minimum, you are trying to use a very big noncentral fallacy. Even if you someonehow equate “that society is bad and we’re better off if it were to go away” to genocide, it’s clearly not a central example of genocide.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The idea that the Amish could keep practicing their religion but simply not bring their children up in it is ludicrous if you understand that the Amish’s religion is intertwined with their entire way of life. The Amish can’t stop practicing their religion and still remain a people. ”

            The Jews pulled it off. In fact for given values of ‘intertwined’, that describes most of human history and people managed to pull it off.

            “Eliminating or intending to eliminate a people through means other than violence can still count as genocide. Most accepted definitions of genocide include that understanding.”

            Yes, I remember how France’s mandatory schooling system which eliminated the local dialects and standardized their tongue is considered one of the most efficient genocides of the 19th century.

            The connotations of the word genocide are mass murder. Use it in that context, or don’t use it at all.

            “For instance, if we no longer tolerate Amish taking their kids out of school after the 8th grade, that will ultimately have to be enforced either with violence or the threat of violence against Amish parents and possibly their children as well.”

            You mean like what every other citizen in the US has to deal with?

            “I hoped that by pointing it out he might realize the implications of what he was saying were more dramatic than just making it easier for some kids with bowl cuts to become engineers.”

            You do realize appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy because it isn’t actually an argument? And your defense of it is ‘it sounds scary so will change his mind’… which is sort of the opposite of encouraging logical thinking.

          • “The connotations of the word genocide are mass murder. Use it in that context, or don’t use it at all. ”

            Those may be the connotations, but the definition in international law also includes:

            Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

            (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
            (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

            That is why I argued some years back that the Texas Child Protection authorities were guilty of attempted genocide in their treatment of the FLDS.

            That was a much clearer case, since they were taking children away from their parents in order to prevent the children from being brought up in the parents’ religion.

            Forcing the Amish to have their children brought up outside of their control and culture at least approaches e, though I don’t think it quite makes it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            International law is an international ass.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            @Jiro:

            I never said it was a central example.

            @Samuel Skinner:

            Jews are constantly debating what it means to be a Jew. Also, Jews have the Biblical definition to fall back on. Yes, people’s values are intertwined with their way of life…so how does that help your assertion that Amish can remain Amish but not raise their kids as Amish?

            Hopefully you read David Friedman’s response to your comments on genocide.

            By the way, your and my and suntzuanime’s individual opinions on what counts as genocide aren’t really relevant since it’s the broader world that tends to judge what is genocidal and what isn’t, and international agreements carry a lot of clout in those matters. I didn’t say “I find your views genocidal,” I said “That makes you genocidal”—i.e. “Most people would consider your views genocidal.”

            Genocide is of course an emotional image, but I wasn’t using an appeal to emotion to support my argument, so it’s not a fallacy. I never said to Jiro “Your views about the Amish are wrong BECAUSE they’re genocidal.” I pointed out the genocidalism of Jiro’s views in order to underline the drastic nature of what Jiro is calling for, nothing more. I even put it in parentheses to show it wasn’t central to my argument.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, I remember how France’s mandatory schooling system which eliminated the local dialects and standardized their tongue is considered one of the most efficient genocides of the 19th century.

            Similar mandatory schooling systems applied to aboriginal populations in North America and Australia, I think generally are considered to be “efficient genocides”.

            Efficiency is generally considered laudable, and if someone manages to accomplish Nazi-esque goals with substantially fewer dead bodies, well, credit where credit is due. But if the master action plan is to render Culture X extinct by taking all the children of Culture X parents off to the Obviously Superior Culture Y’s schools, well, maybe we ought to come up with a specialized word for that carrying the connotation, “not quite as bad as Literal Nazis”, but don’t be surprised if we just broaden the definition of genocide instead.

            Maybe we can call it second-degree genocide, or aggravated ethnic cleansing 🙂

          • Jiro says:

            I never said it was a central example.

            You don’t have to say it’s a central example in order to be using the noncentral fallacy. Descriptions are assumed to be central unless specifically stated otherwise because that’s how people talk, and deliberately using a highly loaded term in a noncentral way without warning is the noncentral fallacy.

          • Jiro says:

            But if the master action plan is to render Culture X extinct by taking all the children of Culture X parents off to the Obviously Superior Culture Y’s schools

            The master plan is to prevent harm from coming to the children. If the culture is such that doing this renders the culture extinct, it’s a side effect, not part of the master plan.

            By your reasoning, if the Amish beat all homosexual children and stopping that destroyed their culture, stopping that would be genocide too.

          • John Schilling says:

            The master plan is to prevent harm from coming to the children

            That’s what the people who tried to extinguish Native American and Aboriginal cultures said, too. Most of the really big evils are done by people who claim to be Doing Good.

            And for that matter, Hitler’s master plan was to prevent harm from coming to the German People, and if this rendered the Jews extinct, that was just a side effect. Are you trying to get me to revoke the “not as bad as Literal Nazis” clause in your case?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            Your argument seems to be:

            You have good intentions.
            Hitler also had good intentions.
            Therefore, you are like Hitler.

            If everything Hitler said about the Jews was fucking correct, then I suppose his policies would have been justified. The problem is that he was incorrect.

            But—even if he were incorrect—Jiro is not analogous to Hitler or to the people taking children away from the Indians because he is a) not calling for the Amish to be killed and b) not calling for their culture to be forcibly suppressed.

            He is saying their culture is bad and suggesting that they should abandon it for a superior culture. That is no different from any other suggestion that there are objective standards of good and bad and that people should practice what is good and not what is bad.

            All you’re doing is playing this bullshit postmodernist game where any criticism of other cultures or suggestions that they are inferior is “colonialism” and “cultural genocide” and whatever nonsense they want to add in. The concept of objectivity was invented by white people to oppress Indians or something.

          • “He is saying their culture is bad and suggesting that they should abandon it for a superior culture. That is no different from any other suggestion that there are objective standards of good and bad and that people should practice what is good and not what is bad.”

            I don’t think so. When he writes:

            “The master plan is to prevent harm from coming to the children. If the culture is such that doing this renders the culture extinct, it’s a side effect, not part of the master plan.”

            I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t propose a policy limited to persuasion.

            I also, of course, would want much better evidence that their culture is bad than has been presented here before taking the argument seriously. The way they bring up their children limits what sorts of life the children will live, but that’s true of all ways of bringing up children.

            I remember my sister commenting on that a very long time ago, pointing out that although I liked writing poetry I would not consider moving to Greenwich Village and living as a poet, because we had been brought up in a context where that wasn’t seen as an option, becoming a professor was.

            And I think the history of the Canadian attempt to rescue Amerind children from their culture provides some evidence of just how bad the real world consequences are of the principle he is arguing for. It transfers control over children away from the people most likely to have their interest at heart to other people whose qualification for the job is political power.

            Or the more recent FLDS episode, where the people seizing several hundred children did so on what they knew to be fraudulent grounds and repeatedly misrepresented the facts in order to maintain public support. Anyone curious can find quite a lot about that in my blog posts from that period:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/search?q=FLDS

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t propose a policy limited to persuasion.

            It’s not at all clear to me that he’s advocating such a thing. I guess we’ll just have to hear from Jiro himself. If he wants to drag all the Amish children away from their homes and put them in state orphanages, then I strongly disagree with his plan and think it would be disastrous.

            It is not my impression that it he thinks that, but I could be wrong.

            I also, of course, would want much better evidence that their culture is bad than has been presented here before taking the argument seriously. The way they bring up their children limits what sorts of life the children will live, but that’s true of all ways of bringing up children.

            Even if we had really strong evidence that their culture was bad, I don’t think it would justify intervention under any plausible level of how bad it could be.

            And I would certainly demand a higher standard of evidence from someone claiming to be an expert than from someone expressing an opinion on the internet.

          • Tabitha Twitchit says:

            In terms of action, Jiro has only explicitly advocated for a widespread change in public opinion against some core Amish practices. His wish to see the Amish dissolved as a people (a wish that cannot be separated from the ending of those core Amish practices) is what I consider genocidal. Since he is the one who holds that wish, he is genocidal.

            (This doesn’t mean Jiro is the epitome of a genocidalist, it just means he holds views that fall under most widely-accepted umbrella definitions of genocidalism. Not Hitler- or Khmer Rouge-level serious, but still serious. I thought this nuance was conveyed effectively by my use of the G word in a short parenthetical phrase at the end of a paragraph, but apparently it wasn’t. Oh well.)

            At the end of the day, David Friedman is repeating what I said earlier, only he of course does a better job conveying it. Part of what parents and communities are meant to do is set limits on the choices of young people. Children can often break those limits if they choose, but it’s accepted that doing so can be emotionally painful. That pain is not abuse, it’s not a humanitarian crisis; it’s just part of the human condition.

          • Jiro says:

            I guess we’ll just have to hear from Jiro himself.

            I am not in favor of dragging all Amish children to orphanages, but some force may be necessary. For instance, if an Amish parent keeps beating his kid for being a homosexual, or refuses to allow his kid to go to school past 8th grade (or equivalent homeschooling that is verified in some manner other than “trust me, the Amish education is the equivalent of secular high school”), he should be arrested and jailed.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Then I certainly agree. They should be held to the same standards as everyone else.

            And I think, therefore, that you are being misrepresented.

          • John Schilling says:

            …or refuses to allow his kid to go to school past 8th grade (or equivalent homeschooling that is verified in some manner)

            If there is some question as to whether the kid is being allowed to go to school past 8th grade, wouldn’t the relevant verification be simply that the kid doesn’t want to go to school past 8th grade?

            I am inclined to suspect that you want Amish kids to be forced to go to English high school or the equivalent, under penalty of their parent’s imprisonment. If that’s not the case, you need to clarify. If that is the case, and the expectation is that Amish culture shall thus be rendered extinct (for the good of the children, of course), then yes, that is included in broad usage of the word “genocide” and differs from the specific Nazi variety only in the reduced body count.

          • Jiro says:

            If you’re going to be pedantic over using the world “allow”, I’ll be pedantic in return and point out that I didn’t say that that was a comprehensive list of reasons; there could be other reasons that are not in the list. So parents could be punished for not sending their kids to school as well as for not allowing the kids to go to school.

          • John Schilling says:

            Suggesting that people should be thrown in jail but that you’re not going to provide a full list of things that you plan to throw them in jail for, is another of those things that makes it really hard to not make unflattering historical comparisons.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Jews are constantly debating what it means to be a Jew. Also, Jews have the Biblical definition to fall back on.”

            And? You are implying the existence of Reform Judaism is equal to genocide. That is absurd.

            “I didn’t say “I find your views genocidal,” I said “That makes you genocidal”—i.e. “Most people would consider your views genocidal.””

            This may shock you, but most people do not use the UN definition for defining genocide.

            “Similar mandatory schooling systems applied to aboriginal populations in North America and Australia, I think generally are considered to be “efficient genocides”. ”

            Yeah, the US is a real genocide factory, genociding each incoming wave of immigrants. It is the melting pot… of genocide.

            ” But if the master action plan is to render Culture X extinct by taking all the children of Culture X parents off to the Obviously Superior Culture Y’s schools”

            Afghanistan- because getting girls to go to school is Literally Hitler.

            “Suggesting that people should be thrown in jail but that you’re not going to provide a full list of things that you plan to throw them in jail for”

            Because Jiro’s plan is literally “enforce the legal code equally” so he doesn’t need to provide a full list since the legal code already exists.

          • “or refuses to allow his kid to go to school past 8th grade (or equivalent homeschooling that is verified in some manner other than “trust me, the Amish education is the equivalent of secular high school”)”

            The real world issue, in the past, was refusing to allow the state to compel the kid to go to high school.

            Putting it as not allowing the kid to go to high school badly misrepresents the situation, at least as it existed back when it was a live issue, before the Supreme Court came down nine to zero on the side of the Amish. It makes it look as though the conflict is between the kid and his parents, when it was actually between the state and the family— kid and parents.

            For what it is worth, the two children of my present marriage were home schooled through about the equivalent of high school. There was no mechanism to verify that it was the equivalent of secular high school and it wasn’t. If we had wanted the equivalent of high school we would have sent them to a high school.

          • Jiro says:

            John: I’m not actually arresting anyone, so I have no need to give an exhaustive list of things for which people can be arrested. I’ll tell you what: if I am ever in a position to arrest the Amish, I’ll be sure they have as good an idea of what is illegal as everyone else does.

            David: Then as I said, add an additional item to the list that is not about being allowed to go to school but is about requiring it.

  11. Since it’s an open thread, I have an entirely off the wall question:

    What is known about the genetics of taste preferences?

    Context: I like peanut butter. My son by my first marriage and my daughter by my second marriage hate it. My current wife has nothing against peanut butter—I haven’t checked with my ex. As best my current wife or I knows, no parent or sibling of either of us had anything against peanut butter.

    I say “hate” advisedly. Yesterday my daughter was going to load plastic eggs with candy to hide for my grandchildren, asked me to do it instead because some of the candy smelled of peanut butter.

    If the two were children by the same mother, one could imagine that the distaste was a recessive gene and both their parents were carriers, but that seems rather unlikely in this case. Of course, the genetics could be more complicated, or it could come from some non-heritable cause.

    I should add that my son by my current wife has nothing against peanut butter. I haven’t checked on the tastes of his half-siblings by my ex.

    • Eric Rall says:

      There’s at least one study about the genetics of hating cilantro (specifically, perceiving cilantro as tasting like soap). I don’t know if other taste preferences have been studied.

      “Here, we present the results of a genome-wide association study among 14,604 participants of European ancestry who reported whether cilantro tasted soapy, with replication in a distinct set of 11,851 participants who declared whether they liked cilantro. We find a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) significantly associated with soapy-taste detection that is confirmed in the cilantro preference group. This SNP, rs72921001 (p = 6.4 × 10−9, odds ratio 0.81 per A allele), lies within a cluster of olfactory receptor genes on chromosome 11. Among these olfactory receptor genes is OR6A2, which has a high binding specificity for several of the aldehydes that give cilantro its characteristic odor. We also estimate the heritability of cilantro soapy-taste detection in our cohort, showing that the heritability tagged by common SNPs is low, about 0.087.”

      http://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2044-7248-1-22

      • Deiseach says:

        Cilantro being known as coriander for those of us on this side of the Atlantic, and yes, I have always gotten a faint soapy taste from it. It seems to have gotten more pronounced as I have gotten older, which is why formerly when I could eat something with coriander in it (as long as it was at a low level), now I find myself avoiding it.

        Peanut butter is delicious, though 🙂

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m one of the people for whom it tastes soapy. I’m jealous of everyone else, because it sounds like it tastes really good.

        • Is there any neutral third substance that cilantro-as-soap people say tastes the same as cilantro? To me it just hard-to-describe-dly metallic or acrid, but not like soap (as far as soaps I’ve accidentally tasted). It certainly isn’t pleasant and can ruin an otherwise good mouthful of burrito or salsa if I bite into a sprig of it.

        • Anonymous says:

          @dndnrsn

          Personal anecdote: I taste cilantro as soapy and always have. I also taste it as delicious. When I was a kid I hated the stuff. In fact I hated it before I even knew what it was – all I knew was that occasionally a dish would contain some ingredient that made it inedible. But over time as I tried it more, I grew to tolerate it, then like it, then love it, as the soapiness became less overpowering and I could notice the other flavors.

          So perhaps there’s still hope for you. Do you like beer? Coffee? Dark chocolate? My experience with cilantro was similar to with these: a long period of acclimatisation, perhaps gradually teaching my brain that even though it tastes weird it is not, in fact, poisonous. Maybe people without the gene simply don’t have to go through this and can enjoy cilantro immediately. But, I can definitely vouch for the fact that tasting cilantro as soapy does not guarantee you will never like it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Hmmmmm. Maybe I just need to bomb myself with cilantro for a while. Because I like all three of those things, and initially didn’t.

          • This is exactly what I’m unsure about! Is this just me not liking the exotic tastes of coffee and I just need to acclimate (I still don’t drink coffee but don’t mind coffee stouts and porters) or do I actually have the cilantro-soap-tastebuds.

            What is your closest non-soap analog to the taste you experience with cilantro?

    • Walter says:

      Woah, I’ve never met anyone who hates peanut butter? How surprising.

      • I was somewhere in the dislike-to-hate range for peanut butter when I was a kid. From my point of view, the flavor was strong and weird. I liked blue cheese better.

        As an adult, I’m capable of liking peanut butter but I don’t seek it out. I do like Thai food. Pad thai is comfort food.

      • John Schilling says:

        Peanut butter is an American comfort food; children get lots of early exposure, often in conjunction with other generally-considered-tasty foods, and face social pressure to conform to Everybody Likes Peanut Butter. Hatred of peanut butter is much more common outside the United States, and I think the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is widely considered an abomination outside of North America.

        • Anon says:

          I’m American, and I like peanut butter (and peanut butter sandwiches), but jelly tastes horrible to me. Something about the sensory feeling of it in my mouth is just revolting. I can’t understand why people add it to nice peanut butter and ruin the whole thing.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I like peanut butter okay, but I was never a huge fan. I like Nutella just as well.

            My favorite “jelly” is definitely orange marmalade, though. As a little kid I didn’t really have that and mainly got grape and strawberry jelly, as George Washington himself decreed.

          • Randy M says:

            I was fond of marmalade, but I think that was due to rarity and the influence of Padington the Bear. It always seemed so exotic scooping it out of the containers at IHOP.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            At IHOP, I had to go for the superior exoticism of crepes with lingonberry sauce. At least once I stopped getting the chocolate smiley-face thing.

          • Julie K says:

            I like PB&J sandwiches.

            However, I used to go to a summer camp that offered the choice, when hiking, of peanut butter and jelly *blended together*, on white bread, or baloney, on rye bread with caraway seeds. I didn’t like the PB&J blend, but I took it, because caraway seeds are worse.

          • Cadie says:

            I like peanut butter, and I like jelly, but I think combining the two is nasty. When I was a kid, instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I’d put them on different sides of the same piece of bread so it was half a peanut butter sandwich and half a jelly sandwich instead of mixed. Still only like them separate.

        • TD says:

          “and I think the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is widely considered an abomination outside of North America.”

          This may partially be because by “jelly” you actually mean what many non-US English speakers call “jam”, right? Jelly to us is what you call a gelatin desert, so “peanut butter and jelly” sounds super weird and gross.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            In America:

            “Jello” = brand name but in common use for gelatin dessert.

            Jelly = a fruit-based spread made from juice only, with all the fruit particles strained out. It is actually similar to Jello in texture but much thinner and more strongly flavored.

            Jam = a fruit-based spread made from crushed fruit, has texture and maybe seeds.

            Preserves = a fruit-based spread with whole fruits or large chunks of them.

            Marmalade = a fruit-based spread made from fruit plus the peel. I have only ever seen or heard of orange marmalade.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Ah, so what you differentiate between nice jam and cheap jam by calling them “jam” and “jelly” respectively! I think you occasionally get other citrus marmalades.

          • Nornagest says:

            Jelly is usually cheaper than jam in stores, probably because it’s easier to ship fruit juice than whole fruit. But if you’re making it yourself (which is easy, cheap, and common in the US, especially among hipsters and people’s grandmothers) it’s actually harder — there’s an extra step, and you need to be more careful about pectin content. And there are some substances — e.g. pomegranate, or mint — that you can make jelly but not jam out of.

            I’ve seen grapefruit marmalade, but it’s a bit of a prestige item.

          • The original meaning of “Marmalade” was quince preserve, from the Portuguese word for “quince.” I think of the modern distinction between marmalade and jam as being that marmalade is at least partly made from citrus of one sort or another, and a quick Google supports that.

            I think American usage allows for things such as fish in aspic being called “jellies,” but it isn’t what the word immediately calls to mind.

          • Julie K says:

            Some people use the words “jelly” and “jam” interchangeably, though.

            I’m looking forward to making some plum jam when they come into season. Commercial jam/jelly is a little too sweet, to my taste.

          • nydwracu says:

            I think American usage allows for things such as fish in aspic being called “jellies,” but it isn’t what the word immediately calls to mind.

            Are aspic dishes still around? I know they were a fad in the ’50s, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t Jello with fruit chunks, which is thoroughly inedible and a crime against humanity.

          • Nornagest says:

            My grandma used to make aspic dishes occasionally — savory ones, usually involving tomatoes in some way. But while she was an excellent cook, her culinary sense was very Fifties in some ways, so the general impression might hold. I haven’t had, or seen, one since some time before she died.

            I wasn’t too impressed with them as a child. Might feel differently now but I have no urge to find out.

        • Protagoras says:

          Huh. I remember my German cousins loving peanut butter.

        • Anonymous says:

          In my non american experience, peanut butter is pretty awesome, and I don’t know anyone that’s worse than idifferent to it.

          Of course, since it’s not widespread here, there may be selection issues at work.

        • Noah says:

          I did not eat peanut butter as a child and hated it until a year ago; now I really like it. Perhaps the age and exposure to peanut butter of your family matter matters?

        • Loquat says:

          Since everyone in this thread seems to be specifying peanut butter so far, I have to ask:

          Is there anyone here that dislikes peanut butter, but likes (or is indifferent to) peanuts? Or, for that matter, the inverse? If so, why?

          American here, fond of both peanuts and peanut butter, and also of peanut butter + grape jelly sandwiches. Peanut butter combined with non-grape jams and jellies just doesn’t taste right to me.

          • Frog Do says:

            I like peanut butter, don’t really have a strong opinion on peanuts. If I had to guess it’s probably something to do with the fat content? Either way, peanut butter has great macronutrient ratios.

            Peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwhichs are okay, though I prefer grape outta habit, though I don’t like grape jelly on nearly anything else.

          • Anonymous says:

            I substitute a can of peanuts for a meal every other day, so I like them. I tried peanut butter out for the first time last year, and the second jar is still sitting in the fridge half-finished. It is too salty and otherwise kinda bland. I don’t actively dislike it, but once the novelty wore off I never got the desire to eat any more of it.

            Never tried the pbutter + jam thing, pbutter by itself is so heavy that the idea of adding even more stuff on the slice seemed like a joke. Even with just peanut butter I’m full after no more than three slices of bread.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I would never just buy a can of peanuts to eat them, but I’ll eat them when offered.

            Their main advantage is that they’re very cheap, which is why they’re the filler in all the mixed-nut blends. I’m not a huge fan of nuts in general (though I suppose peanuts aren’t technically nuts), but I prefer cashews or brazil nuts. Maybe even pecans.

            I guess I’ll take peanuts over almonds. Almonds are too hard and just don’t have much flavor. I do like almond (orgeat) syrup, though.

            I guess I was 16 or 17 when I realized that maraschino cherries are almond-flavored cherries. I was eating some kind of almond-flavored macaroons with my mother and noticed that they tasted like cherries. She (and I guess I) had always thought cherries and almonds just had a similar flavor by coincidence.

            But no, before Prohibition maraschino cherries were preserved in maraschino liqueur (Luxardo is the only major brand), made from marasca cherries (hence the name). Marasca cherries are apparently bitter and inedible, from Dalmatia. When that was banned, they switched to preserving the cherries in almond-flavored syrup. Even after Prohibition, they kept using the almond syrup because it’s a lot cheaper.

          • On the subject of peanutbutter and … sandwiches.

            I like peanut butter and sliced apples. The apples, like the more conventional jam, balance the dryness of the peanut butter and they also give a pleasant crunchyness to the sandwich.

            Failing that, strawberry jam.

          • Jiro says:

            I wasn’t aware that maraschino cherries are flavored with almonds until just now when you said it, but in hindsight, of course they are, or something close, anyway.

            I wonder if there are ones that are actually flavored wioth maraschino, in the same way that you can get Anerican cheese that is not “cheese food” or non-artificial vanilla extract.

          • Anonymous says:

            >Almonds are too hard and just don’t have much flavor

            You have to activate them first.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            The Luxardo company sells the most highly-regarded cocktail cherries, which apparently are marasca cherries, but they are candied in non-alcoholic syrup (which is not almond-flavored). I don’t know if any company sells cherries preserved in maraschino liqueur. It would probably be very expensive. (The Luxardo cherries already cost 5-10 times more than your standard bright red almond-flavored cherries.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t generally like nuts, for the combination of texture and bitterness. Peanuts are the least objectionable nut, but I’ll still pass if I have the choice. Peanut butter crosses over into marginally “I like it” territory, peanut butter plus jam, jelly, or chocolate is a definite win.

            Peanut sauces in meat dishes, also a win but I’d prefer not to have to deal with the actual nuts.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      There are a few trivial cases of certain tastes or smells being completely lacking in some people (almond taste of cyanide or being able to smell asparagus urine).

      The other example would be extreme tactile sensitivity from autism.

      On the other extreme, taste sensitivity experiences strong age effects (Baby food is bland for this reason)

    • caethan says:

      Tastes are one of those things that are strongly environmentally conditioned. If you have a strong negative experience with a food – if you eat something and it makes you sick, or it’s closely associated with making you sick, then you’ll develop an aversive response very very quickly. Interestingly, this behavior is linked to breadth of diet in species – rats do the same thing, but less omnivorous species don’t. If you’ve got a strong disgust response to a particular food, I’d bet you had some bad interaction with it as a child.

      The genetic interactions with taste are usually associated with the modulation of tasting apparatus. E.g., cilantro tastes soapy to some people but not others, and since most people don’t like the taste of soap, some folks like cilantro and some don’t. There’s similar variance in the sensitivity to bitter tastes – I quite like broccoli, but my father doesn’t, likely because he’s got the SNPs associated with elevated bitterness sensitivity and I don’t.

      So, rule of thumb is: preferences are likely genetic, strong disgust responses are likely historical.

      • 57dimensions says:

        Hm, what about very picky eaters? I’m a moderately picky eater, but texture is usually my problem rather than taste. Since picky eating is generally considered a problem of the modern age I’m guessing it has something to do with environment and exposure to foods. What’s interesting with me is that foods that I really used to like I have grown to refuse over time, but it was more of a gradual drop off and I wouldn’t say I have a very strong disgust reaction to any of the foods.

        Some examples: I used to love eating chicken off the bone, I enjoyed getting as much meat as possible off, now I can barely stomach anything but boneless skinless chicken breasts, anything that isn’t clearly meat grosses me out. There’s shrimp, my family’s favorite meal is pesto pasta with shrimp, and I would gladly eat the shrimp for most of my childhood, but in the past few years I even dislike the taste of pasta that came in contact with the shrimp.

        • brad says:

          Not liking texture of foods is one of those experiences I just don’t get (in the sense from this post: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/17/what-universal-human-experiences-are-you-missing-without-realizing-it/). I understand that food have different textures, but I can’t fathom how people can have such a strong negative reaction to them.

          • 57dimensions says:

            That’s very interesting. I guess it’s kind of like any unpleasant, but not exactly painful, sensation you feel on any other part of your body. I guess its not really the texture itself, but the associations that texture brings to mind, if that makes sense. I don’t really know how to explain it well.

            I really like chicken, but a different texture of sauce on a chicken breast repulses me. I love just plain lemon juice on chicken, but I really can’t stand a creamier sauce that is still mostly lemon flavored because of the texture. Creaminess is one of my big texture issues. I don’t like any kind of cooked fish (I like sushi), but white fish is the worst for me. It’s usually very soft, mushy, and slimy and the blandness actually makes it harder not easier to eat.

          • Timothy says:

            Usually the textures of food don’t bother me, but I once ate some jellyfish. It was somehow simultaneously crunchy and chewy in a fashion I found distasteful.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            If you prepared a pizza with all your favorite toppings and put that in a blender, would you find the result untasty? I mean besides the fact that it’s a waste of a perfectly good pizza, would it taste bad for you or just a little less good?

          • Loquat says:

            Have you ever bitten down on a hamburger and encountered a fragment of bone, slice of vein, or chunk of inedible gristle? I dislike that when it happens to me, though it doesn’t put me off ground meat in general; my husband, who’s been known as a fussy eater since childhood, REALLY HATES that to the point that he generally avoids commercial ground meat and has in fact bought a home meat grinder.

            Contributing factor: his family was broke for much of his childhood, and so tended to eat the cheapest meat available, which is disproportionately likely to have gristle/vein/etc.

          • brad says:

            @Saint Fiasco
            I think probably just less good. It’s not that I don’t apreciate good texture, I like the crunch of a pizza crust for example, but I just can’t imagine being disgusted by a texture the same way I would be by food that smelled bad.

            The closest thing I can think of is one of those teas that has the gelatin balls in them. I was annoyed when drinking that because you use a straw and you are drinking and then all of a sudden you have food in your mouth and you are chewing. But was pretty far from a disgust reaction.

            @Loquat
            I have had that happen and it is annoying, or if you bite down hard sometimes painful. But again no disgust reaction or extreme dislike. I imagine if I ever had a mouse part or something I’d be really grossed out (and even thinking about gets me part way there) but that’s not really a texture thing.

    • onyomi says:

      Somewhat related: apparently there is a test for Alzheimer’s where they test whether you can smell peanut butter?

    • onyomi says:

      Also somewhat related:

      I’m super interested in the notion that taste preferences may reflect genetics specifically because of the nutrients in food. There’s the “schizophrenics crave nicotine” thing Scott mentioned in a thread not too long ago, as well as, apparently, the “bipolar people like salt” thing–chemical similarity to lithium salts?

      Women stereotypically love chocolate, for example. I wonder if that can be traced to something. Personally, I’ve noticed in myself an insane love of things high in tryptophan–tahini, turkey, etc. Wonder if my tendency to depression and anxiety makes me crave serotonin precursors? I also have some bipolarish tendencies, and I also love salt. This means hummus is basically my favorite food.

      And for things some people dislike: maybe it reflects a genetic inability to process it well, or a genetic predisposition to already have enough of what it provides. I recall as a child that spinach and asparagus tasted absolutely disgusting to me. Not just in a “eww, green things are weird” way; like a “this tastes insanely bitter and awful” way. And as it turns out, asparagus may have a developmental neurotoxin? So it would make sense that it became tasty to me only after my neurons were mostly done.

    • Julie K says:

      My husband wouldn’t eat peanut butter growing up, but lately he’s learned to like it. (His mother was quite surprised to hear that!)

  12. grort says:

    I could not find a good box to write this in the survey, so I’ll say it here:

    I had LessWrong on my daily bookmarks list for several years, but I was never actually a LessWrong reader. I was an Eliezer Yudkowsky reader. When Eliezer posted something, I would read it. When someone else posted something, I would make a valiant attempt at reading it, then decide it was boring and give up. (Sometimes I would skim the comments section to see if Eliezer had posted anything interesting there.)

    Scott is similarly interesting. (Obviously, given where I’m posting this.)

    The idea of the “group blog” is not, I’m convinced, a workable idea. Some people have the skill to write interesting essays, and I’m going to read those essays and not the other ones. Mixing all the essays up in one stream does not improve my experience.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Well said, I agree.

      I have almost never read anything on LessWrong except from Scott and Eliezer.

    • grort says:

      I do think there might be some room for improving the discovering-new-interesting-people experience. Like, maybe we could have a monthly Link To Good Essays By Other Rationality Bloggers thing, and encourage Rationality Community people to participate.

      For example, I — haha, this is a bit embarrassing — I just now by taking that survey found out that Eliezer posts regularly on his Facebook.

      You might argue that getting everyone to post on a group LessWrong-style blog would also help with discovering new interesting people. That’s true, but I think organizing a Link To Good Essays By Other Rationality Bloggers Day would be easier.

      • Vaniver says:

        So, one of the things I’ve been thinking about as a potential improvement for LW is multiple parallel karma systems. Not in the Slashdot sense, of “this was funny” or “this was insightful” or so on, but in the “different credentials” sense of “as a lawyer, I think this is good legal advice” or “as a doctor, I think this is good medical advice.”

        And so one could imagine, say, giving Scott and Eliezer a “great writer” flair so they see both the normal upvote and downvote and a, I don’t know, up-quill and down-quill. So one filter LW on posts with at least one upquill (which would be posts written by Scott or Eliezer or any endorsed by them specifically as great writing, since people could ‘credential’ their own posts).

        • eh says:

          This isn’t at all what you’re talking about, but it would be interesting to use a recommender system like ALS to tailor what gets shown. It might make LW more relevant, at the risk of causing groupthink.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I think “group blog” is a workable idea, but “community blog” is not. Some people have the skill to write interesting essays, and sometimes you can form a group of them. But just letting any jackass write his nonsense just drags down the non-jackasses, and attempting to filter doesn’t really work either.

    • Frog Do says:

      It helps cultivate a diverse comment section if you can direct a bunch of people in the same place. I get the feeling it was more common in the early days of blogging, though.

    • Error says:

      Less wrong has always seemed to me like it’s not sure whether it wants to be a content factory or a discussion forum. It started as the former and became something more like the latter.

      SSC seems to be gradually making the same transition with the more frequent open threads, but the format makes it harder because the comment system is (more) atrocious.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        The open threads have been biweekly forever. I experimented with having them weekly for a few weeks, but it felt too weird.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think it would be best to just time the Open Threads to coincide with writing lulls, but I guess a schedule is easier to manage.

        • Error says:

          Correction accepted. They feel more frequent but I guess that’s my brain lying to me for some reason.

  13. Steve says:

    Imagine a character in a novel is married, and he wants to leave 2 letters in case he dies suddenly, one for his current wife and one for his ex-wife. The man is a loner so he can’t ask friends, and he wouldn’t have enough money for a lawyer. Leaving a letter in a hiding spot that his current wife would find is a possibility, but she doesn’t like the ex, so he can’t just hide both letters.

    Is there some solution? Say, an email program that will send emails if you don’t sign in for a month? Or some other way of sending the letters after death?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Are you writing a novel? Why not just assert that there are programs like in your last paragraph? Why check that they exist? They do, but if they didn’t would that be a reason not to include them?

    • nil says:

      If it wasn’t important that the two women not know about the postmortum communications, he could draft his own will (which isn’t actually very difficult for people who lack a lot of property) leaving keys to and contents of two safe deposit boxes to the respective persons and put the letters in them. You could even make it a holographic will, which seems like the kind of obscure/archaic legal trivia that would be fun to include in fiction. You’d still have to have him pay for the boxes, though.

      Depending on the state this could be foiled by the various processes that exist for bypassing the probate of small estates (e.g. transfer by affidavit)… although unless you’re writing a sequel to Bleak House, you probably don’t need to sweat those details of legal verisimilitude.

    • Randy M says:

      Coming up with a hiding spot that the ex would find only on the event of his death would be an interesting bit of characterization and challenge for the writer.

    • Brad says:

      It’s called dead man switch software. I know it existed 15-20 years ago, and I’d assume there’s some web version these days.

      • If he is employed, could he leave the letter for his ex in his desk at work, stamped and addressed with a sticky on it asking anyone who finds it after his death to mail it?

    • Eric Rall says:

      Take out a small Post Office Box (costs start at about $3/month depending on size and location). Mail the letters to the box while he’s alive, with the wife’s and ex-wife’s addresses as the return address. When he dies and nobody makes payments, the post office will close the box for nonpayment and return-to-sender any letters left in the box.

    • voidfraction says:

      http://www.deadmansswitch.net provides this as a service. Excellent for your character’s use case, not so much for, say, Snowden.

    • thisguy says:

      If he can leave a letter in a hiding spot his current wife can find, that’s the solution. Encrypt both letters, give letters to wife, private key to ex, they must cooperate in order to decode.

  14. There are anecdotes about gestures being inherited. Is there any scientific evidence?

  15. Matt M says:

    I have a question regarding sleep.

    My whole life I’ve always felt like I needed more sleep than most people to function well. Nothing too extreme, but basically, 8 hours is a minimum for me – if left to my own devices it will usually be more like 9 or 10. This hasn’t been too much of a problem, but I’m going to start a job really soon that will require frequent travel and working very long hours, often late into the night with early meeting mornings the next day.

    I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to condition myself to be able to get by on less sleep. Is it something that, if I just “power through” long enough my body will adapt to? Are there any other solutions that don’t depend on constant intake of coffee and/or energy drinks? Is it possible that I have some sort of medical condition that is making me overly tired?

    If anyone has any suggestions, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    • Frog Do says:

      I am like that, I can usually transition to a 4+4 or 4+5 sleep schedule, one sleep session during the afternoon and one at night.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Is it possible that I have some sort of medical condition that is making me overly tired?
      Sleep Apnea is the immediate possibility, also Thyroid problems. I think a lot of people (read:me) spend a lot of time on their computer in their bed and that makes it hard to get to sleep.

      • brad says:

        I’ll echo this answer. Try the sleep hygiene stuff — it really does make a difference. If that doesn’t help, and you have good insurance, get a sleep study done to check for sleep apena. If you don’t have that, you can keep chasing lower likelihood medical causes, but you are probably just unlucky and need a lot of sleep.

        • Matt M says:

          Sleep apnea always struck me as one of those “medical fads.” Everyone I know who has been tested for it has been told they have it. And the solution is to make you wear some ridiculous machine attached to your face when you sleep? Ugh… that doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.

          • Brad says:

            I was tested and came up negative. A couple of people I know swear by those machines– claim that they didn’t know what well rested was until the started using them.

          • Loquat says:

            Have you ever listened to someone sleep where their breathing went like: inhale-exhale–inhale-exhale—————GASPINHALE-exhale – repeat indefinitely?

            That’s basically what my husband sounded like right before he got his apnea diagnosis and his machine. He was so poorly rested he’d be falling asleep at traffic lights while commuting to work. With the machine, he’s vastly better off.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            My partner had it for years. The machine helped a lot. Because the machine was cumbersome, he changed the slant of his bed a few inches*, which gave similar, or better, relief.

            A cheap way to bypass the doctors and the machine, would be to set a recorder to capture a sample of your snoring (or ask a housemate) and compare it to the sounds on some sleep apnea site.

            * From about waist level down, the bed was unchanged. From there up, he made a slant that rose to about 6″ at the head. iirc.

          • Equinimity says:

            Some people are making money off it, my father got a letter through his GP saying he should get tested, and then that he should buy a CPAP machine.
            Since I’ve got sleep apnea, I asked him about it, and he has none of the issues that led to me being tested, hadn’t had anything like AHI explained to him, and wasn’t shown the results of the sleep test.
            Looking more closely at the letters and discussions he had, the initial letter was forwarded by his GPs office, not sent by the GP, and all the letters and discussions used the phrase, “at risk of” rather than saying he actually had sleep apnea.

            The people I know with apnea, including myself, were well aware that there was something wrong, the test was to see how bad it was. So if you know people who went through their GP to get tested it’s not surprising that they all tested positive. It’s the scare letters being sent by clinics to anyone elderly or overweight to drum up business that are driving the fad side of it.

          • ACM says:

            Was tested on the recommendation of girlfriend, negative result. No sleep apnea.

          • An meta-anecdotal study: Among the people I know, there are those who have benefited tremendously from CPAP and there are some who have sleep apnea and have tried a number of medical solutions and nothing has worked.

            By the way, it’s quite possible to have sleep apnea without being fat.

      • Jesse says:

        I have/had sleep apnea. I was tested for various stuff and they found that my tonsils were large relative to my throat and likely blocking things when my throat muscles relaxed. I had them removed a few weeks ago, and I am sleeping noticeably better (waking up less times in the night).
        I did try the CPAP machines – they suck if you are easily disrupted.

    • Anon says:

      My whole life I’ve always felt like I needed more sleep than most people to function well.

      This has been my experience my whole life as well, except that when I have the time available to sleep as long as my body wants, I generally sleep 12-14 hours.

      I wish I had some suggestions, but I haven’t found anything that works to decrease the amount of excessive sleep I need. When I need to do stuff (school or work) and simply don’t have the time available to sleep as much as I’d like, I just power through it, but it feels really, really awful.

      I imagine prescription stimulants would help a lot, but I haven’t been able to get any yet, and doctors seem pretty reluctant to hand them out (and of course, tolerance develops easily on them).

      • Error says:

        when I have the time available to sleep as long as my body wants, I generally sleep 12-14 hours.

        I’m curious if this continues over the period of several days or weeks. I used to sleep 12-14 hours when left to my own devices…until a change in working hours allowed me to sleep in. I found that once I was no longer continuously mildly sleep-deprived, I started to wake naturally after 8-9 hours.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          The times I’ve been off over the summer and not had much to do, I’ve usually slept 10-12 hours a day. Like Calvin Coolidge in the White House.

          I hate it, though. I hate sleeping! My usual M.O. unless I force myself to go to bed is to stay up as long as I can until I get too tired and fall asleep. Which usually means reverting to a schedule of staying up all night and sleeping all day.

          I am eagerly anticipating the day they invent some pill that eliminates or radically reduces the need for sleep. (Modafinil isn’t really it, although it’s okay.)

        • Anon says:

          If I have a long period of time (like a few months) where I can choose however much I want to sleep and have no real obligations, my daily sleep requirements do seem to go down a little after a few weeks in, to maybe 9-10 hours per sleep cycle. But 8 or fewer is never enough for me, and I only do that when I have to.

        • Mary says:

          Yes. When not sleep deprived I don’t sleep as much when I can — assuming otherwise good health.

    • Vaniver says:

      Sleep need follows a normal distribution, and 9 is not abnormal. Structure your life around sleeping 9 hours a night, since the restedness is worth the time loss. I’ve had good luck with sleeping extra beforehand to power through periods of low sleep afterwards.

      I’d also get a sleep mask, earplugs, and melatonin to take with you when you travel, so that you can get to sleep as quickly as possible.

    • Viliam says:

      Some random things to try:

      Have your blood tested, specifically the level of iron.

      Exercise regularly (even if shortly).

      Don’t use computer/TV one hour before you go sleep.

      Make your bed more comfortable (soft, warm).

    • Tracy W says:

      Winston Churchill apparently had a system that involved a daytime nap to allow him to power through into the early morning during WWII.

    • Matt M says:

      Thanks for the input guys.

      I really don’t think it’s sleep apnea – I’ve never been told that I have any weird noises – as far as I know I don’t even snore (then again, I sleep alone 99.9% of the time, so who knows).

      Maybe I’m just on the unlucky end of the distribution and “live on coffee as much as you can” really is the best solution I can hope for.

    • thisguy says:

      I was also like this, solved it by waking up at 5:30 AM every day and beginning exercise regardless of how much sleep I’ve had. I don’t know why it worked but it did, I can easily function off of 7 hours a night with 9 on weekends now. Also modafinil.

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        Second the “exercise when you feel sleepy” strategy.

        It doesn’t even need to be a formal cardio session, although that’s probably the best type. Jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, stretches, kata, abdominal exercise, maybe even see if there’s a collapsible pull-up bar you can take with you on your travels. Try to make your computer workstation have a standing configuration as often as possible.

        Even something as simple as squishing those stress balls, or raising your hands as high as they will go, and then opening and closing them (into a fist clench) quickly and repeatedly until the forearms start burning. (either for a set amount of time, or a set number of squeezes) Those can be done while still sitting down and reading the screen.

  16. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Should I get the free upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8 before it expires? Every mainstream publication I found recommends the upgrade, but I don’t trust them not to be Microsoft shills, so I’m asking you guys. Specially since I found Windows 8 to be a step backwards from Windows 7; Metro is horrible (I should not have to download a third party menu to make my computer usable) and having yet another version of programs to keep track of is confusing (an app version, on top of the portable version, the 32-bit installer, and the 64-bit installer).

    • Nornagest says:

      As hard as they’ve been pushing it, I’d be astonished if it’ll expire in any meaningful sense. They’re probably just doing the limited-time-offer thing for psychological reasons.

    • Aegeus says:

      Windows 10 returns us to a normal-looking Start menu, thank god. They also get rid of that weird menu that appears when you move your mouse in the corner. It hasn’t added any more versions of programs (and I haven’t bothered with the app version for literally anything). I haven’t bothered trying that new-fangled “Cortana” thing they’re offering, but I haven’t seen any downside to not using it.

      Aside from that, there aren’t many visible changes. So I’d say you should get it. I have nothing to complain about, and it removes some of the UI things you didn’t like.

      • Nornagest says:

        I tried to install it months ago, and it promptly made itself unusable thanks to driver issues that had gone undetected during installation. Rolling back to Win7, fortunately, did still work in safe mode.

        Since then I’ve been resisting it.

    • I’ve got Windows 7. Is there any reason to go to 10?

      • Brad says:

        You’ll need to by 2020. Before that, not much reason. The latest edition of IE (Edge) but that’s not very necessary in the multibrowser world.

      • thisguy says:

        Only if you play games and find one that requires the newest iteration of DirectX (the only thing that made me go from XP to 7) or otherwise have apps you use that require libraries only available for newer OS.

    • Matt C says:

      I never liked Win 8 either. I find Win 10 about as usable as Win 7, definitely better than Win 8.

      From what you’ve said, I’d do the upgrade. You’ll probably be happier with the new OS, and the Win 10 upgrade is a really easy way to keep up with the mainstream, which is generally good to do.

      (Nancy, I’d probably still do it, but with Win 7 the main reason would be (maybe) better security updates and (maybe) better compatibility with new software a few years from now.)

    • BillG says:

      I kind of echo this question. My laptop is a few years going and I’ve set it up to be exactly the way I want it (e.g., using programs like Classic Shell). Any update is…scary. But Microsoft has been so intrusive pushing this on me that I’m not sure if it makes me more or less likely to accept.

    • Error says:

      My own policy is to never move to a new Windows release until after the first service pack or equivalent. By then most of the initial teething issues have been worked out.

      (I’m skipping 8 entirely because I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about it. Windows has this weird history where releases alternate between disastrous and bearable.)

      • Anonymous says:

        The marketing team gets cocky after 5 years on the job, pushes for a novel dank windows features causing a flop, everyone gets sacked, new marketing team works hard on windows 7, then they get cocky too..

      • Windows 10, by all reports, won’t have anything much like a service pack, just periodic new builds, the first of which is already out. I guess we could use the long-term servicing branch as a guideline instead, but it isn’t very clear to me how that will work. It might be best just to wait a year or two from the initial release.

        I’m running it myself on my home laptop and, well, it’s not too bad. The release builds seem stable enough, at any rate. Personally I’m a little unhappy that the built-in games are gone, but I guess that’s a trivial matter really. I have to keep rolling back the video drivers every time a new build is installed, but that’s AMD’s fault, and it wouldn’t happen nearly as often if I weren’t signed up for the previews.

        We’ve also got an install at work, in preparation for rolling it out early next year, and again it seems mostly OK, though I’m concerned that the Windows Update client doesn’t seem to be fully functional. (It doesn’t notify the user when updates are available. For one person, that’s not too much of a problem as I can just ask him to reboot, but for an entire building it’ll be a pain. I don’t hold out much hope for this being fixed, but perhaps someone will provide a third-party tool. Or I could write one myself, though the boss isn’t keen on that option.)

        • Error says:

          Assuming your workplace uses a normal corporate domain, you can use group policy to control update behavior, and there are several ways to remotely force a reboot.

          • Yes, but that’s exactly what I can’t do! The end user needs to be in control of when the machine reboots, not MS and not me either. (I’ll never understand why “reboot automatically without asking permission” is the default behaviour. It makes no sense to me.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Harry Johnston:

            Hey, a sane administrator! One of my co-workers had his computer reset on him during a presentation to a boss 3 levels up.

          • Error says:

            The way we dealt with this at my old job was to send out notices in advance stating exactly when computers would be force-rebooted — always sometime overnight — and encourage people to do so earlier if they needed the control.

          • That might work, though I’d still have to write code in order to reboot only those machines that haven’t yet been rebooted, which would probably be just about as much work as doing it the other way.

            (In principle I could use WSUS deadlines, but if I did that I don’t think there would be any sensible way to make exceptions for individual machines on request. We do have people running simulations and the like that just can’t be interrupted for an arbitrary deadline.)

            It’s not really a good solution though, at least not in my context. Some people would inevitably forget, lowering the faculty’s overall productivity – perhaps not measurably, but it’s a matter of principle.

            I’ll keep it in mind though. Thanks. (We already do something similar for the Remote Desktop server, but that’s used on a much smaller scale.)

    • Deiseach says:

      I eventually got the upgrade, and it’s okay. I took a long time to switch to Windows 8 from 7, because 7 worked fine for me and I very much disliked the evident push to make 8 something for mobile and non-PC devices with touchscreens and apps – sorry, charms – that emulated smartphones.

      I like 10 better than 8, even though when I finally bit the bullet and upgraded to 8 it wasn’t as bad as I feared. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.

      Edge (the replacement for Internet Explorer) isn’t great, though. I eventually switched to Chrome for most of my things and keeping IE11 for things like the feeds I had set up (honestly, Google, you did great things with Chrome but no easy way of setting up RSS feeds? You want to push us all to use a reader? As well as pushing Google+ at me with creepily evangelical zeal? Go away for yourself!)

      If you’re happy with 8, I wouldn’t rush to change, but 10 isn’t that bad. It’s simply a matter of getting used to the difference, and they at least belatedly listened to people asking them to please let us have some way of using the Start menu or an option for open to Desktop on start.

      • Error says:

        I very much disliked the evident push to make 8 something for mobile and non-PC devices

        Shit, yes. A number of linux distros are guilty of this too.

        Yes, mobile is king these days, but no, that doesn’t mean you can use a touch-centric interface with keyboard/mouse inputs and expect it not to come out retarded.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      Windows 10 >> Windows 8;

    • sweeneyrod says:

      Yes, definitely better than 8 (which I agree was worse than 7).

    • CatCube says:

      The only thing that drives me absolutely bugf**k about Windows 10 is that you have very little control over upgrades. I have two machines I use regularly, a desktop and a Surface. I upgraded the desktop that I use every day, with the idea I’d upgrade the Surface “later.” “Later” hasn’t come yet, since it bugs me so much when I get the “your computer will restart for upgrades message.” You can put it off a little bit, but it will eventually pop up a window that you can’t get rid of telling you your system is going down.

      It’s like having the government IT department I work for managing my computer. I’ll install upgrades when I damn well please, but with Win 10, it’s Microsoft’s world and we’re all just squirrels looking for a nut.

      • I assume you’re talking about updates rather than new builds? You can configure Windows Update in the registry, I’m told this still works.

        https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc720464(WS.10).aspx

        There doesn’t seem to be any notification of pending updates, though, the way there is in Windows 7. So if you change the settings you need to remember to regularly check for updates by hand.

        • Error says:

          This makes me want to burn down MS HQ. More.

          I could understand it being the default behavior, because most people are not competent to be their own admins; but requiring people who are to go registry diving is less “benevolent paternalism” and more “occupying force.”

    • I don’t have much experience with Windows 8, but from what I’ve seen Windows 10 is an improvement. On the whole, I still prefer Windows 7. (But I’m biased; I don’t like change.)

      What I did on my wife’s laptop was to swap the disk drive out for a spare, install Windows 7, upgrade to Windows 10, and then put the original drive back. Theoretically, at least, that should mean there’s a Windows 10 license already registered for the machine when and if we do decide to upgrade, even if the offer really does expire. (I make no promises.)

    • zz says:

      Would personally recommend the free upgrade from Windows 10 to Linux Mint, but I understand that not everyone has that option (eg work requires proprietary software that isn’t Linux-friendly).

      Related to commentary on Windows being bad about upgrades (cw: n word): Windows makes people racist

      • Anonymous says:

        As long as I like playing games Linux will stay a server-only OS for me.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I experimented with Linux when I was in college. I thought it was cool at the time, but these days I just don’t think it’s worth the trouble.

        • zz says:

          Which problems specifically? I get gaming and proprietary software, but I’ve used Linux exclusively for the past few years and have had markedly less trouble than I did with Windows. In recent years, at least, Linux has become user-friendly enough that I set up my parents (who are as tech-literate as you’d expect parents to be) and they were just fine until they needed to use proprietary software for work. Then they switched to Windows 10 and had all manner of problems.

          • I put Linux Mint on my son’s (second-hand) laptop and while it mostly works OK, it crashes if you close the lid. My research indicated that this was a known problem which nobody could be bothered to fix.

            As it happens we’re only using that machine on the desk so this doesn’t really matter to us. But it’s just an example of why people might legitimately wish to avoid Linux.

            (It also annoys me that I have to provide admin credentials to install updates. Kind of the converse of my complaints about Windows 10, ironically enough.)

        • CatCube says:

          I did the same. I spent days screwing around trying to get the login screen to display properly so I could log in, then decided I’d rather do tasks with my computer than screw around with the computer itself.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Do not switch to Linux Mint if you are running a laptop and want any kind of battery life; my own went from 5 hours to 45 minutes, owing to the fact that Linux Mint does not shut hardware down that is not actively being used, nor does it do much of anything in the way of power conservation.

        I believe this is a fully general problem with Linux, which suggests, amusingly enough, that anybody who believes humans should minimize power consumption for “green” reasons should not be using Linux.

        • zz says:

          Having installed various distros of Linux on three different laptops without noticing a change in battery life, this fact surprised me. A bit of Googling around suggests that, by default, out-of-the-box Linux does usually reduce battery life, although nobody else has reported to the magnitude you experienced. There appears to be some fairly straightforward tuning to get performance on-par or above Windows. But users who can’t be bothered tinkering with settings and who value battery time or tiny differences in energy consumption would be advised to stick with Windows on laptops.

    • Jiro says:

      I’m on Wiindows 7 and am delaying as long as I can because I don’t like the idea of forced updates. They’re easy for Microsoft to use to push advertising, push spyware, or suddenly decide they want to remove some feature from Windows. (Note that “quietly reset your anti-spyware settings without telling you” counts as pushing spyware.) Also, just disabling all the built-in spyware is a chore (and you can’t disable telemetry completely).

      It is true that most of the worries about Windows spyware are exaggerated, but there seems to be a core of truth.

      I’m probably never going to upgrade until
      1) games require a DirectX that only runs on Windows greater than 7, *and* it’s a game I actually plan to play, which is unlikely since I am over a decade behind on games, or
      2) My hardware fails, I need to upgrade, and I can’t run Windows 7 on the new hardware.

      Also, I don’t believe for one moment that the upgrade will start costing money.

    • It’s a quite nice UI and better than 8, they’ve put a lot of work in getting that right, but it’s also another incremental step in the direction of having little control over your own computer. More stuff in the cloud by default, less control over upgrades. Do lots of research before you upgrade.

    • Lasagna says:

      I recently got a new laptop, so it came with Windows 10 preinstalled.

      There’s nothing wrong with it, but if I had my choice I would have just stuck with the old Windows, only because I now have to learn where everything is again. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not an improvement as far as I can tell.

    • ACM says:

      If you’re taking suggestions other than upgrade/don’t upgrade, I recommend Linux Mint (MATE edition). This also has the benefit that you can dual boot with windows, unlike the upgrade where you keep just the one operating system.

      I use this myself, and recently installed it on my dad’s computer (his windows 7 install was getting so slow as to be nonfunctional due to age, and he does not want to reinstall). He mostly uses his computer for web browsing and spreadsheets. It went very well. The learning curve from windows 7 is very gentle, there is a start menu and it comes preinstalled with office programs, configuration is generally done through graphical interfaces as opposed to text commands, etc.

      The only problem could be specialized applications with no Linux analogue or games. If you require the former, you’ll have to do your research. For the latter, this has been improving due to valve pushing SteamOS, which is linux based, so most Steam games will work.

      I personally do not see myself going back to a windows machine any time soon.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Repeating what I wrote in the other comment about Linux mint:

        Do not switch to Linux Mint if you are running a laptop and want any kind of battery life; my own went from 5 hours to 45 minutes, owing to the fact that Linux Mint does not shut hardware down that is not actively being used, nor does it do much of anything in the way of power conservation.

        I believe this is a fully general problem with Linux, which suggests, amusingly enough, that anybody who believes humans should minimize power consumption for “green” reasons should not be using Linux.

        • ACM says:

          Thank you for the comment. I rarely use my laptop without plugging it in, so have not encountered this, but will certainly investigate.

          That being said, I think it must at most be a problem with desktop OS setups, rather than a fully general problem with Linux. This is because Android is Linux, and as far as I know the battery life on Android phones is fine. Variations of Linux is also used in embedded systems applications where high power consumption would be an issue. This means the problems should be fixable in principle.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            The problem is fixable, provided the users are willing to admit it is a problem.

            But my experience with Linux users is that they don’t want to admit that their operating system is nearly a decade behind at this point.

  17. Winter Shaker says:

    One of the blogs on that survey is listed as ‘Bayesed and Confused (Michael Rupert)’ – but I can’t seem to find it by googling. I am intrigued because the name is a magnificently terrible pun. Is this another one like Black Belt Bayesian that just got taken down for unknown reasons?

    • JD says:

      Repost of what I said upthread:

      “I included several ‘fake’ options to fake out people who just check everything but don’t actually read stuff.

      Also sorry about Consider Phlebas versus Player Of Games, I’ve never read the series so I just went with the first book in it.”

      The results of this should be fairly interesting.

    • orthonormal says:

      JD is correct, and the name seems to have been taken from a Berkeley rationalist group house- so never fear, the pun does exist in reality!

  18. wtvb says:

    Calling out rational and utilitarian ethicists on… non-utilitarian ethics.

    Currently there’s some buzz about speciesism around my campus, which concerns animal ethics, which is something I have some kind of utilitarian perspective on. However, the popular philosophy around it contains much less rationality and much more… something else I can’t wrap my mind around. And some douchebaggery (some honourable animal rights defender literally asked me if I was unloved as a child; but then again, that guy had always been a huge asshole). I don’t like having things around me I’m totally clueless on, so now I’m trying to learn some of the philosophy around it.

    Which brings me to the question, how should I begin exploring this region? This is a completely new territory for me so I’d love getting some kind of guidance from people whose thought processes are similar to mine.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Are you asking “what are ethical views / beliefs held by Regular People™”, or are you asking “what are some non-utilitarian ethical views that are ‘rational’ and make sense by the standards of this community”?

      Those will have very different answers. I can give some answers to the latter (I’ll let others field the former, if they like), but you should in any case get clear on which you’re after.

    • TD says:

      Can’t help with that (they’ll be here soon, don’t worry), but I would suggest accepting that morality can only be argued on the grounds of consequences once some initial premise is accepted. If you don’t share the initial evaluation of animal life as being that high relative to human life, then there is absolutely no way to provide an objective answer as to what is right morally.

    • Deiseach says:

      However, the popular philosophy around it contains much less rationality and much more… something else I can’t wrap my mind around.

      That sound of hollow laughter you hear wafting on the breeze is coming from me.

      I have, as I may perhaps have mentioned once or twice, a vegan and animal rights brother. Oh boy, do I have a vegan and animal rights brother.

      That means my Facebook gets all the stuff about veganism and animal rights he wants to share with the world at large.

      Rationality has bugger-all to do with it. Speciesism is a huge part of it, and I think that “something else (you) can’t wrap (your) mind around” is the Animal Rights version of the Noble Savage – animals are just so much better than us, so much purer and more unconditionally loving and caring and not hurting others and you know, perfect unfallen Disney anthropomorphs frolicking through the flowering meads in the paradisal pre-Adamic world of total natural unity and peace, until we horrible humans with our big brains started killing, torturing, raping and abusing them for fun and profit.

      It’s religion even if not recognised as such; a bit of animism, a bit of panpsychism, a whole heap of Gaia-worship and a lot of Western People Problems (worrying about circus animals is a luxury).

      I’m not saying that concern about animal welfare is wrong, but I don’t think animals are the moral equivalent of humans, and that you can be concerned about cruelty and ethics without attributing “that cow is weeping tears because she is so sad because her maternal love is thwarted by the cruel farmer taking her calf away!” when cows don’t have brains that think and feel as we do* in the same way and to the same degree and a cow wouldn’t know what “maternal love” is if it encountered it in the feed trough.

      *Do cows have instincts? Yes. Does a cow think of its calf, complete with name and character and memory, as a human mother thinks of her baby? No.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’m an proud human “speciesist” and I think the argument for vegetarian is pretty convincing. In modern society, it’s not that hard to find alternatives to meat. In fact, meat is usually pretty expensive. So I have to ask myself if my tastes buds are so important that it’s worth the killing and suffering of millions of animals. It doesn’t take a hippie to see some kind of problem with that.

        In more formal terms:

        P1: It’s wrong to cause unnecessary suffering
        P2: Eating meat is unnecessary(under the present circumstances)
        P3: Demand for meat causes suffering in animals
        C1: Therefore, it’s wrong to eat meat(under the present circumstances)

        Does anyone disagree with the premises? I’m sure someone could quibble on the distinction between “eating meat” and “demand for meat” so that someone could eat leftover meat without causing more animal suffering. However, most people who eat meat are going to directly(whether through hunting) or indirectly(buying meat or getting someone else to buy it for them) cause animal suffering most of the time.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          P1: It’s wrong to cause unnecessary suffering

          If you’re a “speciesist” (as I am), why is it wrong to cause “unnecessary” animal suffering? In any case, while there may be something virtue-ethically wrong with causing totally wanton and pointless animal suffering, that’s a far cry from saying it’s wrong to cause it in order to produce anything more than the bare minimum nutrients necessary for survival.

          My argument against:

          P1: “Speciesism”: for humans, only humans are moral ends; everything else is a means.
          P2: Meat tastes really good, providing a large psychological benefit to humans.
          P3: The suffering of farm animals imposes only a small psychological cost (if any) on humans who consume meat.
          C: Eating meat is moral.

          If you can argue that it’s against human interests to eat meat (such as very strong health reasons or something), then I will concede the case. But I don’t think that can be shown.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I may be a speciesist but I don’t assign zero moral worth to animals. If you think it is morally wrong to torture animals for fun(and most people do), then I don’t think meat eating can be justified.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Wrong Species:

            Well, as I alluded to with “virtue-ethical”, torturing animals can be more plausibly argued to turn you into a crueler, meaner person. The sort of reasons that Immanuel Kant argued made torturing animals immoral.

            It is very implausible that eating meat makes you significantly crueler or meaner.

            In any case, I don’t see anything wrong with killing animals for sport in the proper context, such as bullfighting or hunting. Yes, there are people who hunt for the food, but it’s not the main draw for most.

        • The obvious non-speciest utilitarian response is that those animals would not exist if they were not being raised as food and that living and eventually being killed produces more utility than not living at all.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            It doesn’t prove very much, since we could produce more utility for them by spending more money to raise them in better conditions and not slaughter them.

            The idea that maximizing human welfare and maximizing human plus animal welfare call for exactly the same actions is tremendously implausible.

          • Vamair says:

            Vox, while technically it’s possible, it’s probably not something we will actually do before post-scarcity. A better option, but not a realistic one yet. In any case the question was about the moral difference between eating meat and vegetarianism and the possibility of doing better than both doesn’t change the answer.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox

            I don’t think there is a single person alive who actually acts in a way that maximises aggregate utility. All utilitarians, even the really serious ones, fall incredibly short of what they view as their moral obligations. So I don’t think it’s particularly reasonable to single out meat eating for being non-utility-maximising beyond, say, literally anything else that isn’t buying bednets.

            Not only that, but if you accept David’s reasoning, then their proposed remedy, veganism, will not increase aggregate utility but reduce it.

          • Hedonic Treader says:

            The logic of the larder wasn’t very good to begin with and has not aged well. No one here would prefer a thoughtless, speechless time in confinement with live mutilations and a high risk of painful death over a time of no experience.

            That said, P3 can be wrong because of indirect effects, most notably displacement of non-domesticated animals.

            Of course, all of this has been discussed many times before.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ vox
            The idea that maximizing human welfare and maximizing human plus animal welfare call for exactly the same actions is tremendously implausible.

            Only politically. Phasing out factory-farmable animals would be healthier for most humans (ie vegan diet) and result in less dis-utility for animals (even if the land freed were not used directly for better purposes (such as wildlife habitat).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            living and eventually being killed produces more utility than not living at all

            Such assertions are often made, taking for granted what might be called the Sundial Inscription (“I count only sunny hours”), and ignoring any ‘net-positive/negative’ approach.

          • @Hedonic Treader, I think perhaps that argument is targeted at factory farming only? Most conventionally-farmed animals live in conditions that are perfectly natural to them (or perhaps a bit better) so I don’t see any obvious reason to suppose that their lives aren’t (on net) worth living.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Harry Johnston
            Most conventionally-farmed animals live in conditions that are perfectly natural to them

            Paging Ernestine….

          • Sorry, that went right over my head. Ernie’s baby cousin?

        • Loquat says:

          I’ll disagree with the premise that killing animals causes unnecessary suffering:

          Prey animals, if not regularly culled, will naturally tend to overpopulate, overgraze the local plant life, and then when all the food is gone lots of them starve to death, which is surely worse suffering than a quick bullet to the brain. Plus the local plant life is then damaged. If we were willing to allow a sufficient predator population, they’d do the job, but large herbivores like deer frequently live much closer to humans than we’re willing to allow large carnivores like wolves to live. Accordingly, human hunters should pick up the slack and hunt deer.

          (Someone’s going to object here that it’s more “humane” to shoot the deer with contraceptive darts instead. This, however, is pure expense with no material benefit to any humans.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            How big a proportion does deer or other wild game make up in the average American diet? Not much.

            (Someone’s going to object here that it’s more “humane” to shoot the deer with contraceptive darts instead. This, however, is pure expense with no material benefit to any humans.)

            …I don’t see how you don’t see that this refutes your argument.

            If the standard of necessity is what people normally mean by “necessity” (something like: you’ll die if you don’t do it), then killing the deer and eating them is not necessary.

            Human beings kill and eat the deer because it saves a lot of money over trying to neuter them, and they get the tasty meat. Well…it’s deer, not incredibly tasty, but still. Necessity doesn’t have anything to do with it.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ loquat

            + with a couple of nitpicks

            1. Contraceptives aren’t even side-effect-free for humans yet, and nobody is going to spend much trying to perfect them for deer. So imo they’d be preferable only to setting out poison, or other measures harsher than natural/human predation.

            2. Venison is delicious (if cooked medium rare or less, of course).

          • hlynkacg says:

            How big a proportion does deer or other wild game make up in the average American diet?

            Hey Guys, I found the city-slicker.

            In all seriousness though. The answer is “Way more than you’d think” especially if you expand the definition from “deer” to “any meat you kill yourself”. You’d be hard pressed to find a rural family that doesn’t have a meat freezer.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            > “any meat you kill yourself”.

            I think any meat shot by someone in your social circle is a better expansion. A lot of people do not have the time/land/temperament to hunt themselves, but you’ve got to be a downright asshole for nobody to be giving it to you as part of a social exchange of some sort.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Who wouldn’t want to be anonymous:

            Fair point. I know I’ve given a lot of meat away over years and I’ve got close to 10 lbs of fish in my freezer right now that a friend gave me in trade.

        • Jiro says:

          The word “unnecessary” is doing a lot of work here. Eating meat is unnecessary in the sense of being able to live without it, but only in the same way that, for instance, air conditioning is: you can live without it, but your quality of life is reduced.

          Using air conditioning contributes a non-zero amount towards global warming from generating the electricity used for it, and therefore causes a non-zero level of harm; but we don’t stop using air conditioning merely because it causes some non-zero level of harm and is unnecessary.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s a good point. I do think that the gain people get from air conditioning is greater than the gain from eating meat. I’m sure many would disagree but I don’t think life would be unbearable if everyone was a vegetarian. It would for many people if there was no air conditioning. And the losses due to global warming are much more speculative than the pain felt to animals. Still though, you are right. I simply took “unnecessary suffering is bad” as a principle for granted. It seems more complicated than that.

        • Cadie says:

          I’m not in full agreement with P2. Eating meat is totally unnecessary for some people, necessary for others, and for still others it isn’t necessary for survival but prevents some of the human’s suffering. It depends on where they live, how much different foods cost there, how much money they can afford to spend on it, their specific dietary needs, etc. Some people really do need to hunt or fish in order to get enough to eat. Some have medical reasons that a heavily plant-based diet doesn’t work well for them. Some can’t afford enough specialty foods to get all their nutrients from vegan or even vegetarian sources (vegetarian is much easier, but still not always possible) so eating meat is the option that doesn’t result in nutritional deficiencies. Etc.

          It’s true that the amount of meat eaten in most first-world societies is well beyond what is needed, and could be reduced. But not everyone has the resources and ability to avoid meat entirely.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s all true but I was mainly talking about the majority of first world people. I don’t see anything wrong with eating meat if it’s truly needed to survive. And while I’m skeptical about the need for some people to have meat in their diet, I would make an allowance for that. The problem is that for millions(possibly billions) of people, it’s not necessary.

    • Lyyce says:

      Anti-specism is (the version I’ve been to at least) simply the belief that humanity is an animal like any other (which makes sense if you’re neither religious not dualist imho). Therefore we ought to treat animals ideally as well as human, in reality without being too much cruel.

      The main consequence is pretty much “don’t make animals suffer / don’t eat them if you can help it” , the counter point being that it’s mostly OK eat insects or any animal that can’t feel pain. (I saw the same argument made with consciousness instead of capacity to feel pain in the rationalist community).

      If you agree with the premises (animal are mostly like humains => human suffering is bad => animal suffering is bad) then the position is mostly consistent in an utilitarian perspective, you want to minimise all suffering, including animal suffering. It can even get weird depending how you weight animals vs human suffering since the number of animals involved tend to be much higher (look at what Scott Alexander is saying on animals ethics, it’s related and very interesting)

      • gbdub says:

        The problem I’ve always had with that logic is that animals eat meat, and kill for sport, and apparently feel zero qualms about it.

        So either:
        A) Humans are just animals. In which case holding us to a higher moral standard than other animals when it comes to obtaining our food is itself speciesist. We have just as much right to kill for food as any other animal.

        B) Humans are somehow morally superior to (or fundamentally different from) animals, who are amoral. Therefore humans can be held to the standard of “avoid causing suffering”. But again, this argument relies on a speciesist view. If we’re already saying that we’re on a “higher plane”, as it were, why is inherently wrong to view the pleasure of a human as more important than the pain of a non-moral animal?

        I don’t think these arguments preclude moral veganism, necessarily, but to me at least they reject the notion that veganism is objectively more moral than omnivorism.

        • Anon says:

          …? We do not generally find that it is morally permissible to do harm to people who appear to lack morality. Why would this not extend to animals?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I don’t put much stock in this particular argument, but the way it is set up is like this:

            You say it’s immoral for human beings to eat meat but not for lions to eat meat. You seem, therefore, to be holding humans to a stricter standard. But if humans are being held to a stricter standard, whatever distinction you are making that allows them to be held to a stricter standard may also serve to mark them out as having a special moral status.

            So either you say humans and lions are the same, in which case it’s moral for both to eat meat.

            Or you say they are different, in which case why should humans and animals be treated as equal for the purpose of consumption? So it is still moral to eat meat.

            There are many ways to poke at this argument.

          • Vitor says:

            It doesn’t follow that us having a higher moral status than animals (which I believe we do) makes it ok to eat them. There is ample space between ‘equal to human’ and ‘no moral weight at all’.

            I personally think that the reason that it’s moral for a lion to eat meat and dubious at best for humans to do so is that humans have the capacity to do differently. As a living being gains more and more awareness of itself, its life circumstances and that of others, its moral duties increase.

          • Gbdub says:

            Vigor, I don’t agree with your conclusion (that human meat eating is morally dubious) but I’m fine with the logic – yours is a defensible position.

            My main point however is that your position still relies on speciesism to work. Therefore, the argument “veganism is moral because I reject speciesism! Humans are just another animal!”, which is what started this sub thread, is fatally flawed.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Gbdub:

            People who reject “speciesism” don’t say that there are no differences between humans and other animals that might justify different standards of behavior for each. It’s about whether they count equally as moral ends.

            For instance, one can say that people with an IQ of 30 shouldn’t have the right to vote or to drive cars, etc. But simultaneously hold that their welfare ought to be weighed in equally with everyone else’s.

          • Anon says:

            Gbdub, I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that vegans think it is moral for lions to eat meat, except insofar as we do not hold people morally responsible for doing things they could not reasonably have realized were bad, especially when there’s not a viable alternative yet. (Although factory farmed meat almost certainly causes significantly more suffering per unit meat than does predator-hunted meat.)

            The vegans I know talk about wild animal suffering as being a major source of unnecessary pain in the world. It’s just that we are a minimum of centuries away from having the wisdom and knowledge to do anything about it.

          • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

            As Anon alluded to, there are people who would argue that it is bad when lions kill prey- so after The Singularity or in the far future, when we are capable and can survive without it, we should destroy nature.

          • Gbdub says:

            Again to be clear, I’m not claiming that I have an ironclad case against moral veganism. Only against the “humans are animals too” line of reasoning as justification for moral veganism.

            Anon, of course you don’t think lions eating meat is “moral” because fundamentally lions are amoral. You might say “humans are animals / animals are people too”, but ultimately you believe that humans are moral agents and other animals are not. There are no moral lions, and never will be barring massive evolutionary change.

            Your last paragraph loses me – is your position that the utopian endgame for moral veganism is a world where predators are not allowed to predate but are managed somehow and fed a meat substitute? Because frankly that’s rather terrifying (but might make some great speculative fiction!)

            @Vox, isn’t using 30 IQ humans just an example of the non central fallacy? Ultimately I’m arguing that everyone, even moral vegans, are accepting the dichotomy “humans are/should be moral, other animals are not and cannot”. Both sides are speciesist. The fact that noncentral examples of amoral humans exist, and we still treat them as humans, is not really relevant.

            Fun/speculative question – can you imagine a pure predator (say a lion or dolphin) achieving sufficient intelligence to be considered morally responsible for their actions? What does that look like? It’s fairly easy for humans, naturally omnivores, to survive on a vegan diet, but would conceivably be a lot harder for an animal evolved from a pure carnivore to do so. For the sake of argument let’s say it’s impossible for this speculative super dolphin – they need animal based food to survive. What is the equivalent of moral veganism for a moral agent that nevertheless must be a carnivore?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Gbdub:

            @Vox, isn’t using 30 IQ humans just an example of the non central fallacy? Ultimately I’m arguing that everyone, even moral vegans, are accepting the dichotomy “humans are/should be moral, other animals are not and cannot”. Both sides are speciesist. The fact that noncentral examples of amoral humans exist, and we still treat them as humans, is not really relevant.

            It’s not the noncentral fallacy. That’s something else entirely.

            You say it’s not relevant that there exist examples of humans incapable of moral responsibility. Well, the advocates of animal rights say it is relevant. It is the “marginal humans argument” which I linked below to an argument against. The point is supposed to be, in an analogy with racism, that humans are drawing the line in a bigoted way, focusing on the mere species and not the actual capabilities of the beings in question.

            For instance, suppose Asians were, on average, three or four times smarter than everybody else. Would it be racist, then, for a college to say, “Asians Only”? Yes, it would. Because there would still be mentally retarded Asians who were unqualified, and outlier geniuses of other races who were more qualified than most Asians.

            The fair-minded thing to do would be to have some objective, race-neutral standards and let people of any race in if they can qualify. Not to create a blanket rule centered around race. It doesn’t matter whether unintelligent Asians or intelligent non-Asians are “noncentral”.

            And to take things back to animal rights, the anti-speciesists say that dolphins or gorillas or whatever are more intelligent than human babies or mentally retarded people. Therefore, they ought to have at least the same rights. The relative typicality of each is not relevant.

          • Anon says:

            gbdub: What Vox said. Nothing about this argument implies speciesism. Moral agents should be moral, but moral agency is not a requirement to be a moral patient, and humans are not inherently superior to animals. Don’t torture babies. Don’t torture animals.

            > is your position that the utopian endgame for moral veganism is a world where predators are not allowed to predate but are managed somehow and fed a meat substitute

            No. I simply observe that it is bad that wild animals suffer. This is in no way a proposal of something which would be better.

          • gbdub says:

            Vox, your “Asians in college” example works because there exist both low IQ Asians and high IQ non-Asians. There are also ambiguous members on both axes (say people with one Asian grandparent, and people with above average but not genius IQ). So racism is bad.

            But then again, I doubt you’d get much objection if the college posted “only humans may apply”. Because while there is a continuum of intelligence, clearly there are precisely zero non-human animals on Earth that can complete a college curriculum. So the things that make racism harmful don’t really apply to speciesism in this case.

            Likewise, while there exist amoral humans, there are zero non-human animals we consider morally responsible for killing for food.

            So you’re still making a bright-line distinction, and the line is at human: animals may kill to eat, humans must not (Presumably, in vegan utopia, you wouldn’t punish an amoral human for eating a fish, but you’d still stop him from doing it, while you wouldn’t stop an eagle from the same). There is one and only one species to which you apply “don’t kill to eat” as an imperative.

            Having established that at least some applications of the bright-line-at-species are acceptable, you can’t outright deny the validity of someone who uses that bright line to say “okay to kill and eat cows, not okay to kill and eat humans”.

            You can (and do) make an argument against suffering, and that moral agents have a duty to minimize it. You’ll wind up in some sticky situations of judging suffering (how advanced must an organism be before it can suffer? Is the suffering of a thousand chickens worse than one cow?) but it’s a totally valid framework on which to build a moral veganism.

            But at that point you are no longer arguing against speciesism per se – you are arguing against a negative consequence of one particular form of speciesism. And that’s been my point all along.

            Anyway I’m still curious about what, if anything “moral carnivorism” (for an evolved moral, intelligent species that must eat meat) would look like to you.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ gbdub:

            So you’re still making a bright-line distinction, and the line is at human: animals may kill to eat, humans must not (Presumably, in vegan utopia, you wouldn’t punish an amoral human for eating a fish, but you’d still stop him from doing it, while you wouldn’t stop an eagle from the same). There is one and only one species to which you apply “don’t kill to eat” as an imperative.

            You’ll find that the principled vegans who know what they’re talking about don’t make any such “bright-line” distinction. It may so happen to be the case that only humans happen to be capable of moral agency. But they say both humans and animals fall on the other side—thus we shouldn’t draw a species-based line.

            They say if it’s necessary for eagles to eat fish, then we shouldn’t stop them from eating fish. And if it’s necessary for humans to eat fish, then we shouldn’t stop them from eating fish. I have never heard of a vegan who says that primitive tribes, etc. are immoral for eating meat.

            They say that modern, civilized people who have reasonable alternatives are immoral for eating meat. If we could feed eagles vegetarian food, they would say we should.

            Anyway I’m still curious about what, if anything “moral carnivorism” (for an evolved moral, intelligent species that must eat meat) would look like to you.

            Uh, first of all, you recognize that I personally am in favor of eating meat, right? I have argued for it in this very thread. I am just responding to your strawman arguments against veganism.

            In any case, the regular sort of vegan arguments don’t say anything against “moral carnivorism”. If you have to eat meat, you have to eat meat. Vegans argue that humans do not in fact have to eat meat.

            The question for an “obligate carnivore” is whether your survival has more worth than that of the creatures you eat. Maybe you are morally obligated to kill yourself; maybe you are justified in killing those creatures. The case could be argued either way.

            I suppose by some criteria I’m not a “speciesist”. I think there ought to be a line between human and non-human—but for justifiable reasons that aren’t centered around a cognitive bias in favor of the familiar.

          • Anon says:

            gbdub, “So you’re still making a bright-line distinction, and the line is at human: animals may kill to eat, humans must not”

            We make no such bright-line distinction. In vegan utopia, omnivorous animals ought not be permitted to kill to eat. Even for carnivores we’d like to find a way for them to eat with a minimum of suffering; it’s just a much harder problem than the problem of omnivores like humans eating with a minimum of suffering.

            It’s bad when things suffer. Some instances of suffering are more avoidable than others, and some behaviors are easier to change. There’s no further distinction being made.

          • Gbdub says:

            @Vox – I know you are not vegan. But I’m also talking to Anon, who seems to be. So I’m using a general “you”. And really I’m arguing against “anti-speciesism” as a principle. If you are not a proponent of that position, please don’t take my critique of it personally.

            Also, my “moral carnivore” aside was not meant as a strawman attack on veganism. I was generally curious, as a thought experiment, what a vegan moral outlook on animal suffering would look like applied to obligate carnivores.

            @Anon – earlier you implied that “vegan utopia” did not necessarily include eliminating predation among wild animals. Now you are saying that it probably would – certainly for anime thing that can be vegan and optimally an effort would be made to eliminate suffering even to feed obligate carnivores.

            In this case I concede – you have constructed a consistent, non-speciesist position.

            Of course, Vox has stated “no one says it’s immoral for animals that must eat meat to do so”. But you seem to do so here (it’s not “immoral” for amoral animals, but it’s bad, and you’d prefer to eliminate it as soon as a viable alternative exists. Presumably if animals became moral and an alternative to meat existed, you’d start calling it immoral). And I think your position (namely that animal suffering caused by other amoral animals is still bad) is required to really be “anti-speciesist”.

          • Anon says:

            gbdub, I didn’t mean to imply that vegan utopia either would or would not include predation. My first statement on the matter was denying that I was actively proposing anything at all. My second was observing that suffering is bad regardless of whether it’s caused by humans or animals. Both were careful to note that wild animal suffering is a hard problem. Sorry if that was not clear.

            I don’t know if this is common among vegetarians in general, who span an incredibly broad range of beliefs, but it’s the common one around here, I think.

            > Of course, Vox has stated “no one says it’s immoral for animals that must eat meat to do so”. But you seem to do so here (it’s not “immoral” for amoral animals […])

            I’m pretty sure these are consistent. Vox’s statement is a contingent one, which only holds since in fact animals (like some humans) are not moral agents and there in fact no viable alternatives.

        • TD says:

          “The problem I’ve always had with that logic is that animals eat meat, and kill for sport, and apparently feel zero qualms about it.”

          Yes… If we gave animals human rights, wouldn’t they also have to pay for their crimes?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The idea is that they should be treated like mentally disabled or insane people. We don’t let them do whatever they want, but whatever we do to them is ostensibly for their own good. We don’t get to poke them with sticks or eat them.

            Not that I endorse the idea of animal rights; I’m just pointing this out.

          • gbdub says:

            Most mammals don’t prey on their own species (at least not regularly). Being kinder to members of your own species / tribe than you are to prey species is entirely compatible with “animal morality”.

            “Immoral / Amoral People are still People, Animals are always Animals” is arguable but not fundamentally illogical, especially once you’ve already committed to putting Humans in a separate category.

          • anonymous says:

            Animals may not prey on their own species but they rape, rob, and maul their own species all the time.

            Who would base their morality on that of animals?

            Another problem with the argument that it’s okay to eat meat because animals do, is that most animals who eat meat can’t survive otherwise, and even those who can, most of the time are struggling to survive and feed their youth and wouldn’t be able find enough food if they went vegan.

            Human vegans, on the other hand, can be just as healthy and safe as human meat eaters.

          • gbdub says:

            “Human vegans, on the other hand, can be just as healthy and safe as human meat eaters.”

            Tell that to the Inuit.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ gbdub:

            Tell that to the Inuit.

            As I said in another post, I have never heard a vegan argue that primitive tribes that have to eat meat are immoral for doing so.

            Maybe you can say that primitive tribes who know about civilized life are immoral for not adopting it if they could. That seems more reasonable, and on many other grounds, too.

          • Gbdub says:

            Meat eating is either immoral, or it isn’t. It may be allowed as necessary to avoid greater evils (starvation), but it’s not like the whale killed by an Inuit in the Arctic suffers less than the deer killed by a trophy hunter in Texas.

            I think that conclusion (that Inuit meat eating is immoral to the point of being unallowable, given their knowledge of modern technology) could be reasonable (in fact I think inevitable if you take anti-speciesism moral veganism to its logical endpoint), but it does start to run into other moral values like allowing groups to live their culture (and a general interest in preserving a diversity of human culture). It requires placing an extremely high value on reducing animal suffering to take that position – which is defendable but not for everyone, and honestly hard for me to think of as objectively determinable.

          • Jiro says:

            If eating meat has to be balanced against other moral values when the meat is essential to their culture, why doesn’t it also have to be balanced against the pleasure from eating meat? Are you creating two categories of benefits, one of which can be used in tradeoffs and another of which cannot?

    • 57dimensions says:

      The president of my high school philosophy club last year is vegan, the key words here are ‘philosophy club’, so he was a bit of a different vegan than the type that Deiseach described and he was basically the least preachy vegan I’ve ever met.

      He even had a philosophy phd student from Stanford (who happened to be visiting his parents in the area) who he somehow knew give a mini run down of the utilitarian perspective on speciesism and animal rights and whatever. It pretty much convinced me that it is indeed morally wrong to eat meat, but I still eat it. The presenter, also a vegan, differentiated between accepting that eating meat was morally wrong and actually altering your life to accommodate that belief.

      Anyways from what I can remember the argument is basically that we usually justify eating meat because animals are in a different moral group than humans.

      But why are they?

      The reason usually given is that humans have free will and have a level of consciousness that animals don’t.

      Ok, so what if a human was born so severely mentally disabled that it basically had the same level of mental functioning as a pig or cow? Would it be ok to kill and eat him? Or even eat him if he died of natural causes?

      Most people would say, “Of course not, that’s horrible!”

      People have an instinctive revulsion to the idea of eating human meat, and they still have that same revulsion even if that human had the same mental capacity as their hamburger source. So it isn’t really that people don’t like the idea of cannibalism because humans are more sentient and thusly more wrong to eat than animals, its that we have a (what I think is culturally influenced, as I don’t think the first humans were probably as sensitive) revulsion towards consuming anything we consider more human-like.

      Basically there isn’t really a morally defined dividing line for why any humans–even ones who don’t have higher brain functioning–are more deserving of respect, and not being killed to be eaten, than animals. Its just that as a society heavily influenced by many religions where “all human life is sacred” is a key belief, we recoil from the thought of eating people.

      So the argument tries to force you into:
      P1: There is no morally distinct line between ALL humans and all animals.
      P2: It is ok to eat animal meat.
      C1: It is ok to eat human meat.

      And most people don’t want to be ok with eating human meat–at the very least from people who died of natural causes, not even thinking about killing someone to eat them–so they will accept:

      P1: There is no morally distinct line between ALL humans and all animals.
      P2: It is not ok to eat human meat.
      C1: It is not ok to eat animal meat.

      The problem is with accepting P1, which I do pretty much, but many people don’t agree with. I think the comparison between the severely mentally disabled human and a similarly functioning animal is the most persuasive, that is unless the person believes “all human lives are sacred no matter what.”

      So that’s basically it. I’m too lazy to read this whole thing, but let me know if this needs clarifying.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        The argument you bring up here is often called the “marginal humans argument”, and Diana Hsieh has a pretty good response to it.

        Even if you accept the marginal humans argument—that there is no clear dividing line between humans and animals—you can defend a policy of protecting rights for even severely impaired humans on slippery-slope grounds.

        • Buckyballas says:

          Upvoting this. I feel like a deontological rule here: “don’t eat humans” may achieve a more optimum consequentialist outcome (depending on how you’re counting) than arguing about marginal cases, which might lead an overzealous rationalist to promote some morally abhorrent practices. One slippery slope leads you to Janism or even more restrictive diets (plants respond to injury after all) and the other leads to eating babies and idiots.

      • According to Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land) the main reason society disapproves of cannibalism is that we don’t want people tempted to murder one another just to save on food bills. 🙂

        (Less amusingly, I believe there are also public health issues.)

        • I have made that argument as well, I think in a published journal article. Didn’t know that Heinlein made it, but I’m not surprised.

          On the other hand, there is an exception in morality, and perhaps in law—the case of starvation cannibalism. There was a famous English case, I think 19th century, in which a group of starving sailors killed and ate one of their members—possibly after agreeing to draw straws for who would be the victim, but I’m not sure. They didn’t try to hide the fact, assuming that it was acceptable behavior. They eventually got convicted of something, but only because the court authorities pushed very hard to get the jury to convict for something that most contemporaries did not see as criminal.

          The story is in _Cannibalism and the Common Law_.

          Which suggests that rejection of cannibalism a strongly held cultural norm for good reasons, not a fundamental moral principle.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ 57dimensions

        Offhand, the latter part of this seems like an inside-out version of a stance that Scott wrote about with a title like ‘Unprincipled Exceptions’.

        Iirc, it was something to the effect that according to Principle X, some large number of R-reproductive creatures should take precedence over a human, but trying to live that way would drive us nuts. So better to just make that exception in practice instead of either trying to justify it or throwing out Principle X. (Which seems to fit with what the vegans in your post said.)

      • anonymous says:

        I have a different argument:

        P1: There is no morally distinct line between dogs and farm animals.
        P2: It is ok to kill farm animals for food.
        C1: It is ok to kill dogs for food.

        And most people don’t want to be ok with killing dogs for food – so they will accept:

        P1: There is no morally distinct line between dogs and common meat animals.
        P2: It is not ok to kill dogs for food.
        C1: It is not ok to kill farm animals for food.

        Also note that it’s impossible to make commercial eggs and milk without at least killing most of the males in each generation. Vegetarians are kidding themselves.

        The above is how I usually explain the reasons for veganism (although this doesn’t justify abstaining from fish or honey).

        • Vaniver says:

          I’m amazed that they don’t respond with “P1 is wrong, dogs are morally distinct because of our friendlier relationship with them.”

          Also note that it’s impossible to make commercial eggs and milk without at least killing most of the males in each generation. Vegetarians are kidding themselves.

          There was actually a breakthrough on this, recently; genetically modified chickens which fluoresce in the egg if female, allowing males to never be incubated to existence in the first place.

          • You could also point out that, unlike chickens and cows, dogs aren’t going to become an endangered species if we stop farming them; or you could draw a distinction between carnivores/omnivores and herbivores. (Empirically, herbivores do seem to be less self-aware than carnivores/omnivores, so that isn’t entirely arbitrary. I guess we’d have to give up pork though.)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Harry Johnston
            You could also point out that, unlike chickens and cows, dogs aren’t going to become an endangered species if we stop farming them

            In an earlier discussion, a farmer posted his opinion that cows aren’t really as stupid as they act, but have been bred to act stupid for the farmers’ convenience.

            In either case, imo, if the degraded factory-farmable varieties of cows, chickens, etc become extinct, so much the better.

          • Supposing for a moment that you object to the extinction of a species in the first place, does it really make a difference that the species in question has been domesticated? If so, why?

            I can’t imagine anyone being happy with the idea of dogs, say, becoming extinct. That is (or was) a common enough science-fiction meme and I don’t recall it ever being played as a positive thing.

            (Or are there unthreatened populations of pre-domesticated cows and chickens somewhere in the world that I’m unaware of, somehow having survived the past ten thousand years?)

          • Hlynkacg says:

            are there unthreatened populations of pre-domesticated cows and chickens somewhere in the world that I’m unaware of, somehow having survived the past ten thousand years?

            Zebu (B. Indicus) and American Buffalo (B. Bison) could be interpreted as such. Both are capable of breeding with domestic cattle (or each other) to produce fertile offspring.

            Edit:
            There are also populations of Red Junglefowl(Gallus gallus) which are believed to be the progenitors of domestic chickens still running around India and southern Asia

            Not to mention wild populations of Wolves and Coyote representing the un-domesticated state of good-ole Canis Familiaris

          • Huh. I didn’t know American Bison and domestic cattle were so closely related; thanks. Although I see they are listed as near-threatened, so arguably … 🙂

            (Zebu appear to be domesticated?)

            … I think the dogs/wolves thing is kind of relevant, actually, in that I don’t think many people would be happy for dogs to become extinct even if wolves did not. Somehow I see arguing that they’re the same thing really as not going down well …

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Zebu appear to be domesticated?

            They are, but there are still wild populations scattered around Asia and East Africa. In either case it’s probably safe to say that they are far closer to the “ancestral pre-domesticated cow state” than your typical cattle.

            Edit:
            Agreed on the Dogs / Wolves bit.

            Also:
            American Buffalo (Bison) are far more closely related to Zebu and domestic cattle than they are to Asiatic or African Buffalo. We should be calling them “Wooly Zebu”.

          • Anonymous says:

            They’re thin and their meat tastes pretty bad (comparatively), so yeah, they’re probably the naturalest breed around.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Harry Johnston
            Supposing for a moment that you object to the extinction of a species in the first place, does it really make a difference that the species in question has been domesticated? If so, why?
            I can’t imagine anyone being happy with the idea of dogs, say, becoming extinct.

            Many varieties of dogs (and other pettable animals) have been bred into states as unnatural and unhappy as factory farmable cows and chickens, and are imo net negative and better off extinct. But many other varieties bred as pets are fine, capable of happiness, and valuably diverse.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vaniver
            I’m amazed that they don’t respond with “P1 is wrong, dogs are morally distinct because of our friendlier relationship with them.”

            If someone believs that animals are all pretty much alike so we shouldn’t eat any of them, but zie does, as exceptions, eat non-pettable animals, here’s a partial defense of eating the non-pettable ones.

            Streetlight effect. We get closer observation of our pet animals; thus we see more evidence of their behaviors (and presumably feelings) being like ours. It’s reasonable to assume that the wild animals share the domestic animals’ traits, but assumption is not as strong a motivation as what we directly observe under the streetlight. And that assumption may in fact be wrong. So when we have some need to eat some meat, pettable vs non-pettable is a reasonable place to draw the line.

            I think there’s an essence-type agument also, but … later.

        • Jiro says:

          The fact that most people will not eat dogs is not based on principle any more than the fact that they won’t eat worms or the fact that most of them won’t engage in gay sex is based on principle.

          As such there is no principle that can be extended from dogs to all animals. And your argument is just taking advantage of the fact that many non-rationalists won’t realize that there is no principled reason not to eat dogs.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I can confirm that this is a very common argument, though.

            In college, I ended up debating Bruce Friedrich, a fairly prominent vegan activist/spokesperson, about the ethics of eating meat. He was invited by some kind of very small animal rights group on campus, and they couldn’t find anyone prominent to debate him, so word ended up going around to me because I was going to debate the same topic a week later for the campus debate club.

            He tried to deploy the “you wouldn’t eat cute little puppy dogs, would you?” argument, and I think I surprised him by saying that there’s nothing wrong with eating dogs or horses or whatever. It’s just a contingent cultural fact about America that we don’t. There’s a huge difference between stealing someone’s pet dog to eat it and raising dogs like any other farm animal.

            I did deliberately pick out my mink ushanka I bought in Russia to wear to that debate. (Which was otherwise totally justified because it was snowing outside.) I did not wear it while speaking, of course…

        • I take that argument as showing that our objection to killing dogs for food is unjustified. We think of dogs as being sort of like people, because we keep them as pets, so our moral objection to killing people for food spills over onto dogs–but it’s a mistake.

          I knew of someone who kept pigs as pets, and probably felt the same way about them–but most of us don’t.

          An alternative response to the argument is that the principle is “It is wrong to kill and eat a pet.”

      • Wtvb says:

        Personally, I’d have to argue that not eating humans is a good schilling fence. Therefore p1 would not necessarily imply c2

    • onyomi says:

      I’m not a vegan, though I think being vegan-ish is probably close to the best diet. The only major flaw in it is B12. Recently, however, I read something on a vegan blog I though made a lot of sense: for ethical purposes, at least (might argue there are still health issues like mercury and lead), shellfish, which happen to be super high in B12, iron, and other things lacking in a vegan diet, might as well be considered plants, given that they lack a central nervous system.

      • Jeremy says:

        I don’t see how taking B12 supplements is a “major flaw”. Clarify?

        • Vitor says:

          Not sure, but I believe b12 supplements are currently made from animals. If it was possible to synthetize in a lab (I don’t know if technical or cost reasons prevent this), vegans wouldn’t have a problem with it.

        • John Schilling says:

          The total synthesis of vitamin B-12 is to organic chemistry about what Fermat’s last theorem is to mathematics; it was eventually accomplished by the legendary R. B. Woodward in 1973, but the process is insanely complex and I don’t know if anyone has ever industrialized it. You can get “synthetic” vitamin B-12 from bacterial sources, which I gather is somewhat controversial because it is really a B-12 precursor and so not a perfect substitute for the “real” stuff, but doesn’t require eating anything with a face and it seems to keep people from dying horribly.

          • bean says:

            AIUI, all B12 available today is from bacterial sources, because it’s much cheaper than synthesis. And the form of B12 found in pills is easily converted to the form your body uses unless you’re a heavy smoker.

        • onyomi says:

          Well, it’s “major” in the sense that you need B12 to not die, not in the sense that it’s difficult to get it from a supplement. But to my mind, a diet which requires supplementation to prevent you from dying cannot be an ideal diet.

          Though knowing what it is and following it are two different things, I am very interested in what the ideal human diet would be. My current best guess is a low-fat, high-carb, mostly vegan diet with some seafood, especially shellfish.

          This also seems to mesh with our evolutionary origins: on the tropical coast of east Africa people frequently forage for shellfish and there is also a lot of fruit available pretty much year-round. Getting most of your carbs and antioxidants from fruit, and protein, iron, zinc, omega-3s, and B12, etc. from shellfish (which can also be comfortably eaten raw) seems a pretty natural and balanced diet for humans.

          (There is, also, the argument that we have more problems with B12 now because our ancestors ate not insignificant quantities of dirt, poop, and non-sterilized water, which is probably true, so far as it goes, but it is also obvious we are evolved to be somewhat omnivorous if, perhaps, mostly vegan).

          • anonymous says:

            There is a general trend of only considering food that can be eaten raw (such as fish and fruit) when trying to guess the ancestral diet.

            I think that this is a mistake. Cooking is as ancient and cognitively demanding as hunting/fishing (for the weakly human being can’t hunt without tools and techniques). We evolved with cooking. Why are our teeth so much smaller and duller than that of just about every other mammal, if not because we evolved to cook our food?

            If you consider cooking, then you can consider not just fruit, but tubers, grains and legumes, all of which grow in the wild (though I don’t know specifically about East Africa), as being part of the probable ancestral diet.

          • onyomi says:

            I agree that it doesn’t make sense to say “well, you can’t eat a potato without cooking it; therefore, we’re not evolved to eat potatoes.”

            In reality, evolution is always a palimpsest: we’ve been eating grains, tubers, and legumes for at least 10-30,000 years, and we have some newer genes that allow us to handle that better than would, say, a chimpanzee.

            Moreover, pretty much all major civilizations have some kind of staple crop as their nutritional base, as you can feed a lot more people with farming than hunter gathering–as evidenced by the fact that a “paleo” diet is much more expensive even today. What’s more, people who eat the now traditional starch-based diets tend to do well–people eating diets based primarily on rice, potatoes, etc. in places like Okinawa tend to be very healthy. The younger people who adopt a meat-heavy modern American diet tend to suffer obesity, heart trouble, diabetes, etc.

            So I’m definitely not against rice and beans by any means. I think they are still the key to making a nutritious diet available to large numbers at a price they can afford, and a lot of us would do better to just eat rice and beans rather than attempt to eat like an Eskimo or something.

            That said, I still think the “paleo” concept can be useful as a heuristic: how well are we adapted to x? is the question. We have 10-30,000 years of eating grain so we are probably reasonably well adapted to that. We have probably a million or more years of us and our ancestors eating fruit and bugs, so we are probably even better adapted to that. White people are better adapted to living in Northern Europe than black people due to our skin’s ability to absorb more vitamin D, but we are still not very well adapted to living in Northern Europe, considering we can’t do it without houses and clothes.

            So is it unnatural to live in Sweden? In a way, yes. And you might need to take vitamin D or eat imported fruit or take periodic vacations to achieve optimal health living in Sweden. At the same time, there’s not denying that people live healthy lives in Sweden and have done so for thousands of years.

          • anonymous says:

            We also have an immense amount of evolutionary time behind us eating leaves, and yet we are no longer able to convert them into energy the way apes do. So I don’t think that the paleo heuristic is that good; there’s more to being adapted to something than the amount of time we’ve been doing it.

            Why only 30.000 years of eating grain, tubers, and legumes? As far as I can remember, cooking, which allows us to eat those foods, is more ancient than that. Browsing the internet I find estimates from 100 thousand years to two million years ago.

            https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/aug/22/cooking-origins-homo-erectus

            You suggest eating fruit and bugs, but you previously suggested fruit and fish. Fishing, which requires fishing tools, is probably only as ancient as cooking starches.

            Clothes aren’t a flaw in our adaption to northern climate. They ARE our adaptation. Buying clothes you can put on and off to adapt to different temperatures might be more efficient than growing a lot of nutritionally expensive, parasite harboring body hair. Houses aren’t an adaptation to cold climate; people who live in ancestral East Africa use houses too. Houses have many advantages. Animals don’t use houses because they can’t build them; they have no intelligence or hands.
            You don’t need fruit to be healthy, and people only need vitamin D to live in Sweden because of modern innovations, such as electric lights and UV-blocking glass windows (not so common in the past), both of which make people stay indoors. Modern technology created the problem AND the solution, so, again, you can say that vitamin pills ARE our adaptation.

            To think that humans aren’t adapted to cold climates is another variant of the cooking fallacy. Humans are an inherently technological species; our adaptations are technological and they relieve us from needing biological adaptations which are full of drawbacks.

          • anonymous says:

            Sorry, reading comprehension fail on my part; you said “at least” 30.000 years of eating starches.

            Still, the point is that there’s no reason to assume that fishing is more ancient – or much more ancient – than starch eating.
            There is also no reason to assume that let’s say ten thousand years is not enough to completely adapt to something. Swedes *are* adapted to Sweden.

          • anonymous says:

            By the way, I can’t point to a source, but I remember reading somewhere that elephants, like us, need an external source of B12 due to the way their digestive system is built, and being vegan they get all of their B12 from the dirt in their food.

          • onyomi says:

            “Fishing, which requires fishing tools, is probably only as ancient as cooki